Category Archives: Opinion

YOUR VOICES: U-Haul sign too tall?

U-Haul, West Capitol Avenue (2010 News-Ledger file photo)


On Feb. 8, the News-Ledger published a story detailing how U-Haul was taking the City of West Sacramento to court in a challenge to the city’s sign ordinance. The ordinance — phased in 20 years — declares the West Capitol Avenue rental company’s pole sign is just too tall and must go.

Last week on our Facebook page, we asked for your views. Here are most of your responses:

Robert Stroy: I think if the signs are well kept they should stay no matter the size. signs are often a great business boomer and the City should respect and encourage these types things and leave well enough alone.

Debbie Norton Johnson: West Capitol looks so much better now that it isn’t littered with signs of all shapes, sizes and quality. Every other business has taken the 20 years (very reasonable time frame) to change their signage – except UHAUL.

I’ve never understood why they couldn’t lower the big letters about half way in size. It is a monstrosity. The argument that people won’t be able to find it, doesn’t ring true for me because every truck on the property says UHAUL. I like seeing the trees and the nice sidewalks and landscaping down parts of West Cap and would love to see the whole Ave beautified.

[adrotate group=”7″] Eve Westvik: I think the city totally turned the Avenue into a dull, uninteresting strip with no character. I don’t even recognize the place anymore, it’s so soulless now. A boulevard as wide as that needs something to give it personality or everything just fades into the background. It’s no wonder there are few businesses of note there anymore. . . Thank goodness a large corporation actually wants to do business in West Sacramento. It looks better than the crummy little restaurants and liquor stores that now dot the Avenue here and there.

Shannon Gentry: Have they already removed it??The city needs to find something better to cry about…. The people do – like their depleating paychecks and increased everything else…. And you want to focus such an amount of energy on a “too high” sign that’s been a staple for SO MANY years…

Cynthia ‘Cindi’ Islas: Who cares about the sign, get rid of the crappy, run down motels that consistently have garbage, matresses, tires, and overgrown weeds all around them. Fight a battle that will actually IMPROVE West Capital and Merkely cause right now, it’s a big fat FAIL!

EDITOR’S NOTE:  To comment on this article, visit the same article at by clicking  here.

You can view the original article about the U-Haul sign here. 

And you can visit the News-Ledger on Facebook here if you’re a Facebook member.  Don’t forget to ‘like’ us at the Facebook page!

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Hero’s memory revived by school project

Joe at the stick of his helicopter, with his door gunner behind him



Amid all the wonders out there on the Internet is a website specifically dedicated to remembering the 58,178 American soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. It is called the Virtual Wall, and on it are countless remembrances, poems, photos, videos and letters honoring those who never made it back home from that long ago war. And from time to time, usually on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, I have left a remembrance or two on the Virtual Wall in memory of some of the fine young men I served with overseas back in the late 1960s, which brings me to my little story.

DARYL FISHER, the author

MADDY HINES: Texas student doing an English project focused on the Vietnam War -- and in particular, on helicopter pilot Joe Vad, who didn't make it home

The other day, while checking my email messages on my computer at work, I noticed that one of them had the name Joe Vad in the subject line.  Henry (Joe) Vad was a very fine helicopter pilot who lost his life back in November of 1969 while providing combat air support for the Aero Rifle Platoon I served in, so I was of course very eager to open up the email and find out who had sent it. And as I began to read, I also began to feel pretty good about this new generation of Americans.

“Hi Mr. Fisher. My name is Maddy Hines and I am a junior at Westlake High School is Austin, Texas. My English III AP class is learning about the Vietnam War. We were each given the name of an American soldier who passed away in the war to create a memorial about. I am honored to have been given the name of your friend, Henry Joseph Vad. I will be creating a video memorial of his life and would love to get some information from you about him. If you have any pictures, stories, or general information about Mr. Vad that you would be willing to share with me, I would greatly appreciate it. For more information about this project, please feel free to contact my teacher, Rebecka Stucky, and if you would like to see some of the memorials her classes have created in the past, you can go to And thank you so much for your help. Maddy Hines.”

PILOT JOE VAD, strolling near the aifield (background) and soldiers' "hooches"

Many years ago, I had written a column about Joe Vad, so I sent off the following paragraph from it to Maddy:

“Joe was from the tough streets of New York City and he had spent quite a bit of time in the Marines before deciding he wanted to be an officer and go to flight school and learn how to fly a helicopter. He liked being in the military, and since he had once been an enlisted man, he was really nice to those who flew with him. He was a very sweet guy with a great sense of humor and he got along well with everyone on the base. As a Chief Warrant Officer with D Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, of the 1st Infantry Division, his job was to fly air reconnaissance and combat air support for the Aero Rifle Platoon I served with on the ground below him. He was a truly amazing pilot who could make his OH-6A scout helicopter do the most remarkable things. He was easy to smile, fearless to a fault, seemingly invincible, and on the day he and his doorgunner, SP5 James Downing, were shot out of the sky by enemy fire and killed, the whole troop had a very difficult time believing, and dealing, with it. He left behind a loving wife and an infant daughter, Lisa, who over the years has contacted numerous members of our troop in an effort to learn more about the father she never knew.”

It turns out that Maddy was already in contact with Lisa, who was providing her with lots of photos and information about her father. I also sent her the email address of Terry Houck, a member of my squad who knew Joe much better than I did, knowing that he would also be able to get Maddy in contact with some of the helicopter pilots Joe flew with before his death.

The next time I heard from Maddy she wrote, “I am so honored to be making a memorial for Joe Vad. My teacher has been giving her students this assignment for years, but I didn’t know hardly anything about the Vietnam War before this project. I knew that it happened in the late sixties and that there was a Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, but that was about it. My parents really enjoy watching me do all my research for this project. They think it is important for me to realize what really happened in the Vietnam War and they are happy that I am coming in contact with people from all over the United States who knew Joe Vad. My friends and classmates are all doing this project, too, and they love it. Everyone is really getting into it and think it’s very interesting. I have learned so much about American culture and the history of that time and it has explained a lot about veterans that I didn’t understand before. I have also learned that war is a very serious thing, and that it should not be taken lightly, and how awful and traumatic it can be for so many people. It has also allowed me to get to know a person in a different way than normal and feel very connected to him. I am so excited to be doing this project!”

[adrotate group=”9″]   Someone once said that if we are remembered by just one other person, then we never really die. And Maddy’s video memorial to Joe means that many more people will get to know about a good, brave and decent man, who once lived and loved, “felt dawn and saw sunset glow.” And for having done that, Maddy, those of us who served with Joe Vad will always be in your debt.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

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.

[adrotate group=”10″]   “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.

[adrotate group=”9″] ·    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.

[adrotate group=”7″]   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.”

[adrotate group=”10″]    “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’.”

  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 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..

  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 2012