Housing has been a major problem in Sacramento for the past several years. Whether it be the affordable housing crisis or high rents, many people are struggling with finding a place to live. Even when people find apartments to live in, they can still face problems as tenants. Often, low-income tenants struggle to pay their rent. They struggle because they are what’s considered a “cost-burdened” tenant. That means that they have to pay 50% or more of their income on rent. According to a Harvard study reported by National Public Radio, 72% of people who make under $15,000 a year have to pay more than half of their income on rent. Cost-burdened tenants are more likely to be evicted or treated unfairly by their landlord because of their struggling ability to pay rent.
One group that seeks to stand up for tenants rights in Sacramento is the Sacramento Tenants Union. On January 8th they held a meeting in the Organize Sacramento office to discuss solidarity in supporting each other rights as tenants. It was an open door meeting and everyone was welcome to join.
“The Sacramento Tenants Union [believes that] housing is a human rights, solidarity is key,” said Lazaro Cardenas, a member of STU. “It is important to recognize that tenants are not defined by one issue. Affordable, rent control and evictions are issues that impacted a lot of people incident in Sacramento and other states. The mission of the Sacramento Tenants Union is to ensure a strong solidarity amongst tenants in Sacramento.”
Tenants have rights that are protected by state and federal laws. The Sacramento Tenants Union seeks to spread knowledge of those rights and protect people from unjust evictions.
California is a notoriously progressive state.
When Brown v Board was passed and the Supreme Court declared racially segregated schools were unconstitutional in 1954, California had already been integrating schools for almost a decade. California will be among the first eight states to have legalized recreational marijuana in 2018. And California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, passed a bill to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 even though the current state average is $7.25.
But not everyone prospers in California.
Despite its nickname as “The Golden State”, when it comes to creating public policies or institutions, policy makers often ignore the many communities of color that continue to suffer even when California strives.
The California Endowment has sponsored a website that highlights disparities that have for decades been overlooked. Race Counts collected data from all of California’s 58 counties to highlight disparities specific race groups suffer in seven key areas: democracy, economic, opportunity, crime and justice, access to health care, healthy built environment, education, and housing.
Latinos and Blacks make up 22.1% and 9.5% of Sacramento County’s population, but Blacks have the lowest employment rate, lowest median household income, lowest life expectancy, and lowest graduation rate. Latinos have the highest subprime mortgage loans, least income left after housing cost, and the third highest foreclosure rates.
At California State University, Sacramento, 3,000 of its low income students are homeless. Many are forced to sleep in cars and shower at the gym as they continue to pursue their education.
Many attribute this to the increase in housing prices, forcing many low income students of color into homelessness as rents around the university are around 1,000 for small studios or half that amount for a single bed.
“We have had a sharp increase (in homelessness) we attribute to the housing affordability crisis,” Beth Lesen, Vice President of CSUS Student Affairs said. “Rents have skyrocketed.”
Compared to other counties, Sacramento County has a low performance and low disparity rate. But there are still areas that need improvement to make the county equal to all its racial groups.
The California Wildfires have made national headlines.
First, the back-to-back fires north of San Francisco in October became the most destructive fires in California’s history. Currently, the Thomas Fire continues to spread near Los Angeles and is now the largest fire in the state’s history as well, a even more remarkable fact since it sparked in December, an extremely unlikely month for wildfires to occur. Some sources believe the fires might be associated with climate and others believe that fires such as the ones in southern California might become more frequent.
The Me Too movement originated over a decade ago when a woman named Tarana Burke was at a youth camp. A young girl had asked to speak with Burke alone and she told Burke about sexual acts her stepfather had done to her. From the experience, Burke would go on to create the Me Too movement later that year. The movement exploded in October of 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano came out against movie producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assaults.
Shortly after, Milano tweeted out, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Thousands of people started to reply to the tweet and tell their story. The metoo hashtag was trending on Twitter for many days. Other actors and actresses also came out with their own experiences of being sexually assaulted. The movement is so powerful that it has influenced politics. The Washington Post published in early November that Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore had an inappropriate relationship with a 14 year old girl while he was 32 years old. Roy Moore lost the election afterward.
In Sacramento, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty called for more responsibility in regards to sexual harassment claims in the California Legislature.
“The California State Assembly should look at the taxpayer funded payouts for sexual harassment — and explore holding perpetrators of sexual harassment more financially accountable,” said McCarthy on his website. “Why should taxpayers be on the hook for sexual harassment payouts, while wrongdoers walk away with no financial accountability? The State Assembly and the Joint Rules Committee should consider ways to recover financial damages from proven violators directly.”
The Me Too movement came late in 2017 but has already had a tremendous effect on society. Many women felt more empowered to speak out as a result.
Eight of California’s top ten most destructive wildfires happened within the past 15 years, and six of them were within the past two months.
The most destructive, the Tubbs Fire, happened in October and destroyed around 5,600 structures along with the Pocket, Sonoma, Nuns, and Atlas fires.
The Thomas Fire blazes in Southern California are listed as the largest fire recorded in California’s history after burning 273,400 acres. At 85% containtained as of this writing, the fire is expected to carry out into the new year but the flames themselves pale in comparison to the impact the destruction has caused residents.
Hundreds of families were and continue to be displaced, many of confined to hotel rooms during the holiday season while struggling to find homes during the state’s housing affordability crisis.
Sadly, deadly fires like the ones this season might become a norm, experts say, due to climate change.
“For fires, sequencing is really important,” Alex Hall, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles was quoted in a New York Times article. “The sequence we’ve seen over the past five or six years is certainly very similar to the changes that we project as climate change continues to unfold.”
More frequent variability annually between wet and drought years increase the risk of fires.
The most recent case of this being the being the continuous drought years before 2016’s wet winter climate promoted vegetation growth. Last summer’s hot weather drying up the vegetation and Santa Ana winds essentially made Santa Rosa and surrounding areas the equivalent of a puddle of gasoline waiting for a lit match to set it ablaze. Now, the fires have spread to Los Angeles.
“These fires are not immediately emblematic of climate change,” John Abatzoglou, associate professor of geography and climate at the University of Idaho was quoted as saying in an Atlantic article. “Yes, California did have the warmest summer on record. But the big anomaly here is the delay in the onset of precipitation for the southland that has kept the vegetation dry and fire-prone.”
One of the reasons that this past season was exceptionally flammable are the Santa Ana winds.
These winds’ strong and dry gusts are notorious for setting wildfires in the west coast for two reasons: one, they dry up vegetation, providing fuel for possible fires, and two, they blow debris against power lines or carry open flame to provide the spark. The later in the year the winds blow, the more likely they are to start fire. Alexandra Syphard, a senior research scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute who researches fires, claims that all December fires since 1948 are associated with the Santa Ana winds.
A 2006 study by the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that the Santa Ana winds might be becoming more common and continue happening later in the year.
Though it would be too soon to label the cause of California’s worst fire season on climate change, there are studies that confirm that human induced global warming is the cause for the drought that started in 2012.
Factors like these should be considered going into the new year to be ready for more possible wildfires.
Every year, fancy sports cars gather at the door of Shriners Children Hospital. The community gathers to donate toys and help the children who are less fortunate.
The film “LadyBird” was filmed here in Sacramento. It’s about a teenager who’s family struggles financially. Her dream college is in New York, but going there could harm her already rocky relationship with her mother.