Back to the garden

Power failures: Last Thursday, around the same time New Yorkers were watching their skyline fade into total darkness, a dozen Sacramentans gathered beneath the blistering California sun to contemplate the latest twists in the saga of what once was the Ron Mandella Community Garden. Exiled from the garden itself, they sat in a small circle in nearby Fremont Park, quietly discussing a legal battle that has been going on for the better part of a year.

Earlier in the week, Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled in favor of the gardeners and required the Capitol Area Development Authority (CADA) to perform a site-specific environmental-impact report before it could proceed with its plans to turn the 30-year-old garden site into a block of upscale condominiums.

Nearly a year after naysayers (including members of the editorial board at this paper) insisted that they throw in the towel, the gardeners are still going. Among those gathering on Thursday was Rita Gonzalez, who was arrested for sitting in a decidedly more conspicuous circle some six weeks earlier during the Sacramento agricultural-conference protests. Back then, the garden served as a natural focal point for the ag-tech controversy (see “Seeds of discontent,” SN&R News, June 26), with Gonzalez and others chaining themselves around a tree in the middle of the former community garden. But on Thursday, there were no chain-cutters, no riot squads and no media headlines.

These days, the garden is back under house arrest, with big white signs proclaiming it the “Future Home of the Fremont Park Neighborhood Community Garden,” in tribute to the diminishing portion of the land that still may be set aside for gardening. According to Gonzalez, the signs went up the day after the arrests. And what about all that beneficial fungi that activists spread in order to leach toxins out of the soil—the very toxins that CADA used as its ultimate eviction excuse? As it turns out, the small militia that removed Gonzalez and her companions left those undisturbed. But CADA, says Gonzalez, removed them the next day.

Financial privacy: So, who’s funding Proposition 54, the Ward Connerly initiative that would prevent the collection of racial data? Connerly, who characterizes such information as no longer being necessary in our ostensibly colorblind society, won’t say. So, opponents of the bill, who see it as an attempt to cover up all manner of discriminatory practices, filed suit with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The FPPC has yet to decide whether Connerly’s nonprofit American Civil Rights Coalition—through which 80 percent of the initiative campaign’s funding has been channeled—should be forced to reveal the identity of its contributors.

Here’s a clue: Proposition 54’s most outspoken proponent is Shawn Steele, the former Republican chairman who zealously defends the initiative by citing the mistreatment of his own Irish ancestors in order to discount the concerns of what he refers to as “left-handed Somalians,” (see “Left-handed Somalians,” SN&R Bites, June 5). Under the circumstances, Bites is going to go out on a limb here and speculate that just about all the folks behind Mr. Connerly’s proposition are, like Steele, pretty damned white. Of course, this being a colorblind society, we’ll never need to know.

Scoopy overturns election: Is it just Bites, or is The Sacramento Bee showing its bias with the daily front-page appearance of that recall icon? You know, the one with the “V” in “VOTE” doubling as a bright red check in the box right next to the word “RECALL.” What are the chances that this icon, day after day, sends a not-too-subliminal message to Bee readers to, in fact, vote recall.

There was a time when the recall effort had to subsist on little more than the enthusiasm of its “grassroots” constituency—a handful of anti-gay and anti-abortion demonstrators and a couple of Republican ideologues. But that—along with the vociferous cheerleading of columnists like Dan Weintraub—was still enough to keep the thing from petering out. Now that Issa’s money and Schwarzenegger’s publicity machine have taken over, the Bee can feel validated in boldly headlining pages “ALL ARNOLD” and running that little icon every single day from now until October 7, encouraging everyone to vote for the recall.