Sacramento County Board Member Susan Peters, An Unethical Legacy

Sacramento County Board member Susan Peters, a republican, has announced she will not seek reelection in 2020, effectively ending her 15 year tenure on the board.

Unknown to many, Susan Peters was fined just short of $10,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission in 2016. Her crime? She voted on property development that she had an invested interest in.

The Mather Air Force Base closed for operations in the early 1990s and has since provided an economic boom for Sacramento developers, especially McCuen Properties. McCuen is the company started by Peters’ late husband Peter Mcuen and has been recipient of numerous landmark development projects, including the Ziggurat Office building pyramid and US Bank Plaza, now known as Park Tower Plaza.

The FPPC found that Peters was in violation of conflict of interest laws because she voted on the development of Mather projects. Apparently Peters owns property effected directly by her votes on the county board.

Case documents for FPPC No. 14/611 describes the nature of the charges as such;

COUNT 1: Abatement and Demolition: Direct Effect
Peters violated the Act by voting in favor of demolishing buildings within 500 feet of property she owned.

COUNT 2: Conveyance of Land from U.S. Air Force; Direct and Indirect Effects

Peters violated the Act by voting twice regarding the conveyance of land also within 500 feet of her realty properties.

Now, neither of these charges sound very exciting and clearly not much came from them considering the fact that Peters is still in office and that the most exposure this case received was a single story in The Sacramento Bee in 2016. There was also an incredibly short follow-up by The Bee in November of the same year when the fine was paid and the matter closed.  

However, what is interesting about the situation is how much of Susan Peters’ investments have gone unscrutinized.

Though Peters has paid her fine, questions about her ethics record remain. For example, the case does not go into detail about the amount of money that McCuen Properties has made on the Mather Air Force Base Project, nor on other projects for which they have received contracts during Peters’ tenure with the county board. Now, why should we care about one property company profiting off of county board decisions? Because, according to FPPC case documents, Peters was still a partner to the business as late as 2015. There is also no info on how many other pieces of land Peters owns within the county. Peters did not admit to any intentional wrongdoing and has recused herself from voting on issues regarding redevelopment of Mather’s Air Force Base but has said little about her current stake in McCuen Properties.

In other words, Peters might be lying about how much of a financial interest she has in Sacramento County. Peters disclosed her financial holdings at the time of the investigation to the FPPC, which can be reviewed easily online. Aside from her personal holdings in McCuen, in 2015 she held stock in numerous corporations, including; ADT Security, Apple Inc. Costco, Ford, International Papers, Marriott Hotels, Lowes, McDonalds, 20th Century Fox, Oracle, Pepsico.  The records also show stakes in insurance pharmaceutical companies Bristol Myers Squibb and Cardinal Healthcare.

This list is not even remotely comprehensive. I do not want to imagine how many deals have come before the county board that either directly or indirectly benefited these corporations and the others she holds stock in.

So, what is to be gathered from the fact Susan Peters paid nearly $10,000 in ethics fines to the FPPC?

Well, for one thing, McCuen Properties, which according to FPPC records she was still a partner of as late as 2015, receives millions of dollars from development contracts from Sacramento city and county. Peters has since claimed that she recused herself from votes regarding the redevelopment of the Mather Air Force Base, but is this enough? Can someone who clearly has invested interests in so many corporations be trusted to recuse themselves completely? How many other times have there been votes by the county that directly affect the profits of McCuen properties? How much property does she own personally? There is no way to tell.

What this whole case means is that a capitalist property developer can be caught in an ethics violation, arguably effective in the range of millions of dollars, and only be charged a few dollars in fines while never being forced to publicly admit to wrongdoing.  

When asked if she was still a shareholder, no one from McCuen Properties responded. When Peters’ office was contacted with the same question via email her chief of staff, Howard Schmidt, referred me to the same FPPC documents I had already read.

Schmidt has also confirmed that Susan Peters will in-fact not seek reelection in 2020.

Sources Cited

  1. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/form700/2012/County/N-Z/R_Peters_Susan.pdf

  2. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/form700/2015/County/sub1/R_Peters_Susan.pdf

  3. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/Stipulations/2016/November/09%20Susan%20Peters%20-%20Stip%20and%20Exh.pdf

  4. http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article76322172.html

  5. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/news/political-watchdog-approves-fines-against-Sacramento-County-officials.html

The Sacramento Housing Crisis

Homelessness, Gentrification, and Rent control. One cannot live in Sacramento for three days without hearing these words or seeing them in the news. Especially not the Mayor.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg in a recent interview with NPR went so far as to say, “The G word [gentrification] is not allowed!” After being bombarded at several city council meetings by housing activists, he seems tired of getting called out for his lack of action on the Sacramento Housing Crisis.

Sacramento is in red alert when it comes to housing. Neighborhoods have become gentrified thanks to skyrocketing rent rates and frequent small business closures. Homelessness in the county has jumped by 85% since 2015 (19% in 2019 alone). Sacramento has the highest climbing rent rates in the nation. Most cities see rent increases per-year that average at around 4%, Sacramento has seen rent increase at a rate of 9% per-year since 2015. A single bedroom apartment averages at $1,110 per month. None of these things are coincidental.

Mayor Steinberg and the city council have supported a several band-aid measures to address the issue, all of them short of supporting comprehensive rent control for the city. There is a push for the construction of more “tiny homes” which are small single person homes built into little villages, and the constant opening, closing, and moving of homeless shelters.

However the tiny home solution is merely a transitional living space and does not give the homeless a permanent residence, and the opening of shelters has been difficult. Every neighborhood association in the city agrees that we need more shelters yet none of them are wanted in their perspective neighborhoods. Several business owners have pushed for an anti camping ordinance in the city, which was approved by city council and is now in full effect. Homeless camps are evicted and shut down frequently by the Sacramento Police and Sheriff’s departments. People caught sleeping on the street are hassled daily.

The city council has also responded with even harsher measures than that. The city council unanimously supported a ban on panhandling, which was overturned in federal court thanks to the ACLU and housing activists in Sacramento. Not only does the mayor think he can ban words, he thinks he can ban people begging for change to survive.

If the city had rent control, neighborhoods would not suffer from gentrification. People would not be priced out of their homes and would not be forced on the streets, so they would not have to panhandle to survive either.

Homelessness, Gentrification, and Rent Control. The three words you will never be able to escape while living in Sacramento, no matter how hard Darrell Steinberg tries.

The Professional Protester Episode 50 | Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Private Prisons

https://youtu.be/yw-DiLG2PoE

As a white person I am hesitant to say who is and is not an authority on the subject of racial justice. With that said in this weeks video I make the case that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is not to be trusted on the subject, especially in the wake of the announcement that Stephon Clark’s killers will not face charges.

When I served as the Research Committee chairperson for Sacramento DSA, upon researching campaign donations from private prisons to California politicians, I discovered that in his 2010 race for state senate Darrell Steinberg accepted almost $4000 dollars from private prisons.

Private prisons are one of the main enablers of the prison industrial complex, I.E. the new Jim Crow and modern day slavery, and can count on I.C.E as one of their largest clients. Anyone who has accepted their money is not to be trusted.

#Breaking: No Charges Against Officers Who Murdered Stephon Clark

No charges will be filed against the two officers who shot Stephon Clark 8 times

Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet of the Sacramento Police Department will not be charged with the murder of 22 year old Stephon Clark.

Stephon Clark was shot 8 times in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18th, 2018. He was unarmed and he leaves behind a widow and two children.

The announcement came yesterday when Sacramento District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert held an hour long press conference after an almost year long “investigation.” Schubert’s office has investigated 30 cases where police have used deadly force against unarmed people of color, most of whom have been black. No charges have been filed in any of these cases. Members of the community felt the announcement was filled with implicit bias and was merely an hour long justification of the murder.

Black Lives Matter Sacramento has been putting pressure on the DA’s office since Clarks death by hosting weekly demonstrations outside of her office. Upon announcement of the investigation’s conclusion BLM Sacramento mobilized members of the community to hold space in front of the police station on Freeport Blvd. The event was peaceful and nonviolent, as have been all BLM organized events, and was a very somber gathering. Members from multiple groups showed up to the demonstration to show support including members of the Democratic Socialists of America, Sacramento Acting Congregations Together, Party of Socialism and Liberation, Allies of Black Lives Matter, and several others.

Near the end of the gathering, Antifascist activists burned a series of Blue Lives Matter flags.

There were other demonstrations as well. Members of Sacramento state’s Black Student Union have also begun a sit in at Arden-Fair Mall, effectively shutting down business operations for the weekend.

While both events were going on, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg did not make an appearance at the gathering of the community but instead hosted his own press conference addressing the issue. The Mayor has claimed that he wants to hear all sides about this issue so that the community will heal. The Mayor’s position on racial justice might be compromised however because records on followthemoney.org show that in his 2010 election to the California State Senate Steinberg accepted $4,000 in campaign contributions from Correctional Corporation of America (now called CoreCivic) which is one of the largest private prison companies in the United States.

Protests and actions demanding justice for Stephon Clark and an end to police violence are likely to increase in the weeks to come.

Local News Coverage of Protest

DSA at the CPUC to Nationalize PG and E

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2019/01/31/photos-california-utility-regulators-hear-public-protest-over-pge/

Recently, myself and other comrades from the Democratic Socialists of America spoke at the Utilities Commission’s public meeting to demand justice for the lives ended by PG&E’s negligence. We also made it clear that a PG&E would be a slap in the face by all those who have died or lost their homes to the fire.

Our demands for the public ownership of utilities is a necessary one in order to bring about an ecosocialist economy and a sustainable way of living. It is also vital in order to achieve justice for all those effected by the campfire because public ownership is the only way to hold companies like PG&E accountable.

PG&E is guilty of murder and gross ecological negligence. They have destroyed the beautiful California landscape and have increased the homeless population.

Please spread the word and join in the effort to make PG&E and all utilities publicly owned.

“Happy” Election Day, VOTE! My Personal Endorsements

It’s election day, so VOTE while you remember that voting is not a panacea. Our problems will not all be fixed at the ballot box, but the ballot box is a front on the class war and only a terrible general forsakes any front.

So vote, vote, vote! In the spirit of the day I though it might be a good idea to list my endorsements for the propositions in the California elections.

Before we proceed please note these are MY PERSONAL ENDORSEMENTS, they are not the official endorsements of any group I am affiliated with.

Nor will I be taking an official stance or endorsement on every proposition, I am focusing my energy on the races that will most likely effect the most marginalized people where I live.

VOTE NO ON PROP 6

The Gas Tax is regressive, this is true, however their is no language in the proposition about what will be the replacement revenue source for California’s ongoing and already underfunded infrastructure repair.

VOTE YES ON PROP 8

The fact that for-profit dialysis clinics even exist is disgusting to me. If these things are going to operate in the state then a cap on their profits must be implemented. Such profit caps mean that these companies will have to refund some of their profits to their employees and customers, which means an increased movement of money which can only benefit the economy.

VOTE YES ON PROP 10

Costa-Hawkins is one of the most uneconomical and undemocratic laws to exist in California. To rob localities of their own ability to regulate their own markets is the epitome of that blatant lack of democracy. Where I live, Sacramento, has the fastest climbing rent rates in the nation, which is causing displacement and homelessness that is disproportionally effecting people of color. My city needs meaningful rent control, something that is hindered by the existence of Costa-Hawkins. Prop 10 is one of the most important things to vote on in this election.

VOTE NO ON PROP 11

This is blatantly anti worker and just plain dangerous. To keep EMT’s on call during their break time will rob them of energy and cause them to perform poorly. I was in a car wreck in March and if my EMT’s had not been well rested I might not have gotten out of that destroyed car so easily. Give workers their breaks, especially the people whose job is to save lives.