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

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much is Westin responsible for the gains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another tactic to improve education:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Do you like what you see here?

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Raiders beat hapless Galt High

River City's football team takes to the home field on Oct. 26 against the visiting Galt Warriors (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


The Raiders’ Elijah Thomas (QB) lets loose with a pass, defended by Jacob Stout (#55) (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


[adrotate group=”9″] Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Oct. 31 News-Ledger. It is shared here with a couple of additional photos.

The River City High School football team easily handled Galt on Friday, posting a 48-6 win.

The win brought the Raiders’ record to 4-5 overall and 4-1 in league play. The Raiders’ junior varsity squad used Galt to post its first win of the season, a 21-14 victory.

Galt is 0-9 this year, including a forfeit for lack of players.

This Friday, Nov. 2, the River City team travels to Cosumnes Oaks.

The Raiders' Evan Cunningham struggles against a tackler (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


River City receiver Malik Dumentz stiff-arms a Galt defender in Friday’s Raider win (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


The Raiders’ David Vincent looks for an opening in the Galt Warrior defense (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


Senior Andrew Dutra for the RCHS offense (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.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-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

D.A.’s office gets identity theft grant


Last month, the California Attorney General’s Office awarded the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office $56,805 from the Attorney General’s “Privacy and Piracy Fund.”

This program provides funding to District Attorneys’ offices throughout the state.  The funding must be used to investigate and prosecute identity theft and intellectual property theft.  Intellectual property theft is also known as piracy.

According to Lt. Pete Martin, who supervises the District Attorney’s High Tech Unit, the Unit investigates numerous identity theft cases and counterfeiting cases every year. Funding from this grant is used to train digital forensic investigators and purchase forensic equipment for the High Technology lab.

[adrotate group=”7″]   One example, reports the Yolo D.A.’s office, is a recent elder abuse case in which the bookkeeper embezzled over a half a million dollars from an elderly woman. The high tech investigator was able to prove that the bookkeeper fraudulently created and back dated documents on her computer, which eventually led to her conviction.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig expressed his gratitude for the state funding.  “These kinds of cases are becoming more common,” he said in a press release. “This grant will allow the District Attorney’s Office to continue our efforts to protect our community from identity theft and intellectual property theft.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Bill Kristoff seeks another term


  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
News-Ledger Editor

BILL KRISTOFF: West Sacramento's longest-serving city council member (News-Ledger photo)

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.”

And now?

“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.

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012


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.

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Katie Villegas, school board candidate


  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
News-Ledger Editor

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.

KATIE VILLEGAS hopes to help 'connect the dots' for WUSD (News-Ledger photo)

“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.

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

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Halloween event for kids tonight


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