The Sacramento Taxpayers Association held its Third Annual GOLDEN FLEECE AWARDS, bestowed upon public officials, governmental agencies and organizations for their “wasteful, ridiculous, or ironic use of taxpayers’ money,” at the STA Annual Dinner April 18, 2017.
“The Sacramento Taxpayer Association is a non-partisan, non-profit, member-supported organization, working to hold government accountable, make it reliable, responsive and efficient – at all levels,” said STA President Katy Grimes. “What could be more non-partisan than taxes?”
“The late U.S. Senator William Proxmire, a Democrat, used to famously issue monthly Golden Fleece awards to public officials he believed were squandering public money,” Grimes said. “It is in his memory that we do the same. I only wish we also could do it monthly,” Grimes added.
The winner of the 2017 Golden Fleece Award:
Sacramento City Council – Downtown Streetcar Project. Apparently nothing will stop the Sacramento City Council’s efforts to try to build a circulating streetcar in Downtown Sacramento, not the $200 million price tag, not the $61 million per mile construction cost, not the rejection by downtown property owners, by a wide margin, two years ago of a parcel tax to partially fund the project, not the streetcar’s projected $6 to 8 million projected annual operating deficits that would hammer struggling Regional Transit, not the Trump Administration’s budget next year which eliminates funding for the project and not the judgment of one of the country’s most esteemed academicians on transit issues, Dr. Gregory Thompson, who characterizes the streetcar project as little more than “an amusement ride for tourists” that will further congest Downtown traffic and do nothing to improve mobility.
First Runner Up:
Almost All Jurisdictions, Sacramento County – Illegal Campaigning for Measure B. Last year, almost every city in the county, the county government and the Sacramento Transportation Authority, collectively and illegally expended over $600,000 in taxpayer funds campaigning to pass Measure B, the measure that would have doubled the county’s existing one-half percent transportation sales tax and would have raised taxes on Sacramentans by over $110 million per year. Eye on Sacramento filed a one-inch thick complaint with the Sacramento Grand Jury on the illegal campaigning. Due to the campaigning of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association and others, Measure B was narrowly defeated in November.
Second Runner Up:
City of Sacramento, Fire Department – Overtime Abuse. A city audit report found 90 firefighters worked over 1,000 hours of overtime in a single year, two firefighters were paid for over 6,000 hours of work in one year, which equates to close to 70% of the time they were breathing that year. A fire captain was paid an eye-popping $323,000 per year, substantially more than the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and two firefighters were paid almost double the governor’s $190,700 annual salary.
Carmichael Recreation & Park District – Obstruction of Tax Refunds. After the Sacramento Taxpayers Association prevailed in its taxpayer lawsuit against the District on its illegal collection of a property tax assessment, the court ordered the District to refund to property owners the illegal assessments. Instead of carrying out the court order, the district used tactics designed to keep owners in the dark as to their legal rights to refunds.
City of Sacramento, Mayor’s Office – Double Double Dippers. In January, the City of Sacramento hired not one, but two pension double-dippers, for high level positions. Both are collecting large salaries while cashing substantial CalPERS pension checks. Mayor Steinberg’s new interim chief of staff, Mike McGeever, retired from SACOG on a Friday and started working for the Mayor the following Monday and is collecting an estimated annualized cash income of $248,400. The City’s new city manager, Howard Chan, hired his former boss, recently retired public works director Jerry Way, as his assistant. Way’s annualized total compensation, including salary and pension, is estimated to be nearly $400,000 per year.
Sacramento City Council – Mobile Restrooms (“Pit Stop”) for the Homeless. The Council approved a 6-month pilot project to make a trailer equipped with two restrooms available to the homeless. The 6-month project cost city taxpayers $199,000. Why so pricey? The restrooms were air-conditioned, cleaned after every use and attended to by not one, but two full-time city employees at all times, rivaling the level of restroom service provided by our nation’s finest 5-star hotels. Cost to taxpayers? $20 per flush.
City of Sacramento, Parks & Recreation Department – Bureaucracy. Following the City’s lay off of most of its park workers, the community organized the Land Park Volunteer Corps which has worked every month from March thru November for the past seven years to maintain Land park, trimming its bushes, cleaning its ponds, putting in new plantings and weeding its beds, tasks that the City’s two remaining permanent City park workers cannot possibly handle. Days before the Corps’ first 2017 park workday, a senior Parks Department official issued a directive forbidding the Corps from trimming any park bushes unless a city park worker was present to supervise the trimming. Of course, no park workers were available to supervise. When the Corps notified City officials that it would cancel its March park workday if the directive was not withdrawn, the City withdrew its absurd directive at the last minute and the Corps’ March park workday went forward with a record turnout of 295 volunteers.
State of California, Department of Water Resources – Oroville Dam Spillways Collapse. The state’s improper design and maintenance of both the main spillway and the auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam led to massive failures and infrastructure collapse, imperiling the lives of hundreds of thousands of nearby residents. The cost of repairs will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
City of Sacramento, Department of Utilities – “The Van’s a’ Rocking, Don’t Come a Knockin.” When two senior officials in the City’s Department of Utilities were caught having sex in a City vehicle on City time while parked in a City park, the pair (married, but not to each other) received a reprimand. Last year, the city auditor issued an astounding report that revealed that the pair, one of whom was serving as the manager of the City’s scandal-plagued water meter installation project, was caught a second time having sex with each other, this time in a City trailer while on City time while both were high on cocaine and alcohol. They admitted to a practice of driving City vehicles and working while high on cocaine and alcohol. The pair was finally fired.