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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

West Sac Art Guild preps for art show & sale today near Nugget

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 17, 2014 —

Six members of the West Sacramento Art Guild took multiple awards at the Yolo County Fair over the summer, reports JoJo Gillies of the guild.

Among them:

Agnes Nilsen took a first-place award in cross-stitch, a third as “best overall” and a pair of second-place ribbons.

‘Polly at large,’ an acrylic painting of a macaw done by JoJo Gillies of the West Sacramento Art Guild, took a first-place award at the 2014 Yolo County Fair. The guild will have an art show and sale on Dec. 20 next to Round Table Pizza in Southport.

‘Polly at large,’ an acrylic painting of a macaw done by JoJo Gillies of the West Sacramento Art Guild, took a first-place award at the 2014 Yolo County Fair.
The guild will have an art show and sale on Dec. 20 next to Round Table Pizza in Southport.

Linda Bowron won for embroidery (with third in “best overall”) and took a second-place in embroidery.

Carol Hawkins took a first-place and two second-place awards in collage.

Vona Giese took place for a knitted baby set and second for a watercolor work featuring a fire truck.

Jerry Renno took first and “best of show” for a metal sculpture work, and a second-place in the same category.

JoJo Gillies took first place awards with a combined acrylic/collage painting and for an oil painting, as well as three “second place” awards in acrylic and two “third place” honors for acrylic painting.

Gillies and Renno also collaborated on three winners, after Renno fabricated art from steel plow discs and Gillies painting them. The results earned two first-place awards and a second-place, plus extra ribbons for first and third in “best of show.”

The art guild plans an art sale on Dec. 20 outside Round Table Pizza in the Southport Town Center. The public is invited.

For more information on the local art guild, call Agnes Nilsen at 374-1810. To inquire about purchasing metal sculptures, call 371-3165.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Mike McGowan looks back: Part II

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 10, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week, the City of West Sacramento opened a bridge named after Mike McGowan, the city’s first mayor and later its longtime representative on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.
  Earlier in 2014, the News-Ledger had a lengthy chat with McGowan about his own window into the city’s history. We brought you the first part of that interview last week (you can find it here). We continue below, taking up roughly from the moment that local voters approved cityhood and McGowan became mayor of the first West Sacramento City Council in 1987.  

When you ask Mike McGowan what it was like to be part of the city council that took control over the fate of four newly conjoined neighborhoods in 1987, he can answer with a simile:

“It was like fixing a car while you’re driving it,” he has said in the past.

“So much was coming at us at the same time, it was like drinking out of a fire hose,” he explained much more recently. Either way, you get the picture.

MIKE McGOWAN got a ride in the ceremonial procession on Dec. 5 at the opening of the West Sacramento bridge named in his honor. Visible in front of him is his wife, Sue.   (News-Ledger photo)

MIKE McGOWAN got a ride in the ceremonial procession on Dec. 5 at the opening of the West Sacramento bridge named in his honor. Visible in front of him is his wife, Sue.
(News-Ledger photo)

You have to understand that West Sacramento was different then – the population was in the mid 20-thousands, or about half of what it is now. There was old West Sacramento and the less reputable Bryte and Broderick neighborhoods to the north, and the barely-developed Southport area, and a troubled downtown strolled by prostitutes and grifters.

This section of East Yolo had an inferiority complex. It did not compare itself well to, say, Davis or Sacramento. And local voters wanted change.

The new council members included McGowan – the top vote-getter and first mayor, along with Fidel Martinez, Ray Jones, Bill Kristoff (who is still on the council) and Thelma Rogers. The five met unofficially a number of times before they took their seats at city hall, which was then located on Stone Boulevard. They brought on a temporary city manager to serve as their C.E.O. – a college professor who had once worked for Governor Reagan’s administration.

“We hired him, and gave him this pamphlet we got from the League of California Cities on how to start a new city,” recalled McGowan. “And it quickly dawned on me that what he did was read one chapter ahead, then he would come into our meeting and said ‘Okay, now it’s time to hire our lawyer. . .’”

One of the city’s first challenges was deciding on a police force. Unhappiness with crime and law enforcement (provided before incorporation by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department) was one of the reasons citizens approved cityhood in the 1986 vote.

“That was the platform – law enforcement, cleaning up West Capitol, and schools were important as well, and (providing more) shopping. Those were the issues,” said McGowan.

The new council had the option of creating a local police department or paying Yolo County to provide patrols by deputies. The county was obligated to provide interim service for six months either way.

McGowan said the new city leaders went to see Sheriff Rod Graham about a Yolo County contract.

“He said, ‘You’re going to have to do a long-term contract with me and you’re not going to tell me who I deploy over there.’ We literally walked out of that meeting and said, ‘Well, we’ve got to put our own police department together in six months. We did. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. . . There were some bumps along the way, but it turned out fine.”

In came the next city manager, Gene Roh, a former County official whom McGowan respected but with whom there were some “personality clashes.”

“When we hired him,” said McGowan, “he said ‘I’ve only got two conditions. One is that we agree on the (salary) number, and also I get to hire my number two.”

Roh chose as his “number two” another county employee – Carol Richardson. Richardson still remains as the assistant city manager, (although city managers have changed several times in the past 27 years or so.)

“Carol is another one of those people, in my opinion, who I would call an unsung hero,” said McGowan. “So much of what we put together at the professional level has come through her.”

One of the first big tasks for the new city was to come up with a “general plan” – a state-mandated document that includes land use zoning and other big, long-term policy choices.

The general plan contained broad outlines that have mostly endured and in some cases been fleshed out by succeeding “specific plans” and in some cases, actual development.

The early council developed this plan, “grandfathering” into it some existing plans for a major Southport industrial park near the port (championed by local developer Frank Ramos and his partners) and plans for what was then the Lighthouse Project (with a proposed marina) in the north. Lighthouse later morphed into “The Rivers” gated subdivision, and plans for the marina were dropped.

The industrial zoning for Southport became controversial and bred an opposing ballot initiative in 1990. The city council majority – including McGowan – took a strong stand against the initiative. The ballot challenge barely failed, and the Southport Industrial Park kept its zoning.

Does McGowan have any regrets on the general plan?

“The general plan was good,” he said. “Looking back, I’m not very good at looking at specific things because that’s not the way I approach the work to begin with. The work is the work. It’s about how we work together to get stuff done. It’s also more about building the team – I won’t dare say ‘leadership’ – and figuring out how to put the pieces together to accomplish the goal.”

Did the developers have too much influence over McGowan and the early city council?

“I don’t think so,” answered McGowan. “I think it’s a subtle distinction to make. I think we agreed with what they wanted to do. I don’t think we were doing it because it’s what they wanted to do.”

“Take (Frank) Ramos, for instance,” McGowan continued. “And I think we were fundamentally in support of Lighthouse, the other big project. . . We were a little naïve, there’s no question about that, I’m not going to over-defend it. Could we have been more knowledgeable about what to ask for, or looked at things more carefully? Of course.”

At the same time, said McGowan, this city was fighting its reputation as a dumping ground. Sacramento’s then-mayor, the late Joe Serna, famously vowed to keep state offices from moving to this side of the river, for example.

“This is the same environment where Mayor Serna is saying that we’re only good for truck stops and warehouses and he’ll put the kibosh on any state governing facilities coming over here,” recalled McGowan.

So West Sacramento fought for progress, and “the attitude was that we’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Did West Sacramento focus too much on developing industry at a cost to homes and other commerce?

“Well, only because that was the project that was in front of us, and it was so controversial – Ramos’s piece,” answered McGowan. “But we were even then looking at the riverfront and (removing its) tank farms, even though we didn’t know how to deal with that.”

Businessman Bill Ramos, for example, tried at one point to change his petroleum facility along South River Road to a commercial complex with a marina, McGowan recalls. While McGowan supported it, the early effort didn’t work.

Part of that riverfront and its oil tank farms along South River Road now seem to be finally at the beginning of a transition to higher, urban-style uses. The bridge named in McGowan’s honor last week has just connected that road to Southport, with related infrastructure changes on the drawing board. Together, they may help bring to fruition the dream of changing riverfront oil tank farms into riverfront restaurants, shops and condos.

Other proposed projects came and went. Frank Ramos tried to bring an auto mall to the area where Ikea now stands (McGowan favored the proposal because of the sales tax revenues it would bring). Later, when McGowan had moved on to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Ramos championed building a tribal Indian casino at the same spot. The casino idea gained a lot of traction and drew a lot of controversy – arguments included jobs and economic growth, versus sin and social costs.

“I was vehemently against it,” said McGowan. “It was one of the few times in my 20 years on the board of supervisors where I came over (to the council) and said ‘This is a stupid thing and you shouldn’t do it.’”

McGowan credits City Councilman Oscar Villegas and other allies for doing the work that eventually defeating that proposal.

Later, the same developers succeeded with a far more popular project – the shopping center that includes Ikea, Walmart and surrounding retail stores.

One of the big changes that West Sacramento has experienced since 1987 is an invisible one – a change to its psyche.

“Being in West Sac is a blessing and a curse,” said McGowan. “Part of it is having an inferiority complex and the other part of it is having a chip on your shoulder. A part of you says, ‘Hey, I had to fight my way back across the bridge when I was in high school coming back from a teen dance, and I’ll fight you again.’ It’s the baseball-bat-in-the-trunk syndrome, and that was very much a part of who we were when we started out.”

Did this inferiority complex cause city officials to lower their standards or give away too much when dealing with developers?

“I think that’s partly true, but like any other generalization, it’s not completely true,” answered McGowan. “I’ll give you a case in point. When we incorporated, there was a developer and he owned a property just about where Nugget is, and he wanted to develop it. I was mayor. He came in and said ‘I want to develop this and that,’ and it was zero-lot-line cookie-cutter homes. Thousands of them.”

McGowan recalls telling him “that’s not what we want here.” The developer asked, “Well, what do you want?”

“Estates, million dollar places,” said McGowan. “He laughed and said ‘The market here won’t support that.’ I said, “Well, we’ll just wait for the market.’ He sold and left town.”

Was there an inflection point – a time when West Sacramento seemed to shed its inferiority complex and become a proud little can-do community?

McGowan points to the evening of May 15, 2000 – opening day for the River Cats minor league baseball team at Raley Field.

“The River Cats were the game-changer,” he said. “Opening night was the proudest moment I had since I got sworn in on the first council. . . All of a sudden, other than having nice communities, and Pheasant Club, and Whitey’s and their peach shakes, and the new homes being built, all of the sudden, there was a really gosh-darn good reason to live in West Sacramento.”

“People were sitting there (at the game), and they’d look at the panoramic view. . . and literally, people would say, ‘Honey, this is really nice over here. Why don’t we think about this? We were going to move to Roseville, but why don’t we look at these homes they’re advertising?’ It was amazing.”

Raley Field got built after West Sacramento essentially had to arm-wrestle with Sacramento for it. Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, McGowan believes, was behind a lawsuit that tried to block construction.

But building it, McGowan said, “has done more for us than virtually anything else.”

The early council decided to grow and develop the city’s way out of its problems, said McGowan. There was a possible downside to that:

“I had a concern that along the way – because I grew up with such a strong sense of community – we’d lose that. We’d become, you know, Natomas. But in fact – and I don’t understand this part – I think it’s only enhanced this sense. People who move to West Sac don’t have an inferiority complex. They think it’s great and they love the community atmosphere.”

The city has always been a city of different neighborhoods and of people who live “across the tracks” from each other In McGowan’s eyes, has the City of West Sacramento come together from the communities of Bryte, Broderick, “old” West Sacramento and Southport?

“Probably not,” he allowed. “It used to be the freeway and West Capitol Avenue that were basically the dividing line. I would say (the line) is shifting further south, and it’s now around the deep water channel. It continues to be the big challenge for the community, how to integrate. People try. The farmer’s market is a great example.”

But in general:
“West Sac has been fortunate or blessed, lucky or smart, whatever it is, that there’s been an agreement between elected officials, the professionals who run the nuts and bolts, and the community. There’s more concurrence about the direction of the community than there is disagreement.”
  Next week: problems at the port, and more.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

River City students climb a roof and aim for the sun

    A solar voltaic panel is passed to the roof of an Alabama Avenue home, as students in the high school’s enginnering and science academy learn how to install a sun-powered system. (Photo by Al Zagofsky/News-Ledger) NEWS-LEDGER -- NOV 26, 2014 --

A solar voltaic panel is passed to the roof of an Alabama Avenue home, as students in the high school’s engineering and science academy learn how to install a sun-powered system. (Photo by Al Zagofsky/News-Ledger)
NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 26, 2014 —

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 26, 2014 —

By Al Zagofsky
News-Ledger Correspondent

For Fay and Russell Landry, one sunny day leads to another, for on Tuesday, November 18 they received a free photovoltaic solar energy system that not only will nearly eliminate their electrical costs while contributing to a greener planet, but offered the opportunity to River City High School students to be part of their solar system installation.

The solar system installation and teaching program was coordinated by Hillary Tellesen – volunteer training coordinator at GRID Alternatives, “GRID Alternatives and the Yolo Office of Education have developed a partnership to have the River City High School students come out and learn about solar installation,” she explained. “We are funded through the California Solar Initiative and through corporate donations.”

The nonprofit works with lower income homeowners, in sunny areas, and with roofs less than 12 years old to install solar systems.

GRID Alternatives  has been working with Deborah Bruns, the science coordinator at the Yolo County Office of Education. “My role in the county office is to connect teachers with resources that help them and their students,”  she explained. “One focus right now is to give students real world experiences that might get them excited about college and careers in a variety of fields, but particularly in the sustainable energy field.”

Solar voltaic panel is placed onto an array rack by, left to right: Estefano Arellano, a senior at River City High School; Nidhi Solanki - a volunteer from  UC Davis; and Mike Scharma - the solar installation supervisor with GRID Alternatives.  (Photo by Al Zagofsky for the News-Ledger)

Solar voltaic panel is placed onto an array rack by, left to right: Estefano Arellano, a senior at River City High School; Nidhi Solanki – a volunteer from UC Davis; and Mike Scharma – the solar installation supervisor with GRID Alternatives.
(Photo by Al Zagofsky for the News-Ledger)

“I am excited about this program because I think that students often don’t know how they’re learning in class applies to the real world, and how it might apply to them as citizens, as consumers, and as workers,” Bruns continued. “I think becoming familiar with the solar energy industry is an exciting opportunity.”

“There are jobs available now and in the future, and they may as citizen consumers may one day have solar panels on their own house. The city of West Sacramento has really made it possible by putting money towards education for kids.”

Mike Scharma – the solar installation supervisor with GRID Alternatives, directed the installation and the instruction of the students. “We are installing a 2.04 kW solar array using eight 255-watt panels which is designed to supply close to 100 percent of the family’s usage,” he said. According to Scharma, the system would have cost upwards of $10,000, and would be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

Scharma and his construction assistant, Anton Muller, instructed the students in the cutting and bending of electrical conduit, the splicing of mounting rails, and the installation of solar panels.

“This program is awesome because the kids not only learn what’s in the classroom but they also get hands-on experience on real-life applications on what they learned in the classroom,” noted Sedikeh Yusufi, Engineering and Science Academy teacher at River City High School.

Estefano Arellano, a senior at River City High School climbed unto the roof to complete the installation. “This is a good project that the school Incorporated because it gives students a hands-on experience at something they may want to do in the future,” he said.

Dan Beveridge – outreach coordinator with GRID Alternatives  works with families to qualify them for the program. “I’ve been walking the streets of West Sacramento, almost all of it at this point,” he said, “trying to find clients. We are still looking to get 40 more clients this year.” Interested homeowners may call Dan at 530-680-3852.

Homeowners Fay and Russell Landry, shown above on their porch, said that both the installation by the students and the solar system were “awesome” and “exciting.”  (Photo by Al Zagofsky)

Homeowners Fay and Russell Landry, shown above on their porch, said that both the installation by the students and the solar system were “awesome” and “exciting.”
(Photo by Al Zagofsky)

Homeowners Fay and Russell Landry said that both the installation by the students and the solar system were “awesome” and “exciting.” In June 2014, they purchased their Alabama Ave. home in West Sacramento.

“I think it is very important to have collaboration between businesses, nonprofits, city agencies, and schools because students can actually be a force for change and help out on projects like this while they are learning,” added Deborah Bruns. “So it’s a win-win for the school and for the community. But it does take all of us working together and collaborating to make it happen.”

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  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 2014

Hundreds get help at ‘giveaway day’

Moises Castillo, a second grade student from Bridgeway Elementary School, volunteered to help give away clothes at the Children's Alliance 8th Annual Community Give-Away Day (Photo by Lori Aldrete)

Moises Castillo, a second grade student from Bridgeway Elementary School, volunteered to help give away clothes at the Children’s Alliance 8th Annual Community Give-Away Day (Photo by Lori Aldrete)

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 26, 2014 —

From Lori Aldrete
Aldrete Communications
for the Yolo County Children’s Alliance

It’s a long way from Detroit to West Sacramento.  But for 37-year-old Latina Taylor and her daughter Jamaica Rayne, a student at Westfield Village Elementary, they are feeling the love of the West Sacramento community and the Yolo County Children’s Alliance.

As Latina collected her free turkey dinner, a blanket, toys for “Maka”, and clothes for herself and her mom, she repeated over and over, “Thank you.  Thank you!” to the volunteers helping more than 600 people needing a helping hand at the 8th Annual West Sacramento Community Give-Away Day on Saturday, November 22 at Westfield Village Elementary School.

Life hasn’t been easy for Latina the past few years as the single mom gave up her dream of finishing college at Sacramento State to care for her 6-year-old daughter with serious health issues.  She says she feels stereotyped when people look at her “outer shell” and “Coming here today made me feel good.  I like to help people, and for people to help me right now….” She paused as tears welled up in her eyes and added, “I’m blessed, so blessed.”

Latina Taylor and her daughter Jamaica (both at right) pick up a holiday turkey at the Community Giveway Day held in West Sacramento over the weekend. (Photo by Lori Aldrete on behalf of Yolo Children’s Alliance)

Latina Taylor and her daughter Jamaica (both at right) pick up a holiday turkey at the Community Giveway Day held in West Sacramento last weekend.
(Photo by Lori Aldrete on behalf of Yolo Children’s Alliance)

Latina and Jamaica aren’t alone.  For some children it will be their only coat to keep out the winter cold.  For 400 families it now means having a real turkey dinner instead of an empty refrigerator at Thanksgiving. And for hundreds of children who may not get many holiday presents, the annual event sent them home with new toys.

Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas and West Sacramento City Council member Chris Ledesma joined numerous student volunteers from River City High School to greet residents and help them navigate through the large multipurpose room and the walkways outside to fill bags full of free food, clothes, toys and blankets.

Yolo County Children’s Alliance Executive Director Katie Villegas expressed her gratitude for the many people and organizations that donated their time and resources. “We need a lot of help to make this give-away day happen.  Each donation, no matter the size, helped send someone home knowing their community cares about them.”

Thousands of dollars were donated.  Two local community leaders, Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas and Marty Swingle, owner of Cap West Realty teamed up for a two-tiered match challenge that resulted in $2,000 being raised.

In addition to hundreds of small individual contributions, “YCCA Children’s Champs” Tim Stewart and Sierra Health Foundation each donated $2,500.   Dr. Dick Huang, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 447, and the Northern California Construction Training donated at the “Helping Hands” level of $250.

The community give-away was hosted by the Yolo County Children’s Alliance in partnership with the Yolo Food Bank, First 5 Yolo, West Sacramento Foundation, St. Joseph’s Mobile Mall and West Sacramento Grocery Outlet.

For more information about the event or to find out how to help with it next year, call the Yolo County Children’s Alliance at 530-757-5558 or 916-572-0560.

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Want to stand up for kids? Yolo CASA needs volunteers

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER of WEST SACRAMENTO —

Yolo CASA, a nonprofit that specializes in advocating for children as they spend time in the foster care system, needs new volunteers. Training provided. Successful volunteers will spend time with the child they’re paired with, talk to professionals and caregivers in that child’s life, and advocate in the court system for the child’s best interests.

Call (530) 661-4200 or email volunteer@yolocasa.org. Next training session is in the evenings, Feb. 2. Orientation is noon on Thursdays at 724 Main Street, Ste. 102 in Woodland.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Free flu shots Saturday in West Sac

NEWS-LEDGER of WEST SACRAMENTO —

From the County of Yolo

The Yolo County Health Services Department, in partnership with the city of West Sacramento, is holding a free seasonal influenza vaccination clinic on Saturday, November 22, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at West Sacramento City Hall, located at 1110 West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento.  Besides providing opportunity for residents to receive the seasonal flu vaccine, this clinic also serves as a test of the county’s mass vaccination response.

The Yolo County Health Services Department also provides seasonal flu vaccine for a $10.00 administrative fee (those unable to pay for a flu vaccine will not be turned away) as part of the regularly scheduled immunization clinic held every 1st Monday, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at 500 Jefferson Blvd in West Sacramento, and every 2nd, 3rd and 4th Monday, 2:00-5:00 p.m. at 137 N. Cottonwood Street in Woodland.

The final seasonal flu vaccination clinic provided by Yolo County will be held on Wednesday, December 10, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Woodland Senior & Community Center, located at 2001 East Street in Woodland.

In addition to getting a flu shot annually, everyone should also follow these simple steps to avoid the flu:

·         Wash hands often with soap and water
·         Regularly clean commonly-touched surfaces, i.e. countertops, doorknobs, telephones etc.
·         Don’t share cups, straws or anything that goes in the mouth
·         Cover nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and promptly discard used facial tissues
·         If you are sick, stay home
Other important factors that help prevent getting sick:
·         Getting enough rest and staying physically fit to help the body fight off disease
·         Not smoking and reducing your exposure to secondhand smoke
  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-Ledger 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 2014