LTR to Council

An Open Letter to the Sacramento City Council

[note: this “Open Letter” may be reprinted without further permission, if it is printed in its entirety and CEAV is notified by email of where the text is to be printed (email ceav-at-ceav-dot-us). CEAV reserves all other rights.]

Sacramento City Council undermines open public processes – attempts to manipulate land-grab for private developers – puts sports arena at risk.

The behavior of the City Council over the past several months, regarding the selection of a design and site for a sports-arena and entertainment center for Sacramento is disturbing. An orderly, fair and open process was established by our Mayor to consider such designs and to select the best of them to present to City Council for their consideration. While the Council may have taken no official action to authorize the establishment of ‘Sacramento First’ and its processes, it offered no objection when the matter was first brought to Council’s attention and certainly indicated no displeasure over the past several months as the process moved forward.

For the citizens of this community, we were able to watch the progress of ‘Sacramento First’, to comment and review its undertaking, make public comment and otherwise engage the process. For the first time in many decades, the residents of this city enjoyed the possibility that they would be included and have influence on decisions that would change the shape of their communities and their lives in the future. It was just a ‘possibility’, a faint promise that, in this single important instance, Sacramento was to forego its usual mode of back room politics and special interest deals with the developers and moneyed interests of the community, and truly consult and respect the wishes of all of its citizens.

It is now clear that we were foolish to have hoped for a more honest and open relationship between ourselves and our city government, even in this one instance; or, to place our trust in the Mayor’s effort to provide us with a mechanism that might do just that. On Tuesday, February 12th, at its regular meeting, the City Council made it very clear that they not only will not break with the traditions of secret dealings and back room politics they have long practiced, but that they do not even know how to do that. They haven’t a clue as to how to proceed with a the governance of our city that is impartial and open and fair. In particular, elected members of the City Council of Sacramento :

– have engaged in a secret relationship with the NBA for at least the past several months in anticipation of its involvement in the arena proposal process and the promotion of a single candidate, long before any proposals had even been heard or considered;

– Made no disclosure of the fact that they had an ongoing relationship with the NBA and its promotions at least several months before any other proposals were offered for review; and, to date, have given no details on that prior (continuing?) relationship other than it was under the cover of a “non-disclosure agreement” with the NBA and/or the Kamilos/Cal Expo group;

– Heard, in open meeting, the Mayor’s description of the ‘Sacramento First’ process he wished to put in motion without substantive objection and giving the appearance of assent to allow that process go forward and receive its recommendations in a fair and impartial manner; yet,

– Remained silent when the NBA and the Kamilos group upstaged the ‘Sacramento First’ open announcement at City Hall upon receiving the seven candidate proposals and beginning the work to review and select from among them;

– Facilitated and included on their agenda a lengthy presentation by city staff and the Kamilos/NBA/(Cal Expo) group; promoting and favoring that single proposal before and aside any of the other six concepts that were submitted and which have yet to receive critical review;

– Have never publicly questioned or engaged public comment on the NBA/Cal Expo plans (including the current Kamilos concept) that would remove state-owned/public commons belonging to the people of California and turn it over to private developers;

– Have permitted secret processes conducted by the NBA and Cal Expo, that bar open public discussion and other elements of transparent review, to go unchallenged and persist for many years;

– Have chosen to ignore and suppress any other alternatives or objections to preferred choices which Council has made outside of the public view, in collusion with private interests and which Council unfairly favors and promotes;

– have joined Cal Expo, the NBA and the Kamilos Company in promoting the idea that considerations of projects which would turn over state land to private interests are purely a matter of local concern, for local benefit and that the interests of the people of the State of California have no standing in the matter.

For more than a year, the City Council has been informed and aware that there are alternative ideas in the community suggesting the land now occupied by Cal Expo may have significant public value, for Sacramento as well as California, as public land; value that may well dwarf any value it might have as a venue for private development. At least one formal proposal has been made to Cal Expo suggesting exactly that. Whether The CEAV Project or other concepts are practical or even desirable is beside the point. The fact that they have been presented and are there to be examined is sufficient. Cal Expo, the NBA and your Council have completely ignored and/or hidden them. Indeed, CEAV has been informed that That there are other proposals which have been submitted to Cal Expo over the years, which have been similarly ignored. Yet, neither Council, nor Cal Expo has called or engaged in any public discussion as to whether private development of the land is even the best option for Sacramento’s future.

Unless, and until, such discussion takes place, any plans that would entertain delivering Cal Expo land to the hands of private developers should have been treated as premature and academic. Yet considerable money, time and effort has already been spent by Cal Expo, the City and others on just such consideration. Many of us in Sacramento are fully aware that the ‘arena issue’ is not just about the arena. It is not even simply about the economy of our city or jobs or the Kings. It is about the way our elected representatives conduct themselves and how decisions on our behalf are made. For many decades, perhaps from its beginnings, Sacramento has suffered political intrigue and manipulation that has shown outright contempt for the people it was intended to serve.

Sacramento takes no back seat to Chicago when it comes to cities with a history of machine politics. It is clear that the City Council is incapable of engaging in professional and ethical conduct on behalf of the residents of this community that even resembles open, fair and transparent governance in the public interest. You, the members of the Council have, once again, broken the public trust in your machinations over the matter of building a sports-arena. You have participated in undermining the single process that had promised to conduct its business as a public-public partnership; a relationship between the people and their government that we, the people of Sacramento, might rely upon to hold our interests above all other concerns. ‘Sacramento First’ was to be the herald, in name and deed, of that determination. Yet, far more damaging than your complicity in undermining this one honest attempt to impartially select the best plan for a Sacramento arena, you have undermined the already fragile trust between the people and their government. There is no excuse for that, no rationale that will make that right with the people.

Sweeping away the need for city staff to mask its own culpability, Council member Sheedy said at that same Council meeting, “It’s not necessary to make long disclaimers, John [Dangberg],. We’ve seen this before. We know what the take is.” And so do we, Councilwoman Sheedy, and so do we.

Red Slider, steward
The CEAV Project
California Advocates for the 21st Century and

– Red Slider &; 02/15/10:


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