There's a famous quote (generally attributed to either Mark Twain or Gideon J. Tucker) about no man's life, liberty or property being safe when the Legislature is in session. Last-minute, hasty legislation in the final week of the legislative session is proving that to be true. Amendments to SB 175 (at Section 3332.2), concerning the state budget, were cleverly placed over the Labor Day weekend, with just 6 days left in the legislative session. The amendment language tells Cal Expo it is OK to let the City of Sacramento and our City of Sacramento-dominated Board of Supervisors use a site adjacent to Arden Arcade for homeless shelters and services (mental health and substance abuse services are specifically called out, providing a sense of which users are anticipated at the site) for the next 5 years, giving priority to American River Parkway campers as follows:
(A) First priority shall be given to persons illegally camping in areas of the American River Parkway that have a high risk of fire. (B) Second priority shall be given to persons illegally camping within sensitive habitat areas of the American River Parkway. (C) Third priority shall be given to persons illegally camping within other areas of or on lands that are adjacent to the American River Parkway.Proposed SB175 amendments @ Section 3332.2 (d)(1)
Of course, those words are code words meaning parts of the Parkway "adjacent to River Park" or any other City of Sacramento neighborhood or business district along the American River. Or, frankly, any privileged neighborhood adjacent to the Parkway. Other language in the amendments protects Cal Expo from liability for damages or losses from doing the bidding of the City of Sacramento's politicians. And it also stipulates that the environmentally-sensitive Bushy Lake area of the Parkway should be protected. There are no such provisions dealing with damage or losses to adjacent property or areas in Arden Arcade. Let's take a guess whether this solution is about addressing Arden Arcade's homeless problems or the City of Sacramento's homeless problems. Yup, it shifts their problems to us. This is not a new solution. It was beaten back when it was tried in 2019 and resurfaced as part of the City of Sacramento's magnificent, new "citywide" (but really not) solution in 2021 But it didn't have a way to pummel Cal Expo's Board into submission until yesterday. Isn't it amazing what you can do if you know the right buttons to push in the Legislature? (For those of you who might not know, a certain Mayor of a City next door to Arden Arcade used to be the President pro tempore of the California State Senate, the most powerful person in the State Senate.)
There is no denying that homelessness is an significant problem that cries out for multi-dimensional solutions for shelter and services. It's an issue not just for the City of Sacramento, but for every city and every unincorporated area in the region. And to be VERY clear: We have compassion for un-housed individuals and families. We don't like the Parkway being used for illegal camping. We're against harm to sensitive habitats. We don't like wildfires in the Parkway. Thing is, the way to solve these problems isn't to sneak last-minute language into legislation that impacted neighborhoods and businesses don't know about. That's why we're telling you about it, even though we only just found out about it. It's hard to imagine that this legislation hasn't been strongly influenced by the Mayor of the City of Sacramento, designated by the state to co-lead a search for ways to "solve" homeless problems. It's hard to ignore that the American River buffers City Councilman Jeff Harris' core voters in East Sac from goings-on at Cal Expo across the river. It's not a stretch to see that it lets City Councilman Eric Guerra (who is running to replace Dr. Richard Pan as our State Senator) solve his homeless issues at someone else's expense. It's also plain to see that the cities of Rancho Cordova and Folsom, and even well-off neighborhoods along the river in Carmichael and Fair Oaks, could get their homeless problems moved to Cal Expo. These amendments have a very foul odor of deceit; it's the wrong way to tackle a serious issue. Why hide the ball? Instead of sneaky state legislation, what's wrong with proposing solutions transparently? Why not let the public know about it and be able to provide input? Answer, if you didn't get what you wanted when you went through regular channels (the Cal Expo Board) you can do an end run around the public with deceitful legislative amendments.
Oh, sure, the amendments stipulate that such use of Cal Expo must be approved at "an open meeting" by the City Council of the City of Sacramento and the Board of Supervisors of the County of Sacramento. But what does that mean? Will it be a joint meeting? (...making our easily-ignored unincorporated voices even easier to ignore?). Will the Supervisors' meet after the City of Sacramento meets, such that they can hide behind wanting to "help" the City of Sacramento? (...when was the last time they "helped" Arden Arcade?). Will the "open meeting" be at a time and location that's easy for you to attend and make comments? (...of course not).
If you don't approve of this legislation, our representatives in the stated Legislature are: Assemblymember Ken Cooley (phone (916) 319-2008) and Senator Richard Pan (phone (916) 651-4006). But you had better hurry. The Legislature shuts down after Sept. 10th.