Sound and fury

Thanks to the magic of weekly journalism, I’m writing this well ahead of the primary election on Tuesday. I figure I have a pretty good idea of how it’s going to go. I’ve got my hopes and my lost causes. But looking down the ballot, I see that most of the money is on the other team’s side.

Despite the millions spent on the political campaigns, and all the noise made by the candidates, I know that not much is going to change in my neighborhood after the polls close on Tuesday. I know that this week, and the week after, and the week after that, I’m probably going to run into Michael.

Michael and I aren’t friends exactly. But over the years, I’ve gotten to know a little bit about what his life is like. I see how he makes a lot of people who don’t know him nervous, because of his somewhat wild appearance and because he yells and cusses a lot. He knows me as a guy who’s got no beef with him.

Last time we talked, he told me about being run off from a local business and boasted that he told the guy who ran him off that he was going to “kick his ass.” As we spoke, he was waiting for the cops to come find him. I don’t think they ever did, because I saw Michael the next day, steaming up J Street, leaving a cloud of four-letter words in his wake.

More than party politics, more than most issues on the ballot this week, California’s mental-health-care crisis has an enormous impact on our local community, every day.

Sometimes it’s really obvious, like with Michael. Sometimes it’s much harder to discern, as with Chrisanne Beckner’s story this week, “Can you hear me now?” —which details the reality for deaf Sacramentans who suffer from mental illness.

Back in 2004, in one of those rare opportunities to make a real difference, we passed Proposition 63. The measure eventually will help communities like ours to provide desperately needed mental-health programs. But not this week, or the week after, or the week after that.