Earlier this year, volunteers for a local non-profit spent a morning at a warehouse stacking boxes of toilet paper for pickup by smaller non-profits. If the non-profits don't have to buy toilet paper, they can use that money in other ways to help people in need.
Michael Daft is one of the volunteers. He says non-profits have been able to fill some of the void the City budget cuts have created. But, the struggles of communities like North Sacramento are still evident, "I see a lot more of the commercial real estate projects around town. They've all been halted. They just stopped halfway through construction. So, you see a lot of empty lots with a house started on it that's kind of just sitting there."
Businesses have been slowly leaving for decades.
Allen Wayne Warren is running for the District Two seat. He's a local developer and a North Sacramento native. His campaign headquarters are on Del Paso Boulevard. The building is blue with grass thatch trim. It has seen better days. There's a musty smell inside. There's no number on the building and the parking lot has a large pot hole. The side streets are full of boarded-up buildings, security fencing, and litter.
Warren says District Two needs grocery stores, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and skating rinks, "We need to understand that having those services here helps to generate revenue and tax base here for people who live in this community."
Warren wants the whole community involved in revitalization. He'd like to see successful former residents return. He wants police officers to move in to the neighborhoods they serve. And he says the City can help by making it easier for entrepreneurs, "For instance, high cost of applications for starting a business, you know, permits and fees -the length of time to open the doors. You've heard this saying before, 'Time is money.'"
Crumbling infrastructure also costs money. Just down the street from Warren's headquarters, there's a water main that broke -not once, but twice last year.
Rob Kerth is also running for the council seat. He saw the damage, "It's like having a river open up. I mean, it flooded three blocks a foot-and-a-half deep by the time they finally got the water shut off. And so Carol's Books is now out of business."
More than a dozen damage claims were filed against the City. One of those filing was Warren, who owns the building that housed Carol's Books. He says the flooding caused $100,000 in damage.
Rob Kerth says City services need to be improved to keep businesses from leaving and to attract new ones. And, he wants to set minimum staffing standards for fire and police and maintenance requirements for the public works department, "Whether it's streets that are poorly kept that cause people to want to shop other places, whether it's large piles of leaves that never seem to get picked up because there's some reason why they're not sort of on the schedule that month, that convinces people to either move or not open a business or to not create a local economic development. City services matter."
Kerth also wants to see the City shy away from big splashy developments and pay more attention to smaller rejuvenation projects. He also would change some city policies, "We have a number of very old buildings in the district that still have a useful purpose, but not under the rules and regulations that the City now applies to the buildings. So, what you end up with is when a building goes vacant, it stays vacant."
As Michael Daft stacks the last boxes of toilet paper, he says whoever's elected needs to have an economic development plan ready to go, "We can't wait an extra two years, or even an extra year or even an extra month. We need to have something done now."
As testament to that, a forklift moves the last pallet of boxes out of the warehouse. There's only so much toilet paper to go around.