Compared to other California cities, Sacramento remains relatively affordable with a high quality of life. (Shutterstock photo)

Sacramento Rising: It’s Our Time

Back Commentary Jul 3, 2023 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

This story is part of our July 2023 Young Professionals print issue. To subscribe, click here.

As Walt Kelly’s cartoon possum Pogo said on posters for the first Earth Day in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Sometimes I think California is trying much too hard to make that motto its own. Insurance firms are leaving the once-Golden State because its natural but often preventable disasters, especially fire, are overwhelming their bottom lines. 

The place where so many of us “lost our hearts,” the once-glorious San Francisco, is overrun with crime, homelessness and the subsequent (and understandable) fleeing of businesses and residents to saner, tax-friendlier places. BART cars, skyscrapers and neighborhoods are emptying out, as if in a 1950s science-fiction movie.

From CBS News: “Major mall operator Westfield has relinquished control of its San Francisco shopping center to its lenders.” They join a growing list of companies exiting the city as it struggles with a rise in crime and high vacancy rates. Westfield San Francisco Centre is San Francisco’s largest mall, and retail tenants — including its largest, Nordstrom — plan to leave the property in August. Burglary reports in San Francisco increased roughly 60 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to San Francisco Police Department data. Am I missing something, or is there an obvious leadership problem occurring? 

Meanwhile — and I am not making this up — California’s overtime law is threatening the use of grazing goats to prevent wildfires. Yes, that’s right, grazing goats! We ran a story this past December applauding the cleverness and humanity of using these natural lawn mowers to help protect our homes, property and lives. 

And I’ve even seen the cuteness of these goats firsthand, munching the weeds and underbrush along the road leading from Fair Oaks Village to the American River Parkway. It’s quite a sight to see, and all the people out for their morning strolls stop and watch the action in amazement. Two or three days of munching, and the job’s done! 

According to a story from the Associated Press, new state labor regulations are making it more expensive to provide goat-grazing services, and herding companies say the rules threaten to put them out of business. The changes could raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to $14,000. Is there a leadership problem allowing this? While I have no objection to providing a living wage to goat herders, I have to say, in a word: Yikes! 

All of this makes me appreciate the miracle that remains Sacramento. While we are by no means perfect, we seem to be re-evolving as a mostly affordable urban-suburban mix. We’re culturally diverse but united in our love for the region and its potential.

We didn’t give up on our beloved Sacramento Kings over three decades of tumult, and look at how they rewarded us — by getting a taste of NBA stardom by finally making the playoffs. The entire country began to watch us more closely when the Golden 1 Center, one of the most environmentally modern arenas and entertainment venues in America, came in on time and under budget. We have Major League Soccer waiting in the wings, and the fan base is loyal and loud. 

After SAFE Credit Union helped revive the tired Sacramento Convention Center complex, we’re now attracting a major hotel to not only help fill its halls with activity but also to literally attach itself to the building, making it an all-weather home for national and regional conventions. Don’t be surprised if our longstanding status as a “second-tier” convention destination is upgraded by the travel and hospitality industry.

Certainly, problems remain, but hope springs eternal here. Bay Area expatriates who were moving here in droves before the COVID-19 epidemic proved to be a greater “disrupter” than any high tech company likes to believe itself to be. Now that those two years of national misery are increasingly behind us, the migration to the Capital Region has resumed.

ABC News, quoting real estate broker Redfin, reported last year the Sacramento metropolitan region is the fourth most popular destination in the nation for people looking to relocate. People are also finding out that lower rents, manageable traffic, a lively arts scene and our fabled Mediterranean climate might just be preferable to the San Francisco-San Jose traffic and economic gridlock. 

One thing Sacramentans have that often surprises newcomers is our basic good-naturedness — we’re kind, we’re helpful and we’re willing to connect newcomers to the community. 

So where do we go from here? I say upward and onward! This issue is our annual celebration of Young Professionals — and the 10 people we selected from a pool of outstanding achievers are vying to be tomorrow’s leaders. Will their enthusiasm for their work carry over into their love of the Capital Region? Will they forego the posturing and musical chairs of local, regional, state and national politics to lead us into a productive future, showing compassion and idealism but tempered by pragmatism? We think so, Pogo.

Winnie Comstock-Carlson
President and Publisher

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