muriel j smith 120a

muriel j smith 120aNo matter where you looked on that train trip from Metro Park to Washington, from Washington to Chicago, and from Chicago to Sacramento, Calif, there was something spectacular, beautiful, unusual, unforgettable, outside the Amtrak train windows. The snow-capped mountains of the Rockies, the deep chasms and rushing rivers, the dark tunnels cut right through the mountains were so gorgeous they seemed make-believe. The charming little towns, the rail fans waving as the train passed their viewing spots, the railroad stations where the smokers on the train hopped off for a quick cigarette all had a character of their own. The open farmland, cattle and horses, the occasional eagle soaring overhead, or the deer in a distant field all made it special.

Then we arrived on the outskirts of the capital city of the nation’s most populous state, California.

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I wouldn’t have been surprised had I read the Sacramento Bee before I arrived. A front-page story would have told me what to expect. Nor would I have been surprised if I had pulled up the capital city’s homepage before I left home. Government officials make it clear on their welcome to Sacramento page that tens of thousands of dollars are being spent by the city to clear up the crime one of their newer laws has encouraged.

But I hadn’t done either. So, the little communities set up along side the railroad tracks, in view of the state’s capital complex, was nauseating and heartbreaking. Ah, the people themselves were pitiful; they stood up and waved as the train passed. Or they hopped down from their perches on the high walls underneath bridges to get a better look at the passing cars. Or they simply rolled over under their newspapers on the ground and ignored the passing train.


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The homeless. They’re alive, perhaps not so well, but living in California.

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The Bee’s story on page one was about the 50,000 people or so who can’t afford to rent a home or apartment in the County and who were trying to be one of the 7,000 lucky enough in a drawing to get on a waiting list for something. A waiting list, not a place to live. The wait could be at least a year. And, the article continues, the homeless population in the county is growing every day! The laugh in the story is the county’s rules: applications for those limited residences is by computer only! Really? No home, but a computer to file an application to get a home?

It must be expensive living in California. They’re offering subsidized housing for families of three earning up to $33,400 a year. Of course, military veterans get priority, that’s how well they want to treat our men and women who put their lives on the line for the country.

But California legislators have it all figured out. Poor folks can’t pay their rent, so why not enact some more laws so hardworking people can underwrite their costs? For instance, there’s now a law that anywhere from $75 to $225 is added to every real estate transaction, so those who save up and can buy their own houses must now chip in some of their hard-earned money to help the state put others on a waiting list for a roof overhead.

And of course, Sacramento is a sanctuary city, you wouldn’t expect less. And here’s the best part. It’s also legal to grow cannabis here..but only six plants per dwelling. There again, the law allowing property owners to grow pot means lots more people are hired by the state to enforce the laws that are being created to cut down on the illegal growers, the fires that result in some cases, the increase in invasion robberies, the murders, the gun crime, and the plethora of other crimes that have increased due to the cannabis laws.

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But never fear, Sacramento is solving its problems with their Justice for Neighbors Program. That’s the one where law abiding people can seek help…. don’t know if they get it…. when their house burns, or the marijuana aromas filter out of growing sites, or they’re the victims of crime.

Sacramento, California, has it all figured out. Maybe.

In the meantime, the magnificent, almost luxurious California Zephyr slowly passes dozens and dozens of homeless people huddled under newspapers, blankets, plastic sheeting, some lucky enough to have an abandoned trailer with its windowless openings boarded up, its flattened tires putting the trailer at a precarious tilt. There are communities of homeless in some areas along the railroad tracks, tiny tents of plastic lined up next to each other, piles of garbage or perhaps tomorrow’s clothing leaning on broken down pieces of furniture, scraps of food and empty cans and bottles littering the area.

It’s sad to see, even sadder to think, that all the funds the state and city and county are spending to curtail the crime their allowance of illegal foreigners is causing, their penchant for growing marijuana is creating, could really be spent more productively by better laws and a more sincere desire to help people who are truly in need through no fault of their own.

Seeing it through a moving train brings enough tears to the eyes to make a New Jerseyan never want to step foot again in the “Golden State.”

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...