Sacramento leaders build walls, lose trust

Change. Accountability. Leadership.

This ought to be the slogan for every local Sacramento political campaign. These qualities are, unfortunately, yet to be demonstrated in our politicians.

We rapidly approach the midterm elections. June 5, 2018 is the last day for residents to vote for the Sacramento County District Attorney–a race that has grown divisive in the worst of ways.

On March 18, 2018, Sacramento police fired 20 shots at a 22-year-old Black man living in South Sacramento. His name was Stephon Clark and his death unveiled a deep, longtime rift between the Sacramento Police Department and some of the neighborhoods they serve.

I want to reiterate that last sentence, as it’s one that gets lost in the debate over Stephon’s death over and over again. The police department has a decades-long conflict with neighborhoods composed of citizens that each police officer has sworn to protect.

In the aftermath of this horrendous atrocity, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert–the same D.A. who claims that she is “tough, fair, and independent,”–received $13,000 in funding from police unions within days of Stephon’s death.

In her own words, “The District Attorney’s job is to uphold the law, protect the community, and stand up for victims.” Schubert’s community includes the neighborhoods of the citizens camped outside of her office, day after day, demanding that she file criminal charges against the police officers who shot Stephon Clark. In response, Schubert built fencing in front of her office, creating a literal barrier between herself and her constituents.

Recently, I made a short video, “Scoop the Poop.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek clip calling out each Sacramento City Councilmember for supporting Schubert’s candidacy (with the recent exception of Councilmember Allen Warren, who rescinded his endorsement).

In response, Councilmember Steve Hansen unfriended and blocked me from his social media page. I live in District 4, the community he serves. In place of dialogue with a member of his constituency, he chose to turn a deaf ear to criticism. This is even more egregious since we are real-life acquaintances, share mutual friends, and have even loosely collaborated together on former projects.

Stephon Clark isn’t the only issue we have in the Sacramento community, but his death has illuminated the lack of accountability, change and leadership we have here. Our city councilmembers have come to depend on the influences of the wealthy and popular to gain votes.

Yet, these councilmembers serve each and every one of us. They should be the voice of our needs. They are the eyes to a future we collectively envision. When they shoot us down, fence us out, and silence our voices, it is both unjust and immoral.

We have problems in our communities, city councilmembers. Every member of the council, and our mayor, knew that coming into office. It is illegal to serve only those who gave their vote to you or agree with your policies. It is your job to serve every person in your district, city, state and/or nation.

The citizens of Sacramento have been witness to incompetent attempts to unify our city by our council, our mayor, and many other establishments, organizations and people. This led to many disruptions (the Kings’ games at the Golden 1 Center), injustices against citizens (the protester hit by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy’s car while demonstrating, Ebony Ava Harper’s arrest and detention in a male section of the Sacramento jail), and, before all of that, the death of an unarmed man, shot at 20 times by police in his grandmother’s backyard. Each Sacramento “leader” shrugs off responsibility.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has erected a fence outside her offices in the aftermath of Sacramento police killing Stephon Clark, the unarmed Black man shot in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18. [Photo by Dave Kempa.]

Why take an elected office only to decline responsibility? Why agree to lead a district only to refuse accountability? I ask all of our community members to look at their paychecks right now. Those taxes that come out serve administrations and organizations that refuse to implement and publish metrics of productivity or success.

An overwhelming number of Schubert’s prosecutions are focused on the lower classes, including incarcerating prostitutes and homeless people, and filing minor drug charges against members of marginalized communities. The district attorney is responsible for prosecuting police officers who abuse power and use excessive force against members of these communities. When Schubert takes in thousands of dollars from groups that she is supposed to hold accountable, and declines time and time again to press charges against the police that make up these groups, she is failing the constituency she serves.

In a healthy democracy, a critical press questions those in power. However, our daily newspaper recently endorsed Schubert for a new term. Why have a platform like the Sacramento Bee if this platform refuses to, at the very least, demand a fair and impartial D.A.? These platforms and establishments are failing the people they inform.

June 5, 2018, is the last opportunity to voice with your vote, but the political cycle is year-round. Those who win offices can change. Those who write policy can change. Even the Constitution is malleable.

It may be a long road, but I hope one day to see eager and interested faces on an active and engaged city government. I hope that the citizens who occupy these offices will reflect change, accountability and leadership.


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Jessa Ciel
Jessa Ciel
Jessa Ciel is a Sacramento-based artist and filmmaker.