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The Future of Elk Grove

The Future of Elk Grove

 

Note: This was originally written before the racist notes found at the business in Old Town Elk Grove.  As other incidents have unfolded it has been edited. I believe that the agenda of some people has become more and more clear since then.

 

Opinion by Doc Souza

 

In posts on Facebook and Elk Grove Laguna News, I have shared my opinion on a trend that is happening and that is being pushed by a few people, who I think want to turn Elk Grove in to another Sacramento.  In an earlier OP-ED piece I discussed what Elk Grove can learn from the mess that is Sacramento.

 

I believe that Sacramento political leaders, which are mostly all democrats, want to turn Elk Grove into another Sacramento. Elk Grove residents need to follow carefully what has happened and what is happening.  They want to use the anti Trump element and inject that into local politics here in Elk Grove. They did that recently with the call for the Elk Grove City Council to condemn Trump’s remarks.  The city council didn’t go along with them, so they drafted a letter condemning Trump’s remarks, asking local officials to sign it knowing that the local officials had no choice. To not sign it would have put the bullseye on their backs.  What Trump said was ignorant and not what most people think, but it is not up to the city council to address his comments, each time he says something that people think is out of line.  Otherwise every meeting would have part of it set aside to address what the President said or didn’t say, do or didn’t do.  That’s not the job of local city councils. Their job is to address the needs of the residents in the city, and avoid the political hot button topics. We have already seen on several occasions the council being asked to comment on national or world issues, like global warming, racism, immigration.

 

As we saw earlier this month with the racist note left on the door of a local salon, there is no support for racism, except from those who are racist. Of course some will disagree and say we all need to speak out. Yes, speak out locally as we did earlier this month.  This is where we can make an impact. It was heartwarming to see the response of the community to the racist letters. Residents brought flowers and stopped by to offer support. I met with the shop owner, Sharie Wilson, and she told me about past incidents and what she has faced being a black business owner. It is sad that we still have these issues in 2017.

 

Local residents should be aware that the democrats have a plan and that is to make everything local and try to capitalize on the anti-Trump sentiment and use it to get what they want here in Elk Grove.  It’s becoming clearer and clearer what they want.  Everything will be about race, or diversity, in some manner.  That has been clear since the last election here.  Tracie Stafford, who ran for Mayor in 2016 and is planning on running again in 2018, has publicly stated on her own Facebook and to me personally, that Elk Grove must have a black woman on the city council. Suddenly diversity has become their primary focus. It started soon after the election.

 

The City of Elk Grove is one of the most diverse cities in the entire United States.  It is ranked in the top 10 with respect to diversity. These are the numbers according to the City’s website:

White 35%

Asian 28%

Hispanic 18%

Black 11%

 

But some people feel the city leadership does not represent the diversity of the city.

Stafford has commented on the lack of diversity on the city council and also among city employees.  Earlier this year Stafford and the local NAACP requested a report on the diversity in the city workforce.  When it was time to appoint someone to fill the seat vacated by newly elected Mayor Steve Ly, there were calls to select a black woman.

 

We need to look closer at who these people are that are claiming this and what are their reasons.  Recently 2016 mayoral candidate and 2018 Mayoral candidate Tracie Stafford took to her Facebook page to comment on the racist marches in Charlottesville and the decision by the Elk Grove City Council to not publicly denounce racism and the comments of President Trump regarding the racist groups.  That was part of her post, but the other part was about the lack of diversity in city leadership, primarily on the city council itself.  Not really so much the lack of diversity, but the lack of a black woman on the council. Stafford also incorrectly stated that no woman was ever elected to the council. When told that Sophia Scherman was elected in 2000 when Elk Grove became a city, Stafford denied that and insisted that Scherman was appointed and then won re-election after that. Finally after multiple people commented that was wrong, and proof was given, Stafford relented and changed her post.

 

Since the last election, Stafford has been at the fore front of many of the protests in Sacramento, and part of the movement called the “resistance” that came out as a response to the election of Donald Trump.  Their goal is to get as many democrats elected at the local levels as they can. So even non political offices like city councils and the Cosumnes Community Services District are being targeted. Stafford has only addressed Elk Grove issues as it relates to race. Speaking at the city council on these that topic. I would like to see her speak to issues that effect all Elk Grove residents. Crime, jobs, infrastructure. Quality of life issues like race are certainly important, and obviously more important to some than others, but you can’t legislate the hate that some have in their hearts. All the community meetings in the world won’t stop that. If not done right, the community meetings can be more divisive, depending on who is involved and what their agenda is.

 

The lack of diversity part needs to be addressed and cleared up. To allow these types of comments to gain validity is not something I can personally stand by and watch. The City of Elk Grove incorporated in 2000. The original city council that was elected featured a black man, Jim Cooper, who got the most votes, and an Hispanic woman, Sophia Scherman, who got the 3rd most votes.  Scherman served on the city council from 2000 to 2012. Cooper served on the city council from 2000 to 2014.  So for the first 12 years years of existence, the city was represented by a woman, who was a Hispanic and a black man.  That is fairly diverse.  Since 2014, the council has included three persons of Asian ethnicity. Steve Ly won his city council seat in 2014 and became the first Hmong mayor of any US city in 2016. Darren Suen was appointed in 2014 and won re-election in 2o16. Stephanie Nguyen was appointed in 2016.  3 of the 5 council members are now Asian, with Steve Detrick and Pat Hume being the other two members.  It is hard to say that the city council has had a lack of diversity in the 17 years of existence. The city is still very young.  To say it lacks or has lacked diversity is incorrect. To say that it doesn’t represent all people is not fair either. The recent racist incident in old town, showed that the city council does care and can act.

 

Stafford believes the city council must have a black woman. When it was pointed out that the city had an African American on the council for 14 years, one of the other people commenting on her post said that didn’t count and that Cooper wasn’t trusted by the black community and called Cooper a “racist and a sellout.”  The same person also said that Elk Grove was founded on white supremacy.  Neither Stafford or her supporters denounced the comments made about Cooper or the city.  Using their own criteria that silence equals acceptance, leaves me wondering if any of them disagreed with that comment.

 

When it came time to appoint a replacement for Steve Ly’s council seat, Stafford said the council should appoint a black woman.  Insisting that Elk Grove MUST have a black woman on the city council is an insult to those on the council. It’s up to the voters to decide that. 11% of the city is black. For 14 years, 20% of the city council was black.  The lack of diversity claim does not hold up. A person should be elected because of who they are and what they believe in, not their gender or race.  In a perfect world, the council and the city workforce would represent the city itself. With only 5 council members, that is not always easy. I would say so far the city has done a pretty good job.  The city council should be non partisan and for the most part it has been, but that is changing. Since the election last year, the democrats have a strategy to start at the bottom. Start with local races. Use Trump as a way to get people to vote in a partisan way.

 

What people here care about are crimes/public safety, jobs, traffic, amenities, quality of life issues. I did a survey on the Elk Grove Laguna Forums Facebook and asked for people to give their top 3 issues they want to see addressed in Elk Grove.  There were 162 comments. Not one mentioned race or lack of diversity on the city council.  That doesn’t mean there are not those who may think that way. I have never once looked at our council with then Cooper and Scherman, and now Suen, Ly and Nguyen over the past 17 years and thought “that person doesn’t represent me because they aren’t white or not a man…”  That to me is an insult to think the person has to look like me to think of what is best for me or the city.  Martin Luther King’s famous quote is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  That runs contrary to what we are being told. We are being told that unless we have a black woman on the council, it is not a diverse council.  I would have no issue with a black woman or any person of any ethnicity on the council. The voters will decide that. We should never vote for someone based solely on their race or gender. After last year I would likely have voted for Stafford in the next election. My concern then was her lack of knowledge on issues affecting all of Elk Grove, jobs, crime etc. Since the election I haven’t seen anything from her about that. I have only seen charges about a lack of diversity. You can’t look at the police department or even the city workforce and say it’s not diverse enough without looking at why? Are the different ethnic groups applying for jobs? Are they as among the most qualified? Unless you want the city to hire people based on race or gender, then you can’t control who actually applies for the jobs.

 

Now there is a push for a police commission in Elk Grove. I have no issue with the department being transparent and citizens having input. In an article in the Elk Grove Citizen, there are more details on the call or a police commission.  There are 3 names on the list of those supporting the plan for a commission, that Elk Grove residents should pay attention to, Amar Shergill, Tracie Stafford and Fabrizio Sasso.  If you have watched the city council meetings this year then you have likely seen them comment on the diversity issue. Shergill is an attorney and Sasso represents local unions, although I don’t believe he lives in Elk Grove.  There is nothing wrong with what they are asking for, but people should be aware of who they are.

 

As a lifelong Elk Grove resident, the push towards Sacramento politics is not something that I think is good for the city. Sacramento has a myriad of problems including crime that is increasing, dysfunction between the city and the police department.  Sacramento’s crime rate is double the national average.   The city council recently voted to go along with a program that would pay gang members not to use a gun in the commission of their crimes. A vote that is not supported by the people in Sacramento.  But that is the mentality they want to bring here.

This is a quote from Stafford on the police commission idea,

Stafford expressed a need for the commission to have “teeth,” as opposed to the Elk Grove Multicultural Commission, which she said mainly organizes the city’s annual Multicultural Festival.

“(The proposed policing commission) actually needs to have some power and some funding,” she said. “It truly needs to have power and not just (be) a feel-good organization that is put together to appease some voices.

 

The commission would be anti police. That is essentially what police commissions are. They second guess the police and end up causing problems. Giving them any kind of power or authority will only cause more problems. The same problems we are seeing in Sacramento where they do not back their officers. So now officers are being less proactive and crime will continue to rise. Citizens should absolutely have a voice, but they should not have control over how police do their jobs. That is dangerous. If officers start second guessing what they are doing, that makes it more dangerous for everyone. Being proactive is what makes Elk Grove safer. If they have to start worrying about whether they should stop someone because of that person’s race and the possible repercussions, then Elk Grove will become less safe. Good old fashioned police work is what gets criminals off the streets. Often times the ones on probation or parole are the ones committing the crimes. The ones with active warrants too.  Being proactive in stopping these people is important.

 

Right now the city of Elk Grove has one of the best police departments around. They are doing more with less.  As I noted in a recent article, we need more police.  And let’s be clear, when a police commission is established, it is done primarily as a response to how African Americans are treated by police.  Those are going to be the issues most likely looked at. There will be others too, but that is going to be the one that is going to be the one most looked at. I report on a lot of crime issues in Elk Grove and there are always a lot of comments from people that are critical of things the officers do. We all have the luxury of sitting behind a computer or on our phones and second guessing what is done. I had the opportunity to go on a ride along and while it was very quiet, there was one incident at a known “trouble” home in the Elk Grove area. The occupants were black, and about 8 people came out of the house and were yelling, and it could have went sideways very quickly, but the officers did a great job of de-escalating the situation.

 

Part of the problem when looking at police/citizen issues, is that just as some officers may be biased, they also deal with the dregs of society on a daily basis. Every stop, no matter how small, could be dangerous for them. There are also people who don’t like the police and can cause problems too with how they interact with officers. Some people are confrontational.  I have seen it first hand.

 

I do not support what Stafford and her group are trying to do. I think their ideas are divisive and not good for Elk Grove.  Elk Grove is very diverse and that is a good thing.  Everyone should have their say and be allowed to say what they want, but we should not enact policies because of one group. Any policies should be about all the people. I believe this is part of the plan to stir things up to help Stafford get elected next year.  Elk Grove residents will get the chance to decide what is best for the future at the next election. Just keep your eyes and ears open between now and then.

 

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