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$375 for a ticket to a nose-bleed seat?



  Note: This column was written the day after game one of this year’s World Series, when actually winning the World Series still seemed like a long shot to me and many other Northern California baseball fans of the San Francisco Giants. It sure was fun to be wrong!   

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Columnist

For those of you who follow professional baseball, you know that the San Francisco Giants have somehow managed to get themselves into this year’s World Series. It was an improbable journey, beginning with winning their own division, something that all the analysts and prognosticators thought would be impossible for them to do, especially after their hated rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, made a blockbuster mid-year trade that brought them some of the best (and most expensive) players in the game.  But by using great pitching, solid defense and some timely hitting, the Giants surprisingly ran away with their division and found themselves in the first round of the playoffs, where they immediately dropped the first two games of that five-game series at home to the Cincinnati Reds, who along with the Washington Nationals, were considered the favorites to win the National League pennant.

Then, with their backs to the wall, the Giants traveled to Cincinnati and did the unthinkable by winning all three of those elimination games on the road, which qualified them to meet the high-flying St. Louis Cardinals (who had beaten the Nationals) in the seven-game National League Championship Series.

Like the Cincinnati Reds before them, the Cardinals quickly jumped on the Giants and had them facing another three elimination games, and to the amazement of Giant fans everywhere, their team won all of them, including game seven in a blowout. So, as I write this, the Giants not only find themselves in this year’s World Series, but they have pulled off another minor-miracle by winning the first game of it by the unlikely score of 8-3, a truly remarkable feat since they were facing arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball, Detroit’s Justin Verlander. And that finally brings me to my little story.

When I was about 12 years old, I went to a Pacific Coast League All Star game at old Edmonds Field in downtown Sacramento, the goal being to get some autographs of the players who would soon be stars in the big leagues. More specifically, I went to the game to get the autography of Willie McCovey, who everyone said would be the next great San Francisco Giant, which had been my favorite baseball team since they moved from New York to the City by the Bay. And when I snuck into the clubhouse after the game and somehow got Willie to sign my scorecard for me, I was in heaven! So, from that day on, I have been a loyal and long-suffering Giants fan, and to suddenly see them have a chance to be in the World Series yet again (they won it all in 2010 for the first time in SF team history) was a dream come true.

“Dad,” said my daughter the other day with obvious concern, “I think it’s time for you to do a little clothes shopping. Every time I see you, you’re wearing the same exact outfit.”

“Oh, that’s just because the Giants have been winning all those elimination games lately,” I tried to explain.

“What?” asked my daughter, not having a clue what I was talking about.

“Baseball players – and their fans – are very superstitious,” I said, “and I’m just doing my small part not to jinx anything.”

“By wearing the same clothes every day?”

“More or less.”

“Are you wearing the same underwear, too?” asked my daughter with disgust.

“No, of course not.  Just my jeans and sweater.”

“That’s crazy, Dad. You know that, right.”


Anyway, there I was the other night after the Giants had beaten the Cardinals in the seventh and deciding game of the NLCS (and still wearing my lucky outfit) when my youngest son came up to me and proudly announced that he and one of his best friends had decided they wanted to go to game one of the World Series in San Francisco.

“But tickets to that game will cost you a small fortune,” I told him.

“Tell me about it,” said my son, who then told me they had already gone online and bought the tickets.

“So how much were they?” I asked with concern.

“Well, decent seats started at about $750 and went way up from there, but Kevin and I found a couple of tickets way up in the nose bleed section one row from the very top of the stadium on the third base side for $375 each, so we bought them.”

“You got to be kidding me!” I said, shocked that my youngest son, who is on a very tight budget, would pay that kind of money to watch a baseball game.  “Look, no one likes the Giants more than I do, but I would never pay that kind of money for a seat up in the sky to watch a baseball game.”

“But Dad, wasn’t it you who told me to always follow my bliss?”

“Well, yes, but….”

“Well, my bliss is currently leading me right to AT&T Park in San Francisco to watch the Giants play the Tigers in game one of the World Series.”

[adrotate group=”9″]   “But by the time you pay for gas, bridge tolls, $50 parking, food at the ballpark and those incredibly over-priced tickets, you’re talking at least $500 each! Plus the Giants are facing Justin Verlander in the first game and they’ll be lucky to get a hit, much less a run that might win the game. That’s probably going to be one of the most boring games in World Series history, especially if you’re a Giants fan.”

“Look, you’re not talking me out of it, Dad. And you’re the one always talking about how we only get this one little `single instant’ here on earth, and when I get to be really old like you, I want to be able to say I saw a San Francisco Giants World Series game!”

So, to make a long story short, not only did my youngest son go to game one of the 2012 World Series, he also got to see the festive Opening Ceremonies (including what was apparently an awesome `fly over’ since from his $375 seat at the very top of the stadium he could almost reach up and touch the jets as they flew by). In addition, he got to witness Barry Zito somehow beat Justin Verlander , which was almost as miraculous as Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval hitting three home runs in his first three World Series at bats, something that had never happened in the whole history of baseball.

“You know,” I said to my son after he had happily returned home from seeing one of the most memorable games in World Series history, “I’m still thinking that you throwing away all that hard-earned money on a baseball game you could have watched for free at home on TV means I didn’t raise you right.”

“Well,” said my son with a big smile, “if you ask me, I think it means you did raise me right!”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Free shade trees to plant


The City of West Sacramento may give you two large, 15-gallon trees and stakes for planting at your home. 10 species to choose from. To qualify, you must attend one of the upcoming tree planting workshops scheduled for Nov. 7, Jan. 9 or March 6. Call 617-4620.

[adrotate group=”9″] Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Miss a candidate interview? Look here:


Still making up your mind about whom to vote for on the West Sacramento ballot on Tuesday?

Want to help a friend learn more about the folks running for city council or school board?

Here are links to the News-Ledger’s interviews with each of the candidates in these contested local races. Share this page with a friend, or click to visit an interview:

Candidates for West Sacramento City Council

Candidates for the school board of the Washington Unified School District

Copyright News-Ledger 2012



  EDITOR’S NOTE: The West Sacramento News-Ledger newspaper traditionally invites every candidate in a local election to sit down for a published interview. This year, we had the chance to do this with every candidate in the contested local elections (school board and city council; the mayor’s race is uncontested). Below is the last in this series of interviews — our chat with school board member Mary Leland, which was published on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Mary Leland has had a rough year, with the loss of both a parent and a son. But after some soul-searching, she decided to run for a third term as a board member of the Washington Unified School District.

MARY LELAND: Hire the best, and give them encouragement, she says (News-Ledger photo)

“I have been through a lot of tragedies this year,” she told the News-Ledger. “But in the end, I’m not ready to step back and let go of all that motion forward. . . I want to show the community that I’m in it for the long haul.”

Leland, 62, is the chief fundraiser for Sacramento City College, with a master’s degree in education. She came to West Sacramento in 2001, and was encouraged to run for the school board by local business leaders, she reports.

How has WUSD changed since Leland took a seat on the school board?

“Broadly, I think we are providing a much safer environment in terms of the culture of the schools and having students interact with one another,” she said. “A lot of that comes from facilities updates. Changing the environment led to a different culture.”

She points to the remodel at Riverbank Elementary, in the less-affluent north of the city.

“Next to the new high school, one of my proudest moments was watching the Riverbank conversion,” Leland stated. “It really gives them the classrooms and technology they need. They have state-of-the-art technology that (even) our southern schools don’t have.”

The school board has helped bring a new level of professionalism to the district administration, she added.

“From my administrative viewpoint – as board members, we’re all managers – a lot of policies and processes have been put in place to get the work done in a different way. . . I think we’ve brought it to a much more academically professional level. I still think we have a way to go.”

Has the school board of 2012 been functional?

“I think we know how to work together,” she said of the four people now on the board. (The board is in flux: board president Teresa Blackmer is retiring, and board member David Westin, like Leleand, is up for election.)

[adrotate group=”7″]   The district has faced big budget cuts due to state-wide problems. What kind of shape is WUSD in?

“I’m going to say good, because we still have an A+ bond rating,” she answered. “We’re in the black. We’re very fearful of what will happen if Proposition 30 does not pass.”

She supports state proposition 30 – the governor’s measure which would use new taxes partly to help stabilize the state’s own fiscal situation.

How good are WUSD’s schools?

“We’ve gained 82 points in API (student test results) over eight years,” said Leland. “I don’t put that down to the year I was (board) president or so-and-so was president. Over eight years, we as the board, the staff, and certainly the students and school sites have improved by 82 points.”

Leland called this year’s one-point decline in API a “plateau.” To what did she credit recent gains?

“You hire the best teachers, the best principals, and the best administrators you can, and you encourage them to do their work,” she answered.

Where does school instruction go from here?

“We’re looking at innovative strategies in ‘instructional rounds’ and innovative curriculums in science and math,” she said.

“Instructional rounds” include teams of school staff from different campuses, visiting school sites to share techniques and information.

“The teams are made up of different levels of staff,” she said. “You’ll have a principal from one site joining a round at another site.”

Leland feels that charter schools should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and she praised one of them – the Early College Prep academy at the former Westmore Oaks site.

“They’ve had a hard time getting started, but I think they’re going to do great,” she said. “That charter school meets a need for so many students” as does the Sikh-operated charter school, said Leland.

“Overall, just having blanket charter schools because there’s a perception that public schools aren’t doing their jobs – I’d say no.”

If the district receives more funding, where should the money go?

“I think we’re all interested in the north area and really doing something special there. Career technology education speaks to a menu of options for kids – not every child will go to college, but it is our responsibility to prepare them for life.” And “we really need to focus on math,” she added.

Leland said she endorses WUSD challenger Katie Villegas, is impressed by challenger Alicia Cruz, and “can work with” fellow incumbent David Westin if they’re both elected.
Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to select from among these and other candidates.

  Do you like what you see here?

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

News-Ledger ballot recommendations:



As West Sacramentans go to the polls during the next week, the community seems to be facing another local election in which most citizens seem fairly happy with the job their city and school district officials are doing.

The mayor faces no opposition on the ballot. Only one challenger is running for city council. And, while a handful of candidates are fighting for spots on the school board, they are in general part of a “let’s make things a bit better” effort as opposed to a “throw the rascals out” groundswell.

The News-Ledger has had a chance to talk with everybody in these contested races, and here are our views as to the best choices on the local ballot:
For city council, there is some clarity among the choices. Two incumbents face a challenge from professional boxer Oleg Maskaev. Incumbents Oscar Villegas and Bill Kristoff clearly have the advantage based on their familiarity with West Sacramento issues and their knowledge of managing a city. Kristoff and Villegas should both be returned for another term.

In the race for three seats on the Washington Unified School District, there is talent spread among a bigger pool of challengers. First, it must be said that Mary Leland is a steady and solid hand among the current school board, and she should be returned for another term.

Second, it’s obvious that Katie Villegas is the best qualified among the challengers – she has experience operating in the corporate-style management structure of the school district, and she understands at least theoretically what a school board should do and (equally important) what it shouldn’t do. She makes a fine choice for a board seat.

[adrotate group=”10″]   For the third available slot, both incumbent David Westin and challenger Alicia Cruz would make sensible choices. Cruz has experience that includes a PTA presidency and membership on the board of directors of a local community group, and she would be a good school board member. Westin’s performance as a board member is far from perfect, but his push for school performance has been of value to Washington Unified. While he certainly does not deserve full credit for the district’s recent gains in student test scores (gains which stalled this year), he deserves a portion of the credit.

Partly because of this, and partly because he is a known quantity, Westin is the better choice for the third available seat.

As a local community newspaper, the News-Ledger in general will refrain from offering opinions on regional, state and local ballot issues.  With one exception:

The governor’s Proposition 30 is an attempt to stabilize California’s shaky fiscal foundation. Its passage or failure will impact local governments and school districts. Voters should vote for Prop. 30, and they should urge their friends and neighbors to do the same.

Voting by mail? Yolo County Clerk Freddie Oakley tells us that a single 45-cent (or Forever stamp) will be enough to make sure this year’s Yolo ballot makes it to the elections department. The ballot isn’t thick enough this year to require extra postage.

Mail your ballot early to be in time for election day next Tuesday!


  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012



  EDITOR’S NOTE: This News-Ledger has interviewed each of the candidates running for city council and school board in West Sacramento this fall. Below is the article resulting from our chat with Oscar Villegas, the city councilman seeking another term. We hope these interviews help you make an informed choice at the polls.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

OSCAR VILLEGAS: believes city getting safer, more family-friendly (News-Ledger photo)

Oscar Villegas is pleased with what he and the rest of the city government have accomplished since he was first elected to the West Sacramento City Council in 2000.

“In 2000, I ran for several reasons,” he told the News-Ledger. “I felt there was no voice for families on the council at that time. There was not a lot of affordable, quality child care (in the city), and not a lot of programs for kids, or a lot of libraries. And I thought there should be more emphasis on public safety. And I had just served two years on the planning commission, and I knew there were some decisions coming up that were going to affect the city forever.”

So what kind of progress does he feel there’s been since 2000?

“I feel so good about it,” said Villegas. “I’d point to the new library first of all. I was on the library committee even before I was on the city council or planning commission. As for the expansion of preschool and afterschool programs, these didn’t exist before I was elected. We’ve also placed a lot of emphasis on public safety, and our neighborhoods are safer because of this.”

How is public safety – police and fire protection – doing?

“Pretty good,” he answered, “despite all the cuts and the fiscal situation we’re in.”

Villegas, 46, is married to Katie Villegas (now a school board candidate) and the couples live in Southport with their two kids. His day job for the state of California is related to law enforcement, which he believes gives him a window into crime and public safety.

“I administer state and federal juvenile and adult reentry dollars,” Villegas said.

“Reentry” refers to programs that try to transition inmates from jails and prisons back into society, without creating too much new crime. There’s a lot of “reentry” going on as California and its local jurisdictions try to trim prison populations to save money in these tough times.

“Every day, a huge number of people are released from the prisons into our communities,” Villegas commented.

The three-term council veteran agrees with his colleagues’ consensus that flood protection is West Sacramento’s top priority.

“If we’re all underwater, nothing else matters,” he opined. “This is our number-one challenge. It will continue to be our number-one challenge for a long time, although we’ve been progressing very nicely (on the levees).”

How well have the mayor and council been working together to lead the city?

“It’s been pretty functional,” Villegas answered. “I talk to a lot of elected officials throughout the state. (West Sacramento’s council is) pretty fortunate – we see eye-to-eye on a lot of the big policy issues. How we may get there is different, but, as far as getting to an end result, we’re pretty well aligned. We’re not engaged in a lot of bickering and arguing.”
[adrotate group=”10″]  Villegas is proud of the town’s emerging downtown, on display near city hall, the community center, city college branch and library – all near the 1000-block of West Capitol Avenue.

“We committed to creating a downtown in West Sacramento,” he said. “Who knew we would be walking around our downtown enjoying ourselves on West Capitol? I sure as heck wouldn’t have have wanted my daughter taking classes at the city college site and crossing the street at night (in the past). Now, I encourage it.”

And he’s happy with the city’s progress in bringing new retail here – for example, the Ikea center near I-80 and Reed Avenue.

“The retail centers off the freeway have attracted the kind of retail everybody wanted,” he said. “Before that, it was a standing joke that you couldn’t buy a pair of underwear in West Sacramento.”

But the council said no to other proposals for the land – including an Indian gaming casino – while holding out for retail.

“We knew beyond a doubt that if we could land Ikea, we would be in the driver’s seat. We could go out and recruit (more) retail.”

There are a lot of empty storefronts in West Sacramento. Is that the fault of city leaders?

“It’s largely driven by ‘rooftops,’” he answered. “There’s a threshold that retail needs to reach in terms of sheer numbers of people in order to be able to fill those storefronts with retail. Some of those storefronts were build in anticipation of continuing the growth pattern we were having, and the growth slowed down. But it will come back.”

What sort of the fiscal shape is the City of West Sacramento in? Pretty good, thinks Villegas.

“We didn’t take the approach that many cities did when things were falling apart in 2008 and 2009, saying ‘oh my God, let’s just make some one time cuts and hope things get better.’”

Instead, said Villegas, West Sacramento’s leaders made structural cuts and opted for the “fiscal discipline” of planning a two-year budget.

“We’ve reduced out (city) workforce by just under 30 percent between 2008 and 2012,” he commented. “Those were well-paid management positions that we just couldn’t afford.”
How’s the climate for business in the city?

“I think it’s good,” he said. “We’re constantly being approached by people who want to do business in West Sacramento.”

Villegas supports Measure G, the city council’s advisory measure that acts residents for permission to use some of their local tax money to pursue infrastructure projects that might earlier have been helped along by the city’s redevelopment agency. The agency no longer exists, thanks to state law.

He’s a Democrat. Is that important in this race?

“I don’t think so,” answered Villegas. “(At first), I thought that it did. I have moved toward the center more than I thought I would. Although my values haven’t changed, my understanding of the need to ensure fiscal integrity has grown exponentially. If you’re not fiscally sound, you’re not going to be able to do anything.”

Has the city made any big policy mistakes since Villegas has been involved?

“I’m sure there are some, but none come to mind,” he answered.

Villegas said he expects to mount a serious political campaign to retain his city council  seat, although he believes the candidates will spend less this year on their campaigns than in more “flush” years. He and fellow incumbent Bill Kristoff are joined by challenger Oleg Maskaev in a bid for two seats on the city council.

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012



  EDITOR’S NOTE: The News-Ledger interviewed each candidate for West Sacramento’s city council and school board during the past couple of month, in an effort to help voters get to know them and their positions. Below is the result of our interview with school board incumbent David Westin, published in the newspaper on Oct. 24:

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

DAVE WESTIN: Believes in accountability for management of West Sacramento public school district (photo from WUSD website)

“Philosophically, I believe the district functions best when you have parents on the school board who have kids in the district,” said school board incumbent David Westin, who is seeking another term. “I think there’s a disconnect when people are using the school board as a stepping stone for city council or county supervisor.”

Westin and his family live in the Bridgeway Lakes part of Southport. He and his wife have had seven kids (one is deceased).

“I’m very proud to have children in the Washington Unified School District,” he told the News-Ledger. “I have one in first grade, one in third, and one will be entering kindergarten next fall.”

Westin is currently an executive for a German tech company. He has a bachelor’s degree in business finance from USC and an accounting certificate from Golden Gate University.

Westin believes that the district’s API performance is a meter of its recent success. In the two years preceding this one, WUSD saw its performance on this index of student test scores go up a total of 48 points. This year, there was a one-point slip.

“We’ve been able to change the culture in the district, and run it more like a business, with quantifiable goals and objectives,” he said. “During my two terms as board president, we were the top-rated school district in the state of California.”

That rating, he said, was based on the improvements in API scores.

How much is Westin responsible for the gains?

“I think I take some of the credit for being board president during those record-breaking years, and setting the vision that enabled us to achieve that,” he answered. “However, that said, the credit really goes to the administrators, staff, parents, teachers and the kids who did the work.”

Other positive signs for West Sacramento’s public school district include an increase in the state funding that comes in proportion to the “ADA,” or average daily attendance. Local schools are getting more ADA money because they are seeing more students from day to day in the classrooms.

“You’re seeing that in the additional $370,000 in ADA we’ve picked up,” said Westin. “That means two things – one, more people are putting their kids in the district, and two, the attendance rate has gone up so we’re engaging kids more effectively. . . The dropout rate has gone down significantly. It beats the county and state averages.”

So why did the API scores cease their upward climb this year?

Some of that is due to the economic instability of families, and to other changes like drawing new boundaries for local school attendance and changing the campuses attended by some kids, he said.

“This year, there was a one-point drop in API district-wide. There was a lot of that drop in the north. I would say that when we have families hurting, that’s going to affect the kids – they may not have stable home life or the resources to (compete).”

“There are districts like Natomas, Rancho Cordova, etc., that have fallen completely off the cliff with test scores. We’ve been able to hold steady.”

Westin believes “the current model is solid” and the school board “is doing a very good job” despite big cuts in state funding that have translated into harsh measures like reduction of most school bus service.

[adrotate group=”7″]   “I think the number-one challenge is money,” he commented.

He said he backs the political endorsements of the California School Boards Association, which urges “yes” votes on the governor’s Proposition 30 and Molly Munger’s Prop. 38 – both of which may use taxes in part to help out public schools.

If money starts to come back, where would Westin spend it?

“Number one is to reinstate busing,” he answered. I think that’s strategically important. Number two, is that the number-one issue from the parents’ perspective is to get kids to do their homework. So having more after-school homework support groups for kids is (my other) top priority.”

Another tactic to improve education:

“One of the things that will take the district to the next level is to implement a peer-to-peer program so that principals from different schools can go see how other schools in the district are run, and take ‘best practices.’ Also teachers – so a math teacher from, say, Riverbank can go see how math is taught at Bridgeway or how English is taught at Southport, or how they do it at Westmore Oaks. . . I think everyone has been focusing on taking the district to (this) level and this is what will take it to a higher level.”

What about charter schools: does Westin tend to approve of them, or disapprove of them?

“I don’t have a bias,” he answered. I am an independent person who can put children first, politics second. It’s a case-by-case basis (for considering them).”

What does a board member’s job description look like, according to this veteran school board member?

“Insuring there is accountability, transparency and bottom-line results.”

Westin reports having been endorsed by retiring board president Teresa Blackmer, current board member Adam Menke, challenger Alicia Cruz, the River City Democratic Club and the local teachers’ union.

Is Westin running hard for re-election to the board of trustees?

“I’m very active in walking precincts and I enjoy meeting the public,” he said. “One of the things that sets me apart from everybody else is, for the last eight years, I’ve had regular office hours at my house every Monday from 5-6.”

Interested people may call him at 376-0880 to schedule an appointment to talk about their WUSD concerns, said Westin.

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012