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Neighborhood Advisory Group (NAG) isn’t going anywhere, just moving to a new location.
The Hart Senior Center, where NAG has been meeting regularly, began charging an hourly fee of $50 to rent rooms after 5 p.m. which caused some NAG members to wonder if this would be their last meeting altogether.
“NAG is not a city group, they enjoy their independence. They do, however, like the city to work with them,” said Derrick Lim, manager of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department and special events. “The items and agenda is all decided by NAG, they take their own positions.”
Monday’s meeting was held at the Hart Senior Center, 915 27th St., and the Aug. 15 meeting will be held there, too, but after August the meeting will be moved elsewhere.
About 40 people from the community attended the meeting, including three City Council members and Sacramento Interim City Manager Bill Edgar.
“NAG is too important for anything to be ending anytime soon,” said Gerald Celestine, meeting facilitator.
Edgar outlined the city’s grave budget situation in light of the economy’s negative effect on the jobs in the area. NAG members invite him to attend meetings regularly.
“We've gone through some very difficult budget hearings in the last several months,” Edgar said. “When you are on a budget of this size, there are simply things that just cannot be done.”
Edgar spoke about the 141 people that had to leave city service, 92 of them from the police force.
“We don't like laying off anybody,” said Edgar. “These are tough decisions and areas, and that's where we are at for the next five years.”
“The economy has hit Sacramento harder than it has hit other cities,” said City Councilman Steve Cohn. “Unemployment in Sacramento is among the highest in the nation.”
According to the Employment Development Department (EDD), as of April the unemployment rate had finally decreased down to 12 percent in California.
“Hopefully we can call on volunteers again to keep things running,” said Dale Kooyman, a longtime neighborhood activist.
“You can just see the difference,” said Susan Bush, a board member of the Southside Park Neighborhood Association. “The last time I was here was probably six months ago, and there used to be much more chairs lined up.”
“The city used to provide us with pizza and soft drinks, but with the way things are now they don't do that anymore,” Bush said.
Police Captain Dana Matthes gave the local Police Department activity report.
“Our crime numbers were looking good until about two weeks ago,” Matthes said. There was a recent increase in robberies around the light rail and bars and some auto burglaries. Matthes reminded everyone to lock their car doors and to not keep their valuables in their cars.
“We are working hard to make sure number one, that we are staffed enough to answer the phones immediately when people call in for an emergency and number two, that we have a fast response time,” Matthes said.
Matthes talked about how they are also putting “hot spot policing” into practice, which is where an officer will stay stationed at a particular place for approximately 10 to 15 minutes up to five times a day in order to keep an eye on the area. The department will fall back on their usual problem-oriented policing if that does not work, she said.
The hope is that volunteer police will keep up their good work on things like Second Saturday Art Walks, directing traffic, clerical work and other duties with all the recent cuts, she added.
Matthes reported that in the most recent DUI checkpoint there were six or seven arrests for DUIs and that there were also 19 DUI arrests in the last four weeks.
“This is a high number for our area,” Matthes said.
“I was only drunk probably two times in my whole life,” Celestine said. “I don't get it. People walk around totally sloshed and just continue to drink. We need the rules to be enforced.”
After announcements from the community members they gave updates on things happening around the area such as stopping some big trees from being removed on the sidewalk on 920 K St.
“Bill Edgar being here was a big deal because he took time out of his day to be here, along with the other City Council (members),” said Bill Burgua, agenda committee member. “NAG is still in good shape, all our seats are still full.”
The next NAG meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 and at the Hart Senior Center.