You’ve Heard of Berkeley. Is Merced the Future of the University of California?


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By: Jennifer Medina/New York Times


As he walks to class at the University of California, Merced, Freddie Virgen sees a sea of faces in various shades of brown. He is as likely to hear banda corridos blaring out of his classmates’ earphones as hip-hop. With affectionate embraces, he greets fellow members of Hermanos Unidos, a peer support group for Latinos that is one of the largest student organizations on campus.

“When I looked at other campuses, I would find myself feeling that I didn’t belong, like I’d stick out,” he said. “This was the only place where I saw so many students I could connect to, who would get where I was coming from. Even if it felt like academic shock, it wouldn’t feel like culture shock.”

In the decades since a ballot measure banned affirmative action in California’s public institutions, the University of California has faced persistent criticism that it is inadequately serving Latinos, the state’s largest ethnic group. The disparity between the state’s population and its university enrollment is most stark at the state’s flagship campuses: at University of California, Los Angeles, Latinos make up about 21 percent of all students; at Berkeley, they account for less than 13 percent.

But at Merced, the newest addition to the 10-campus University of California system, about 53 percent of the undergraduates are Latino, most closely mirroring the demographics of the nation’s most diverse state.


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The Golden State Warriors Have Broken the NBA

The reigning NBA champions now have another All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins, and the entire league is left to wonder: What’s the point?

By: Ben Cohen/Wall Street Journal

Remember when the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James? That was adorable.

The Golden State Warriors responded to one of the most seismic moves the NBA has ever seen on Monday night by reminding the other 29 teams in the league they’re only nominally playing the same game. They pulled off the surprise of the summer: a one-year, $5.3 million bargain deal with free agent DeMarcus Cousins. Which means they now have five players from last year’s NBA All-Star Game on the same team that won last year’s championship, and the one the year before that, and probably next year’s, too.

Now it’s worth asking the question that echoed around the league as demoralized teams began to reckon with the depressing reality that the Warriors, who are coming off what is statistically the best four-year stretch in the history of professional basketball, might have gotten even better: Um, how?

The first thing that’s important to understand is that the DeMarcus Cousins they’re getting isn’t the DeMarcus Cousins who is used to demolishing the other extraordinarily large human beings who call themselves NBA centers. Not too long ago, Cousins was described as “the best big man in our game” by someone who would know: LeBron James.

But there’s a reason he was there for the taking. The four-time All-Star tore his Achilles tendon in January, a devastating injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and should keep him on the bench for his first few months in Golden State, and not even the Warriors are light years enough ahead of the NBA to know how Cousins will recover. He could be a shadow of himself, and his mercurial personality could upset the Warriors’ chemistry, and things could get so bad for Golden State they might actually lose a game in the Finals. Or he could be the discount they didn’t need.

Cousins was worth the gamble either way. And that’s because it wasn’t really a gamble.

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Mysterious and Troubling Hart SUV crash

The troubling past of a family whose car plunged off a cliff off Highway 1 in Northern California

There were no skid marks

Perhaps the most troubling clue is what investigators didn’t find.There were no skid marks or brake marks in the area leading up to the fatal crash.
And there were no witnesses to help guide police on what happened. The SUV was discovered only after a passer-by saw the mangled wreckage below the cliff.
Data from the vehicle’s software air bag module and software suggest the car had stopped at the scenic highway outcrop overlooking the cliff and then accelerated off the road, said Greg Baarts of the California Highway Patrol’s Northern Division.
And that leads police to believe the crash may have been intentional.
“At this point in our investigation, that is the direction we are going,” Baarts said.

Bruises discovered

Jennifer and Sarah Hart once lived in Minnesota, where Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault involving one of the children in 2010, according to Douglas County court records.
That child had told an elementary school teacher of pain in her stomach and back, and bruises were discovered. Sarah Hart told police she had spanked the child over the edge of the bathtub because of the child’s behavior. She was sentenced to community service and one year of probation.
Then, about 10 months ago, the Harts moved into their home in Woodland, Washington, neighbor Bruce DeKalb said. He said the family was “very private.”
Another neighbor, Bill Groener, said the children were home-schooled and kept inside most of the time.

Pleas for help

DeKalb said Devonte and one of his sisters had told him they were being mistreated. The neighbor recalled two disturbing encounters he had with the children.
“One of the girls came to the door at 1:30 in the morning and said that she needed help and the parents were not treating her properly, and (she) wanted us to protect her,” DeKalb said.
“We ended up getting her back to her parents … and then I went over there the next morning and just checked on things, and everything seemed normal, and we let it go from there.”
DeKalb said Devonte was the only child he saw doing chores outside, such as taking the garbage bins to and from the street.
Then, starting about two weeks ago, Devonte “started coming over asking for food and saying that they were taking meals away from him due to punishment,” DeKalb told HL”It started out as one time a day and escalated up to three times a day, until a week went by and we decided that we needed to get professional help.”
DeKalb said he called Child Protective Services on March 23, and officials arrived just after Jennifer Hart came home from work. But she didn’t answer the door.
Sarah Hart came home soon after, DeKalb said. By the next morning, the family and their vehicle were gone.
Child Protective Services tried to visit the family twice more, on March 26 and 27, but couldn’t make contact, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said.
The department said it had no prior history with the Hart family. But the search continues for the three missing children.

Sex under the Capitol Dome: State Senator Tony Mendoza resigns



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The Me Too\We Said Enough movement is rocking the Golden Dome of California’s State Capitol. Last October a letter circulated by lobbyists, female lawmakers and legislative staff members and some political consultants cited a pervasive culture of harassment in the capitol.  Sexual harassment is common and sexual assaults have taken place in the Capitol.

While some staffers have come forward, many are still afraid to name to harassers as others experienced retaliation after filing formal complaints with the Legislature. 

Unlike state employees and your employer, legislative workers have no civil service protection.

Bills to provide them with whistle blower protection against retaliation has died in the Legislature four years in a row.

Under a new process instituted this year, the Assembly Rules Committee refers complaints deemed valid to an independent law firm — legislators say they believe that will speed the process of assisting victims.

Ten allegations of sexual harassment are pending before the Assembly, according to Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office.

A wave in the dome is in motion and slowly building strength.


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In November, Los Angeles Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra resigned after six women came forward with stories of aggressive attacks by Bocanegra dating back nearly 10 years.  In 2009, Bocanegra  had been disciplined by the Legislature following allegations that he had groped a fellow legislative staffer. In 2010, he forcibly kissed and groped a woman at the MIX Nightclub in Sacramento.


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A week later, Assemblyman Matt Dababneh representing Woodland Hills resigned. After Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez came forward.   Lopez claimed in 2016, Democratic Assemblyman Matt Dababneh followed her into a bathroom in Las Vegas, masturbated in front of her and urged her to touch him.

Another woman, Jessica Yas Barker, alleged that Dababneh routinely spoke of his sexual exploits and made disparaging comments about women while she worked as his subordinate office from June 2009 until December 2010.  Dababneh said, both allegations are false.

In an interview Dababneh said,”My stepping down isn’t out of guilt or out of fear. It’s out of an idea that I think it’s time for me to move on to new opportunities”


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Allegations are growing for Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia from Bell Gardens.  Garcia is one of the faces of the #MeToo movement in government.  Garcia, who is currently on a voluntary unpaid leave of absence as the Assembly investigate the charges.

In 2014, Daniel Fierro told POLITICO as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia. He said she cornered him alone after the annual Assembly softball game in Sacramento as he attempted to clean up the dugout. Fierro, who said Garcia appeared inebriated, said she began stroking his back, then squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch before he extricated himself and quickly left.

Fierro is not the only one claiming improper advances by Garcia. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist says she also accosted him in May 2017, when she cornered him, made a graphic sexual proposal, and tried to grab his crotch at a political fundraiser. He spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.

The lobbyist, who represents a major industry association, said that Garcia appeared to have been drinking heavily at a fundraiser hosted by Governor Jerry Brown for state Senator Josh Newman at the de Veres bar in Sacramento. He said he was heading out the door in part to avoid the assemblywoman — who had been increasingly “flirtatious” and had called him on a few occasions before for late night drinks which he repeatedly declined.  She spotted him and said,“Where are you going?” the lobbyist said.

“She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,’’ he said. “She looked at me for a second and said, “I’ve set a goal for myself to fuck you.”

At that point, Garcia “stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch,’’ he said. That was “the line in the sand,” according to the lobbyist, and he stopped her. “I was four inches from her, eyeball to eyeball — and I said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’”

But his account of the groping incident was corroborated by another high profile political operative in Sacramento, who declined to be named for publication. She said at the time the lobbyist was both angered and “humiliated” by the encounter, and disturbed that his sexual rejection of Garcia could have implications for his industry.

Both she — and the lobbyist — believe it may already have.

The Cristina Garcia sexual-harassment scandal expanded when J. David Kernick then a field representative to Garcia,  engaged in a night of heavy drinking and urged about a half-dozen staffers to play spin the bottle, the game in which players end up kissing.

Garcia “was seemingly not critical of [Kernick’s] work until after he questioned the appropriateness of her suggestion that after a fundraiser at a whiskey bar that [he] sit on the floor of her hotel room and play spin the bottle,”

In  his complaint to the State Fair Housing and Employment. Kernick said that after “protesting this sexual harassment,” he was written up for insubordination and fired. Kernick said the write-up prevented him from finding another job in politics.




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Yesterday, Democratic State Senator Tony Mendoza representing Los Angeles resigned hours before a possible vote to expel him .

Senator Mendoza’s has denied the accusations made by six women and said the investigation was unfair, illegal and racially motivated.  He say’s he intends to sue.

The Attorneys conducting the investigation concluded that Senator Mendoza “more likely than not” engaged in behavior such as offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic event, suggesting a young woman in a Senate fellowship take a vacation with him and rent a room in his house, and asking several women about their romantic lives.

The investigation found that Mendoza likely engaged in unwanted “flirtatious or sexually suggestive” behavior with six women, including four subordinates, a lobbyist and a young woman in a fellowship with another lawmaker.

He is the third California lawmaker to resign over sexual misconduct allegations since the #MeToo movement erupted nationally last fall, leading millions of women to share their experiences on social media.

The events surrounding the 46 year old married Senator sounds more like “Dynasty” than the Real Housewives.   

Three of Mendoza’s aids were fired after meeting with  the Senate Rules Committee staff and detailed allegations that Mendoza engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior with his district director Ava Perez.
Multiple sources told The Sacramento Bee that Mendoza,  invited the young woman back to his place to review resumes, including hers, on the night of a party at the Mix Nightclub Downtown. The woman, Ana Perez worked as a fellow in his office through a prestigious Sacramento State program that places graduates in legislative offices for 11 months
At least two of his aides complained about the way Mendoza’s district director, Perez treated them. One questioned why she was even working for the Senate given her felony record for lying to a grand jury to cover up campaign finance fraud in Commerce, sources said.
Mendoza has repeatedly denied firing the aids for complaining.  As for Perez and her criminal background, he believes in second chances.  As for the outstead aids, they are silenced by confidentially agreements.  Its not uncommon for aids to sign such agreements.

I’m leaving, but not QUIETLY!

In a Richard Nixon-esk exit.   Mendoza went after the leader of the Senate and former roomate  Kevin de Leon in his resignation letter.

“Its clean that de Leon will not rest until he has my head on a platter to convince the MeeToo movement of his sincerity in supporting the cause.

He wrote, that he wasn’t able to see the evidence against him and was ordered to remain silent about the allegations. He said he couldn’t get a fair hearing with so many of his fellow Democrats running for higher office and thinking about their own political futures.   He called the Senate’s process farcical and  “more likely than not” was a low standard of proof that didn’t merit a penalty as high as expulsion.
He said, he might run for his seat in the fall



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Hear the stories, plan your defense,see the letter Click on the link below




Plastic Bags: Is this thing on?


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Duped!  bamboozled!  tricked !

On November 8th 2016 48% of Californians voted against the Plastic Bag (Prop 67) law. Perhaps they read the ballot measure. Which allowed retailers to sell plastic bags to shoppers.

On November 9th, Californians began paying retailers like Wal Mart and other supermarkets ten cents for a plastic (reusable bags). But aren’t all plastic bags reusable?


More than 50% of shoppers in upper income area Supermarkets brought their own bags.   At the Trade Joe’s in East Sacramento and the Sacramento Natural Food Coop on R Street, nearly 70 percent of shoppers entered the stores with their own bags. Plastic bags aren’t an option at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Nugget Markets.

On the other end of spectrum, fewer than 5% of the shoppers at the Wal Mart in West Sacramento, and the North Highlands stores brought their own Bags.  Fewer than 10%of shoppers at Viva, Food Co, Grocery Outlet brought reusable bags.  The majority of shoppers paid ten cents for plastic bags.  The average family bought 8 bags. These bags are thicker and larger than the bags they replaced.  There are no store logo’s or signage on these bags.

Learning Curve

Twenty years ago, wearing seat belts became mandatory in the state. Before the law went into effect, 26% of state drivers wore seat belts.  By 1987, 45% of drivers wore seat belts.  The state office of Traffic Safety says 97% of Californians wear seat belts.

The majority of shoppers in the Sacramento Area use plastic bags.  The impact of the new law as it stands today is minimal . Like the seat belt law it will take time.  Before the law was past there were many communities that banned plastic supermarket plastic bags it is very likely the state law overrides the city bands.

 The new environmental law was Christmas for many California’s Supermarket chains.




October 17,1989 5:04 pm San Francisco, Cailfornia

On October 17th 1989 .I was working at a Rental Car Company in downtown San Francisco.  A older couple from New Jersey was returning a Chevy Corsica they rented at the airport,after they learned the 46 story San Francisco Hilton wanted $50 a day to park their car.

As they approached the counter the building shook. I asked them to hold on to the counter.

Across the street from the office is a six story residential building and next door to that building is an 15 story residential building. For a second you could see light between the two buildings as they separated and then slammed together.  Showering the street with glass.   The power went out,  I remember saying, this is the BIG one, which wasn’t comforting to the tourist in the office.

In a small voice the woman said, how do we get to our room?, were on the 34th floor.

After the couple left, I walked the building, colleagues turned on the radios in the cars to hear the news. I couldn’t find any significant damage the building.  In the basement, a small support that ran underneath the sidewalk had separated

The challenge was closing the office.  There were two large electric doors and no one knew how to manually close them.  Everyone quietly decided to stay the night to protect the cars in the building. Ramps were blocked and on every floor, on the radio we all listen to KGO.

The stories were unbelievable.  There were reports of the Bay Bridge collapsing. Which we immediately dismissed. After all we were downtown and  there were no fires, no collapsed buildings.  For us it was a gross exaggeration .

Then there report of a massive fire in the Marina district.   My family lived in Cow Hollow District and the Marina was four blocks away.

If you live in California, you live with the possibility of the big one.

The news on the radio was coming in a massive clip.  Reports of freeways collapsing, and holes in the roadways.   Reports of a massive out of control fire in the Marina made me anxious.   The phones were down,  My wife, son and two month old daughter were home alone. But I’m the boss, I need to stay with the building, but my family ………

One the drivers told me to go home and check on my family.

I have said this several times.  San Franciscans can be aloof (New Yorkers are nicer) but people came together worked together in this crises.  You hear about this all the time, people helping people.  Here in my town ,there were homeless people using cardboard as brooms sweeping glass from the sidewalk   Regular people directing traffic, and people being super kind and patient in SAN FRANCISCO!

Driving home wasn’t difficult at all.  There seem to be people all over directing traffic.  All was well until I hit the wall.   Van Ness Avenue.  At the intersection of Van Ness and Filbert no one was directing traffic.  Cars were crawling.  I could see my apartment building on the other side of Van Ness ,but I had no way of getting there.

Van Ness (101) is the route most people use to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.   30 minutes went by, no one was giving an inch and as I sat, my mind went into overtime. What if the building collapsed on my family?   What if there was a gas leak?  I wanted to turn the radio off, but I couldn’t.  A man and a women walked into the traffic and forced drivers to allow me through the intersection.   I don’t remember thanking them.

As I drove up unto the sidewalk and there they were.  My son and my wife was holding my daughter . I was overwhelmed with emotion. I just needed to see them, needed to make sure they were okay.

I was back at the office in 20 minutes.   As I approached the office, one of the doors was down.  An employee who lived near the office knew how to manually  close the doors.  I traded my Cavalier for a Chrysler Minivan.  I drove southwest to get home which was north west of downtown.

Before stopping home, I parked the van and walked over to Van Ness.   Nothing was moving, I will never forget seeing men and women crying.  Trying their cell phones hundreds possibly thousands of people helpless.    It was true, a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. My wife and I talked about moving to Richmond across the bay.  That could have been us, trying to pick up our children in the east bay.

 With cell towers down ,we wouldn’t be able call anyone, hoping that they would protect our children. But what bout their children? their families?   Thousands unable to communicate with their Day Care providers.   That was NOT going to happen to us.  (A few years later we moved to Sacramento)       I picked up my family and went looking for friends who lived alone.

Now before you think,I’m  really nice man.  My purpose was selfish, completely self serving.  I didn’t  want to be called to identify a body and figured it best that we all died together.   I fully packed the minivan, and drove to Daly City for flashlights and supplies.

The Walgreen’s at the Westlake shopping center was a Zoo.  There were many available flashlights but no D cell batteries.  There were mini skirmishes in the store over C cell flashlights.   I lucked out and located four C cell flashlights.  We stopped at a fast food restaurant and returned to Cow Hollow .

On the way home my son peed on the seat of the minivan.

The next morning , I drove to the office and there were several people attempting to return their cars.  People were afraid to drive on the area roadways.  Most of the people wanted transportation to the airport  and nine people wedged themselves in the seven passenger minivan.   On the road ,I noticed one man in my rearview mirror.  Every few seconds he would rise up in the rear seat.

Ooooh, he’s sitting in my sons piss.


Three Quick Old Skol Takeaways from the Earthquake

  1. Cell Towers fall, or are blown away.  Phone lines are underground.  While we didn’t have power for two weeks our landline worked the next morning.  I have a corded phone today.
  2. Most flashlights are powered by D Cell battery.  Avoid purchasing any light or radio that requires Dcell battery.

3. When cell towers are down and power out your plastic is usless.  Keep a some old fashion cash at home.

A small Sacramento Delta town that was once like Mayberry. Today its more like Twin Peaks


The lonely bridge into town: Isleton’s population has dropped more than 70 percent since its heyday in the 1960s, according to the city’s chamber of commerce president


39 miles southwest of Sacramento lies Isleton,Ca.   Its located in the beautiful Sacramento Delta. The current population of the town in less than 850.  At one time there were three canneries in the area. The  majority of the employees were of Asian. 


Isleton’s last stand

Tweakers, cop scandals and political feuding: how a tiny Delta town went from Mayberry to Twin Peaks

By: Graham Womack/Sacramento News and Review

The dilapidated trailer sat in front of the suspected drug house, transients living inside.

In Sacramento, such a problem might be addressed with a call to the police or city. But this was Isleton, which hasn’t had a police department since 2012 and where the beleaguered local government couldn’t do much beyond ask the property owner that the trailer be removed.

So one resident did the kind of thing that happens a lot in this remote Delta town on the southern edge of Sacramento County: He took matters into his own hands.

One night in the past couple of years, the resident backed up his truck, hitched the trailer to it and took off. The story goes that while the resident was pulling out of town, freaked-out methamphetamine users were bailing out of the suddenly very mobile home.

The trailer wound up on Jackson Slough Road on Isleton’s outskirts. When Gerry Zink, the city’s public works director at the time, got word of the trailer’s location, he hauled it to a gated area at Isleton’s sewage ponds so the tweakers wouldn’t retake it. Six months or so later, the trailer burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances.

Problem solved, Isleton style.

In a tiny city that’s been broke for years, crazy capers sometimes rule the day. Some of these schemes have crippled Isleton in years past. Today, the city is nearly insolvent, with dwindling public services and resources, standing on the brink of bankruptcy or disincorporation.

But old habits die hard.

Now, even the mayor believes that Isleton should just give up, call it quits as a city and relinquish all control—and its very identity—to the county. “We’re on the bubble,” said Mayor Mark Bettencourt. “How much longer do you want to run on that knife’s edge?”

He’s not the only one asking that question.

Located along a bending tributary of the Sacramento River, Isleton is a speck hanging on to a map for dear life and losing its grip. The city still has its loyalists, residents who glimpse new opportunity and remember the city’s storied past, when it was referred to as the “Little Paris of the Delta.”

But the years haven’t been kind to that memory and the small town stands at a crossroads: Suffering wounds both cosmic (the recession) and self-inflicted (we’ll get to those in a moment), the city of Isleton is a tweaker trailer being dragged to the dump.

Can its leaders stop feuding long enough to take the wheel?    

Isleton’s Many Deaths

The city’s two main drags are Main Street and Second Street, which jet off in opposite directions parallel to the levee as one comes into Isleton off Highway 160. They’re rowed with gold rush-era storefronts and clapboard homes in various states of disrepair: chipped, rotting wood; exposed and rusted metal sidings; warped, swollen garages; and lazy, leaning telephone poles. Eerily quiet, even on weekends, it’s as if some natural disaster has chased out most of the townsfolk.

Longtime city residents say it wasn’t always this way.

“Now it’s very quiet and almost seems like a ghost town,” said Jean Yokotobi, president of the Isleton Chamber of Commerce. “But in ’63, you still had a vibrant agriculture industry here. You had several canneries. You had ag workers. The population went up to about 2,500.”

1963 was the year that Yokotobi arrived. Those were the boom times. Settled in the 19th century, the city boasted one of the West Coast’s first Chinatowns. Now the city is more like Chinatown, the 1974 classic about humanity’s existential futility.

Isleton used to be the asparagus capital of the world, specializing in a white variation on the crop, which grew well in the city’s sandy soil. But then technology changed, and the industry retreated in the 1950s. In time, the canneries left, too.

It’s also been years since the Crawdad Festival drew thousands of tourists to Isleton on an annual basis. Started in 1986 by Ralph and Charli Hand, the couple began losing money on the festival and turned it over to the city in 2005. In 2006, with the city and chamber of commerce jointly hosting the festival, $12,000 in deposits went missing, according to a 2008 investigation by Sacramento County’s grand jury. The Hands reclaimed the festival in 2007, and took it out of town for good the following year.

Today, the Crawdad Festival operates in Tehama County.

“There was no choice,” Charli Hand told SN&R. “We didn’t have the money.”

Hand still runs a card room and real-estate office in Isleton, and hopes the city can rebound. “Isleton used to be just like Mayberry,” she said.

Locals say that a lot. But this is Mayberry gone bad. Or maybe this is just what Mayberry would devolve into in real life: Sheriff Andy Taylor contracted out, Aunt Bee persecuted by town gossip, Barney Fife a grand jury investigation waiting to happen.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the Isleton Police Department.

If the retreating asparagus and crawdads cost Isleton its cultural cache, they also leeched the city of crucial revenues.

The general fund shrank to a measly $1,285 in 2012, which in turn left the city vulnerable to bizarre gambits and seedy scandals. In January of that year, either the city or the state stopped paying the department’s workers’ compensation insurance. Stories differ on why this happened.

Dave Larsen, who was both the city manager and city attorney at the time, told SN&R that the state compensation insurance fund canceled Isleton’s policy due to accumulating back debt. Larsen says he tried to negotiate a payment plan with the state and a bailout loan from the county, but was unsuccessful on both fronts.

Others, such as current City Manager Dan Hinrichs, say Larsen mismanaged funds. The council fired Larsen in April 2012, and Larsen subsequently sued the city for wrongful termination and defamation; both sides agreed to a confidential settlement this year.

Hinrichs was appointed to replace Larsen just in time for a series of scandals.

First, Hinrichs recalls, a repossession agent called to ask about a cache of guns a previous police chief allegedly hadn’t paid for. Then, in early May 2012, Hinrichs placed interim police Chief Steve Adams on administrative leave, after Adams reportedly posted on Facebook that he wanted to tell the media of problems in town. A police officer had already resigned after allegedly getting caught having sex with his mistress in a squad car.

The day after Adams went on leave, a different officer attempted to shoot a dog fighting another dog, according to a CBS13 report at the time. Hinrichs told SN&R that the officer missed, with the bullet ricocheting off a curb and striking a bystander’s leg. The department already lacked firearm training and was in danger of losing its state Peace Officer Standards and Training certification, so Hinrichs asked the sheriff’s department to take over, according to a May 10, 2013, news report.

Two weeks later, CBS13 quoted an anonymous source accusing Councilwoman Elizabeth Samano, a Larsen ally, of selling drugs. Speaking to SN&R, Samano denied the accusations and claimed they originated from a woman living near one of her rental properties, whose story she says was coached by Adams.

“He was able to befriend a lady who lived across the street who was willing to say whatever,” Samano said.

Asked if he could recall the drug accusations against Samano, Adams initially denied it. Pressed further, he told SN&R, “I heard allegations, but it was just from the public. I had nothing to base it on, nothing to go forward on, nothing.”

The Isleton Police Department was no longer functioning by September 1, 2012, which is when the sheriff’s department took over, CBS13 reported. Today, the city outsources its public safety for approximately $200,000 a year. About half of that is covered by a state grant.

Discount law enforcement had other costs, though. At a May planning commission meeting, one resident noted Isleton’s “nests of tweakers … [who] steal everything that’s not nailed down,” though another local resident claimed that crime had actually dropped by half between 2013 and 2015.

The sheriff’s department didn’t fulfill multiple public records requests seeking crime statistics in Isleton. According to statistics compiled by the California Department of Justice, only two violent crimes were reported in 2014, the most recent year for which data was available. That year also saw 23 property crimes, half as many as were reported in 2013.

But the Delta area is a hot zone for illegal marijuana grows, according to an August 23 grant acceptance request filed by the sheriff’s department, with the department uncovering 25 hidden grows last year in a 10-mile radius of dense cornfields. The department’s marijuana task force also seized 77 firearms and made 78 arrests, the form states.

Still, the city’s unsafe reputation persists.

Many Main Street storefronts are boarded up and vacant, as are the former police station and one bank. The city’s population is circling the drain at approximately 800, give or take. Today the general fund collects roughly $500,000 a year, compared to a city debt that has reached $1.6 million.

Residents Dave and Julie Amma aren’t optimistic that things will improve. When Dave Amma first met his wife a few years ago, he would tell her how great the city once was, how the Crawdad Festival drew 30 people to his home during those Father’s Day weekends. Julie Amma remembered hearing about how people hopped between five busy bars in Isleton.

“It sounds like everybody would have fun and gather and spend,” she said. “It sounds like those days are long gone.”

City officials are still willing to gamble that that’s not the case.


It takes a Village

Eighteen homes built several years ago stand empty and incomplete, facing each other across a barren divide. Some lack exterior staircases, with loose boards lying in dirt. Inside, the rooms are dirty, the floors unfinished. Red tags underline the shoddy state, three-story vessels in danger of being torn down.

Welcome to the Village on the Delta, Isleton’s latest hope and misstep.

Located on the town’s edge at the Highway 160 entrance, the subdivision is embroiled in litigation and a stalemate between the developer that inherited this project and the city that needs it to survive.

In the early 2000s, the city approved this 300-plus home development. Original developer Del Valle Homes started construction before the 2008 recession hit and the company went under. A different developer, KLD Ventures LLC of Roseville, assumed control in January 2013, but is struggling to get the first crop of 18 houses sold before moving forward with the rest of the subdivision.

The semi-built homes still need, among other things, staircases, sewer hookups and landscaping. The city has given KLD multiple extensions, but work has come to a standstill, say city officials. Additionally, as many as 15 of the homes have suffered additional damage since they were erected.

“We are also certain that there are squatters living in those houses,” Hinrichs wrote in an August 23 report to the city council.

That wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen at this site.

Before KLD entered the picture, the city allowed a marijuana grow operation to set up shop and begin cultivating inside the stalled subdivision.

On the heels of a recession that hit the small delta town particularly hard, around late 2010, Delta Allied Growers made Isleton an offer it couldn’t refuse. The marijuana growers assured city officials their operation was legally above board, and promised the city as much as $600,000 in revenue that first year, as well as jobs for 50 people. Isleton’s annual deficit hit $488,181 that year, so the prospect of digging out of that hole seemed like fortune finally smiling on the hard-luck hamlet.

Enter the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, which convened a criminal grand jury investigation into whether city officials violated state and federal laws concerning marijuana cultivation. The D.A. ended up not filing charges, but reported Larsen to the California State Bar Association for conflict of interest allegations.

In a report it released in June 2011, the grand jury concluded that “the city of Isleton was highly vulnerable to a seemingly lucrative proposal, and that DAG exploited that vulnerability.”   It wouldn’t be the last time.

Today, the city has its fiscal hopes wrapped up in Village on the Delta


KLD faces ongoing litigation from its Sacramento-based lender, Socotra Capital, after allegedly defaulting on a $3.48 million construction loan from 2015 to make the requested improvements. In an April 5 letter to Hinrichs, KLD representative Sidney B. Dunmore acknowledged the “unanticipated delays,” but contended they had more to do with “funding issues” than “dereliction on the part of KLD.”

Be that as it may, the city has gotten tired of waiting for its long-deferred dream to be realized, of a housing subdivision that could double Isleton’s population and boost its plummeting tax base.

One house made it into escrow this summer, only to fall out, with the city unwilling to issue final permits or a certificate of occupancy. In his August 23 report to the council, Hinrichs wrote that the city would “red tag” the unfinished homes for a second time in about a year, indicating substandard work and at least the possibility of demolition. Posted notices also went up at the development site in recent weeks, threatening to auction certain lots outside Sacramento Superior Court on August 24, an action that Hinrichs said was postponed two weeks.

These threats appear to be empty ones.

Tearing down the homes “would be a terrible mistake,” Hinrichs wrote. Instead, the end goal is to have the finance company come in and take over completion of the houses. “It will be a hassle with these people, but that is not unusual when dealing with developers,” Hinrichs added.

KLD representatives and a company attorney didn’t return phone messages seeking comment. Adham Sbeih, CEO of KLD’s litigious lender, Socotra Capital, told SN&R his firm remained optimistic regarding the development.

But not everyone is pulling for the project. “I just think they were not built to complement a historic

Flat Broke and Frantic

DeJack’s Country Store is one of the few businesses left open in town. The shop is more like a bodega or mini-mart, with a small selection. Some locals make the drive to the Costco in Lodi to stock up on provisions and only patronize DeJack’s if necessary. On a recent trip, the store’s owner, Jack Chima, introduced himself as a member of the planning commission and explained there would be no council meeting next door that evening at City Hall, as the city’s website indicated.The website hadn’t been updated in years.


Glenn Giovannoni serves on the planning commission, owns a local storage business and could be Isleton’s next mayor. Giovannoni and three other candidates are running for the city council in November: incumbent Councilwoman Pam Bulahan; longtime volunteer firefighter Dean Dockery; and resident Paul Steele, who, according to photographer Victoria Sheridan’s website, organized the Spam-throwing contest at the Isleton Spam Festival in 2014.

The five-member council will appoint the next mayor.

“I was raised in this community so I have a big heart for it,” Giovannoni said. “I’ve always thought Isleton had great potential—and it still has great potential.”

There are people still fighting for Isleton’s survival as a city, but they have different ideas about what could reinvigorate the town.

Samano wants a focus on small businesses and a ban on franchises. Chima would like to attract a manufacturing concern to headquarter in Isleton, to distribute goods throughout the region. Giovannoni and Yokotobi want a renewed emphasis on cultivating a tourist economy, while Hinrichs envisions developing an artist community, similar to Sausalito’s, and is excited by a couple relocating from Oakland to start a beer-tasting room on Main Street.

“Open your business here,” Hinrichs pitched. “You’ve got cheap rents. The crime problem that we have—it’s not 100 percent [taken care of], but it’s under control. I’m told by the deputies that the crime’s no worse here than it is anywhere else in the Delta.”

Still, one can’t help notice what’s missing here.

Across the street from DeJack’s, the Isleton Fire Department has just one paid employee, a part-time chief who also works for the contract paramedic service in town, Medic Ambulance. The city is able to keep an ambulance in Isleton by letting its medics crash for free at the fire station.

In June, local voters approved Measure B, a half-cent sales tax estimated to raise $91,000 to make the chief full-time, purchase much-needed equipment and maybe hire another part-time employee. City officials have also discussed placing another half-cent sales tax on the November ballot to bolster the general fund.

But these are patchwork fixes for a much deeper problem that not everyone thinks can be solved. Zink, the former public works director who retired last year, called Isleton “a pretend city.”

“I talked with the mayor,” he said. “I told him why I left. That was one of the reasons. You never had enough tools, you never had enough equipment. It was always inadequate what you had to really go out there. You need another couple people, but the funds aren’t there.”

The mayor agrees.

“We’re doing them an injustice right now with the levels of services that we’re providing,” said Bettencourt, who isn’t running for re-election in November. “I believe the county can provide a better service.”

That’s easier said than done.

A Sinking Ship


Inside a drab, white conference room located beside City Hall, consultant Ken Dieker said he had good news for Isleton’s elected officials: It would actually cost too much money for the poor city to declare bankruptcy or disincorporate.

“You absolutely are on the razor’s edge of being able to survive,” Dieker told the city council and a small gathering of residents on July 9. “Absolutely. But you’ve made progress.”

With a general fund deficit shrunk down to a manageable $13,000, Dieker counseled Isleton’s finest minds to stick it out and rein in unnecessary spending.

Almost on cue, that’s when things fell apart once again.

Councilwoman Samano asked how the city’s estimated debt of $1.6 million figured into this rosy projection. Dieker couldn’t immediately say.

Commissioner Chima wanted to know whether the deficit amount could change before the budget was finalized. Dieker figured a swing of $5,000, perhaps $10,000.

Commissioner Giovannoni, calling the numbers soft, walked out on the presentation, returning later.

After the meeting, Bettencourt acknowledged his colleagues’ skepticism. “They don’t believe what we’re telling them,” he told SN&R.

Mistrust is a given in Isleton, where years of mismanagement and infighting have fostered an air of straight-up dysfunction. But the stakes have rarely been higher.

While Dieker reiterated the grand jury’s 2008 conclusion that disincorporation would be a costly, time-consuming process, the jury did recommend the city explore that option if it couldn’t provide necessary services to its residents.

If it couldn’t get its act together, in other words.

Perhaps Isleton’s biggest cheerleader, Yokotobi thinks that day won’t come without an irreversible reckoning. “I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere unless it disincorporates,” she said. “We need new blood in here.”

But disincorporation is no quick fix, no magic bullet. It would mean representation by a handful of officials who live outside the area, primarily Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, whose district encompasses six unincorporated areas and four cities, including Isleton.

“The problem is Don Nottoli, who’s done a great job of representing our area, he’s only one of five votes,” Hinrichs reflected.

Nottoli says he and his colleagues want to help, in whatever form that’s possible. “There certainly is a willingness by our board to, I think, not just … help the city get on its feet, but stay on its feet,” he said.

That aid has had its limits, though.

The county has declined Isleton’s loan requests for years, Hinrichs said. Here, things are always precarious, the next fight never that far off. Prior to the July 9 council meeting, Hinrichs told SN&R he was going to publicly censure Samano for creating a hostile work environment. He backed down, and ended up reading a general statement that didn’t name her. Councilwoman Bulahan, a rival of Samano’s, kept echoing what Hinrichs said while Samano sat stone-faced.

Given the stakes, it was a weird meeting. The city is on life support, and its caretakers can’t stop bickering. That kind of drama is why Bruce Pope retired. The city manager before Hinrichs and Larsen, Pope checked out in 2011.

“There’s a lot of conflict for the city,” Pope said. “You have people coming to council meetings, coming to my office screaming and hollering, fire department out of control. … I don’t need this kind of stuff. Semiliterate assholes.”

Forget it, Jake. It’s Isleton.