City Strategy

Acuity With John Shirey

Back Q&A Nov 1, 2012 By Douglas Curley

John Shirley, 63 was hired as Sacramento’s city manager in September 2011. Previously, he served as executive director of the California Redevelopment Association. As city manager, he overseas a $1 billion city budget and a staff of nearly 4,000. 

“I was hired to try to right the city’s finances. We’ve made real progress this first year in trying to align revenue with expenditures. We’re not done, but we have set a new course.”

“Fundamental to our ability to become financially stable is employee groups paying their fair share for retirement. I didn’t get all the groups to agree, but got three of the four largest to do that. We’re still working on the police.”

“In addition to financial stability, my top priorities are economic development and public safety. We are updating codes and regulations to align with the general plan and to make them more business friendly. And despite budget cuts, we have to ensure a safe environment for everyone in the city.

“I’m a participatory manager. I listen to my people, receive their input and try to make decisions with the entire welfare of the organization in mind. At the end of the day, I have to make the decision. I try to do it in a timely manner and with forethought and consideration for all parties.”

“The City Council is unfairly maligned. They have a reputation for being quarrelsome, for being dysfunctional, for not getting things done. That has not been my experience. I find them prepared and easy to work with. Obviously, they care deeply about the city.”

“The state made a terrible mistake in eliminating redevelopment agencies. California has never been strong in economic development; for the most part that effort has been carried by cities and counties. Now that’s gone. I’m sure state leaders in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah are all very pleased about our mistake.”

“We have limited dollars to invest in new projects. We can’t move forward on the 700 block of K Street until we can get someone to finish the financing. Big banks are not stepping up because they’re not convinced the state will live up to the previous obligation of redevelopment funding.

“It’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, but the railyard remains our greatest opportunity. We need Union Pacific to continue the cleanup. And we need the state to make sure they do.

“We’re deeply disappointed the Maloofs didn’t follow through with their commitment to do a downtown arena. There are no current discussions. I’m just hopeful the King’s financial prospects will improve.”


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