Jennings re-elected—he earned it
By R.E. Graswich
There are two good reasons why Rick Jennings has no opponent in this month’s City Council primary election. First, nobody thought they could gather endorsements, raise money, knock on doors and convince voters to throw him out. Second, he’s done a decent job for eight years.
Since winning the seat for Pocket, Greenhaven, Valley Hi and Delta Shores in 2014, Jennings cleaned up parks, filled empty storefronts and prevented homeless blight. He made progress on the Sacramento River Parkway, though you need a microscope to measure advancement on a treasure promised in 1975.
This year, thanks to reapportionment, Jennings gains Land Park and Curtis Park. He loses Valley Hi and Delta Shores.
But in a feat of bureaucratic incompetence, Land Park winds up with two elected councilmembers—Jennings and Katie Valenzuela. Meantime, East Sacramento has none, though the mayor will nominally watch over the territory. This tribute to City Hall stupidity continues through 2024.
The city’s inept Independent Redistricting Commission coughed up the dog’s breakfast. With advice from the disgraced city attorney’s office, the commission stretched Jennings’ District 7 territory halfway across Valenzuela’s District 4 without understanding the consequences. Please, City Council: Hire a lawyer who knows state election law.
It wasn’t Jennings’ fault. He was busy in Pocket, trying to improve his community while sidestepping the homeless crisis. No City Council member has been better at removing tents and lived-in vehicles from the neighborhood.
Here’s why Jennings won a free ticket to re-election, and why Land Park and Curtis Park residents should welcome his arrival:
Two years ago, Mayor Darrell Steinberg began a crusade to shame City Council members into placing homeless facilities in their communities. Jennings ignored the balkanization plan for months. He finally offered a Meadowview site barely in the city—the Franklin Boulevard Regional Transit parking lot.
Jennings suggested 40 to 100 homeless vehicles could squat there, knowing they would become RT’s problem. Today the parking lot resides in District 8. Told you he was smart.
Jennings takes a no-nonsense approach to homeless camps along the Sacramento River. He asks police to move them along. He cites safety and “critical infrastructure” considerations. The area has few problems and provides no homeless services.
Two City Council members who preceded Jennings in Pocket and Greenhaven were retired cops, Robbie Waters and Darrell Fong. They made District 7 the safest in the city. Jennings keeps it that way.
Jennings isn’t a cop. He’s a former football player—just ask to see his Super Bowl ring—and runs a nonprofit parental support outfit called Fathers and Families.
He likes tech, and pushed the city to install cameras that read license plates at Pocket entry and exit points. Stolen plates ping the police. Pocket is a bad place to steal a car.
Traffic is important to Pocket residents. Jennings sponsored a transportation survey and street modifications to slow traffic and improve roads for cyclists and pedestrians. The community is friendly to cyclists and runners.
The Pocket canal was a lagoon of submerged trash and shopping carts when Jennings arrived. He badgered the parks department to clean up the canals and establish regular maintenance schedules.
The Promenade shopping center in Pocket suffered from poor management and post-recession vacancies in 2014. Jennings worked with the owners to improve management and attract new tenants. Now the center is a gathering place with diverse restaurants and a delightful brewery.
Jennings, 69, isn’t perfect. I’ve heard residents say he ducks complaints. But his focus on neighborhood amenities—safety, traffic, parks and local businesses—makes him better than most politicians.
The levee bike trail is Jennings’ last touchdown, a legacy to match his Super Bowl ring. Representing Land Park and Little Pocket, Jennings is positioned to guide the parkway to the end zone. The project is nearly 50 years behind schedule. Better late than never.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento