Ryan Lillis’ article, “Which Sacramento neighborhood or suburb is right for you?“, featured a comprehensive list of communities in the Sacramento region, including Rancho Cordova, Fair Oaks, Elk Grove, Lincoln, Roseville, Woodland, and several city neighborhoods. But Rio Linda and Elverta, two small rural towns in northern Sacramento County, were nowhere to be found.
We’re used to it. We don’t get profiled by Sunset magazine, or even by our local publications. We never make any “Top 10 places to live” lists. And we probably don’t want that anyway, because that kind of coverage frequently leads to gentrification. But we do want to be seen, and heard, and acknowledged. Because invisibility and neglect has serious consequences for our communities.
When I first moved to Rio Linda, the two most common things people said to me were:
“Isn’t that on the river delta?” (No, that’s Rio Vista).
“Ooh . . . Rush Limbaugh!”
These two comments say everything about how Rio Linda and Elverta are perceived. Many people in the Sacramento region have no idea that we exist, or where we’re located. And no wonder – when you’re routinely excluded from local media coverage (except when a flying Santa gets tangled up in the power lines), how are people supposed to know that you exist?
The only media figure who ever paid attention to us was Rush Limbaugh, and not in a good way. He didn’t identify with us or lift us up. He mocked us. He popularized the idea that our community is sketchy and blighted, and that the people of Rio Linda and Elverta are lazy, drug-addicted, poor, uneducated, ignorant rednecks. In the absence of real media coverage, people are left to rely on these kinds of stereotypes. From that perspective, if we’re a bunch of lazy derelicts living in a blighted area, why would Rio Linda and Elverta be included in an article about desirable communities to live in?
Here’s the reality: There are many things about Rio Linda and Elverta that are beautiful. We have parks, bike trails, and horse trails. We have Gibson Ranch and Cherry Island. We have a community center, a local theater group, a community pool at the high school, and a public library branch. We have many locally-owned businesses and a strong “buy local” ethos. We have community events like the Rio Linda Christmas Parade. We have a local barn quilt project. We have horse stables, cattle ranches, chicken farms, and a growing local farm-to-fork network. I love living here, and I know many others who do too.
But within every stereotype lies a grain of truth. Our community struggles with drugs, homelessness, crime, poverty, and community infrastructure issues. And yet, we have to fight to get law enforcement to come out when we need them. We have to complain until we’re blue in the face about roads that need to be repaired, and about basic safety measures that need to be implemented to prevent the daily accidents that occur. We can’t seem to get any assistance from the county for our growing homeless population. When your community is repeatedly ignored, when higher education isn’t easily accessible when the closest hospital takes an hour and a half to get to by bus, when at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic there were zero vaccine clinics, when there are limited child care options in the area, and when the few available job opportunities consist of minimum-wage positions and multi-level marketing sales, what do you expect will happen? Community problems stem from community disinvestment. And Rio Linda and Elverta are absolutely worth the investment.
So, local media, politicians, county agencies, and community leaders: Stop ignoring us. Support our local businesses. Provide us with adequate county services. Invest time, energy, and money into our communities.
And listen to us.
Dr. Gayle Pitman, Ph.D. is a professor and children’s book author. Pitman taught psychology and women/gender studies at Sacramento City College for 20 years. She currently serves as the Dean in the Department of Planning, Research & Institutional Effectiveness. She moved to Rio Linda in 2017.
(Editors note: This letter was rejected for publication by the Sacramento Bee. An article about our community being ignored gets ignored itself by the publication doing the ignoring. How ironic. Go figure. – JT)