On Nelson Mandela, Davis’ anti-apartheid vote, and Sacramento’s district attorney race

This past Monday night, after an evening of wintertime cheer—which included donning a Santa suit at The Golden Bear’s annual Hot Toddy Competition and canned-food drive—I did what any good holiday punch-drunk Sacramentan might: I passed out on the couch.

Later, on Tuesday morning, I awoke to the TV buzzing in the dark. On it was the tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Nearly 100,000 people, including everyday South Africans, a few U.S. presidents and even one South African president who served during the apartheid era, showed up to celebrate Mandela's life. Attendees at the soccer stadium stomped their feet and embraced the rain. Quite moving, it was.

I don't recall being taught much about Mandela in K-12 school. I now know more about the man's unconventional leadership and history. Such as: He was an atheist, he unequivocally supported unions and he was on the United States' terrorist watch list until age 89. And he impacted change right here in the Sacramento area.

For example, in this week's News section, Davis-area resident Dave Webb looks back to 1978, when the small burg west of Sacramento passed the nation's first divestment in apartheid South Africa (see page 11). As Webb notes, the vote was merely a gesture—but how that must have resonated thousands of miles away in Johannesburg.

Had Mandela actually spent time here in the River City, he would have observed our overcrowded prisons and how nonviolent, nondangerous offenders go to jail for years, even decades. This week's cover story explores who gets locked up and why through the lens of district attorney candidate Maggy Krell (see page 16). Krell is a promising candidate with new insight on what the city should be doing differently.

Surely, Mandela would've had a lot to say, too.