Category Archives: News

Man convicted for growing marijuana on public land, patrolling with gun


Last month, a Yolo County jury found 57-year-old Fidel Alvarez guilty of “cultivation of marijuana” and “possession for sale of marijuana.”  The jury also convicted Alvarez of being armed during the commission of these crimes.

According to the office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig:

Last September, agents from the Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigations Team discovered a marijuana grow one third of a mile off Highway 16 in Yolo County on public lands.  The marijuana grow contained over 500 plants that were only a few days away from harvest.  Agents discovered Alvarez walking through the field of plants dressed in camouflage clothing and carrying a .22 caliber rifle with a homemade flash suppressor.

Alvarez admitted to agents that he had been hired by drug dealers in Richmond to come and tend to the marijuana plots.  He stated that he was going to receive a percentage of the profits from the sale of the marijuana.  Experts testified that the plants would produce somewhere between 250 and 500 pounds of marijuana which would have a street value of $250,000 to $500,000, said the D.A.’s office.

“These marijuana grows on public lands are dangerous and the cause of numerous acts of violence across the state,” said prosecutor Michael Vroma, in a press release.  District Attorney Reisig commented on the environmental impact.  “The toll these marijuana grows have on the surrounding environment due to chemicals and fertilizers is immeasurable,” said Reisig in the same release.

Alvarez will be sentenced on February 25 by Judge Timothy L. Fall.  Alvarez faces up to four years in prison.

Editor’s note: the News-Ledger asked the D.A.’s office for a few more details about this case, but the requested information was not provided.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Gales seeks a school board seat


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

What can Katherine Gales bring to the local school board?

KATHERINE GALES: school board candidate believes a board member needs to research the issues (News-Ledger photo)

KATHERINE GALES: school board candidate believes a board member needs to research the issues (News-Ledger photo)

“At the top of the list is research,” she answered. “That’s what I do first if I don’t know something. I’m going to learn about it, especially if I’m going to be held responsible for making a decision about it. I’ll take my experience and I might take other persons’ opinions, but I’m going to go to the Internet and I’m going to Google it, and I’m going to find out exactly what it is.”

Gales, 50, told the News-Ledger that doing the background work is a key part of a school board member’s job.

“It’s important for the school board member to understand what’s going on in that area, so they can make a decision,” she explained. “You have to be up on current events. . . and you can be affected by anything coming into the district. If I don’t know about a certain community, it’s my obligation to get a good understanding or recuse myself from decision-making in that area.”

Gales has been working for the state Department of Education since 1997. She is now an executive assistant at the downtown Sacramento office. She serves as a “branch level office manager,” she said.

Gales said that one reason she took the job was to figure out why different schools taught different ways – a realization that came from comparing her own education at an “old school” in the Monterey area to her daughter’s campuses in Natomas and New York.

  Gales grew up in an Army family and moved around, but she went to high school in  Monterey, at a campus with large classrooms that were well equipped for science, home economics and so forth.

“When (my daughter) got into junior high, it was different from what I experienced in junior high,” said Gales. “That made me get even more involved. . . In home economics, we had kitchens in our classrooms. . . I compared that to my daughter’s school (in Sacramento), and they had portables.”

Working into her adulthood, Gales earned a pair of degrees from the University of Phoenix.

“I have a bachelor’s in business management and a masters in management,” she reported.

She did not marry her daughter’s father, but both parents were involved in the now-grown daughter’s life. For the past three years, Gales has lived in West Sacramento with her daughter and her seven-year old grandson, who attends school in Washington Unified School District. Gales also has several nieces and nephews in town, also going to West Sacramento public schools.

She’s running against four other candidates for one available spot on the ballot for school board, in a special election March 5.

How does she think the current school board is doing?

“I’ve attended the local school board meetings since December,” Gales answered. “They seem to work fine. Over two or three meetings, I think they’re working through what they need to do. As far as what I saw, they’re doing pretty much what they need to do and what I would do. I don’t know what goes on in closed session.”

How good is the local district?

“They’re about as good as they can be at this time, but anything can be improved and be better. That’s what I can contribute.”

How well are the schools doing in standardized test scores?

“I know Bridgeway Island (Elementary School) did pretty good on the API and Southport was second,” she answered. “The others came behind them. Test scores are important, but I’m focused on what’s coming down the pipeline (from the state board of education).”

New curriculum standards and new tests are on their way, she said.

Fiscally, Gales thinks the district is in good shape.

And she said she would consider new charter schools on a “case by case” basis. What would it take for a new charter school to get her approval as a board member?

“You have to be productive, and you have to follow the requirements of the law, first and foremost,” said Gales.

She was asked what kinds of challenges she sees in WUSD’s future.

“I think the main thing sticking out in my mind is that it’s very important for them to be diverse in their workforce,” answered Gales. “All staff should closely mirror the national average. . . In West Sacramento, we may not have a really high level of ethnicity in one area or the other, but (students) should be exposed to at least the top three or four (ethnic groups) that most people are exposed to on a regular basis.”

“I don’t know that we have any African-American teachers.”

Gales also said she wants to see better conflict-resolution in local schools.

“When my daughter went to school in New York for a year, they had a program set up,” she explained. “It was called peer mock court or peer court, where the kids actually could go to court if they had a dispute or something. They could discuss the issue in front of a body of peers or administrators, to get to the core of a problem before a decision was made for discipline.”

“I don’t know if that’s even done here, but it doesn’t seem like they have any kind of structure set up to deal with discipline. A lot of times, it seems like it’s just decided by the principal and teacher – I’m not sure, I really can’t speak on it.”

Gales was attracted to run in this race because the timing was right to become active in the community, she said. She saw news about the special election on Mayor Cabaldon’s Facebook page. She hasn’t, though, obtained endorsements from him or any of the school board or city council members.

But, as she added by email after the interview:

“What I have received is support from friends and family including, but not limited to, friends in the Sikh community and my church at the Calvary Christian Center.”

  Editor’s note: Five people are running for one vacant seat on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees. A winner will be chosen in a special, all-mail ballot in West Sacramento on March 5.

  Katherine Gales, profiled above, is one of the five.

  The News-Ledger newspaper is presenting an interview with each of these five candidates. The series will conclude in our print edition on Feb. 27.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013


Food give-away in West Sac


The Yolo County food bank will distribute free food to eligible West Sacramento and Clarksburg residents on Feb. 19. The schedule includes distribution from 9-10 a.m. at the West Sacramento County building, 500 Jefferson Blvd.; 10:30-11:15 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian, 1500 Park Blvd.; 11-noon at Yolo Housing Authority, 685 Lighthouse Dr.; and noon-1 at Clarksburg Firehouse.

Please bring a bag, and attend only one site. For information, call (530) 668-0690.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Sobriety checkpoint Saturday night


The West Sacramento Police Department announced today it will conduct a sobriety checkpoint and driver’s license check from Saturday at 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. The department typically does not announce the precise location of the checkpoint in advance.”.

“The deterrent effect of DUI checkpoints is a proven resource in reducing the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug involved crashes,” said a press statement from Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department. “Research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted often enough.”

Officers will be contacting drivers passing through the checkpoint for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. Officers will also check drivers for proper licensing and will strive to delay motorists only momentarily, he added. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving. Drivers caught driving impaired can expect jail, license suspension, and insurance increases, as well as fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

CEO of Yolo’s courts will retire


Yolo Superior Court announced today the retirement of James B. Perry, Court Executive Officer. He will retire May 1, 2013.

JAMES PERRY (Courtesy of Yolo Co. Superior Court)

(Courtesy of Yolo Co. Superior Court)

“It has been my honor to work with the best group of judges in the state and a truly remarkable staff. I have enjoyed my time serving the people of Yolo County and the state,” commented Perry in a Yolo Superior Court press release.

The press statement credited Perry with stabilizing funding levels, developing one of the first written succession plans for court staff, and successfully advocating for additional judgeships and staff.  He helped guide the court through state funding for site acquisition and construction plans for the new Yolo Superior Courthouse expected to be complete in 2015, the statement continued.  Perry held key roles on Judicial Branch Committees and Task Forces to include the Domestic Violence Task Force, Facilities Task Force, and the Budget Working Group.

Perry will leave Yolo Superior Court with 10 years of service at his post;  a total of 20 years with the Judicial Branch and 43 years of public service.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Nguyen: ‘average’ district can improve


News-Ledger’s interviews with candidates in the March 5 special school board election continue this week with local businessman Linh Nguyen —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

With a background in computer engineering and in business, Southport’s Linh Nguyen believes one of the best ways to start attacking any problem is to measure it. And he believes the measurements are clear for Washington Unified School District:


Identify a problem, measure it, attack it (News-Ledger photo)

Identify a problem, measure it, attack it
(News-Ledger photo)

“Statistically, we are average,” Nguyen told the News-Ledger.

Student test scores often have a strong link to a community’s economic level. Look at them both if you want to judge how a school district is doing, he said.

“If we can say that economically, we’re a ‘5,’ but what we’re achieving is a ‘7’ or ‘8’ out of 10, then that’s excellent. But if we’re economically a ‘5’ and we’re achieving at a ‘5,’ that’s just okay.”

West Sacramento’s school district is scoring at about 760 on the API tests, he said, which is about “average” for a place with an “average” socioeconomic level.
Nguyen (pronounced with the “ng” sound followed by “wen,” in one syllable) hopes to earn a seat on the local school board next month and help change that.

“That reflection is on the board – that’s where the buck stops,” he said. “City-wise, you can see there are a lot of successful projects that have been implemented – whether it’s (new developments like) the River Cats, Nugget, Home Depot or Ikea. They didn’t let the ‘average’ or ‘below average’ hold them back. The school district needs to do the same.”

  “As a person who runs my own company, I understand what you need to do when you govern a multi-million dollar entity. We need to define a clear vision. We need to lay out a clear plan of what we’re going to do. We need to always follow up on the plan.”

Nguyen, 40, currently works at home, managing his investment portfolio. His wife is a part-time pharmacist, and the couple has three young kids – the oldest two of which are at Bridgeway Island Elementary School.

“I graduated from UC Davis in computer science engineering,” he explained. “I went back to Silicon Valley and my first job was at Genentech. I worked mostly in high-tech. After we saved some money, we started our own consulting company. But running a company is very intensive, and we were having our first kid. We decided to move to West Sacramento, which is a very good place to raise kids.”

Having two children in the public elementary school and another headed that way has generated some concerns, said Nguyen.

“I think I’m in the same shoes as a lot of parents,” he said. “My kids are in first and third grade. I can see the future coming for them. High school is coming.”

One friend typifies his concern:

“When I told him I was running for the board, the first thing he said is, ‘Great, I’ll support you.’ The second thing he said was, ‘At this point, I wouldn’t let my kid go to River City High School.’ The sad fact is that (the friend himself) went to River City High School, and his wife went to River City High School – not the new campus, but the old one. Something like that speaks volumes about how people perceive the high school.”

Nguyen is concerned by the numbers – and RCHS is higher than the state in some statistics, like expulsion rates, he said.

Between that and issues like bullying and campus security, “I don’t feel my kid is safe to go to this high school” right now, said Nguyen.

How do you fix that?

Nguyen believes that the first step is to identify the problems facing WUSD, whether they be test scores or campus safety.

“I would like the (school) board to acknowledge the problems,” he said. “That’s the first step in solving a problem. Secondly, I would like to know how we are going to measure the issues – for example, what percentage of the kids are leaving the district (to go to school elsewhere)? If we can first do a measurement on that, we can improve it. We don’t (now) have a way to measure that. Just anecdotal evidence.”

Nguyen says he has been to several school board meetings and seen others on cable TV.

“I see a lot of positive coming from the board we now have,” he said. “We could do much better. We have 7.000-plus students in the district. We have an obligation to help these 7,000-plus kids to achieve, to reach their full potential.”

He added that, fiscally, the board is “doing okay with what we have.” And with Proposition 30 passing and bringing more stability to school funding, and with the economy finally improving, he expected the school’s financial climate to start getting better.

How does he feel about charter schools?

Nguyen said he would examine them on a “case by case” basis.

“I’m not encumbered by a political agenda. . . If someone comes to me and asks about a charter school for our district, I would say, ‘show me the empirical evidence.’ When we make a change like that, there’s going to be a financial cost. The research has to support (a need for the charter school).”

Nguyen thinks that voters should look at the time commitment of being a school board member when they weigh their decision of whom to elect.

“One of the basic elements (of the job) is that you have to be willing to put in the time,” he said. “If you look at our city council, they have 22 subcommittees, reaching out to the schools, the River Cats, the port, to Sacramento County. Board-wise, we’re not reaching out to other districts around us. We’re not reaching out to resources we have. We’re not reaching out to UC Davis or Sacramento State.”

“If the board was functioning at an excellent level, we would have a direct path where Sacramento State and Davis and vocational programs would come here and work with the kids, and explain why some subject is important. We want to engage a kid, whether they are going to be a mechanic or an engineer or something.”

With a background in management and in science, Nguyen believes he can help the board do this.
What does he see as a board member’s job duties?

“One of the requirements is that we need a board that’s passionate,” he answered. “Statistically and empirical data-wise, we’re average. That’s a result of our economics. To be successful, we have to be innovative.”

Has Nguyen been endorsed by the mayor or by school board members?

“Purposely, I’ve tried not to coincide with the political side,” he answered. “I call it the political machine. I don’t want to reach out there, because I want to be independent. The first thing is that the school board is for the kids. The second thing is, it’s for the kids. And the third thing is, it’s for the kids.”

Nguyen’s prior involvement in the community include helping to coach youth soccer, baseball and basketball in the elementary school and city leagues. He also helps with the local Cub Scout troop.

The candidate said he is funding his school board campaign with “mostly my own money,” and is also walking precincts.

[Editor’s note: after this interview was published, the candidate notified the News-Ledger that he had picked up endorsements from former WUSD school board members Ardeene Westvik, Dave Farmer and Ed Hocking.]

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 &

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Southport: the trouble with beavers

This downed tree is a casualty of a group of beavers who have made their home in the Bridgeway Lakes area. (Photo courtesy of Marty Swingle)

This downed tree is a casualty of a group of beavers who have made their home in the Bridgeway Lakes area. (Photo courtesy of Marty Swingle)

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 6, 2013 —

City’s trapper has so far caught five of the pesky mammals

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

“It comes in waves,” reports Dena Kirtley, the City of West Sacramento’s urban forest manager. “It has probably been about three years.”

But now, they’re back:

DENA KIRTLEY Urban Forest Manager City of West Sacramento (courtesy photo)

Urban Forest Manager
City of West Sacramento
(courtesy photo)

“About a month ago, one of my crew noticed some trees that he thought were chopped down with an axe. On further inspection, we discovered it had been beavers.”

The animals have been active “for probably six or eight weeks” in the Bridgeway Lakes area of Southport, chopping down trees. Their preferred species is willow. The animals – perhaps a family – probably came in from the Sacramento River.

“There’s a canal that belongs to Reclamation District 900, just east of Otis Road, south of Marshall,” said Kirtley, who is managing the city’s response. “That’s pretty much where Bridgeway Lakes begins. That canal runs under the road.”

“They’ve taken out several trees at Cherokee in Bridgeway Lakes, and gone around the corner behind some houses and taken out some more.”

Why do the beavers want to gnaw down willow trees in particular?

“They eat the bark and leaves off the portion that falls into the lake,” answered Kirtley. “Their intent is to make the trees reachable so they can get to the bark and leaves.”

The felled trees aren’t immediately being removed by the city.

“We leave the trees where they are, so the beavers don’t down more trees,” said Kirtley.

You might call that an official policy of “Leave it to Beaver.”

If the animals can’t get at willow trees, they will settle for other species, like live oak, she added.

How many animals are there?

“We’re hoping less than 10,” she said. “They move in from the river through the ag canals. It’s like a little highway.”

So far, there has been no problem with beaver dams as a threat to drainage.

The city’s response to the beaver infestation was to show the state Department of Fish and Game that it was taking adequate tree-protection measures, and then get a permit to hire a trapper. Parks workers have tried to protect over 100 area trees with chicken wire – a questionable strategy, allowed Kirtley, because the beavers can always just “move on down the line” to unprotected trees.

A trapper has thus far caught five of the animals. When pressed, Kirtley admitted delicately that the animals are not live-caught. They’re killed by the traps.

  “It’s illegal to transport them,” she said. “Nobody else wants them. They would just be somebody else’s problem, and we are in an urban area. It’s a delicate subject. I’ve had people ask me what happens to the beavers.”

Kirtley said the animals can build aquatic lodges, but they also burrow into riverbanks – and “we think we found one of their nests.” The trapping doesn’t seem to be over.

The good news is that the downed trees will probably rise again.

“Once we think we’ve alleviated the beaver problem, we will remove the felled trees,” said Kirtley. “We’ll make a nice, clean cut below the damage, and the trees will re-sprout and we’ll have new trees.”

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013