Now that Stephon Clark’s family has laid him to rest, many will want a return to normalcy in Sacramento. It’s time to move on with our lives, they’ll say, and put this dark chapter behind us. That would be an injustice, and a civic mistake.
The questionable shooting of Clark in his grandparents’ backyard two weeks ago has prompted, not just outrage at law enforcement, but also an important discussion about race, poverty and inequity – and the policy choices that have left them to fester in neighborhoods ... where many residents believe “disadvantage” has become an excuse for overly aggressive policing.
The City Council opened the floodgates when it held a forum last week to try to rebuild trust between police and the public. Hundreds of people showed up, most of them angry and from poor black neighborhoods.
They had a long list of grievances. They complained about the escalating price of housing, stagnant wages and the lack of decent jobs. Others griped about the paucity of investment in their neighborhoods – the failing schools, the underfunded community centers – while downtown and midtown enjoy spruced-up parks, new grocery stores, hospitals and health clinics, and trendy restaurants and bars.
The disparity is an insult, they said, when majority-black neighborhoods struggle with crime and child deaths.
Their cries are not unheard. City Councilman Jay Schenirer, whose district includes rapidly gentrifying Oak Park, shared the frustration in an email to his constituents on Thursday, while also admitting, “I do not have the answers.”
“I hear your demands for equitable treatment, processes, resources, and access for all Sacramentans. How do we bring equitable investments and adequate resources to our struggling neighborhoods? How we make sure any investments made in these communities directly benefit those for whom they are intended?”
It has been a quandary as Sacramento has rebounded unevenly from the Great Recession. Former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s push to make Sacramento a “world-class city,” brought jobs and development, but its visible benefits were mostly downtown. ...
These amenities are sure to be boon for Sacramento’s future, but in the category of no good deed going unpunished, they also have made the city more attractive to affluent Bay Area residents, who are moving here in droves and driving up the cost of housing.
During his first year as mayor, Steinberg’s highest-profile initiatives focused on reducing homelessness, a long-neglected problem to which Steinberg could bring expertise, but again, an effort that primarily addressed the needs of residents and businesses downtown and in midtown. More recently, he has been out front on protecting immigrants from the Trump administration.
But he must now also confront Sacramento’s yawning economic divide. On Tuesday, he told residents who came to the public forum that “you will be heard, and we will be listening.”
But he and the City Council must do more than listen. They need to come up with a smart plan, and make sure there’s enough staff and money to execute it. The business community must step up, too.