The West Sacramento Fire Department, in conjunction with the West Sacramento Firefighters’ Association, is preparing for the annual “Santa Run” through West Sacramento. With the help of many off-duty firefighter “elves,” Santa More »
By Jan Dalske for the News Ledger Bill Kristoff will officially retire on November 16th when he attends his last city council meeting. His friends, family and colleagues came together recently at More »
Students and parents protest for raising teachers’ wages and settling on a contract
By Monica Stark
There has been a tumultuous start to the beginning of this school year in West Sacramento. With gossip of teachers striking and high school students texting messages to their peers that they support their teachers and therefore they all should skip school, the atmosphere, suffice to say is one of uneasiness.
Everyone wants things to settle between the Washington Unified School district and the teachers’ union, the Washington Teachers Association, before they get worse.
No one seems to want a strike, but things are dire in West Sac. According to teachers, this is the second year with no contract.
In response to various questions, Giorgos Kazanis, spokesman for the Washington Unified School District said the district “will continue to keep our community apprised of changes and updates involving our contract negations process. If members of the community would like to seek additional information, they can visit our WUSD Negotiations Updates webpage or call our Human Resources Department at (916) 375-7600, ext. 1046.”
Teachers and the district go into fact-finding this week with a neutral party meaning all the facts regarding the teachers’ situation should be brought to the table from both sides.
Meanwhile, about 200 students held a protest at River City Monday before first period in front of the school, a preview of what’s to come Tuesday, Sept. 6, as parents and students are planning a massive sick-in. Parents will call their child’s school and say the reasons for the absence is “sick: settle teacher contracts now.”
A junior at RCHS, Pierre Clay, gave a shout out to his favorite teachers: Mr. Malec, (Marlaina) Schroeder, Ms. Majia-Hays, Ms. Wiley (rest in peace), and all the teachers at Southport. He said he was out Monday supporting the teachers in protest because he doesn’t like that they get paid less than most others throughout the state. He’s afraid of having “garbage substitutes” that would replace the teachers if there was a strike.
Similarly Oscar Flores, also a junior, said just wearing green isn’t going to do anything, but having lots of kids miss school will have an impact. He spoke about one of his teachers who lives out of the area but chooses to teach in West Sacramento for its diversity even though she could make $14,000 more a year elsewhere. He is protesting in support of her (and other teachers).
Mariah Alves, a senior and a dancer, fears dance will be taking away, because extracurriculars aren’t being funded. She plans on missing school on Sept. 6 because “nothing will happen (change) if I go to school.”
The WTA does not support the sick-in, WTA board member and Bridgeway Island teacher Douglas Knepp told the News-Ledger.
The settlement decision after the fact-finding can take up to four weeks and so having the “sick-in” next week is meant to influence the outcome and prevent a strike.
Parents are rallying for the teachers. Many parents grew up in the area and have enjoyed watching their children have the same teachers as they did. And it’s those long-term teachers parents are afraid of losing.
Mom Daisy Po’oi said “what this means is that not only have they not been compensated fairly, they have been required to work more hours under the same pay and the increase that was promised to them last year was never met. These are long time teachers who have been around over eight years and chose our district, not the ones they pass by every day on their way to work.”
Po’oi held an hour-long meeting at Round Table Pizza on Jefferson Boulevard with parents on Sunday night to help explain the teachers’ situation and to organize parents in rallying together to have their kids miss school on Sept. 6. To them, this action could have a huge impact, as attendance equals dollars to public school districts. They rather have a bunch of kids miss one day and positively influence negotiations to prevent a strike, which could mean many more days of no school. Parents mentioned there just aren’t enough substitute teachers at the district if there was a strike to cover the situation. According to teachers, over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. “Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts,” Don Stauffer told the board of trustees at the Aug. 25 meeting.
In speaking at the school board meeting during public comment, Stauffer gave the following overview: “Over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts.”
Stauffer broke down a recent WUSD bargaining update. He quoted the district: “Stating from the outset, we (the district) have presented our best possible offers choosing not to engage in the all too traditional form of back and forth negotiating, prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness.” But to the union, negotiation is the process of presenting proposals back and forth between parties, eventually coming to an agreement. “There is no traditional vs. other types negotiations. Back and forth is negotiations. What this statement says is that the District never intended to bargain in good faith,” Stauffer said.
The next statement Stauffer criticized – prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness – he said after 10 months after bargaining started with no end in sight, “I’ll leave you to judge whether that prolonged the process or not. Also, the last part of this sentence on ‘uneasiness’, the fact that you (The School Board) feel the need to have a police presence any time there’s a public meeting, tells me that perhaps you’re feeling a state of uneasiness. I don’t know what alternative reality the person or persons who wrote this update lives in, but clearly, the District’s bargaining strategy has been an abject failure.
“In any case, even though the update was unsigned, it was posted on the District website with District letterhead. Since you are the Trustees of the District, that means you own the update, it’s yours.
“The Superintendent has been here now for a little over a year. In what started with positive communication and hope has turned into anger and mistrust. And, we’ve had a 15 percent staff turnover in this year. If that’s the District’s goal, then you succeeded admirably. Regardless of what happens from this point on, it’s going to be hard to regain that trust. Again, you are the Trustees and you own it.
“There are many good things going on in our District: We have great kids. Everyone who teaches here knows that we have great staff (though missing a number of really good veteran teachers who decided to leave). There’s dual immersion, Farm to Fork, MESA, robotics, and on and on. I would hate to see that all go to waste.”
Timeline of the negotiation process:
Negotiations: Start date – Oct. 27, 2015
Mediation: Start date – May 20, 2016
Fact finding: May 20 – Aug. 30, 2016
Woodland Tomato Festival comes downtown on Aug. 13
Once again it’s the time of year when fresh tomatoes are center stage, sparking a new energy throughout Yolo County. Monster machines bounce through dusty fields heaping 25-ton capacity trailers with another harvest. Back roads bulge with semis rumbling from fields to factories. At local farmers markets beaming local growers display their fresh hand-picked yellow, orange, and red tomatoes, and invite you to sample their newest variety. Neighbors bang on your door and implore you to help consume their backyard bounty, as lunch and dinner tables offer healthy salads and fresh spaghetti and hot sauces. And home canners fill the house with enticing aromas as they stock up the pantry.
It’s no surprise, then that this same energy will be bringing people together for the 9th Annual Woodland Tomato Festival, one of the town’s most popular public celebrations. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Aug. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Woodland Farmer’s Market invites you to the historic downtown to join in all the free family-fun activities on Main Street between First and Third streets.
The Farmer’s Market vendors will be selling their freshly-picked, ready-to-eat fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, olive oil, fresh herbs and flowers, and hand-made soaps and lotions. Along with the Farmer’s Market vendors, more than 60 additional booths will fill up the street – local artisans and crafts, a kids play area, healthcare and community information booths, local businesses, food vendors, and much more.
Not sure what kind of tomato you want to eat? From 9 a.m. to noon, head over to the Yolo County UCCE Master Gardener Tomato Tasting booth where you get to taste 15 heirloom and hybrid varieties and cast you votes for the best tasting tomatoes. Then, purchase your favorites from the Farmer’s Market vendors. This event will get your taste buds ready for the free Salsa Tasting which will start at about 9:30 a.m. Taste salsa made by local restaurants and help decide the Peoples’ Choice salsa for 2016.
The Top Tomato Chef competition starts at 10:30 a.m. Local chefs from Savory Café, Father Paddy’s, Guinevere’s, and the Nugget Market will create a three-course dinner prepared at their facility, and serve it to the judges at the Festival. Each course must have tomatoes as the main ingredient. The judges score each chef on presentation, taste, and creativity. Some of the dishes that our local chefs have created in the past have been amazing, and you never know if you will be one of the lucky ones to taste the dishes too!
Who will be the 2016 Top Tomato Chef? Savory Café will vie to keep the title they were awarded last year so come see how creative our local chefs can be.
Also don’t miss the live family entertainment. The No Divas will be kicking off the morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m., so get your dancing shoes on. These ladies will be rocking Main Street with their classic rock/pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s. Then we have the Kuk Sool Won martial arts demonstration team showing and teaching you some of their moves – if you are a willing participant. This expert team is good, so stay around to see this awesome show. Then at noon get ready for our very own Kiss N Tell band. They’re sure to get you back on your feet singing and dancing to classic tunes we all enjoy.
Finally, to complete your ultimate tomato immersion, purchase some fried green tomatoes, tomato gelato or tomato ice cream from our food vendors.
This is a fun family event, so bring the kids. There will be free face painting and a kids’ play area hosted by Rec2Go with fun art activities, a tomato toss, bounce house, and more.
Remember, this event is on a closed off Main Street and is free. Our Main Street area businesses and restaurants are ready to welcome you as you take in the festival, with shade and plenty of free parking. For more information contact Sonia@woodlandfarmersmarket.com or go to www.woodlandtomatofestival.com.
The Barn celebrates with first major event with Off the Grid
The Barn kicked off its weekly Friday night Off the Grid food truck and music event with large crowds on Friday, Aug. 5. Located at 985 Riverfront Street, the Barn is a piece of architecture that connects the natural landscape of the riverfront to its modern buildings, bringing the region’s history to a new civic identity.
Friday’s food included fare from Casablanca Moroccan and Mediterranean Food, Dojo Burger, El Matador Mobile Max, Gaga’s Rollin’ Diner, Gyro King, Luciano’s Scoop, Mama Kim On-The-Go, New Bite, North Border Taco, Sophia’s Mini Kitchen, Southern Comfort Express and Street Eatz.
Craft cocktails, beer and wine were provided by Rye on the Road.
Complimenting the food every Friday, live music will be curated by DJ Nick Brunner of Blue Dog Jam of Capital Public Radio, who also deejays from 5 to 7 p.m. Although the styles of music will change weekly, the live music from 8 to 10 p.m. Features a curated mix of danceable rock, pop, bluegrass and folk music from the past, present and future.
With the good attendance came some complaints from customers who said there wasn’t enough seating and that lines were too long. Mayor Christopher Cabaldon wrote on social media that next week there will be even more food trucks and more bathrooms.
Off the Grid returns every Friday through October from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Barn.
Photos by Vicky Thompson
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.”