Insurgent candidates take on developer ‘puppets’ on board of supervisors
By Cosmo Garvin - firstname.lastname@example.org
Anti-incumbent fervor occasionally sweeps away city council members, or mayors, or governors or congressional representatives. But no one has actually beaten a sitting Sacramento County supervisor in an election since 1970.
The insurgent tag team of Gary Blenner and Jeff Kravitz want to beat this streak, or at least have some fun trying.
They’ve taken to the airwaves with aggressive, slightly goofy commercials, accusing two incumbent supervisors of being “puppets” of the special interests, especially real-estate developers. And at community forums, they’ve attacked the incumbents’ records with a relish rarely seen in these normally staid supervisors races.
“The county board of supervisors is in the pockets of the special interests. They are fully in the hands of the land speculators who have robbed this county blind and caused the housing bubble,” says Blenner, a Rio Americano High School civics teacher who is taking on two-term incumbent Roberta MacGlashan in District 4, which covers the northeastern part of the county, including Antelope, Orangevale, Rancho Murieta and Folsom. Kravitz is squaring off against Susan Peters, who has also held the District 3 seat (Arden Arcade, Fair Oaks and Carmichael) for eight years.
Peters had about $150,000 in the bank, with more expected when the latest campaign reports come out this week. Her biggest contributors included Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange and Auburn Manor.
Kravitz by comparison had just $8,000, $1,000 of which came from the Canna Care medical-marijuana dispensary.
Blenner and Kravitz been called the “Occupy” candidates in the local media—each have been involved in the Occupy movement and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Kravitz has also represented some of the medical-marijuana dispensaries that the board of supervisors cracked down on last year.
One of his campaign ads, running on Fox40, features the image of an American flag waving while the narrator says the incumbent “attacks small businesses and violates our civil rights.” Other ads juxtapose the incumbents with images of campaign cash or marionette style puppets. All very subtle.
At last report, MacGlashan had about $100,000 accumulated in her campaign war chest, while Blenner had $1,800, which he loaned himself. Another MacGlashan challenger, Julie Sams, had not yet reported any money raised.
“If you look at the people who’ve given her money, it’s a who’s who of every crook who’s robbed the county blind,” says Blenner, noting that MacGlashan’s includes tidy sums from the region’s big developers, including the Tsakopoulos and Ose families.
MacGlashan counters that the majority of her donations come from individual citizens and small-business owners. Asked why she’s stockpiled so much campaign cash, she says, “We’re treating these candidates seriously, and we’re running a serious campaign.”
Still, Blenner and Kravitz have parlayed their little cash into feisty campaign ads (more than 1,000 spots on several Comcast channels) and more than 20,000 robocalls.
And they’re coordinating their campaigns and messages. One of the biggest themes is county “giveaways” to business.
For example, they criticize the board’s decision to turn over Gibson Ranch to developer Doug Ose, for $1, to run as a for-profit park. And they fault the county board for giving a $400,000 in tax incentives to get Virgin Airlines to bring flights to the Sacramento airport.
“That’s another $400,000 hole in the budget that comes out of ordinary people’s pockets,” Blenner says.
Above all, they criticize the board’s development policies. “This community is the epicenter of the housing crisis. That’s not an accident. It didn’t come from heaven. It came from the actions of government,” says Kravitz.
In an interview with SN&R, Blenner outlined a three-part plan to deal with the housing crisis: First, he would promote a county fee on foreclosures, to be paid by the bank. Second, a “vacancy tax” would encourage commercial landlords to adopt reasonable rents and promote small businesses. Finally, he wants to levy a “developer conversion fee” on land that is approved for development. Under the current law when the county rezones land from, say, agricultural to residential, the value of the land shoots up.
“They amass a tremendous amount of profit that isn’t being taxed right now,” says Blenner. “Even after they pay the fees I’m proposing, they’ll still be making a ton of money.”
MacGlashan argues that the county is slowly moving away from the old sprawling pattern of development. “Certainly the county has done that in the past,” she says. “But I think that’s an old argument. It’s not what we’re doing today.”