At the corner of 24th Street and Meadowview Road, three corners sit vacant with cracked asphalt and growing weeds.
The Sam and Bonnie Pannell Community Center takes up the fourth corner and a few blocks later, 24th Street dead-ends at the fields that will eventually become the huge residential and commercial Delta Shores development.
Councilman Larry Carr said he’s working on getting businesses to erase the disconnect between the vacant lots and the new buildings set to rise this year. But if he’s unsuccessful, evidence of the conflict between the area’s potential and its challenges will remain.
Carr faces challenger Ronald Bell in his Tuesday bid for re-election. Candidate Chris Baker announced Saturday he is ending his bid to unseat Carr and endorsed the District 8 incumbent.
Baker told The Bee he is “ready to be on the same team.”
“We all have the same ideas,” he said. “He’s doing a great job, and I want to be part of that success.”
Carr sees a district on the rise. The City Council plans to spend money in the next fiscal year on a Boys and Girls Club adjacent to the Valley Hi Library. The Detroit Community Association re-formed after years of disorganization. And the city has taken efforts to beautify and improve the Meadowview community.
But the area still has its struggles. The Raley’s Supermarket on Mack Road closed in September. A Sacramento County report found that African American infants comprise 16 percent of the child population but 41 percent of child deaths in the Meadowview, Valley Hi and Bruceville area. A Bee analysis found the number of violent and property crimes rose last year in the district.
Carr, 69, was first elected in a special election in 2014 to replace former Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell when she stepped down due to a health problem. Carr, a longtime SMUD board member and head of the Florin Road Partnership, was seen as Pannell’s chosen successor.
He said his strategy for decreasing crime is to tackle underlying causes, which he believes is mainly underemployment in his district. To that end, he’s hosted several job fairs since taking office, including a workshop Thursday on how to get a job with the city.
He said the City Council will consider a couple of his employment-related ordinances in the next few months, including one that would prohibit major city contractors from asking their employees about prior convictions on job applications.
Bell, a pastor and state employee who ran against Carr in 2014, said businesses are leaving the community. He thinks it’s because business owners don’t feel they have adequate police protection. Bell is calling for a larger daytime police presence in south Sacramento to combat burglaries and vandalism.
Bell, 65, wants to create a program to subsidize employers who hire community residents because he sees gainful employment for young people as the best way to deter them from joining gangs.
He’s especially outraged about the county’s findings on African American child deaths. The City Council directed $750,000 into a $26 million, county-led program to address the causes, but Bell said the city’s contribution is like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.
The next police initiative to come to south Sacramento will likely be the gunshot detection system, ShotSpotter, in the next year. Both candidates support its expansion to their neighborhood.
Bell, however, said opposes another police technology program – bait bikes – because putting an expensive bike on the street to entice thieves “smacks of entrapment.”
Carr is the heavy hitter in the race financially – he’s raised $44,623 and loaned his campaign $15,000 so far. Bell hasn’t registered a campaign account with the city.
As mayor pro tem, Carr has taken charge of two recent City Council meetings after Mayor Kevin Johnson left the dais. He has been particularly strict about having disruptive members of the audience removed from the chambers. When a person calls out from the crowd, he gives them one warning before having them expelled.
In recent months, activists have become increasingly vocal at council meetings, particularly on issues related to homelessness.
“It’s a City Council meeting, it’s not a ballpark,” said Carr, a former Army lieutenant colonel. “It’s not the place to scream out from the audience, throw barbs, to become a distraction. Those kinds of actions are not going to be tolerated when I have the gavel.”
Carr adjourned Tuesday’s council meeting with three speakers left in the public comment section because he felt there were too many disruptions in the audience.