Happy 4th of July!

We hope you are having a wonderful time surrounded by family and friends.

We know many of our friends around Sacramento may not be feeling especially patriotic these days, but we choose to celebrate anyway, because as our 18th President (That’s a West Wing reference, you’re welcome.) reminded us:

TRSacramento“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”
― Theodore Roosevelt (Did you know he gave a speech in Sacramento? The Mayor he refers to in the speech was George H. Clark.)

Or as Mark Twain put it:

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Most important, enjoy your celebrations safely:

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Showdown at the Shops: The 1894 Pullman Strike

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Guest Post by William Burg

On July 4, 1894, two companies of Sacramento militia, bayonets at the ready, faced three thousand strikers at the Southern Pacific passenger depot on Second and H Street, main entrance to the Southern Pacific Shops. The soldiers, all Sacramento residents, stared down their rifles at neighbors, friends, family and coworkers. Their orders were to retake the Shops from the American Railway Union (ARU) strikers, by force if necessary. A third company of Sacramento militia had refused orders and remained at the armory. The strikers, unarmed, had only their bodies to stop the militiamen. “You wouldn’t put that steel through me, would you, Bill?” said one striker to his brother in uniform. “Go ahead, Jack; jab your bayonet through me, and make your sister a widow,” said another. “Go ahead boys, and run us through, we might as well die here as to starve.”

California_National_Guardsmen in Capitol Park

California National Guardsmen in Capitol Park

The Sacramento militia commander, Brigadier General Timothy Sheehan, considered the situation. Behind him were San Francisco guardsmen, exhausted after an overnight trip to Sacramento, poorly fed, and entirely unused to Sacramento’s scorching summer heat. In front of his soldiers were strikers unwilling to yield. And on July 4, any random firecracker could be misinterpreted as a gunshot, setting off a bloodbath. Upon his arrival at the Shops, he saw that the strikers included women and children, even babies, and an atmosphere that seemed more like a picnic than a strike, until his soldiers arrived with fixed bayonets. Sheehan asked strikers to disperse. Major Harris Weinstock, partner in the Weinstock & Lubin department store and Sheehan’s executive officer, repeated the command. The strikers answered in chorus, “You can never enter here unless you do so over our dead bodies.”

The nerve of the militia broke first. Some unloaded their weapons, or even handed their rifles to the strikers. Another company from Stockton retreated to nearby shade, accepting an offer by ARU strikers of iced lemonade (the entire unit was later dishonorably discharged and imprisoned.) Sheehan reported the situation to his superior officer, who turned command over to U.S. Marshal Barry Baldwin. Baldwin dispatched the Sacramento companies to guard the bridges over the Sacramento and American rivers, and climbed atop a locomotive cab, hoping to persuade the strikers with force of oratory where arms had failed, to no avail. The Shops workers cheered as the soldiers returned to the armory at Sixth and M Street, but their victory was short-lived.

Strikers jeer US Marshall Barry Baldwin

Strikers jeer US Marshall Barry Baldwin

The struggle at the Shops began on June 28, 1894, spurred by events half a continent away, at the company-owned town of Pullman, Illinois, home of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Pullman’s patented “sleeper” passenger cars were synonymous with long-distance train travel and used on nearly every railroad. An 1893 depression brought on by railroad bankruptcies and resulting bank failures meant a dramatic drop in Pullman car sales. Pullman cut their employees’ wages by 30%. These wage cuts outraged workers. The company also refused to lower rent in their company-owned housing, and the cuts came just as stockholders received an 8% dividend. Pullman employees, members of the ARU, voted to strike and walked out on May 11, 1894.

On June 27, the strike was still unresolved, and ARU president Eugene V. Debs called on all members belonging to railroads west of Chicago to stop any train with Pullman-owned cars—in other words, nearly every passenger train. The ARU was a new union, founded in 1893 and not officially recognized by the railroads. Some railroad workers, including engineers, firemen and brakemen, already had their own unions, but many, including boilermakers, blacksmiths, and car builders, did not. The ARU was open to all railroad employees, attracting thousands of workers in cities like Pullman and Sacramento, who built or serviced railroad equipment but lacked union representation. In August 1893, the fledgling ARU forced the Great Northern Railway to roll back wage cuts, its first and only victory. The Pullman strike was the second major effort by the new union to exercise its strength, with dramatic results that stopped trains across half the continent.

In 1894, Sacramento was almost as much a company town as Pullman: Southern Pacific employed about one-third of the city’s workforce. SP traditionally had excellent labor relations, but the railroad was far less popular with the general public and the press, who objected to SP’s high rates and monopoly on California traffic. Sacramento Shops employees were not allowed to join existing railroad unions, so ARU membership became very appealing to local workers who sought the benefits that union membership brought their fellow railroad workers. The ARU’s success against Great Northern strengthened that appeal. By the 1890s, California was already one of the most urbanized and industrialized states in the country; only one-fifth of the state population was rural, and new immigration promoted enormous industrial growth in California’s cities, including Sacramento. Even the state’s agricultural resources were organized around industrial production rather than small family farms, using migrant labor on massive corporate farms called “factories in the field” by labor writer Carey McWilliams. The “Panic of 1893” and resulting depression meant many of these workers were unemployed or underpaid.

In April of 1894, only a few weeks before the Pullman strike, “Coxey’s Army,” sometimes called the Industrial Army or the Army of the Unemployed, had passed through Sacramento from the Bay Area on its way to Washington DC, intended as a national protest against economic inequality and unemployment. This group was still marching towards Washington when the Pullman strike started, but California business and government leaders were already alarmed by growing protest and labor unrest throughout the country.

Railroaders across the western United States joined in the boycott. The strike paralyzed railroad traffic across California, including Los Angeles and Oakland, but Sacramento was the hub of the California railroad network and had the largest representation of ARU members. About 2100 of the Shops’ 2500 workers joined the strike, part of an estimated 125,000 strikers nationwide, and hundreds of nearby ARU members came to Sacramento to join the strike. Its timing in deep summer, peak fruit packing season, meant that cars full of fresh fruit rotted on freight platforms and in stopped trains.

Strikers gained a propaganda coup when Jane Lathrop Stanford, widow of former Southern Pacific president Leland Stanford, was stranded in her private railroad car in northern California and wished to return home to San Francisco. She met with the strikers in Dunsmuir and received direct permission from Eugene V. Debs to run her train through Sacramento to her home. Crews decorated the train as a giant pro-strike banner, replacing “SP” (Southern Pacific) on the side of her car with “ARU” spelled out in flowers. Public opinion was swayed, more by antipathy to the railroad than support for the strikers.

Debs and the ARU offered to reopen traffic to non-Pullman trains, but Southern Pacific president Collis P. Huntington refused, and deliberately attached Pullman cars to every train. Huntington saw the chance to eliminate the union by breaking the strike, while compromise would further legitimize the ARU. SP vice-president Henry Huntington (Collis’ nephew) urged other railroad leaders to stand firm: “This is the first strike we have ever had here and as we are making history, [I] think we ought not to take a step backward and make such concession that we will hereafter regret them.”

Another method used by the railroad to avoid compromise was federal leverage. Since many trains included Railway Post Office cars, the strike interfered with the federal mail system. After convincing a U.S. District Court that it was impossible to operate any trains without Pullman cars, Collis Huntington asked for federal help to break the strike, on the grounds that interfering with mail delivery was a federal offense.

In Sacramento, this support came in the form of U.S. Marshal Barry Baldwin, who asked Governor H.H. Markham (marooned in Los Angeles by the strike) to call up the state militia. Troops quickly retook the railroads in Los Angeles, but Sacramento was a more daunting task. On July 3, Baldwin and his marshals tried breaking the strike with a group of deputies, assembling a train in the Southern Pacific yards intended to run through the blockade. Just as the train was assembled, strike leaders gave a pre-arranged signal and strikers rushed the train, disassembling it in a few minutes and thwarting Baldwin’s efforts. Railroad superintendents Wright and Heintzelman were physically removed by strikers when they attempted to start the locomotive. Baldwin tried to break through the crowd and draw his revolver, but was disarmed by strikers. After losing his sidearm, Baldwin gave up and left the depot in strikers’ hands.

Militia marching past Sixth and L Street

Militia marching passed Sixth and L Streets

Strike leaders disavowed violence, but behind the scenes strikers attacked scabs and skirmished with railroad supporters and police. In addition to the guns taken on July 4, strikers took arms from the Bersaglieri Guard, a local Italian militia organization with a small armory. Some thought that the Pullman strike might become the first wave of an armed revolution of Populists and union laborers against the federal government and private industry. Public support for the strike waned as these fears mounted. On July 7, the leaders of the ARU in Chicago were arrested, leaving the strike leaderless as federal forces gathered strength. President Grover Cleveland authorized regular Army troops to relieve the state militias, like the Sacramento soldiers who failed to fire on their friends and family when ordered to do so. More disciplined professional soldiers would have no such qualms.

On July 11, 800 U.S. Army troops arrived in Sacramento via the steamboat Alameda. Colonel Graham of the San Francisco Presidio led two troops of cavalry, five batteries of light artillery, six companies of marines, and one company of regular infantry. Marching up Front Street from the Y Street levee, gunfire was exchanged between strikers and militia, about fifty shots, but without significant casualties.

Soldiers bivouacked at SP Shops

Soldiers bivouacked at SP Shops

Upon arriving at the depot, the soldiers discovered the ARU had abandoned the Shops the previous night, so they secured the Shops and set up defensive positions. The strikers knew that federal troops would be harder to convince than local militia, and abandoned the Shops on the night of the 10th. The first train west left Sacramento for Oakland later that day, under heavy guard, but was derailed two miles before reaching Davis. Saboteurs had removed spikes and fishplates from the rails, causing a wreck that killed the train’s engineer and three soldiers. On the 13th, troops guarding a train were attacked by gunfire. The soldiers’ return fire killed one striker and wounded another. Popular opinion turned against the strikers in the wake of the sabotage, and by July 18, the Southern Pacific Railroad was back in operation and the Shops reopened. The next day, Debs telegraphed the strikers to open negotiations with the railroad, and the strike formally ended on July 22.

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Sabotaged train following Shops strike

During a month of occupation by federal troops, seven people were killed by sabotage or incidents attributed to vengeful soldiers. After the strike, Southern Pacific quietly fired ARU members and blackballed them from future employment. While the strike’s failure was a serious blow for organized labor, only steady nerves, the bonds of community, and perhaps luck prevented a bloody massacre at the entrance to the Southern Pacific Shops.

In the strike’s aftermath, Eugene V. Debs was sent to prison, despite an impassioned defense by Clarence Darrow, a former railroad lawyer who became a labor lawyer after his defense of Debs. Debs ran for President as a socialist, including one campaign run from his prison cell, and founded a new organization, the Industrial Workers of the World, in 1905. Henry Huntington, Collis’ nephew, moved to Los Angeles after the Southern Pacific board of directors did not make him the new board president following Collis Huntington’s death. Major Harris Weinstock was deeply affected by the events of the strike, and wrote a study on labor relations for the State of California, urging employers to negotiate with workers, improve worker conditions, and recognize their right to unionize. In reaction to the failure of local militias to retake the shops, California’s militia system was professionalized into the reorganized California National Guard, including a new Guard armory at Twelfth and X Street. The new Guard and armories were a direct response to labor unrest of this era, including the Pullman strike.

In The Incorporation of America, historian Alan Trachtenberg described the Pullman strike as the victory of corporate power over organized labor, a watershed moment in American labor. Sacramento’s Southern Pacific Shops became the West Coast’s greatest battlefield during that pivotal event in history.

Odd Sacramento Laws

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In ancient Rome, it was illegal to wear purple. Needless to say, that would not be a popular law in Sacramento Kings country. Times change, people change, and we expect the law to keep up.

And it usually does, except when it doesn’t. When you’re a city that’s more than a century old like Sacramento, a few oddities are bound to be lingering through inattention in the mustier pages of the city code.

So, out of curiosity, I decided to go spelunking to see just what I could find. Sacramento’s Municipal Code (SMC) did not disappoint. Here are the three most interesting artifacts I uncovered…

Comics Generally: No Laughing Matter

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Pictured: Not a violation of SMC 9.12.010 … yet.

Kerpow! Bang! Zing! Many young boys and girls love reading superhero comics. Judging by box office receipts, the exploits of Marvel and DC’s caped crusaders are fairly mainstream American entertainment these days. I mean, who doesn’t like catching up on the latest of Spider-Man’s amazing adventures, or Wonder Woman’s derring-do, or Black Panther’s virtuous acrobatics?

Well… the City of Sacramento, apparently.

According to Sacramento Municipal Code (SMC) Section 9.12.010,

“It is unlawful for any person to distribute … for use by persons under the age of eighteen (18) years any … comic book … which depicts… the crimes of arson, assault with caustic chemicals, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, kidnapping, torture, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, theft or voluntary manslaughter.”

That’s right, in Sacramento it is illegal to sell (or even give) a minor any superhero crime-fighting comic book. So if Batman and Superman, in the comic pictured above, were to leave the basketball court for one second to stop a bank heist … verboten! The law was enacted in 1949 to, of course, protect “children of tender years.”

Interestingly, Sacramento was ahead of the curve on this moral panic: by the 1950s, concerns that comics were corrupting the youth would lead to bans across the country and ultimately prompted the industry to self-regulate by adopting the Orwellian Comics Code, which censored the storytelling of the next several generations of comic writers and illustrators.

So, next time you’re stopping by Oblivion Coffee & Comics or Big Brother Comics, just know that you have entered a wretched hive of scum and villainy that should probably have bouncers at the entrance.

Misplaced Expectations on Expectorating

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Pictured: Gaston, upon reading SMC 9.04.040, probably.

Speaking of cartoons. Those of us who grew up in the 1990s, or raised children growing up in the 1990s, will remember Gaston, the cleft-chin villain of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast who is 90% pectoral muscles.

Girls: For there’s no one as burly and brawny…

Gaston: As you see I’ve got biceps to spare…

Lefou: Not a bit of him’s scraggly or scrawny…

Gaston: That’s right! And ev’ry last inch of me’s covered with hair!

Do you remember, though, his distinguishing talent that earned the admiration of the village ladies? He boasts, “I’m especially good at expectorating — Ptooey!” To which the crowd cheers, “Ten points for Gaston!”

Now, you may be thinking, expecto-what? Expectorating is a fancy way of saying “to spit.” And it’s illegal. So illegal.

That’s right. While Gaston’s ability to launch his saliva to great distances earned him the admiration of his peers in his “poor provincial town,” in Sacramento it would earn him a citation.

Specifically, SMC 9.04.040 provides that:

“No person shall expectorate … on any sidewalk in the city.”

This law, by the way, is ancient in city terms. I trace it at least as far back as 1896 in the city codes. (Necessary aside: demonstrating that Looney Tunes was really a PSA, another ordinance from that time, since repealed, prohibited throwing banana peels on the sidewalk!)

Spitting is of course unsightly, and might even be considered rude, but it seems pretty Victorian to prohibit what comes naturally to baseball players and 15 year-old boys. Obviously, Sacramento would not actually enforce this law.

Except that the City does! To my great surprise, from 2014 to 2016, the city issued five citations for expectorating. So, mind your Ps and Qs out there, and tell Gaston he’s probably better off staying in France.

Skee Ball: The Silent Killer

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Pictured: Pure, Unregulated Chaos without SMC 5.48.010.

You may be thinking at this point that old-timey Sacramento, when most of these laws were passed, did not want people to have any fun. You are correct.

Okay, okay, so Sacramento isn’t quite the town that banned dancing in Footloose, but we do require a lot of special licensing for recreational activities that don’t seem to pose any special health or safety risk. For example, does your business have a coin-operated pool table? That’s a ($700!) license (SMC 5.20.010). How about four or more arcade video games? You better believe that’s a license (SMC 5.12.010).

Some of these decades-old licensing statutes are delightfully hyper-specific. For example, did you know that it is illegal in Sacramento, per SMC 5.16.010, to practice, without a license, “the business or art of astrology, palmistry, phrenology, fortune-telling, cartomancy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, crystal gazing, mediumship, prophecy, augury, seership, or necromancy”? So remember kids, when you want to pay someone to help you talk to the dead, make sure you insist upon a city-licensed necromancer. Because quality matters.

But my favorite license required by the City of Sacramento is for the privilege of operating a skee ball machine (and other “mechanical amusement devices”). Skee ball is the popular arcade game where you roll balls along a curved ramp and try and get them to land in rings assigned with different point values. You know the one.

What tickles me is not so much that you need a license to have a skee ball machine, which is admittedly pretty odd in itself, but the strict regulations that licensed skee ball machines must conform to. Behold. Under SMC 5.48.010, it is illegal, in Sacramento, for any skee ball machine:

  • to give “the player, for actual play, only one ball;”
  • to charge more than “twenty-five cents” per game; and, the kicker,
  • to reward high-scoring players with “coupons or tickets.”

To review: one-ball skee ball? Illegal. Charging 50 cents for skee ball? Still illegal. Giving kids tickets for scoring 200+ points that they can turn in for erasers? Oh, most definitely illegal.

The Chuck E. Cheese animatronic rat is probably sweating right about now.

The skee ball law dates back to 1954; why it was needed, I’m not sure. But I choose to believe that a councilmember at the time visited a licensed crystal ball-gazer, who foretold of a dark future involving a dystopian children’s restaurant that enthralled the youth with ticket-spewing machines and singing giant animal cyborgs, and he said “not in my city, not on my watch.” (But, he failed, there’s a Chuck E. Cheese’s on Arden Way.)

The Lessons of Time

So, what to take away from all this? Well, first and foremost, don’t open that Old Sac Comics & Skee-Ball Fancy Arcade you’ve been dreaming of, the one with the period-appropriate sidewalk spittoons. Just a bad idea.

Second, City leaders might consider revising three sections of the Municipal Code…

But, third, we should all begin to think of policy obsolescence as a natural process and consider how to manage it. Sacramento is not unique in having some dated laws in its code. It could have been far worse. Just a few years ago, progressive-minded Oakland discovered that it still had a 131-year ban on cross-dressing on the city books.

The truth is that any city that’s more than a generation old is at risk of finding archaic, unhelpful, and/or deeply embarrassing laws in place. But even older laws that are not obviously out of step with the times deserve periodic revisiting, if only to ensure they are working.

One way to do this is to build studies and sunset dates into newly-enacted laws. This builds in a period of calm reflection, after whatever excitement caused the law to be enacted has passed. But, this approach is probably too administratively burdensome to put in place for every law; moreover, policy obsolescence often takes a generation or more, generally beyond any reasonable sunset date.

A more promising approach might be to mimic the state. California has a permanent Law Revision Commission whose mission is to review state statutes “for the purpose of discovering defects and anachronisms in the law and recommending needed reforms” to the Legislature. A local commission could take a deep dive into the SMC without the City Council itself having to devote inordinate time to the task. The city code is also much shorter than the state’s statute books, so a local commission might meet for just one out of every ten years. Some other California cities, like Roseville, have similar decennial commissions to study and suggest clean-ups to their city charter.

And just think, if we did set up a commission, it is entirely conceivable that kids could buy comic books in Sacramento by 2030!

 

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Skee ball image credit: Scott S

Sacramentality’s Summer Book Club

Alas, summer is upon us, the mercury is headed north and many of us are headed east to the mountains or west to the beach to escape Sacramento’s sometimes squelching heat. Since we will all need a book or two to read as we fly or drive to our destinations (or if we are instead staying home, to kill time while the networks are all on reruns), your friends at Sacramentality thought you might appreciate a recommendation or two, so we enlisted some of our friends, civic leaders from around Sacramento, to provide them. Feel free to share your thoughts and your own recommendations in the comment section and be sure to log your books at the Sacramento Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suziki

Robert Nelsen
President, Sacramento State

A closed mind, an expert’s mind, is not open to innovation and experimentation—a closed mind does what it has always does.  Today’s world’s problems cannot be solved doing what we have always done. We must be open to possibilities and to change.”

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu & Douglas Abrams

MulvaneyJoyPatrick Mulvaney
Chef and Owner, Mulvaney’s B&L

“Two old friends talking about love and happiness. And needling each other at the same time, a great read.”

Channeling Patrick’s recommendation both Councilmembers Angelique Ashby and Eric Guerra say The Book of Joy is at the top of their summer reading lists.

The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

Angelique Ashby
Councilmember, City of Sacramento

“The Wisdom of Sundays is my all time favorite inspirational book. I have read it many times, loaned it out, given it as a gift and recommended it to anyone who will listen. Each time I read it I imagine myself having coffee with Oprah and asking her tons of questions about what she has learned in all her interviews and experiences over the years. This book feels like advice from a friend. It’s inspiring and hopeful and honest. Easily my favorite reread.”

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Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Rivkah Sass
Executive Director, Sacramento Public Library

“The gods are at it again. Hermes and Apollo wonder if animals imbued with human intelligence and communication skills will be happier at life’s end or if that intelligence will simply lead to misery. Fifteen dogs in a veterinary clinic and readers everywhere are given the opportunity to find out.”

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Rhonda Staley-Brooks
Executive Director, Nehemiah Foundation & President Sacramento State Alumni Association

“My favorite book is authored by Jim Collins, Good to Great.  What is even better, there is a smaller version for us Do Gooders, Good to Great for Social Sectors!  Collins states ‘The difference between successful organizations is not between the business and the social sector, the difference is between good organizations and great ones.’”

Rhonda Books

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

IMG-6287Isaac Gonzalez
Tahoe Park & YMCA Advocate/Gadfly

“I read this book once a year, because even though I work mostly in the non-profit space, there are many good practices and processes that successful businesses use to create efficiencies and scale up. High recommend it to anyone who feels like they’re working hard but not moving in a positive direction or encountering too many setbacks.”

Big Plans By Bob Shea

Joe Wagoner
Vice President, Sacramento Republic

“I have a five year-old daughter and seven year-old son. Most of my recreational reading revolves around ‘Big Plans’ By Bob Shea. In fact, that book was a contributing factor to the creation of Republic FC. That read is much more interesting than my numerous recommendations about sports business analytics!”

Although perhaps we are usually short on opinions, the Sacramentality team offered some recommendations of our own as well:

Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford

Devin Lavelle
Parks Commissioner, City of Sacramento & Senior Researcher, California Research Bureau

“Light enough to consume at the beach before swimming, split into bites that can be enjoyed despite interruptions, Tim Harford tells the tale of how inventions as diverse as barbed wire, infant formula, double-entry bookkeeping, leaded gasoline and index funds have fundamentally transformed the world we live in in ways most could not imagine. Whenever I pick up this book, ideas begin simmering about the way different ingredients transformed the recipe that is modern life.”

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1984 by George Orwell

Caity Maple
Ann Land & Bertha Henschel Memorial Funds Commission Commissioner, City of Sacramento & Lobbyist, The Quintana Cruz Company

“Be eerily reminded of elements of the current political system, and keenly aware of our tendencies to follow rather than lead. A great read and reminder of the power of opening our eyes and taking a look around!”

The Great Thirst: Californians and Water: A History by Norris Hundley, Jr.

Kevin Greene
Ethics, Transparency & Good Governance, City of Sacramento

“The History of Water in California is the history of California. This is a fascinating, and surprisingly quick read at almost 800 pages, that thoroughly and clearly describes the water wars, (politically, legal and violent) and how water has shaped California and its population growth.”

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Devin Lavelle
Father of Boys

As the author I’ll choose to exercise a point of personal privilege here and recommend a second book as well. Every night my oldest son Henry picks two books to read before bed. One he chooses frequently is The Lorax and I love that among the last words he hears before drifting to sleep many nights is, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

With that, I leave you with a short poem and my sincerest apologies to Dr. Seuss:

So catch! Cried Sacramentality, as we let something fall.
It’s a list of books.
The best books of them all!
Choose a new book. Read it with care.
Read it near water. Or in a room with conditioned air.
Read it online. Protect it from hackers that hack.
Then the autumn and all our wonderful weather
may come back.

 

Summer Book Club Supplement

In addition to her recommendation, Councilmember Ashby shared with us her entire summer reading list from last year, which we thought our readers might enjoy:

“My favorite summer read last year was First Women. I read this one over our family vacation along the California coast. It was fantastic. If you are at all curious about the type of relationships First Wives of our Presidents have with each other and with their staff and their husband’s staff, this book will be a delight.

The stack of books (plus First Women) is my summer reading list from last year. All are great. I recommend any of them – it just depends on what you’re looking for.

I like Nicholas Sparks when I want to read a love story or cry or disappear into fiction (I like Jennifer Weiner too for that purpose – but I didn’t read any of her books last year, probably because I have read most of her work already).

Calm is another great book to read and reread – it will help you feel relaxed (there is a companion meditation app to this book, also called Calm, that is a fantastic tool for slowing down and taking note of all that is happening in our lives).

Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is great (better than you might think). I am already a bit of a minimalist so this book speaks to me – but it’s worth a read if motivation to organize and reduce clutter are on your to do list.

Little Book of Lykke is a study into happiness across countries and communities with analysis of what makes neighborhoods happy. It’s interesting and full of creative concepts from across the globe. I enjoy these type of reads because they feed my desire to think beyond our current measures.

All of these books are good reads for different reasons. Each one fed my spirit in one way or another. Should you choose to take one in, I hope it does the same for you.”

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Love a Library!

Here at Sacramentality we love libraries. Not just because this author happens to work for the California State Library or because the Sacramento Public Library was integral to Nicolas’ Luella series, but because, quite frankly, libraries are great!

That is a statement that the large majority of American adults agree with … even if most of us haven’t set foot in one in the last year. The truth is, I probably went about six or eight years between public library visits, when I last needed to get some information from a journal for research I was doing for a prior employer, to a few years ago, when I rediscovered all of the amazing things libraries are doing, both here in Sacramento and around the state, and started to realize they are so much more than just books (cue argument with myself about whether the phrase “just books” is appropriate). But the transition did recently lead California State Librarian Greg Lucas to ask, “What the hell is a 21st century library?

Since this is National Library Week, we at Sacramentality thought we might take the opportunity to remind you, our loyal readers, of the many, many ways that libraries contribute to our community, a few fun examples brought to you by the letter H:

  • Hacker Lab
  • Hangout on rainy days
  • Home to amazing celebrations of Dr. Seuss
  • Homework helper
  • Hub for data literacy
  • Huddle-space for community non-profits
    (Geez, he’s really stretching the “H” theme with this one …)
  • Heart of their community:

If you want the most rocking community center ever, it’s already there. It’s the library. ~ State Librarian Greg Lucas

The truth is that libraries provide the infrastructure to help overcome the educational gaps that drive so much inequality in our country. Whether helping adults achieve high school diplomas, English proficiency & literacy or completely opening a child’s world:

MeasureBCalifornia’s libraries collectively hold 82.2 million items, including about 6.7 million at the City of Los Angeles, an additional 5.7 million at the County, 5.3 million in San Diego, 3.1 million in San Francisco and, several notches down the list, 1.2 million, here in Sacramento. What our library lacks in sheer size, though, it makes up for in quality, with the average item checked out 6 times per year, sixth most in the state and second among relatively large libraries! (It’s a good thing we passed Measure B, that’s money well spent!)

It is no wonder then, that the Sacramento Public Library was nominated for the Oscar of the library world, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. While our wonderful Director Rivkah Sass may say, “being nominated again is an honor.”  And while we agree, “the nomination is validation of what the Library does for Sacramento, and that we continue to demonstrate excellence by opening new doors for the people in our community,” here at Sacramentality we cannot help but think that the Sacramento Public Library has not just earned the honor of nomination, but of bringing that medal home next month. Check out some of the great stories shared by dozens of folks from around Sacramento in the comments:

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My kids and I have fun, learn, read, and make new friends every time we visit our library! What a gift to those of us with young families, always looking for affordable, accessible, high-quality activities to do with our kids. Sacramento Public Library plays such a unique and irreplaceable role in our community. ❤️ #shareyourstory

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Luella honored!

Luella Cover

Last month, I urged the City Council to rename the historic council chambers in the Old City Hall after Luella Johnston, the first woman elected to the Sacramento City Council (and, for that matter, the first woman to be elected to the city council of any major city in the United States).

This past Tuesday, the City Council did just that!

Council Resolution.jpg
The current Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County and the past President of the Tuesday Club accepted the Resolution on Luella Johnston’s behalf.

The Resolution, authored by Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, recognizes Luella’s unique contributions to our city and unique place in women’s history. Amazingly, up until this Tuesday, there had never been any significant memorial honoring Luella in Sacramento.

March, appropriately, is National Women’s History Month. “Men and women have worked together to build this nation,” acknowledged the first Presidential Proclamation to establish this tradition, even though “too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

Luella’s contributions, forgotten for more than a century, certainly fall into that category. Renaming the Old Council Chambers, in which she served, is a fitting way to right this oversight and to honor a rich history of women’s leadership in our city.

Thank you to Councilmember Ashby and the City Council for this beautiful gesture.

America’s First Councilwomen (Sacramento was First)

Luella Cover

I recently finished a series of posts on Luella Johnston, who in 1912 became the first woman elected to city council not only in Sacramento, but also in all of California. It seemed probable that she was also the first woman elected to the city council of any major U.S. city, but because there’s no list of first councilwomen this was difficult to confirm.

However, after researching for longer than I care to admit, and with the generous help from city clerks, librarians, and historical societies from across the nation, I am now ready to say with confidence that Luella… *drumroll* …WAS the first councilwoman of a major American city.

Luella Headshot circa 1912 - from Sac Union 1948 article

And pretty comfortably so. The median major city didn’t elect its first councilwoman until 1956, several generations later. The last city to do so was Newark in 1994, when voters elected Mildred Crump. Luella’s closest contender for the title of first was the fascinating Estelle Lawton Lindsey, whom Angelenos elected in 1915 and have been (falsely!) claiming as the first major city councilwoman ever since.

Since it was difficult to find the first councilwoman for each major city, I’ve decided to host the list here as a public service. Each councilwoman was identified as being first in either a secondary source (like a newspaper) or by a city official or librarian. However, I don’t doubt that some names were missed or that some dates are wrong. So please send any corrections my way to SacMentality@gmail.com and I will update the list!

A quick note on methodology. First, I only counted women elected in their own right to office, as opposed to appointed to fill a vacancy (but I did note the early appointees I came across). Second, I defined “major city” as the top 100 cities by population as of the 1910 census, which immediately preceded Luella’s 1912 election. Now, lest I receive complaints, technically at 45,000 residents Sacramento fell just short of being in the top 100 cities in 1910. However, in 1911, the City annexed three neighborhoods (Oak Park, East Sacramento, and Highland Park) adding around 20,000 residents to its population, placing it comfortably in the top 100 by Luella’s 1912 election.

 

The First Elected Councilwoman of Every Major U.S. City

# City State 1910 Pop. Year Name Notes
1 New York NY 4,766,883 1937 Genevieve B. Earle
2 Chicago IL 2,185,283 1971  Anna Langford
3 Philadelphia PA 1,549,008 1951 Constance Dallas
4 St. Louis MO 687,029 1943 Clara Hempelmann
5 Boston MA 670,585 1939 Mildred Harris
6 Cleveland OH 560,663 1985 Meta D. Thomas
7 Baltimore MD 558,485 1943 Ella Bailey
8 Pittsburgh PA 533,905 1956 Irma D’Ascenzo
9 Detroit MI 465,766 1950 Mary Beck
10 Buffalo NY 423,715 1972 Virginia Purdy
11 San Francisco CA 416,912 1921 Margaret Morgan
12 Milwaukee WI 373,857 1956 Vel Phillips
13 Cincinnati OH 363,591 1921 Dr. Bertha Lietze
14 Newark NJ 347,469 1994 Mildred Crump
15 New Orleans LA 339,075 1986 Peggy Wilson
16 Washington DC 331,069 1975 Polly Shackleton, Nadine Winter, and Willie Hardy
17 Los Angeles CA 319,198 1915 Estelle Lindsey
18 Minneapolis MN 301,408 1961 Elsa Johnson
19 Jersey City NJ 267,779 1973 Lois Shaw
20 Kansas City MO 248,381 1963 Billie Hagan
21 Seattle WA 237,194 1922 Bertha Landes and Kathryn Miracle
22 Indianapolis IN 233,650 1934 Nannette Dowd
23 Providence RI 224,326 1975 Carolyn Brassil
24 Louisville KY 223,928 1929 Hattie E. Hoffman
25 Rochester NY 218,149 1973 Midge Costanza
26 Saint Paul MN 214,744 1956 Elizabeth De Courcy
27 Denver CO 213,381 1975 Cathy Reynolds and Cathy Donohue Elisa Dasmascio Pallidino was appointed in 1935, but was never elected.
28 Portland OR 207,214 1943 Dorothy McCullough Lee
29 Columbus OH 181,511 1923 Olga Anna Jones
30 Toledo OH 168,497 1963 Jane M. Kuebbeler Lucy Dittman was appointed in 1933, but was never elected.
31 Atlanta GA 154,839 1973 Panke Bradley
32 Oakland CA 150,174 1931 Wilhelmine Yoakum
33 Worcester MA 145,986 1936 Anna Kane
34 Syracuse NY 137,249 1924 Elizabeth Collins Appointed in 1923 then elected in 1924.
Melanie Kreuzer was elected in 1949.
35 New Haven CT 133,605 1927 Josepha Whitney
36 Birmingham AL 132,685 1963 Nina Miglionico
37 Memphis TN 131,105 1967 Gwen Awsumb
38 Scranton PA 129,867 1973 Grace O’Malley Schimelfenig
39 Richmond VA 127,628 1954 Eleanor P. Sheppard
40 Paterson NJ 125,600 1969 Rita Avalo May Guggenheim was appointed in 1943, but was never elected.
41 Omaha NE 124,096 1965 Betty Abbott
42 Fall River MA 119,295 1949 Margaret Stinziano
43 Dayton OH 116,577 1975 Pat Roach Gail Levin was appointed in 1973.
44 Grand Rapids MI 112,571 1961 Evangeline Lamberts
45 Nashville TN 110,364 1953 Gertrude Bartlett
46 Lowell MA 106,294 1963 Ellen Anastos Sampson
47 Cambridge MA 104,839 1925 Florence (Lee) Whitman
48 Spokane WA 104,402 1969 Margaret Leonard
49 Bridgeport CT 102,054 1935 Sadie Griffin
50 Albany NY 100,253 1943 Barbara Schenck
51 Hartford CT 98,915 1947 Lucy Williams
52 Trenton NJ 96,815 1976 Jennye Stubblefield Olivia Leggett was appointed in 1974.
53 New Bedford MA 96,652 1969 Rosalind Poll Brooker
54 San Antonio TX 96,614 1948 Emma Long
55 Reading PA 96,071 1976 Karen Miller
56 Camden NJ 94,538 1940 Maud Crawford
57 Salt Lake City UT 92,777 1979 Ione M. Davis representing District 6, Sydney R. Fonnesbeck representing District 3, and Alice Shearer representing District 4
58 Dallas TX 92,104 1957 Calvert Collins
59 Lynn MA 89,336 1938 Alice B Harrington
60 Springfield MA 88,926 1923 Emma Brigham
61 Wilmington DE 87,411 1925 Sybil Ward
62 Des Moines IA 86,368 1983 Marie C. Wilson
63 Lawrence MA 85,892 1985 Councilor at large Marguerite P. Kane and District F Councilor Pamela Neilon
64 Tacoma WA 83,743 1952 Clara Goering
65 Kansas City KS 82,331 1989 Carol Marinovich
66 Yonkers NY 79,803 1939 Edith Weldy
67 Youngstown OH 79,066 1987 Darlene K. Rogers Elizabeth Hughley was appointed to the Council in 1987 just before Darlene Rogers was elected.
68 Houston TX 78,800 1980 Eleanor Tinsley
69 Duluth MN 78,466 1956 Lucile Roemer
70 St. Joseph MO 77,403 1974 Joyce Winston
71 Somerville MA 77,236 1925 Edith B. Davidson
72 Troy NY 76,813 1943 Agnes Powers Mary Kennedy was appointed in 1918, but never elected.
73 Utica NY 74,419 1928 Lena Goldbas
74 Elizabeth NJ 73,409 1956 Mary D. Gillen
75 Fort Worth TX 73,312 1952 Clarice Spurlock
76 Waterbury CT 73,141 1953 Catherine DeLeon
77 Schenectady NY 72,826 1976 Karen Johnson
78 Hoboken NJ 70,324 1953 Loretta Haack
79 Manchester NH 70,063 1985 Catherine Schneiderat (Ward 2), Ann Bourque (Ward 3), and Leona Dykstra (Ward 6)
80 Evansville IN 69,647 1947 Irma Lynch
81 Akron OH 69,067 1937 Virginia Etheredge
82 Norfolk VA 67,452 1974 Elizabeth Howell
83 Wilkes-Barre PA 67,105 1957 Ethel Price
84 Peoria IL 66,950 1953 Myrna Harms
85 Erie PA 66,525 1981 Joyce A. Savocchio
86 Savannah GA 65,064 1923 Sarah Berrien Casey Morgan
87 Sacramento CA ~65,000 1912 Luella Johnston
88 Oklahoma City OK 64,205 1967 Patience Latting
89 Harrisburg PA 64,186 1969 Miriam Menaker
90 Fort Wayne IN 63,933 1921 Catherine Dinklage
91 Charleston SC 58,833 1923 Clelia Peronneau McGowan
92 Portland ME 58,571 1923 Florence Stevens
93 East St. Louis IL 58,547 1985 Lois Calvert Appointed in 1982, elected 1985.
94 Terre Haute IN 58,157 1925 Daisy Valentine
95 Holyoke MA 57,730 1926 Elizabeth Towne
96 Jacksonville FL 57,699 1967  Sallye Brooks Mathis and Mary Littlejohn Singleton
97 Brockton MA 56,878 1971 Anna Buckley
98 Bayonne NJ 55,545 1986 Dorothy Harrington
99 Johnstown PA 55,482 1973 Rita Clark
100 Passaic NJ 54,773 1972 Margie Semler
101 South Bend IN 53,684 1963 Janet Allen

Last updated: May 2018

Suggested Citation: Nicolas Heidorn, America’s First Councilwomen, Sacramentality.com (Mar. 18, 2018) (Updated May 2018).

A City in Search of Equity & Diversity

capitolOver the last several years, the conversation over who holds power in the upper echelons of the private sector and government have increasingly focused on the lack of women and people of color. Indeed, the University of California, Davis produced over a decade’s worth of data which shows that about 97% of board-level and CEO positions in the top 400 companies in California are held by men.

Hell, in what is often-considered the most progressive state in the Union, we’ve still never had a female Governor.

I remember becoming particularly interested in this topic when looking at our own city council and realizing that there was just one woman sitting at the dais. After deciding to take a deep dive, in March of 2016 I wrote a piece that looked at the makeup of city boards and commissions, elected offices, and leadership positions within the city.

Of course, it was already clear that we were lacking in elected city positions in terms of gender diversity, but I was surprised to find out – according to the city’s own department leadership diagram – that only about 13 percent of upper management positions were held by women. Also, while the aggregate of boards and commissions were about 40 percent women, the commissions with decision-making power, such as the Planning and Design Commission, were seriously lacking (2 members out of 13).

Due to a lack of data and expertise, my analysis missed a larger question entirely — the intersectionality of ethnicity. The city has made modest strides over time with diversity in elected office; Milton McGhee (elected 1967) was the first African American city council member, Manuel Ferrales (elected 1969) was the first Latino council member, and Robert Matsui (elected 1971) was the first Japanese American council member.

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But of course we wonder, where are the women of color? The answer is: not generally in positions of power. Recently, the city decided that needed to change, and while historically it hasn’t meaningfully gathered data on diversity or analyzed who holds the power, it does now.

In April of 2016, Councilmember Angelique Ashby partnered with the research firm McKinsey to determine just what the “diversity deficit” is in Sacramento, and how we might move forward with solutions. That began with a Gender Parity Report Card issued out of her office, which not only noted the lack of women in management positions as well as a significant differences in pay (spoiler: women make less than men), but suggested actionable solutions such as hiring a Diversity Manager.

Ultimately, the city decided to move forward with that recommendation and is in the process of hiring for that position.

That study spurred the call for a city-wide Gender and Ethnic Diversity Audit, which was released in July of 2016. As the Sacramento Bee pointed out, “the city’s employees – and its Police and Fire departments – are significantly less diverse than the public they serve. In all but two of 17 city departments examined, more than 50 percent of managers are white.”

In a nutshell, we found out there is a lot of work to be done to ensure our city leadership mirrors its population.

Now, fast forward a year and five months, and the city released yet another audit of its ethnic and gender diversity. Overall, the results show that not much progress has been made in the past year and there is still a lot of work to be done, but also that there is significant movement underway.

In a February City Council hearing on the audit, the community came together to voice their opinions.

CityHall

Via Consulting Group’s Jennifer Manuel, a local business-owner focused on closing the gender pay gap and the Chair of the Women and Girls Advancement Coalition noted in her testimony, “While the audit raises short-term challenges that require immediate attention, our coalition is concerned that the city does not yet have a comprehensive plan to address gender and racial disparities over the long-term. The audit shows us that we must take action to move beyond reporting and begin to design solutions – including the need to start with the proper classification of all City employees”

After going on to discuss the actionable ways the city can make progress now while we wait for the hiring of a Diversity Manager, including bringing together a broader coalition of stakeholders into the process, she went on to say, “we see this as a major step forward to achieve pay equity for women from all backgrounds, people of color, and LGBTQ employees.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Activist and board member for the Fem Dems of Sacramento, Mary McCune, wrote to the city, “The Fem Dems look forward to how City Council uses the most recent audit to determine its next steps towards creating a city workforce that welcomes and uplifts all members of the community and offers its support and expertise whenever possible.”

And the last speaker, Nicolina Hernandez, who is not only a newly appointed Latina woman to the Planning and Design Commission, but a member of the Mayor’s working group on Sacramento’s future economic growth, left it on the perfect note. “I agree that this is a very bold move that the city is undertaking, and I see that this audit has shed light on areas where the city can embrace policies and practices to increase diversity,” Hernandez stated. “I commend everyone who has participated in these discussions.”

Indeed, while things may not have moved as quickly as some hoped, I have to say I couldn’t be more proud to live in a city that prioritizes equity for all and is willing to take a good, hard look at itself to make that happen.

This is progress.

So, how can you get involved?

  • If you or someone you know would be a great fit for the Diversity Manager position, apply here.
  • Find out who your city council member is here, and send your feedback.
  • Connect with local organizations such as the Fem Dems of Sacramento, InspireMidtown, and California Women Lead.
  • Encourage your friends and loved ones to apply for that leadership position, run for office, and take the lead!

California’s First Councilwoman – Part III

Luella Cover

This post is a continuation of the story of Luella Johnston, Sacramento (and California’s) first elected councilwoman. In Part I, I discussed Luella’s civic and political activism in Sacramento, culminating in her successful 1912 campaign for a seat on the Sacramento City Council. In Part II, I discussed her time on the City Council, then called the City Commission. In this third and final part, I discuss her re-election campaign and later years.

Luella Headshot circa 1912 - from Sac Union 1948 article

Luella Johnston Campaign Headshot (circa 1912)

Luella Johnston should have been riding high entering into the 1913 campaign season. On the power of the women’s vote in the 1912 election, the anti-corporate Progressives had won every seat of the five-member City Commission governing Sacramento. As part of that wave of reform, Luella was voted into office – the first woman elected to municipal office in California’s history.

In just one year, the reformers had also delivered on much of their agenda. Cronyism seemed to have been reined in. The mighty railcar and utility companies were subjected to greater regulation and rate controls, reducing costs for everyday Sacramentans. And the Commission had proposed and the voters passed several major infrastructure modernization projects, including a levee protection bond that Luella had championed as a candidate.

As the first of her peers to face re-election, Luella was the standard-bearer of the revolution. Luella, proclaimed the Sacramento Bee, “represents the reform and progressive movement which has done so much for the municipality.”

And yet. Despite these successes, Luella’s campaign must have launched with a sense of foreboding.

Sexism would pose an even greater threat in re-election. In 1912 she had won the last of five open seats on the Commission. In 1913, hers was the only seat at issue. “At an election where only one is to be elected,” fretted one of her female supporters, “all the chances favor the election of a man.”

She had also made enemies of some very powerful interests. Early in her 1912 term, she was warned that “if you continue your present course we will see that you stand no chance of re-election.” Nevertheless, she persisted.

That looming threat became very real when the old Political Machine put forth its challenger.

The Machine Strikes Back: Enter E. J. Carraghar

Carraghar - Cartoon - Sac Bee May 1 1913

Cartoon of Carraghar, Sacramento Bee (1913)

Edward J. Carraghar was, only one year prior, perhaps the most powerful man in Sacramento. A councilmember until the new charter went into effect in 1912, he was widely seen as the power behind Mayor Beard’s throne in the old City Hall. Under his rule the Southern Pacific, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the city’s public service corporations generally received favorable treatment; they bolstered his reign in return. Carraghar was local Progressives’ bête noire: the “champion,” editorialized the Bee, “of the Machine, the public-service corporations, and the reactionary elements generally.”

If Carraghar won, it would be, the Bee warned, “the opening wedge for the government of this city again by the old crowd. It would herald the beginning of the return to the old condition of Machine and corporation rule.”

Carraghar’s challenge was also personal. In 1912, Luella had terminated his tenure in elective office by narrowly besting him for the last seat on the Commission.

1913 was the rematch. 1913 was the counter-revolution.

The 1913 Campaign: Nasty, Brutish, & Short

1913 Campaign VS

Sacramento Union (1913)

Luella came out of the gate with several important endorsements. The Municipal Voters League, the city’s leading Progressive organization, voted overwhelmingly to support her candidacy. The Bee, too, was amongst her most vocal supporters. Luella, the paper wrote, had been “on the right side and for The People, as against corporate selfishness, graft and improper discrimination.” Finally, the Woman’s Council, that powerful coalition of women’s organizations that Luella had founded almost a decade ago, also pledged its full support: “the women of Sacramento,” declared the Council, “as citizens, voters and taxpayers have a legal and moral right to a representative of their own sex in the city government.”

With her indefatigable style, Luella re-constituted a Women’s Precinct Organization to lead her campaign. She campaigned hard not only on her Progressive bona fides, but also her accomplishments as Commissioner of Education, where she had closed a budget shortfall, addressed student overcrowding, and inaugurated several new children’s parks. It must have been quite the sight, at that time, to see a woman campaigning on her executive and legislative experience. At one campaign stump speech in Oak Park, where Luella had recently inaugurated a new, modern playground, women of the neighborhood reportedly showered her with “three minutes of bouquets of roses.”

But Carraghar was nothing if not a shrewd and battle-tested campaigner. He punched back, hard, hitting Luella wherever she was strongest. “Every trick that political ingenuity can conceive is being used against Mrs. Johnston,” criticized the Bee. “No appeal to prejudice is too base, no lie too brazen, to be rejected in an effort by the old Machine to confuse voters.”

If the Bee was exaggerating, it could only have been by a hair. Time and again the Carraghar camp peddled bald falsehoods to the electorate. For example:

  • As a Commissioner, Luella was a consistent vote to regulate the public service corporations whereas Carraghar, as Councilmember, had cut deals favorable to the Southern Pacific and other corporations. In spite of these contrasting histories, his campaign surrogates praised Carraghar as the anti-corporate candidate.
  • Luella was an ardent anti-saloon campaigner. Her first political fight was winning a moratorium on new saloons in residential areas. In stark contrast, Carraghar was, himself, a tavern owner. Yet, Carraghar allies implausibly insisted that the “liquor interests” were supporting Luella.
  • And the harshest blow of all: Luella was a suffragette, endorsed by the Woman’s Council, and the first woman elected to city office in Sacramento. To counteract this base of support, his camp orchestrated a “Woman’s E. J. Carraghar Club,” which attacked the legitimacy of Luella’s Woman’s Council’s endorsement and warned other women not to be seen as “voting for a woman because she is a woman.”

If the city’s corporations and old power brokers had underestimated the Progressive challenge in 1912, they were not set to repeat that mistake in 1913. According to contemporary accounts, whereas Luella’s was a volunteer-powered campaign, Carraghar’s was backed by “great sums of money,” widely assumed to come from the coffers of the public service corporations.

Unfortunately, Luella herself made a few blunders that her opponent was quick to seize upon. At one point, according to a pro-Carraghar publication, Luella took “an army of small boys away from their studies to distribute anti-Carraghar literature, during school hours.” She also failed to appoint a prominent parks advocate, Mrs. J. Miller, to the parks board, causing a nasty rift within her base in the women’s clubs.

When the Election Day finally arrived, it was a rout: Luella was soundly defeated in every precinct except for the annexed residential neighborhoods.

She took the defeat well, reportedly with a smile on her face as she shook the hands of hundreds of supporters. “When I leave this position,” she said, “it will be with the thought that I have given my best efforts to the city in the limited term of office that I served.”

Three months after Luella’s term officially expired, her former colleagues voted to make her the city’s Truant Officer, responsible for boosting school attendance. Outnumbered for now, Commissioner Carraghar cast a solitary, spiteful protest vote against his former opponent “on the ground that a man should fill the position.”

Progressives still controlled four of the Commission’s five seats, but the 1913 campaign was a dark omen for reformers. The old Machine had proven it was not yet vanquished; it was fighting back.

A Ghost Arises: The 1914 Campaign

Sac Bee - 1914 - Cartoon

Sacramento Bee (1914)

As the city campaign draws to a close, there is heard on the air a sound suspiciously like the rustle of grave clothes. Those bosses whom the people thought had been laid to rest for their long sleep, breaking the bonds that held them, in spectral shape again appear among the living.

Sacramento Union (1914)

Reformers and boss revanchists were set to collide again in 1914, but with even higher stakes. Due to an early resignation on the Commission, two seats instead of one were up for election. Progressive control of the Commission, won a scant two years earlier, was now in jeopardy.

Carraghar pounced. “Give me a man – no, give me two,” he told a meeting of businessmen, “that I may once more get in the saddle and work in your interests.” He was not subtle. “The men who once dictated the politics of Sacramento,” warned the Union, “that unwholesome crew of bosses, are trying to patch up the Machine.”

Emboldened by Luella’s defeat the year before, Sacramento’s business interests could not have been more eager to help.

Long used to a pliant city government, Sacramento’s corporate titans chafed under Commission rule. Dr. E. M. Wilder, the staunchly anti-corporate Commissioner of Public Works up for re-election that year, had emerged as their chief antagonist. He had ordered the Southern Pacific to tear out an unlawfully-constructed rail line, strong-armed the railroad into improving the city’s levees, and cleared the SP out of its prime staging area at the wharfs. He had used his commissionership to undermine Pacific Gas & Electric’s electrical distribution and streetcar monopolies while openly campaigning for full municipal ownership of both. He was the anti-Carraghar.

Completing the good government ticket was O.H. Miller, a prominent developer, who ran for the open Commission seat pledging himself to Wilder’s platform.

Carraghar and his allies put forward their own “Machine” ticket: Thomas Coulter, a hop grower and realty dealer, and Dr. Frederick E. Shaw, a civically-active physician. While never publicly admitted, Coulter and Shaw were generally seen as supported, per the Bee, by the full “power, influence, and money of the Southern Pacific, the Pacific Gas and Electric and other selfish public-service corporations.”

What is beyond dispute is that someone spent heavily to defeat Wilder-Miller, even more than was spent to defeat Luella. “Never before was known such lavish scattering of coin in a Sacramento election,” wrote the Sacramento Bee. Thousands of placards, hundreds of canvassers, and even a few brass bands were trumpeting the Machine candidates. The Sacramento Union estimated at one point that thousands had been spent on the 1914 campaign. (In contrast, Luella only spent $10 on her 1912 campaign.)

When the dust of the election settled, the Machine had once again triumphed. Commissioner Wilder took the loss less gamely than Luella: “It was announced two years ago by the leaders of the old gang in this city that they would get me when my time came and they have indeed done so.” Sacramento’s Progressive revolution was over.

One of the new Commission majority’s first acts: firing Luella Johnston.

Within a few years’ time many of the Commission’s 1912-13 Progressive reforms were undercut or undone. The civil service commission was defunded; health and safety ordinances, including the city’s liquor laws, went unenforced; and regulation of the city’s public service corporations, and chiefly the Southern Pacific and Pacific Gas & Electric, were once again relaxed. By the end of the 1910s, writes local historian William Burg, City Hall had descended “to even worse corruption than under Mayor Beard.”

The Commission model, which had started with such promise, was scrapped by voters in 1921 and replaced with the latest trend in municipal governance: the City Manager form of government we have today.

Later Years

Johnston - Womens Council 1955 - age 94

Luella, in her 90s, from Woman’s Council: Silhouette of Service (1955)

Luella quickly bounced back from the Machine’s retribution. Months later, a rare sister-in-politics, Sacramento County’s elected Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Webb, appointed Luella Deputy Superintendent. The assignment was short-lived. Less than a year later, in 1915, Luella would resign in protest over the county pressuring her to take a pay cut to free up funds to hire an additional employee.

In her mid-fifties now, Luella finally seemed content to return to private life. Her name fades from the historical record at this point. From the social notes pages of local newspapers, we know she remained active with both the Tuesday Club and the Woman’s Council, but not leading grand initiatives like she did in earlier years.

Johnston at 92 - Bee - 6-20-1953

Luella working on her book – Sacramento Bee (1953)

Luella’s passion for public service and education never left her, however. In her twilight years she devoted herself to writing a book to help new immigrants learn English. Tentatively entitled American Folklore, she hoped it would spark a love of reading, particularly for newspapers and magazines. “The most vital thing for any newcomer to this land,” she explained, at age 92, “is to introduce him to the newspapers at the earliest possible moment. Particularly, so he can read about the food that he eats and the clothing he wears.”

She passed away in 1958, age 97, her book unfinished.

Johnston Obit - Bee - 3-12-1953

Sacramento Bee Obituary (1958)

Legacy

Johnston Signature

Luella’s Signature (1901)

Luella Johnston played a central role in the social, cultural, and political development of early twentieth century Sacramento. It’s almost overwhelming to describe. She led to prominence the Tuesday Club, which would endure as Sacramento’s premier women’s social club for almost a century. She founded the Woman’s Council, which for decades gave women a seat at the table in making and passing municipal public policy. She was an early education reformer whose successes from the 1900s and 1910s, wrote the Sacramento Union in 1948, still remained decades later “as monuments to the efforts of one frail woman who probably never weighed 100 pounds in her life.” She was integral to the rise of the City’s Progressive moment, which, although short-lived, produced infrastructure improvements (like the Yolo Bypass) and policies (like municipal ownership of electrical distribution, which decades later would evolve into SMUD) that live with us today. She was a crusader for women’s rights in a hostile era and earned the laurel of being the first woman elected to municipal office in California. (And, quite possibly, of any major city in the United States.)

Her accomplishments seem to be too many for a single life.

Sadly, as far as I am aware, there are no memorials to Luella in Sacramento. Neither Johnston Park, Community Center, Pool, nor Road refer to Luella Johnston, but rather to Carl Johnston – an unrelated, early North Sacramento developer. The most I have found honoring her is a small (and sadly inaccurate – her 1913 election was the first in which California women could vote) plaque at her gravesite in the Old City Cemetery.

Plaque - Johnston

Old Cemetery Plaque

I can’t help but feel that is a serious oversight. It’s important to honor the city heroes who helped make Sacramento what it is today, lest they be forgotten, like Luella. It’s also important to correct omissions regarding women’s accomplishments, which are sometimes overlooked or minimized in history books.

Imagine for a moment if the Old City Council chambers where she used to serve, today nameless, were re-christened the Luella Johnston Council Chambers. In the march for gender equality, so relevant in the news today, I think it would be a beautiful reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

***

Abridged Bibliography

In putting together this account of early 1910s Sacramento political history, Luella’s last campaign, and her later years, I drew heavily on, and am indebted to, the following sources:

 

Look Who’s Brewing Too

SacMixedCans dml.jpgSacramento makes a lot of fantastic beer! Just check out the lineup offered at my local Nugget (and thank them for offering a particularly good selection of local craft beers). While Sacramentality’s loyal readers will recall, our region is far from the biggest brewing region in the state, it has been the fastest growing over the last five years, taking a 5x multiplier to its 2011 size.

Sacramento’s brewing scene has gone through some difficult times over the 15 years we have data from the Board of Equalization (Thanks again, BOE!). Production was flat through the onset of the recession, when the closure of two of the region’s largest breweries saw production decline dramatically, even as craft beer continued to grow across the state and nationally. Production increased slowly through the recession but has caught fire since 2013.

Sacramentality-SacBreweryProduction-2016-dml.png

The Old Faithful
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In 2016, seven breweries remained from the first few years of the 21st century. Sudwerk has grown slowly, but unevenly over the last decade. It became the largest brewery in the region in 2007, when Sacramento Brewing Co. began its decline, despite seeing no growth over the previous year. It fell from the top spot in 2014 after Knee Deep opened their Auburn facility. In 2016 they fell to third behind Track 7 and Berryessa may soon be nipping at their heels.

Rubicon saw several years of steady, but limited growth in the years of Sacramento Brewing’s collapse and closure, doubling from 34 thousand to 68 thousand gallons between 2006 and 2012. Production would double again over the next three years with the new brewery in place, but with little growth in 2016, it was falling well short of the planned 10x pace, leaving it destined for a duplicate appearance in our next section.

Jack Russell and Hoppy are about the same mid-size breweries they were in 2002 while the other five began and remain tiny as well.

The Dearly Departed
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Prior to the recession, production in our region was dominated by Sudwerk, Sacramento Brewing Company, Beermann’s Brewerks and Brew It Up. At their peak, these four collectively produced about three quarters of Sacramento’s local beer between 2003 and 2005. Of those four, only Sudwerk still exists. While Rubicon was smaller at the time, they grew significantly in the vacuum the larger breweries left behind, but called it quits in 2017. Similarly, American River grew relatively quickly in the New Wave, but also shut their doors last year. Brew It Up has been revived across the river in YOLO County, so perhaps we have not all enjoyed our last Monkey Knife Fight?

The New Wave

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Auburn Alehouse was the first of the New Wave, opening in 2007. As something of a tweener, they opened their doors just before the string of major closures in 2009. They grew slowly for the first several years, before significantly increasing distribution in more recent years, growing to 87 thousand gallons in 2015, before declining slightly in 2016, leaving them well behind the biggest producers, but still the sixth largest brewery in the region.

With an economy in shambles and the region’s brewing scene crashing, it was no surprise that no new breweries of significance opened over the next three years. 2011, however, would prove to be the beginning of something very big. That spring Knee Deep began brewing in the old Beermann’s location. Starting with a respectable 26 thousand gallons, they would double in 2012 and, after reaching capacity at their original location and after beginning to level off in 2013, moved to their new brewery in Auburn. The new facility allowed a tripling of production in 2014, doubling that in 2015 and increasing again by nearly one-third in 2016.

Track 7 got off to a slower start. They did not begin production until the very end of 2011 (leading to their annual New Year’s Eve anniversary parties) and grew more slowly within the confines of their Curtis Park location. Since opening their larger Natomas production facility in 2015, however, Track 7 has been catching up quickly.
2011 also saw Loomis Basin and Berryessa open their doors. Loomis Basin started larger and tripled in size by 2016, becoming the seventh largest brewery in the region.

Berryessa started smaller, in the tiny Winters market, but took off starting in 2013, passing Loomis Basin in 2015 and Auburn Alehouse in 2016, reaching the fifth spot. An early look at 2017 data suggests they have continued to grow quickly.

The next few years were not only been categorized by the growth of its biggest players, but also an explosion in the number of breweries producing craft beer, nearly tripling over the last five years. Perhaps most notable is the growth in that juicy middle of the local market. In 2016, the nineteen breweries producing between 10 and 40 thousand gallons collectively account for one quarter of the market (with New Glory, Bike Dog and New Helvetia at the high end and Monks Cellar, Jack Rabbit and Mraz at the low end), providing a substantial, highly localized cornerstone of the market – and the kind of competition that can drive delicious innovation across the region. Nearly all of these breweries opened their doors in 2012 or later, offering the real possibility that many of them could follow the paths of the older, bigger brewers in the new wave.

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NewGloryAdI’ve seen our local mid-sized breweries employ two primary strategies to significantly push past their tap room-generated demand.

While nearly all breweries have limited release specialty and one-off beers they produce, some take this to a much more extreme, social media-fueled level. Visitors to New Glory in Sacramento or Moonraker in Auburn will rarely see the same beer again. While they both have a number of excellent, highly regarded beers, they only brew any given variety occasionally. When their most popular beers roll off the canning line, the most enthusiastic beer fans show up sometimes hours before the breweries open to ensure they get their share. Flatland in Elk Grove takes it further, literally never serving the same beer twice.

By creating the perception of scarcity and making each release feel like a “can’t miss” event, they help to create a buzz around their best beers and ensure that newer experiments will sell, even if they don’t live up to the reputation of their cousins.
The second approach worked very well for Track 7, but disastrously for Rubicon. If a main component of your business is operating a dedicated retail establishment to sell the product in a local market, adding more locations in more markets gives breweries the opportunity to sell more beer at much higher margins than when a distributor gets involved. Track 7 grew up as the local brewery in the relatively small Curtis Park market, but by adding their second location, they became the go-to brewery for the much larger Natomas community. Rubicon’s new West Sacramento location was likewise opening an untapped market (although the tap room opened later than the attached production facility, perhaps letting their new West Sacramento competition get too strong of a toehold in the community). While new markets offer the promise of long term stability, beyond the whims of offering the hot product on social media, it also means substantial capital investment; disappointing returns, as Rubicon experienced, could be disastrous.

Both of these earlier examples sought to double down on their investment, not just opening a second retail location, but also substantially expanded production capacity in the new location, increasing the potential for growth, the cost and the risk. The investment saw Track 7 take off, growing from a local tap room to a major regional player in just two years, while Rubicon was left with a bill it lacked the consistent revenue stream to pay down. Today, others are taking a more limited approach. Bike Dog added a new tap room just two miles from their West Sacramento brewery. The river and its unfortunate lack of bridges (a future article?), however, makes the few hundred feet between West Sacramento and West Broadway a veritable chasm. Going even further, Device is tripling down, adding Midtown and Pocket locations to their business. Their experience will be interesting to watch, as they are both going head-to-head with numerous breweries and bars in Midtown’s busy market, while also becoming the only brewery on the I-5 corridor between Broadway and Elk Grove with over two miles to the nearest bar in the Pocket. Here in the Pocket, we are excited to have them and rooting for their success!

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Going beyond the local markets and becoming the kind of breweries that add their region to the state’s leaders will take something more, however. When you look down the list of the state’s top craft breweries, you see:

Sierra Nevada, whose generous use of cascade hops came to define the west coast style and their classic pale ale remains California’s go-to craft beer decades later;

Stone, whose arrogant gargoyles were at the forefront of giving packaging real personality and who made big, high alcohol, high flavor beers the driving force of west coast craft brewing through the beginning of the 21st century;

Lagunitas, who took that full flavor, high alcohol form and reproduced it at a more consumer-friendly price point; and

Ballast Point, whose Grapefruit Sculpin caught the big wave of fruity IPA’s and rode it to near perfection.

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If one of our fantastic breweries is going to make that leap, it will probably take a genre-defining effort. Perhaps Moonraker will be able to leverage their reputation for truly fantastic hazy IPAs (and a recently announced brewery expansion) and make Auburn the west coast’s New-New England if the “haze craze” spreads to mainstream markets. Or if the market for subtle but flavorful craft lagers expands (making so many brewers’ dreams comes true), Sactown Union’s focus and talents in that area could pay huge dividends – or perhaps Sudwerk’s established market share and capacity will give them the edge. Maybe our talented and creative brewers may dream up something I could not even imagine that will set the beer world on fire. Or maybe the future of craft brewing will revert back to a more local focus, leaving the larger breweries struggling for market share as consumers seek out their favorite local flavors.

No matter way the market goes, I suspect our very last chart of the article will change substantially over the next several years – and I cannot wait to taste it – or to write about it. You can look forward to the next article in the Look Who’s Brewing series this summer when 2017’s data is released.

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