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Check out any of the News-Ledger’s 2014 candidate interviews:

voteNEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — NOV. 2, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, is time to vote again.

Among the choices on West Sacramento’s ballot are decision’s about whom to send to the local city council, school board, and mayor’s office. There’s also a school bond measure designed to use extra taxes to help upgrade and repair local schools.

As is the News-Ledger’s tradition, this year we invited everyone running for one of these seats to talk with us about their goals for office and answer some of our questions.  These interviews are made possible by the newspaper’s subscribers and advertisers.

You can now find any of those interviews at the links below:

MAYOR OF WEST SACRAMENTO

Christopher Cabaldon (incumbent)

Narinderpal Hundal

 

CITY COUNCIL OF WEST SACRAMENTO (choose two)

MARK JOHANNESSEN (incumbent)

CHRIS LEDESMA (incumbent)

JEFF LYON

(NANCY HETH-TRAN declined an invitation to interview with the News-Ledger)

 

BOARD OF TRUSTEES, WASHINGTON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (choose two)

NORMA ALCALA

JOSHUA ALVES

SARAH KIRBY-GONZALEZ

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Mayor Cabaldon: West Sac is achieving a lot for a city of its size

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 29, 2014 — EDITOR’S NOTE: Continuing with the News-Ledger’s tradition, we’ve invited every candidate running for local office on the upcoming ballot to sit down for an interview that we can share with our readers. That series of interviews for the November, 2014, election finishes up with the following feature interview with Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. Enjoy. — By Steve Marschke News-Ledger Editor

MAYOR CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: "thrilled' to have agricultural research company move to West Sac (News-Ledger file photo)

MAYOR CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: “thrilled’ to have agricultural research company move to West Sac (News-Ledger file photo)

It’s easy to get Mayor Christopher Cabaldon talking about the exciting projects going on in West Sacramento – the recent award from a U.S. mayors’ conference for making preschool widely available, the development of the Bridge District and Washington neighborhood, the coming replacement of the I Street Bridge, the city’s growing presence as a site for the food industry, and so on. But he says these highly visible successes can create a perception in the community that it should be really, really easy, to do the small things. Like put a certain restaurant at a certain intersection. “People say, ‘Why don’t you put X over at the corner of Y and Z?’” he remarked to the News-Ledger in a recent interview. “I don’t have that power.” “The mayor’s job is mostly in enabling,” Cabaldon continued, “and it’s mostly enabling through context-setting. I can make it more likely that a restaurant will locate at that location by doing the following 700 things. Those 700 things include making sure it’s the right zoning – that’s the easy part. I need to make sure there are enough people around it so they can get to it by biking or walking, and there’s adequate parking or it’s served by the bus, and that the sewer connection fee is lower for  a restaurant than for a use that we might not want to have. But if you do all that and it ends up a McDonalds and not an Argentinian restaurant, well, you don’t have the right to make that decision.” But the city is on a winning streak, Cabaldon said. Are he and the council members on the same page here in 2014? “I think we’re in the same book,” the mayor responded. “We want to take the city in generally the same direction, but within that we are on many different pages. I think it’s quite effective because you don’t want a council where all five people have the same opinion every time.” Cabaldon is seeking another two-year term as mayor.  He’s running against challenger Narinderpal Hundal. Cabaldon has served as West Sacramento’s mayor ever since voters decided in 2004 that they would make the job a separately-elected position, apart from city council elections. And he was mayor for several one-year terms before that, when the position was chosen from among the council members. A native of Los Angeles, Cabaldon earned a degree in environmental economics from UC Berkeley and came to Sacramento to work on public policy at the legislature. He found a home here on Meadow Road in 1993. He’s 48 and single currently living near Raley Field in “Ironworks.” Now, Cabaldon’s day job is running a firm that works for “systems-level change” in the state’s education system. “The main project I have at the firm is I am the head of Linked Learning Alliance,” said Cabaldon. “It brings together a bunch of teachers and superintendents and business folks and college folks and civil rights activists (to) improve college readiness for students in California.” Just a year after becoming a West Sacramento resident, Cabaldon ran for city council in his new hometown. “It was a great campaign,” he recalls, “and I fortunately lost. Because the voters said ‘Whoa, we like you, you’ve got a lot of energy, you have some great ideas, but you don’t know the first thing about this place.’ And they were exactly right.” Cabaldon worked on a couple of local county commissions before trying again in 1996. This time he won a place on the city council. He has since morphed into arguably the most prominent city official in West Sacramento history. If Cabaldon gets another term, there are some things he hopes to keep working on – the massive local flood protection project, various development plans, the regional streetcar project and so on. But he sees a couple of new possibilities starting to form as well. One of those is to capitalize on the national visibility West Sacramento earned when it received an award for making preschool “universally” available. The award came from the nation’s conference of mayors. Cabaldon will visit the White House to accept congratulations on the award, and he said various organizations have been paying attention. This presents an opportunity to expand some aspect of childhood education with some new partners, he believes. “It would be terrible to waste that and not go radically up to the next level,” Cabaldon commented. “I think we’ll definitely do more in terms of infants and toddlers, not just four-year olds.” And other new education initiatives may also be possible as well. Also on the radar is an idea for what to do with an iconic old bridge after it’s soon replaced by a new span: “One other project I’d like to take on is the upper deck of the I Street Bridge – to create some kind of linear park or ‘high line’ park,” proposed Cabaldon. Judging by the success of similar bridge-top parks like one in Louisville, he said, such a feature could become a top regional attraction. But in the meantime Cabaldon and other city officials have the small city’s $500 million flood protection to manage, in partnership with the feds and state government. And a burgeoning redevelopment about to encourage along South River Road as new bridges are phased in at the “Pioneer Bluff District.” And other local projects that remain in the works. “If absolutely nothing else happens, we’ve got enough on our plates,” said Cabaldon.   Do you like what you see here?   You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.   You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605). Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Kirby-Gonzalez believes experience as teacher helps her on school board

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 22, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez has been on the school board in West Sacramento for less than 18 months, following a victory in a special election held to fill a vacancy. She’d like four more years.

SARAH  KIRBY-GONZALEZ News-Ledger photo

SARAH
KIRBY-GONZALEZ
News-Ledger photo

“We have done some very good things,” Kirby-Gonzalez reports. “Just in that short amount of time, I think one of the biggest things the board has done is (create) the visual and performing arts plan, and that’s now rolled out to our fourth- and fifth-grade classes as well as all the way up to high school. I’d like to see it expanded even beyond that.”

Visual and Performing Arts, or “VAPA,” is one of the district’s top priorities at present. Also on that list are facilities improvements, technology and “recruiting, retaining and sustaining personnel.”

Kirby-Gonzalez said that she is in agreement with that roster of strategic goals, and she enjoys serving on an effective Washington Unified School District school board.

She’s a teacher in the Folsom-Cordova district (where she was a “teacher of the year” in 2011) and her husband works as a police officer outside West Sacramento. They have two kids – not yet of school age – who will go to public school in this city, said Kirby-Gonzalez.

The couple has lived in the Bridgeway Lakes area for about half a dozen years. Kirby-Gonzalez says she grew up in Carmichael and Auburn, going to a Catholic elementary school.

“I went to Placer High School, Sierra College and then Sac State for my master’s credential, she said. I’ve been teaching for 11 years.”

Kirby-Gonzalez, 34, believes that her experience as a teacher helps her as a board member. She notes that in the years before she became a trustee, WUSD had been focused tightly on one thing, and that was achieving high marks in student test scores. As a teacher, she thinks that was short-sighted and the current policy is a better one.

“Standardized test scores had been very, very prominent with the last board – that’s what they focused on,” she commented. “For folks that really understand education and read the research, they know that’s been a disservice for kids, especially our low-income kids. Standardized tests have not helped us in the way we’ve needed.”

Preparing kids for standardized tests often meant stressing rote memorization and neglecting the teaching of writing (since it was only tested at two grade levels), said Kirby-Gonzalez. But now these tests are just one part of a more “holistic” approach. Parental involvement at schools, graduation rates, and dropout are some of the other measures now used on local schools.

In West Sacramento, it’s been the southern-most schools – like Bridgeway – that have led the district in test score results. Does that mean they’re better schools?

“No,” she answered, explaining that test scores are mostly a reflection of “the socioeconomic area” and not of the quality of schools.

Nevertheless, northern schools need more help:

“They definitely have more facility needs because their schools are older,” said Kirby-Gonzalez. “The teachers do a nice job making the rooms look pretty, but you pull off a poster and the wall is falling apart and bad things are happening”

Despite that, she said, some of the north-city schools are doing great things – such as Elkhorn’s partnership with UC Davis that brings teaching help into local classrooms.

What, exactly, does a school board member do besides end meetings on Thursday nights?

“I think one of the biggest things is listening to the community and being visible to the community,” answered Kirby-Gonzalez. “Also, studying policy so that kids are getting the best environment in the classrooms. And also evaluating the superintendent.”

She noted that before she became a board member, WUSD had just been through a recession and had to make serious budget cuts.

“Some of it has come back, but of course we’d like more,” she said. “Now, there’s busing again at the high school. One of the issues was that kids who stayed late at school for sports didn’t have a bus, and now there’s a bus.”

Fixing up school facilities remains a major need.

“We already have our capital improvement plan which identifies over $200 million in needs,” she commented. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle. . . We need expansion – some of our places are overflowing, like Bridgeway (Elementary School). And even the high school is going to need another wing. In terms of new programs, I’d like to see more professional development for teachers.”

Kirby-Gonzalez and her board colleagues have created Measure V, a $49.8 million bond, on the November 4 ballot to try to take a bite out of some of those facilities projects.

The district is doing a good job implementing the new “Common Core” standards, said Kirby-Gonzalez. And she likes the new standards.

“There are people who worry about it being a federal takeover and there are people who worry that it’s too open-ended for kids, but I think on the whole it’s much better than the ’97 standards,” said the candidate.  She added that writing is much more important in the new standards.

Kirby-Gonzalez will try to defend her seat on the November 4 ballot. Also running for two available seats are challengers Norma Alcala and Joshua Alves. You can find more information about her at www.Sarah4Schools.com or on Facebook.

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Johannessen: excited about streetcar, striving to be accessible

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 29, 2014 —   EDITOR’S NOTE: During every West Sacramento election campaign, the News-Ledger invites every candidate to sit down for an in-depth talk on the issues.  This interview completes our series on November city council candidates. We’ve already brought you a look at Chris Ledesma and Jeff Lyon. Candidate Nancy Heth-Tran declined to be interviewed.

MARK JOHANNESSEN: seeking another term on West Sacramento's City Council. (News-Ledger file photo)

MARK JOHANNESSEN: seeking another term on West Sacramento’s City Council.
(News-Ledger file photo)

By Steve Marschke News-Ledger Editor Mark Johannessen is happy with the way things are going in West Sacramento, and he’s asking voters for another four years on the city council. “We’ve got a lot of unfinished business,” he told the News-Ledger this week. “We have the streetcar project we need to keep focused on, we have the transition of the Pioneer Bluffs we need to keep working on. The Washington neighborhood is going to be coming in fast, particularly with the streetcar coming in. . . and we’re going to have to continue to work with the port.” On the topic of the Port of West Sacramento, he added, it has been a good move leasing the whole troubled operation to SSA Marine: “We were bleeding before they came in, and now we’re in the black.” Johannessen, a family law lawyer, settled in West Sacramento in 2000 after what he calls a “nomadic” international career. He grew up in San Pedro and Redding, earning a college degree from Chico State and an MBA in taxation at Golden Gate University. He then worked for Price Waterhouse in accounting and went to law school. Price Waterhouse sent him from Newport Beach to Amsterdam. Then Johannessen sought out something even more foreign than Amsterdam: “I sent a resume to every law firm in Japan,” he recalls. “I got a job with a Japanese law firm and moved to Tokyo. . . Amsterdam is foreign, but it’s really kind of European. Japan is really foreign – you get off the plane and can’t read a thing.” But he discovered that “after six years or so out of the country, you kind of lose your base.” So he moved back to Sacramento and opened a general law practice – “whatever came through the door.” He transitioned into family law in 1993. Shopping for a new home in the region, he found West Sacramento in 2000. Johannessen now lives in the Gateway subdivision in Southport. “My wife is a forensic pathologist and my daughter is a UC San Diego student,” he said. “I wasn’t originally planning on running for anything at that point,” Johannessen remarked. “After a couple of years, I became involved with the Chamber of Commerce as a board member and also helped start the Neighbors Fair, a cultural fair that we did for eight or so years, and helped start the West Sacramento Community Theater, and just generally doing community benefit work in West Sacramento.” “Then I decided that if you want a seat at the decision-making table, you’ve got to run.” Johannessen, age 58,  lost his first bid for city council, in 2004, but won in 2006 and was re-elected four years later. Among the things he’s excited about is the Sacramento-West Sacramento streetcar project, which is slated to start in the next few years with a spur across the Tower Bridge to West Capitol Avenue. “I think the streetcar is going to be huge,” he commented. “One of the things I would like to see is wireless streetcar technology. We’re going to have a fuel cell public fueling station on South River Road. If we could get hydrogen-powered fuel cell streetcars that don’t need overhead wires, we could potentially get them as far as this Nugget shopping center,” Johannessen commented, gesturing around the parking lot near the site of this Southport interview. “Once you have that, you have a basic park-and-ride situation. If you want to go to (the new Sacramento arena), or you want to go to midtown, or you want to get to the airport when they have light rail out there, you come to this parking lot and park here.” Johannessen is also enthusiastic about the “Code for America” project coming to West Sacramento and the region, with the goal of providing programmers to help create new city government efficiencies through data and software. The councilman is himself handy with digital media. One example of a project that Code for America could tackle: “When you ship with UPS, you go on the UPS website and it shows exactly where the package is, and when it checked in and when it checked out. What if you did something like that with building permits, so you know exactly where that document is and have links to the appropriate documents?” Johannessen said he is supportive of the city’s major development plans so far – such as the master plans for Southport, the Bridge District and the Washington neighborhood. He does have some quibbles, but is hopeful that any planning glitches get fixed as time goes by. For example, Southport has been designed as a community of several distinct “villages”: “One of the things about the village concept is you have to make sure you put the shopping centers in the village centers, and that hasn’t happened.” But it probably will for future villages, he said. And Johannessen has been leading a “stakeholders” group tackling the issue of the homeless population in West Sacramento (see the related article in today’s News-Ledger). The group has come up with a strategic plan. “It’s pretty modest,” said Johannessen. “It’s not about ending homelessness, it’s about reducing the impact of the homeless on neighbors and helping some folks that are homeless. . . We’re doing a 120-day trial period to locate housing for 71 (homeless) folks in West Sacramento. We’re looking at different spots to do this with supportive services and. . . get them straightened out and then provide more permanent housing for them. It’s only 120 days, it’s a pilot program.” The housing project won’t make the city a “magnet” for the homeless, he believes. “The list is already closed for housing,” said Johannessen. “Anybody who comes into West Sacramento is pretty much subject to zero tolerance – move on. We don’t want to be a magnet.” In this council race, Johannessen faces fellow incumbent Chris Ledesma and challenger Jeff Lyon. Voters are asked to pick two on Tuesday. Johannessen has endorsed Mayor Cabaldon and said that he supports Ledesma, although the two are competitors in the race and he has given no endorsement. Johannessen believes he knows what it takes to serve on the council. “You’ve got to be engaged in the community,” he said. “People view you as the valve between them and the city. You have to be accessible and you have to answer your calls.”   Do you like what you see here?   You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.   You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605). Copyright News-Ledger 2014