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You & Your Money

Economic downturn in local districts BY Shreya Nathan & Tiffany Chien features editor & opinion

Foreclosure. Homelessness. Empty shopping malls and “out of business” signs. Furloughs, pink slips, and unemployment. Plaguing the nation for the last few years, the economic downturn that began with the 2005 housing market crash has impacted Americans everywhere. Here in Sacramento, business in small districts like Midtown are facing the worst as shopping malls grow deserted and residents more frugal. Angelina Alvarez, cashier at the clothing store Citiwear, has felt the economic stagnation both as a retailer and a consumer. “[Customers] try to compare a lot of our prices with other stores, and they hesitate a lot before buying even one thing,” Alvarez said. As a consumer, “I don’t go out to eat with friends [as much], and I try not to splurge, like

getting my nails done.” Business owners are forced to adjust their marketing tactics, and as a result small galleries and clothing boutiques are slowly recuperating. Businesses are developing different strategies to rebuild the active consumerism of previous years. “We just try to make sure that our prices are comparable to other stores. Sometimes our prices are even lower, so that’s how we draw in more customers,” Alvarez said. Another smaller clothing store, Styles, is located at the far end of the ______ shopping mall and is trying to recover as well. “People ask for a discount if they’re going to buy anything at all,” Styles sales associate Jonise Ganaway said. “We have to hustle hard and compromise with our customers – the recession going on is real hard.”

Similarly, Brookstone salesman Peng Moua has noticed the empty shopping malls, even during usually bustling times of the week. “Not a lot of people come downtown anymore,” Moua said. “It used to be

downtown business is the high price of parking. “People who can’t afford parking tend to stay away from [downtown],” Moua said. Rob Kerth, Midtown Business Associate, works in joint marketing and pro-

busy around here, but now there aren’t so many people. [Customers] are shopping more carefully and watching their money now.” Another factor affecting

motions to provide Midtown owners and residents with basic business necessities. The Midtown district attracts mainly youth, middle-aged people, and

“It’s simply reganomics. Crativity cannot make up for that.”

“I think people need money, and it’s noticable that so few people are around.” - Josehp Shah

seniors, a different age demographic than in other districts. Art, fashion, and music are some sources of entertainment found in Midtown, and Kerth believes that those contributed to a larger youth demographic. However, for young college graduates in the midst of this bleak economic crisis, jobs are hard to find especially when most businesses are struggling fiscally to prevent foreclosure. ”Economically, we have come to associate income with class and poverty with problems,” Kerth said. “Younger people are just starting off without a lot of money but that doesn’t mean they’re poor.” Kerth furthered explained that as a product of unemployment, young and creative people who now have more leisure are figuring

out other means to spend their time. Night clubs, bars, and parties characterize a strong and active night life in which young people indulge in on a regular basis. With more spare time and a decreased urge to splurge, people around the region are attracted to Midtown with all the “crazy things going on,” Kerth said. Widely accessible parties and affordable events such as “Acoustic Thursdays” are examples. As creativity and new expressionism become defining and empowering elements in today’s youth generation, Kerth sees the economic downturn under a positive light. He said, “[The economy] is down now, but plenty of years from now, it’ll be back, and the ideas that people are having now will be part of what brings it back.”

“YOu’re constantly reminded of the negative economy.”

“When you do have income coming you don’t have to worry.”

- Cory Buck

- Kaitlin

TALK AROUND T O W N Can creativity make-up for the economic downturn? BY Mahum Jamal editor-in-chief

- Richard

OCTOBER 21, 2009



GRAFREETI Sacramento’s attempt to move all wall’s graffiti on a select few designted ‘free walls’ by Sam Sangemeswara


f there was ever a clearer sign of urban decay, it would be the work of street artists. Crude spray painted works of art, often plastering the walls of alleys and the undersides of freeway over passes have long been associated with a decline in quality of public maintenance. However, there is a man here in Sacramento who is trying to turn that stereotype around. Rob Kerth is the executive director of the Midtown Business Association and he isn’t trying to clean up the city, he’s trying to do the exact opposite. Kerth is a proponent of legalizing graffiti. Instead of chasing around the street artists of Sacramento, Kerth has helped launch an initiative in which certain walls around Midtown will be designated as “free walls.” This means these walls are available for street artists to do whatever they please. The idea generated when Kerth began to think about the, in his opinion, obscene amount of money that the city spent on cleaning up graffiti. Kerth said that in a given year the city of Sacramento would spend around $80,000 on whitewashing walls that had been tagged. “It’s completely exasperating to me,” “It’s completely exasperating to me,” Kerth said. “It’s a tremendous waste of money and it’s just stupid,” So upon observing the losses that the city was experiencing at the hands of these street artists, Kerth engineered what he believed to be a solution to both problems, the free walls. Now the street artists had a place to practice their art and hopefully, would stick to those designated spots and not tag other buildings. This would eliminate the need for expensive graffiti removal services. The project has been running for just

under a year now and has achieved a some degree of success. In addition to the free walls the Midtown Business Association has also commissioned a number of “mural walls.” These walls are for street art, but are not open to the public like the graffiti walls. Instead, the MBA pays artists to paint murals on these designated walls in an effort to beautify the city. However, the project is not being seen as successful by all of those in the city. Sacramento Graffiti Removal Service worker Paul Watts doubts the effectiveness of the project. Although he finds the mural walls a worth endeavor, he feels that the free walls are doing more harm than they are help. Although the mural walls provide quality art for the city, Watts feels the free walls only encourage the deviant behavior of street artists. He has reported multiple occasions when the artists have moved on from free walls to tag over the murals on the mural walls. In Watts opinion, the MBA’s free wall effort in commendable, but it just isnt’ working. “There’s been no decrease in the midtown area because of the walls,” Watts said. “[ the idea of graffiti walls] is effective decision if the walls are commissioned and artists are hired to paint them. A [free] graffiti wall does not work.” In spite of Watts sentiments, Kerth still stands by his decision, believing that it still has somewhat of a positive impact on the community. A staunch believer in supporting the arts, Kerch is doing what he thinks is best for these upcoming artists. His stance is that he is providing a service for a group of people who sincerely need it. “A whole bunch of [the artists] are very talented young people who just have a need to do their art and need a place to do it,” Kerth said.


Graffiti is illegal -- until the building owner says it’s not. Artist’s waiver: Waives the artist’s 1st Amendment right to have their art preserved. This allows the free walls to be painted over periodically. Business owner’s waiver: Allows graffiti on their building or in a specified location. Assumes insurance responsibility for the painter against physical injury. MBA’s role: Provides business owner with insurance for any risk to their property.

THE MAN BEHIND THE PLAN Executive director of the Midtown Business Association Rob Kerth explains his reasoning behind the “free wall” initiative that provides space for graffitti artists in midtown Sacramento. The free wall program has been runnin g for almost a year


Issue 1


October 23, 2009


Midtown Sacramento makes efforts to accept the artists of the streets BY KURT CHIRBAS


hris Lee is an artist. A proud Native American and a resident of Sacramento, Lee paints murals about the struggles of his people, the wisdom of his ancestors, and the knowledge that can be gained from understanding the past. But he’s finding it hard to find an audience. While Sacramento offers opportunities for art to be viewed in galleries -- the city turns into a giant art walk every second Saturday of every month an event called, surprise, Second Saturday – it makes no room for graffiti art. In fact, Midtown Sacramento spent $80,000 last

joseph mullen

good Gazette photo /JOSEPH MULLEN

v Sacramento residents bike through a tunnel decorated with graffiti, painted by a local artist.

year covering up graffiti artwork. That’s a price Rob Kerth, the executive director of Midtown Business Association, says is too high. “It’s a tremendous waste of money,” Kerth said, “and it’s completely exasperating for me. I have always loved and appreciated art… and this year, we are going to wipe clean over 8,000 tags.” Kerth said that Midtown Sacramento has seen more artwork than ever before, a common trend during economic downturns. “The creative class tends to get whacked (during recessions),” Kerth said. “The folks who do the mundane tasks are not the ones who tend to get laid off, and all of a sudden who have a lot of creative people who have a lot of time on their hands. They do things to fill up their day.” And what they do is paint. To partially alleviate the problem, artists have been hired to paint murals, and “freewalls,” a place where artist of any caliber can graffiti, have been set up around the city.

Kerth said a 16-year-old artist convinced him why these freewalls are worth it. This boy painted a bleak, futurist landscape, reminiscent of a scene from “The Terminator, and when he was done, instead of the artwork just staying on the wall, a doctor pried it off, and paid $200 for the piece. Painting a mural on a freewall is something Lee said he would love to do. “I would be very interested in painting on a freewall,” Lee said, “That’s good advertisement. It’s an advertisement for my name, for my artwork, but it’s also advertisement for the community. It’s a way to inspire others through art.” The purpose of graffiti, Lee said, is not to vandalize, or to destroy, but to express. “Graffiti expresses the history of an area, and Sacramento definitely needs more of it,” Lee said, “I don’t think art just belongs in museums. Art needs to be viewed by the public, not by people who pay $2 to see it.”

vThe mural above brings color to an otherwise plain concrete tunnel.


A Section

The creative class tends to get whacked (during recessions. – Rob Kerth, executive director of Midtown Business Association

Gazette photo illustration/ JOSEPH MULLEN

Restaurants in recession

Art comes in many forms; don’t judge Local businesses struggle in the rafitti: what are you thinking about right floundering economy now?


Vandalism? Vagrants? How about fine art. I really hate it when one person messes something up for everyone else. You know what I mean: you’re sitting in class, listening to the bozo in the back gabbing away at his friends, forgetting everything he learned in kindergarten about using his “inside voice.” The teacher chides the student lightly (more talking); she sternly tells him to stop (yet more talking); next thing you know, the whole class has extra homework for the night. This horribly unfair attitude is not restricted to the classroom: it happens on the streets. It’s true, there is a fair share of $#@% splattered on city walls. But that piece of graffiti’s misuse unfortunately clouds its beauty in Sacramento. Graffiti is a form of artistic expression as valid as the fine art you see in the appx. 50 art galleries in medtown Sacramento. The passion is real. The devotion is real. The art is real. The city of Sacramento should actively fight crime, not artistic expression. After all, the distance between graffiti and fine art is only two feet through a concrete wall. *** Joseph Mullen, a senior, is the Gazette’s co-editor-in-chief.


Kemayat Sawez, the owner of Kabul Kabob Cuisine, has unfortunately faced the unsettling side effects of the economic downturn. “Since the crisis has started, I have less customers – 40 to 60 percent less since the beginning of the furloughs,” Sawez said. Sawez is not alone. According to Midtown activities director Rob Kerth, restaurant owners are experiencing a 30 percent decrease in the number of people who eat out. And because of the recent furloughs, restaurant businesses are facing yet another setback. Midtown, which mostly consists of college students and retired adults, is an economically poor community, Kerth said. Most Midtown residents make only 60 percent of the average Sacramento

FAST FACTS Lowdown on the midtown v Midtown residents make only 60 percent of the average Sacramento residence. v Local businesses have experienced a 20 percent decrease in income because of furloughs. Rob Kerth, executive director of midtown activities

resident. In order for businesses to remain financially afloat, the government has implemented furlough Fridays when state workers do not come to work and therefore go unpaid. Kerth has dubbed “Thursday the new Friday.” But these days aren’t, by any means, a positive change. The furloughs have had a detrimental effect on many local businesses, causing some to experience a 20 percent decrease in income, Kerth said. Because of the rapid decrease in clientele, Sawez has lowered prices by 30 percent. Unfortunately, his attempts to advertise failed. How has he dealt with the lack of business? Sawez keeps his store open more than he used to, and he has tried to cut corners on costs by limiting how much he spends on electricity and gas for his restaurant. Jimmy Thai, the owner of Toppling Pizza, says that since his restaurant delivers pizza, his business hasn’t had to make any changes in the last six month since it opened. “Pizza actually works a lot better sometimes during [a struggling] economy,” Thai said. “It can feed a bigger crowd. Instead of going out [to] eat, people like to eat at home… It’s cheaper to feed a family with pizza.” So far, delivering pizza has been a very successful business strategy, Thai said. He has yet to see whether or not the economy will effect the future of his business.

Gazette photo /JOSEPH MULLEN

vToppling Pizza, above, is located in the building above. Owner Jimmy Thai said he hasn’t seen a drastic drop in his business because many people prefer to order in than eat out. Kabul Kabob Cuisine, left, has decreased its prices by 30 percent in order to stay financially afloat.

Gazette photo /JOSEPH MULLEN

Excursion Showcase  

These pages were produced by students participating in the Convergence Excursion at the 2009 JEANC State Convention. The groups were from Th...

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