The Women’s March in Sacramento last year was successful in getting thousands together for one cause. But many people felt lost after the march, and some of Sacramento’s citizens want there to be changes before there’s another march to the Capitol.
2017 has certainly been a tragic and frightful year for many people. Two of the most deadly mass shootings occurred a month from each other. One happened in Las Vegas on October 1st, leaving 58 people dead and 546 people injured, and the other happened in Texas on November 5th, leaving 26 people dead. These are just some of the many results of the ultimate problem: gun violence.
In the United States, one person dies from gun violence every fifteen minutes and a large factor that contributes to this would be the amount of gun ownership, which is more than 300 million. For every 100 people, an estimated own a firearm. Because of the substantial amount of firearms that exist, many people have instead been advocating for gun regulation instead of gun bans. Previous attempts to ban guns have seemed to contribute to an increase in gun sales when gun owners get worried. Therefore, there have been constant efforts to make firearms safer, to limit access to firearms, and to pass laws that regulate firearms. This has been proven to be effective when considering strong gun regulation laws in California where an estimate of 7 per 100,000 people have died from gun violence compared to weak gun regulations in Alaska where an estimate of 20 per 100,000 people has died from gun violence.
It’s important to note that mass shootings are not the main cause of death from guns. In 2016, an estimated 22,000 people died from gun suicide, about 11,760 people died from homicides, 589 perpetrators were killed by victims in self-defense, and 456 people were killed in mass shootings. Even though mass shootings cannot be prevented, a lot of unnecessary deaths can be avoided if access to firearms is limited and regulated by strong gun laws. Strong gun laws have been shown to make a difference. In 1995, Connecticut passed stronger gun laws and their gun homicide rates decreased by 40% and their gun suicide rates decreased by 15%. However, in 2007, Missouri repealed some gun laws and their gun homicide rates rose by 25% and their gun suicide rates rose by 16%. The numbers don’t lie – stronger gun laws lead to less gun-related homicides and suicides.
Gun violence is a serious problem in which we should all acknowledge as a society. Several factors came into play in the mass shootings of this year, which are starting to seemingly occur like clockwork, but it is undeniably coherent that, in order to make our community less vulnerable to gun-related deaths, we must support safer firearms, limited access to firearms, and laws that effectively regulate firearms.
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.
Voting in California is changing. In 2016, the State of California passed the “California Voter’s Choice Act” which currently allows some counties to conduct elections under a new model that is supposed to provide greater flexibility and convenience for voters. In 2018, every registered voter in Madera, Napa, Nevada, San Mateo, and Sacramento counties will be mailed a ballot twenty-eight days before Election Day. Voters will have three options to return their ballot – they can mail it, they can drop in off in one of several county ballot drop boxes, or they can visit any vote center in their county. The traditional polling place in the participating counties will be replaced by new vote centers. Voters may cast their ballot at any vote center in their county instead of going to just one designated polling location. Vote centers have also been provided additional features to make voting easier and more convenient, such as voting by using an accessible voting machine, getting help and voting material in multiple languages, and registering to vote or updating their voter registration on-site.
In 2018, 14 counties were offered to conduct elections under the Voter’s Choice Act model: Calaveras, Inyo, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sierra, Sutter, and Tuolumne received permission from the Secretary of State’s office. All other counties not previously mentioned in California will adopt the Voter’s Choice Act in 2020.
California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, has worked with election experts, disability and language experts, and elections administrators in order to implement the Voter’s Choice Act. Padilla is also participating with the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials to coordinate the technical, logistical, and legal requirements of this new law.
“I think what’s most important to keep in mind is nothing in the Voter’s Choice Act changes the existing options that are available,” stated Dean Logan, President of CACEO. “You still have the option to vote in person, you still have the option to vote by mail; now you just have more availability, more locations, more days, more hours.”
On an additional note, California residents who are sixteen and seventeen years old can now pre-register online to vote. Once someone has pre-registered and meets all of the standards of California voter registration, their registration becomes automatically active on their 18th birthday. To pre-register, visit registertovote.ca.gov.
In 2017, white nationalists rioted against the removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. The statue was removed in August 6th, with the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a confederate general and member of the klu klux klan, soon to follow in Memphis.
White nationalists, and other radical groups such as the KKK, and Alt-right members rioted the removal of the statues. In Charlottesville, a white nationalist drove a car through people who gathered to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, killing one person and injury many others.
Some people believed the statues had historical value, and didn’t want them removed. However, the statues were not dedicating during the Civil War. The statues depicting confederate generals, some of which were KKK members, were created during the civil rights movement.
White nationalism is the idea that having white complexion is “superior”, and that people who are not considered white should not be in the United States. Despite the fact that the United States being founded on the shoulders of immigrants, white nationalists hold the idea that America shouldn’t have immigrants.
Moving into 2018, there are still hundreds of confederate statues standing,and the battle to remove them continues to be an issue. White nationalism and other hate groups continue to fight against the people who want the statues removed. Hopefully this new year will bring more peace in the United States.
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.
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.
As the January 1st deadline to legalize marijuana distribution approaches, the Sacramento City Council recently discussed the improvements made to the city’s new Cannabis Equity Program and Cannabis Cultivation enforcement.
In March of this year, Sacramento celebrated it’s plan provide business permits to marijuana dispensaries and estimated to collect $6.3 million in revenue over the next three years. The marijuana business is booming, but in order to get a cannabis growers’ permit, there are strict requirements put in place.
All marijuana growers are required to get a conditional use permit and a business permit, a security plan, odor control, business plan, water efficiency plan, lighting plan, energy efficiency plan, a background check, and the security requirements must be written by a professional, specified to every location, be UL certified, and verified by the Sacramento Police department.
“The development of high standards is vitally important,” said Joe Devlin, Chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement on November 21st. “But the ability to enforce those high standards is how we will ensure the cannabis industry ultimately reflects the values of our city.”
However, some worry that the strict requirements unfairly marginalize the number of possible marijuana distributors. For example, the licensing fees for indoor grow rooms with up to 5,000 square feet are nearly $10,000 the first year, and close to $30,000 for a indoor grow room up to 22,000 square feet. Also, state and local agencies are able to deny licenses to people with felony convictions, specifically narcotics offenses or other crimes related to the once illegal marijuana business.
“The communities that have most been harmed by the decades-long war on drugs deserve to be at the front of the line to benefit from the legalization of cannabis, done right,” Mayor Steinberg said during a November 28th meeting.
Many other community members shared the mayor’s sentiment including Kevin Daniel, an employee at the Greater Sacramento Urban League and resident of District 2, and Malaki Amen, President of the California Urban Partnership and resident of District 5.
“I’m definitely in favor of some equity and I know Sacramento believes in equity as well,” Daniel shared on November 28th. “It’s important that those communities have access to scholarships to pay for some of the fees, maybe business loans…we have to make sure that our communities get a chance to bounce back from this lucrative industry and not be left behind on the sidelines to watch.”
“Councilmembers, this item presents a greater opportunity to launch Sacramento’s newest industry with decency and with fairness,” Amen expressed. “Today you have the power to heal families and neighborhoods that were disproportionately destroyed by marijuana jail sentences…legally ending institutional poverty and generational racism, this is an honorable way to strengthen our local taxbase and make the city that we love a place that truly works for everyone.”
Everyone on planet Earth needs food to survive, but people need to eat healthy foods to thrive. Many food companies have counteracted against government-issued dietary warnings for decades. In an article by alternet.org, an email chain published by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department revealed several tactics that food companies used to avoid negative research about the foods they produced. The exchanged was between Michael Ernest Knowles, former vice president of Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Coca-Cola, and Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola executive
One tactic that food companies used is creating their own studies. In the email exchange, Knowles said: “We have to use external organizations in addition to any work we directly commission.”
By funding their own research, the food industry could downplay the effects of their food on consumers health or shift the blame to another product altogether. Their findings are often advertised to overshadow government issued research.
Here in Sacramento, there have been government efforts to help public school students avoid eating junk foods. The Sacramento City Unified School District recently passed a new “Wellness Policy” to regulate what the students eat while at school. The SCUSD Board of Trustees unanimously voted yes on the policy. The aim
of the policy is to help students eat healthily and to curb obesity rates.
“We passed the wellness policy 3 months ago,” said Michael Minnick, Board Member for District 4 Of the Sacramento Unified School District. “We want to make sure that, at least on the school campuses, [the students] are eating healthy. We are also currently in the process of building a new central kitchen. Since we are a farm-to-fork community, we can bring in fresh food to our students.”
The food industry is a powerful force with many resources. To help people, sometimes the government has to step and regulate what the people eat. Sometimes, business and government works together, but when they do not, it is an ongoing war for dominance.