The city of West Sacramento received the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council’s ( GSAC) inaugural “Paving the Way” award recognizing a public agency for “Exceptional Economic Development Results” at the GSAC annual More »
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 »
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?
Broderick is a community, not a gang: New nonprofit stems from racial profiling of neighborhood boys
By Monica Stark
Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a series about the Broderick Boys and neighborhood efforts to bring attention to racial profiling and what community members call unjust sentences. One of the stories in the series will focus on the police perspective.
On Saturday, April 23, West Sacramentans came together at the West Sacramento Police Department to rally against the gang injunction which members of a newly formed nonprofit, Broderick is Not a Gang, say has caused four juveniles to be detained in custody for more than a year.
In June 2015, four youths — Angelo Yabes, 14, Joseph Gomez, 15, Xavier Vincent Perez, 16, and Xavier Westford, 17 — were detained and accused of three separate robberies of pizza delivery drivers despite statements from all the drivers indicating they could not identify who assaulted them. District attorney attempts to charge them as adults and under gang enhancements failed causing all charges to be dropped, only to be picked up against under a “995” (which states the Judge made an error). Yet, Double Jeopardy prohibits a person from being charged twice for a crime. In another attempt to prosecute, on April 7, the DA announced and filed grand jury indictment charges against the four youths as adults.
Their mothers are taking a stand to stop the gang injunction with Broderick is a Community, Not a Gang. This is for the four sons, they say, are being victimized and incarcerated by the gang injunction. The nonprofit will hire legal counsel to overturn the gang injunction in West Sacramento.
The injunction puts several restrictions upon those it affects, including a curfew, making it illegal to associate or assemble with other alleged members, trespassing and drinking anywhere in public view.
Activists say the people of Broderick are a close-knit bunch and that they’ve known each other for years, were raised next door to each other and many have helped raise their children together as well.
Residents of the area say the community has been torn apart by the injunction. “Friends and family members can no longer go to family barbecues or attend each other’s children’s birthday parties,” said a community activist. “They can’t go to the movies together; they can’t attend night school because classes get out after the curfew. This injunction harms the quality of life of our community.”
In a letter to the editor of the Woodland Daily Democrat, Becky Olvera of Woodland, back in 2010 wrote that prior to West Sacramento building James Marshall High School in the early 1950s, students from east Yolo were bused to and attended Woodland High School for years; as were students from Knights Landing, and perhaps also from the town of Yolo. “Those students congregated on campus in their respective city groups. The Woodland students identified and referred to the out of town boys by where they lived. Thus they imposed the identification names, such as the Knights Landing Boys, the Bryte Boys, the West Sac Boys, the Broderick Boys, and the Yolo Boys. Later the Yolo Boys’ name was changed to The Yolo Cats,” Olvera wrote.
She wrote about the beginning of the West Sacramento Gang Injunction Trial. “In 2008 Judge Kathleen White imposed the preliminary injunction, and now the District Attorney’s office is seeking a permanent injunction for a certain area called the ‘safety zone’ in West Sacramento, which I assume incorporates only the streets that once were the streets of the city of Broderick before it became part of West Sacramento. As an interested citizen I sat in on the proceedings the first week when the civil trial began last month. The District Attorney’s office, to put it in the simplest term, intends to prove that a triangle exists. Namely, that the Broderick Boys, Nortenos, and street gangs mean one and the same thing, and that they are intertwined and prevalent in the ‘safety zone’ area.”
Back in 2007, for the same newspaper, the author of today’s News-Ledger article wrote about Billy Wolfinton who went by the name “Bouncer.” Rather than serving all 350 alleged members of the gang, the district attorney served just him. Reisig said that Wolfington, a self-proclaimed Broderick Boy, was seen talking to other gang members at the time the gang injunction was served. “It would be an absolute certainty that he told other gang members,” Reisig said back then. The DA said that Wolfington had a tattoo on his chest that says ” Broderick “, was wearing Broderick ‘s gang color – red – and has been arrested many times in relation with the Broderick Boys for possession of drugs and guns.
But Wolfington didn’t show up in court. And because he didn’t come to court to accept his injunction, Justice Thomas Warriner placed it on the entire neighborhood.
The injunction’s three-square-mile radius which previously included Doss Way, Brookfield, Franklyn Boulevard and Morrison Creek has been extended out to Interstate 80, activists say. Under the provisions of the order, violating any of the activities listed on the junction becomes a crime. For instance, if an employee of a gang member litters or is present on the premises of an uninhabited or abandoned apartment or building, that person is in violation.
Under the West Sacramento Police Department’s list of criteria for gang membership, any two of eleven criteria must be met to be considered a gang member. But the criteria are broad, including items such as: “Individual wears gang clothing/colors” and “Individual displays gang graffiti on personal belongings,” without specifying which colors, clothing or graffiti are considered gang-related.
The organizers of the April event also included members of the National Latino Information and Resource Center, the ANSWER Coalition, the Labor Council For Latin American Advancement, ALF-CIO, the Brown Berets de SacraAztlan, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the West Sacramento Committee To Boycott Driscoll.
Being an election year, the group has continued to take action with a voter registration drive that will impact the Nov. 8 elections. One of the group’s founders, Maria Grijalva, stated she will run for city council. “This November a new wave of West Sacramento residents will be raising their voice with their vote and will end the gang injunction.”
“The reason we formed the nonprofit is that four boys were accused of a pizza delivery robbery. And now they have a $2.5 million bail. Even though there was no violence, they are being threatened with life sentences. Their mothers are the ones who are being directly impacted… A public defender told us that it’s common knowledge that Yolo County uses direct filing to put away Latinos for life and to get rid of them in Yolo County,” Maria said.
Mother Sonia Rodriguez, whose son Elijah is profiled in this issue of the News-Ledger, said she got involved with the nonprofit as soon as she heard about it. “It is too late for my son but I believe this is an issue that will not go away. I speak for the group telling my sons story whenever I am asked, I attend the weekly meetings, I send out donation requests to help fund our efforts, I try and help out whenever and with whatever I can.”
Rodriguez would like the nonprofit to educate the community about the dangers involved in having the gang injunction in West Sacramento/Broderick Area, to remove it, to stop the direct filing on future offenders, and to have an investigation on gang officers as to their evidence gathering. “(The officer’s) word should not be law on our kids; it is too high of a price for our kids to pay for one man to determine. I don’t believe every teenaged boy that gets into trouble is a gang member. I am scared for future generations if this is not done. I don’t believe that having pride in your neighborhood makes you a gang member.”
Further, she said she would like to help change the way the police department interacts with Broderick youth. “I would like to help provide the youth of West Sacramento and Broderick a place they can go to get off the streets, to see a free youth center or free sports center opened in our neighborhood, (not only Southport) so that at-risk, low income kids have easy access to it. I would like to see these kids given a chance in life to succeed. I know it is a lot but you have to dream big. The ultimate goal is to make the Broderick community a better place to live and raise your children.”