California Forum

I asked Sacramentans what they wanted me to write about. Here’s what you told me

In my introductory column about joining The Sacramento Bee as an opinion writer, I asked to hear what issues most interest you.

In more than 120 responses by email, voicemail and online survey, you told me the rent is too high, the roads are too dangerous and the transportation options aren’t keeping up with population growth in the Sacramento area.

I read or listened to every message. Here are some that stood out to me:

Housing and homelessness

More than 40 responses mentioned housing or homelessness. Many talked about the challenge of rising rents for older residents. Andrea Jackson, 55, of Sacramento said she worried about people on fixed incomes, including those who are disabled.

“Getting grandma into a warm place tonight so she can look again tomorrow for a more permanent option is incredibly difficult. We also need more respite options,” she said.

Opinion

Others worried how rising rents compound expenses for younger people.

“Rent + $40k in Student Loans + Bills? Ugh,” wrote Ginny Lambing, 30, of Sacramento.

A few said they were frustrated with the influx of Bay Area transplants like me, many of whom are accustomed to higher rents.

A common theme was people who felt changes in the region were leaving them behind.

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Tess Townsend is assistant opinion editor of The Sacramento Bee Lezlie Sterling lsterling@sacbee.com

She and her partner have three children aged 5 or younger.

Chad Osborn, 20, a UC Santa Cruz student raised in Sacramento and member of the Sacramento Tenants Union, said they’ve seen “old local restaurants priced out by yoga studios and breweries and long time residents displaced by high rents.”

Some readers framed homeless people as a problem that needed to be erased for the convenience of others. That was disheartening. When we talk about people who are living outside or in their cars, we’re talking about local residents who can’t afford rising rents. With Sacramento rapidly becoming less affordable for many longtime residents, the fear of being displaced is something many who are not homeless can relate to.

Transportation and more

Roughly 20 responses mentioned transportation. People always complain about traffic, but the volume of comments I received on the issue did surprise me a little.

Emilia Jankowski, 63, of Sacramento said the region is “already over impacted with cars” and that she worries about new housing without parking.

“With such limited public transportation, it is foolish to think that people don’t need a car,” she said.

Others said the region needed more public transportation. Several said biking is too dangerous in the city.

“I ride my bike to work and I have to have a ‘swivel head’ watching for the cars,” said Paul Douglas, 62, of Sacramento.

People also said they hoped to see reporting on climate change, police accountability, racial discrimination, disparities in education and the challenges of running a local business.

Betty Williams, 52, of Carmichael, said she wanted to learn how people can help solve community problems, “whether it is financial, volunteer time, spreading information, or something else that people may be able to do to be part of the solution.”

That’s a good reminder. I’ve always found it easy to point out what’s going wrong. What’s harder is telling people what they can do about it.

When readers reach out, it informs my perspective. Based on your responses, I’m more likely to think about challenges facing elderly people and families with young children. I also have greater insight into your specific concerns around transportation. I’d love to hear suggestions for how the city can make it safer to bike.

Thank you to everyone who responded in the last couple of weeks. Please, continue emailing me and leaving me voicemails about how local issues affect you. My email is ttownsend@sacbee.com, and my phone number is 916-321-1913.

Please consider also asking a question for potential inclusion in The Bee’s Beyond Sacramento series.

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Tess Townsend is assistant opinion editor at The Sacramento Bee, where she writes about local issues. She moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area in 2018 and has quickly grown fond of the city’s hometown feel. Prior to joining the Bee, Townsend lived the typical itinerant lifestyle of a local newspaper reporter, bouncing from paper to paper around the country. More recently, she reported on tech companies in San Francisco.
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