Category Archives: Opinion

Fight child abuse: upcoming fashion show & fun run both offer you a chance

By Don Saylor, Chair of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance
and Member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, District 2

Child abuse is a national tragedy.  An estimated 3 million children are the victims of substantiated abuse or neglect each year in the United States.  In California during 2012, nearly 500,000 children were referred to Child Welfare Services for investigation of abuse and/or neglect.

Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and chair of the Yolo County Children's Alliance (courtesy photo)

Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and chair of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance (courtesy photo)

In our own county, during fiscal year 2011-12, the Department of Employment and Social Services, Child Welfare Services, received 1,398 reports of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.   Resulting investigations led to 251 children in child-welfare supervised placements.

During the same time period, approximately 95 children each month continued living with their families while the families received ongoing support services and supervision through the Yolo County Child Welfare Services Family Maintenance Program. In addition, 96 children each month received Family Reunification services aimed at returning them to their homes of origin.

On the good news front, in Yolo County we have numerous public agencies and community organizations, parents, relatives, community volunteers, public policymakers and professionals who are collaborating to eliminate child abuse through the Yolo Family Strengthening Network.

The Yolo Family Strengthening Network offers parents the education, support, and skills they need to provide healthy, safe and nurturing homes for their children.  Resource materials can be downloaded from  Our local program is based on the national Strengthening Families Program; an evidence-based family skills training program.  Mistreatment of children decreases as parents learn more effective parenting skills, and the program has been proven to significantly reduce problem behaviors, delinquency, and alcohol and drug abuse in children.  It also improves social competencies and school performance.

Another program aimed at strengthening families, The Yolo Family Meals Campaign, invites the community at large to post photos on the Yolo County Children’s Alliance web site of their family dinners, kid-friendly recipes and conversation topics that get your children talking at the table.

We hope hundreds of Yolo County residents will get involved in child abuse prevention.

Two ways that are fun include the Yolo County Children’s Alliance and Child Abuse Prevention Council’s 4th Annual Yolo County Celebrity Fashion Show on Friday, April 26th in West Sacramento and the annual Child Abuse Prevention Fun Run on April 28th in Davis. For tickets go to or call 530-757-5558.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

‘Healing Wall’ holds names and a message


I put together a little section in the News-Ledger most weeks entitled “Across the Bridge” which is meant to give some publicity to events happening around the greater Sacramento area that some of our readers might want to attend. One such calendar announcement came across my desk this past week about the traveling three-quarter-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It will be on display this spring from May 23-27 at Mount Vernon Memorial Park in Fair Oaks and anyone who has never seen it before should definitely put it down on their list of things to do.

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

About 15-years ago my wife and I took our youngest son, Kyle, to see it when it was on display in Sacramento’s Capitol Park. It was actually just one of five traveling “Healing Walls” which were crisscrossing the country at that time, and it was making its first appearance in Sacramento. It was modeled after Maya Lin’s much-respected Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial which commemorates the more than 58,000 American men and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

The “Wall That Heals,” as it is called, is a smaller version of Ms. Lin’s creation which was erected with the following four design criteria: it had to be reflective and contemplative in character; harmonize with its surroundings; contain all the names of those who died in the Vietnam War; and make no political statement.

The scaled-down portable replicas are in constant demand throughout the country since not everyone can go all the way back to Washington D.C. to see the original. So the traveling replicas have become one of the best ways for many Americans to pay their respects to those who died in what was then this country’s longest military engagement. The traveling Walls have also proved helpful in educating people (especially young people) throughout the nation about the Vietnam War and its ongoing societal consequences.

When we arrived in Capitol Park, a number of politicians and military personnel were making speeches that I didn’t particularly want to hear, so my wife and I took our son over to the California Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, which was nearby. I showed him the large map of Vietnam which is engraved into one of the walkways and he was impressed by the fact that he could stand right on top of a whole country. I pointed out some of the places where I had spent time while I was in Vietnam, but he didn’t seem too impressed. He was more interested in the life-size bronze statues depicting American soldiers firing their M16’s and throwing hand grenades.

  As we made our way back over to the scaled-down Vietnam Veterans Memorial, my nine-year-old son seemed to quickly sense that it wasn’t a place where he should be running around and making a lot of noise. He looked at all the adults who were standing quietly in front of the shiny black panels with serious expressions on their faces and asked me, almost in a whisper, “Is your name on one of those things?”

“No,” I said, “but some people I knew are.”

“If your dad’s name was up there,” explained my wife, “you wouldn’t even be here. Those are the names of all the people who died in the Vietnam War.”

My son nodded, thought it all over for a few moments, and then asked a question only a nine-year-old can. “Dad, do they have a wall thing for everyone who didn’t die, too?”

“No,” I answered, “just for those who didn’t get to come home.”

“I’m glad you got to come home, Dad.”

“So, I am, son.”

A little later, a very nice and thoughtful volunteer working for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (a non-profit organization which helps protect, preserve, and maintain the panels) explained to me how the `Healing Walls’ are set up. Names are inscribed in chronological order, including the numerous new names which have been added to the Wall since 1982. She assisted me in locating the names I had come to see, and I waited patiently for a place in front of panel 19-West to open up.

On line 3 was Michael Lawhon, and just below him, on line 6, was James Woods. As I thought back on how kind and gentle Mike was, and how big and indestructible Woody had seemed, my wife motioned for me to join her in reading a few of the notes and cards which had been left behind by earlier visitors.
One read: “Dear Dad – I never really got to know you, but I still miss you. I hope things are peaceful for you now. Your daughter.”

Part of another said:”You were a wonderful son. Rest well.”

On the back of a Valentine’s Day card were the words: “To Ed, my first real love. I still miss you terribly. Lovingly, Judy.”

The next day I returned to Capitol Park with my father, who had spent four long years in the Pacific Theater during WWII, and my brother and his three sons. As we were walking through the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial on our way to see the scaled-down version of the `Healing Wall’, my brother pointed out the engraved short quote which I have long felt best memorializes all those who served in Vietnam and all the wars that seemingly every new generation of Americans have to go fight and die in: “All gave some, some gave all.” I also thought of another short quote that I wish all the countries of the world and their politicians could somehow come to better understand: “War is mankind’s greatest shame.”


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Copyright News-Ledger 2013



‘You have the right to an attorney…’

TRACIE OLSON Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy  photo)

Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy photo)



By Tracie Olson
Yolo County Public Defender

Born in 1910, Clarence Earl Gideon was a homeless drifter who spent most of his life in and out of trouble.  In 1961, a pool room in Florida was burglarized.  A single eyewitness testified that he saw the burglar leave the pool room carrying a wine bottle and money, and further testified that the man he saw was Mr. Gideon.  No other evidence tied Mr. Gideon to the crime.

In court, Mr. Gideon proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to appoint him counsel, as he could not afford to hire his own.  The judge denied his request, telling Mr. Gideon that the law only allowed the court to appoint counsel to those facing a capital offense.  Ultimately, the jury convicted Mr. Gideon and he was sentenced to five years in state prison.

Undeterred, Mr. Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court and eventually the United States Supreme Court, asking that his conviction be reversed because he had been unconstitutionally denied the right to be represented by counsel at trial.  On March 18, 1963, the high Court agreed, issuing its landmark decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.  The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel to defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys.  The Court held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers.

The Court stated, “… reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire an attorney, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.  This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

At his retrial, Mr. Gideon was represented by defense counsel.  He was acquitted in less than an hour by a jury of his peers.  After his release, he reportedly stayed out of trouble.

Since Gideon v. Wainwright was decided, the promise of equal access to effective assistance of counsel is alive and well in Yolo County.  While other parts of the country, traditionally the Southern states and now more Northeastern jurisdictions, admittedly have extreme challenges which affect their ability to provide competent legal representation to defendants, California has largely managed to steer clear of the worst of these problems.

You will rarely hear a public defender’s office say that it has all the money it needs, and  most are not funded on par with the same county’s district attorney’s office.  However, as the Chief Public Defender of Yolo County, I am extremely proud of the legal representation my office provides to indigent defendants, and I am proud of the role we play in the criminal justice system.

We are not only full and active partners in implementing system changes necessitated by criminal justice realignment, but we collaborate with partners to optimize outcomes and to minimize collateral consequences for our clients.  First and foremost however, we are litigators, whose role it is to insist that law enforcement operate within the scope of their authority and that evidence is tested to the fullest extent of the law.

Every public defender has been asked at least once, in some fashion or another, “How do you sleep at night doing what you do?”  This question is typically asked by the person who can’t fathom actually needing a public defender for himself, a family member, or a friend.  However, when something goes wrong in one of their lives, we are the first ones they call – and it’s only then that they truly understand.

Happy 50th Anniversary,  Mr. Gideon. And thank you for not giving up.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

A new generation takes the field, joins Little League tradition

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor


Well, spring is already here, or at least it sure feels like it. The sun has been out for weeks, birds are chirping, and I’ve already had my first mosquito bite. Actually, the way I have always known that spring has finally arrived in Northern California is that major league baseball players have reported to their spring training camps in warm places like Arizona and Florida, and our own West Sacramento Little League is beginning to hum with activity. Teams are being picked, fundraisers have begun, Picture Day has been scheduled, and best of all, Opening Day will be here before we know it (March 16th this year), complete with the only Annual Little League Parade in the whole Sacramento area.

When I was growing up in West Sacramento back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was simply nothing more important than the start of the Little League baseball season. It seemed like the whole town was full of men and boys who loved the sport of baseball and many of the former had worked tirelessly to create one of the best Little Leagues in the greater Sacramento region. Men like James Cameron, Jack Dunlap, Clyde Burt, Carl Youngblood, Joe Bottino, Herb Hoskins, John Kimbrough, Leroy McReynolds, Red McKinnon, Bob Lukins, Bob Domasky, Bill Havey, and many, many others whose names I no longer recall had used determination and lots of hard work to bring Little League baseball to West Sacramento, and by 1959 they had built baseball diamonds at Memorial Park considered so good that they were used to host that year’s Little League Western Regionals.

Back in those early years of Little League baseball in West Sacramento, it seemed like every mom and pop business in town was a proud sponsor of one of the teams, and you can still walk into places like Havey’s Barbershop and Crest Jewelers and see framed photos of long ago WSLL teams.

  Anyway, back when I was nine years old and convinced that I would someday be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees or the Milwaukee Braves (I wasn’t quite sure yet if I wanted to play in the American or National leagues) I knew that the first real step to baseball fame and glory started with getting chosen to play on one of the teams in the West Sacramento Little League. So off I eagerly went to my first tryout where I did pretty good in the field, but not so good with a bat in my hands. But the manager of the major league Braves, Bill Havey, decided to take a chance on me and selected me to be on his team.

West Sacramento Little League’s “Braves,” around 1960. The author is standing, third kid from the right

West Sacramento Little League’s “Braves,” around 1960. The author is standing, third kid from the right

I can still remember my excitement when I was given my first West Sacramento Little League uniform to wear. It had “Braves” written boldly across the front of the jersey exactly as the real Milwaukee Braves logo looked and best of all I had been assigned uniform #10, which for some reason long forgotten I had actually prayed would be given to me. Since only numbers 1 through 15 were handed out back in those days, no one wanted to get #11 or #13 or some other really uncool number, so I was beyond thrilled knowing that I would be wearing #10 throughout my Little League career.

Nowadays, you can start playing Little League at a much younger age than when I was a Brave. Back then there were only two divisions, the majors and minors. The minor league teams had wonderful names taken from some of the old Pacific Coast League teams like the Solons, Stars, Padres, Oaks, Angels and Rainiers, and 9 and 10 year olds mostly played on those teams. Then when you got to be 11 or 12 years old, you usually went up to the majors and played on teams like the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs and Braves. But now young boys and girls can start playing pee-wee baseball as early as the age of four or five, which finally brings me to my little story:

The other day my son-in-law showed up at my house as excited as I had seen him in some time.

“What’s Dallas so happy about?” I asked my daughter.

“Oh, he was out playing baseball with Will (my five-year old grandson) this morning and I guess Will hit a couple of home runs or something,” answered my daughter matter-of-factly, having never been much of a baseball fan herself.

“You should have seen him,” said Dallas with genuine pride and excitement. “For some reason he turned around all on his own and started hitting left-handed instead of right-handed and bingo, he was just crushing the ball!”

“But Will is right-handed,” my daughter reminded her husband. “Maybe you shouldn’t be trying to teach him to hit a ball left-handed? Maybe it will confuse him or screw something up? His little brain is still not completely formed yet you know.”

“Are you kidding?” said Dallas. “Do you know how much better your chances are of making the big leagues if you can throw right-handed and bat left-handed? Who knows, maybe I can even make him into a switch-hitter down the road? Wow, a switch-hitting shortstop. Now that really could be his ticket to the Big Show! I can hardly wait for Little League to start this year!

“Dallas,” pleaded my daughter, “don’t forget, he’s only five years old. He’s not exactly ready for the major leagues yet.”

“You can never get them started too young when it comes to baseball, right Daryl?” asked Dallas.

“Not in West Sacramento!” I answered.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013