Category Archives: Opinion

Growing Yolo County’s ag industry

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 1, 2012 —


Telling you that agriculture is important in Solano and Yolo counties is not news to any of us.  But if we told you that agriculture is the engine behind a $2.5 billion sector of our economies, you might be interested.  When we add that agriculture is our region’s brightest promise to increase jobs and prosperity, we know that we now have your full attention.

That’s exactly what happened when a study on this subject came out last year.  It got the attention of farmers, processors, bankers, government and academia.  They all wanted to know how they could be a part of growing this broad, yet integrated sector known as the food chain industry cluster, which makes up 10 percent of our shared economy.  That interest resulted in a tremendous turnout for the Solano and Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit in December.

  “The Food Chain Cluster: Integrating the Food Chain in Solano and Yolo Counties to Create Economic Opportunities and Jobs” report describes the food chain as the full spectrum of economic activity related to agriculture – from seed to the table – from before the crops get into the fields, to the goods and services used in farming, to the value-added processing that converts crops into consumer goods.

The report highlights some opportunities and challenges to adding more value to agriculture.  The opportunities range from increasing demand for high-value products that we grow, such as almonds and walnuts, to the fact that seven out of the top 10 seed producers in the world are located here. While having established food processing facilities is one of our strengths, the need for additional slaughtering facilities and other essential processors was identified as a weakness. Regulatory issues, costs of operations and the lack of a chilling capacity are some of the other challenges to overcome.

The purpose of the summit was to engage participants in building strategies that will preserve, promote and expand our agricultural industry and all of the value it brings to our communities. A key message we heard was the need for the urban public, the business community and economic development staffs to have a better understanding of the importance of bringing processing facilities to the region. This will bring growers much-needed contracts for their commodities – an economic incentive to keep agricultural production local.  New processing facilities will also generate a wave of other job-producing companies that will spur retail purchases, home sales and other positive drivers for our local economy.

The summit reinforced this region’s capacity to continue to grow our food chain cluster. One speaker suggested we could make our Agricultural Valley the next Silicon Valley. For this to be possible, we need to capitalize on our competitive advantages – highly productive lands, plentiful water, top-notch research at the UC Davis, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an unwavering passion to preserve and promote agriculture.

In addition, the summit underscored how agriculture – farming and ranching – has evolved to remain competitive. Agriculture is more mechanized and less people-intensive than it once was. The vast majority of the jobs along the agriculture food chain – 77 percent – are in processing, distribution and support services. On average, the future growth in these sectors represents jobs paying around $24 per hour. These jobs will more than likely be in our cities, but some – in the best interests of both agriculture and the cities – will be located in unincorporated areas. Both counties have already set aside areas for this type of growth.

Summit participants discussed obstacles, such as ready access to capital and competing regulatory interests of federal, state and local governments. Overcoming these obstacles will require a new kind of collaboration. Bankers and government need to rethink their roles to become even better partners in growing the food chain.

In the coming weeks and months, you will see more results from this joint economic effort.  Our respective Boards of Supervisors received presentations on Jan. 24 on the basic road map of the most promising actions we can take together. You have our commitment to finding the funds for a public-private partnership for an agriculture ombudsman program to serve Solano and Yolo counties.  We need an ombudsman to help agriculture-related entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality and create better partnerships between our businesses and regulators.
In many ways, what we have in front of us is an old-fashioned barn-raising. Our challenge is how each of us can commit to adding more value to agriculture. This cannot be about what the “other guy” should be doing. In a barn-raising, everybody pitches in because that’s what communities do to meet the need. Our communities are in need right now and agriculture is at the heart of the solution.

Supervisor, County of Solano

Supervisor, County of Yolo

Supervisor, County of Solano

Supervisor, County of Yolo

Storm & outage tips from PG&E

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 25, 2012

From PG&E

Be prepared for power outages year-round:

·    Have battery-operated flashlights and radios with fresh batteries ready. Listen for updates on storm conditions and power outages.

·    If you have a telephone system that requires electricity to work, such as a cordless phone or answering machine, plan to have a standard telephone handset, cellular telephone or pager ready as a backup.

·    Avoid using candles, which pose a fire risk. If you must use candles, keep them away from drapes, lampshades and small children. Do not leave candles unattended.

·    Freeze plastic containers filled with water to make blocks of ice that can be left in your refrigerator/freezer during an outage to prevent foods from spoiling. Blue Ice from your picnic cooler also works well in the freezer.

·    If you have a stand-by generator, make sure that it’s installed safely and inform PG&E to avoid risking damage to your property and endangering PG&E crews. Information on the safe installation of generators can be found on our website at

·    If your power goes out, unplug or turn off all electric appliances to avoid overloading circuits and creating fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.

·    Treat all downed power lines as if they are “live” or energized.  Keep yourself and others away from them and immediately call 911 then notify PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

Before calling PG&E about an outage:

·    Check to see if other neighbors are affected. This will confirm if an outage has occurred in just your residence or in the broader neighborhood.

·    If only your residence is without power, check circuit breakers and/or fuse boxes to see if the problem is limited to the home electric system.

·    After performing the steps above, report your outage to: PG&E’s 24-Hour Emergency and Customer Service Line 1-800-743-5000.

EDITORIAL: Public wireless in West Sac never lived up to the hype

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 25, 2012 —

Evidently, the Internet is not a fad.

Americans, like those in much of the rest of the world, are getting more and more entwined in the world wide web as the years go by. They use the web not only from desktop computers at home, but while on the road with their laptops, smartphones, tablet computers and other portable devices. They work, study, access music and photos, and communicate through the web.

But when you buy an Internet-compatible gizmo, it doesn’t just automatically come pre-loaded with the Internet inside: you have to have a connection to the web. A lot of people have Internet connections at home – it comes to their home by cable, phone line or satellite. But when on the road, a lot of people want – or need – a good Internet connection outside their homes. Often, they find it at coffee shops and such – usually, a wireless connection is available to paying customers, and requiring a password obtained from the proprietor. Your computer helps you connect to the invisible network streaming into the coffee shop, and you can surf the web all you want with no cables required.

  Some cities provide free wireless Internet connections in their downtown areas. It’s not expensive to provide connections in a limited area where a lot of people gather to work and play. Providing free access is meant to be friendly to businesspeople, shoppers and tourists who want to check their email or do something else on the Net, without a lot of hassle.

In 2005, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento called for this city to join that crowd. He promised free wireless access in West Sacramento’s downtown business corridor, including a stretch of West Capitol Avenue.

The city installed some antennas at a cost of roughly $10,000 – a pretty small item in the city’s budget. Monthly charges to keep up the connection were negligible, beginning at about $60/month. But the free wireless never worked as well as it should, and except for a few lucky spots where connection was good, users found that connecting to the free service was tough or impossible.

So the question remains: is free wireless in key areas of West Sacramento worth doing right? Can it be used not only to make it easier to do business near city hall, but perhaps to serve shoppers, travelers, students and business people at other key parts of West Sacramento, like shopping centers?

The access promised by Mayor Cabaldon at his 2005 State of the City address never materialized. The city should plan to fix its public wireless access, or else admit the project was a failure and move on.

To comment on this article, please visit the same article at our sister website,, by clicking here

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

One soldier’s cure for pneumonia


  EDITOR’S NOTE: Daryl’s column, ‘My Back Pages,’ appears weekly in the print edition of the News-Ledger. We hope you will consider subscribing to see it regularly.


There appears to be a really nasty winter flu bug going around and most of my family and friends seem to have caught it. It starts off with a fever and cough, and although the fever goes away after a few days, the coughing seems to last forever. As I write this, I’m starting my second week of hacking all over everyone, and my youngest son recently informed me that I need to go see a doctor.

“You know,” my son warned me, “people are getting pneumonia from this thing.”

“Did I ever tell you my pneumonia story?” I asked my son.


“Do you want to hear it?”


“Well,” I continued anyway, “it was early February in 1969, and it was supposedly one of the coldest winters ever recorded up in the Pacific Northwest, and there I was, in Fort Lewis, Washington, trying to live through my first day of Army basic training. A decrepit old military bus had unceremoniously dropped me and about 40 other inductees off in the middle of the frozen night and some crazed sergeant wearing a Smokey the Bear hat pulled all the way down over his eyebrows seemed determined to keep screaming at us until dawn. A wet, blowing snow kept falling and my California attire – short-sleeved shirt, cords, tennis shoes and a windbreaker — simply wasn’t keeping any of my important body parts warm. The chill factor had to be way below zero and having spent my whole life in West Sacramento, I had simply never experienced being that cold and miserable before. I mean, my hands and feet felt like they were frozen, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my teeth to stop chattering.”

    “And so you caught pneumonia?” asked my son, obviously hoping to move my story along.

“No, that came about five weeks later,” I explained. “For the first month or so, everyone was actually just trying not to catch spinal meningitis.”

“Spinal meningitis?” asked my son, his face showing his first apparent interest in my little story.

“Yeah, we had an outbreak of it in our barracks just weeks after I arrived – up on the second floor where about 50 guys lived — and three guys caught it, and one of them died from it. It’s really nasty stuff and is very contagious, so all of us on the first floor were sure hoping it didn’t make its way down to us. And one of the things they did to keep the meningitis from spreading was to keep all the barracks windows wide open, day and night, no matter how bitterly cold the weather was outside.”

“So, that’s how you caught pneumonia?” asked my son, still hoping to cut to the chase.

“I guess that could have been part of it,” I said, “but they always had us running around outside in that awful weather, doing endless physical fitness drills and marching from one place to another, not to mention the long hikes and overnight camp-outs in drafty pup tents. Anyway, one way or another, I ended up sick as a dog and tried for as long as I could not to go on sick call, because the platoon sergeant hated it when any of the recruits he was responsible for tried to use illness as an excuse to get out of their training.”

“And when you finally went on sick call, they told you that you had pneumonia?”

“No, I didn’t learn about that until after they had admitted me to the base hospital with a 104 degree temperature and this really mean nurse kept throwing me into cold showers. I finally told her, `Hey, if you don’t stop doing that, I’m going to catch pneumonia’, to which she replied, `You already have pneumonia!’ And she was the same nurse who came by a couple of days later, took my temperature, and matter-of-factly said, `You know, if you don’t break that fever by tomorrow, you’re going to die’.”

“Really?” asked my son with disbelief. “She actually said that?”

“Yeah, she wasn’t much into the bedside manner thing. Anyway, back then the only thing the Army seemed to do about pneumonia was cold showers and forcing you to drink lots and lots of this god-awful punch drink – and I’m talking gallons of it every hour. I don’t remember them giving me any medicine, and the only time I saw a doctor was every morning for a few minutes when he would come to the pneumonia ward and quickly check out the chest x-rays we all had to take at the crack of dawn every day. They were placed in big vanilla envelops at the foot of our beds and every time the doctor would check out my chest x-ray, he would just shake his head kind of hopelessly and move on to the next one. But the worst part was that I had been told before I got to the hospital that if I ended up missing a full week of basic training, they would recycle me, and I was sure that would kill me if the pneumonia didn’t.”

“Recycle you? What does that mean?”

“Well,” I explained, “if you missed too much training from being sick, then they would simply recycle you back with the next batch of new recruits and you would have to start all over again with them, which meant re-doing all the hardest parts of basic training, not to mention losing all the friends you had managed to make, and as far as I was concerned, I was simply not going to let that happen, no matter how sick I was!”

“So what did you do?”

“Well, on my fourth morning there, I overhead the doctor telling the guy next to me who was always bragging about how fast he was getting better that his x-rays were looking great and that if it continued he would probably release him back to his unit the next day. So the next morning, after everyone had taken their x-rays but before the doctor came to look at them, I waited until the coast was clear and then I exchanged my no-doubt still bad x-ray with the new one from the guy who was getting better.”

“You’re kidding? You switched x-rays?”

“That’s right. I had noticed that the doctor never really looked at the names on the x-rays or anything. He just held them up in the light for two seconds and moved on. And when the doctor looked at the new x-ray in my envelope, he seemed a little surprised, but he quickly told me that I would be getting out of the hospital right after lunch. So back to my unit I went as fast as I could, and thankfully it was a Sunday, so I took it easy all that afternoon and night and since most of the training the next week was classroom stuff, I was able to start feeling better by the middle of that week. And best of all, I didn’t get recycled.”

“But what happened to the poor guy who ended up with your x-ray?”

“I don’t have a clue,” I admitted. “He definitely looked shocked, though, when the doctor held up my real x-ray and told him he had taken a turn for the worse, but in the military, they just call guys like that `collateral damage’.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

EDITORIAL: ‘bits & pieces’


It’s been a good run for the West Sacramento Redevelopment Agency. This town heavily used the state-authorized agency to, sometimes quite literally, lay the groundwork for a lot of new projects.

After the city incorporated in 1987, local leaders strongly pursued growth – partly because that’s what local developers wanted, and partly to bring new shopping opportunities, clean up a troubled downtown and increase the city’s prestige.

Local use of the redevelopment agency wasn’t perfect. It’ll always be difficult to understand why some Southport farmland was declared “blighted” and included in the redevelopment agency, while one older Southport neighborhood that badly needed new infrastructure was left out of the redevelopment area’s boundaries.

But on the whole, the agency did a lot of good. It was crucial for tackling big projects that would have been too slow and too hard to finance if left just to the private sector. The agency helped clean up downtown, attract some prestige projects (the ziggurat, Raley Field) to the waterfront, and helped promote decent affordable housing. It also helped build a second access to Southport, making new homes and shopping possible there.

The West Sacramento agency hasn’t been guilty of the worst abuses of some California redevelopment agencies – such as taking land from underneath poor people to build shopping centers and arenas, as a sloppy editorial in the Wall Street Journal recently claimed these agencies “typically” do.

The state’s budget crisis has led to the proposed abolishment of local redevelopment agencies. This will leave West Sacramento without a favorite tool.

  Then again, West Sacramento needs a redevelopment agency less now than it did 20 years ago.


  The new school board president is Teresa Blackmer. She takes over from Dave Westin, who steps down proud of presiding over two years of strong growth in local student test scores.
Westin endorsed Blackmer’s election to the board and the two have voted similarly on major issues (as has most of the board recently, most of the time). So the switch shouldn’t mark a big change in course for WUSD.


  A string of local robberies in West Sacramento convenience markets and liquor stores has certainly caused eyebrows to raise – and it seems local police are taking the matter seriously.

  The robberies aren’t the only string of crimes, though. A stroll through  police department documents in recent weeks shows some other possible patterns. These observations aren’t very scientific, but here you go with a few:

  Over the past couple of months, there seem to have been a handful of “strong arm” robberies in which a guy on a bicycle has ridden up to a female pedestrian and stripped away her purse or bags. In at least one case, the attacker was successfully resisted.

  The most recent victim the News-Ledger is aware of was an elderly woman, robbed near a church on Sacramento Avenue on Friday.  In at least one case, the attacker was successfully resisted. The robberies seem to have occurred in the downtown area, near Sacramento Avenue, Jefferson, West Capitol and Merkley. It’s unclear whether different suspects have been involved in some of these incidents.

  The News-Ledger hasn’t yet seen a report of anyone seriously hurt during these robberies. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  Vacant, bank-owned homes have sometimes been hit by thieves looking for appliances. But a new trend seems to be the theft of heating and air conditioning units from the backyards of these homes. Several such thefts have been reported recently in Southport – on San Salvador Street and Sumatra Street, for example. The units are valued around $5-10,000 each.

  There seems to be a lot of BB-gun damage in the city’s north area. Somebody, or some people, are putting holes in car windows and apartment windows. There are also reports of teens with pellet guns and BB guns getting into trouble in other parts of town.

  Car burglaries are always a problem – newer subdivisions in Southport always seem to get more than their share of these. The News-Ledger heard two reports this week of petty theft from cars and garages in the area near the “state streets” around Park Boulevard and Meadow Road as well.

  Simple precautions – parking in a well-lit, easy-to-see spot, clearing your car of valuables, and keeping both the car and garage locked – wouldn’t hurt.


  To comment on this post, please see the same post at our sister website,, by clicking here.

  Support local journalism, and see all our articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger.  It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, by mail..

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Luis Macias, founder of family-run West Sac jewelry business, dies

The Macias family at Crest Jewelers, in 2003: Chris, Lou, Adelina and Steven (News-Ledger photo)



Note: Lou Macias, the founder and longtime owner of West Sacramento’s Crest Jewelers, passed away this past week. He was a remarkable man who through dedication and hard work created one of West Sacramento’s most highly-esteemed family businesses, which is still going strong after 45 years. He was also a wonderful husband and father and the following article, which I wrote way back in the 1990’s, is reprinted below in Lou’s memory.

Luis “Lou” Macias grew up in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and that is where his wife, Adelina, met him.

“Luis was different from all the other boys,” recalled Adelina. “He had ambition and drive and he didn’t mind hard work. I knew right away that he would make something of his life. Plus it didn’t hurt that he was also very good looking.”

While he was going to school, Luis worked as a projectionist in the local movie theater.

“That was a great job,” remembered Luis, “but I knew there wasn’t much of a future in it, so a few years after I got out of school I went to work with three of my uncles in the cement finishing business. The work was a lot harder than sitting around in a movie house, but I got to travel a lot and I ended up really loving that job, too.”

Always on the lookout for a new challenge, in 1957 Luis moved to Sacramento and decided to give the jewelry business a try.

“I worked as an apprentice for ten years at Werner Wholesale Jewelers on 15th and I streets in downtown Sacramento,” explained Luis, “and I learned mostly by watching and doing. The hours were long, but the work was always interesting, and I picked up things pretty fast. To be a good jeweler you have to stay up with all the new ways of doing your job. Things are always changing and you have to really enjoy those kinds of challenges if you want to succeed in any business, especially the jewelry business.”

DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger columnist

In 1957 Luis decided to open up his own jewelry business on Merkley Avenue in West Sacramento.

“We decided to call it Crest Jewelers,” said Luis, “and if I had known how hard it was going to be in the beginning, I might have had second thoughts. We weren’t able to purchase a lot of product at first and we had a shoe-string budget, but with the help of a wonderful jeweler named Eli Kitade, who went out of his way to help me as much as he possibly could, the business kept slowly growing and before long we were doing very well.”

While Luis was working 15 to 18 hours a day, Adelina was at home taking care of their six growing children.

“West Sacramento turned out to be a great place to raise the children,” said Adelina. “The schools were very good and there were always lots of young people for my children to play with. I really enjoyed staying at home with the children. That was where I was needed and it was a joy to be with them.”

Luis is now semi-retired and Crest Jewelers, which is now located at 1296 West Capitol Avenue in the Safeway Shopping Center, is in the competent hands of two of Luis’s sons, Steven and Chris.

“I learned the jewelry business pretty much the same way my father did,” said Steven, “by watching and doing. When I was very young, I always enjoyed being at the jewelry store and I still do. Although we continue to serve people who have shopped here for decades, we also get new customers every single day and it’s fun to be part of a family business that has been going strong for over 30 years.”

  In addition to creating their own custom-made jewelry, Crest Jewelers also does watch and ring repair and just about everything else one might expect to find in a jewelry store many times its size.

Longtime West Sacramentan Barbara Moore said, “I went to school with Steve Macias and my family has been shopping at Crest Jewelers for as long as I can remember. The diamond in my wedding ring is from Crest, and not only do they always do excellent work, but when I walk in the door, they want to know everything that’s been going on with me and my family. They really care about their customers and that’s pretty rare these days. I love shopping at Crest Jewelers!”

Verna Ellis, whose late husband, Marvin, owned and operated Schirmer’s Jewelers in West Sacramento in the late 1960s and early 1970s said, “Marvin used to always say that Lou Macias was one of the best watchmakers in the whole state, and certainly the best he had ever seen. He said Lou wasn’t just a mechanic, but a real artist at what he did. Plus his entire family is so friendly and helpful and West Sacramento is so lucky to have such a fine jewelry store.”

“We’ve always been very proud of the work we do here,” said Luis. “It took more guts than brains to get it started, but God has been very good to me and my family.”

  Support local journalism, and see all our articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger.  It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, by mail..

  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 2011

OPINION: whether to answer ‘just a few questions’

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 21, 2011


The local school board has approved a contract with a political consultant to explore a new school bond or parcel tax in West Sacramento. The measure would seek to raise funds to build a performing arts center at the new high school, and to start a new technical education center for some of the district’s non college-going students.

A new ballot measure would probably also fund other projects around the district – partly out of widespread need for things such as facility repair, and partly out of a political strategy to get as many community members as possible to “buy in” to a new bond measure. Typically, in a new bond measure, there’s a little something for everybody – something for the high school in Southport, and something for parents of a kid in the second grade in Broderick.

  WUSD’s consultant will conduct interviews to try to determine community concerns and also to explore the campaign politics likely to surround a ballot measure for November, 2012.

This news is a reminder about political surveys and interviews in general: things are often not what they seem when someone is interviewing you for the political issue or campaign of the day. And, merely by participating, you may end up accidentally helping a political effort you oppose.

Often, when a survey company calls you, you aren’t told exactly who they’re working for. But even when you are told (as you presumably will be if you’re picked for one of these WUSD school bond interviews), your answers will probably be used in ways you don’t foresee.

A few comments about campaign surveys in general:

Some surveys are known as “push polls” – under the guise of asking for your opinion, the surveyor is asking you carefully crafted questions designed to push you in the direction they want you to go: “Would you support Measure Q if you knew it would cost this city over 4,500 jobs?”

Well, you may have been in favor of Measure Q before you got that phone call. But now, they have you wondering. There may be no factual basis at all to believe that Q would cost anybody a job – but now, you’ve got that job-killing idea stuck in your head.

Political surveys can also be designed to figure out how to get a campaign around your defenses, and the defenses of voters with like minds to yours. By answering questions from a survey commissioned by one of these people, you may help them figure out how to better craft their campaign – and defeat your own point of view.

So be careful when you pick up the phone and agree to answer “just a few questions.”


When a discount liquor store applied for a permit to take over the former Blockbuster Video site at West Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard, the News-Ledger objected.

West Capitol has a troubled reputation already for crime, drugs and alcohol. There are plenty of other liquor-vendors on the same block. And the site was just too prominent, facing one of the city’s busiest intersections and viewed by just about everybody heading to the nearby city hall, community center and city college campus.

The city planning commission evidently had some of the same concerns, giving the liquor store a thumbs-down.

Instead, a Chase bank branch has just opened at the location, boasting a spiffy and attractive new façade. Now, Chase is one of those American mega-banks whose mortgage lending practices helped create the economy we’re in today.

That begs the question: would that streetcorner’s image have been better off with the liquor store?

  To comment on this editorial, please visit the identical article at our sister website,

Copyright News-Ledger 2011