Tag Archives: election

Final vote tallies in West Sac:

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 12, 2014 —

In West Sacramento, Tuesday was a great night for incumbents.

As voters cast their ballots in the November 4 general election, it seemed they were trying to show they were happy with the current direction of the local school district and city government.

In the mayor’s race, current mayor Christopher Cabaldon took 83.8 percent of the vote, or 5,976 ballots. His challenger, Narinderpal Singh Hundal, was left with 1,156 votes (16.2 percent).

West Sacramento voters were asked to pick two people for the city council, and they picked the two incumbents:

Mark Johannessen led the voting in that race with a vote percent of 42.1 percent (5,030 ballots cast), followed by Christopher Ledesma, with 36.6 percent (36.6 percent).

Challengers Nancy Heth-Tran (11.8 percent, or 1,410 votes) and Jeff Lyon (9.5 percent, 1,137 votes) fared less well.

Since voters were allowed to cast two votes in the race, their “ballot percentage” could be higher. For example, Johannessen’s name was on two-thirds of the ballots (66.7 percent).

West Sacramento voters were likewise asked to fill two seats on the board of trustees for the Washington Unified School District. Only one incumbent, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, was defending a seat.

She was returned to the board at the head of the three-person pack, with a vote percentage of 42.9 percent (4,445 votes). Joining her on the board will be challenger Norma Alcala (37.1 percent, 3,844 votes).

Fellow challenger Joshua Alves earned 2,084 votes, or 20.1 percent.

Local voters approved a $49.8 million school bond, “Measure V,” by a strong majority. The bond is meant to raise money to fix and upgrade local campuses.

Measure V needed 55 percent of the vote to pass. It earned 4,758 votes, for 66.6 percent. A total of 2,391 voters said “no.” The win stretched across all precincts.

The Yolo County Elections Department reports a turnout of 7,509 voters in West Sacramento – 32.9 percent of the city’s 22,800 registered voters.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sac elections: a good night for the incumbents


As early returns came in from today’s voting, West Sacramento voters appeared to be happy with the local status quo.  The early and unofficial tally so far:


Christopher Cabaldon (incumbent): 3,431 votes or 84.7%

Narinderpal Hundal: 621 votes, or 15.3%



Mark Johannessen (incumbent): 2,956 votes, or 69.1% of the ballot

Chris Ledesma (incumbent): 2,492 votes, or 58.3% of the ballot

Nancy Heth-Tran: 791 votes, or 18.5% of the ballot

Jeff Lyon: 680 votes, or 15.9% of the ballot



Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez (incumbent): 2,576 votes, or 60.2% of the ballot

Norma Alcala: 2,266 votes, or 53% of the ballot

Joshua R. Alves: 1,133 votes, or 26.5% of the ballot



Yes: 2,776 votes, or 67.7%

No: 1,327 votes, or 32.3%


The News-Ledger will provide a final report in next Wednesday’s edition.

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.


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.

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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

Ledesma sees city on ‘tremendous run’

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 22, 2014 —

  EDITOR’S NOTE: The News-Ledger’s interviews with those running for local office continue. Here is the result or our conversation with City Council member Chris Ledesma. It was first published in our Oct. 22 print edition.

CHRIS LEDESMA (News-Ledger photo)

(News-Ledger photo)

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

“To be a good, effective council member, it’s work,” reports Chris Ledesma, who has been on West Sacramento’s city council for one four-year term. He’d like some more of that work.

What has Ledesma learned from that first stint on the council?

“The first two years, I was a sponge,” he answered. “I tried to be effective on things I knew most. The last year and a half or two years, I kind of found my footing and figured out how things work and how to affect small changes and how to work on things in the neighborhoods.”

“I have learned that the city is on a tremendous run,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success.”

Ledesma joined the council in 2010 after the worst recession the city government had ever experienced.

“When I came into office in 2010,” he commented, “the budget was the main focus. We were still coming out of the recession. The prior council did a remarkable job of trying to keep services intact, trying to keep fiscally sound until whatever the ‘new normal’ was established itself. We were able to continue doing that. The budget’s in balance.”

“We are on a run because we were able to diversify,” he added, “and we have been able to grow in the Bridge District, we have been able to establish the Washington neighborhood as an emerging neighborhood with really huge growth potential. Southport has been really stable. Our retail segment at Riverpoint shopping area has been a really great provider of sales tax (for the city), with Ikea and the other stores.”

But you still have to “mind the store” of city government, he said, and there’s still not a lot of daylight between a break-even city budget and a deficit. For instance, there are personnel costs:

“You still have health care, for current and retired (employees). You have PERS (public employee retirement systems) obligations.”

But on the more exciting side of the ledger, said Ledesma, you have some ambitious development and some good news at the Port of West Sacramento – which had been hemorrhaging city money.

The northern Washington neighborhood, he said, “will be the next cool neighborhood, along with the Bridge District.” And:

“We’ve made huge inroads at the port, being able to lease the operations out and being able to get out of the port business, which we weren’t really good at.”

Now a private company pays the city a flat rate to lease the port, and that company carries the responsibility of finding cargo.

Sometimes on a city council, you have one person who promotes grand urban visions and another who concentrates on fixing the potholes reported by his constituents. Which kind is Ledesma?

“That’s a good question,” he answered. “I think I’m somewhere in between. I see myself as a pragmatic, operational, quasi-visionary person but I like to get my hands dirty a little bit. I like to talk to staff about the direction we’re going in on budget issues, . . . on hotel deals and Washington projects.”

As an example of a neighborhood issue:

“I was really trying to push to get sidewalks and improvements in front of Our Lady of Grace School and across the Clarksburg Branch Trail at Linden,” said Ledesma. “I said to staff, we need to include this in our grant proposals for some of the Clarksburg Branch Trail, because it’s really very dangerous for kids.”

Some kids are riding to school along the busy Linden Road corridor, he said, and others were crossing Linden to get to school on the trail. All those kids mixing with cars wasn’t safe, he said.

Ledesma said he also played a role when the state abolished local “redevelopment agencies,” taking away a valued local tool used for financing development. The city has found a pretty good “workaround” for that problem, he said, as evidenced by the new infrastructure financing mechanism created for the grand plans of the Bridge District along the city waterfront.

Ledesma chaired the city task force that helped create the new local mechanism and win approval of it from the legislature and governor.

“We were basically able to say that in this area, it’s going to work somewhat like redevelopment, except that it’s only going to affect the portion (of tax revenues) that’s the city’s,” he said. “We can create a fund and basically reinvest in ourselves.”

Ledesma said he believes is he is part of an effective and collegial West Sacramento City Council.  He agrees with the council’s current choice of top priorities, which starts with flood control and goes from there:

“We have a streetcar which is a huge priority, and bridges are a high priority.”

Has he any regrets from his first term?

“What could be done better?” responded Ledesma. “The hotel project (on the riverfront) – we still haven’t made that happen.”

But that project still isn’t dead yet, he added. Hotel operator Marriott would still like to take on that project if the right developer and the right time ever come together.

What about the criticism from city council challenger Jeff Lyon that the current council is too soft on crime?

“Look, there are problems in every city,” answered Ledesma. “No city has figured out homelessness, there are crimes in every city. . . I believe we are doing well, but I do know the work that has to be done. I don’t believe that tearing down the city is the leadership the city wants.”

The new police chief, Tom McDonald, is “terrific,” he said. The department has added more community policing, as well as programs to put officers and volunteers on bike patrols.

“I’ve seen them at work,” Ledesma said of the bike officers. “It totally disarms people because (the officers’) feet are on the ground, and they’re not hidden behind cars.”

Ledesma grew up in South Sacramento (“a tough part of town”) and Greenhaven, and earned a degree in information and communication studies from Chico State.

Ledesma, 47, officially became a resident of West Sacramento in 1996 when he married Maria Simas (current president of the West Sacramento Foundation). After living in the Park Boulevard area, they moved to their current home along east Linden Road. The couple has two kids at Our Lady of Grace private school.

What’s Ledesma’s “day job”?

“I work as a senior manager at Wells Fargo,” he reports. “I help oversee our small business lending division. I oversee a bunch of groups including technology, marketing and government relations.”

Before joining the council, Ledesma spent nine years on the city planning commission.

He and fellow council member Mark Johannessen are both running to keep their seats during next month’s election. Joining them in the race is challenger Jeff Lyon.

For more information on Ledesma, visit www.chrisledesma.com.

  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

Norma Alcala hopes to become ‘most accessible’ school board member

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 15, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  Editor’s note: during every local election, the News-Ledger newspaper endeavors to present to you an interview with each of the people running for office in West Sacramento. In this edition of our print newspaper, we carried an interview with city council candidate Jeff Lyon, as well as this talk with a school board candidate. Enjoy.

NORMA ALCALA News-Ledger photo

News-Ledger photo

Norma Alcala hopes to get elected to a West Sacramento school board that she feels is already doing a great job.

“I’m proud of everyone on the school board,” she told the News-Ledger last week. “We have an excellent school board.”

If she’s voted in, Alcala said she would concentrate on sharing ideas with both the schools and the community.

“I want to be the most accessible school board member,” she commented. “I give everyone my cell phone number, 916-821-9639. People have to feel – parents, especially – that somebody is reaching out.”

That meshes with her view on the fundamentals of a school board member’s job duties.

“I think accessibility is the most important thing – the willingness to listen to what people have to say, to learn from what people have to say, to invite people into the conversation and find out what their concerns are and what great ideas they might have,” she said. “As a board member, I plan on visiting every one of the schools at least once a month and making myself available to hear what the parents have to say, the teachers have to say and the kids have to say.”

Alcala, 53, is married. She and her husband own (but don’t themselves run) a business that distributes “interlock” systems which can be installed on cars to prevent the ignition from working if the driver fails a breathalyzer test for alcohol.  The couple lives in The Rivers, a north-city subdivision.

Alcala doesn’t currently have any children or grandchildren in Washington Unified School District schools. But her kids went to school locally and have earned college degrees. Alcala holds an Associates of Arts degree in Sacramento before having to leave college and help support her family.

Alcala is the president of the local Democratic club and is active in the Chicano-Latino caucus of the state Democrats. Earlier this year, Alcala unsuccessfully challenged local Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas for his seat.

Her community involvement also involves volunteer duties with Holy Cross Church..

“I’ve always been involved in the schools since my children were young, and I’ve always been on the board of the PTA for my children’s schools,” she explained. “I continued that with my grandchildren.”

Last year, when a grandchild was attending Westmore Oaks Elementary School, Alcala helped out there, wielding a broom and mop to refurbish a school room.

“I went in there and swept windows, I cleaned window boxes that hadn’t been used. It became a beautiful functional room that everybody could use. I helped my daughter with a (school) carnival, with movie nights they had, with a library affair, and with every (school) function.”

Alcala supports Measure V – the school bond on November’s ballot. She believes local student test scores are headed up, and local teachers are dealing well with the new “Common Core” curriculum mandates. She also believes Washington Unified is responsibly managing its money.

“My understanding is it’s probably the best fiscally maintained district in Yolo County,” said Alcala. “It’s been very carefully managed. . . the majority of the monies are going to the children.”

The local teachers union has endorsed Alcala along with incumbent board member Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez (who is a teacher working in a different district).

“I’ve been endorsed by the teachers as well as Sarah, because they know of our strong commitment to education,” said Alcala. “She’s a teacher, but I’ve always been involved in the schools at a lot of levels.” (Her teachers’ endorsement comes from the local teachers’ union.)

Alcala doesn’t wish to change the district’s priorities, but she does allow that she would like to see more programs in the arts and “perhaps more labs” to prepare local kids for jobs of the future. And she would like to find more grant money and more private partners – perhaps, as an acquaintance in another school district reports, to provide local children with refurbished computers they can take home.

Alcala also said West Sacramento – despite the honors it has received for promoting “universal preschool” – doesn’t really have universal preschool. Not every family is choosing it.

“We have wonderful (preschool) programs here, but we don’t have universal preschool,” she explained. “Universal preschool would mean that every child of that age would have it. We have to do that outreach. The (educational) foundation is so important.”

Alcala finds herself on the November 4 ballot facing off with Kirby-Gonzalez and Joshua Alves.

Voters will be asked to pick two of them for the board of trustees on Washington Unified School District.

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