Jay Schenirer, who represents District 5 on the Sacramento City Council, is responding to the April 20 news story, "Right Next Door, But a World Apart," which examined disparities in death and disease between people who live in Oak Park and east Sacramento.
This article did a good job highlighting challenges facing Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood. However, it failed to mention substantial efforts currently under way to counter the chronic and systemic issues affecting this community.
Against all odds, there is a true renaissance taking place in Sacramento's oldest suburb. A critical mass of neighborhood leaders are now working together to rebuild Oak Park from the inside out.
Here are a few examples: The elementary and high schools serving Oak Park students have worked hard to improve academic achievement and can boast some of the highest test scores and gains in the county.
The California Endowment has committed $10 million over 10 years to develop collaborations that improve the health and well-being of south Sacramento residents.
My office has created WayUp Sacramento, a partnership between the city, education and health systems, and key business, community, and nonprofit organizations. WayUp Sacramento focuses on improving education, health, home ownership and employment in the community.
This year, students at Oak Park schools will attend field trips to area hospitals to explore careers in health, attend new high school health academies, and be screened for physical and dental health.
WayUp is also purchasing foreclosed homes to help stabilize the neighborhood and is exploring the creation of a Health Innovation Zone to attract new jobs to the area.
Meanwhile, Sacramento is investing to rebuild Oak Parks' physical infrastructure. A permanent home for the Oak Park Farmers Market is being built at McClatchy Park. A new $2.8 million state grant for the park will fund construction of new play structures, basketball courts, a skate park, a disk golf course and a jogging track. These enhancements will invite Oak Park families to use McClatchy Park for relaxation, play, and exercise.
Business is also investing in Oak Park. The commercial hub 40 Acres, with anchor tenant Old Soul Bakery, is thriving. Across the street, a Fresh & Easy market will be built, and Primo's Supper Club a classic Sacramento restaurant is renovating and will soon reopen. The City Council has also approved plans to build new housing, retail, and business facilities in the Triangle project across from 40 Acres.
Finally, WayUp is applying for a federal Promise Neighborhood grant, which could bring millions of new dollars into the neighborhood to support young people and their families' success.
This is perhaps the most exciting time to live in Oak Park in over 50 years. The conscious and coordinated effort by Oak Park residents and supportive community organizations, foundations, and elected leaders will revive this historic neighborhood.
Change will not happen overnight, it will not be easy, but, as The Bee pointed out, the health and vitality of 14,845 Sacramento residents depend on it.