Election Intrigue

Pocket community board avoids takeover

By R.E. Graswich
November 2021

I laughed when I heard several dozen people who live near the Sacramento River levee tried to hijack the Pocket Greenhaven Community Association. Why would anyone hijack a neighborhood group? The answer is unclear. But desperation over public access to the levee may play a role.

The Pocket Greenhaven Community Association is a comical target for hostile takeover. The group’s most impactful discussions involve where to string Christmas lights along Pocket canal fences.

The association was formed in 2015 so neighbors could debate the wisdom of building Brookfield School, a private campus for grades K–8, next to The Trap, a saloon and historic landmark in business since 1861

School officials weren’t afraid Trap regulars might shatter the innocence of Brookfield children. Concerns came from The Trap, whose customers didn’t want their afternoon beers interrupted by recess bells and screeching kids. The school was built anyway. The neighbors get along fine.

In non-pandemic times, the Pocket Greenhaven group meets at the Robbie Waters library. Members reserve the community room, but never fill it. A dozen or so people attend meetings.

Agendas focus on campaigns to clean up parks and improve relations with businesses. Police give updates on efforts to slow traffic on Florin Road. The association adds material to its website under the “news” menu every few months.

Such tedium deserves celebration. It suggests life is peaceful in Pocket and Greenhaven. A good thing, most residents would agree.

This explains why Pocket Greenhaven Community Association veterans were surprised when a tsunami of attention struck the club this summer, an hour before the annual board of directors’ election.

Four board seats were open. Suddenly, eager new members flooded the association’s website. They rushed to submit $10 membership fees and local addresses, proving their eligibility to vote. Minutes—literally—before the election, more than 40 fresh faces breathlessly signed up to cast ballots.

Association president Will Cannady, a high school history teacher, led an awkward yet sincere discussion about extending the voting period, given the bizarre 11th-hour passion for community engagement.

“I hope it’s coming across that our goal is to be expanding access and not trying to limit it,” he said.
Once the association began to check addresses to confirm the validity of its new supporters, a pattern emerged. The last-second additions seemed to reside near the levee around Benham Way.

In another strange coincidence, the swarm of new voters flocked to two unknown candidates, Katie Butler and Eleanor Cady Wachsman. As far as anyone could recall, Butler and Wachsman had shown zero prior interest in the Pocket Greenhaven Community Association. Butler sells real estate. Wachsman is a cartographer for Uber in San Francisco. She moved to Sacramento in 2019.

But there they were, earnestly speaking into their laptop cameras at the decisive Zoom meeting, testifying about their dedication to trash collection and children, insisting they could raise money for the association and maybe improve the website.

They said nothing about whether they oppose public access to the levee. They were silent on the city’s plans to pave the levee and finish the river parkway, a reality promised to residents in 1975 but stalled by obstinate property owners. The topic of levee access never came up.

Butler and Wachsman won, but two other newcomer candidates lost. The results left the board under control of proven community-minded folks who created the association six years ago. Hijack averted.

I asked Butler and Wachsman to please answer some questions about their views on levee access and their sudden interest in the community association. They were polite but declined to provide answers.

I suppose the failed takeover reflects a desperate influence-grab by people who live along the levee—a hare-brained scheme. There’s nothing they can do to stop public access. The state says private levee fences must come down. The city has amassed millions of dollars to finish the river parkway in the next couple of years. The access debate is over.

Which means the Pocket Greenhaven Community Association and its new members can get on with its honest work, cleaning up parks and hanging lovely Christmas lights.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at regraswich@icloud.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento

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