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A message & invitation from Yolo Supervisor Oscar Villegas

West Sacramento’s OSCAR VILLEGAS (right) took the oath of office again last week. Administering the oath were his children, Vincent and Elena (courtesy photo)

West Sacramento’s OSCAR VILLEGAS (right) took the oath of office again last week. Administering the oath were his children, Vincent and Elena
(courtesy photo)

From Oscar Villegas
Yolo County Supervisor, District 1

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, representing West Sacramento and Clarksburg.  In February 2014, I was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, to serve on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in the seat vacated by the legendary Mike McGowan of which he held for nearly 20 years.  In June 2014, I was elected by the voters to retain this seat.  On January 5, 2015, it was a personal special moment to take the oath of office administered by our children, Elena and Vincent.

After thoroughly enjoying the honor and privilege of serving on the West Sacramento City Council for nearly 14 years, I have found it equally exciting and rewarding to have the opportunity to represent District 1 on the Yolo Board for the past 10 months.

I look forward to a new productive new year in 2015 by working with my colleagues on the Board to ensure that we continue to provide thoughtful stewardship over the many challenges ahead during our term of governance.    It is my intent to facilitate efforts to address the following:  restore our county reserves; seek avenues to  prudently restore  some of our basic services that were cut during the economic downturn; work collaboratively and productively with our local,  state and federal stakeholders on flood protection; finalize the integration of health and human services to provide a better system of safety net services for our residents; preserve the viability of Yolo agriculture while promoting the emerging Farm-to-Fork movement and expand our agricultural processing opportunities; continue to take bold and innovative steps to reduce the likelihood of homelessness, and to ensure that our community remain safe as we implement various aspects of the state’s realignment of offenders.

To responsibly address these issues, I humbly extend an invitation to residents of District 1 to assist by serving on various boards and commissions which serve as advisory to me and the Board.  It is critical that the residents have an opportunity to participate and provide input on those issues that impact our community.  As such, I would ask that you consider applying to serve on a board or commission where you believe you can make a positive contribution through your professional or life experience.  There are many topic areas ranging from aging, children services, both health and mental health services, etc.

To learn more about the boards and commission that service District 1, please visit my website at http://www.yolocounty.org/general-government/board-of-supervisors/district-1-oscar-villegas.  I also invite you to contact the district office located at 500 Jefferson Blvd., Suite C, West Sacramento, (916) 375-6440 or email:  oscar.villegas@yolocounty.org

Thanks again for bestowing me the honor of serving in this capacity.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

California counties, cities settle with Safeway over handling of hazardous wastes

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2015 —

Safeway Inc. has agreed to pay $9.87 million in “civil penalties, costs and supplemental environmental projects” after a group of California officials alleged its stores have been mishandling hazardous and pharmaceutical wastes.

The office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig was among the 42 district attorneys and two city attorneys who joined the legal action against Safeway. The Pleasanton-based company settled the case after working “cooperatively” with investigators. The court judgment was approved this month in Alameda County Superior Court.

“The investigation into Safeway’s practices began after discovery of improper shipments of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste to Safeway’s distribution centers form their stores,” said Reisig’s office in a press statement.

“The investigation revealed that Safeway was also routinely and systematically sending hazardous and pharmaceutical wastes to local area landfills not equipped to receive such waste. Upon being notified by prosecutors of the widespread issues, Safeway worked cooperatively to remedy the issue, enhance its environmental program and train its employees to properly handle such waste.”

The settlement resolved allegations involving over 500 Safeway stores and distribution centers, including its brands of Vons, Pavilions and Pak ‘n Save. Safeway operates several stores in Yolo County, including a Safeway at 1298 West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The News-Ledger contacted the D.A.’s office to find out how much of the settlement is earmarked for Yolo County. We received a response after this article was published in our print edition.

A spokesman informed the News-Ledger that $375,000 of the settlement will go to Yolo County District Attorney’s office in the form of civil penalties, and the D.A.’s office will also receive about $89,000 in cost recovery.

The Yolo County Environmental Health Department will receive about $35,250 of the Safeway settlement in civil penalties and will recover costs in the amount of $5,400.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Opinion: being a foster parent is not as hard as you may think

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 7, 2015

By Cherie Schroeder
Yolo County Foster Kinship Care Program

Local families are needed for local foster children, newborns through transitional age youth.

AUTHOR CHERIE SCHROEDER  (News-Ledger file photo/2009)

AUTHOR CHERIE SCHROEDER
(News-Ledger file photo/2009)

Winter can be harsh on children and families. During the month of November and into early December there was a definite up-swing in the number of children Yolo County DESS brought into protective custody, at no fault of their own, who needed a safe and loving place to call home.

Foster children are the children of our communities.  When a local home is not found, these vulnerable kids are often placed miles away from their family of origin, taking them away from services, supports, friends, school, and all that is known to them.

You may ask yourself, “How can I help?”

Becoming a foster home is not as hard or scary as one may think. At the core of quality foster parenting, are traits that include being present and available, flexible, kind and stable.  As one local foster mother shared,

“Children in foster care arrive to us from places where joy and safety are scarce. At every turn, I find opportunities to hold a hand, share a smile and to bring out laughter. Delight is found and given from sand between toes, reading a funny book, or giving a goofy smile.  My husband and I give lots love and kisses to the precious little person entrusted to our care.  These are simple gifts that mean so much to our foster toddler and serve to help put the pieces of her life back together.”

The research is clear; a caring committed adult can make a tremendous difference in a child’s life. Will you consider opening your home and heart to a child in need?  A free and informal “Introduction to Foster Care” workshop is being offered Tuesday evening, January 20th from 6:30 to 9:30 pm at the Child Welfare Office in West Sacramento.  We will be in Community Room 1A located at 500 Jefferson Blvd., off Triangle Court, across from the Police Station. Reservations aren’t needed; you are welcome to just stop by.

To learn more about Yolo County Foster Care check out our website at www.yolofostercare.com.  Questions are welcomed by Recruitment and Retention Specialist, Cherie Schroeder by calling her at (530) 574-1964.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

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.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014