Institutional memory

Sometimes, when you’re not sure where you’re going, it’s helpful to look back at where you’ve been. That’s why I like to go back, way back, through the SN&R archives on occasion—to see how the old-timers did it. Sometimes you come across a really good idea that ought to be dusted off.

For example, about 11 years ago, SN&R dedicated a few pages to readers’ (at times brutal) opinions of the paper. “The research and writing is horrible,” one reader wrote. “How about a poetry page?” another asked. Hmm …

I had to laugh when I noticed that one SN&R personality had become a particular lightning rod back then. Readers divided into equally passionate camps: “RV Scheide is the greatest” and “For god’s sake, no more RV Scheide.”

Well, now seems as good a time as any to officially (re)introduce readers to R.V. Scheide, who has returned to the SN&R staff after several years away. Having worked with R.V. over the last few weeks, I’m confident that he’ll both delight and provoke readers for a long time to come. Check out his first cover since re-upping, “Motopsycho!

A little institutional memory can also be helpful when your community is in transition.

After the great writer and urban thinker Jane Jacobs passed away last month, our own Chrisanne Beckner and I got to thinking about what Jacobs would think of Sacramento’s decades-long experiment in redevelopment on K Street and other “blighted” neighborhoods.

I think Jacobs would give her blessing to this city’s embrace of “mixed use” development and its goal to bring people back downtown to live. But Jacobs was downright hostile to government’s impulse to “clean up” messy neighborhoods in the name of redevelopment. As Chrisanne points out in her essay “Everything I know about K Street …”, Jacobs loved the organic, the accidental, the truly entrepreneurial efforts of the little guy. You can wipe out old neighborhoods and put up shiny new ones, sure. But without economic diversity, she warned, they won’t really be healthy. That’s what she said in the 1960s—ideas worth dusting off today.