Marcos Breton: Neighborhoods near soup plant deserve government help

05/08/2013 12:00 AM

10/02/2013 12:27 PM

There is a key building that needs to be utilized in Sacramento so surrounding neighborhoods can be lifted beyond blight.

It's not a new arena for the Kings. It's the Campbell Soup plant in south Sacramento. This building and the jobs it once provided are not linked to the allure of billionaire NBA owners and millionaire basketball players.

The national media aren't following what happens at Campbell Soup as the last of 700 jobs are phased out by July 1.

But the future of the property will affect employment, education, civic services, mortality rates, drug use, gang violence, transportation, domestic violence, poverty and violent crime in the south Sacramento area.

The plant is located amid a swath of south Sacramento County land sandwiched between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 – a region within a region that is on the wrong end of negative statistics in Sacramento.

Whether you call it Meadowview, west Lemon Hill, north Franklin or south Sacramento, we're talking about an area labeled "at risk" for miles. We're talking high crime and low-wage living amid streets not meant for pedestrians.

We're talking about miles of densely populated apartment complexes filled with idle hands too often clutching guns.

It's not that people don't care.

On Tuesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors chamber was filled with people who do.

Supervisor Phil Serna led an effort to confront disproportionate death rates among African American children in Sacramento.

From 1990 to 2009, African Americans represented 12 percent of all kids in Sacramento County – but 32 percent of third-party homicides, 32 percent of infant-sleep related deaths, 30 percent of child abuse and neglect homicide cases.

Which area has the highest concentration of these cases? You guessed it: Neighborhoods near the soup plant.

As the Bee has covered Serna's efforts, some readers have asked why government money is being thrown at the problem?

It's easy to criticize people who attempt to address problems too big for simple answers. Serna deserves a lot of credit for trying.

Government funding should play a role, along with employment and community development.

When Campbell Soup shuts down, what disappears are jobs that have steered lives clear of violence and desperation.

The county has gotten some funding for job re-training, but it's not enough. On Tuesday, Serna got $100,000 a year in county funds for five years to address the unacceptable mortality rates among African American kids.

A sustained effort centered on community development and private investment must follow for it not to be in vain.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/breton. Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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