Tag Archives: west sacramento newspaper

With its back to the wall, port tries a new business plan

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE of a ship docked at the Port of West Sacramento, looking north towards a peninsula that is home to local recreational boaters (News-Ledger file photo)

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE of a ship docked at the Port of West Sacramento, looking northwest towards a peninsula that is home to local recreational boaters (News-Ledger file photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 20, 2013 —

Local leaders say turnaround hasn’t come & it’s time to change business model

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

With the “B-word” – bankruptcy – returning to conversations about the Port of West Sacramento in recent months, the port’s governing board last Wednesday adopted a business plan that calls for a major change in strategy.

“We’re proposing that the port shift to a different focus – that would be a ‘landlord’ basis,” West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle told the port’s governing commission. The commission then listened to a presentation from city staffer Aaron Laurel detailing a 22-point action plan that called for reducing overhead and maximizing income from the port’s landholdings.

Staffers hope the new plan will stop the bleeding. The port has shown annual deficits of about $821,000 to $1.48 million (33 percent to 43 percent of revenue) during the past six years, often backfilled by one-time land sales and by support from the now-disbanded city redevelopment agency.

“There’s a tremendous financial risk to the city right now, given the port’s financial situation,” said Laurel, an economic development manager for the city.

West Sacramento took over majority control of the port in 2006 – the last time the facility faced bankruptcy fears. The half-century old port was originally created by a governing district consisting of all of Sacramento County plus eastern Yolo County, with most of the governing board members appointed by the City and County of Sacramento. It was called the “Port of Sacramento.” With the port in financial trouble and a lack of regional will and resources to fix the problem, Sacramento agreed to divest most of its interest, and it then became the “Port of West Sacramento.”

  Laurel told the port commission Wednesday that, despite a number of promising business ventures, the facility’s cargo still lacks diversity (rice shipping is the mainstay) and revenues are still short.

Fixing the problem starts with cutting costs.

“The number-one recommendation in this category is to implement administrative cost reductions,” said Laurel, “and to move staff currently at the port over to the public works department. There is an impact to the City.”

Laurel said the plan would move the duties and costs of some port personnel to the city, and make other changes saving around $600,000 per year.

Another major part of the plan is to stop directly operating the port’s terminals – instead leasing the North Terminal facility to a cargo handler, and exchanging the vagaries of cargo revenue for the stability of a rent check from the new tenant. Staff hope to find a new terminal tenant within the next few months, preserving the port’s role as a rice shipper in the process. Rice handling brings in about $2 million annually.

The strategy also calls for maximizing the potential of other property, including the 270-acre Seaway project in Southport. This is “arguably the Port’s most valuable and promising long-term asset,” said the city staff report. The port will need to work with city government to find ways to upgrade infrastructure at Seaway and other port properties in order to ready it for development, the report added.

The port should also explore marketing some of its unused Delta properties, including Prospect Island and Decker Island, as “habitat mitigation” projects for developers.

Michael McGowan, West Sacramento's Yolo County Supervisor and chairman of the port commission (courtesy photo)

Michael McGowan, West Sacramento’s Yolo County Supervisor and chairman of the port commission (courtesy photo)

Listening to the business plan’s bullet points were port commission members Bill Kristoff, Oscar Villegas and Mark Johannessen (all West Sacramento city council members) along with Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and the commission’s chairman, Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan.

Their response was earnest and supportive.

Johannessen noted that the plan calls for continuing to find money to deepen the port’s shipping canal to allow larger ships and heavier loads.

“We’re at 30 feet, and 35 feet is where about 80 percent of the world’s fleet is,” he said. “It’s going to take a sustained effort to do that (deepening).”

Kristoff seconded an effort to diversify cargo, noting that “I know we’ve said it before – but it’s something that can really happen at the port.”

He also approved of the plan to keep working on creating a “marine highway,” connecting this port to other regional ports using containers and barges on the waterways.

The status quo hasn’t been good enough, noted Villegas, who was also supportive of the new strategy.

“This organization – our city, our port – it just doesn’t work,” he said. “We’ve given it our best shot, and it’s clear it doesn’t work.”

Referring to the reorganization around 2006, Cabaldon echoed that point.

“This is extraordinarily serious,” said the mayor. “All of us were, one way or another, involved the last time we had a set of recommendations. . . which didn’t happen. We failed miserably.”

“We are at a point where if we don’t have an option that will work for sure, we are facing the option of closing,” he said.

Cabaldon said that, with or without federal funding, it was “necessary for the long-term certainty of the port” that it find a way to deepen the canal. He urged the board to stiffen the recommendation in the new plan both to find a way to pay for the channel work and to make the “marine highway” real.

Cabaldon also asked staff to see if the former partners in the port – the city and county of Sacramento – would be willing to untie the port’s hands some more by dropping the agreement they negotiated when they gave up control. The agreement includes a number of inconvenient provisions, reported Laurel. It also reserved the right for Sacramento to share in certain newly-generated revenues if they were to occur.

The rest of the commission agreed.

Chairman McGowan noted one other complaint, in an apparent reference to the waiting list new members face when trying to get into the Lake Washington Outboard Club, which leases land at the port.

“Since we’re no longer a regional facility and we’re a local facility, I’d like to revisit why we have non-district residents who are members of the boat club,” said McGowan. “I have some ‘homeboys’ who can’t get in because of somebody from Carmichael.”

The West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter of support for the new port business plan. A representative from the local longshoremen’s and warehouseman’s union expressed concern about preserving union rights as port property was repackaged for lease to a private operator, but did not otherwise oppose it. (Several local unions did fight the transition from regional control of the port to local control around seven years ago.)

The port commission approved the new business plan – with a few modifications – by unanimous vote.

“Hopefully, it’s the last time we have to do a plan like this for many years,” commented McGowan.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

West Sacramento Community Orchestra Takes Stage at civic center

West Sacramento Community Orchestra (News-Ledger photo)

West Sacramento Community Orchestra (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 13, 2013 —

Dozens of music-lovers listened in respectful silence on March 10 as the West Sacramento Community Concert offered a free program at the civic center galleria. Selections were made from ‘Les Miserables’ and the Beatles, as well as Liguini’s “Ballet Russe” and other choices.

The orchestra, under music director Gordon Waters, is seeking new musicians. The group rehearses Tuesdays 7-9 p.m., usually at River City High School. Call 991-5262 for information.

  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 2013

 

‘You have the right to an attorney…’

TRACIE OLSON Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy  photo)

TRACIE OLSON
Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 20, 2013 —

GUEST OPINION

By Tracie Olson
Yolo County Public Defender

Born in 1910, Clarence Earl Gideon was a homeless drifter who spent most of his life in and out of trouble.  In 1961, a pool room in Florida was burglarized.  A single eyewitness testified that he saw the burglar leave the pool room carrying a wine bottle and money, and further testified that the man he saw was Mr. Gideon.  No other evidence tied Mr. Gideon to the crime.

In court, Mr. Gideon proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to appoint him counsel, as he could not afford to hire his own.  The judge denied his request, telling Mr. Gideon that the law only allowed the court to appoint counsel to those facing a capital offense.  Ultimately, the jury convicted Mr. Gideon and he was sentenced to five years in state prison.

Undeterred, Mr. Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court and eventually the United States Supreme Court, asking that his conviction be reversed because he had been unconstitutionally denied the right to be represented by counsel at trial.  On March 18, 1963, the high Court agreed, issuing its landmark decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.  The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel to defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys.  The Court held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers.

The Court stated, “… reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire an attorney, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.  This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

At his retrial, Mr. Gideon was represented by defense counsel.  He was acquitted in less than an hour by a jury of his peers.  After his release, he reportedly stayed out of trouble.

Since Gideon v. Wainwright was decided, the promise of equal access to effective assistance of counsel is alive and well in Yolo County.  While other parts of the country, traditionally the Southern states and now more Northeastern jurisdictions, admittedly have extreme challenges which affect their ability to provide competent legal representation to defendants, California has largely managed to steer clear of the worst of these problems.

You will rarely hear a public defender’s office say that it has all the money it needs, and  most are not funded on par with the same county’s district attorney’s office.  However, as the Chief Public Defender of Yolo County, I am extremely proud of the legal representation my office provides to indigent defendants, and I am proud of the role we play in the criminal justice system.

We are not only full and active partners in implementing system changes necessitated by criminal justice realignment, but we collaborate with partners to optimize outcomes and to minimize collateral consequences for our clients.  First and foremost however, we are litigators, whose role it is to insist that law enforcement operate within the scope of their authority and that evidence is tested to the fullest extent of the law.

Every public defender has been asked at least once, in some fashion or another, “How do you sleep at night doing what you do?”  This question is typically asked by the person who can’t fathom actually needing a public defender for himself, a family member, or a friend.  However, when something goes wrong in one of their lives, we are the first ones they call – and it’s only then that they truly understand.

Happy 50th Anniversary,  Mr. Gideon. And thank you for not giving up.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

‘Spring Carnival’ at the Rec Center

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

Families are invited to the Spring Carnival at the West Sacramento Recreation Center (Southport, next to River City High School), from noon to 2 p.m. on Sat., March 23. Volunteers from the River City High School Interact Club will help kids with some face painting and some T-shirt tie-dying, among other activities. Cosponsored by the local Rotary chapters.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Just learning to drive —

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER:   A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage. (Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER: A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage.
(Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

Woman apparently drowns in car while calling 911 for help

NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 20, 2013 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A West Sacramento woman called 911 as her car went into the river on the morning of March 13, but rescuers weren’t able to locate the sinking car until it was too late.

The woman was identified as Mussarat Parveen Chaudhary, 58.

According to various media reports, Chaudhary was driving her Toyota Camry back from a job at Cache Creek Casino Resort shortly after 8:10 a.m. She phoned her daughter to say the car’s brakes weren’t working properly. The call disconnected, but Chaudhary then called 911 to report – speaking Punjabi – that the car was in the river. Dispatchers scrambled to find a translator.

  The West Sacramento Fire Department reports that a rescue boat and fire crews joined the CHP and Yolo County sheriff’s department, responding to the Elkhorn area north of West Sacramento.

“In route, dispatch advised all units that the driver of the vehicle was talking to dispatch as the vehicle was sinking,” said a fire department press release.

Firefighters couldn’t see the car, but borrowed a private boat and started searching. Firefighters in “dry suits” also went into the river.

At about 10 a.m., with no sign of the victim’s car, the operation went from “rescue” mode to “recovery” mode. Fire crews left the scene while CHP and DART (the Drowning and Accident Rescue Team divers) kept looking.

“Ultimately, the vehicle was located and a body was recovered approximately six hours later and ¼ mile downstream by DART,” said the fire department.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Accused West Sac cop pleads ‘not guilty’

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 13, 2013 —

A former West Sacramento police officer pleaded “not guilty” Thursday to 35 counts of kidnapping and sexual offenses he allegedly committed while on patrol.

Sergio Alvarez, a 37-year old resident of the city, entered the plea in Yolo County Superior Court.

He was charged with rape and other offenses. Police spokesmen say that over a period of about a year, Alvarez assaulted a number of women he contacted while driving a patrol car on the “graveyard” shift in the West Capitol Avenue area.

The plea was made on Alvarez’s behalf by attorney Gabriel Quinnan.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013