Christmastime in Citrus Heights

By Elise Spleiss  |  2018-12-22

As beautiful as it gets. Merry Christmas! Photo courtesy Janet Schaefer

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) – The Citrus Heights Community Marching Band (CHCMB), dancing mice, strolling carolers, and of course Santa Claus and his elves were highlights of the annual Citrus Heights Tree Lighting ceremony at City Hall on December 6.

A 12-foot Rudolph the Reindeer overlooked festivities as hundreds of excited children and their families spent an evening enjoying the good weather, games, music, refreshments and entertainment.

As is tradition, the 50-piece Citrus Heights Community Marching Band (CHCMB) started off the event for early attendees with a 30-minute concert of traditional holiday tunes.  Jingle Julie again led the crowd in Christmas songs and Mayor Steve Miller welcomed all. At 6:30 Miller led the countdown as he and Santa hit the switch to light the majestic 23-foot redwood tree. City Manager Chris Boyd and other city council members were also in attendance.

 ‘Other Cheek’ face painting by Sue created dozens of festive feline faces. Area pageant princesses and ambassadors working with director Tamara Baru-Brown mingled with the crowd along with the Christmas Mice and members of Encore, an all-female A Capella Singers.

A taste of Europe was provided by costumed members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., authentic re-enactors of life in 17th century Europe.

Lines formed quickly for the complimentary cookies, hot apple cider the cocoa provided by TLC Caterers, and the miniature train that made continuous loops around the parking lot. Kids of all sizes loved jumping around in the two large bounce house snow globes. Inside the city hall foyer, long lines formed for a photo opportunity with Santa and his elves.

This is the third Christmas for the ‘new’ city hall which opened for business on August 9, 2016. The permanent Christmas tree was planted near the main entrance to city hall during the building’s construction in 2015 and 2016.  The tree can be seen with lights on day and night at 6360 Fountain Square Drive.

 Sponsors of the event were Republic Services, Boost Mobile, and Sunrise Marketplace.

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CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - When Citrus Heights first incorporated as a city in 1977 they had to make a Revenue Neutrality agreement with Sacramento County that allows the county to keep Citrus Heights property tax revenue for 25 years. Under this agreement, Citrus Heights will receive the property taxes starting in January 2023.

The city is now entering the period when their expenditures outweigh incoming revenue, but this is not a surprise. At the time of incorporation, projections showed that this would happen well before the 25-year Revenue Neutrality agreement expired. Current projections suggest a $5 million deficit over the next three years.

Ronda Rivera, Citrus Heights finance director and assistant city manager, presented a budget proposal to the City Council that staff believes will offer the flexibility needed to meet the city’s needs on operations and capital improvements. The proposal addresses the city’s need for funding in order to maintain vital projects, such as the Auburn Blvd. expansion, which is an estimated $20 million project. In order to ensure funding from state and federal agencies, the city will need to show they have $4.5 million of matching funds by 2020.

Because the city does not want to incur long-term debt, staff looked at short-term solutions. The city asked the Sacramento County to extend the period of Revenue Neutrality beyond the 25-year agreement while allowing the city to collect half of the property taxes, but the county was not willing to modify the agreement.

The proposed budget solution is a revolving line of credit with Western Alliance Bank for $12 million. The Community Center building would be pledged as collateral for the line of credit, with the debt scheduled to be paid off by September 2024—less than two years after the end of Revenue Neutrality. The city would also have the ability to begin repayment as early as March 2021. Without this line of credit, the city is projected to have only $350,000 in the general fund reserve by fiscal year 2021-2022. If the Council adopts this proposal, the new model predicts $2.9 million in reserves.

After the presentation, Mayor Steve Miller opened the floor to public comments from local residents. David Warren expressed concern that the line of credit will be used to fund operating costs for the city instead of being used exclusively for capital improvements. He worries that a recession could reduce property tax revenue and then the debt wouldn’t be repaid on time.

Bill Van Duken said it was well-known that the cost of incorporating as a city would eventually lead to this point of revenue shortfall. “Through frugal management,” said Van Duken, “we’ve been able to kick the can down the road. But we knew this day was coming and I applaud the city for looking at all options.” He urged the Council to adopt the proposal.

Kelly Severin said she appreciates the hard work of keeping the city debt free and thinks the city should remain debt free: “We want all these things, but sometimes we need to wait. Maybe we can’t do the Auburn Blvd. project when we want to.” Severin said it’s more important to stay out of debt and she is opposed to the line of credit.

Kathilynn Carpenter, speaking on of behalf of Sunrise MarketPlace, said it’s very important to continue investing in the city’s business corridors. She stressed the importance of continuing the Auburn Blvd. improvements so the city can bring in revenue from new businesses. Carpenter supports the proposal and sees it as an investment in the city’s financial future.

Vice Mayor Jeannie Bruins and council member Al Fox both said they support the proposal because it allows the city to remain financially sound without imposing long-term debt.

Council member Bret Daniels stated that due to “the 25-year extortion payments to the county, the Council established the general reserve fund knowing someday we’d reach this day when the tax money coming in won’t meet our financial needs.” He said he reluctantly supports the proposal because he thinks it’s the only fair thing to do for the citizens because it’s so important to finish the Auburn Blvd. expansion.

Council member Jeff Slowey said that this proposal is not a typical line of credit, and this is one of the better deals he’s seen because the terms and conditions are in the city’s favor. “We have to have the money to show for Auburn. I’m disappointed we can’t say ‘debt free’ going forward, but we’re keeping all our options open.” Slowey said he reluctantly supports the proposal because the city needs to be able to pursue new economic opportunities.

Mayor Miller concurred with the statements of his fellow council members and called for the vote; the proposal passed unanimously. The city manager got approval to execute the necessary paperwork and the funding became available on November 29, 2018.

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Sacramento Area Cadets Become CHP Officers

Story by Trina L. Drotar  |  2018-12-22

Photos by Trina L. Drotar and courtesy CHP

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) – When they woke on the morning of Friday, November 16, the 46 men and women who arrived for final inspection spent their last morning as California Highway Patrol cadets. The class of 43 men and 3 women received their stars in a ceremony filled with pomp, circumstance, and a lot of fun.

Poor air quality had cancelled the cadets’ run to the state capitol earlier in the week, and the final inspection had to be moved from the quad into the dining hall, and the emergency vehicle operator course (EVOC) demonstration was also cancelled, but none of those things dampened the spirit and the joy shared by cadets and their family and friends upon finishing a grueling six months at the state’s only CHP Academy.

Among the graduates was Margarito Meza, the first graduate in the Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars (LECS) program at Sacramento State which began in 2017 to prepare college students from all disciplines for careers as sworn law enforcement officers at the local and state level. Program director Shelby Moffatt and a large group of LECS students were on hand to support Meza. Four are currently in the CHP Academy and are expected to graduate in 2019.

Early arrivals toured the Academy’s museum and learned the history of the CHP and its role in popular culture. Timelines, motorcycles, including a rare 1941 model, and communications equipment spanning several decades are on display in the museum which is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. and is free of charge.

Not free were the hours of intense physical and mental training that cadets endured during their six months away from family and friends. Cadets live on the West Sacramento campus for the duration of their training and education which includes a host of courses from basic Spanish to marksmanship to how to perform field sobriety tests. They must pass the EVOC driver training, attain certification in arrest techniques, and keep on top of their physical training. During the ceremony, a short film created by the graduating class provided family and friends a glimpse of life during the past six months at the Academy.

Prior to the ceremony in which cadets received their badges, they underwent their final inspection. Photos were snapped and hugs were given to cadets for a few minutes before the inspection began. Commissioner Warren Stanley, Deputy Commissioner Scott Silsbee, Assistant Commissioners Amanda Ray and Nick Norton, and Captain James Mann greeted each cadet, moving through the ranks, shaking hands, and providing encouraging words to each.

In that group was Erik Rodriguez of West Sacramento whose family was joined by several of his military buddies who had flown in from Texas for his special day. The 34-year old veteran was honored with a plaque for being the class’s most inspirational cadet, and he was recognized for his work as one of the company commanders. He will report to the San Francisco Bay Area for his first assignment as an officer.

Graduates are required to report to their first assignments within ten days and are sent where the greatest need is so many were sent to the southern part of the state. Cadets select up to three possible choices and are never first stationed in Sacramento.

Perhaps the brightest smiles to be found were from Cortez Sanders of Sacramento, his parents, and his extended family. His proud father, Bennett, was also recognized during the ceremony as he is a CHP employee. Sanders’ mother, Adrienne, said that she is very proud of her son and all the work he put into becoming an officer. It was his father who held the honor of pinning the badge on his son, one of the traditions that did occur outside as is custom.

Cortez will report to Redwood City for his first assignment and will be joined there by fellow Sacramentan David Waggoner who was honored as outstanding athlete. Also headed to Redwood City are Trevor Gossett of Sacramento and David Tran of Elk Grove.

                For additional information, visit: For additional information about the LECS program, visit:

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Lonnie Cook Survived the USS Arizona Bombing

Story by Trina L. Drotar  |  2018-12-22

Photos by Trina L. Drotar and courtesy Lonnie Cook

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) – Lonnie Cook and his wife of 68 years, Marietta, have lived in Aegis of Carmichael since July after moving from Oklahoma. Cook is witty, a natural storyteller, just a tad bit feisty, and he recently celebrated his 98th birthday. He’s a celebrity without a star on the Hollywood or Sacramento Walks of Fame. He has no viral videos on YouTube or Facebook. He is, however, one of only 335 men who survived the attack on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, and as of 2017, was one only five still living. And he knows exactly where he was when the bombs hit.

He entered the U.S. Navy when he was 19 years old. Only two years into his six year term, after having showered and changed into clothes to go ashore in, the bombs hit the battleship.

 “It’s good I didn’t take too long,” he said, “or I would have been blown up.”

Cook was part of the 3rd division in charge of the gun turret. The ship, he said, sunk 15 to 18 feet before the orders to abandon were given. The next morning, he was one of several men who volunteered to go on the destroyers.

The couple was married two years after Cook finished his service. He attended college in Salinas and learned to weld. He spent 30 years as a welder.

 “I helped build the two largest boilers west of the Mississippi River for Babcock and Wilcox and Kellogg, and I put a 20” gas line right through Brooklyn, NY in ’57,” he said.

The couple traveled the country for work, and he has many stories. He worked 75 straight graveyard shifts once, but could not spend all the money he had earned. He needed the sleep.

 “We bought a house, paid $59 thousand for it. I don’t remember what we put down. Three years later, I put $37 thousand cash in a paper sack, my 45 in my belt, and we went to Salinas Bank to pay the house off.” This would be unimaginable today as would be the hunting he did on his way to and from high school each day.

Cook, who is not a large man, was captain of his high school football team three out of four years, and he smiles a bit when he says that he crowned three football queens. He is not a football follower and admits that he had considered basketball a sissy game, but he has since learned that it is not. Cook always chose hunting season over basketball.

He joined the service, he said, because he had no work and no money.

 “I had to do something,” he said.

His mom sent him to business school, but that did not work out because the city, with its street cars and police sirens, was too loud for the young man who grew up in the country.

 “I couldn’t sleep, so I told her I’m not going back, so I joined the service.”           

Two years later, he was on the USS Arizona expecting to go ashore on leave when the bombs dropped.

 “Our shower was up just forward of where it blew up,” he said. “I’d just come back down to my locker.” His work station was Turret 3 as part of the gun crew and he was at the bottom when the bombs dropped.

“I started up through the turret and I was half way up on the shell deck when it exploded and it turned the lights out and almost knocked me off the ladder, but I went on up into the gun room and we stayed there until we could go up on deck and take people off.”

Most of the people on deck were crippled and burned beyond recognition he recalled and since the day’s uniform was t-shirts and white shorts, the men had no protection.

Cook ended up on the USS Patterson DD-392 for temporary duty. He saw Lt. O’Hare shoot down six planes and become the first navy ace. He was in the Coral Sea battle when the Lexington was sunk, and went to Midway.

 “When that was over I went to Alaska and took a tanker back to Pearl. I got transferred and went to electro hydraulic gunnery school in D.C. for three months,” he said. “We got a call to go New York City to pick up the Battleship Iowa, which was a new battleship, and escorted it with President Roosevelt to Africa.” The men spent time down the coast of Africa while President Roosevelt was engaged in meetings.

 “I spent four days there, then came back to pick the battleship up, took it back to New York, and went down through the canal in time for January 1st.”

He served in the Marshall Islands, Taipan, and made three landings in the Philippines before being transferred to Charleston, South Carolina to work on the hull of the USS 583 and picked up a convoy to the Azores.

“When that was all over, went through the canal and in February ’45 we hit Iwo Jima, landed troops, and when that was over, April 1st we hit Okinawa. We stayed there until that over June 23rd. We come back to San Francisco and that ended my wartime,” he added.

Cook never returned to the military service and was not eligible for the draft. The last two ships he served on accumulated a total of 31 battle stars.

He returned to Oklahoma where he met his bride. Although she would follow him for most of his post-military career, he first followed her to California because she was going to care for a pregnant friend. The couple married in June of 1950 in a private wedding, spent 30 years in Salinas, 29 in Oklahoma, and returned to California once again because his bride wanted to.

 “I didn’t want to, of course,” he said about leaving Oklahoma. “I decided she deserved what she wanted, so I gave up everything I had- guns, fishing tackle, everything I had - and we come to California.

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Religious Freedom Conference

By Gary Zavoral  |  2018-12-22

From left, Associate Justice George Nicholson of the Third District Court of Appeals; Dr. John Mark Reynolds, a Houston Christian college administrator and popular Evangelical speaker; Elder Paul Watkins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Dr. John Jackson, president of William Jessup University in Rocklin.

Area Christians Counseled to Be Civil When Debating Religious Freedom

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - About 600 Christians who gathered Friday, Nov. 16, to learn how to help preserve religious freedom in America were told to boldly declare their beliefs, but to debate civilly.

“And why must we do it civilly? Because the alternative is civil war,” said Dr. John Mark Reynolds, a Houston Christian college administrator and popular Evangelical speaker. “Not a shooting war, but a civil war of the soul, where we tear apart people … because we cannot compromise, because we cannot speak civilly, because we cannot just agree to disagree, but to boldly disagree.”

Reynolds, an expert on culture, society and philosophy, was the featured speaker in the first of three conferences bringing people of different faiths together to learn how to work side by side to preserve religious freedom. The series is presented by the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, Rocklin’s William Jessup University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This first conference was held at The Church of Jesus Christ’s Chapel on Temple Hill in Rancho Cordova.

To show how far the United States has come in its intolerance of religious views, Reynolds quoted former U.S. Pres. Teddy Roosevelt, who said at a national convention at the turn of the 20th century, “We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.”

“Can you imagine what the Washington Post would do to the presidential candidate who would dare to say that today?” Reynolds asked.

Reynolds drew from history – especially the Bolshevik revolution in Russia – to show the result of what happens to a culture and even entire nations when a society blocks religious rights.

“A culture will die when religious freedom dies,” he said, “because religious freedom is the first freedom.”

He told about his great-great-grandfather leaving his family and farm to volunteer to fight for “Mr. Lincoln and liberty” in the Civil War.

“When I am told that religious people should be quiet about their religious beliefs, I point out that my great-great-grandfather did not leave to fight for a secular state. But instead he marched to a song that said, ‘In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His figure that transfigures you and me, as He died to make men holy, let us’ – in the version I was taught – ‘die to make men free,  His truth is marching on.’ … His motivation was purely religious.”

Asked how we can effectively engage in a discussion about religious freedom among our neighbors in California, where there are so many voices wanting to squelch these freedoms and often are uncivil in their tone, he told of the four-fold lesson he learned from his mother, who loved to debate:

  1. If you lose your temper, you lose. He said to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, no matter how unpleasant others may be.
  2. Some people aren’t going to like you, even if you’re nice. “You can’t be so nice that you won’t have enemies.” After all, he said, “They killed Jesus, and you can’t get nicer than Jesus. I’m not trying to be flippant, but if you state your views clearly and you’re totally nice, there are still people who won’t like you.”
  3. Love your enemies. “Our Savior believed that you had to love your enemies, which means that Christians must be capable of making enemies. And some people are so nice that they’re incapable of making enemies. That’s not called being nice, that’s called being spineless.”
  4. Sometimes shut up. “When somebody is really suffering or hurting on an issue,” he said, “they come to you and say, for example, ‘Look, this sexual identity is central to my life and you disagree with me,’ just sit and listen. You’re probably not going to change anyone’s mind.” Reynolds said when he has had such disagreements, even with some in his own family, he tells them, “Here’s what I think, and I’ll tell you when I change my mind. … Because there’s more to life than this and we’ve clearly expressed our views, and we should just move on.” The relationship with family and friends is more important than the issue, he reminded the audience.

In closing, Reynolds told how Daniel of the Old Testament endured 70 years in Babylon, thanks in part to three or four miracles, but mostly because he was smart and cagey, having learned how to live among the Babylonians without having to compromise his core values and beliefs.

Emphasizing the need for civility in our conversations and debates, Reynolds said, “Some of us are so obnoxious that we need the miracle ratio to be daily, not one every 20 years. But if you’re getting yourself thrown into a lion’s den every day, you’re doomed.”

The next conference in this “Preserving Religious Freedom” series is planned for March 2019. For more on the series, including videos from local leaders on the importance of religious freedom, go to

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Sacramento Self-Help Housing Presents First-Ever Drive

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - On Saturday, December 15, 2018, Sacramento Self-Help Housing (SSHH) will host its first-ever “Housewarming for the Homeless” winter donation drive at the Cal Expo main gate loop from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. To make it as easy as possible for the community to participate, SSHH staff and dedicated volunteers will be on-hand to collect linens (such as blankets, single and double bed sheets and towels), small appliances (such as microwaves, toasters and coffee makers) and kitchenware to be distributed to hundreds of recently homeless individuals in Sacramento County.

Sacramento Self-Help Housing is a non-profit 501(c)3 agency dedicated to assist those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to find and retain stable and affordable housing. With significant support provided by Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, SSHH successfully opened 30+ transitional and permanent supportive houses for the most vulnerable in our community in 2018. Looking forward to 2019, SSHH expects to do the same. In response to this rapid growth and as a result of the ever-increasing number of homeless men, women and families in Sacramento County, SSHH is garnering donations to assist with the transition of their clients from the street and onto a path of sustainable independent permanent housing.

The “Housewarming for the Homeless” needs list includes the following: Linens: bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, single and twin bed sheets, blankets, bed pillows, dish towels; Appliances: microwaves, toasters, coffee pots; Kitchenware: dishes, pots, pans, silverware

Each donation, big or small, will go directly to furnishing a home for a recently homeless individual or family in our community. For more information about Sacramento Self-Help Housing, please call 916-341-0593 or visit

Sacramento Self-Help Housing assists local homeless individuals and families worried about losing their housing to find and retain stable and affordable housing. The not-for-profit organization provides resources such as an updated housing database on the website along with shared housing options for those without sufficient income to rent a unit by themselves. In addition, Sacramento Self-Help Housing reaches out to local homeless men and women living in camps in local communities to assess their needs and, whenever possible, refer them to available mental health services, medical care, financial aid, and shelter and housing options. For more, visit or call 916-341-0593.

Source: T-Rock Communications

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InSight Now On Mars

Ashley Gudzak, Aerojet Rocketdyne  |  2018-12-02

NASA’s InSight Mars lander successfully touched down on the red planet with assistance of
Aerojet Rocketdyne descent and landing propulsion. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Aerojet Rocketdyne Propulsion Delivers to Planet’s Surface

REDMOND, WA (MPG)  – Using sophisticated propulsion devices provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA’s Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of the red planet Nov. 26.

The final phase of lnSight’s descent was powered by 12 Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-107N 50 lbf engines, providing variable pounds of pulsed thrust throughout its descent, which began firing after the lander jettisoned its parachute and heat shield. The engines maneuvered the craft clear of the falling parachute before bringing it gently to the Martian surface, where it will gather data on the planet’s seismology, rotation and internal temperature.

“We provided propulsion for every phase of this important NASA mission, from launch to landing,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “A mission like this leaves no margin for error and our systems successfully performed their critical roles as expected.”

Mars InSight began its journey May 5 with its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Aerojet Rocketdyne supplied the RL10C-1 main engine and 12 MR-106 reaction control thrusters for the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, as well as helium pressurization tanks for the vehicle’s first and second stages.

During InSight’s roughly six-month cruise to Mars, four Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-106B thrusters, each generating four pounds of thrust, kept the probe on target via five trajectory correction maneuvers. Meanwhile, four MR-111C thrusters, each generating one pound of thrust, kept the craft stable and pointed in the right direction.

These same thrusters provided the final trajectory and pointing adjustments as the lander approached the Martian atmosphere. Aerojet Rocketdyne also supplied two helium pressurization tanks on the lander.

Mars InSight will study the deep interior of Mars, examining in depth its crust, mantle, and core. Aerojet Rocketdyne engines have flown aboard every successful U.S. Mars mission, including orbiters and landers. Additionally, Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion systems have taken NASA probes to every planet in the solar system and even beyond. The agency’s two Voyager probes, which launched in 1977, are equipped with Aerojet Rocketdyne thrusters. Voyager 1 is in interstellar space, while Voyager 2 is in the heliosheath, the outermost layer of the heliosphere.

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