On gunfights in Old Sacramento, school-board lawsuits and Kevin Johnson as Kings salesman

On shoot-outs in Old Sacramento, school-board legal woes and Kevin Johnson as the Kings' No. 1 salesman

Looks like gunfights in Old Sacramento are history, at least the pretend ones. The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau is dropping the mock gunfights that have been part of summer Gold Rush Days celebrations for the past several years.

As Bites wrote a couple weeks back (see “A history of Sacramento violence,” May 16), some folks thought simulated gun murder was lacking as family entertainment. And even the Sacramento city historian said the O.K. Corral-style shoot-outs were short on historical accuracy.

Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president Mike Testa, however, makes it sound like the switch is just part of Gold Rush Days’ regularly scheduled maintenance.

“We’ve been doing gunfights for close to 10 years, and it is time to take a break from what we’ve been doing.” Testa said there will still be some sort of guns and gunfire, but no more skits, though he allowed, “Those could return at some point down the road.”

The Sacramento City Unified School District Board intentionally sacrificed poor neighborhoods and protected affluent ones with its school-closure plan earlier this year. That’s the gist of a lawsuit filed by several Sacramento students and their families last week, aimed at overturning the decision to close seven schools in some of Sacramento’s most disadvantaged communities.

The attorney working on their behalf is civil-rights lawyer Mark Merin. Bites was skeptical when Merin first described what he was trying to do with the case: prove that the school board and the district intentionally discriminated against low-income and minority communities.

There’s plenty to suggest its policy amounts to discrimination—98 percent of the displaced students are low income, 93.4 percent are students of color—but that’s not good enough for the court. Merin has to prove the discrimination was deliberate. As opposed to just dumb and negligent, which is what Bites had assumed.

“I think we can show it was intentional,” said Merin, explaining that the discrimination is in protecting more affluent neighborhoods while gutting low-income communities. “They, in fact, intended to discriminate against those who were powerless and those who were poor and those who would just take it.”

There could be a hearing within a month or so. Bites doesn’t know if the judge will buy Merin’s argument. But a temporary injunction would at least give the board one more opportunity to reboot the process it bungled so badly.

Or maybe not. In reaction to the lawsuit, Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and school board president Jeff Cuneo took the classic “blame the victim” approach last week, criticizing the families for bringing a lawsuit during this period of extreme (though probably somewhat exaggerated) budget austerity.

The school closures were justified as money savers—they won’t be. For starters, the civil-rights lawsuit will wipe out much of the first year’s savings. If the district was being honest, it would have figured that in.

“The cost of defending a lawsuit was not factored into the net savings,” said SCUSD spokesperson Gabe Ross. “We do not budget resources for just in case we are sued.”

No “just in case” about it. Anyone paying attention knew a lawsuit was likely. The district jammed through those closures in 36 days, short-circuiting a public process that usually takes at least six months. All of the closures are in poor neighborhoods, and they blow holes in communities that can’t afford any more holes. Thinking it could do all that and somehow not get sued is just one of the district’s many miscalculations.

It is remarkable the extent to which our big-city mayor sees his job as pitchman for one single business in this town. Here’s part of the email the mayor sent to several of our more respectable citizens, inviting them to an “exclusive reception” this week. (Bites didn’t get one, it was forwarded by a friend.)

“I request you to join me and a group of top business, elected and civic leaders at an exclusive reception to demonstrate support for the Kings and the Sacramento region by securing season tickets commitments.”

The email is a straight-up sales pitch for a favored business, and it includes a direct link to the Kings’ season-ticket sales order form.

The thing is, the Kings would sell their tickets with or without K.J.’s assist. There are, however, several local businesses that actually could use his personal attention.

What about those struggling car dealerships on Fulton Avenue? Perhaps the mayor could hang out and entice folks in the showrooms, hook them up with helpful salespeople and no-money-down leases. Why not support The Beat record store, and the Sacramento region, by standing on the sidewalk waving people in to secure some commitments to vinyl? Too late. But you get the idea. There are other businesses than basketball, Mr. Mayor. And some of them actually need help.