Diamond in the Rough

Story and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-22

Doug Ose, manager of Gibson Ranch County Park is pushing for a long-term renewal of his contract to manage the 325-acre park.

The County board of supervisors is preparing to weigh the options presented by developer Doug Ose to frame a renewed contract for his continued private-level management of Gibson Ranch County Park. 
On Monday, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost toured Gibson Ranch for the first time since Ose assumed management of the 325-acre nature reserve and events center in 2011. Due to steep financial losses, the county was on the brink of closing the park. After her tour, Frost said she supports a fast-track to renewing a contract with Ose before his current agreement expires April 30th.  From her perspective, no one wants to see Gibson Ranch close.
“It’s a beautiful space and we want to do everything we can to continue to let the community have access to this wonderful space,” Frost said. She stopped short of discussing specifics in either Ose’s proposal or those the Sacramento County Dept. of Regional Parks have put on the table. “I am not sure what the board will ultimately approve or not approve, but we are set to discuss all of the items and ideas and make a decision very soon.”
For Ose, the clock is ticking. “As of right now, I’ll be out of here on April 30th unless we can agree on something better,” said Ose. 
Ose said he’s asked the county to consider a 20-year contract that would likely include increasing the park’s entry fee from $5 to $8, adding as many as 50 full hook-up RV camp sites, and the designation of the park as an official graduation space for local high schools.
“The ground rules have changed, and now we are at a point where I think we all want to see Gibson Ranch continue to remain open, but I need to stop the bleeding,” said Ose, who asserts that, although he saw a $22,000 profit in 2015, monthly losses in 2016 mounted to roughly $20,000 a month, largely due to increases in labor costs.
Visitation to the park however, is substantial.  According to Ose, roughly 100,000 visitors came through the gates of Gibson Ranch in 2016. There are currently 90 special events on the books for 2017, including 43 weddings. Nonetheless, Ose, who is also a former congressman, said the costs of maintaining the facility are outpacing revenues.
“I have to pay for 14,000 hours a year to run the place,” Ose said. “Somebody’s got to paint, trim trees, take care of the livestock, answer phones and book events. But with the costs of labor, insurance and electricity going up since we took over, the deal we have with the county is simply no longer working,” 
That deal involves payment by Ose of $1 a year for rent and half of his profits to the county.  In turn, the county agreed to pay Ose $500,000 over the current life of the contract for deferred maintenance, a much lower amount, Ose says, than it would have had to pay if the county managed the park on its own, considering the labor-intensive work involved.
“The primary difference between the government’s history of running the park and our tenure is that we can work seven days a week because we are not bound by government labor laws,” Ose said, adding that the county was losing roughly $5 million annually prior to his contract.  “We’ve proven the theory that the county doesn’t have to lose $5 million a year. In fact now they are about $2.5 million ahead.”
Regional Parks Director Jeff Leatherman did not return calls for comment.  Ose said he’s not sure what Regional Parks wants for Gibson Ranch, but hopes they will see the value in the details of his renewal proposal. 
The RV park idea, for example, claims Ose, could be one of the most viable options for ramping up revenue without significant changes to the park’s natural setting, something Regional Parks has had concerns about in the past.  Ose said he’s had an engineer come out to evaluate the space available for the RV sites and, if approved, he thinks that piece alone could generate as much as $12,000 a month.  Combined with event revenue and a hike in the entry fee, Ose says, things could easily turn around.
At the core of Ose’s proposal, however, is the request to lengthen his contract. A 20-year lease, as opposed to another five-year lease, he claims, would give him the time to implement significant revenue-generating programs and amenities.
“I have asked the county to consider a 20-year contract, something long enough to really put this private corporation to work,” Ose said. “We’ll see what happens, what the other ideas are, and hope for the best.”

CLARIFICATON OF SUE FROST'S POSITION:
County Supervisor Sue Frost has not said she specifically supports a plan to renew Doug Ose’s contract to manage Gibson Ranch, as was reported (Diamond in the Rough, March 24).  Frost does support a quick resolution to keeping the doors of the park open and, alongside the full board of supervisors, will be weighing all the options presented.


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Sanctuary State Puts Californians in Harm’s Way

From the Office of Senator Jim Nielsen  |  2017-03-22

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama)

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Along partisan lines, Senate Democrats passed two legislative proposals that would make California a safe haven for convicted felons who are in the country illegally and provide free legal service for them.
Former chairman of California’s state parole board, Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), and sheriffs across the state denounced the Democrat-controlled legislature’s actions.
“How many more lives have to be harmed before Sacramento politicians wake up and realize these policies are dangerous for our communities?” said Senator Nielsen. Nielsen represents the families of two sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty by a convicted criminal who was deported twice for committing several crimes, for membership in a drug cartel, and for entering the country illegally. “This is not about immigration; this is about enabling criminal behavior and activity that endangers our citizens.” 
The California State Sheriffs’ Association stated in their letter to the author, “This bill creates a severe public safety problem.”
Specifically, Senate Bill 54 (De León), is a legislative proposal that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, school police and security departments from sharing information about criminals with federal officials.
The second measure Senate Bill 6 (Hueso) would provide free legal services to arrested individuals. SB 6 takes general fund monies from programs like scholarships for college students to give to organizations to defend criminals.
“California leaders must protect the safety of our citizens from convicted felons who are here illegally – not hire lawyers for them,” said Senator Nielsen.
To contact Senator Nielsen, please call him at 916.651.4004, or via email at senator.nielsen@senate.ca.gov.


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Honoring A Special Lady During Women’s History Month

By Sheila LaPolla   |  2017-03-22

Centenarian, Lieutenant Lynn Balmer. Photo Courtesy: Brenda Sheriff, President American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, CA.

Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role of women in American history. The vibrancy and legacy of women past and present unifies and nourishes our collective whole as we march onward towards fundamental human equality.

Lieutenant Lynn Balmer, born September 12, 1907, on the family homestead in Plumas, California, has seen history unfold before her eyes and is creating a bit of history herself. At 109 years old, Lt. Balmer is the oldest living female veteran in the United States. She is the second oldest veteran in the United States (Corporal Richard Overton of Austin, Texas is the oldest veteran at 110 years old).

After WWII started, Lynn Balmer joined the military, “to free a man for active duty.” She served in the U.S. Coast Guard and achieved the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) LTJG. Lt. Balmer secured a top-secret clearance and worked in Military Intelligence. Using her keen mathematical abilities, she read and interpreted weather maps and charts and used morse code to help ships navigate through dangerous waters and adverse weather conditions between the United States and England.

Prior to her military service, Lt. Balmer was an elementary school teacher, teaching her first class in 1927. She later taught mathematics to high school students. In 1943, her passion for teaching and love for her students, (having no children, she treated each and every child as her own) gave way to her patriotism and love of country when she enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard.

Yes, Lt. Balmer entered two noble professions and gave of her immense talents whole heartedly.

Between the years of 1946 and 1967 she attended the University of Washington part time, taught mathematics to junior high school students, volunteered at a children’s orthopedic hospital, and was a professional skater to boot! She retired and moved to Chico, California, in the late 1990s with her husband, Charles (now deceased). At 109 years old, she presently lives comfortably in an assisted living facility in Chico, adored by her loving family.

Lynn Balmer’s passion for life lives on. She tells stories about living through World War 1, living through the nationwide flu epidemic in 1918 by wearing bags of asafetida around her neck to school, living through the Great Depression, and when there were shortages of grain and sugar, feeling very lucky that her father had bees so their family of nine children had honey.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was going strong in her childhood and when Lynn was 18 years old, she remembers that her mother got to vote for the first time in her life during the 1920 election. When Lynn became of legal age, she, too, proudly exercised her right to vote and encourages all women, young and old, to exercise their hard-earned right to vote.

Lt. Balmer’s deep love of country and patriotism still flourishes. As a veteran, she is a member of our nation’s largest veterans service organization, the American Legion. She is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova, where her nephew, Sgt. Ken Hicks, U.S. Air force veteran, is Historian. On her 108th birthday, she was recognized by American Legion Post 709 as the oldest living female member of the American Legion. (See photograph.)

She is also a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, California, where her Great-niece, Brenda Hicks Sheriff is President, and Virginia Hicks (Sgt. Hick’s wife and Brenda’s mother) is Treasurer.

On September 12, 2017, Lt. Lynn Balmer will celebrate her 110th birthday. She did not, and does not, let life pass her by. She still has richness of character, strength, gentleness, and her pioneer spirit.

During Women’s History Month, it is only fitting we pay special tribute to Lt. Balmer during her golden years and reflect upon and celebrate the lives of famous women pioneers and leaders in our history, as well as celebrate the unsung woman heroes of our daily lives.

Source: Sheila LaPolla Historian, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 383, Fair Oaks, CA


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CHPD Arrest High School Student for Weapons Violation

Source: Citrus Heights Police Department  |  2017-03-22

On March 15, 2017, Citrus Heights Police arrested a 16-year old student who was in possession of a loaded handgun on campus. An anonymous tip led school resource officers to contact the student, and a search of his backpack yielded the handgun and suspected marijuana.

The Citrus Heights Police Department received information that a male San Juan High School student may be in possession of a weapon on campus. School resource officers arrived at the school and contacted the student, a 16-year old Citrus Heights resident. A search of his backpack revealed a loaded handgun and suspected marijuana packaged for sale. The student was arrested and booked at the Sacramento County Juvenile Hall on charges of Possession of a Concealed Firearm, Possession of Concealed Firearm on School Grounds, and Possession of Marijuana for Sale.

The investigation is ongoing, and the suspect’s name and picture will not be released because he is juvenile.

This event appears to be an isolated incident and based on our investigation we do not believe there is any further risk to the public.

The Citrus Heights Police want to remind all students and parents that all weapons are prohibited on school campuses and encourage people with information on suspicious activity to contact local law enforcement immediately.


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River Cats Take on San Jose Giants at Raley Field

Source: Sacramento River Cats  |  2017-03-22

The Sacramento River Cats are excited to announce a cross-level scrimmage against the San Jose Giants, the class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The two teams will go head-to-head in a scrimmage at Raley Field on Wednesday, April 5, just one day before Sacramento’s Opening Day. Tickets for the game start at just $5 and are available now at www.rivercats.com.

This pre-season scrimmage is an extension of Spring Training and is likely to feature many of San Francisco’s top prospects. Christian Arroyo and Tyler Beede – the system’s top two prospects – are expected to take the field for the River Cats while 2016 first-round pick Bryan Reynolds (No. 4 prospect) may start for the San Jose squad.  Other prospects likely to be involved in the game include Joan Gregorio (No. 7), Jalen Miller (No. 15), Heath Quinn (No. 17), and Sacramento fan-favorite Austin Slater (No. 22).

First pitch on Wednesday, April 5 at Raley Field is set for 6:05 pm. Gates for the game will open at 5:00 pm with parking lots to open at 4:30 pm. Parking will be $5.

General admission tickets start at just $5. There will be a $10 ticket option which includes a general admission ticket, a hot dog, chips, and a soda. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rivercats.com.

All River Cats season ticket members will have tickets to the exhibition game included with their plan. For more information please email tickets@rivercats.com or call (916) 376-HITS (4487).


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Board Approves Homelessness Reduction Initiatives

Source: Sacramento County Media Department  |  2017-03-22

Some of the proposed system would simplify access to shelter entry and maximize bed utilization.

On March 21st, 2017, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved four initiatives to reduce homelessness with the intent to improve the family homelessness sheltering system; support the strategic use of transitional housing; establish a low-barrier Full Service Rehousing Shelter, and implement a new supportive Rehousing program that will employ intensive case management and Rehousing supports in conjunction with dedicated Public Housing Authority housing resources.

County Initiative #1, to Redesign Family Homelessness Response and Shelter System seeks to modify contracts to require family shelter to prioritize unsheltered families, establish low barrier requirements, mandate family acceptance of housing services and exit most families to permanent housing within 45 days. The proposed system would simplify access to shelter entry and maximize bed utilization.

With County Initiative #2, Preservation of Mather Community Campus (MCC) Residential and Employment Program, the County would provide replacement funding to continue transitional housing and employment programs at MCC for 183 single adults experiencing homelessness when HUD Continuum of Care funding sunsets on September 30, 2017.

With County Initiative #3, Full Service Rehousing Shelter, the primary purpose of the shelter is to serve those with the highest barriers to traditional services and shelter. Staff proposed that the County fund a local provider to open a 24-hour, low-barrier Full Service Rehousing Shelter designed to shelter and rapidly re-house persons who are difficult to serve in traditional shelters or services. Stable exit will be the primary objective of on-site case management.

County Initiative #4, Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program, would employ a “frequent utilizer” approach to targeting the highest cost users experiencing homelessness to identify eligible participants. The Program would provide a highly flexible solution, employing proactive engagement, “whatever it takes services”, and ongoing housing subsidies to engage and stably re-house the target population.

Today’s report to the Board provided implementation milestones and timeframes, essentially a “roadmap” to reduce homelessness. Comprehensive efforts to reduce homelessness have been augmented in the last year:

On October 18, 2016, the Board held a workshop on homelessness: “Homelessness Crisis Response: Investing in What Works.”

A second workshop was held on November 15, 2016, called “Increasing Permanent Housing Opportunities for Persons Experiencing Homelessness.”

On January 24, 2017, County staff presented a comprehensive package of strategic recommendations to improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

On January 31, 2017, the Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council held a joint workshop on homelessness.

On February 28, 2017, the County hosted a stakeholder meeting with approximately 60 persons in attendance representing 36 organizations to help shape the initiatives.

Department of Human Assistance Director, Ann Edwards, stated, “I am excited about the Board’s commitment to taking these steps to reduce homelessness in our community.”


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Church Members Serve in Nicaragua

Submitted by Richard Cable All photos courtesy Eventide Community   |  2017-03-16

Providing solar ovens in Las Huertas.

A delegation of 18 members of the Sacramento Presbytery, ages 14 to over 70, spent spring break volunteering in Nicaragua. The team is a part of an ongoing partnership with CEPAD, an Ecumenical, Not for Profit serving the people of Nicaragua by building schools and supporting sustainability in its villages.

The volunteer team began their service at a CEPAD School in the colonial city of León. The team painted three classrooms but the highlight was presenting the school with 18 laptop computers generously donated by members of Davis Community Church.

“When the computers were first presented, there was a lot of confused chatter,” stated Rev. Jeanie Shaw, pastor of Eventide Community − a sister church to Grace Presbyterian in Sacramento − and mission trip leader, “the students had never seen a laptop before. After a student yelled out, 'Computadora,' [computers!] the whole assembly erupted in gleeful pandemonium.”

“Nicaragua is the second poorest country in our hemisphere,” said Dr. Grace Chou of Tahoe Donner and a mission volunteer, “and to empower these students with technology was the gift of a lifetime.” Dr. Chou also took the task of installing the computers for the school.

The team then visited the District of San Fransico Libre, a high desert region that ranks the poorest in the Nicaraguan. They visited the small village of Las Huertas where the entire village gathered at the home of their community leader and welcomed us.

“The village is comprised of only 29 families,” Pastor Shaw describes. “Their one and two room houses are handmade of adobe or cement blocks. Cooking is done over firewood in outdoor clay ovens. Floors are just packed earth.”

The village has no refrigeration or running water. Electricity was only introduced last year. And domestic animals roam freely everywhere; cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and dogs. Cattle are driven down the road twice a day led by men on horseback. Oxcarts take loads of firewood to sell into other nearby villages. But everything is clean in Las Huertas, dirt yards swept every day at dawn.

The leaders of the village had chosen water collection as the primary project this year and the Truckee team provided 8 families with large cisterns, tubing for gutters on the houses and plastic sheeting for a large catch pond for collecting water during the rainy season. The team also provided tools for the village and together with the villagers, dug out the collecting ponds.

As a pilot project, the team also brought five solar ovens and demonstrated how they worked to the villagers.

“There was real excitement when they learned that their rice would never burn again,” Shaw said.

“Nicaragua is a culture with beautiful formality,” Dr. Chou observed. “We were presented with beautiful, yet formal, welcome speeches and prayers.”

Spencer Edmundson and Jack and Tiege Wright of Truckee gave the Nicaraguan youth enough baseball equipment for the whole village and a game immediately got underway. Baseball is their national past time and the boys were quickly led to a sugar cane field where the villagers, wielding machetes, cut down the cane to make a baseball diamond. Ash from fire pits were spread to mark the lines and they yelled, “¡Jugar a la pelota!” [Play Ball!] Teams were chosen, and our youth pitched and their youth batted the balls skyward (almost lost in the sugarcane). Afterward, the laughter and high fives between teams needed no translation.

“We come from two different countries,” Shaw said in a formal thank you, “but we are all Americans − North Americans and South Americans. And most importantly, we are all one in Christ.”

The Mission Team shared their reflections of their experience on Sunday, March 12th at Eventide Community within the Fellowship Hall of the Arden Christian Church in Sacramento.


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