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Bill Kristoff seeks another term
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 17, 2012 —
Editor’s note: This interview with city councilman Bill Kristoff is part of the News-Ledger’s election-season coverage. We’ve published interviews with each of the people running for election to the West Sacramento City Council and local school board. We hope these features have helped you make up your mind whom to vote for.
By Steve Marschke
Bill Kristoff has been on West Sacramento’s city council since the city formed in 1987. But the view sure has changed, he told the News-Ledger.
“As we were going through that incorporation effort, we really felt we were not receiving the proper amount of services (from Yolo County) that the taxpayers were paying for,” he said. “I think the lack of services and the desire that we as a community had to make the decisions and determine our own destiny were important. And we wanted more places to shop, and a larger police force, and we wanted to use the nuisance abatement process to try to clean things up.”
Since that time in 1987, the city has about doubled in population, with new shopping centers and new subdivisions. It has made inroads on developing its long-troubled downtown and languishing riverfront.
“From a regional perspective, people sort of turned up their noses at West Sacramento,” said Kristoff. “They thought we were just an industrial town, and we wanted to change that image.”
“Now, I’m really proud of the image we have from a regional perspective. Other communities look to West Sacramento as being aggressive, as being a community that has made great strides.”
So why run again?
“There are some things that are not fully completed,” Kristoff answered. “We really need to concentrate on the riverfront, making it a place where people can live, work and play in a confined space. I think we started that with city hall, the library and the community center (all on West Capitol). I want to expand that into the riverfront. I view everything as connected from the proposed Indian museum site (on the northern riverfront) all the way to South River Road.”
He has a particular dream for one stretch of that riverfront – the “Honda Hills” area near South River Road and Jefferson Blvd. in Southport, best known now for illegal use by local off-roaders.
“I think a botanical garden would do wonders for that area,” Kristoff opined. “It’s an open space concept. We have the University of California at Davis and Sacramento State University in close proximity, and they have horticulture departments that I think would really help West Sacramento. I would like to create something that becomes a destination point.”
That idea, he said, was inspired by a visit to a botanical garden in Vancouver.
Kristoff is also supportive of city participation in a plan to bring “at least a four-star hotel” to the riverfront, with business amenities such as a conference center. That would enhance the values of the other riverfront properties,” he said. It would also benefit the River Cats, encourage surrounding restaurants and surrounding businesses, and bring more hotel room taxes to the city coffers.
How is the city’s business climate?
“I think it compares favorably,” answered the 66-year old retired postal finance officer. He pointed to the new shopping centers surrounding Ikea in the north and Nugget in the south.
“My wife’s favorite store, Target, is over here,” Kristoff said with a wave toward the Southport center. “If you go north, there’s Ikea, Ross and others. People keep asking me for another sit-down restaurant, and we’re improving in that area. There is a Denny’s going in over at Harbor Boulevard (a former Bakers Square site).”
As far as business-friendly permits and fees:
“We’re not giving away the store, but at the same time, we’re trying to keep things not so expensive that (businesses) don’t come in.”
Kristoff believes that one major challenge facing West Sacramento is the loss of its redevelopment agency, after the state nullified such agencies. The city had used its agency to focus local tax money on infrastructure costs, to pave the way for growth.
Without a redevelopment agency, Kristoff believes the strategy in November’s “Measure G” is one way to fill that gap.
“We have a certain amount of tax increment still coming in (annually),” he said. “Maybe $2 million or $2.5 million. Measure G says we should put that money into a fund and use that money for future infrastructure.”
Even though future city officials could issue bonds worth several times what’s in that pot of money, it will still take a number of years before the fund accumulates enough money to finance a big project – like a new Sacramento River bridge.
Speaking of bridges:
“I look at the South River Road bridge (connecting Southport to the rest of the city) as the next bridge we should tackle,” said Kristoff. “I look at the connection between Sacramento and West Sacramento, and where that (other) bridge should go. Somehow or other, it needs to connect to I-5, whether it be the Broadway Bridge or the bridge further north, north of the I Street Bridge, that essentially connects with Sacramento’s railyard project.”
[adrotate group=”10″] How is the city doing with local flood protection?
“I’m happy with the way the City of West Sacramento has approached it,” Kristoff said. “When we were told that we had a deficiency in our levees, we were really sort of caught by surprise. We tackled that very quickly. The citizens passed an assessment on their homes for flood protection, the council put in a new fee for new development, and we also passed a sales tax override, some of which has gone into flood protection.”
That willingness to pay a “local share” of levee repair costs has earned respect from state and federal flood control partners, he added. Levee work is underway.
Kristoff believes the city is in pretty good fiscal shape, having reduced city staff in the face of the recession and a slow-down in new development. The city has a problem with public pensions, but it’s not a crisis, he believes.
“We’ve been tackling that issue for about four years.”
Police and fire protection are in good shape today, said Kristoff.
“We’ve got the best police and fire departments in the region. They’re great.”
As the only person to have always been on the West Sacramento city council, does Kristoff have any regrets over any major “wrong turns” the council may have made during the past 25 years?
“Nothing on a medium or large scale,” he answered. “There have been a couple development decisions where (we approved) a drive-through at a restaurant or something, and I say now, ‘oh, we shouldn’t have done that.’”
Kristoff and the other incumbent running for re-election, Oscar Villegas, have endorsed each other, and “I have the support of the entire council and (County Supervisor) Mike McGowan,” said Kristoff.
There’s only one challenger, Oleg Maskaev, a Republican who believes that his party affiliation is important in this local race.
Does Kristoff feel the same way?
“The city council is a nonpartisan position,” he answered. “We have sewer, water, and filling the potholes. Those are the city’s responsibility.”
Kristoff said he is mounting a serious campaign including yard signs, political mailers and precinct walking. But it’s a sign of the times, he said, that he will be running on “about half” the campaign budget he spent last time around.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Pumpkin Run canceled this year
[adrotate group=”7″] FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 31, 2012 —
The Pumpkin Run — a 5k & 10k fun run planned to take place last Saturday as a benefit for West Sacramento aquatics program — was cancelled.
According to an email from organizer Ross Yancher, the lack of sufficient signups was to blame.
“Despite trying as hard as we could, our revenues from this year’s projected participation will not cover our overhead required to host the race (insurance, traffic, control fees, etc.,” said Yancher.
The event was canceled on Thursday and those who paid their fees were promised refunds.
No word on whether organizers would try again in 2013.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Katie Villegas, school board candidate
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 17, 2012 —
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview comes from the Oct. 17 edition of the News-Ledger newspaper. It is part of our series to bring you an in-depth look at each of the people running for city council and school board in West Sacramento this year.
By Steve Marschke
Katie Villegas is executive director of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance. That, and prior work with families in the West Sacramento region, have given her what she feels is a birds-eye view of what local kids need to succeed.
“Basically, every job I’ve had has been working with families and working with kids,’ she told the News-Ledger. “I’ve worked in public health, child abuse prevention and foster care. (At the Children’s Alliance), we work every day with the students and families in West Sacramento. We see the things they’re not getting, and seeing it from a different level.”
That experience, she hopes, will transfer to the board of trustees at Washington Unified School District.
“I think we need somebody who can see it from a different level, and see what we could do. That’s what I do best – connect the dots and bring in the resources.”
One of those resources is a better partnership between the school district and city government, she said.
“It’s incredibly important, and partnership with the county as well,” said Villegas. “I can bring in the city, the county, local business – which would be helpful for internships – and grand opportunities. It builds on itself.”
“I think you need to look at the whole family. If a kid comes to school hungry, how are they expected to learn? They need health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance.”
She gives the current school board a mixed grade.
“I wouldn’t say they’re terrible and I wouldn’t say they’re functional,” Villegas commented. “Somewhere in between. . . It’s a difficult time to be a board member.”
What’s the board doing wrong?
“I think a few of them see it as ‘I’m getting into the trenches,’” she said of their tactical-level work. “But they’re micromanaging. I think (as a board member) you need to stay at the 50,000-foot level.”
[adrotate group=”7″] Part of the answer, she argues, is to leave more of the educational decisions to the staff, like Superintendent Dayton Gilleland.
“We actually hire really good people,” Villegas said. “Dayton has a Ph.D. in education. I’ve met with him. He’s a smart guy. Sometimes the leadership needs to be allowed to take the chances they need to take to make the district better. They’re the experts in education, they know what to do.”
Katie, 46, has a master’s degree in social work and has lived in West Sacramento for 25 years. She’s probably the best-known of this year’s school board challengers, not only because of her day job and past civic involvement, but also because she is married to West Sacramento City Councilman Oscar Villegas. The couple lives in Southport.
The pair have two kids who have attended school at Southport Elementary School before leaving the public school district. One attended Christian Brothers High School before going to Sacramento City College, and the other is currently at Christian Brothers.
“A lot of people are wondering, ‘why are you doing this?’ because my kids don’t go to school here,” she commented. “I’m doing this because I think all the kids of West Sacramento deserve a better education.”
What concerns her most is that the kids in the northern areas – those more likely to come from poor families or be among the 40 percent Latino population of WUSD – are lagging.
“The schools are not equal,” she said. “The schools out here (in Southport) are doing fairly well, but I think the schools in the north area, where our (Childrens Alliance) office is, are not doing that well. Kids of color are not doing well.”
[adrotate group=”9″] “If you look at how well those kids are prepared to go to college, the numbers are crazy.”
That’s one past subject of controversy between Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who criticized WUSD for failing to prepare minorities for college, and David Westin, then-president of the school board.
“There’s a lot of lobbing (bombs) back and forth between Christopher and Dave. . . (such as) Christopher pointing out how bad the district is doing with kids of color,” Villegas stated. “(That data) is documented. But putting that into a ‘state of the city’ address’? I don’t know if that’s the most effective way to get that out there.”
Is her marriage to Councilman Villegas something that could help improve city-school district relations?
“It’s nothing but helpful,” answered Villegas. “The district and city haven’t gotten along so well. (Working with the city) is a totally big opportunity.”
Are there any conflicts of interest possible, given that the city and district sometimes need to negotiate contracts with each other?
“I think that is relatively minimal,” she said. “If there are conflicts of interest, I would listen to the attorneys” and possibly abstain from decisions.
Does Katie Villegas believe student test score results are important?
“They’re incredibly important,” she answered. “It’s a barometer of the district.”
New API scores have just been released for California campuses and districts. Did WUSD backslide?
“Not so much (in Southport),” said Villegas. “But they did in Broderick and Bryte. Overall, it’s down.”
She doesn’t give the board full credit for the past two years of big test score gains.
“I give them some credit, but kids of color are not being served,” she said.
What about charter schools: does Villegas favor the concept?
“I think that alternatives to education – because I’m one of the ones who needs them – are important,” she responded. I think we need to keep opportunities open for that.”
Villegas does believe that WUSD is in decent financial shape, considering several years of state budget cuts.
“I think Washington Unified is the most fiscally sound district in all of Yolo County,” she stated.
Villegas helped run the local 2004 high school bond campaign and has helped with her husband’s council runs. She said she has the support of WUSD school board incumbents Mary Leland and Adam Menke, as well as a number of city and regional leaders.
Will she be walking precincts and raising money for the campaign?
“All of the above,” said Villegas.
She is one of a number of challengers joining Leland and Westin in the hunt for three available school board seats on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Halloween event for kids tonight
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER —
Over 20 West Sacramento businesses are joining up to host s “safe, secure and fun” Halloween event for kids from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Exclusive Realty & Mortgage, 1102 Jefferson Blvd. Parking available at Whitey’s Jolly Kone.
Games, prizes, face painting, a “not too scary” spooky house and a kids’ costume contest. Plus treats for the kids. The Hulk, Iron Man, Darth Vader and other characters will be on hand.
[adrotate group=”9″] Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Roy Sianez, running for school board:
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 10, 2012 —
Editor’s note: This interview with school board candidate Roy Siañez comes from the Oct. 10 edition of the News-Ledger, West Sacramento’s weekly community newspaper. We hope these interviews help you make up your mind about the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot.
By Steve Marschke
Roy Siañez is a new resident of West Sacramento – his family closed escrow on a local house in February. But he wants to start serving this community. That’s why he is running for one of three seats available on the local school board on Nov. 6.
“I’m a parent,” he told the News-Ledger recently. “I understand the importance of a quality education for students and also the importance of parental involvement. I’m new to West Sacramento, but I’m not new to serving my community. . . I’m eager to bring that community activism to West Sacramento.”
Siañez, 39, is currently a policy director for Democrat Norma Torres in the State Assembly. He’s worked for other politicos on issues that span health, public safety, education, housing and other topics.
“As a legislative director, I advise her on every single issue,” he said.
Siañez does not have any kids in local schools – one daughter has graduated, and a second goes to school in another city.
He’s been active in a number of regional and state causes over the years, beginning with his own student college days.
“I was a member of the Latino Complete Count Committee, working to ensure the Latino community was counted appropriately for the 2010 census,” Siañez said. He’s also a former board member of the Oak Park Business Association. Another favorite cause is the Youth Leadership Project.
“I’ve served on that organization for nine years,” he told the News-Ledger. “Every year, we bring 120 high school students from across the state to this area in the summer. They stay in the Sacramento State University dorms for a week, at no cost to them. We pay for all their housing, registration and transportation.
Siañez believes in the value of education. He grew up in Modesto, raised by a single mother who worked in a factory.
“She spent most of her time working, so she wasn’t able to help me with school,” he reports. “I kind of strayed in school.”
He dropped out of school, then – on the advice of a friend – enrolled in a junior college without even knowing that it was customary to transfer after a couple of years to finish a college degree.
Financial aid and fee waivers made it possible for him to go to college:
“That started my journey into higher education,” Siañez said. “I transferred to Sacramento State years later. At the junior college level, that’s where I started developing as a person and educationally. That’s where I became involved in advocacy.”
[adrotate group=”7″] The activism started in Latino clubs and with a run for student senate.
Then came an internship in the legislature and an ensuing career at the Capitol. He has landed near West Sacramento’s Bridgeway Lakes area.
How does he think the current school board is doing?
“I know there are several board members who have served long terms,” Siañez answered. “Longevity and continuity are generally good things.”
Test scores seem to be on the right path, he added.
“Whenever we have an increase in test scores, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something right. But if one school increased by ten points, and another only by five points, I want to know about that.”
What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified in?
“My understanding is that the Yolo County Office of Education has certified the school district’s budget, which is a positive thing,” said Siañez. “I would hope that could be the case for future years to come.”
“It’s a scary thought about what would happen if the governor’s initiative (Proposition 30) to increase revenue doesn’t pass. I definitely think we need to increase revenue given the economic climate.”
One of the reasons Siañez believes he would make a good school board member is his own Latino experience.
“41 percent of the students in the school district are Latino,” he said. “It begs the question – if you look at the school board, and look at the students, does the school board really reflect the students?”
Siañez believes that sports and extracurricular activities are crucial for some students.
“Frosh football was great for me, because it kept me out of trouble,” he recalls. “After the season ended, my idle time became a problem. . . (After dropping out), my motivation for trying to return to high school was to play football.”
He supports “any and all programs that can help our neediest students with some of the voids they bring, to attend school.”
How does Siañez feel about charter schools?
“Not all charter schools are equal, he replied. “You have to look at whether there’s a need, and if there is a need, explain it. If there’s a public school that’s been failing, consider it. It’s a case by case basis.”
What is it in his experience that would make Siañez a good board member?
“My public policy experience, my experience as a parent, and my experience as a product of the public educational system,” he answered.
“West Sacramento is my new home,” concluded Siañez. I’m involved, and I plan to be here a long time. I’m eager to get involved and make a difference – I don’t want to wait.”
Siañez, along with several other challengers and two incumbents, is seeking one of three seats on the school board this fall.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Convicted of sex with 15-year old
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 24, 2012 —
A Yolo County jury last month convicted a 32-year old man for having sex with a 15-year old West Sacramento girl.
According to the office of District Attorney Jeff Reisig, Ronald Vikash Chand of Sacramento lied to the girl about his age and pursued her on Facebook and by text messages.
“On multiple occasions, he picked her up at her high school and engaged in sexual intercourse with her in his car and at a West Sacramento hotel,” said the D.A.’s office.
[adrotate group=”9″] Deputy D.A. Sara Brate prosecuted the case.
“The defendant manipulated the victim in order to get her to participate in sexual acts with him,” she said in a press release. “This verdict ensures he will not be able to victimize another teenage girl.”
Chand was scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Timothy Fall on Monday (the result was not immediately available). He faced up to four years in state prison.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012
Got some questions about business?
[adrotate group=”10″] FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 24, 2012 —
The City of West Sacramento is sponsoring free business consulting classes and one-on-one business counseling. Low-income residents and business owners can get help with business planning, marketing and navigating business loans. Call 617-4545. Spanish-speakers, call 492-2008 ext. 213; Russian speakers may call 492-2591 ext 220.
Copyright News-Ledger 2012