Ten years ago, filled with energy, optimism and can-do spirit, Lisa Schmidt and I took on the monumental job of saving the Clunie Community Center and McKinley Rose Garden in McKinley Park.
We founded a nonprofit called Friends of East Sacramento in 2010. That was the easy part. The rest of the story is an adventure in generosity, volunteerism and community pride, along with the darker parts of human nature, from petty jealousy and troublesome neighbors to crime.
Faced with drastic cuts to city park budgets, the rose garden and community center faced a crisis after the Great Recession in 2009. The center was headed for closure. The city was unwilling to spend $100,000 a year to keep it open. There were no funds for much-needed maintenance.
Sacramento is still recovering from COVID-19. As of September, the pandemic killed 3,399 people in Sacramento County, with 1,830 COVID deaths in the city. Those numbers are tragic, and they especially impact older folks with pre-existing conditions. But just about every problem faced by our communities, schools and businesses resulted from broad lockdown policies authorities ordered despite the societal and economic damage closures would inflict. It was myopic, short-term, “let’s do something” thinking that will negatively impact a generation.
Many experts advocated for isolating medically vulnerable people, rather than the entire society. Their voices were slandered and censored by lockdown architects, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president. He recently stated lockdowns had not gone far enough.
While massive wildfires in California make headlines, the increase in fires around homeless encampments doesn’t receive the same attention. Sacramento endures this alarming trend with other major cities, including Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.
Sacramento’s 2022 homeless count found 9,278 unsheltered people in the county. Despite massive taxpayer investments, the numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. The county had 5,570 homeless in 2019, and 2,538 in 2013.
During the past decade, encampment-related fires grew with the homeless population. An April 2022 report by the Sacramento Sierra Club notes the Sacramento Fire Department responded to 536 encampment fires between 2013 and 2019, an average of 89 a year. The report cited 156 encampment fires in 2021.
“Kate was my sister, but also my close friend. We lived a mile apart and walked several times a week in Land Park with our dogs. And, as of that fateful day last year, my friend is not here anymore. That will be with me forever,” Dan Tibbitts says.
Kate Tibbitts was raped and murdered last September in her home on 11th Avenue. Her dogs Molly and Jenny were killed. Her house was torched.
The next day police arrested a homeless man named Troy Davis for parole violations and warrants. Murder and rape charges were added when investigators linked Davis to Kate’s death.
A history of assault, battery and drug charges follows Davis from at least 2013. The parolee was arrested for car theft three months before Kate was killed. But California’s zero-bail policy put him back on the streets almost immediately.
As most Sacramento middle-schoolers celebrate the lazy days of summer, a few fortunate students are beginning a life-changing journey.
Breakthrough Sacramento, an educational nonprofit, operates a middle school summer academy taught by college students. After closing in 2020 under the pandemic and reopening with a hybrid model in 2021, the program is back in full force for its 28th year in Sacramento.
As I was checking out of the neighborhood Rite Aid the other day, I noticed a young man fill a small cart mostly with liquor bottles and walk past the waiting line and out the door. A man in line loudly pointed this out to the clerk. She shrugged and said, “Yep, it happens all day long, every day. They know they can steal without any penalty. They fire us if we try to do anything about it.”
A reader had just written me about witnessing the same situation at the same J Street store while eating ice cream cones with his kids. He said his children were aghast. He noted three nearby Rite Aid stores face closure. The locations on Folsom Boulevard and in Midtown have already closed. The Alhambra location was in process of shutting down. And the J Street location just had an armed robbery.