Unfinished business

Next time you go down to City Hall to try to speak your mind, take care. You get two minutes. Go over, even a few seconds, and the police may come to take you away.

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and obviously Occupy Sacramento and the Sacramento City Council have gotten to know each other too well.

So last Tuesday, when Vice Mayor Bonnie Pannell looked down from the dais and saw Occupy activist Sean Thompson was back, again, to deride the council for their camping ordinance and their free-speech curfews, she was in no mood.

The very second that Thompson had spoken for his allotted two minutes she blurted “your time is up” as she banged the gavel and had the city clerk cut off his microphone.

Pannell huffed and puffed and gaveled people down throughout the public comments—even cutting off some poor lady who was there to talk about a church event which had nothing to do with Occupy.

She even called the cops to escort one speaker out of the council chambers—because he went 15 seconds over his allotted time. In fact, it’s not even clear that the man’s time was up at all, since Pannell started the clock before he began to speak.

Bites used to think that Pannell could stay in her council seat as long as she liked. Then, this summer she called a heckler an “asshole.” She had been on the right side of that particular argument, but she wasted the high ground.

When her constituents vote on her re-election this spring, Pannell will be able to make a strong case that she’s done a lot for that district. But words have a way of coming back to haunt you. Words like, “Your time is up.”

Time has run out, for now at least, on the folks who tried and failed to solve the puzzle of Sacramento’s missing high school.

In the face of organized and angry opposition, the Sacramento City School Board last week backed off a proposal for a high-school swap that would have moved the St. Hope charter school out of the Sacramento High School building, and to a campus that was a better fit for its small student population. It would have allowed the popular West Campus High School program to expand, and also provided space for a new comprehensive high school in the neighborhood—something that’s been missing since the board gave Sacramento High to Kevin Johnson’s St. Hope organization. The transfer—and the subsequent $25 million remodel of the Sacramento High building—is still a sore spot for many parents, activists and the local teacher’s union.

Jeff Cuneo was elected to the school board from that neighborhood by folks who wanted him to solve that particular problem.

“We did it wrong,” said Cuneo. “We started telling people what the solutions were, instead of asking them what they wanted.”

So the problem remains. You’ve still got a tremendous public asset that is underutilized by St. Hope. You’ve still got a need for a noncharter public high school in the neighborhood. “Somehow those things have got to get reconciled,” said Phil Pluckebaum, with the Sacramento Comprehensive High School Coalition, a group of parents who organized to push for a new school.

Certainly, there are those folks who will say this settles it, Sacramento High belongs to St. Hope, forever and ever, amen. Some of those folks buy ink by the barrel.

But it’s really not the last we’ll hear of the need for a high school to replace the one that was given away. “There’s still an acute need. And I really want to keep that conversation moving forward,” said Cuneo.