When voices carry

We occasionally get what I like to call “carpet-bombed”—multiple voice mails and e-mails show up, directed to several members on the editorial staff and even to people in our advertising department, from people imploring us to cover some event. Sometimes, these flurries of hyperbole are the result of an overzealous advocate who only wants to ensure that his or her shindig doesn’t get lost among the background noises. Occasionally, the messages embody a calculated frontal assault to bully us or at least to attempt to triple-dog dare us in a loud voice, to do someone’s bidding.

And, once in a while, we get carpet-bombed out of what appears to be a spontaneous eruption of compassion, which is how we found out that Rick Best died last week, at age 32.

Best had been hospitalized from an automobile accident last July, and pneumonia finally overwhelmed him. Most of his activities while living were the sort of thing covered in the front half of this paper. He was a tireless advocate for recycling and was policy director for Californians Against Waste, organizer and director of the Grass Roots Recycling Network and legislative advisor and environmental director for former Assemblyman Fred Keeley. Best got around in a wheelchair—he’d been a paraplegic since birth—and was active in wheelchair races. He also was a big Giants fan.

Best was active in the local arts community, too. He was head of the board of directors of the Chalk It Up festival, held every Labor Day weekend in Fremont Park, which is located between P, Q, 15th and 16th streets downtown. He’d been involved with Chalk It Up since 1993, when it was organized as a nonprofit; the festival began in 1991. During its three-day spans, artists each illustrate a panel on the sidewalk surrounding the park with chalk pastel and water, while local musicians and bands perform on a temporary stage. It’s a nice way to observe the transition from summer to fall in Sacramento.

Among other things, what Best did at Chalk It Up was hook up an artist with a sponsor, who would donate money to support the artist’s panel. Through these donations, Chalk It Up raises money for school arts programs through grants. It generally isn’t a function of this space to editorialize, but between Proposition 13 in 1978 and Texas energy companies’ raid on the state treasury today, arts programs are often the first to go when school budgets get slashed. So, any contribution to teaching the arts to children is a good thing.

We didn’t know Rick Best. And, while we wish we had, we can appreciate his contributions. It’s those people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make beautiful things happen who really matter the most.