Category Archives: Opinion

Mother of alleged gang member discusses son’s charges and her involvement with Broderick is Not a Gang

Editor’s Note: The following was provided by West Sacramento mother Sonia Rodriguez when asked to provide details about her son in a way to humanize the neighborhood youth who, in addition to serious crimes, has been labeled as a gang member, even though she said he was never affiliated with a gang. Some of it has been edited to fit the newspaper.

Name: Elijah Rodriguez
21 (now) 17 at time of arrest

On May 5, 2012, Elijah Rodriguez was arrested at school around Franklyn Way and Glide Avenue for attempted murder. The charges were dropped to assault with a deadly weapon. He took a deal for 12 years with two strikes.

He was charged with:
CT1 PC 245 (a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (3 years), CT1A PC 186.22 (b) gang enhancement (5yrs)
CT2 PC 245(a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (1 year) CT2B PC 12022.7 (a) inflicts great bodily injury (3 years)

Statement from Sonia Rodriguez
I completely understand what my son did was wrong and believe he deserved to go to prison. What he was charged with is a very serious matter that we don’t take lightly. However, I have a problem with a couple things.
The first being the amount of time Elijah got. He took a deal for 12 years. He was threatened with 25 years to life if we went to trial granted there were no deaths in this case. Because of the “safe zone” if this crime would have happened one block over, my son wouldn’t have gotten gang enhancements which added five years to his prison term. I take issue with the 12-year sentence because in 2008 my 17-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a hit and run drunk driver and the offender only got a 9-year sentence and served less than three years for killing my daughter and injuring my daughter’s friend. It just doesn’t seem balanced.
The second thing I have a problem with is my son receiving the gang enhancements and being labeled a gang member. I take issue with the way (the officer) used determined my son was a gang member. The officer has never had contact with my son before this. In court the officer said my son did this to move up in rank with the ‘Broderick Boys’. My son was a dumb kid that did something stupid. This had no rhyme or reason. He wasn’t doing this to be promoted in a gang he was never a part of to begin with. Just because the officer says it, doesn’t make it true. My son is an aspiring rapper and has hundreds of notebooks with raps he wrote. The officer used those as evidence of ‘criminal activity’. The raps were not about rainbows and sunshine, that’s for sure but none on the raps were about gangs or being in gangs. They were stupid raps my son made up, he was a teenage boy. My son is not and was not a gang member. My son was never served with the gang injunction before this. My son has never admitted to being in a gang.
Did my son know kids that said they were in a gang? Of course, these are kids he has gone to school with since preschool through high school. But that is not a crime nor does it make you a gang member. West Sacramento is a very small community. Not every boy in Broderick is a gang member. In prison, my son is not affiliated with a gang. He is considered an ‘other’ meaning he is not in a gang.
However, his paperwork says he is a Norteño gang member and that has caused him problems with other inmates and guards. He has to explain how Yolo County labeled him a gang member but he is not. If he was a former gang member he would be considered a ‘drop out’. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but in prison apparently it is a big deal. It affects how other inmates treat you. My son is okay right now but he is a young impressionable boy with 10 years left in prison. He will have spent a large majority of growing up years around hardened criminals. I can’t say how he will be when he gets out of prison and is a man of 31 years of age. This will affect my son for the rest of his life. Not only while he is in prison but when he gets out and tries to move on with his life.
While in prison he has gotten no write ups and is taking college courses. The last we heard from our son was three weeks ago. He was transferred to a prison in Arizona from The California Correctional Center in Susanville, California. He called us and said they told him he was being transferred again to a prison in Mississippi. We have no further information on his whereabouts. He has been in prison for the past two years. He has 10 more years to serve.
Since joining Broderick is a Community, Not a Gang I have heard story after story about how these kids are being charged as adults, labeled as gang members, and threatened with 25 years to life and offered a deal of 12 years regardless of the crime. It just doesn’t seem right. How can every boy in Broderick be a gang member? Yolo County has the highest direct filing in the state. How can the DAs justify this? If our boys were not criminal gang members before prison, what do they think they will come home as?

Black Stone

By Jack Chandler

Somewhere around the year 2,000 B. C. (or possibly 500 A. D.; there are conflicting reports as to the timeline), the Patwin (Pat-ween) Indians were the first inhabitants of the area we now know as West Sacramento. The Patwin were connected by language with the Nomlaki and Wintu people, to the North. The Patwins lived between what is now Suisun, Vacaville, and Putah Creek.
The Patwins were a peaceful lot, operating as hunter-gatherers. This was in contrast to the more nomadic and temperamental warrior tribes in Southern California and the Plains states. Apparently, the abundance of flora and fauna in the territory put the Patwin at ease. They had a banquet of ducks, geese, deer, elk, salmon, sturgeon, mussels, pine nuts, blackberries, wild grapes, and other menu items at their disposal. Acorns were fashioned into a mush which was baked in below-ground pit ovens and re-appeared as bread.
Small groups of Patwin men would venture out, looking for deer. One man would wear a deer head, in order to get closer to a deer without alarming it.
This raises questions. Was the wearing of deer’s head an honor, or the result of someone in the group drawing a short straw ? The head had to have been cumbersome, no doubt. And, wouldn’t the deer notice that the “deer” walked upright on two legs and had several accomplices waiting expectantly behind the nearby trees ? Perhaps not.
Patwin life was dictated by three things: the Seasons, the Weather, and the Creator. Each day was a brand new beginning and significant. Each day brought new messages.
It was on such a morning, a little over four thousand years ago
(or 1, 516 years ago), that Dark Hawk, the headman of his village, assembled his tribelet around a campfire at sunrise. It was mid-July. He stood in a noble pose, his back ram-rod straight, and squinted at the sun burning through the oak tree leaves, and thought to himself, “Gonna be HOT today…”
On cooler days, he would be wearing a cape made from rabbit skins and a headdress sprouting raven or woodpecker feathers.
As the group chose their positions around the fire, and dug into their fresh chunks of acorn bread, Dark Hawk recalled something that his own father and previous tribelet headman had told him:
“I know it gets hot out here, but…remember to hydrate.”
He sat down and motioned to Singing Bird, his squaw, to bring a gourd of water.
One by one, Dark Hawk went around the circle and asked each one directly,
“What did you dream of last night ?”
This was a customary way of orchestrating the day’s events. Dark Hawk would methodically take into account, on some level, the details of each dream and plan accordingly. For each day was singularly important. Nothing was to be taken for granted.
Great Elk, who was considered a seer of sorts since a number of his dreams had predicted the weather and crop factors, was always first to speak.
“Dark Hawk, my brothers and sisters. I dreamed of a man stepping on the moon. He stepped out of a silver house, and wore the skins of a bear. But, they were white skins.”
Murmurs rose from the circle. There was much nodding of heads and stroking of chins.
“I had another dream. I saw a man walking on a road. He was looking at a thin, black stone in his hand. Looking hard. He was very serious. He tapped the stone with his finger, and spoke as he held it up to his ear.”
There was a snicker from one of the young boys in the group. A sharp glance from Dark Hawk silenced him.
“He continued to look hard at the stone, as he was walking across a second road. But, he didn’t notice a large silver, noisy wagon that ran over him.”
A barely-subdued gasp broke from the circle. This sounded like something closer to the bone, more immediate than a fantastic image of a man on the moon. Dark Hawk and the tribelet pondered this dream of the thin, black stone and the silver wagon. What could it mean ? It sounded like heavy stuff, and could not be taken lightly.
After all, each day was singularly important, and nothing was taken for granted.

West Sacramentans: You’ve got yourself a great city

By Monica Stark

West Sacramento News-Ledger's new editor, Monica Stark

West Sacramento News-Ledger’s new editor, Monica Stark

To be honest, it has been quite awhile since I spent any significant time here. Back in 2004 after I graduated from college, I started substitute teaching for the Washington Unified School District. I remember working with the youngest children and the oldest and during that time I saw the diversity of West Sacramento. The sounds of the Russian and Spanish languages emerged from the playgrounds as many of the youngest children were English language learners. With my degree in English, it was a humbling experience for me helping children hone their language skills.

Years later, after taking a reporting job at the Woodland Daily Democrat, for a short time I interned with the Yolo County Public Defenders Office in the investigations department. Much of our work was in West Sacramento. It was a very enjoyable experience interviewing alleged criminals and getting their stories but what I remember most was lunchtime. West Sacramento has amazing taquerias and burger joints.

After a meeting with the owners of the West Sacramento News-Ledger, I was so excited by their offer. George and Kathleen Macko are like parents to me. While I am working this position part-time after hours from home, during the day I work as the editor for Valley Community Newspapers in Sacramento, which includes the Land Park News, East Sacramento News, Pocket News and Arden-Carmichael News. Taking on the added responsibility of covering a whole new area is absolutely thrilling to me, especially working for a newspaper that is highly respected by such a tight-knit city you all are lucky to call home.

As much change is happening here in this city and at this newspaper, I will do my due diligence advocating for quality news that is interesting, informative, fun and maybe sometimes odd.

I tell my friends that this paper is different than any other paper I’ve ever read. Its hometown feel really thrives on community support and so there’s not a whole lot of gate-keeping of information like at the bigger newspapers. It really is made up of both community and professional journalism. It would not succeed without all the input from the readers.

So keep sending your story ideas, events for the calendar, columns, announcements for weddings/engagements, births and etc. to, and I’ll do my best to get them printed.

I’d like to know what your favorite things to do around town are, so send me an e-mail or meet me at the brew pub. (I’ll likely be there.) I really want to hear what you have to say.

Reach Monica Stark at

A message & invitation from Yolo Supervisor Oscar Villegas

West Sacramento’s OSCAR VILLEGAS (right) took the oath of office again last week. Administering the oath were his children, Vincent and Elena (courtesy photo)

West Sacramento’s OSCAR VILLEGAS (right) took the oath of office again last week. Administering the oath were his children, Vincent and Elena
(courtesy photo)

From Oscar Villegas
Yolo County Supervisor, District 1

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, representing West Sacramento and Clarksburg.  In February 2014, I was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, to serve on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in the seat vacated by the legendary Mike McGowan of which he held for nearly 20 years.  In June 2014, I was elected by the voters to retain this seat.  On January 5, 2015, it was a personal special moment to take the oath of office administered by our children, Elena and Vincent.

After thoroughly enjoying the honor and privilege of serving on the West Sacramento City Council for nearly 14 years, I have found it equally exciting and rewarding to have the opportunity to represent District 1 on the Yolo Board for the past 10 months.

I look forward to a new productive new year in 2015 by working with my colleagues on the Board to ensure that we continue to provide thoughtful stewardship over the many challenges ahead during our term of governance.    It is my intent to facilitate efforts to address the following:  restore our county reserves; seek avenues to  prudently restore  some of our basic services that were cut during the economic downturn; work collaboratively and productively with our local,  state and federal stakeholders on flood protection; finalize the integration of health and human services to provide a better system of safety net services for our residents; preserve the viability of Yolo agriculture while promoting the emerging Farm-to-Fork movement and expand our agricultural processing opportunities; continue to take bold and innovative steps to reduce the likelihood of homelessness, and to ensure that our community remain safe as we implement various aspects of the state’s realignment of offenders.

To responsibly address these issues, I humbly extend an invitation to residents of District 1 to assist by serving on various boards and commissions which serve as advisory to me and the Board.  It is critical that the residents have an opportunity to participate and provide input on those issues that impact our community.  As such, I would ask that you consider applying to serve on a board or commission where you believe you can make a positive contribution through your professional or life experience.  There are many topic areas ranging from aging, children services, both health and mental health services, etc.

To learn more about the boards and commission that service District 1, please visit my website at  I also invite you to contact the district office located at 500 Jefferson Blvd., Suite C, West Sacramento, (916) 375-6440 or email:

Thanks again for bestowing me the honor of serving in this capacity.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Opinion: being a foster parent is not as hard as you may think


By Cherie Schroeder
Yolo County Foster Kinship Care Program

Local families are needed for local foster children, newborns through transitional age youth.

AUTHOR CHERIE SCHROEDER  (News-Ledger file photo/2009)

(News-Ledger file photo/2009)

Winter can be harsh on children and families. During the month of November and into early December there was a definite up-swing in the number of children Yolo County DESS brought into protective custody, at no fault of their own, who needed a safe and loving place to call home.

Foster children are the children of our communities.  When a local home is not found, these vulnerable kids are often placed miles away from their family of origin, taking them away from services, supports, friends, school, and all that is known to them.

You may ask yourself, “How can I help?”

Becoming a foster home is not as hard or scary as one may think. At the core of quality foster parenting, are traits that include being present and available, flexible, kind and stable.  As one local foster mother shared,

“Children in foster care arrive to us from places where joy and safety are scarce. At every turn, I find opportunities to hold a hand, share a smile and to bring out laughter. Delight is found and given from sand between toes, reading a funny book, or giving a goofy smile.  My husband and I give lots love and kisses to the precious little person entrusted to our care.  These are simple gifts that mean so much to our foster toddler and serve to help put the pieces of her life back together.”

The research is clear; a caring committed adult can make a tremendous difference in a child’s life. Will you consider opening your home and heart to a child in need?  A free and informal “Introduction to Foster Care” workshop is being offered Tuesday evening, January 20th from 6:30 to 9:30 pm at the Child Welfare Office in West Sacramento.  We will be in Community Room 1A located at 500 Jefferson Blvd., off Triangle Court, across from the Police Station. Reservations aren’t needed; you are welcome to just stop by.

To learn more about Yolo County Foster Care check out our website at  Questions are welcomed by Recruitment and Retention Specialist, Cherie Schroeder by calling her at (530) 574-1964.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

News-Ledger ‘letters to the editor’


Liking the new bridge
As a Southport resident I have already enjoyed driving on the new Mike McGowan Bridge near my home. Not only does it shave a few minutes off driving, the bridge is a good start for diverting heavy traffic from Jefferson Boulevard.

Mike McGowan is deserving of the bridge’s name (see Mike McGowan: the man whose name is on that new bridge”, News-Ledger, December 3, 2014) for playing an important role in making West Sacramento a good place to live.

Thanks to Jay Davidson, senior civil engineer at the City of West Sacramento for addressing my initial concerns, such as cars using the bridge as a “pass through” and to the city council for promptly going forward with the project.

Keep up the good work, City of West Sacramento!

West Sacramento


Buses & carts
(Editor’s note: Author Bill Lowell speaks below about the need for a new shopping cart design that can fit aboard public buses — something like an airline carry-on  bag with wheels and a handle).

For bus-riding shoppers and retailers, a major tool is often missing: we need a tall, medium-size suitcase-shaped shopping cart which would fit between forward-facing bus seats. The right shape is particularly important for YoloBus riders, since recent insurance rules prohibit use of the front flip seats and over 90% of shopping carts, when filled, do not fit between forward-facing seats. This lack of right size/right shape personal shopping cart availability not only discourages shopping in Yolo County, but appears to be a major reason so many retailers’ commercial shopping carts are “borrowed” without being returned.

While the homeless take many such carts, retailers would greatly reduce such costs and attract more preferred customers by offering the public such a suitcase-shaped shopping cart.

West Sacramento


Adopt a dog, cat
   (Editor’s note: although we weren’t able to publish this letter before the holidays, we thought it is still a timely topic)
The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Services Section would like to thank our community for their on-going support for shelter animals throughout the year. Nearly 3,600 at risk animals (lost, homeless or unwanted) entered our doors in Yolo County last calendar year.  Your generosity created life-saving outcomes for more that 90 percent of them! During this season of giving and sharing we hope you will continue to help us provide for homeless shelter animals now and in the future.

Part of this effort is ‘Homes for the Holidays!’ Old policies in the industry state pets should not be adopted as gifts. This belief, however, is counter to research by the ASPCA which indicates dogs and cats obtained as gifts are actually more likely to stay within those homes, whether the pet is a surprise or not!  Help us support that theory!
If you or someone you know are considering providing a home for a shelter pet there are 11 medium to small dogs and 11 adult cats and 6 kittens which would love to be in a new home for the holidays!  Recommendations for success when adopting pets as gifts are to consider the recipient’s interest in adopting, their lifestyle, make sure parents of young children are ready to be a caregivers and their schedule will help assure an easy transition into the new home.    If you or your friends are not ready for the commitment of adopting you are encouraged to volunteer; help with fostering, shelter care, laundry, and socialization and office tasks.  Last year 429 cats and dogs were helped by our foster program; some underage and many that needed a temporary home prior to finding their forever fit.  Check out our Facebook page and if you love it, like it!

Animal Services, located at 140-C Tony Diaz Drive, Woodland is accepting donations of liquid laundry detergent; used to wash animal bedding, dry or canned pet food, especially cat food for Mouse’s Pantry, new or gently used towels or wash cloths and lap size acrylic blankets.  Toys are also welcome; for cats they must be washable and toys for dogs should be hard nylabone or Kong type; nothing with fabric stuffing as they are not safe for shelter dogs.  Tax-deductable monetary donations are always welcome; it can be a general donation or designated for such things as helping with spay and neuter or surgical needs for injured homeless strays.

Contact the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Services Section at (530) 668-5287.

Animal Services Section
Yolo Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

  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-Ledger 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 2015

Hanging out in a cemetery can be fun

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 10, 2014 —

I have a strange little confession to make. When I need to get away from everything and everyone for a few days, I often jump in my little truck and head down into Southern California, often ending up somewhere out in the desert, although usually near wonderfully civilized places like Palm Springs. And on the way, especially while I am in and around the Los Angeles area, I have been known to stop off at some of the more famous cemeteries down there that are the final resting places for many of the television and movie stars of my youth. Anyway, I happened to mention this to a friend of mine the other day and I could see by the expression on his face that he was a little worried about me.

“Maybe you have just reached that age where death is becoming a little more real to you,” he suggested.

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

“No, I have always liked cemeteries, even when I was young, especially historic ones. And the one we have right over the bridge in Sacramento is a great place to hang out. All kinds of interesting people are buried there, including a bunch of California governors, Civil War veterans, quite a few of the famous Crocker family, and even Alexander Hamilton’s son, who died in one of those cholera epidemics that used to be really common in this area back in the 1840s and 1850s. And if you go down to Southern California there are a bunch of Forest Lawn cemeteries that are the final resting place of lots of famous people like Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Ricky Nelson, Steve Allen, Charles Laughton, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on and on. Oh, and another really interesting cemetery down there is Los Angeles Cemetery. That’s where Marilyn Monroe is buried. Did you know that the bid on e-Bay for the empty crypt just above hers has now reached $4.6 million dollars?”
“Really?” said my friend, not knowing how to change the subject. “Well, I guess since most of the old movie stars lived and worked in the Los Angeles area, it’s only natural that they died and were buried there, too.”
“One of the most interesting cemeteries I ever visited was a place called Desert Memorial Park,” I continued, “which is down around Palm Springs. I stopped by there once to check out William Powell’s grave – you know, the guy who starred in all of those great old `Thin Man’ movies – and guess who I stumbled across in the process?”
“Who?” asked my friend very reluctantly.
“Frank Sinatra – Old Blue Eyes himself! And I was surprised by what an unpretentious gravesite he had, just a flat marker on the ground with his name, the dates of his birth and death, and an old song lyric of his — `The best is yet to come’ – chiseled into the stone. And did you know that he was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pack of Camel cigarettes?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“But the one grave I’ve always wanted to visit was Charlie Chaplin’s, and you know what happened to him, don’t you?”
“No, what?”
“Well, Charlie died on Christmas Day in 1977 at the age of 88, and his family buried him in a really nice cemetery in Switzerland, not far from where he had lived for many years after America wouldn’t let  him back into the country because of his politics. But a couple of months later his body was dug up and stolen from the graveyard and the thieves wanted $600,000 from his grieving wife before they would give it back.”
“Really?” asked my friend, suddenly interested in our conversation for the first time. “So what did his wife do?”
“Well, she told them that she wouldn’t pay the ransom, because Charlie would have considered the whole thing ridiculous and even humorous, so the thieves then threatened the lives of some of their eight children, all of whom Charlie had fathered after his 54th birthday, which was his age when they got married.”
“But the family did get poor Charlie’s body back, didn’t they?” asked my friend with interest.
“Yes, but only after a five or six week investigation by the local police who finally found out that a couple of out-of-work auto mechanics from Bulgaria of all places had dug up Charlie and re-buried him in an old cornfield about a mile from his home. So the authorities arrested the thieves and went out and got Charlie back and returned him to his original resting place. But this time they buried him in a very heavy cement grave to prevent any future theft attempts.”

“Wow, that’s quite a story,” said my friend. “And I guess that’s probably at the heart of why you like to visit graveyards, isn’t it? You know, the fact that every life has its own story, and you can stand there and think about the great life that someone you really admired has lived.”
“Well,” I admitted, “I usually just like to stand there and whisper to myself something like, `Even though you got to be rich and famous and I didn’t, you are gone, and I’m still here’!”

Copyright News-Ledger 2014