Soapbox

What’s on former Sacramento city manager’s thank-you list

John Shirey, who stepped down as Sacramento city manager on Nov. 18, chats with then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg during the city’s effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento in 2013. Steinberg will soon take office as mayor.
John Shirey, who stepped down as Sacramento city manager on Nov. 18, chats with then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg during the city’s effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento in 2013. Steinberg will soon take office as mayor. Sacramento Bee file

To the people of Sacramento:

As I step down as your city manager after five-plus years, I thank you for your support. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my top 10 list:

No. 10: I am grateful to be leaving city government on solid financial ground. During the depths of the recession, revenues had declined precipitously and the workforce had been reduced by more than 1,000 positions. Today, property and sales tax revenues are recovering, services have been restored and improved in several areas and general fund reserves have risen from a precarious low of 2 percent to the City Council’s adopted goal of 10 percent.

No. 9: I thank voters for overwhelmingly passing the Measure U sales tax in 2012. Those funds have made it possible to restore police, paramedic, parks and library services.

No. 8: I am blessed to have seen the opening of Golden 1 Center, a crowning achievement for Sacramento. The city investment in the arena is already having spin-off benefits. Downtown blight is being replaced with housing, restaurants and night life. The deal points negotiated with the Kings, such as a cap on the city contribution, are proving to be in the best interests of the public.

No. 7: While not nearly as spectacular as the arena, I am equally as grateful that we also finished a $165 million upgrade of the Sacramento River Water Treatment Plant that will ensure safe, dependable and high-quality drinking water for decades to come. Long-overdue water meters are being installed four years ahead of schedule.

No. 6: I am very thankful to witness the council approval of the environmental impact report for the downtown railyard, after many years of soil cleanup and ownership uncertainties. With bridges, streets and street lights in place, the report’s approval clears the way for public and private development.

No. 5: I am thankful we now have several examples of arts investments. We invested in the Clara Center, the new home of the Sacramento Ballet and several other arts groups; provided gap financing for the new B Street Theatre; increased grants for small arts groups; and committed $100 million to upgrade Memorial Auditorium and completely renovate the Community Center Theatre.

No. 4: We have also improved things not so visible. For example, the city has established an emergency operations center and devoted full-time staff to assure we are ready for any emergency such as a flood.

No. 3: I take pride in our police officers and firefighters whose simple acts of courage and kindness day after day rarely make headlines. Then there are the public servants who pick up the trash, maintain the parks, repair the streets, and countless other things that go unnoticed. I am thankful to our employees for their service and commitment to the city of Sacramento.

No. 2: I am grateful that I can pass the baton to Howard Chan, my loyal and capable assistant, who has been named interim city manager. Please give him your full support.

No. 1: I am most proud that Sacramento is no longer suffering from an inferiority complex. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, lived and worked in the East and Midwest, lived and worked many years in Southern California and has visited many cities in the United States (and some in Canada), I can attest that Sacramento is a great place to be. Sacramento is not so big that one can feel lost never to see green spaces, and not so small as to miss out on choices for housing and higher education, first-rate entertainment and arts, professional sports and great places to dine.

I am grateful to City Council members – both past and present – for giving me the chance to lead this city government and to serve residents and businesses. I hope I have made contributions that leave this city in better condition than I found it.

Thank you, Sacramento.

John F. Shirey retired as Sacramento city manager on Nov. 18. He can be contacted at jshirey1@comcast.net.

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