Tag Archives: mayor

West Sac’s college branch celebrates five years, lays plans to expand

Local college branch: five years old & hoping to grow  (News-Ledger photo)

Local college branch: five years old & hoping to grow (News-Ledger photo)

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 4, 2015 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

With public speakers, cookies and a martial arts performance, West Sacramento’s branch of Sacramento City College celebrated five years on West Capitol Avenue last Thursday afternoon.

The branch’s success, and the partnerships that helped bring that success, were themes of the day.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon noted that the college took a gamble on building the new center when demand for community college classes in West Sacramento was unproven. Previously, the college had only offered a limited number of classes in this city in borrowed classrooms. And the branch also took a gamble by choosing a site on troubled West Capitol Avenue – on a stretch that’s now partially redeveloped near city hall.

Cabaldon said the college’s leadership decided, “We’re going to open a new center – we’re going to double-down, triple down.”

And from the city’s point of view:

“We anchored our entire downtown, which didn’t exist, to this facility.”

Now the 1000-block of West Capitol includes the college, city hall, a transit center, community center and nearby library.

Mary Leland, an administrator at the college as well as a West Sacramento school board member, noted the “extraordinary partnerships” involved in the city’s college, school system and city programs.

The college’s local presence started in 1999 with three classrooms and a computer lab on Halyard Drive.

In 2010, it moved into its new three-story building at 1115 West Capitol Avenue, with 11 classrooms, a computer lab, and expanded course offerings. It combined with the college’s Downtown Center and serves about 2,600 students, according to its dean, Art Pimental.

ART PIMENTAL Dean of the West Sacramento branch of Sac City College (News-Ledger photo)

ART PIMENTAL
Dean of the West Sacramento branch of Sac City College
(News-Ledger photo)

“Roughly about 30 percent of our student body have West Sacramento addresses,” Pimental later told the News-Ledger. He also outlined the center’s expansion plans:

“Basically, the plans are to have two additional facilities here at the site,” said Pimental. “Two additional phases. At final buildout, the site will be approximately 80,000 square feet. The current facility is 25,000 square feet.

A 2008 state bond measure may help pay for Phase II.

“The district has approximately $5 million towards Phase II from Measure M,” Pimental explained. “Phase II will cost approximately $12 million.”

So building it will depend partly on help from state bond funds as well as continued enrollment growth. Best case scenario is that construction starts in 2017.

The new facility would be built next to the current structure, on a grassy area to the west close to Carol’s restaurant.  As for Phase III: there is no timeline yet, but construction would occur on the northern, parking-lot side of the current facility.

The next phase would allow the branch to serve more students, build a “wet lab,” and offer new courses that “reflect the needs of the community,” said Pimental.

A planned streetcar line coming to the site from across the Tower Bridge can only help with the branch’s success, he added.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

 

West Sacramento gets grant to help new urban farm program

Farmer Sara Bernal at the 5th & C urban farm soon after the new soil was trucked in. Neighbors include older homes, newer urban townhouses, a liquor store and the I Street Bridge. (News-Ledger photo/May, 2014)

Farmer Sara Bernal at the 5th & C urban farm soon after the new soil was trucked in. Neighbors include older homes, newer urban townhouses, a liquor store and the I Street Bridge. (News-Ledger photo/May, 2014)

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 28, 2015 —

The City of West Sacramento has received $40,000 in grants and in-kind donations for its urban farm program, courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. The city was one of four national winners in a program to support gardening and green spaces.

West Sacramento, partnering with the Center for Land-Based Learning, opened up an urban farm last year at the corner of 5th and C streets in the “Washington” neighborhood, near the I Street Bridge.

The new grant will help the partners improve that farm – including creation of a new “point of sale” farm stand – and pursue other urban farms in the city.

The farm is meant to help new young farmers launch their career, bring fresh produce to an underserved area, and create a positive use on a former vacant lot. City officials believe that eventually, courtesy of market forces, the temporary farm at 5th and C will give way to new development as the neighborhood is revitalized.

“The level of excitement and community support for the urban farming initiative has been extraordinary,” said Mayor Christopher Cabaldon in a city press release. “West Sacramento residents recognize urban farms as an asset and are eager to have more sites like our flagship 5th and C farm in our town. . . We will use the funds to improve livability and food access while increasing the visibility of West Sacramento as a regional food hub.”

Other grant-winners were Dallas, Texas; Rochester, New York; and Hartford, Connecticut. The winners were chosen by a panel of former mayors and national gardening experts.

   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 2015

South River Road: land use transition and rail safety become issues

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 21, 2015 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A petroleum “tank farm” has bumped up against concerns by city leaders about the safety of rail cars loaded with hazardous materials and also the about the changing role of South River Road in West Sacramento. The facility has sued the city about the dispute.

Buckeye Terminals operates a gas distribution facility on both sides of South River Road to serve local BP stations and other operators. As part of its operation at 1700 South River Road, the company has, until December, been operating under a series of “conditional use permits” by which it’s been allowed to bring some of its ethanol supply in by train. The last permit expired in December after the city planning commission opted not to renew it.

Meanwhile, West Sacramento officials – like others in the country and Canada – have become increasingly concerned by their lack of control over rail cars moving through the community or being parked in it. Rail operators like Union Pacific are largely immune from local regulation and they don’t have to disclose what’s in those parked cars, or even if they are full of hazardous materials or they’re empty.

Also, since the 1980s, that old industrial riverfront off of South River Road has been zoned to become something more urban and vibrant, although old land uses are “grandfathered in” as long as they don’t plan on making big changes to their operations. That strategic change in land use is now finally beginning to look imminent –last year’s opening of the Mike McGowan Bridge connecting South River Road to Southport, the likely construction of a new Sacramento River bridge connecting Broadway in Sacramento to the 15th Street area in West Sacramento, and the demolition of the old Cemex Silo just south of the freeway all look like early harbingers of that transition.

When the planning commission voted in November not to extend Buckeye’s rail permit, the company appealed the decision to the city council. The council listened on Dec. 17 (quotes below come from city video of that meeting).

Braiden Chadwick, an attorney for Buckeye, argued that the permit should be approved because moving the ethanol by rail is safer than the alternative.

“Rail traffic is not only safer than truck, but also is cleaner in terms of movement of hazardous materials,” he said. He added that in the last couple of years, “there’s been zero complaints out there” about rail crossings that impeded local traffic.

“There have been no accidents,” he added.

Braiden criticized staff for misidentifying ethanol cars and other petroleum product cars, and for putting too much blame on Buckeye for times when rail crossing arms were down at local intersections such as one on Jefferson Boulevard.

West Sacramento’s fire chief, Rick Martinez, said the decision between moving a limited amount of ethanol traffic from rail to truck was one of “managed risk.”

“We have, as I’ve stated in the past, no jurisdiction over the movement of rail in our community,” said Martinez. “These tanker cars come into our community, they sit for days. . . adjacent to housing, parks and obviously the terminal. With the migration from tank cars to truck, it’s just a ‘managed risk’ situation. It allows us to influence the speed at which they travel through our community, the route which they take, and where they’re stored overnight.”

City Councilman Bill Kristoff commented at the meeting that he had recently come off of westbound 80 at the South River Road exit, and drove past the water tank and Ironworks subdivision:

“As you look to the left, you saw 20-30 rail cars – I didn’t count them, but it took me by surprise,” said Kristoff. “I don’t know the rail business well enough to know why all of these cars have to stay in our community for as long as they stay, and at the same time we don’t get to know what’s in them. That’s sort of alarming to me.”

He noted that many of those cars probably do not contain product for Buckeye.

As the council readied for what would be a unanimous vote against issuing the permit, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon added:

“There is no animus toward the project and Buckeye.”

“We’re firmly committed to the transition of this area,” he said. “But the existing Buckeye facility is absolutely welcome to remain and operate at its existing site to the extend that it’s complying with the terms of its permits. If it’s not invading the public right of way or engaging in any otherwise illegal activity, it’s perfectly welcome to stay in our community in the South River Road district.”

He said it’s always been clear that the time would come when the city would stop making “extraordinary allowances to nonconforming uses” along South River Road, and that this time has come.

“The era where we would waive our policies around what this district is supposed to be – that era is coming to a close,” said Cabaldon.

Buckeye has filed a lawsuit over the decision, saying that putting the ethanol in trucks will increase the threat to public safety.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

West Sacramento gets new vice mayor, or ‘mayor pro tem’

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (right) is sworn in for another two-year term at the helm of the City of West Sacramento. (Photo & info from AL ZAGOFSKY/copyright News-Ledger 2014)

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (right) is sworn in for another two-year term at the helm of the City of West Sacramento. (Photo & info from AL ZAGOFSKY/copyright News-Ledger 2014)

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 24, 2014 —

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon was sworn in for another two-year term last Wednesday by Kryss Rankin, City Clerk. Cabaldon easily won re-election during the November local ballot.

Also reelected last month were city council members Mark Johannessen and Chris Ledesma, who each earned another four-year term from local voters.

Johannessen finished up a stint as ‘mayor pro tem’ last week. The council selected Chris Ledesma (whose face can be seen above, just left of Cabaldon) as ‘mayor pro tem’ for the coming year. It’s essentially a vice mayor’s post.

In West Sacramento, the mayor’s position is a two-year, separately-elected position. The other four members of the council receive four-year terms. Every two years, two of those seats go up for reelection.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

McGowan takes one last look back at his public service, Part III

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 17, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final piece in our three-part interview with Mike McGowan, who was West Sacramento’s first mayor and later its longtime county supervisor.
  We talked with McGowan in March, and that chat covered his view of a lot of the city’s history and his own experiences. We hope you enjoyed the series.

 You can find the other parts of the series here:

  Mike McGowan Looks Back, Part I and Mike McGowan Looks Back, Part II

_________

MIKE McGOWAN -- an elder statesman of West Sacramento and the region, believes he may have been a little pushy in his early years

MIKE McGOWAN — an elder statesman of West Sacramento and the region, believes he may have been a little pushy in his early years (News-Ledger photo)

There were some contentions battles in West Sacramento in the late ‘80s, soon after the city incorporated. Councilwoman Thelma Rogers left, and was replaced by Greg Potnick – who occasionally became the “1” in some 4-1 votes.

On the winning side of those votes were Mike McGowan, Fidel Martinez, Ray Jones and Bill Kristoff (who is still a councilman).

Later, Wes Beers joined the council as a frequent ally of Potnick, and there were some 3-2 votes on major planning issues. One of the splits centered around the city’s new master plan, which called for major industrial development in Southport near the port. The council majority supported that vision.

McGowan acknowledges those divisions, but they don’t loom large in his mind:

“I got along with Greg (Potnick),” he said. “My biggest challenge with Greg was getting to know him. He was a very closed kind of guy. I don’t remember how big of a deal that stuff was. I’m sure it was at the time.”

Partly, those divisions occurred because of the need to make some kind of progress and get the city off the ground, he said.

“It was important for us to create momentum, to create synergy,” he said. “Then, we were going from a dead stop (and) that’s just impossible to do without offending or hurting or ruffling a lot of feathers and making a lot of people mad at you. Making enemies.”

“We’ll fix it later,” he said was the attitude. “Let’s just get this car running.”

On the other hand, he allows, part of it was the fault of a young and callow Mike McGowan.

“My sin then was the arrogance of youth, because I wasn’t going to pay much attention to (those who disagree). If I thought you were going to be in my way, I’d either walk around you or walk over you. I didn’t really care. I’ve learned since then.”

McGowan then succeeded Clark Cameron as the “District 1” member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, representing Clarksburg and most of West Sacramento, in 1993. He won a four-person ballot, against chief rival Ray Hensley, “who’s now a friend.”

A year later, still early in that term, he made a bid for the State Senate against Republican K. Maurice Johannessen (father of current local councilman Mark Johannessen). McGowan, a Democrat, lost. He recalls that this was in the year of Newt Gingrich’s conservative “Contract for America,” and the senate district was more rural and conservative than he had realized.

That left him with a dose of “humility” and the remaining years of his term at the Yolo board of supervisors.

“I said, you know, I want to see what kind of supervisor I could really be,” he remembers. “I started to take it really seriously and work at it and enjoy it – and I enjoyed it till I left.”

There were a couple of things he had to learn when he went from West Sacramento’s city council to the board of supervisors. One of them was the “culture shock” of going from a place where the city had tried to “develop its way out of a problem” to a place where development and its monies were shunned. The city saw tax dollars from new development as a solution and the county didn’t.

“I went over there and I didn’t get all this ‘land preservation’ stuff,” McGowan commented. “These guys (in the county government) are broke, and they need to do some development and make some money. That’s what you do in West Sacramento, right? ‘We’re going to develop our way out of this problem.’”

But Yolo wanted to keep its farmland as farmland, and wanted to preserve its open space between cities. County policy was to steer development into the cities. This was a costly policy for the county coffers.

As McGowan remembers this mindset:

“We’re not going to do urbanized development in the unincorporated area. We’re going to great lengths to protect the unincorporated land for agriculture and/or open space. Ag land is our number one commandment. . . We will drive urban growth and development back into the cities – we will take a vow of poverty, so to speak.”

But McGowan said he saw the light of this approach and became an “ardent proponent.”

Meanwhile, county officials were still smarting over the fact that West Sacramento had incorporated and taken a chip out of the county’s revenue stream.

“We’d stolen all their money,” McGowan summed up.

Relations weren’t good and the city and county were squabbling over various small issues. McGowan believes that the relationship, though, is again trusting and healthy.

Another difference between the city’s government and the county’s is that local council members are all elected “at large,” while county supervisors are elected from separate  geographical districts. In the city, McGowan believes, councilman have historically been able to keep the “whole city’s” interests at heart. But with districts, there was the potential for selfishness.

Was it a win-lose proposition between various districts in county governance?

“It’s a combination,” he answered. “It all depends on how you play the game. . . I guess I learned that if you muscle it to get a 3-2 vote, you’re likely to be on the wrong end of another 3-2 vote down the road. So you really play it for the long haul. It’s a give and take.”

So the Yolo board – like the current city council – is now a collegial place to get things done, McGowan believes.

And then there’s Clarksburg – the little town to West Sacramento’s south. It’s part of the same supervisor’s district that includes the bulk of West Sacramento.

When he became a county supervisor, McGowan said he learned that Clarksburg residents had a strange view of their bigger neighbor to the north. Especially since there were developers trying to convince West Sacramento to allow a massive project to go in between the two jurisdictions.

“When I ran for supervisor for the first time, I went to a coffee klatsch down in Clarksburg,” he recalls. “They knew more about what’s going on in West Sacramento than most of the people in West Sacramento did at their own coffee klatsches. They’re not  obsessed, but they’re very interested.”

“It took me a while to figure out that they had this paranoia they had about West Sac taking over. And I said, ‘I don’t think you understand. (West Sac) is going to have a hard enough time putting in more growth in Southport, period. They’re not interested in that project south of the city.’”

The project withered, and the distrust has ebbed, said McGowan.

“Clarksburg is like the little village in the Scottish glen, or something. What do you call it? ‘Brigadoon’. . . It took me a long time to develop their support.”

Working on the board of supervisors led to a leadership stint at the California State Association of Counties, and that led to working with the Governor Jerry Brown on projects such as prison realignment.

A year ago, McGowan – looking ahead to his retirement – stepped down from the county board of supervisors to take a governor’s appointment to a special post at the DMV. He did so believing that his hometown is being well-run, and his old supervisor’s seat is in good hands with Oscar Villegas.

He jokes about the lifestyle change – for the first time since before law school, he now has a boss at work. And his commute has doubled (!) from 1.5 miles to three miles.

He expects to put in another year or two at his post, working on things like implementation of the policy of driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.

But at as Mike McGowan approaches age 67 later this month, he feels like a lucky guy:

“I got to be the first mayor of my hometown. I got to be the guy that helped launch all this stuff. Then I got to work as a supervisor and I got to work with the governor and do all those things.”

What does he like about his hometown?

“I still see West Sacramento, for the most part, as being this incredibly good place to raise your family. It’s the schools, it’s the churches, it’s the swim team. That’s what’s happening here.”

  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 2014

Mike McGowan looks back: Part II

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 10, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week, the City of West Sacramento opened a bridge named after Mike McGowan, the city’s first mayor and later its longtime representative on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.
  Earlier in 2014, the News-Ledger had a lengthy chat with McGowan about his own window into the city’s history. We brought you the first part of that interview last week (you can find it here). We continue below, taking up roughly from the moment that local voters approved cityhood and McGowan became mayor of the first West Sacramento City Council in 1987.  

When you ask Mike McGowan what it was like to be part of the city council that took control over the fate of four newly conjoined neighborhoods in 1987, he can answer with a simile:

“It was like fixing a car while you’re driving it,” he has said in the past.

“So much was coming at us at the same time, it was like drinking out of a fire hose,” he explained much more recently. Either way, you get the picture.

MIKE McGOWAN got a ride in the ceremonial procession on Dec. 5 at the opening of the West Sacramento bridge named in his honor. Visible in front of him is his wife, Sue.   (News-Ledger photo)

MIKE McGOWAN got a ride in the ceremonial procession on Dec. 5 at the opening of the West Sacramento bridge named in his honor. Visible in front of him is his wife, Sue.
(News-Ledger photo)

You have to understand that West Sacramento was different then – the population was in the mid 20-thousands, or about half of what it is now. There was old West Sacramento and the less reputable Bryte and Broderick neighborhoods to the north, and the barely-developed Southport area, and a troubled downtown strolled by prostitutes and grifters.

This section of East Yolo had an inferiority complex. It did not compare itself well to, say, Davis or Sacramento. And local voters wanted change.

The new council members included McGowan – the top vote-getter and first mayor, along with Fidel Martinez, Ray Jones, Bill Kristoff (who is still on the council) and Thelma Rogers. The five met unofficially a number of times before they took their seats at city hall, which was then located on Stone Boulevard. They brought on a temporary city manager to serve as their C.E.O. – a college professor who had once worked for Governor Reagan’s administration.

“We hired him, and gave him this pamphlet we got from the League of California Cities on how to start a new city,” recalled McGowan. “And it quickly dawned on me that what he did was read one chapter ahead, then he would come into our meeting and said ‘Okay, now it’s time to hire our lawyer. . .’”

One of the city’s first challenges was deciding on a police force. Unhappiness with crime and law enforcement (provided before incorporation by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department) was one of the reasons citizens approved cityhood in the 1986 vote.

“That was the platform – law enforcement, cleaning up West Capitol, and schools were important as well, and (providing more) shopping. Those were the issues,” said McGowan.

The new council had the option of creating a local police department or paying Yolo County to provide patrols by deputies. The county was obligated to provide interim service for six months either way.

McGowan said the new city leaders went to see Sheriff Rod Graham about a Yolo County contract.

“He said, ‘You’re going to have to do a long-term contract with me and you’re not going to tell me who I deploy over there.’ We literally walked out of that meeting and said, ‘Well, we’ve got to put our own police department together in six months. We did. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. . . There were some bumps along the way, but it turned out fine.”

In came the next city manager, Gene Roh, a former County official whom McGowan respected but with whom there were some “personality clashes.”

“When we hired him,” said McGowan, “he said ‘I’ve only got two conditions. One is that we agree on the (salary) number, and also I get to hire my number two.”

Roh chose as his “number two” another county employee – Carol Richardson. Richardson still remains as the assistant city manager, (although city managers have changed several times in the past 27 years or so.)

“Carol is another one of those people, in my opinion, who I would call an unsung hero,” said McGowan. “So much of what we put together at the professional level has come through her.”

One of the first big tasks for the new city was to come up with a “general plan” – a state-mandated document that includes land use zoning and other big, long-term policy choices.

The general plan contained broad outlines that have mostly endured and in some cases been fleshed out by succeeding “specific plans” and in some cases, actual development.

The early council developed this plan, “grandfathering” into it some existing plans for a major Southport industrial park near the port (championed by local developer Frank Ramos and his partners) and plans for what was then the Lighthouse Project (with a proposed marina) in the north. Lighthouse later morphed into “The Rivers” gated subdivision, and plans for the marina were dropped.

The industrial zoning for Southport became controversial and bred an opposing ballot initiative in 1990. The city council majority – including McGowan – took a strong stand against the initiative. The ballot challenge barely failed, and the Southport Industrial Park kept its zoning.

Does McGowan have any regrets on the general plan?

“The general plan was good,” he said. “Looking back, I’m not very good at looking at specific things because that’s not the way I approach the work to begin with. The work is the work. It’s about how we work together to get stuff done. It’s also more about building the team – I won’t dare say ‘leadership’ – and figuring out how to put the pieces together to accomplish the goal.”

Did the developers have too much influence over McGowan and the early city council?

“I don’t think so,” answered McGowan. “I think it’s a subtle distinction to make. I think we agreed with what they wanted to do. I don’t think we were doing it because it’s what they wanted to do.”

“Take (Frank) Ramos, for instance,” McGowan continued. “And I think we were fundamentally in support of Lighthouse, the other big project. . . We were a little naïve, there’s no question about that, I’m not going to over-defend it. Could we have been more knowledgeable about what to ask for, or looked at things more carefully? Of course.”

At the same time, said McGowan, this city was fighting its reputation as a dumping ground. Sacramento’s then-mayor, the late Joe Serna, famously vowed to keep state offices from moving to this side of the river, for example.

“This is the same environment where Mayor Serna is saying that we’re only good for truck stops and warehouses and he’ll put the kibosh on any state governing facilities coming over here,” recalled McGowan.

So West Sacramento fought for progress, and “the attitude was that we’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Did West Sacramento focus too much on developing industry at a cost to homes and other commerce?

“Well, only because that was the project that was in front of us, and it was so controversial – Ramos’s piece,” answered McGowan. “But we were even then looking at the riverfront and (removing its) tank farms, even though we didn’t know how to deal with that.”

Businessman Bill Ramos, for example, tried at one point to change his petroleum facility along South River Road to a commercial complex with a marina, McGowan recalls. While McGowan supported it, the early effort didn’t work.

Part of that riverfront and its oil tank farms along South River Road now seem to be finally at the beginning of a transition to higher, urban-style uses. The bridge named in McGowan’s honor last week has just connected that road to Southport, with related infrastructure changes on the drawing board. Together, they may help bring to fruition the dream of changing riverfront oil tank farms into riverfront restaurants, shops and condos.

Other proposed projects came and went. Frank Ramos tried to bring an auto mall to the area where Ikea now stands (McGowan favored the proposal because of the sales tax revenues it would bring). Later, when McGowan had moved on to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Ramos championed building a tribal Indian casino at the same spot. The casino idea gained a lot of traction and drew a lot of controversy – arguments included jobs and economic growth, versus sin and social costs.

“I was vehemently against it,” said McGowan. “It was one of the few times in my 20 years on the board of supervisors where I came over (to the council) and said ‘This is a stupid thing and you shouldn’t do it.’”

McGowan credits City Councilman Oscar Villegas and other allies for doing the work that eventually defeating that proposal.

Later, the same developers succeeded with a far more popular project – the shopping center that includes Ikea, Walmart and surrounding retail stores.

One of the big changes that West Sacramento has experienced since 1987 is an invisible one – a change to its psyche.

“Being in West Sac is a blessing and a curse,” said McGowan. “Part of it is having an inferiority complex and the other part of it is having a chip on your shoulder. A part of you says, ‘Hey, I had to fight my way back across the bridge when I was in high school coming back from a teen dance, and I’ll fight you again.’ It’s the baseball-bat-in-the-trunk syndrome, and that was very much a part of who we were when we started out.”

Did this inferiority complex cause city officials to lower their standards or give away too much when dealing with developers?

“I think that’s partly true, but like any other generalization, it’s not completely true,” answered McGowan. “I’ll give you a case in point. When we incorporated, there was a developer and he owned a property just about where Nugget is, and he wanted to develop it. I was mayor. He came in and said ‘I want to develop this and that,’ and it was zero-lot-line cookie-cutter homes. Thousands of them.”

McGowan recalls telling him “that’s not what we want here.” The developer asked, “Well, what do you want?”

“Estates, million dollar places,” said McGowan. “He laughed and said ‘The market here won’t support that.’ I said, “Well, we’ll just wait for the market.’ He sold and left town.”

Was there an inflection point – a time when West Sacramento seemed to shed its inferiority complex and become a proud little can-do community?

McGowan points to the evening of May 15, 2000 – opening day for the River Cats minor league baseball team at Raley Field.

“The River Cats were the game-changer,” he said. “Opening night was the proudest moment I had since I got sworn in on the first council. . . All of a sudden, other than having nice communities, and Pheasant Club, and Whitey’s and their peach shakes, and the new homes being built, all of the sudden, there was a really gosh-darn good reason to live in West Sacramento.”

“People were sitting there (at the game), and they’d look at the panoramic view. . . and literally, people would say, ‘Honey, this is really nice over here. Why don’t we think about this? We were going to move to Roseville, but why don’t we look at these homes they’re advertising?’ It was amazing.”

Raley Field got built after West Sacramento essentially had to arm-wrestle with Sacramento for it. Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, McGowan believes, was behind a lawsuit that tried to block construction.

But building it, McGowan said, “has done more for us than virtually anything else.”

The early council decided to grow and develop the city’s way out of its problems, said McGowan. There was a possible downside to that:

“I had a concern that along the way – because I grew up with such a strong sense of community – we’d lose that. We’d become, you know, Natomas. But in fact – and I don’t understand this part – I think it’s only enhanced this sense. People who move to West Sac don’t have an inferiority complex. They think it’s great and they love the community atmosphere.”

The city has always been a city of different neighborhoods and of people who live “across the tracks” from each other In McGowan’s eyes, has the City of West Sacramento come together from the communities of Bryte, Broderick, “old” West Sacramento and Southport?

“Probably not,” he allowed. “It used to be the freeway and West Capitol Avenue that were basically the dividing line. I would say (the line) is shifting further south, and it’s now around the deep water channel. It continues to be the big challenge for the community, how to integrate. People try. The farmer’s market is a great example.”

But in general:
“West Sac has been fortunate or blessed, lucky or smart, whatever it is, that there’s been an agreement between elected officials, the professionals who run the nuts and bolts, and the community. There’s more concurrence about the direction of the community than there is disagreement.”
  Next week: problems at the port, and more.

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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