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West Sac looks to public art to help unify Sac/West Sac streetcar line

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2014 —

The West Sacramento City Council voted last month to work with regional partners to apply for a public arts grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) . The “Our Town” grant of up to $200,000 would focus on bringing art pieces to the city’s Washington neighborhood and the future streetcar route connecting Sacramento and West Sacramento.

Also involved in the art planning project are the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, the City of Sacramento and Crocker Arts Museum.

“The ‘Our Town’ proposal envisions art installations as a place-making feature of the planned streetcar route and way-finding for bicyclists and pedestrians moving between West Sacramento’s waterfront neighborhoods and civic center and Sacramento’s railyards, capitol and museums,” said a staff report. “The cities would also use the funds to select one artist that will create two pieces which will engage, interact or connect with each other to be installed in each side of the river respectively. Another installation will be analyzed within the Washington District depending on the final grant award amount and budget.”

The plan being proposed to the NEA calls first for a consultant to work with the public and create a “curatorial vision” for the Washington district and streetcar area. No actual art pieces have yet been picked.

The city has already received a $400,000 grant for art from the state parks department, for art at the corner of Riverwalk and Tower Bridge Gateway, with a $200,000 local match.  These funds will be used as the “local match” needed for the proposed NEA grant.

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Letters to the editor: change the ‘Redskins’ name; fund early childhood education

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER —

June 18, 2014

NORMA ALCALA: representing West Sacramento's River City Democratic Club (News-Ledger file photo)

NORMA ALCALA: representing West Sacramento’s River City Democratic Club (News-Ledger file photo)

Change the ‘Redskins’!

During the NBA Finals, viewers saw a message sponsored in part by the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribe of Yolo County.  The commercial highlights a racial slur that has persisted as the name of a team mascot for over seventy years:  “Redskins.”  For many years, Native Americans, including the National Congress of American Indians,  have asked the Washington  Redskins to change the name of their mascot.  The name “Redskins” has its historical origins in a deplorable history of genocide against Native Americans, including massacres at “Wounded Knee,” “Eagle Lake,” and “the Trail of Tears.”  To many Native Americans, “Redskins” is an offensive racial slur in the same manner that the “n” word is offensive to African Americans or the “w” word is offensive to Latinos.

Recently on YouTube, I listened with great admiration to courageous statements from Yocha Dehe Wintun tribal leaders Marshal McKay and James Kinter calling for an end to seventy years of racial slurs by the Washington Redskins. It is appalling that in the wake of the Clippers scandal such racial slurs are not universally condemned.

I see many similarities in the actions of Washington team owner Daniel Snyder and Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers.  I am particularly disturbed that Daniel Snyder defends rather that apologizes for the slurs.  Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder should put an end to a seventy year old racial slur that has persisted far too long and change the team mascot.

NFL owners should grant Tribal chairman Marshal McKay and Tribal Secretary James Kinter an opportunity to speak to them and make their case for changing the name.  If the NBA can force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers over a racial slur, surely the NFL can require a team owner to cease marketing a racial slur.  The NBA permitted Kevin Johnson to address them concerning retention of the Kings.  How much more important is it for the NFL to allow tribal leaders to speak to them concerning the eradication of a vestige of racism?

NORMA ALCALA
President River City Democratic Club
West Sacramento

____________________

June 11, 2014

This is a summary of a letter sent by First 5 Yolo to members of the California State Legislature:

 

Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and chair of the Yolo County Children's Alliance (courtesy photo)

Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and chair of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance (courtesy photo)

Fund the children

After years of program cuts to child care and preschool programs, including the elimination of over $1 billion in funding and 110,000 child care slots in California, this year brings an exciting opportunity for reinvestment in early education.  The Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Senate and Assembly budget committees recently adopted budget priorities for funding child care and early education.

First 5 Yolo thanks the legislature for making children and families a priority again in California and urges moving forward with a timely budget to the Governor that includes 1) increasing payments to private child care providers serving low-income children, 2) increasing child care subsidy slots, preschool w/wrap around care and part-day preschool slots, 3) increasing funding for on-going and one-time only quality improvement activities such as professional development for child care providers, 4) eliminating state preschool family fees and, 5) adjusting existing programs to provide and strengthen early learning and care opportunities for all low-income children

A 2010 study by Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman demonstrated that every dollar invested in high quality early education generates seven dollars in returns.

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke stated “Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher,” and noted by Ross Thompson, distinguished Professor of Psychology at UCD in a recent article “The two distressing realities of the achievement gap are that when children enter school, the gap is already there,” he continued. “The other reality is that school experience doesn’t narrow the achievement gap, it widens it. So to close the achievement gap, to begin narrowing those differences in language ability, mathematical skill, other cognitive abilities, you’ve got to look earlier.”

Child care and early education are critical issues for families in Yolo County, but the cost is frequently too high for First 5 Yolo to make a significant impact.  Therefore, we urge your support to appropriate newly available funds in California to assist in bridging the achievement gap and providing equity in education for the youngest of California children.

DON SAYLOR, Chair
First 5 Yolo
DONITA STROMGREN, Vice-Chair
First 5 Yolo

  Editor’s note: “First 5 Yolo” is funded through the state by tobacco taxes. The organization supports programs such as early childhood education (hence, “first five years”) that benefit young children.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Corn as high as an elephant’s eye? Unusual land use crops up in urban West Sac neighborhood

SARA BERNAL has plans for an unused city lot that used to have bad soil. She’s part of a project involving the City of West Sacramento and a Yolo County nonprofit that promotes agricultural education.   (News-Ledger photo)

SARA BERNAL has plans for an unused city lot that used to have bad soil. She’s part of a project involving the City of West Sacramento and a Yolo County nonprofit that promotes agricultural education.
(News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MAY 7, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

There is sudden new activity on that old, city-owned vacant lot at the corner of 5th and C streets in West Sacramento’s old “Washington” neighborhood. New soil has been dropped off, and a tractor is leveling it out. People are bustling about onsite.

The lot is surrounded by elements of urban West Sacramento old and new:

Just west lies the popular new Broderick Roadhouse pub. A couple blocks east is the venerable old I Street Bridge. Across the street is a liquor store. Passersby include commuters, students, the residents of nearby homes, and various denizens of the city’s streets.

So what are they building on this two-thirds-acre piece of urban infill? Will it be new townhouses or apartments, like those going up elsewhere on the West Sac riverfront? A mixed-use building? A restaurant?

The answer is probably not your first guess. What they’re building is a farm.

Sara Bernal was on site yesterday, supervising the spreading of a new layer of topsoil. She will be the first farmer at the temporary “urban farm” at 427 C Street.

“My goal is to have the irrigation system built by next week,” said Bernal. “I hope to start planting in two weeks.”

What crops are going in?

“Lots of heirloom tomatoes, baby green mixes, cucumbers, melons, summer squash, onions, carrots and radishes, eggplants and peppers,” she started to list.

Bernal has small-farm experience, including producing for “subscribers” and for farmers markets. She hopes to sell her veggies at farmers markets – including West Sacramento’s – and at restaurants – including nearby “Broderick.”

“In 30 days, we will have baby lettuce and small radishes,” said Bernal.

This “urban farm” project is the first partnership between the city and the Center for Land-Based Learning, headquartered in Winters. The city hopes to make available various vacant sites for use as temporary, rotating small farms. The Center for Land-Based Learning, which supports training for farmers, has leased this city lot for $1 per year for five years.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon says the neighborhood and the city get several different things out of the relationship.

“First, it’s the rejuvenation of a public-owned parcel that’s been almost thrown away for a full generation,” he told the News-Ledger. “(Vacant lots) continue to be safety issues. We want to have activity there.”

Then, there’s the opportunity to help train new farmers and get them a start in their profession. West Sacramento officials are seeking to make the city a “food hub,” central to food production and processing.

“For most of recorded history, you became a farmer because you grew up on a farm,” he said. “Today, there’s a whole new crop of young people who want to be a farmer, but their parents don’t own a farm. They don’t have the land to begin farming. So reason number two for this is to incubate farmers.”

“Third is that we want to create new options for local neighbors and kids, so they’re connected to farms and can buy more healthy food. (The fourth reason is) we really want to create a pipeline for local restaurants to locally-source specialty produce. You saw that with Dan Gannon’s farm in Southport, and the Eatery.”

The Eatery was a well-regarded Southport restaurant that often served local produce such as Gannon’s. The restaurant recently closed for financial reasons.

“One key feature is that this will be a temporary use,” said Cabaldon of the C Street farm. “Five years from now, it could be a mixed-use building with people living upstairs and a restaurant or book store down below. When that happens, we and others have plenty of other vacant properties in the city.”

Mary Kimball is executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, which is leasing the vacant lot and has hired Bernal as the farm manager. She said this project is made possible primarily by Wells Fargo, with help from Community Business Bank and other sponsors. Soil on the lot was so poor that they trucked in 600 cubic yards of (slightly aromatic) composted topsoil.

“It’s kind of surprising how much even a half acre can produce,” said Kimball. “Two of our graduates are going to help (Bernal.) It’s all going to be vegetable produce – it will be for really different markets, like restaurants. ‘Broderick’ restaurant has put in an order for what to grow.”

The produce will also be sold at farmers’ markets and farmstands, and possibly through a “CSA” program (“community supported agriculture,” in which consumers sign up to receive a portion of the produce).

The urban farm fits with her organization’s mission.

“We have a beginning farmer training program called the California Farm Academy,” said Kimball. “Each year, we graduate about 20 farmers into the community.”

Sara Bernal hopes sales from the C Street farm help cover her own salary as farm manager for the plot.

Is she worried about people vandalizing the little farm, or walking off with the “fruits” of her labor?

“Oh yeah, definitely,” answered Bernal. “Unfortunately, we can’t afford to fence it off. We’re hoping people will see how much work we put in, and leave it alone. I’m sure it will happen, though.”

City officials are holding a groundbreaking for the urban farm at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 9,  at 427 C Street.

And in case you’re wondering, the West Sacramento Farmers Market is scheduled to open for the season on May 29; look for information on the Thursday-afternoon market on Facebook here.

 

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Days are numbered for I Street Bridge

The historic I Street Bridge serves train traffic on the lower level and autos and pedestrians above. It's at the end of its lifespan, and is slated to be replaced by a new bridge slightly to the north, connecting West Sacramento's "Washington" area to the Sacramento Railyards region. (News-Ledger photo)

The historic I Street Bridge serves train traffic on the lower level and autos and pedestrians above. It’s at the end of its lifespan, and is slated to be replaced by a new bridge slightly to the north, connecting West Sacramento’s “Washington” area to the Sacramento Railyards region. (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 12, 2014 —

Plans to replace the 103-year old I Street Bridge continue to march forward.

West Sacramento’s city council voted March 5  to approve an agreement with Sacramento to move forward with preliminary engineering on a new bridge to be sited just a little to the north of the skinny old “swing” bridge.

The existing bridge lands at I Street in Sacramento and on C Street in West Sacramento With a single lane in each direction, the steel bridge often feels to motorists like it’s dangerously narrow. More than once, cars and trucks have scraped as they passed in opposite directions over the Sacramento River.

The planned new bridge site is planned to better synchronize with Sacramento’s “Railyards” project and West Sacramento’s plans for its “Washington” area. It would be a movable span with more lanes for traffic, bikes and pedestrians, and possibly a streetcar.

Sacramento and West Sacramento have agreed to contribute $350,000 each towards a preliminary engineering and environmental review. The cities have selected Mark Thomas and Company as consultant.

The cities expect federal sources to pick up most of the eventual costs of the new bridge. Earlier estimates pegged that cost at around $86 million.

“The current schedule, depending upon funding availability through Caltrans, forecasts the construction of the bridge to occur in 2019-2020,” said a recent West Sacramento city staff report.

 

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There’s nothing like pee-wee baseball

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 5, 2014 —

  Note: For the past few weeks I’ve been going over to a little hidden-away baseball diamond at Southport Elementary School to watch two of my grandsons practice with their teammates for their upcoming West Sacramento Little League season. Their team, called the Raptors, is being coached by my son-in-law and oldest son, which should turn out to be a hoot in itself, and watching them work really hard to get the Raptors all squared away for Opening Day suddenly reminded of the following column, which was penned almost 20 years ago:

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

The coming of spring in the Sacramento Valley means different things to different people. To the sun worshiper, it means that endless months of depressing rain and white skin are almost over; to allergy-sufferers, it means it’s time to start sneezing and blowing your nose again; to the lover of gardening, it’s time to prepare the soil for all that glorious plant growth that is just around the corner; and to the local parent of young boys, it’s time to try and find a way out of being their Little League baseball manager or coach.

This year, however, my youngest son, Kyle, has talked me into signing up to manage his pee-wee baseball team (the Reds) in the West Sacramento Little League. His argument was simple and effective. Since I had managed his older brother’s pee-wee teams, I owed him.

“If you’re the manager, Dad,” he said with deep conviction, “I’ll get to be the pitcher!”

“But it doesn’t exactly work that way, Kyle,” I tried to explain. “Plus in pee-wees, there is no pitcher. Everyone hits off of a tee.”

“Right,” said my son, obviously starting to question just what kind of manager I was going to be if I didn’t even know that you need a pitcher to play baseball.

“Kyle,” I said, “to tell you the truth, I’m a little burned out on Little League baseball coaching. Maybe you could wait another year? You’re only six, you know.”

“But Dad,” he said with his most pathetic voice, “that’s what you said last year.” Then he looked up at me with those big brown eyes of his and a facial expression that left no doubt he was thinking those awful words which all parents fear: “You love my brothers (or sisters) more than me!”

So, once again, it was time to break out the fluff balls and undersized mitts and prepare my ears for that awful aluminum “clink” of the bat. Thankfully, by the time I had called all twelve of the Reds and told them about their first practice, I was beginning to feel some of the old fun and excitement which pee-wee baseball brings out in almost everyone who participates. And with all the phone calls completed, I sat back for a few minutes and tried to remember some of the things required of a successful pee-wee manager.

First, you have to be really good at tying double-knots. Pee-wees are, for the most part, six and seven year olds, and almost all of them will show up for every practice (and the majority of their games) with at least one shoe untied.

Second, you have to be great at finding things. Pee-wees lose their hats, their bats, their gloves, their snack-bar money, and even their parents from time to time.

Third, you have to be able to anticipate potty breaks. This can usually be done by noticing how the players on my team are standing. If they are squirming, holding their legs tightly together, and making funny faces, you need to get them over to the bathroom ASAP!

Fourth, you have to be accomplished at being able to talk some sweet, unsuspecting soul into being the team mother. She is the person who has to, among many other things, organize the team float for the Opening Day parade, get other busy mothers to work in the snack bar, and collect all the money from the candy sale. This person always ends up being a saint in my eyes.

Fifth, you have to be able to quickly establish a set of often-repeated rules, the most important being that only one pee-wee at a time (the hitter) can have a bat in his or her hands. There is simply nothing quite as frightening as watching five or six eager young pee-wees with baseball bats in their hands warming up for batting practice in the same area at the same time.

Sixth, you have to be able to cheerfully accept the fact that the attention span for a perfectly normal pee-wee is approximately 30 seconds, and  on warm, sunny afternoons with interesting-looking puffy white clouds floating above them, even that number drops dramatically.

Seventh, you have to have energetic adult base coaches with loud and distinctive voices. Pee-wees love to get on base and race around the diamond, but they’re not always sure just when to take off or what direction to go. A good base coach can get them pretty skilled at running to first base instead of third when they hit the ball, but only a great one can organize things from that point on.

And finally, and maybe most important of all, you have to be able to make all the team’s parents and grandparents truly believe that pee-wee baseball isn’t the big show, and that it’s not about winning and losing, but rather riding around in a homemade float on Opening Day, free after-the-game popcorn and snow cones from the snack bar, pizza parties with teammates, good sportsmanship, and learning to love the game.

“Dad,” said my six-year old son as he wound himself up in front of me in his new Reds baseball jersey and released his best imaginary fastball, “you know what?”

“What, Kyle?”

“The Reds are going to kick butt!”

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

 

New park honors local athlete, judge: Jerome Barry played pro baseball in the early days

The new park boasts an organic-looking climbing structure, seen in the foreground above. The light-blue ground surface is soft rubber. To the left, beyond a fence, are rail cars on a local rail spur. Beyond the play surface is the control room for the water tank (background). Notice the three “portholes” looking into the mechanics of the pumps inside the control room. (News-Ledger photo)

The new park boasts an organic-looking climbing structure, seen in the foreground above.
The light-blue ground surface is soft rubber. To the left, beyond a fence, are rail cars on a local rail spur.
Beyond the play surface is the control room for the water tank (background). Notice the three “portholes” looking into the mechanics of the pumps inside the control room.
(News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 26, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

On Friday, the City of West Sacramento will host a double grand opening, celebrating both a neighborhood park and a water tank station in the Bridge District. The twin public facilities are located at 809 Ballpark Drive, alongside the Ironworks subdivision and close to Raley Field.

“It’s a ‘neighborhood’ park,” said recreation superintendent Andre Pichly. “It has some play structures, swing sets and a very interactive climbing structure that’s geared toward kids about age 8 to 14. The structure has a lot of ropes, aluminum and climbing ladders – it’s probably the most unique climbing structure in our park system.”

The climbing  is located over a forgiving surface made of recycled rubber.

Nearby is a smaller climbing structure for the little ones, and a couple of little “spinning cups” that kids can sit in and twirl. There’s also a lattice-covered picnic area.

The park is right next to the control building for the city water tank. The wing-roofed control building has a couple of water pumps inside. The building and the water tank are both secured from public access, but the outside wall of the pump building has an unusual amenity:

“It has a couple of portholes in it, so kids – or anyone – can look in and see the mechanics of the thing,” reported Pichly.

The new park is known as the Jerome D. Barry Park.

The new park boasts an organic-looking climbing structure, seen in the foreground above. The light-blue ground surface is soft rubber. To the left, beyond a fence, are rail cars on a local rail spur. Beyond the play surface is the control room for the water tank (background). Notice the three “portholes” looking into the mechanics of the pumps inside the control room. (News-Ledger photo)

The new park boasts an organic-looking climbing structure, seen in the foreground above.
The light-blue ground surface is soft rubber. To the left, beyond a fence, are rail cars on a local rail spur.
Beyond the play surface is the control room for the water tank (background). Notice the three “portholes” looking into the mechanics of the pumps inside the control room.
(News-Ledger photo)

Barry was an accomplished local  baseball player who pitched for professional and semi-pro teams. He was also a rower with the Riverside Boat Club. Son of a pair of Irish immigrants, he grew up in the city’s old northern Washington township and served as a local justice of the peace from 1913-1925.

The 3.2 million gallon water tank was finished about a year ago. Tanks like this one serve as a “pitcher of water” for the city, reported the City’s Drew Gidlof last year.

“As water is taken in at the river, and treated and prepared for consumers, it is disseminated to various strategic points in the city,” he told the News-Ledger in 2013. “As the residents turn on their faucets, the water comes from their designated facility.”

The new tank is meant to help meet peak demand in the Bridge District and the Washington area near the ‘ziggurat’ building.

The park takes up about 1.5 acres, and the water facility a couple more acres, according to city sources. The water tank facility was budgeted at about $5.25 million, with funds chipped in by the state, the former local redevelopment agency, and local property owners. The park was budgeted at about $545,000, funded by developer impact fees in West Sacramento.

The public is welcome to the grand opening ceremony Friday at 10 a.m. (Feb. 28).

 

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

 

West Sacramento school board plans special, strategic meeting

NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — JUNE 7, 2013 —

West Sacramento’s public school district announced yesterday they will hold a special strategic session on Saturday. The meeting will cover “governance team building” as well as “goals, objectives, policies and priorities” for the school board and district.

The special session begins at 9 a.m. on June 8 in Room 75 at the Washington Unified School District office, 930 Westacre Road. It is a public meeting.

A facilitator from the California School Boards Association will assist the discussion.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013