Kill The Messenger
Some people don’t want you to read this
By R.E. Graswich
We get emails at Inside Sacramento. Some of them demand my head on a platter.
Not long ago, seven or eight emails arrived at the editor’s desk saying awful things about me. The emails were identical, but people who sent them were different. There may have been a strategy to this, but I didn’t catch it.
The people who sent the emails were angry about my campaign to open the Sacramento River Parkway and levee bike trail. They overlooked one important fact: It’s not my campaign. The parkway and bike trail are the city’s idea.
The city promised to build the levee parkway in 1975. There’s been progress, but the community is still waiting. I’ve only been writing about the levee for nine years. I didn’t say a peep about it for 38 years. Suddenly I get blamed for everything.
Anyway, the emails included several hysterical presumptions, outright lies, misrepresentations and exaggerations. They ended with a list of demands, kidnapper style, but stopped short of describing what would happen if the demands weren’t met.
The demands insisted I get fired immediately, that I publicly accept the nonsense in the emails, and that I apologize for all the trouble I’ve caused by writing about the levee parkway. I carried the demands home, slept on them, and decided to take my chances and do nothing.
But the emails deserve an audience. Residents in Pocket, Greenhaven, Little Pocket and Land Park—the city’s waterfront villages—should see how some of their neighbors behave when somebody campaigns to finish the city’s levee parkway dream.
These neighbors are anything but neighborly. They believe they own the levee, the river, the shore, everything. They are community-theater versions of superstars in Malibu who think they own the Pacific Ocean. Simply put, some residents along the levee don’t want you to soil their playground. These are neighbors who send emails and want me to disappear.
The emails reveal how unhinged people can get over a pile of dirt and several dozen magazine pieces.
Speaking of me, the email says, “He promotes a lie that private property can not exist on the Sacramento levee.” And this: “Mr. Graswich describes private property owners in our neighborhood as unsafe, desperate and scheming. He then encourages neighbors to ignore the law and trespass on private property.”
Fact: Trespassing and private property are Disney fantasies for some unsafe, desperate and scheming residents near the levee (their words).
Fact: The levees are owned, controlled and maintained by the state. Even a non-scheming resident needs state permission to plant a poppy up there. As for trespassing, walking on the levee is not criminal trespass and not a crime. I’ve tried to think of clever ways to say this, but words fail.
Alas, the city has confused matters by erecting bizarre signs that say certain parts of the levee are private property. The signs are not true in any legal sense. They were placed for political expediency in the naïve hope they might calm residents along the levee.
The city wants to pay off these property owners, figuring it’s cheaper to buy so-called “recreational easements” from them rather than go to court. If you wonder why the levee parkway has taken 47 years to build, there’s your answer: municipal cowardice.
As the true levee owner, the state flood board has adopted a more sensible approach. The state is ripping down illegal fences built to block the levee. No fences equal an open levee. See how easy that was?
Getting back to the emails, the authors say my columns “do nothing except divide the local community and encourage neighbors to attack one another.”
On this point, I take offense. These columns have united thousands of residents in their demand to access a publicly owned recreational treasure—the Sacramento River Parkway. If that’s a crime, arrest me.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.