During FY2024 budget presentation, Sacramento County Supervisors discuss media relations

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna. | 

One of the wonders of the U.S. Constitution and the amendments is how citizen oversight was baked into our democracy. Although it has been threatened, challenged, and under near-continuous assault, especially from politicians, the First Amendment is one of the bulwarks of American democracy.

The ability of citizens and media to report and criticize their government also means politicians enjoy the same right. While politicians might hesitate to attack individuals, when it comes to going after the media, it is hard to think of any elected officials who haven't been aggravated by what they deem unfair coverage.

With this as a reference, an example of elected officials taking media coverage to task occurred during the January 10 Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting. The media comments came after the Supervisors received a presentation on the county's fiscal year 2024 budget process. 

Supervisor Rich Desmond noted that perceptions about the county budget do not reflect its reality. He then asked county chief fiscal officer Amanda Thomas if the local media had ever been invited to participate in a budget workshop. 

Thomas said a media-specific budget workshop had yet to be offered but noted the two November workshops were open to all interested parties. Supervisor Phil Serna said he agreed with Desmond's assessment and criticized incomplete coverage of the county. 

"That, to me, is indication that there continues to either be a lack of understanding or perhaps even a willingness to gravitate towards to that cursory to referencing what is an extremely complicated exercise, an extremely complex document that takes months to develop," Serna said. 

Serna added, "I think it's incumbent on us to be even more aggressive in inviting the media to better understand what we do over the course" of the six-month budget process.  

Responding to Serna county executive officer Ann Edwards noted as it related to homelessness, which the county response has been routinely condemned, said she and others on the county homeless task force met with an unspecified editorial board and discussed the topic.

"We did, in fact, explain that to them," Edwards said regarding the count's budget process.

The Sacramento Bee editorial board has pointedly criticized the county on several matters, including its handling of the homeless crisis. They also endorsed a challenger to Supervisor Patrick Kennedy last year. 

In their endorsement of Duke Cooney, the Bee said Kennedy's candidacy represented "the same status quo patterns that are failing county residents." Supervisor Kennedy nor his colleagues Sue Frost and Pat Hume participated in the discussion. 

The entire discussion can be viewed in the video below. 

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