Go Big or Go Home - Can Singh-Allen succeed where former Elk Grove mayors Davis, Ly faltered?



In 2012 Elk Grove voters started direct election of mayors. In that span, there have been three mayors - Gary Davis, Steve Ly, and the current officeholder, Bobbie Singh-Allen. Aside from serving two terms (two so far for Singh-Allen), one other commonality has been that they all have tied themselves to major, and some might say grandiose, projects.

For Davis, first elected in 2012, it was soccer. Davis pitched the idea of building a $125 million soccer facility and stadium to attract a Major League Soccer expansion club.

Davis was so dedicated to the scheme he convinced his city council colleagues to retain the services of former California Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez. About far as Davis and Nunez got was to host what could most charitably be called a courtesy visit by MLS representatives.

Ultimately, Davis' plan collapsed under its ridiculousness. As for the 99 acres taxpayers purchased in pursuit of Davis' scheme, all was not lost as it is now used partly for Kubota tractor's North American operations.

After Davis left office, he was succeeded by his city council colleague, District 4 representative Steve Ly. Like his predecessor, Ly, too, had a vision that came in the form of a massive medical college teaching hospital.
 
Even though California Northstate University's proposed massive $1 billion hospital on the city's westside was fawned over by the entire Elk Grove City Council, they quickly learned residents of the Stone Lake neighborhood did not share their enthusiasm. A combination of community resistance and sketchy financing doomed the project.

Davis and Ly's projects were doomed. The soccer stadium was killed by sheer ridiculousness. Think about it - Sacramento can't even secure an MLS franchise without a billionaire's backing - what made Davis think he could convince the MLS to come to Elk Grove?

The CNU project, which is now proposed in Sacramento, continues to be hampered by the hubris of its proponents and, more significantly, an ambiguous financial plan. The last noteworthy development in that project was the February 2022 Sacramento City Council approval.

For Mayor Bobbies Singh-Allen, her significant project of interest is the relocation of the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove. As the city did for Davis' soccer scheme, taxpayers have again purchased about 100 acres.

Since the announcement almost two years ago, there has been scant information on the project. The one time there was discussion during an Elk Grove City Council meeting, Singh-Allen and District 2 Councilmember Rod Brewer offered conflicting narratives - watch this video.

The total project costs have been estimated at up to $400 million. Given that government projects rarely come within budget, compounded by inflationary pressure, let's call this a half-billion-dollar project.

It has been suggested naming rights could generate some money, and corporate funding could be secured. The last time we checked, Sacramento County is a government town, and no Fortune 500 companies call the area home.

There are other financing options, like revenue bonds, that could be used for the project. But they are with substantial risk.

On the surface, Singh-Allen's project has more credibility, given it is done with the Sacramento Zoological Society. Even with that, like the soccer stadium and the CNU hospital, how will the project be funded?

If Davis and Ly's trip's to the plate ended with strikeouts, how likely is it that Singh-Allen trip to the plate is another strikeout or a home run?

Regardless of the zoo outcome, this much is certain for each of Elk Grove's three mayors' grand projects - Go Big or Go Home!

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Besides a heavily subsidized zoo, let's not forget Mayor Bobbie said she is going to transform a ticky-tack, congested Old Town into the junior "Gaslamp Quarter" modeled after San Diego!

At the City-sponsored ice cream sundae celebration yesterday, Mayor Bobbie and her crew debuted bags and t-shirts labeled with the re-branded Old Town to "Main Street Historic Elk Grove" with a water tower logo.

Stay tuned for gas lamps and an electrical parade, but hold onto your wallets--this is gonna get expensive!

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