Roadway to improve traffic flow from Southport to the Tower Bridge Gateway The City of West Sacramento has completed the Village Parkway North connecting to South River Road (and the Mike McGowan More »
The Yolo Land Trust’s signature event “A Day in the Country” will be held this year on Sept. 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Barger Keasey Family Farm near Davis. More »
Quilts for Community Service
The Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild has donated handmade quilts to the West Sacramento Police and Fire Departments to be given out to those in need of comfort during police or fire calls. The Guild selects three to four recipients each year to which to donate quilts made by the membership. The Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild is based in Clarksburg and has 40 members who reside in Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, and Stanislaus Counties.
A quilt show by the Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild was held at the Courtland Pear Fair, Bates School Cafeteria, 180 Primasing Ave., Courtland, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, July 31. The quilt show had over 50 member-made quilts, a display of quilts destined for donation to community service organizations and local quilt shop vendor booths. The quilt show included two visitor voted contests for a People’s Choice quilt and a pear-themed challenge. There was also a free quilt block coloring activities for children and raffle tickets will be sold for a showcased quilt and raffle baskets. Proceeds go to the purchase of products to make more community service quilts.
West Sacramento community celebrates The Barn with ribbon cutting event and first live band
By Monica Stark
The Barn, a one-of-a-kind culinary and music venue in the Bridge District opened last Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and big announcements: That San Leandro-based Drake’s Brewing Company will operate the restaurant and bar come next spring and that in the meantime, starting Aug. 5 through October, Off the Grid will offer weekly Friday evening food truck events, which will include vendors and performers. Located at the southern end of the nearly mile-long River Walk promenade, the Barn has been designed to blend a food service operation with seasonal events and its completion is closer to reality.
As mayor Christopher Cabaldon said in his opening remarks at the ribbon cutting event, that moment “makes real the vision that not just those that live in our community but everyone in the Sacramento region believed for so long, anticipating, making the riverfront come alive.”
Designed by “!melk” the Barn is an iconic structure that is essentially a bridge on land, anchored by restaurant and kitchen/dining space on each end. It was built by West Sacramento-based Brown Construction from barn-like materials that curve and connect two interior service areas with an 80-foot canopy that soars 20 feet overhead, providing shade and a sense of place for seating and events. The Barn site will host a variety of events such as music festivals, markets, bike/foot races, movie nights, civic and charitable functions. Completion of the Barn also marks the expansion of West Sacramento’s urban farm network. Two farmers will soon grow fresh fruits and vegetables on land adjacent to the Barn with a farm stand on site managed by the Center for Land-Based Learning.
In the fall, a new sculpture by world-renowned Federico Diaz will be installed between the Tower Bridge and the Barn on the River Walk. Additionally, the city of West Sacramento announced plans to rehabilitate and re-open the historic Mill Street Pier just south of the Barn atop the banks of the Sacramento River. This public lookout will be another amenity for visitors to the Bridge District.
Reminding the audience of the past and further putting into context the magnitude of the project, Cabaldon said, “It wasn’t that long ago this space was an old industrial facility where we had silos on the riverfront that serviced the agricultural industry for the region, one of the richest agricultural regions in the world … (The Barn will) accelerate the development of all the residential and commercial entertainment and amenities that are right here in the Bridge District.”
Activating the River Walk, which is one of the longest and most significant stretches of improved public space along the Sacramento River in the entire state, stretching from the I Street Bridge to the Barn, Cabaldon added that the goal continues south along Highway 5 to Southport. “But this is a major step forward in bringing an urban waterfront to life in our community and for our region and making the River Walk a center of the region’s attraction and a great gathering place for people here in our own community.”
If you think the goal of the project is just to create a stunning piece of architecture – the dream, developer Mark Friedman said, was also to create a series of varied events that would attract different people to this site at different times of the day and different times of the year.
“One day the Barn might host a farmers’ market or another it might host an inspirational talk. It might be the perfect place for a bike race or a place to end a long walk along the water’s edge. And everyday, in our ideal dream scenario, there will be an opportunity to experience farm-to-fork cuisine and hand-crafted beers in a graceful outdoor setting.”
“I am proud to announce that that dream has now become a reality.”
The excitement at the ribbon cutting spread from people closely involved with the project to passersby on bike. Adding to the festive atmosphere of the morning’s event was music by local duo, Banjo Fiddle with Mark Peet on banjo and Julie Peet on fiddle.
While the project has been in the works since May, 2014, when the West Sacramento City Council approved spending about $2.6 million in funds for the Barn project with Launch as the first festival to debut that October, unforeseen delays have made the project take longer than anyone expected.
Addressing the delays, Cabaldon said at last week’s council meeting that the private-sector developer hasn’t been paid by the city because of the delays, “which is neither their fault, nor ours.”
“It’s such an amazing world class art project that’s never been built and that has just become more complicated in a lot of ways than what we originally anticipated because no one has ever built this before anywhere in the inhabited universe.”
Confirming for “the legal record,” Cabaldon said at the ribbon cutting he had absolutely “nothing to do with” the Barn. “Zero.”
“I live right on the other side of this block and so I was not involved in the creation of this amazing amenity in any way, other than help create the neighborhood together,” he said. On the other hand, he acknowledged the work by council members Chris Ledesma, Babs Sandeen, Bill Kristoff and Mark Johannessen in making this “unique private/public partnership happen.”
Speaking with the News-Ledger after the ceremony, Cabaldon discussed what it’s been like living across from the development. “It’s been great,” he said. “You get a bird’s eye view of one of the most exciting projects in the whole city and really the whole region. It’s not like it’s been loud. There’s been no construction impacts. The energy of the people who drive by – both The Barn and the new neighborhoods – from all over the place, like it’s Disneyland Autopia. There’s a constant stream of cars taking pictures. We’ve never had that in West Sacramento before with people just coming to see what exciting thing is happening.”
Also speaking with the News-Ledger after the ceremony, John Martin, CEO of Drake’s, explained in detail what visitors can expect next spring, as well his brewing background and how he got involved with The Barn. In operation since around 1989, Martin bought the San Leandro brewery in 2008, growing beer production from 800 barrels a year to about 40,000 barrels a year now. Of that growth, he said, Sacramento has been a great market. “You can find it around town in bars and restaurants. We sell a lot through Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway. Our distributor is right here in West Sacramento, DBI.”
All those connections, however, aren’t what got Martin in the Barn door.
“(Center for Land-Based Learning Executive Director) Mary Kimball is a neighbor of mine. We have little cabins next to each other near Tahoe, little tiny places. So, I’ve known her for 20 years and she connected me with Mark Friedman. I had been thinking about a beer garden in Sacramento forever, thinking how great that would be by the river and suddenly to have this whole thing present itself. We go, wow, we were just thinking some tables and chairs under some trees, but this incredible structure is really amazing,” he said.
With The Barn, Martin and Kimball will be neighbors also in West Sacramento. “We’ll be working close with the farm. The majority of produce will come off the farms here or the other Land-Based Learning operations. We’re really excited about that,” he said.
Explaining further about the operations of Drake’s involvement at The Barn, he said the initial plan is to have a beer bar and also coffee and pastries on one end of the structure, and a restaurant on the other, which is where all the cooking, and likely food-fired pizza will be. “We want to do some grilling on the outside as well. We really want to build a picnic atmosphere like Operas in the Park, Concerts in the Park. We’ll have racks of those folding beach chairs that you can pull out and it around and listen to bands and music. We hope to expand more, put in games and people can play like corn hole and giant Jenga and Connect 4.”
Besides Drake’s in San Leandro, where the ambiance is more tasting room and warehouse, his business owns a place in uptown Oakland called Drake’s Dealership, an old auto dealership. Some of the feeling there — fire pits, Adirondacks, full service – will be felt at The Barn. But, at The Barn, music will be a bigger production than what the Dealership can offer because of neighbors, he said.
A Berkeley resident, Martin doesn’t mind the drive to West Sacramento. “It’s nice; it’s about an hour and 10-minute drive. We were looking at an operation in Los Gatos. It was only about a 30-, 40-minute drive, except for traffic, then it was almost two hours.”
Martin said Drake’s at The Barn will eventually look for a general manager, noting they already have an executive chef out of Oakland. “We will also need chefs, sou chefs, cooks, servers. It will be a full-service operation with table service in about half the venue and the other half will be walk-up service.”
Martin is looking to hire toward end of the year. “Still have to go through design work, submit to the city, get contracts, permits, all that sort of thing. It takes longer than we like. We wish we could be open instantly.”
Longtime West Sacramentan is docent at the drought-tolerant exhibit at the California State Fair
By Monica Stark
Tucked behind Building B at the California State Fair lies a large outdoor garden area, from exhibits on rice farming, to aquaponics, there’s also a drought-tolerant display which demonstrates how to transform a typical lawn to a low-water Shangri-La, which was planted in May and will be on display for three years.
With California in its fifth year of drought, inspiring visitors to make conservation a way of life is what Department of Water Resource’s three California State Fair exhibits are designed to accomplish now through July 24. The trio of exhibits, dubbed Conservation: The California Lifestyle, feature drought-tolerant landscaping ideas, edible gardens and take-home information on conservation. Flyers are available for DWR turf rebates and water-wise plant lists.
Evelyn Tipton, a resident of the Summerfield area in West Sacramento, retired from the California Department of Water Resources after 36 years as a civil engineer and volunteers at the fair at one of the department’s outdoor exhibits.
“We have rebates and everyone calls up the department and says, ‘Well, how do we get the rebates? What do we do to convert our yards?’ So we set up the exhibit to go through the entire process from planning, stripping the yard out, irrigation system, hardscaping, plant selection, different types of landscaping.”
Tipton said in order to qualify for the rebates projects should be done in 120 days, though with the help of professionals it could be done in just a few days. Before and after pictures are definitely recommended.
Asked what some of the biggest challenges one faces when undergoing this kind of transformation, Tipton said, laughing, “Bermuda grass.” Also, “understanding and being able to plan out and picture it, that’s my problem. My daughter’s a photographer so she is really good at laying things out. ‘I know this will look good here and here and here.’ Me: I can do the technical stuff, but laying out is the hardest part for me and then it’s just the matter of the labor.”
While the California Department of Water Resources main concern is water supply, the rebates and encouraging drought-tolerant landscapes to this extent is a rather new undertaking. Prior residents would typically content their local water supplier, Tipton said. “We’re statewide and usually it’s a local water supplier that’s involved with the smaller areas.”
Giving a tour of the state fair display, Tipton started at the beginning: The planning stage. “You have to map out your house, your yard, how much area you are working with, the direction it’s facing (south, west, north, east) – that makes a great deal of difference of where you put your plants. You need to know where your shade’s going to be. If you have a north side face, you’ll pretty much be in the shade the whole time. It depends what kind of soil you got. In West Sacramento, in my area, it’s pretty much all clay, not so organic. Clay holds water but it’s not that easy to work with. It doesn’t drain well and it tends to run off, rather than soak in. So you have to amend your clay soil with gypsum or a lot of organic soil. Gypsum goes into the molecules and breaks up the individual, but the particles in clay soil are so fine that it breaks it apart chemically to loosen up your clay soil. And, then you add organic to it.”
You need to figure out where you are going to have your trees, Tipton advised, recommending putting trees near streets and driveways.
“We like to drive around neighborhoods and see what others have done, find projects we really like.” Also, during the planning stage, sign up for rebates, she suggested.
After the planning stage, it’s time for turf removal. Tipton recommends RoundUp and/or solarization (covering the problem area with a black tarp that will cook the grass). Solarization does sterilize the area so Tipton said you need to add in some worms and mulch. Or, you can also just dig up the grass. Then you lay down cardboard or newspaper. “I need to level my yard, put mulch on it. The advantage of this is when you want to plant it, you don’t want to have to remove the cardboard. You can clear out the mulch, cut a hole, and stick it in through the hole. That keeps the weeds out too.”
You need to lay out your yard and add a controller that will control how much water goes to each area. After that if you have any hardscaping paths, this is the time to put in walkways. Just make sure you put down permeable landscape material, sand on top and then lay your rock or brick into that. Just be sure you compact that sand pretty well or the rocks will shift.
Then you put the mulch down, followed by planting, suggested Tipton. “You need to put the right kind of plants together. If plants take more water, you need them in one area. Shade-loving plants you need to put them in the shade. And take into account how big those plants are going to grow. The fair display includes a pollinator garden, where they have salvia, butterfly bush, lantana.” Besides the pollinator garden, there are fruit trees on display as well as vegetables.
To get some more great ideas visit Tipton at the fair. The display is open everyday until the fair ends on Sunday. Visit www.castatefair.org for more information.
West Sacramentan lines her neighborhood with American flags for the nation’s birthday
By Monica Stark
West Sacramento’s Heather Moore decided to line Grande Vista Avenue and Claredon Street with nearly 300 American flags, bringing joy and patriotism to her neighborhood.
Neighbor Marie called the display “wholesome and prideful.” Margaret, who also lives in that area, said happily, “They were beautiful.”
Heather said she started to put some up on Friday and Saturday she got up and did the rest of them and took them down on Tuesday. “It was fun. I started with a few houses and decided I’d just do the whole street,” she said.
Heather got the flags from a box inside the VFW. “I had to iron all of them. They had been wrapped in a box for so long. No one wanted them. And I thought, shoot they are here. Everyone loved it. There was not one person upset.”
A proud West Sacramentan, Heather said the 4th of July to her means freedom and the ability to enjoy her neighbors. “I love my neighbors – the fact I can go ask a neighbor for an egg or they can ask me for something. We wave to all of our neighbors when they come up on our street. (Regarding the flags) I thought, ‘Why not? It’s America. It’s our birthday. The VFW had them; it didn’t kill me and I got a great response.
During Christmastime, Heather likes to decorate “Charlie Brown Christmas” style. “I have a full on dog house. Christmas is my favorite holiday. We go all out. I have to start decorating in middle of November. Once Thanksgiving dinner is over, I flip a switch and there you go.”
Joseph “Joey” Lopes Park made official at ribbon-cutting ceremony
West Sacramento has a brand new park, and on Friday, June 24, it was made official at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where the family of the park’s namesake Joseph “Joey” Lopes shared stories about the famous boxer who called the area home during his life.
The park, which is the 35th park in the city, is located next to the Parkside Apartments along Sycamore Avenue off of West Capitol and features a newly-installed piece of artwork, which was created by Denver, Colorado artist Michael Clapper.
The $70,000 art structure—which Clapper says represents “fighting for community”—was approved by the City Council on Jan. 13 with Clapper’s piece being chosen over 75 other submissions after the City of West Sacramento’s Arts, Culture & Historic Preservation Commission, the Yolo Arts Council, city staff and others gave input.
The park cost $8.2 million to install and features a garden, benches, picnic tables, water fountains, two playgrounds, — one each for younger and older children — a basketball court and plenty of walking paths and green grass. The park has several trees as well, but it’ll be a while before they provide any shade. In the meantime, there are two shade shelters located at each side of the park.
Superintendent of West Sacramento Parks & Ground Sam Cooney explained that the project has been in the works for six years.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” said Cooney. “The state awarded the city $4.1 million and then we put in matching funds.”
Schmidt Design Group Principal J.T. Barr added that the park’s design incorporated a lot of feedback from the residents of West Sacramento.
“The design really started with the inspiration of the community,” said Barr. “All of the forms and structures, the walkways [were] really inspired by West Sacramento and the agricultural heritage that is here, so we really wanted to embrace the community and express that in the park, so the park really becomes a reflection of the community.
The ceremony began at 10 a.m. with a few words from West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle, who thanked the landscapers, city inspector and project manager among others who worked on the park.
“What we do in West Sacramento is we take local money and we go out and find other money to match with it,” said Tuttle. “That’s how we’re able to do great things for the city.”
Martin then introduced City Council Member Chris Ledesma, who spoke about the park and the collaborative effort it took to complete.
“As many of you know, this site, for a long time, was an eye-soar,” said Ledesma as children played with bubbles and ran around in the grass area just behind where the audience of approximately 100 West Sacramento citizens, Lopes family members and city leaders was seated. “And now look at this 4 acres we’re sitting on today. Congratulations to everybody who had a hand in this.”
Ledesma went on to say that just as it took the entire community to design and implement the park, it’ll take the entire community to keep it clean, safe and welcoming in the years to come.
He then announced a new park watch program, designed to cut down on vandalism and crime, which will be headed up by West Sacramento PD Officer Warren Estrada.
“It’s up to all of us to keep an eye on this park and it’s up to all of us to work with the police department to make sure we maintain this park and keep the spirit of Joey Lopes going,” said Ledesma.
Ledesma then introduced Silvestre Gilmete Jr., the nephew of Joey Lopes, who called up several other family members before beginning his speech about his uncle’s impact.
A hometown hero who lived near Sycamore all of his life, Joey Lopes was a boxer in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Lopes always wore his name and the words “West Sacramento” on the robes he wore to the ring and made sure that everyone knew he was from West Sacramento, not Sacramento.
He competed at the Memorial Auditorium and the world-famous Madison Square Garden among many other venues. In 1948, Lopes was selected for the U.S. Olympic boxing team and he went on to fight in three matches with the Lightweight championship up for grabs.
Following his retirement, Lopes was a community leader, working for the West Sacramento Sanitary District, the West Sacramento Optimist Club and the West Sacramento Babe Ruth Baseball League.
The park’s art features a silhouette of Lopes with his arm reaching out in a boxing punch and will light up at night as the sun sets behind it. On the flipside of the structure is a map of the West Sacramento area.
After Gilmete Jr. thanked the city and everyone involved on behalf of the family, shared some history of his uncle and introduced longtime friend Raul Deanda, who told some stories about his friend’s illustrious career and life’s journey, the ceremony ended with the cutting of the ribbon and loud cheers and applause from everyone in attendance.
As children filled the playgrounds, shot hoops at the basketball court and ran around the grassy areas, adults snapped photos of the artwork and the park while others enjoyed snacks and conversation.
Gilmete Jr. expressed the gratitude of his family for the city naming the park after his uncle.
“This is a tremendous honor,” said Gilmete Jr. who explained that the family petitioned to have the park’s name changed from Sycamore Park to Joey Lopes Park after learning it was being installed, a motion that was met with a unanimous decision from the city. “My uncle was about his community and it being so close to where he lived as a kid and as an adult and to see that this park incorporates a playground for children to be able to enjoy, half-court basketball for any age to enjoy and the community garden with my grandparents [having had a farm here], it’s just incredible.”
Serving Senate District 6: Dr. Richard Pan discusses controversy and current legislation
By Monica Stark
He wanted to go where the people were and he did.
Situating his office in South Sacramento across from Florin Road Bingo and the Rice Bowl restaurant, California State Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) wanted his office located where people frequented.
From West Sacramento up to the Sacramento International Airport over to McClellan Air Force Base and southwest to the town of Sheldon down to Elk Grove, essentially all of Sacramento proper is included in Dr. Pan’s district but 2251 Florin Road, Suite 156 is where he settled.
And people are coming off the streets to pop in and talk. “It’s a good place to be. I want to be sure we serve all our neighborhoods. I am proud of the work of all of our neighborhoods,” Pan said.
Having worked for several nonprofits over the years from churches to food banks and nonprofit health clinics nearby, Florin Road is “one of the communities in my area that could use extra help,” he said.
Proud to be a convener bringing people together, Pan has held health fairs, kids’ health classes, has worked with food banks and helped summer lunch programs. “We work with (Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services), Senior Gleaners to continue to get food to people who need help. We’ve done a variety of things on the ground to help out,” he said.
First elected to the state Assembly in 2010, Pan has since authored legislation to bring more than $100 million in federal funds for fire departments, including $6 million for the Sacramento region. He partnered with law enforcement and local businesses to establish a statewide database to catch thieves attempting to sell stolen property to pawnshops, and he authored a law to allow campus police to use body cameras.
Time magazine called Dr. Pan a “hero” when he authored landmark legislation to abolish non-medical exemptions to legally required vaccines for school students.
Despite the recognition, activists attempted to recall Pan because of the vaccination law. In an article by Elk Grove Citizen’s Lance Armstrong, Katherine Duran, an Elk Grove mother, and a team of volunteers responded to that bill with an effort to have Pan recalled. According to the article, Duran stated that she felt that the bill represented a loss of “liberty or right to decide what doesn’t go into our bodies.”
Apparently even after the effort to recall was unsuccessful, in a recent interview with this publication Pan relayed further backlash that attacked an event where he brought together members of the Muslim and Japanese communities to talk about exclusionary rhetoric. “Anti-vaxxers came to protest outside, but they played a trick on the reporter. They claimed that I allowed hate speech (on my Facebook page). They showed the reporter these posts. There were three examples and each was less than an hour a part from another. One post was an anti-vaccine person who faked posting – ‘kill the anti-vaxxers. See, they’re threatening us too.’ We proved that one of the posts was an anti-vaccine Facebook person who pretended they were pro vaccine… it was bad.
“The reality is we have to keep our kids safe at school. We eliminated measles in 2000 and having all these cases pop up and being spread primarily around unvaccinated kids. Ten babies died of whooping cough and hundreds got sick.”
Now hiring: After recession, state government looking for workers
During the recession, the state essentially had a hiring freeze, but now that recovery has been underway, they’re hiring again. The need for employees also stems from those retiring.
Working with the state Department of Human Resources’ Civil Rights Commission, Pan reached out to minority groups to diversify the workplace and to fill the open positions. “A lot of people who live in less served communities don’t know the process,” he said.
Offering workshops on how to get a state job with such nonprofits as La Familia, and Asian Resources, a lot work needs to be done to get the attendees to come to exam. “We’re still in the middle of this. We want to be sure more people have opportunities to apply for these jobs … We need to be getting them to the exam.”
While there are companies that do this for a fee, reaching out to the underserved communities, Pan has been instrumental in making sure these workshops are free of charge.
Working with Elk Grove youth to create legislation affecting them
In February, Pan joined the 8th grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School in Elk Grove in introducing Senate Bill 977, which would ban tobacco products within 250 feet from a youth sporting event.
“Youth sports is all about developing good and healthy habits,” he said. “Everyone on the field, bleachers and sidelines should be encouraging our young athletes to pick up life-long habits that will keep them healthy and strong. I am proud of the 8th grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School for recognizing the importance of good health and working to make SB 977 state law.”
SB 977 would prohibit cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products within 250 feet of any youth sports practice, game or other activity, where athletes under the age of 18 are present.
Data tracking system on violent deaths
Pan also announced that his bill SB 877, which will require California to establish and maintain a data-tracking system on violent deaths in the state, including gun deaths, passed the state senate.
“Researchers cannot fully confront the crisis and save lives because we lack research and tracking,” he explained.
“Databases are really important to figure ways to reduce injury and death. It also tells when things don’t work,” he added at the time of the interview. He said California used to participate and stopped for budget issues about 10 years ago. “Being someone in public health, I need to understand and (know) if solutions are making a difference.”
Prior to 2008, California participated in the National Violent Death Reporting System, a federal program to collect data on violent deaths. California was unable to obtain federal funding to continue the program because the state did not obtain law enforcement records required by NVDRS. SB 877 would require the California Department of Public Health to collect such data.
In addition to providing the data to the NVDRS, the data could be used to assist state policymakers and communities as they determine appropriate prevention and education efforts.
Researchers point to the difference in how guns and vehicle fatalities are tracked. In 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a national database called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. State, local and federal entities work together to update the database with detailed data sets for every car death in the nation. By contrast, a unified and complete database for gun deaths is virtually non-existent, explained Pan in a press release on the topic.
Researchers and policymakers have used the information to create safety mechanisms that have drastically reduced vehicle fatalities through the years. Meanwhile, gun deaths persist and in 21 states and the District of Columbia, gun deaths now outnumber vehicle deaths, Pan continued.
Also, in regard to Dr. Pan’s bill requiring California collect data on gun deaths, Pan reported that the following 32 states collect and participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Mother of alleged gang member discusses son’s charges and her involvement with Broderick is Not a Gang
Editor’s Note: The following was provided by West Sacramento mother Sonia Rodriguez when asked to provide details about her son in a way to humanize the neighborhood youth who, in addition to serious crimes, has been labeled as a gang member, even though she said he was never affiliated with a gang. Some of it has been edited to fit the newspaper.
Name: Elijah Rodriguez
Age: 21 (now) 17 at time of arrest
On May 5, 2012, Elijah Rodriguez was arrested at school around Franklyn Way and Glide Avenue for attempted murder. The charges were dropped to assault with a deadly weapon. He took a deal for 12 years with two strikes.
He was charged with:
CT1 PC 245 (a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (3 years), CT1A PC 186.22 (b) gang enhancement (5yrs)
CT2 PC 245(a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (1 year) CT2B PC 12022.7 (a) inflicts great bodily injury (3 years)
Statement from Sonia Rodriguez
I completely understand what my son did was wrong and believe he deserved to go to prison. What he was charged with is a very serious matter that we don’t take lightly. However, I have a problem with a couple things.
The first being the amount of time Elijah got. He took a deal for 12 years. He was threatened with 25 years to life if we went to trial granted there were no deaths in this case. Because of the “safe zone” if this crime would have happened one block over, my son wouldn’t have gotten gang enhancements which added five years to his prison term. I take issue with the 12-year sentence because in 2008 my 17-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a hit and run drunk driver and the offender only got a 9-year sentence and served less than three years for killing my daughter and injuring my daughter’s friend. It just doesn’t seem balanced.
The second thing I have a problem with is my son receiving the gang enhancements and being labeled a gang member. I take issue with the way (the officer) used determined my son was a gang member. The officer has never had contact with my son before this. In court the officer said my son did this to move up in rank with the ‘Broderick Boys’. My son was a dumb kid that did something stupid. This had no rhyme or reason. He wasn’t doing this to be promoted in a gang he was never a part of to begin with. Just because the officer says it, doesn’t make it true. My son is an aspiring rapper and has hundreds of notebooks with raps he wrote. The officer used those as evidence of ‘criminal activity’. The raps were not about rainbows and sunshine, that’s for sure but none on the raps were about gangs or being in gangs. They were stupid raps my son made up, he was a teenage boy. My son is not and was not a gang member. My son was never served with the gang injunction before this. My son has never admitted to being in a gang.
Did my son know kids that said they were in a gang? Of course, these are kids he has gone to school with since preschool through high school. But that is not a crime nor does it make you a gang member. West Sacramento is a very small community. Not every boy in Broderick is a gang member. In prison, my son is not affiliated with a gang. He is considered an ‘other’ meaning he is not in a gang.
However, his paperwork says he is a Norteño gang member and that has caused him problems with other inmates and guards. He has to explain how Yolo County labeled him a gang member but he is not. If he was a former gang member he would be considered a ‘drop out’. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but in prison apparently it is a big deal. It affects how other inmates treat you. My son is okay right now but he is a young impressionable boy with 10 years left in prison. He will have spent a large majority of growing up years around hardened criminals. I can’t say how he will be when he gets out of prison and is a man of 31 years of age. This will affect my son for the rest of his life. Not only while he is in prison but when he gets out and tries to move on with his life.
While in prison he has gotten no write ups and is taking college courses. The last we heard from our son was three weeks ago. He was transferred to a prison in Arizona from The California Correctional Center in Susanville, California. He called us and said they told him he was being transferred again to a prison in Mississippi. We have no further information on his whereabouts. He has been in prison for the past two years. He has 10 more years to serve.
Since joining Broderick is a Community, Not a Gang I have heard story after story about how these kids are being charged as adults, labeled as gang members, and threatened with 25 years to life and offered a deal of 12 years regardless of the crime. It just doesn’t seem right. How can every boy in Broderick be a gang member? Yolo County has the highest direct filing in the state. How can the DAs justify this? If our boys were not criminal gang members before prison, what do they think they will come home as?