Councilman Steve Cohn revealed his position on several important issues in a dialog with Nancy Cornelius, an East Sacramento resident since 1975. Below is the text of the exchange.
From: Nancy Cornelius
To: Steve Cohn
Steve, I am opposed to spending over ½ million dollars on “consultants” regarding an arena when the community is in dire circumstances. At the “Meet the City Manager” meeting last night at the Clunie Building, there was applause in the room when this issue came up. Most of us in East Sac do not want to spend this kind of money on consultants. We do not feel that an arena will help this city.
What will help this city instead is frugal management of money, really caring for the parks by taking a hard look at current policy about how the city cares for the parks, and realization that in this economy when many people have very little that they go to the parks and (kids go to) swimming pool for a break. Open space, trees, grass, well maintained parks make people feel better and they function better in society. Without open space and places to walk, people are more stressed. We feel from last night that the new City Manager does not realize what a critical issue this is for East Sacramento. He also many not be aware of the lack of fiscal management on the part of Utilities, Parks and other city departments (the Mayor’s legal case) where money is thrown away by decision-makers who don’t care or don’t know.
Lastly, I have lived in East Sac since 1975 and I have never seen McKinley Park look as bad as it does today. It is very, very depressing for those of us who walk there every day. Whoever cuts the grass has shown us they don’t care. The watering system needs a complete overhaul. And, the pond needs to be drained, cleaned and redesigned. It is a very, very bad situation.
From: Steve Cohn
To: Nancy Cornelius
Thank you for your email regarding the City Council decision on September 27th to authorize City staff to hire attorneys, consultants and other experts to work on a financing plan and development agreements regarding the proposed new arena in the Downtown Railyards. Let me address each of your three points.
1. Arena — I share your concern about using our very limited City funds for these predevelopment activities, let alone for funding construction and/or operation of a new arena. As you know, I opposed the Council loan and Measures Q and R. I have not taken a religious position that forever would prohibit the use of public funds for an arena, but I have consistently stood up for taxpayers to ensure that any arena financing deal show clear benefits to the City and its taxpayers, and not a hand out to pampered professional team owners or players. As one of two Councilmembers (along with Rob Fong) appointed by the Mayor to the “ad hoc” Council Committee overseeing the arena finance plan and negotiations, it remains my commitment to protect taxpayers and the City.
The reason I voted to authorize $555,000 at this time is that it is critical that the City have the best possible information and representation available to it both to develop the financing plan and to negotiate with counterparties. We also included language in the Council resolution that directs staff to seek reimbursement to the City from the arena developer if a development agreement is negotiated or from other private and public sources. Please note that $180,000 of the total comes from the City’s Parking Fund to assess the value of the City’s Downtown parking garages and related assets to determine whether the City should privatize or monetize any of these assets. The recommendation for the parking study was actually made by an independent management consultant last year to try to reduce expenses and raise revenues for the City, independent of whether or not we build an arena.
2. Concerns about City Manager John Shirey – I couldn’t attend the meeting at Clunie since I was at RT, but I think you’re a bit too quick in your assessment. Give him a little time. I think you’ll find he is responsive to community concerns and the right person to right size the City’s workforce and make it more efficient.
3. McKinley Park – I agree that park maintenance has suffered these past few years due to budget cutbacks, particularly the lawn mowing. About 5 years ago we had 5 staff dedicated only to McKinley Park and now we have 2 staff that work McKinley along with Bertha Henschel, East Lawn, East Portal, Marshall, Sutter’s Landing and Winn Parks. However, I completely disagree with your conclusion that it looks worst than it has since 1975. I moved to the neighborhood in 1979, so I can only speak since then. And I have paid particular attention since I became ESIA president in the late 1980’s. But I can tell you that since I became Councilmember in 1994, we have made significant improvements to the park. Here’s a partial list:
1994 — Playground Built by Kids Play McKinley and has had annual maintenance done by the East Sac/Midtown Kiwanis Club and ADA updates are made to keep up with current standards;
1995 – Restored Duck Pond (that was originally installed in 1988), including new rocks, clean filtration system, etc.;
1997 – Clunie Wading Pool featuring sloping design to meeting ADA standards, new pumps, filters, etc and fountain restored to its original historic design;
1998 – Jog trail extended to circle panhandle;
2005 – decorative fencing in pool area along with seat wall between two pools; ADA walkways and rehab of large group picnic area
2006 – historic acorn streetlights were added around perimeter
2008 – replaced old irrigation at the northwest end of park (more funding definitely needed to continue to replace with more efficient irrigation);
1998 and 2010 – tennis courts resurfaced
Spring 2012 – expected to complete renovated rose garden
Can you imagine what the park would like if we hadn’t made these investments? I understand your frustration, but let’s also appreciate what we have been able to accomplish working together, so that we can do even better in the future.
Councilman, District 3
City of Sacramento
915 I Street