Category Archives: Opinion

EDITORIAL: $50 may buy a young child some college dreams


What can we all do to help West Sacramento’s schools?

Well, one of the top strategic goals now being put forward by the local school board is to “foster a culture of high expectations.” And that is something that the City of West Sacramento, and the rest of us, can all help with.

For inspiration, consider this:

About 500 students graduate every year from the high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And each of them does so knowing that unknown donors have pledged to pay their full college tuition in the state’s public college and university system. The “Kalamazoo Promise” was announced in 2005, and it was intended not only to help local kids, but also to help the local economy.

[adrotate group=”7″]  Students who enter the local school district part-way through their education get partial assistance, and those who are in it for the entire ride get the full “Promise.”  Knowing that their kids must stay in local public schools to qualify, families have an incentive to stay put in Kalamazoo. The city is meant to benefit from its ability to attract and retain families.

Announcement of the new program was greeted with celebration and also a degree of skepticism – how could somebody really be willing to pay for every local kid’s college education? But reality has set in, and the kids and their families are now starting to develop college expectations from a student’s early grades.

Local teachers and schools bought into the ambitious program, adding instructional hours and increasing college prep.

Too ambitious and expensive for your tastes? There are plenty of other college fund programs to look at.

Among them are those created by the City and County of San Francisco as well as the County of Cuyahoga, Ohio. These locales are going about the same thing, but on a much smaller scale.

Cuyahoga expects to spend $2 million a year putting $100 into a college fund for every new kindergartner. The funds can be redeemed by graduates towards college or vocational training.

The City and County of San Francisco are chipping in with the first $50 contribution to a college fund for every one of its new kindergartners. (For information, see

These smaller funds, even with compounding interest, may never pay for a big chunk of a student’s college education. But the accounts can be supplemented over the years with other donations from friends, family and a student’s own savings. And they’re not just about the money; they’re about the idea of going to college.

Just the existence of a college fund in a student’s name, even if it’s a modest one, can help  shape the expectations of a family and its kids. A family that may not have expected to send its child to college might begin to raise its sights.

West Sacramento is a city of challenging demographics, like Kalamazoo and San Francisco. Not every kid now going to school here believes that college or other higher education are realistic options. Funding a college account for each young child would be one way to chip away at that kind of defeatism.

A college fund program in West Sacramento need not rely on the cash-strapped Washington Unified School District for dollars. The program could be a partnership, using funds cobbled together from the city and from private donors to help. After all, encouraging kids to stay in local schools and then go to state colleges and universities (like the local Sac City College branch) would be good for West Sacramento’s economy.

It’s one way the whole city can help the local school district “foster a culture of higher expectations.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Southport’s beaver problem: better to manage the animals than to kill them


EDITOR’S NOTE: On Feb. 13, the News-Ledger published a story about city-sponsored trapping of a beaver colony discovered in Southport’s Bridgeway Lakes area. You can find the original article here. Below is a response.

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

By Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.

Trapping, as you know, is a short-term solution that will need to be repeated again and again when new beavers return to the area. It almost always makes more sense to keep the beavers you have, solve any problems they are causing directly, and let them use their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Protecting trees is an easy fix. Wrap them  in a cylinder of galvanized fencing, leaving enough space for the tree to grow. Or try the less obtrusive abrasive painting. Paint the trunks with a latex paint that matches the color of the bark, adding heavy mason sand. Beavers dislike the gritty texture and will not chew.

[adrotate group=”10″] Remember that beaver-chewed trees will ‘coppice’ which is an old forestry term referring to hard cutting back a tree so that it grows in bushy and more dense. This is why beavers are so important to the population of migratory and songbirds – their chewing creates prime nesting real estate for a host of bird life. Willow is very fast-growing and if the stumps are left in the ground they will replenish quickly.

Why should a city learn to tolerate beavers? They are a keystone species that create a dramatic impact on the spaces they cultivate – even urban and suburban spaces. Here in Martinez we have documented several new species of birds and fish since they colonized our creek, as well as otter and mink! In addition, beavers are considered a ‘charismatic species’ which means that children love to learn about them and they provide a great educational tool for teaching about habitat, ecosystems and stewardship. Why not involve the local Boy Scout troop in planting willow shoots every spring?

Take Amtrak to our sixth beaver festival this summer and see it all for yourself!

  The author is president and founder of “Worth a Dam,” whose organization can be seen at

  Do you like what you see here?

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Flu season: worse than average

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 23, 2013 —

From Beth Gabor
Public Information Officer
County of Yolo

This year’s influenza season is worse than an average year, and especially bad for seniors.  Seasonal influenza is now widespread in California.  Most influenza being seen this year is covered by the vaccine, and when needed, is sensitive to anti-viral treatment.  The Yolo County Health Department reminds the community that in addition to getting a flu shot every year (especially important for the young and old), everyone should also follow these simple steps to avoid the flu:

•    Wash hands often with soap and water
•    Regularly clean commonly-touched surfaces, i.e. countertops, doorknobs, telephones etc.
•    Don’t share cups, straws or anything that goes in the mouth
•    Avoid touching your eyes and nose
•    Cover nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and promptly discard used facial tissues
•    If sick, stay home

[adrotate group=”9″] Other important factors that help prevent getting sick:
•    Get enough rest and stay physically fit to help the body fight off disease
•    Don’t smoke and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke

Flu vaccine is still available and worth receiving this late in the season.  The flu vaccine can be obtained through local healthcare providers, pharmacies and the Yolo County Health Department’s regularly scheduled immunization clinic held every Tuesday, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at 137 N. Cottonwood Street in Woodland.

“We appear to be halfway through an early flu season with rates of influenza-related illness increasing in California,” said Constance Caldwell, MD, Interim Yolo County Health Officer, in a press release.  “Protect yourself, your family and your community by getting a flu shot, washing hands often and staying home when you are ill.  These three steps go a long way in reducing the incidence, and in some cases, deaths related to flu.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Editorial: perfect place for a bite



Follow us around Northern California for a minute:

First, think of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The former transit center has been overhauled, and it has become a hub for both locals and tourists who are in search of something good to eat. There are high-end produce stands, seafood selections, chocolates, bread, meats, sweets and specialty items, as well as  restaurants. There’s also a great weekly farmers market, with seasonal offerings from tangerines to freshly-shucked oysters.

The common theme at the Ferry Building is the world class agriculture and fishing grounds of Northern California. In other words, locally-grown food.

Now, step inside the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.

In a way, this is a spinoff of the Ferry Building. Here, near the Napa River are more gourmet treats, including fish, espresso, greens, cupcakes, fine cheeses and specialty restaurants.

Next, consider what the mayors of West Sacramento and Sacramento are up to.

West Sacramento’s Mayor Christopher Cabaldon wants to make this city a “hub” for the food business. Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson wants to make his town a “Farm to Fork Capital,” bringing locally-grown food to local tables.

[adrotate group=”7″]   Keeping all this in mind, take a look at what’s going on in West Sacramento’s Bridge District. This mixed-use, urban development between the freeway and Tower Bridge will boast a presence that celebrates the river and the Sacramento skyline. Parts of it will have an outdoor atmosphere not so different from the San Francisco Embarcadero.

It’s the perfect place for another mini-Ferry Building and the best farmers market in the Central Valley, don’t you think?

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Things I won’t miss about the Kings

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor


As I write this, the less-than-beloved Maloof family have apparently sold the Sacramento Kings to a group of wealthy Seattle, Washington investors headed by some hedge fund guy named Chris Hansen. The selling price appears to be about $525 million, which should go a long way in helping the Maloofs pay off about $200 million in debts they have racked up over the years while owning the Kings, not to mention the $6 or $7 million they say they are going to lose on this year’s operation of the team. Other possible buyers are also trying to match or top that offer, but one way or another, it looks like the Kings will finally be leaving Sacramento in the not too distant future.

Looking back on the history of the Kings, it seems like they were always having serious money problems and demanding that the taxpayers of the City of Sacramento foot most of the bill. I remember Jim Thomas (the guy who owned the Kings before he sold them to the Maloof brothers) at one point wanting a $60 million loan from the city and their help in passing a $145 million bond measure so he could build himself a new arena, and if the city didn’t fork over, he was going to move the team. And the Maloofs, of course, have been threatening to move the Kings out of Sacramento and to greener (as in dollars) pastures for ages.

To tell you the truth, as exciting as the Kings once were back in the days of Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and “White Chocolate” himself, Jason Williams, I’m not really all that sad to see them go. The Maloofs (or any new owners willing to keep the Kings in town) would only continue to demand more millions from the already cash-strapped City of Sacramento to make possible that seemingly universal demand of all professional basketball teams – a shiny new arena with all the bells and whistles paid for by someone other than themselves.

There was a time when I considered myself to be a pretty loyal Sacramento Kings fan, even though decent seats cost $50 or more and that was just the tip of the iceberg. It also cost a small fortune for parking, bad food at the concession stands, and a few souvenirs for the kids. In fact, by the time my family and I had finished watching a Kings’ game and were stuck in all that traffic trying to get back to West Sacramento, I had easily spent over $250, which is not exactly a cheap family night out on the town.

Anyway, although I somehow managed to live through the days of Billy Owens and Olden Polynice and God only knows how many other not-ready-for-prime-time Kings players, the straw that actually broke my back had to do with a little argument I had with my wife at the last Kings game I ever attended, and it went a little something like this:

“Are you hungry?” asked my wife, noting that it was close to 7 pm and neither one of us had eaten very much for dinner before we left for the game.

“Not really,” I said, “but I am a little thirsty. And since we are in these fancy seats tonight (a friend had generously let us use his season tickets) instead of up in the nose bleed section like usual, I think I’ll ask that waitress to get us something to drink the next time she strolls by.”

“Good idea,” said my wife, digging through her purse and handing me $5. “Get me a bottle of water, okay?”

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “A bottle of water can’t possibly cost $5.”

“I bet it does.” And sure enough (including a little tip for the waitress), it did.

So, a little after halftime, long after my wife and I had finished our $5 bottles of water, we found ourselves thirsty again.

“I’ll go and get us Cokes or something,” I said, “although God only knows how much that will cost.”

“But I just want water,” insisted my wife.

“No way am I paying another $10 for two small bottles of water!”

“Would you stop being so cheap, Daryl. You didn’t even have to pay for the seats tonight.”

“I don’t care, it’s the principle of the thing. Here, give me your empty water bottle and I’ll go fill it up at a water fountain.”

“There are no water fountains in here, Daryl. They want you to buy beer and cokes and bottled water when you get thirsty. They wouldn’t make any money if everyone was hanging out at drinking fountains.”

[adrotate group=”9″]  “Okay,” I said, determined not to be ripped off any more than necessary by the Maloofs, “then I’ll just take our empty bottles, find a men’s lavatory, and fill them up with water from one of the sinks.”

“What?” demanded my wife, her face suddenly full of horror.

“Now I know for sure they’ve got bathrooms with sinks to wash your hands in this place, even if they don’t have water fountains. I’ll even let the faucet run for a good long time so the water is nice and cold.”

“Daryl, there is no way in the world I’m going to drink Arco Arena men’s restroom water!”

“But why not? I’m going to be getting it out of a sink, not a toilet.”

With that, my wife was up and out of her seat and on her way to purchase her own ridiculously over-priced container of non-bathroom water.

“Okay, okay,” I shouted after her, “then how about this? You can fill up the empty bottles with water from a sink in the women’s bathroom?”

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Others’ views on school board issue


  On the News-Ledger’s “Facebook” internet page this week, we invited comments to last week’s newspaper editorial.

  The editorial (we’ve provided a link below) contrasted the way Washington Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District each handled the appointment of a new school board member to fill a vacancy, and suggested WUSD commit itself to more transparency.

  We received the following feedback on Facebook:

  Jenni Zimmerman Yarwood: The constant badgering and belittling of the WUSD board by both the News-Ledger and the mayor is very disheartening and troublesome.

How about being mature, responsible adults and not lowering yourself to elementary schoolyard bullying? How about coming together in a positive way with a workable solution without the constant mudslinging and backstabbing?

Sadly, this kind of behavior is very typical of the media and our government these days and it’s got to stop. We will never come together as a community, a state or a country if this kind of behavior continues. It is this kind of behavior that is literally tearing our country and our communities apart.


  Ardeene Brueske Westvik: Thank you for pointing out that the Sacramento School District managed to appoint a new temporary member without the cost of an additional election. I agree that transparency is always important in any public institution.

[adrotate group=”4″]   However, I would suggest it is also important when the public is asked to elect a school board. It is shocking to hear about some of the money that is very likely going to be spent to elect members some political figures wish to be placed on the Board. One really wonders what their motives are. Do they actually have some magic answer to make major improvements in the district or is their motive something less apparent?

Having been a district teacher, administrator and school board member, I know there is not a financial reason, nor can school boards make many of the decisions that are now made by Federal and State categorical fund requirements. So if some group is willing to spent as much as $10,000 for a school board position, we need to know where that money comes from.

As our most-read local newspaper, I sincerely request that you make the public very aware of the source of all funding for all candidates running for a seat on the school board. Lets have transparency in all aspects of our public offices.


  Irene Perrigo Eklund: Even more important, why don’t you let the public know where the mayor and our supervisor got the money they spent on their independent expenditure committee and who is putting their name on them.

I read the article in the Bee about the Sacramento appointment and it was pretty much the same process as WUSD used. The mayor has already made the statement that if his candidate would have been appointed, this costly election would not be taking place.

So let’s just be honest about why this special election is taking place. It’s all about politics, power and greed. They surely do not care that the $130,000 price tag [for the special election] will come right from our kids’ classrooms. It is very obvious those involved do not care. Very sad indeed.


  You can find the original News-Ledger editorial here.

  You may comment on this or other local issues by sending a ‘letter to the editor’ to us by email (call 916-371-8030 for email address).

  Or, by mail to:
  News-Ledger, P.O. Box 463, West Sacramento, CA 95691.
  Either way, please include your real name (for publication) and your address and phone number (not for publication).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013


‘Letters to the Editor’ from the News-Ledger edition of January 9, 2013 —


Why not Mark?

In the December 12, 2012 edition of the News-Ledger the front-page article regarding the appointment of Chris Ledesma as the next vice mayor was troubling.  I don’t have anything against  Chris, but I was troubled by the politics behind his selection. Mark Johannessen has been on the council much longer, but he has always been passed over in this position. Why does this happen?

West Sacramento

  EDITOR’S NOTE: At the city council meeting of December 5, Councilman Bill Kristoff nominated Mark Johannessen to be the next “mayor pro tem,” or vice mayor.

  No one seconded that motion. Councilman Oscar Villegas then nominated Chris Ledesma, who was unanimously elected.

  Johannessen is in his second term on the council and has not yet served as mayor pro tem. He declined detailed comments to the News-Ledger, saying the vote was “no big deal.”


Help her!

Almost everyday I see the same woman at the Safeway Shopping Center. She has the same filthy clothes on with the same filthy jacket and matted hair. She has several small bags she carries in a basket all the time. To see her still homeless is a shame on us and our community. I have given her money and said hello, but its hard to tell how much of her is really still there. She has been outside in all temperatures for over a year.

I know this because I have seen her for so long. She sometimes looks at me with these eyes that still speak and seem to be saying “Help.”

I know she has been to the Yolo County Human Services office on Jefferson because I’ve seen her there. I even over-heard a conversation she was having on the phone at the One Spot Career Center inside their lobby, (they let you use the phones free there),. Its supposed to be to find a job thou. I heard her saying, “I’m trying to get back into a board and care. I am staying at a motel and I don’t feel safe”. That was over a year ago.

[adrotate group=”7″] A Board and Care is a facility for those who require assistance with living and taking care of their ADLS, “Activities of Daily Living.” If she was once at that level of care, she should not be out on the street. It is obvious that she suffers with mental illness. I have never seen her ask for money or with any liquor. I was so desperate for this woman to get help, I recently sent the Mayor Christopher Cabaldon a letter on Facebook. Here’s what it said:

“This woman needs help. She is always at the Safeway shopping center. She is homeless, mentally ill, elderly, filthy and with matted hair. She was trying to get into a board and over a year ago. This I know because of a conversation I over-heard at the Health and Human Services office. She was using the phone at the One-Stop Career Center. She has been seen by social services and law enforcement alike and she still remains in desperate need. If you go over there in the morning between Big Lots and Rite-Aid or in front of Safeway you will see her. Please, Mayor Cabaldon, use the powers within your office to help this woman and the other mentally ill and homeless souls in our community.”

I don’t know if anything will be done, but its a sad day when sick people can’t get the help they are asking for and so desperately needs. West Sacramento is a Mecca for the homeless, addict, mentally ill and just down and out. Maybe its our cheap motels and easy access to the river. One might say just move, but I’ve bought a home here and I like West Sac, but for your everyday person, who cares about these people, its become a depressing place to live.

We have to do something for the homeless. Provide a day shelter, and get the mentally ill help. We need a detox center for the addict. Its just getting increasingly like a set from a zombie movie here, with us just living, shopping and acting as if the “living dead” among us, already are.

West Sacramento

The homeless challenge

Thank you for reporting on the issue of homelessness in West Sacramento and Councilman Mark Johannessen’s ongoing efforts to address the issue and its impact on our community (News-Ledger, Jan. 2).

St. Vincent de Paul, Our Lady of Grace Conference is among the many faith-based groups in West Sacramento who are concerned about how our city and county address the needs of the poor in our community, especially the homeless.  I appreciate Councilman Johannessen’s efforts to push for the development of city policy concerning the poor and unsheltered.

In developing policy in this area, it is important to view the challenges of overcoming poverty and homelessness from the perspective of building a community in West Sacramento that is inclusive of all of its residents.  This perspective begins, I think, with the understanding that the “homeless” are not a problem, but real people, including families with children,  facing tough challenges in tough times.  For example, over the last year, we saw our requests for need increase by 175%.

Every situation is unique and personal to the people affected by poverty.   In developing a policy, the city should include poor and homeless individuals in the planning process.  I have met such persons through the charitable work of St. Vincent de Paul.  They have much to offer for workable solutions because they are living the experience of poverty in our community.

The development of policy should be open and transparent.   There needs to be ample notice of public meetings, and meetings need to be set at reasonable times and places so there can be full participation by all stakeholders.  Mr. Johannessen has taken this approach and the city council should  follow his lead to have all voices heard.  It is also critical that policy be developed with better facts concerning the depth of poverty in our community.  The reported count of only 138 homeless people within city limits does not square with the reality of what we find in our work with the poor.

It is important, too, that policy not look to just one solution but acknowledge the scope of the challenges of being homeless and build upon multiple solutions to address the varying need.  The policy should address systemic change where needed, such as, access to resources through coordinated communication.  We have seen such positive changes in the formation of West Sac Partners, the establishment of 211 telephone assistance, and the work of the Broderick Bryte Community Action Network.

Our Lady of Grace Conference remains hopeful that city leaders will be open to addressing the issue of homelessness as a real and pressing challenge for our community and will work with stakeholders for a policy that is humane, decent, and worthy of the City of West Sacramento.

Conference President
Our Lady of Grace Conference
Society of St. Vincent de Paul



News-Ledger, PO Box 463, West Sacramento CA 95691 (call 916 371-8030 for email address)

Letters must include the author’s real name (for publication) as well as phone number and address (not for publication). Questions? Call (916) 371-8030.

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2013