A Shift from Thrift

shirts

The Bee’s article “Placerville seeks to slow growth of thrift shops” (Cathy Locke, Nov. 5) explains the Placerville City Council’s recent 45-day moratorium on thrift stores. During this period, no second-hand shops can be established, expanded or relocated.

This is sad news for me and my friends, a community of toy-instrument bands and crate diggers.  We’ve reveled in the recent rise of thrift stores, but there is no doubt, the article points out, that their success is due to the failing national economy. Now, city officials believe the shops are hindering local economy. It’s a vicious cycle that benefits college students and low-income households — not to mention the nonprofits these shops often represent.

But with three new stores in the last year and two on the way, Placerville is hurting from the lack of sales tax. I think the city is embarrassed to have so many second-hand shops on main streets, complete with unattractive drop-off piles. Their storefronts aren’t classy like some Midtown boutiques, but their contents are so much more sensible, in this economic time or any time.

The City Council decision came as a result of Snowline Hospice‘s plan to move into an old auto dealership. Even though it’s been vacant for two years, the city would rather a regular retailer occupy that “prime commercial space.” Doesn’t it look worse to have a giant building vacant for so long? Isn’t second-hand business better than no business?

But it’s not like the city is closing all thrift stores, so all these people can chill.

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November 11, 2009. Tags: , , , , , . currents. Leave a comment.

The Worth of College and Community

In “The College Calculation,” (New York Times Magazine, Sept. 24) writer David Leonhardt questions the worth of a four-year college education in our current economic setting. Students graduate with an unmeasured amount of knowledge gained, few — if any — job opportunities, and $20,000 in loans to pay off. Is the debt worth the education that may or may not guarantee you a higher-paying job?

Leonhardt cites a 2007 Census Bureau report that claims college graduates with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $47,000 annually, while their dropout counterparts earn $33,000. I have trouble commenting on this sensibly, because I am a College Graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, but in my first year out of school I made approximately $3,000. I applied to exactly 46 full- and part-time jobs before I gave up counting, and then only a few more before I gave up and enrolled at Sacramento City College. To me, the question is not whether the education guarantees you a higher-paying job; it’s whether the education guarantees you a job at all.

When I was accepted to UC Davis in 2004, I think it was partially thanks to (what I believe to be) the campus’ desire to rise into the “upper tier” of the UC system, alongside UCLA and UC Berkeley. After “increased efforts to attract prospective students,” the university accepted way more freshmen than it had room for; this didn’t hit until 2006. That fall, classrooms overflowed, an influx of bicyclists caused more funny accidents than usual, and — the craziest part — freshmen were turned away from the dorms and asked to find apartments instead. We complained about it then, but compare it to now, when UCs are accepting 2,300 fewer students per year, and I would much rather have a seat on the lecture hall steps than a rejection letter.

That said, I would also prefer a seat on the steps even if it meant paying a tuition increased by 32 percent, because of one aspect of a college education Leonhardt failed to mention: everything gained outside of a classroom. I learned how to take pride in my school and my town, how to fix my bike, how to make friends who will most likely be business connections for the rest of my life. My English B.A. might not mean anything to potential employers, but my experience at KDVS and The California Aggie (both of which I could participate in because I was a Davis student), doing real-life PR and publication work, will get me where I need to go.

So to answer Leonhardt’s and my own question, yes, it is worth it. It is worth it to be a part of a community, to learn exactly what that means, and to write your own definition of how you fit into your school, your world — just hope your definition doesn’t include the word “unemployed.”

September 30, 2009. Tags: , , , . currents. 2 comments.

Schooling Sac City College on Bicycling

In the Sept. 2 Sacramento Bee article “Free bike program liberates Sacramento State students from their cars,” Li Lou writes of the program that gave away 75 bicycles to students who normally drove alone to campus. Made possible by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the giveaway promoted  the option of alternative transportation, dissuading some of the 26,386 students who drive solo to do otherwise.

I felt so proud to be a bicyclist, a Sacramentan and the daughter of a former SACOG executive. Then I thought about Sacramento City College in comparison to Sacramento State, and the high faded. Having just moved back to Sacramento from Davis, the self-proclaimed “Bicycle Capital of the World,” I am spoiled when it comes to infrastructure, facilities and education devoted to bicyclists.

bike racks At City College, proper bike access is cut off on the major bordering roads, with no bike lanes on Sutterville Road or on Freeport Boulevard north of Sutterville. This forces uneasy riders onto the sidewalk, which — believe me — makes you feel like a jerk. On campus, bike racks are few and far between, and most are exposed to the elements. Having my handlebars be too hot to touch after sitting in direct sunlight for a class period is pretty bad, but having it sit unprotected in the rain in a few months is unacceptable.

According to the Los Rios Community College Bicycle Access Report, prepared by the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates in 2007, City College’s new parking garage cost $35.2 million, adding 1,964 more parking spaces to campus. Do the math — that comes to $18,000 per free space. Now compare that to the 284 exposed, outdated bike rack spaces, and I’m longing for my Aggie days.

City College could take some lessons from its neighboring universities — perhaps start a bike giveaway program like Sacramento State’s, or at least invest in adequate bike signage, parking and street access. And students cannot just wait for this to happen; we should promote bike events and education.

Here are some resources to help get us started:
Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen
– Do-it-yourself bike care and maintenance
Sacramento Critical Mass – Monthly recreational overthrowing of the roads
Davis Bike Collective – Bike maintenance workshops and classes

Los Rios Community College District

Community College Bicycle Access Report

September 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , . currents. 1 comment.

Lookin’ Good to a New Generation

My grandmother is from the Philippines, where public officials are decided by attractiveness. “If you are good-looking, people will like you,” she told me. She admitted the mindset still sticks with her, and part of her reasoning for voting for Barack Obama in the then-upcoming election was that he is “handsome.”

Appearances aside, she recognizes all the necessary qualities of a nation’s leader. I asked who her favorite U.S. president has been, and she answered Carter without missing a beat, and rattled off a few other front-runners and their winning traits.

Hearing her speak with pride about past presidents, I realized my generation and younger have never known the president to be anything but a joke. Sure, I remember holding a mock-election in first grade and checking Bill Clinton’s name — but mostly I remember that the boy I had a crush on checked it too.

By the time I was at all in tune with current events, Clinton’s sex scandal was in full flare, and by the time I could vote, it was half-heatedly for John Kerry.

Kids now need to grow up respecting that person and position, knowing that he is there to help in their education and livelihood. So they finally had a chance to learn this, to finally form a positive impression; that some were denied the right by teachers and parents makes me sick.

The new generation of kids should be able to exchange their mental image of the president from a monkey-faced cartoon to an intelligent and responsible leader — handsome, too, Nana.

September 11, 2009. Tags: , , , . autobio, currents. Leave a comment.