Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer recently launched the most comprehensive and well thought out community-development project I have ever seen. With an emphasis on clear thinking instead of massive funding, Schenirer’s five-part WayUp Sacramento initiative features attainable, realistic programs in health, education, jobs, nutrition and housing.
A successful program in any one of these areas would be impressive, but Schenirer’s plan includes adding health screenings, finding internship opportunities, planting community gardens, creating health-care jobs and fixing up foreclosed properties, all at the same time. Working on all of these fronts at once can and will make a real difference in Schenirer’s District 5, which includes Oak Park.
What is smart about Schenirer’s plan is that he is working with partners, such as the largest health-care organizations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program, the Sacramento City Unified School District, Wells Fargo and the California Endowment. By helping other organizations accomplish their goals, he has created a plan that uses very little city money.
According to Schenirer, the idea for WayUp Sacramento came to him while he was going door-to-door campaigning for office.
I have spoken with the councilman numerous times since he was elected. Each time he talks about his experience of knocking on doors. Knocking on doors changed him.
I know a little about knocking on doors, and it also changed me. I put myself through college selling Fuller Brush Co. products door to door in the late ’60s and early ’70s. While explaining the advantages of hairbrushes, mops and window cleaners, I would be invited into people’s homes. I was introducing new shampoos, while Schenirer was introducing political ideas, but really, people were introducing themselves to us.
You can learn a lot about a person from sitting inside his or her living room, and you can learn a lot about a community from visiting thousands of people in their homes. I saw over and over that wealth did not necessarily create happiness; that many people are lonely and isolated; that kids thrive when there is love in the house; that unemployment can destroy one’s self-respect; that drugs are dangerous.
When you see the same things again and again—such as a family destroyed because they lost their boy in the war, or a grandmother who is so clearly loved by her grandkids or a family thrilled by this year’s tomatoes—you start to understand how we are all connected.
Schenirer’s WayUp Sacramento plan came together one house at a time. It can make a difference in District 5.