Back in the Day...

Back in the Day: President Bill Clinton visits Rio Linda

With a visit to Roseville Tuesday President Clinton raised hope of a fix for water-weary neighborhoods And with a surprise sidetrack to Rio Linda he satisfied residents that their troubles matter too.

“We thought we were going to be forgotten. Everybody’s talk talk talk about Roseville and there are other areas that were hit just as bad”

Rio Linda native Colleen Robbins, 37

Though at least one Rio Linda resident called him an “opportunist” Clinton generated smiles… In Rio Linda, roughly 300 people gathered at the Rio Linda Community United Methodist Church to cheer Clinton who mingled at the edge of the crowd. Grown men cried “I shook his hand!” and one small boy on his father’s shoulders screamed repeatedly “Hi Bill!”

Jessica Marie Sanchez, 6, gave the president her crayon depiction of Socks the Clintons’ cat. She had drawn it Monday not knowing that she would deliver it personally a day later.

Two men reportedly were arrested by federal agents in Rio Linda on charges of threatening the president after they made offhand comments about bringing guns to Tuesday’s event according to John McGinness spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriffs Department.

The two arrests came in separate incidents involving a businessman and a 19-year-old whose names were unavailable from federal agents Tuesday night No guns were found on either suspect McGinness said The Secret Service declined to comment…

Asked what she hoped for from the president Rio Linda native Robbins said “My main concern is that they do something with our levees and creeks They need to be cleaned out and revamped”.

For her waiting for the president was a break from ripping out walls and carpet in her 6th Street home which took on 4 1/2 feet of Dry Creek overflow last week. After the home flooded in 1986, she got an $11000 federal grant for repairs. She also bought flood insurance.

Monica Ortloff and Wanda Rhodes without flood insurance hoped the federal government would deliver. With a contractor scheduled every half-hour all day they couldn’t get away from the muddy Cherry Lane home they own to go see Clinton.

Without a federal grant, they said they risk losing the home to foreclosure.

In Sacramento, more than 1200 homes were flooded causing an estimated $5 million in damage said County Executive Bob Smith, citing city figures, And in the county with an estimated 600 homes and 250 businesses swamped suffered an estimated $50 million in damage Smith said.

Those in Rio Linda said they were pleased that the president bothered to visit.

“I’m glad he did come here“We get cut down by Rush Limbaugh- We need something on our side. It’s like people here don’t count”.

Sheila Rankin 40

On the way back to McClellan Air Force Base Clinton stopped his entourage and stepped up to the window at the Archway Frostie on Rio Linda Boulevard.

He ordered a bowl of chili and a large diet Pepsi.

“No cheese or onion though,” said Frostie worker Eric Biersteker “It was exciting,” he said “And by the way, his presidential food person came in and made sure I didn’t spike his chili”.

Clinton flew into McClellan Air Force Base at 1:15pm Tuesday aboard Air Force One, Then climbed into an armored Chevrolet Suburban for the 15-minute drive to the Roseville neighborhood that had been mostly submerged since last Tuesday.

The President was trailed in his tour by Rep. John Doolittle, a Republican whose district includes Roseville, Rep, Vic Fazio, the West Sacramento Democrat whose district includes Rio Linda, and a host of top federal officials including James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Although such a tour can only help the president’s political standing in a state as important as California, residents of the area said they believed Clinton’s concerns were sincere.

“I know you see it through different eyes when you see the total destruction,” Ron Hayes said.

And Rick Merenda said he was impressed by Clinton’s visit and his willingness to listen to the flood victims.

“We were excited that he would take time from his busy schedule and come visit our homes and to see what we’ve been through” Merenda said.

With each of the several unscheduled stops of the president’s motorcade, he was cheered wildly by flood victims who lined streets.

“Thanks for coming Bill We appreciate it” one man yelled.

From Roseville, the president traveled to Rio Linda’s Community United Methodist Church where he met with volunteers and flood victims amid piles of food toys and disposable diapers that have been donated for victims.

“I bet you’ve been through a tough time,” Clinton told Michael and Bonnie Crotts as he patted their sons 4-year-old Joshua and 10-year-old Jeremy.

Then he stepped outside to greet 300 people gathered in a mud-filled parking lot including 15-year-old Dyann Paniagua who was talking on a cordless phone trying to persuade her sister she was watching the president.

Spotting her Clinton strode over and grabbed the phone to say hello to 17-year-old Dawnna Paniagua then handed the phone back while the younger girl shouted into it: ‘That was him! I swear to God! -I am not!”

From there the Clinton motorcade began returning to McClellan but stopped again under the Rio Linda arch for Clinton to pop out of his car and order a Diet Pepsi and bowl of chili at the Archway Frostie.

Within minutes he was stopped again this time at the Peacekeeper Gate of McClellan where base employees were holding signs pleading that he work to keep the base from being closed in the next round of military downsizing.

Clinton stopped because earlier in the day he had seen a sign declaring “Mr. President a fourth-grader needs your autograph”

When he saw it there hours later he stopped to grant the request then stood at attention as McClellan officials lowered the flag at sunset.

Reprint from the Sacramento Bee, January 18, 1995
By Nancy Vogel and Art Campos

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