Sac on Speed
Sure, the UC Davis campus police officer needs no introduction. So instead, consider his overnight transformation: One minute, Pike’s an award-winning and proud member of Aggie law enforcement, busting frat parties and writing parking tickets and the like.
Then, come breakfast on Saturday morning, November 19. A night’s sleep and a canister of mace later—Pike achieves global ignominy:
Pepper Spray Cop.
Yes, more than in 1968, the whole world really was watching in 2011.
Think about it: Had the Occupy UC Davis pepper-spray incident occurred even a few years earlier, in a world without pervasive YouTube, Facebook or iPhone use, Pike would probably still be a campus cop, buying beers at Sudwerk for the rank and file and shopping with the fam at Target on Second Street.
He’s by no means the lone casualty of the fastest year on record.
Hosni Mubarak, who clamped down on Egypt for most of Generation Y’s time on Earth, went down in digital-media flames this February. After 30 years of rule, it took but 18 days and thousands armed with smartphones and laptops in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to oust the dictator.
Even killing Osama bin Laden, after nearly 10 years on the lam, was chop-chop. Under President Barack Obama’s command, America’s finest took out the 9/11 mastermind faster than you can get a table at Zelda’s Pizza on a Saturday night.
Within hours, millions were posting on Twitter about the killing, at a rate of 5,106 tweets per second. This velocity speaks to an exploding digital-media world that astonishes in its promise—but also sobers in its triviality: The year’s most popular Twitter event was the MTV Music Video Awards, at 8,868 tweets per second.
Again, the whole world really is watching. But the whole world apparently will watch anything—and at such a breakneck speed, one has to wonder: Is anyone paying attention?
So, maybe this year more than ever, SN&R’s 2011 in Review issue matters: It brings you back to the slow, what with its actual printed words on paper and all, for a crash course in everything, Sacramento and beyond, you were too busy to notice. Or already forgot.
Splash in 60 seconds
2011 was quick to work: Jerry Brown became governor, again, promising to get hyphy on the usual state-budget tango and balance it in a swift 60 days. Mayor Kevin Johnson pledged to make the Sacramento region an Emerald Valley, the greenest, most eco-friendly region in America—then spent the year focusing on an enormous, energy-sucking new Kings arena.
Record and fast-falling snow frosted the Sierra Nevada. Local indie favorites Cake shot straight to the top with its new album—but it was the worst-selling No. 1 Billboard album of all time. The K Street Mall made big moves with city-subsidized mermaids at Dive Bar, part of a downtown revitalization splash that included a nightclub and a rock ’n’ roll-themed pizzeria.
And Sacramentans rich and poor slowed down to mourn the passing of Greg Bunker, who founded Francis House and was a major advocate for the city’s homeless.
The most orange-hued Speaker of the House in history, Rep. John Boehner was quick to snatch the gavel from Nancy Pelosi. America ratcheted up its presence in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000 troops. Republicans tried to stall a bill to pay for 9/11 victim’s health-care costs. And the U.S. Department of Justice allowed Comcast to become the nation’s largest media force by swallowing NBC Universal.
And, on a cold Saturday morning, eyes turned to Tucson, Ariz., when details of a shooting spree at an Arizona supermarket promptly unfolded on Facebook. Twenty wounded, six killed—and a congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, whose condition was unknown after being shot at point-blank range. YouTube videos of alleged shooter Jared Loughner, draped in black and burning the American flag, immediately went viral.
Here in Sacramento, Tea Party Express founder Mark Williams called the Arizona shooting a mere “blip” in history.
A sudden farewell to kings
Even Roller Girl was too damn slow: King’s Skate in Rancho Cordova, one of the regions last roller rinks standing, shut off the disco ball one last time the final Saturday night in February.
By this time, the departure of the city’s other royals, basketball’s Kings, appeared inevitable. It’d already been announced that the team’s home of 15 years, Arco Arena, would undergo a name change. Even K.J. was preparing fans for the worst. The Maloof family prolonged the agony, to boot, requesting an extension of several weeks to seal the Anaheim deal. Mike Bibby-esque nail-biting ensued.
Gov. Brown was busy with extensions of his own. Not hair—taxes, as in billions of dollars, which were due to expire later in the year and which he aimed to extend to fill a gaping budget hole. This plan would fail, however—and he’s still bald.
A Southwest plane heading from Arizona to Sacramento also lost its top: a six-foot hole ripped open in the ceiling fuselage of Flight 812 at 34,000 feet. Some at SN&R are still afraid to get on a Boeing 737-300 jet.
Speaking of plummeting: The McClatchy Co., which owns The Sacramento Bee, announced fourth-quarter earnings in February that were 42 percent lower than the previous year—this on the heels of laying off 32 employees in January.
Also out of work: Egyptian President Mubarak. It took fewer than three weeks of unprecedented protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to prompt his resignation on February 11. Most forget it cost lives: Nearly 1,000 Egyptians died and some 6,000 were wounded. It technically was still winter, but the term Arab Spring was coined. The hash tag #Egypt was 2011’s most used.
Apparently, the revolution really won’t be televised—too analog, leisurely: It will, uh, be tweeted.
The power of balance abruptly gets wack
Pissed off about tuition and fee hikes, students marched on the Capitol, protesting bottomless budget cuts to higher education under the rotunda dome. UC Davis students hastily assembled to shut down Interstate 80 (were campus police taking notes?).
Also at Davis, a small contingent of eco-conscious residents protested housing’s decision to board up their “dorm rooms”—which just so happened to be one-of-a-kind, flying-saucer-shaped domes. The university won the battle and kicked the students out—but “Domies” vow to return.
Yes, the balance of power was wack in the Sac—so much so that Arco Arena literally changed its name to Power Balance Pavilion, after the Orange County-based magic-bracelet manufacturer.
If that wasn’t dumb enough: Some Fair Oaks girl attending UCLA blew up on YouTube with an anti-Asian library cellphone rant. Way to do the 95628 proud. She promptly dropped out of college.
That’s right: No one was tweeting #winning about Sacramento—which, in retrospect, actually makes us cool, right?
There was other news:
Local author William T. Vollmann inked an eye-opening, 18-page account of homelessness in Sacramento for Harper’s Magazine’s March 2011 issue.
And Death Grips, a music trio from south Sacramento whose dangerous and danceable hip-hop/thrash sounds dropped this month, ascended to the forefront of the worldwide underground-music scene.
And, in the big picture, Sacto was fortunate: On a late Thursday evening, live video of the Pacific Ocean barreling over the Japanese coastal region kept billions up all night. Later, three nuclear reactors, damaged by upward of 130-foot-high waves, achieve full or partial meltdowns within 72 hours of the March 11 quake.
The atmospheric radiation would pass over Sacramento within a week.
Quick-and-easy stay, quick-and-easy go
Would you rather: 1. keep the Sacramento Kings, or 2. keep Daniel Pont’s La Bonne Soupe Cafe lunch spot on Eighth Street?
So was the maniacal affection and loyalty toward the Frenchman’s petite, one-man-run soup-and-sandwich spot, which shuttered this past April. Downtowners who would opt for his French onion soup over Tyreke Evans and Co. are legion.
Anyway, as for the Kings: turns out all that Mayor Johnson needed to do was whisper “Burkle” into NBA Commissioner David Stern’s ear and—voila!: Here we stay. For a year, at least.
The Kings organization would later, in May, throw a huge party in Cesar Chavez Plaza to celebrate. Brother Joe Maloof would embrace K.J. with an awkward bear hug—and then scamper back to Las Vegas. And then no one would give a damn about basketball until Christmas.
Yet, there’s no denying the power. Thousands attended the rally to support the city’s marquee and most beloved—hold on a second.
More than 10,000 rabid foodies converged on Midtown’s Fremont Park at the end of the month to eat food … served out of trucks?
It’s true: Mobile food trucks, made popular on TV and in larger cities, are strictly regulated in Sacramento. But this didn’t stop the city’s foodies, who apparently like their food fast—as in on wheels, not under golden arches. People turned out by the, uh, truckloads for the inaugural SactoMoFo food festival in March.
Meanwhile, local campuses continued on an inevitable crash course with law enforcement: 27 nonviolent, peaceful activists conducting a sit-in at Sacramento State University got a taste of riot-gear clad S.F. and Sac State police, who ejected them from Sacramento Hall just after 3 a.m. after days of protest.
Reportedly, no pepper spray was used.
This busy world didn’t end, but it sure stopped for a moment
Something really big happened in May, but the details of what it was, exactly, are fuzzy. No, it wasn’t that whole May 21, end-of-the-world, Jesus-returns bit. But it was the real deal, though, for sure—along the lines of years finally catching up with people, or something like that.
Anyway, the past catching up was definitely a theme. Former downtown Hyatt resident Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced to announce the existence of his teenage love child, consummated with a former maid, which halted his resurrected and fast-moving Hollywood career—and his marriage to Maria Shriver.
Things also came to a quick freeze for former tax attorney Roni Deutch, who closed down her local practice and surrendered her state bar license after being prosecuted for defrauding clients out of millions. The Kings also lost another much-needed advertiser.
Life also got real for 44 more Sacramento Bee employees, who were laid off in the year’s second round of cuts at the hive.
And time slowed down for medical-cannabis activists Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer, who finally went to federal prison for conspiring to cultivate and distribute marijuana.
Drama was fast and furious at the otherwise sticks-and-twigs humdrum Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, which witnessed a patchouli stink when a contingent of members attempted to ban products made in Israel. The group failed—but the bad vibes were gnarly.
Speaking of forbidden Judaism: That’s it!
On May 1, Obama killed Osama. The terrorist was taken down by SEALs in Pakistan while reading “adult literature,” and the president quickly went on TV just after Sunday dinner to share the news. Americans immediately stopped what they were doing and updated their Facebook statuses.
Mine read: “Being Foursquare mayor of Abbottabad did him in.”
Jimmer surges in the polls
While citizens such as chef Patrick Mulvaney were busy dabbling in city topography for a redistricting melee that would rattle council member egos later in the summer, everyone else in Sacramento was, well, probably getting high.
For instance, the county of Sacramento, in a bombshell announcement, revealed that some 3 million medical-pot clubs had shot up in its territory. This had board of supervisor’s Chairwoman Roberta MacGlashan spouting smoke, and insisting that staff urgently roll an ordinance. The proposed new rules would have put most of the clubs out of business, but not all of them—something the regional medical-cannabis community opposed en masse.
Little did they know, it was probably a deal worth taking.
What’s more, TV personality and pitchman for high-tech blenders Montel Williams opened his very own pot club on 29th Street in Midtown. There was no sign on the front door, no website and no advertising—very un-Montel—but no worries: Patients, who boast a fantastic sense of smell, found the place anyway.
Basically, everyone was high. Everyone, that is, except everyone’s favorite Mormon (definitely not Willard M. Romney): Jimmer Fredette.
The college-hoops phenom and Kings first-round draft pick would hopefully not just put enough butts in the seats at Power Balance—or whatever it’s called—to keep the team in Sacramento forever and ever, he was actually polling better than presidential candidate Romney in Iowa.
Still, Romney has a better shot at office than former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose fast and fleshy Twitter moves suddenly caught up with him in June, prompting many a Californian to wonder, “What was Weiner smoking?”
Not the good stuff, obviously.
Pie slams, slow foreplay, speedy currents, digital light rail
Some Brit did what every liberal in America dreamed of: He slammed a cream pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face during an appearance in British court.
The old dessert-in-the-face move was citizen’s retribution for Murdoch’s News of the World scandal, a zesty disgrace involving shady journalism, wiretaps, British royals and Fox News. News of the indignity blew up online in a matter of days. Makes you wish we lived in faster times during the 2000 Bush-Gore election call on Fox News, eh?
Even golf was too slow, as the city of Sacramento finally privatized all its municipal courses.
Yosemite also got too fast, as tourists plunged to their deaths after getting too close to quick-moving rapids.
Speedy currents caused trouble for drunk rafters on the American River near Sunrise Boulevard in Gold River, as many wet-water day trippers ended up capsized without a life vest during a busy season for rangers and emergency workers.
And Sacramento’s light-rail system got brand-spanking-new, $15,000 digital signs at select stops throughout the city, just so passengers could have breaking-news updates on RT’s otherwise not-so-speedy infrastructure.
The Dallas Mavericks denied LeBron James an NBA title yet again. The Miami Heat’s James and Dwayne Wade were devils of speed, but lacked the legs to keep up with Latin pinball J.J. Barea. LeBron haters were quick to disparage the King on NBA message boards.
Space travel apparently was no longer quick enough for Americans, as NASA sadly ended its shuttle program this month.
And Americans, who were too slow when it came to international genocide, watched as southern Sudan finally achieved independence after years of horrific misery and death. It was a momentous occasion—but decades belated.
Wet, wet, wet
Who knew debt ceilings and redistricting maps could be so damn exciting!
Bonnie Pannell calling a constituent an “asshole,” Steve Cohn nearly shedding tears, R.E. Graswich tweeting Kevin McCarty to death; plus secret maps, bogus maps … hell, treasure maps—Sacramento’s ever-evolving struggle to reshape its city-council districts proffered more better-than-cable-TV drama than watching Telemundo on acid, more suspense than an Oakland Raiders fourth-quarter meltdown, and more bullshit than a street in Pamplona.
And, in the end, something actually was resolved: Midtown and downtown became one, District 6 residents achieved greater say over the UC Davis Med Center parking and traffic fustercluck, and Sacramento High School got a “new home” (sorta, for now).
You can’t say as much when it comes to Congress, the slowest deliberative body in the history of the world, who—despite tweeting Weiners and the like—still operate as if it were 1899.
Republican hardliners took the nation to the brink of fiscal collapse with across-the-board refusals to raise taxes, cut defense—or basically do anything to make President Obama not appear remotely competent in the eyes of Pennsylvania voters.
Meanwhile, billionaire Warren Buffet inked an op-ed for The New York Times, stating he’d gladly pay more taxes—as should his peers. Facebook users, doing what they do best, shared the hell out of the Buffet story and quickly surmised that Republicans were up to no good, protecting the coffers of their wealthiest benefactors before the interests of the American people.
But then, Facebook users did what they do second best: They forgot.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature opted not to wash America of all this tomfoolery and instead displaced some 6 million Pakistanis in a second year of epic, record flooding and monsoons. Red Cross also again struggled to access the region, let alone raise sufficient funds to assist victims.
I now pronounce thee occupied for life
In the same month that legendary indie band R.E.M. broke up, Sacramento’s initialed one, K.J., got both married and also a new partner at City Hall.
First, Johnson and former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee snuck away to Tennessee for a quick, quiet—and downpour-drenched—marriage with 40 close friends and family. It took the local media a couple days to figure out that the vows actually took place; not very 2011 of them.
Second, Johnson finally got a city manager: John Shirey started his gig this month, despite zero thumbs-up from K.J. Still, rumor has it they’re at least in each other’s “acquaintances” stream on Google Plus, which launched to the general public in September, to (some say ill-advisedly) challenge Facebook’s social-media dominance.
Slow friends in real life, quick buddies online.
Anyway, the mayor and Obama both kicked off their re-election seasons in September—as did the NFL, whose speedy lockout paled in comparison to the grueling “nuclear winter” promises of Stern’s NBA standoff.
The left vs. right face-off over the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy finally broke left. This, of course, sparked fiery rage at a California GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Library—which is the most time Texas Gov. Rick Perry had ever spent in the presence of books.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 came and went.
Speaking of airports: Sacramento’s Terminal B—“B” as in billion-dollar project—was the perfect excuse for the region’s elbow-rubbers to play dress-up and wax art-history 101 about an enormous red rabbit. Oh, and ride the new people-mover with a nice gin-and-tonic head-change.
How’s the county going to pay off the project? Stop killing my buzz!
Certainly, there’s no money to squeeze out of the region’s mental-health coffers: A man raising hell and cracking windows near Broadway with a baseball bat in early September, who was later shot to death by an officer, was just another in a long line of reminders that more and more people in need are slipping through the cracks.
This is just one of the myriad—millions?—of reasons hundreds of New Yorkers converged on Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on September 17: to bring attention to the disparity of wealthy in this country, to point out the richest 1 percent’s damaging influence over politics and the economy, and to pitch a tent and “occupy” with the other 99 percent.
Occupy gets contagious
The 2011 face of judgment was swift, swift, swift.
When two young men cruelly brutalized a mentally disabled woman out front of a south Sacramento strip mall, then posted video of the act on YouTube, the world became Mack Road’s de facto neighborhood watch. The bad guys were arrested within days.
When the state’s four U.S. attorneys held a Friday press conference at downtown’s federal courthouse to announce a new-fangled crackdown on California’s medical-cannabis industry, pretty much every local dispensary owner had retreated to the shadows by Saturday morning. If they didn’t close shop outright, they sure as hell deleted their Facebook accounts—not to mention pulling their ads in SN&R.
Justice abroad wasn’t as instantly gratifying; after months, rebel forces finally caught and killed Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi. It’s unconfirmed that his final words were “Condoleezza, baby”—though it’s rumored he was “Tebowing” at the time.
Former pizza guy Herman Cain learned firsthand the power of online news when Politico reported inappropriate sexual advances on former female colleagues. Cain, the latest freaky fad in the race for the GOP presidential nom, saw his poll numbers drop faster than the Texas Rangers gave away the World Series.
Meanwhile, Occupy Sacramento protesters decided they’d had enough. On October 6, hundreds rallied in Cesar Chavez Plaza all day and into the night.
That is, until 11 p.m., when the cavalry—dozens of riot-gear-clad police, patrol cars and wagons—moved in to arrest 19 of the nonviolent protesters, who were lying on their backs, for refusing to exit the park after curfew.
This policy, which has cost the city hundreds of thousands in enforcement and legal bills, has resulted in 111 arrests in 2011.
All at once, all eyes on UC Davis
When presidential hopeful Rick Perry says “Oops,” the new-media world quickly ensures it’s a campaign-crippling “d’oh.”
And, when a UC Davis biochemistry undergrad posts an iPhone video on YouTube of an officer showering seated and passive Occupy student protesters with pepper spray, the new-media world quickly ensures that—perhaps unlike before—there will be accountability.
So was the blowback of the Pepper Spray Cop incident of November 18. The following day, when Chancellor Linda Katehi held an allegedly secret press conference on the remote west end of campus, students quickly organized via social media and trapped her in a building.
Katehi finally agreed to leave—but only on the condition that the students sit down. Hundreds more had shown up by this point and they did in fact sit: peacefully, arm in arm, spanning three campus blocks, deathly silent, as the chancellor exited the building and took her “walk of shame.”
That, undeniably, is a true 2011-on-speed moment. Not what rags such as US Weekly would have you believe is quick and real; think Kim Kardashian’s abbreviated matrimony.
Of course, there were regrettable victims in these faster times. Such as Newsbeat, the lovely newsstand and gift shop formerly of Midtown, which couldn’t keep up business in a digital-media world.
But, mostly, there were wins. Such as the eco-activists who surrounded the White House, 12,000-plus arm-in-arm, to send Obama a clear message regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. They mobilized and got their message across quicker than cars on K Street, and with the clarity of, well, Barack “Let Me Be Clear” Obama.
Funny, then, that Congress couldn’t get up to speed with its Super-Congress deliberations. Its failure triggered all sorts of nasty budget cuts. Slow, agonizing incisions into Americans’ safety nets.
This one goes to 11
Like blasting through five seasons of your favorite TV series on Netflix streaming in a matter of days, 2011 was a quickie. And, like any good finale, December’s cliffhangers are many. Lessons learned will have to wait for 2012.
The Sacramento City Council voted to explore the possibility of selling off public-parking assets to finance a new home for the Kings—arguably the closest the city’s ever been to a new arena—but still, nobody knows for certain.
Meanwhile, upward of 200 homeless individuals suddenly showed up at “Tent City 2,” a camp along the American River in north Sacramento. City leaders pledged to find a home for these men and women—but haven’t yet.
And at a council meeting on December 13, K.J. resurrected his “strong mayor” campaign, for the third time, aiming for a vote on the June 2012 ballot that would give him unprecedented powers.
The white knuckles extend beyond Sacramento: Romney or Gingrich? Return the drone or war in Iran? Avoid another recession or global depression?
There was at least one true finale this month: The United States ended its nearly nine years of occupation and war in Iraq. On December 18, at approximately 2:30 a.m., the last 500 combat soldiers entered Kuwait, leaving behind a few thousand permanent troops and what’s now the largest American embassy in the world, with soon-to-be population of 16,000, mostly contractors, according to The New York Times.
The Iraq War’s numbers stagger: According to Wikipedia, more than 4,500 Americans were killed, plus some 35,000 wounded. Website www.IraqBodyCount.org has documented more than 110,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. And the war’s cost for the United States ranges from $1 trillion to $4 trillion, depending on who’s crunching numbers.
Troops will return to an America where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a video-game based on the troops’ experiences killing insurgents in cities such as Baghdad and Fallujah, raked in $1 billion in sales barely two weeks this month, the most popular entertainment game or home movie ever.
That’s fast money for a year that definitely went to 11.