Veteran politicos debate strong mayor initiative

When a group of opponents to the “strong mayor” initiative talked to reporters earlier this month, a spontaneous debate over the initiative took place between two local veteran politicos.

Steve Maviglio, public affairs consultant and Mayor Kevin Johnson’s unpaid spokesman, sparred with Phil Giarrizzo, a political consultant who is working for the camp that opposes the strong mayor initiative.

Johnson, who leads the campaign for the initiative, would attain new powers if it passes. He would assume the duties of the city manager and create the city’s budget, among other responsibilities. Johnson’s campaign says that more than 50,000 people signed petitions to put the initiative on the ballot.

The Sacramento County Registrar of Voters has confirmed that the initiative received the required 32,433 signatures.

The initiative goes to the polls June 8.

The group that Giarrizzo represents is Support Accountability, Voice & Ethics in Sacramento (SAVE Sacramento), which opposes the initiative and backs a lawsuit that was filed against it on Dec. 1 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, is the plaintiff who is suing the city government, the City Council and Thomas Hiltachk, the attorney who wrote the strong mayor initiative. Camp does not represent the labor council in the lawsuit; he filed it as a private individual.

Camp argues in his lawsuit that the initiative breaks state law because it would cause changes to the city’s charter, which is the city’s version of a constitution. While an initiative can be used to amend a city charter, it can’t be used to make major changes, Camp contends.

The city’s current system includes a powerful city manager. Hiring department directors and drafting recommendations for the city’s budget are two of City Manager Ray Kerridge’s many responsibilities.

Maviglio and Giarrizzo hashed it out after SAVE Sacramento’s Dec. 1 press conference, which aimed to draw attention to Camp’s lawsuit.

Steve Maviglio (reacting to criticism from opponents that the initiative was written by a “lawyer in a room”): An initiative by its nature is written by a lawyer in a room. We had more than 50,000 people sign it. I can’t imagine more public participation. The charter committee that [opponents of the strong mayor initiative] defend had about 250 people in about 10 rooms over the series of a few months. That’s not my idea of public participation. When people want something on the ballot, then they deserve the right to do it. And special interests shouldn’t charge taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars because they don’t want to see it on the ballot. It deserves to be on the ballot and the people have the right to be heard.

Phil Giarrizzo: And any reaction to the tens of thousands of dollars you’re spending on running a campaign [and] paying lawyers to draft initiatives? Yet, you criticize other people who disagree with your position … The lawsuit is only one part of the campaign. Whether or not the courts find it technically appropriate to take the measure off the ballot is one part. The other part is: If it does go to the ballot, the people of Sacramento are going to vote this measure down because it’s not necessary, it does give more power to any mayor and there [are] no checks and balances. It’s an unnecessary measure at a time when the city should be focusing on jobs, helping to revitalize schools and focused on the task at hand. This is not a way that you run government.

Maviglio: I find it particularly amusing that [democrats] like Phil Giarrizzo, who’ve worked for good democratic mayors like Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown, Antonio Villaraigosa — all of who’ve worked in a strong mayor system — have an objection to this [strong mayor proposal] by our democratic mayor here.

Giarrizzo: There is no comparison. There is no comparison in those cities. And when you … bandy about those names, you have to look at the structures of government in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and there’s no comparison to how the cities are run.

Maviglio: I think that’s the difference here. They don’t want to have [a] debate; the mayor wants to have that debate over the charter. He wants the people involved — not a few hand-selected politicos and inside hacks that had a meeting.

Giarrizzo: Oh, he must be talking about the people who wrote his measure.

Maviglio: Well, I guess you’re never going to vote for an initiative again, Phil? Is that true? Are you never going to vote for an initiative again?

Giarrizzo: You know what, there could be a time, yes…

Maviglio: You can’t really use that argument if you’re getting paid for people to work for initiatives …

Giarrizzo: We believe differently that …

Maviglio: We believe there should be things on the ballot — you apparently don’t. And you’re willing to charge the taxpayers of Sacramento to prevent [from] doing that.

Giarrizzo: No, we’re not charging the taxpayers.

Maviglio: You are — you filed the suit.

Giarrizzo: You’ve just moved the debate.

Maviglio: You filed the suit.

Giarrizzo: The issue here is: Should there be a debate by the way you and your advisers constructed this measure with no public opinion, misstating the intent of the [California] Constitution. That’s what the court will decide.

Maviglio: Well, the 50,000 people … who signed the petitions …

Giarrizzo: … I know that when you go to the ballot box, you’ll have had a change of heart and seen the light. And you’ll be saving Sacramento with the rest of us over here.

Maviglio: I look forward to that day (laughs).

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

December 22, 2009 | 8:10 PM

Phil Giarrizzo has been hired by by the Building Trades Union to try and defeat the SMI. The Building Trades are the same folks who made a bundle off of destroying Natomas by turning it into an endless suburb. Pill Giarrizzo and the building trades would like to finish the job on our city and put in more tract homes. That’s why they’re pumping so much money into trying to defeat the SMI.

December 22, 2009 | 10:49 PM

Tom, you do know that suburb developer Tsakopoulos pumped $50,000 into the SMI, right? And so did suburban mall owner Mark Friedman? And if you look at the list of other donors, the only one who actually lives in the city of Sacramento is Kevin Johnson? Kind of makes you wonder.

December 24, 2009 | 9:02 AM

Tom, you cite a lot of opinions about Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) rules and Regulations.

Being so engaged in the process-here’s some reading for you

The IE stands for Independent Expenditure-Guess who is almost the biggest exploiter of that Process-Check out page 22 of the report #2 & #8 on the list.

Then go to page 41- Californians for Better Government-at least Angelo’s a Californian…The IE Committee name has a familiar ring to Sacramentans for Accountable Government.

Now about FPPC rules, that you seem to have a lot of understanding about…How about the name of an IE as it relates to it’s major contributors?

Let’s first state that AKT was not disclosed by SAG as the money behind two different LLC’s

North Natomas 575 Investors, LLC $25,000.00
West Lakeside, LLC $25,000.00

You would need to go to the Secretary of State’s Campaign disclosure filings, 1) Look up Angelo under their Major Contributor filing number, 483152, then 2) Use the historical search for the years 2007-2008 of contributions made to actually see the two separate contributions to SAG being attributed to AKT. Perhaps that’s the guidance one receives when one of the lawyers associated with the initiative served on the FPPC.

There are specific FPPC regulations regarding independent committees and their major contributors.

From the FPPC Site
Primarily Formed Ballot Measure Committees. Each state or local primarily formed ballot measure committees must list the economic or other special interests of their $50,000 donors in descending order in its committee name. This list must precede and not be interspersed with constituencies such as “concerned citizens,” or “taxpayers.”

The Ballot measure for the SMI is specifically a City of Sacramento Initiative-The term “Sacramentans” is at the very least misleading. Mark & Angelo are both major donors-Mark lives in the County-not a City Resident and with regards to Angelo-Living in Place County- Is down right ….!

So where’s the list in the name?

Expressly Advocating a Ballot Measure Advertisements: If a contribution totaling $50,000 or more is made to a committee primarily formed to support or oppose a ballot measure, the name of the major donor must be included in the primarily formed committee’s advertisements if the major
donor is one of the two highest contributors to the committee.

Is a website and advertisement? I believe I have seen you infer so previously.
Where are Angelo’s and Mark’s name?

December 23, 2009 | 12:16 AM

So? I guess you’re suggesting a quid pro quo from the Johnson administration. Please tell me what they’ve gotten out of him. The only development I’ve seen him push is infill development at the Railyards and DTP and urge Friedman to apply for Prop. 1C money to redevelop the the Crystal Building on R Street that sat fallow during the entirety of the Fargo years.

The Building Trades are bankrolling the effort to stop the SMI. The Building Trades made a killing off of Sacramento by paving over Natomas during the Fargo years. The Fargo clan on the DCCC and the folks at the Building Trades would love to see that type of enironmentally destructive development continue. It looks like you do too.

December 23, 2009 | 7:31 AM

Johnson also pushed the Nestle Waters deal, and spoke strongly in favor of the Bob Leach/Mo Mohanna hotel project at 8th and K, just to name a couple. Incidentally, Friedman started the “Ice Blocks” development project idea while Fargo was still in office–it didn’t lay fallow, he did preliminary clearance/cleanup work and even held two events inside the Crystal Ice building. The lot next door was also cleared by a separate developer.

There was plenty of downtown infill during the Fargo administration, and pretty much every infill project that has happened since Johnson took office started under her watch.

December 23, 2009 | 10:22 AM

Gotcha. So no quid pro quo from Johnson, but plenty of evidence that the Building Trades are looking to keep their stranglehold on Sacramento so they can further destroy our environment. Thanks.

December 23, 2009 | 11:49 AM

AKT does NOTHING without a quid pro quo…

December 23, 2009 | 3:11 PM

Ah, now we see why Runge is fallaciously trying to hang all of Natomas development on Heather Fargo, who wasn’t in office when Angelo and his cronies got their hooks in the floodplain… Another soundbite, misleading propaganda like Maviglio delivers above. More reversals of fact and trying to hang ” environmentally destructive development ” on opponents of the SMI. Simultaneously ignoring the influence of AKT $$ in Kevin’s coffers and AKT groundbreaking in Natomas and Federal environmental rulebreaking in development.

What’s IN that KoolAid, anyway?

“So? I guess you’re suggesting a quid pro quo from the Johnson administration.”

You guys can’t play it both ways. The public is not as stupid and misinformed as you are counting on, despite your disinformation.

December 23, 2009 | 6:57 PM

TomRunge: One assumes that money given for the SMI by suburban developers like AKT and Friedman is given with the intent that the “quid pro quo” would come after the SMI actually goes into effect (assuming it does) rather than before, so it’s a bit premature to assume that they would have gotten their quid pro quo already, isn’t it?

December 23, 2009 | 11:48 AM

As usual Mr. Maviglio exhibits pathological passive/aggression in baiting nonexistent issues and comparisons avoiding any reference to the factual representations of his opponent.

December 23, 2009 | 3:12 PM

That’s all he’s got. Without those games, he and the SMI are lost.

December 23, 2009 | 2:10 PM

My god. Does Steve Maviglio (et al.) think we’re all just completely uninformed idiots? He calls 32K signatures on a ballot measure (that not one of them read prior to signing) “public participation”? At least the Charter Review Committee had the integrity to go out and face the public as they carried on their (thankless, volunteer) efforts. At least they had the integrity to stand by their recommendations and present the minority/dissenting opinions for all to see.

Does he think that if he continues to claim 50,000 signatures, we’ll all magically believe it? And it will magically make it so? And that each and every one of those mythical persons had all the facts at hand and believes most emphatically that this initiative is right and good?

I suppose if the SMI gang believes that if they continue to divert all legitimate questions thru sleight of hand, the public will never even notice.

December 23, 2009 | 7:00 PM

StellaM: No, but he is hoping that at least 51% of us are completely uninformed idiots. He’d call 32,000 signatures on a ballot measure a purple-buttocked baboon if you paid him to do so.

And yes, he thinks that if he continues to claim 50,000 signatures, we’ll all magically believe it–it’s called the “Big Lie” theory.

December 23, 2009 | 10:41 PM

The exchange in this article is a good example of the slimy, slippery tactics that are used to get people to buy a greased pig in a poke … without ever having a firm grasp on facts or the “quid pro quo” to follow, if the slime masters have their way.

The 32,000 estimated valid signatures applied to a petition to put the Strong Mayor Initiative on the ballot — which is not the same as endorsing or voting for the Strong Mayor Initiative.

None of those people knew that the “public participation” ended where their signature did.

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