Letters for July 29, 2004

Need informed consent on arena

Re “Extreme makeover” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 15):

While interesting and cleverly titled, Mr. Garvin’s article suffers from the same problems that have stunted the development of a decent downtown Sacramento: preoccupation with developers’ big projects, either-or thinking and no planning. Cities with vital downtowns didn’t just happen; they were the result of careful and participative planning.

The proposed downtown arena is a good case in point: as Ron Vrilakas so aptly notes, “We’ve let the project define us, instead of the other way around.” While there’s no agreement or overall plan for downtown, the city council nonetheless may propose a November ballot measure asking voters to “give their opinion on the downtown arena proposal.” On what? Apart from any vision of a future downtown, many unresolved issues precede such a “vote,” not least among them city priorities and project financing alternatives.

The Maloofs are fun and entertaining, but there may be other, more important, public priorities in Sacramento. Even if the new arena was a top priority, where are the serious financing alternatives that could make it a viable investment?

The new arena isn’t simply an issue of either “paid for by Maloofs” (with the threat of the Kings moving) or “paid for by taxpayers” (with the Maloofs making a bundle). Nor should downtown merchants, their clients and local residents shoulder the entire burden. The Kings are a regional, not just a city, resource. Let’s see some decent creative plans, analyses and alternatives that fit within an overall vision of a downtown—one that includes the desired housing, transportation and commercial ventures—before we’re asked to vote on the new arena.

Chuck McIntyre

If you want funky, skip Rite Aid

Re “Extreme makeover” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 15):

Is it just me, or were there no real alternatives given in this story? Are the “Fargo Four” providing the only choices? All of these big-idea guys have one thing in common: They care so much about our downtown that they will mow over classic commercial buildings to erect faceless architectural abominations. In reality, they are only interested in their bottom line. They don’t live downtown.

Greg Taylor seems to be the only one with his head screwed on straight. Build housing for the working class. All these big projects claiming to put housing in the downtown are only for the wealthy. Hey, Vrilakas, housing is not just a luxury loft. Where do the rest of us live?

I say “us” because I am already living down here in the heart of the matter, right by the newest luxury-loft corner at Ninth and J streets. That project claims 200 units, of which only 40 are “affordable housing.”

Diversify in the future by even having artists living downtown? Already here, fella. In fact, if this gentrification—because that’s what it is—keeps going, the artists will have to cross the river and head into the not-so-affordable-anymore West Sac.

It isn’t too hard to figure out why K Street has failed. The placement of the Downtown Plaza was the final push adrift. It is like putting a grocery store in next to an apple cart. Pretty soon, people forget about the apple-cart guy, and he becomes just something in the way. If you want to see “funky,” you ain’t gonna get it with Rite Aid. You get it with local flavor: street vending, shops, bars, cafes and late-night diners. I like Taylor’s idea of revamping the alleys, instead of the latrines that they currently are.

But most importantly, can we please stop looking to other cities for models? Instead of making it something like Portland’s Pearl District or San Diego’s Gas Lamp District, how about making it looking like Sacramento?

Matt Johannsen

What’s with the full-court press?

Re “Extreme makeover” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 15):

It’s ironic that Mayor Fargo handpicks a group of developers and businessmen to lead the downtown-arena proposal project. What objectivity is there in such a panel when all the “Fargo Four” appointees will vie to be in the running to win substantial contracts? The billionaire Maloofs will get a shiny new arena at pennies to the dollar of retail value, and developers will win huge construction contracts, all at the expense of taxpayers.

The ludicrous thing about this whole debate is that there are no firm numbers as to what the final costs are, and details of the plan remain murky, including the exact location of the downtown site. Oh, and the plan must be voted to be approved or rejected for submission to the November ballot by August 6? That’s insane for a project in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The public should know exactly what the plan entails.

Careful focus groups and pollsters have learned voters will support the arena project, if pork-barrel projects like redeveloping the Crest Theatre, Crocker Art Museum and Sacramento Community Center are included. This costs tons of money! The estimated $400 million upfront price tag turns into $1 billion after 30-year bond payments are to be made. And what about cost overruns?

It’s easy for the elite of the city to say an arena is needed, as there’s money in it for them. Of course, schools and the underclass continue to be neglected. It is clear many of our political leaders are in the pockets of the elite. Please remind the city council that it needs to represent all of Sacramento, not a sports franchise.

Ian Lyman

The porch-sitting outlaws

Re “Stoops to conquer” by Frank Marquardt (SN&R Essay, July 15):

In this essay about porch sitting, Frank Marquardt stated that he had not found any other articles about such a topic in local newspapers. He is not as unique as he thinks.

On Sunday, April 14, 1985 (I know this is ancient history), a very similar article, titled “How good porches make good neighbors,” by my husband, Peter Rodman, appeared in the Forum section of The Sacramento Bee. We were living in Midtown then, and perhaps fewer people were afraid to sit on their front porches.

Also, in the October 19, 1987, issue of The Suttertown News, Tim Holt wrote an editorial titled “The Porch-Sitting Outlaw,” which also became the title of a book collecting his columns. At that time, the city wanted to ban the residents of St. Vincent’s Inn, a homeless shelter in downtown Sacramento, from sitting on their porch. A bunch of us rebellious employees and friends of the eccentric weekly went over there, sat on the porch and were photographed doing it. We weren’t arrested, and that particular NIMBY proposal died out.

Today, we live in the Land Park area, like Marquardt, and we still sit on our front porch. I agree more people should sit on porches and not give in to a fear of fear.

Jane Blue

More on train-sitting

Re “Bee-Al Qaeda link” (SN&R Bites, July 22):

Is it the job of every single member of the Bush family to be a pain in my butt? While Bush the elder, in a stunning display of obviously genetic arrogance, was screwing up the Amtrak system, my oldest son was finishing the last leg of a journey home from Europe that resembled a bad rerun of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Without a cell phone and with a 100-pound suitcase, my 20-year-old was held up for one more hour, while his mother and I watched the clock and sweated about his safe return.

I can only give a huge thank you to God that unlike many parents in our country, I was only waiting for Bush the elder to let my son into the Sacramento train station, not Bush the younger to let my son come home in a body bag.

Vote John Kerry! Get rid of these guys.

Michael J. Hansen
Citrus Heights

The not-so-elusive pill

Re “Access denied” (SN&R Guest comment, July 1):

Thank you for the column on the Food and Drug Administration’s decision against making emergency contraception (EC)—also known as “the morning-after pill”—available without a prescription. Authors Britta Guerrero and Mary Bradsbury mentioned that in California “Adding insult to injury is the current lack of local availability of emergency contraception, even with a prescription.”

Although access to EC continues to be an issue across the United States, it is worth noting that California is actually leading the nation in expanding access to EC. Currently six states—California, Washington, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine—have taken a leadership role to expand access to EC in pharmacies.

California was the first state to pass dedicated legislation allowing women to get EC directly from participating pharmacies without needing a prescription from their doctor or clinic. Since January 2002, more than 2,500 pharmacists have been trained to provide EC to the public, and more than 800 pharmacies in 48 of California’s 58 counties now provide EC services.

To provide EC, a pharmacist must receive training and sign a protocol with a physician. In Sacramento County, there are at least 24 pharmacies providing EC directly to women, and even more in the surrounding areas. To locate EC pharmacies in California, call (800) 323-1336 or visit www.EC-Help.org.

Access to EC for women in California would be greatly enhanced if they knew that their local pharmacy provided direct access.

Belle Taylor-McGhee
executive director, Pharmacy Access Partnership