Last October, I wrote an email to the Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg, which I was asked to share publicly and with the media by many who had read it. Because the Mayor had responded within thirty minutes of receiving my email, requesting a private meeting, I decided to wait until we met–I thought it only fair to hear what he wanted to say. Six months later, the meeting has yet to take place, so I’m sharing what I wrote.

October 2018
Mayor Steinberg—

I am a 20-year resident of Sacramento and a 17-year resident of Land Park. And since the implementation of Prop 47, which you supported, I have watched my neighborhood—and city—turn into a violent, drug-addicted, crime-ridden community where most areas deemed the safest for decades, are now places you cannot take your children.

In Land Park alone we have seen serial theft on a daily basis, drug dealing and transients injecting themselves with heroin in front of restaurants and coffee shops and passed out naked in public restrooms, only to be given citations. We have seen transients breaking into homes and squatting while residents are out of town, only to be arrested and back in our neighborhood the next day. We have seen residents attacked with large rocks to their cars while they sit at an intersection causing expensive damage (which happened twice this week alone). We have seen used heroin needles on sidewalks, in parking lots and front yards (as recent as last week) only to be terrified of what disease could have been given to our children and pets.

And now we are seeing attacks on children, are most innocent residents. Several weeks ago on Broadway, a transient grabbed a ten-year old and shoved him. Two weeks ago on Riverside, a transient came up to children eating ice cream and started violently screaming and threatening to murder them and their families. And during that same week, at a restaurant in midtown, a transient came in with a knife and put it to the manager. That same day, another transient came into the same restaurant, started stealing and then threw a glass bottle at a child’s face, causing injuries (all of this has been confirmed with the police department).

The ONLY reason my community is seeing any relief is because of the dedication and tireless work of the Sacramento Police Department. When our many emails and phone calls went unanswered by our representative, Councilman Steve Hansen, we turned to law enforcement for help, which they have given us to the best of their ability, despite being one of the most depleted departments in the country, down over 100 positions—which has yet to be reconciled with the last Measure U in 2012.

Over the last year, we have worked with residents and businesses, educating them on what they can do about the severe increase in crime in order to protect themselves and their customers. These are people who pay taxes, work full-time, raise children and run businesses, who then put in thousands of hours to do a job that their city leaders refuse to do.

When I did my ride-along with Sac PD this year in the downtown/midtown area, 80% of the calls for service were transient-related. 100% percent of those calls were drug-addicted transients (meth and heroin), some sex offenders, ALL were NOT California residents and ALL had long rap sheets of violence. We do not have a homeless problem; we have a drug problem, which my community sees and documents daily. And when you refuse to address the real issues—blaming housing instead of laws that allow drug addicts and sex offenders, from other states, to live on the street—it is impossible to solve them.

And this is not an argument to ask for more money from the taxpayers, when the $100 million you’ve obtained and your Whole Person Care Program is failing. The few successes you have shown to the media is not representative of what is really happening. My community helped a long-time heroin addict and transient get clean and navigate your program, with great frustration and zero success. Although he was number two on a list for housing in the entire city, we could not get him help, and supported him ourselves for eight months (we have documented every single email and phone call with every person and organization we contacted). This is one of many examples of how money without oversight, ALWAYS fails. And instead of instituting that oversight, politicians continue to ask for more money from the very community they’re failing, threatening police and fire in order to scare up votes.

A powerful thing happens when law-abiding and tax-paying citizens feel their leaders are complacent and dismissive with regards to their public health and safety:  everyone comes together—despite political, religious and cultural backgrounds. They may not take to the streets, but instead, they charter buses of thousands to community meetings and they vote incumbents out and start recall proceedings—like what is happening in Southern California, where they have had a breakout of Hepatitis A and Typhus—and give interviews to the media, like I have many times and continue to do. It’s quieter—which is why politicians tend to ignore them for so long—but it’s incredibly more effective and the best way to institute change.

The public health and safety of this city should be your number one priority, which should be evident in every action you take. You are accountable to the people—not just SOME of us, but ALL of us.

Ramona Russell
Advocate + Writer