Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Identified for $75 million in President’s Proposed Budget

Source: Sacramento Area Council of Governments  |  2016-02-09
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Recently, the Obama Administration renewed its commitment to the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Project, designating $75 million in federal funding in the President’s proposed budget for Federal Fiscal Year 2017. If approved by Congress, the Small Starts Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant would provide 50 percent of the funding for the $150 million project.

The cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, along with Sacramento Regional Transit District and Yolo County Transportation District have been working with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) over several years to secure this federal funding. The streetcar was identified in the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget for accelerated project delivery and the streetcar met a number of significant milestones in 2015, including full clearance under the California Environmental Quality Act and completion of 30 percent of the project’s design and engineering. In 2015, the FTA also awarded the Sacramento Area Council of Governments a $1.1 million grant to study and promote transit-oriented development along the streetcar route. The funds will help the cities of West Sacramento and Sacramento create a toolkit for land use development that focuses on revitalization and increased density in the region’s urban core. Coordinated land use and transportation planning and investment are integral to a thriving urban core, which also supports housing and transportation choices in the Sacramento region’s suburban and rural communities.

“Bringing streetcars back to our city is a vital part of my vision for a more connected Sacramento,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “[This recent] announcement of substantial federal funding means we are one step closer to the realization of the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Project, which will not only spark economic development by efficiently linking Sacramento businesses, residents, and major landmarks, but will also provide Sacramentans with an environmentally friendly public transportation option as our region continues to grow. I want to thank FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan for her continued partnership, and I look forward to cooperation at the state and local level on a project that is so critical for the people and economy of Sacramento.”

In the near term, the project planning team will meet with local property owners and project partners to explore options to secure the final local financing commitment. “I am happy with the announcement that the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar has been included in the President’s budget. This award, coupled with the $1.1 million for transit-oriented development along the streetcar route, is key to broadening the place-making investments that property owners, like myself, have been making for years. Public-private partnerships are key to the continued smart growth and economic success of our region’s urban core,” said David Taylor, President and Founder of David S. Taylor Interests and Chair of the Board for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

The public-private partnership for the streetcar project supports implementation of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) and the Sacramento Region Blueprint. Within the next 60 days, the streetcar planning team will announce the consultant selected to lead the final design and engineering portion of the Streetcar.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said, “With the largest funding commitment for any streetcar project in the nation, this is the strongest possible shot in the arm for our project, following two years of intensive evaluation of ridership projections, economic impact, and need. We’re on track!”

Sacramento City Council Member Steve Hansen, whose district includes Downtown Sacramento upon hearing the news said, “We are elated to be included in the President’s Budget. This is not only a significant milestone for the project, but it is a reflection of the streetcar's broad support from private and public partners. The streetcar is an essential urban planning tool for our urban core that promotes cleaner air, new housing, and allows people to go car free.”

Project planning for the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar is a partnership of the cities of West Sacramento, Sacramento, Sacramento Regional Transit, Yolo County Transportation District and SACOG. The streetcar remains on schedule to begin construction in late 2017, and serve passengers in 2020. U.S. Department of Transportation Budget Highlights are online.

SACOG develops the region’s long range transportation plan and serves as a forum for innovative and integrated regional collaboration to preserve a high quality of life for residents. In addition to long-range transportation planning, SACOG researches a variety of issues, including land use, air quality, water, and rural sustainability. SACOG works to ensure the Sacramento region receives its fair share of state and federal funding for transportation infrastructure.


West Sacramento Crime Beat

Compiled by Pilar Castaneda

Freelance journalist

Exclusively to the West Sacramento Sun

 

Physical Threat

Thursday Feb. 4th at 4:45 p.m.

103 4th Street

Male stated a known subject brandished a metal pole at him and tried to hit him with it. Officer was unable to contact the other party at the time of the report.

 

Warrant and Arrest

Thursday Feb. 4th at 2:55 p.m.

200 4th Street

Officer contacted suspect at location of incident for a call for service. Suspect had a felony warrant and was arrested, and transported to Yolo County Jail.

Trespassing, Assaulting an Officer

Wednesday Feb. 3rd at 11:48 p.m.

1809 West Capitol Avenue

Upon officer’s arrival the officer made contact with the owner of the motel: victim Patel. She stated that room #146 should be vacant however she saw the light was on and there was some movement in the room. Patel gave officers permission to enter and search the room.

As the officer assisting approached the room the door open. The officers ordered the door open. The officers ordered everyone out of the room. Male suspect-1 was detained outside of the room while female suspect-2 ignored our orders and remained in the room. The officer entered the room and took hold of female suspect-2’s hand and left arm in an attempt to detain her in handcuffs. As officer attempted to secure her arm behind her, she spun around and hit the left side of the officer’s face with her open right hand. The officer managed to gain control of suspect-2 forcing her to the floor with an arm bar on her left arm. Suspect-2 was handcuffed and placed under arrest.

Later, suspect-1 said that he was the one that entered the room without permission because it was “open.” Victim signed a citizen’s complaint form and suspect-1 was arrested.

Both suspects were transported to pre-booking at West Sacramento Police Department then to Yolo County Jail.

 

Trespassing

Wednesday Feb. 3rd at 8:48 p.m.

1809 West Capitol Avenue

Suspect notified police of potential trespassers in room #154 of the Pick Wick Motel. Victim is the owner/manager of the motel. Upon my arrival victim stated that no one should be in room # 154. Suspect was found sitting on the bed of #154. The doorknob of the front door of room #154 had been removed. Suspect had been arrested on 1/12/15 for similar circumstances. Suspect arrested and transported to jail.

 

Check Fraud Report

Tuesday Feb. 2nd at 12:03 p.m.

640 Bryte Avenue

Reporting person advised that they have been victims of check fraud. Reporting person contacted at police department lobby. Reporting person informed an info. report would be written.

 

Warrant and Arrest

Tuesday Feb. 2nd at 3:54 p.m.

2001 West Capitol Avenue

Subject was contacted at location of incident. Subject arrested and booked at Yolo County Jail for a warrant out of Yolo county.

 

DUI

Tuesday Feb. 2nd at 2:41 a.m.

B Street X 5th Street

Suspect was stopped as the driver and sole occupant of a vehicle with expired registration. Suspect did not perform sobriety field test as demonstrated. Suspect was arrested and booked at Yolo County Jail and charged with a DUI.

 

Expired Registration, Possible DUI

Monday Feb. 1st at 6:24 p.m.

Kegle at Anna

Suspect was driver of vehicle stopped after swerving and almost hitting bicyclist. Suspect also had expired registration upon contact. Suspect had bloodshot watery eyes, strong odor of alcohol on his breath, and unsteady on his feet. Suspect denied drinking, was found to be unlicensed. No sobriety field test done due to language. Suspect arrested and booked at Yolo County Jail.

 

Threats

Monday Feb. 1st at 1:45 p.m.

1809 West Capitol Avenue

Suspect advised 602 penal code from location. Suspect returned and upon being advised to leave he became belligerent and threatened to assault and kill the victim. Upon exiting the room momentarily the victim closed and locked the door. Suspect pounded on the door and continued his threats. Victim felt in danger and called the West Sacramento Police Department. Suspect arrested and booked Yolo County Jail.

 

Shoplifting

Sunday Jan. 31st at 8:27 p.m.

Reed Avenue and Riverpoint Court

Shoplifting. Notice to appear was issued.

 

Intoxication

Sunday Jan. 31st at 8:25 a.m.

3407 Evergreen Road

Suspect was causing a disturbance at location of incident. Suspect ID’d self verbally, also was known to officers. Suspect displayed objective signs of narcotic intoxication: Rapid speech, constricted pupils, visual hallucination. Suspect determined to be unable to care for himself due to intoxication.

 

Traffic Collision, DUI, Suspended License

Saturday Jan. 30th at 10:54 p.m.

2355 West Capitol Avenue

Suspect was identified by a witness as the solo occupant and driver of a vehicle involved in a minor traffic collision. Suspect was contacted by officers and admitted to driving. Suspect displayed objective symptoms of intoxication and did not complete field sobriety tests as demonstrated. Suspect blew a .30 percent blood alcohol concentration. Suspect was also found to have a suspended driver’s license.

 

Public Intoxication, Resisting Arrest

Saturday Jan. 30th at 8:19 p.m.

1506 Sacramento Avenue

Female subject was attempting to enter reporting person’s vehicle when West Sacramento Police Department was dispatched to the location of the incident. Per contact, the female was in possession of 40 oz. bottle of liquor and showed objective signs of intoxication. Upon attempting to apply handcuff restraints, female resisted by pulling-away while sitting on ground detained. Female kicked arresting officer twice in the left leg. Due to level of resistance, female was restrained in a whole-body wrap device and transported to Yolo County Jail.

 

Robbery

Friday Jan. 29th at 5:30 a.m.

828 Bronze Lane

A male called for a female escort to come to his residence. When the male gave her the money she left with two unknown males, keeping the money.

 

Firing a Dangerous Weapon

Friday Jan. 29th at 9:40 p.m.

740 Casselman Drive

The unknown male fired a handgun into the air. Shell casings were located on the street.


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The Washington Unified School District (WUSD) announced the launch of a new Dual Language Immersion Program in English and Spanish next school year to help students develop strong skills and proficiency in both their native language and English.

“Fluency in multiple languages is a phenomenal asset to our students,” Linda C. Luna, WUSD superintendent. “The program will work to strengthen our students’ cognitive abilities while broadening their academic and global understanding—better preparing them for success outside the classroom.”

Dual language immersion programs utilize two languages to teach academic content in the classroom. The programs provide the same academic content and address the same standards as other educational programs while incorporating two languages over an extended period of time, from kindergarten through grade eight.

Students participating in dual immersion have a unique opportunity to develop high levels of language proficiency and literacy in both program languages, to demonstrate high levels of academic achievement, and to develop an appreciation for and an understanding of diverse cultures. Students will have the opportunity to receive a State Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diploma recognizing that they have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English.

The program will begin at Elkhorn Village Elementary School in August 2016 with Kindergarten students, adding a new grade every subsequent year. Families interested in enrolling children should complete the Dual Immersion Application Form and Student Registration Form. Both forms may be obtained and submitted at your school office on the WUSD Registration Day: Saturday, Feb. 27th, 2016.

Find out more about the Dual Language Immersion Program at an upcoming information sessions Wednesday, Feb. 7th at 6:30 p.m. at the Elkhorn Village Elementary School (Cafeteria), 750 Cummins Way, West Sacramento.


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The City of West Sacramento is recruiting startups to help develop technology-based solutions that address challenges facing the city. West Sacramento joins San Francisco, Oakland, and San Leandro, to form a regional Startup in Residence (STIR) collaboration led and managed by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation.

Startups can apply now to work on one of 25 civic challenges in Northern California. The winning team for each challenge will be selected to participate in a 16-week “residence period” from April to August 2016 to work with a city department on a prototype for their proposed solution. The program follows San Francisco’s successful pilot in 2014 that drew almost 200 applications from around the world and brought 6 startups into government that built innovative technology-based products.

West Sacramento has identified several opportunities for startups:

•Public Works Department - Flood Alerts & Real Time Evacuation Routes

•Fire Department - Smart Incident & Field Reporting

•Police Department - Virtual “War Room” for Detectives

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said he looks forward to building on the success of last year’s collaboration with Code for America which resulted in the creation of two apps to facilitate the growth of urban farming in the Sacramento region. “West Sacramento has been an incubator for innovative partnerships, and civic technology is leading the way with initiatives like the STIR program. Let’s go!”

The regional partnership is being made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.


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California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today advised that although there is no evidence of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus in California, people should always take steps to avoid mosquito bites, including removing standing water and wearing insect repellant when necessary. Californians should also be advised of international travel alerts for the countries where Zika virus is circulating. 

“Although no one has contracted Zika virus in California, mosquito bites can still be harmful and the public should take steps to protect themselves,” said Dr. Smith. “Help reduce the risk of mosquito bites by removing standing water from around your home and wearing mosquito repellant when appropriate.”  

As of Jan. 29, 2016, there are six confirmed cases of Zika virus in California, all of which were contracted when traveling in other countries with Zika virus outbreaks in 2013 (1), 2014 (3) and 2015 (2). CDPH will continue monitoring for any confirmed cases in California and will provide weekly updates every Friday. To protect patient confidentiality, specific locations of infected patients cannot be disclosed.   

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that can transmit dengue and chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes — which are not native to California — have been identified in 12 California counties, although there are no known cases where the mosquitoes were carrying the Zika virus in this state. The six confirmed cases of Zika virus in California were acquired in other countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: American Samoa, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

People traveling to these and other countries with known Zika virus risk should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, including:

Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol for long lasting protection. If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding can and should choose an EPA-registered insect repellent and use it according to the product label

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net

Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets

The CDC and CDPH have also issued guidance for pregnant women recommending they avoid countries where Zika virus is circulating. Pregnant women who cannot avoid travel to these countries should talk to their health care provider and take steps to avoid mosquito bites. The CDC and CDPH have also provided guidance for physicians on the evaluation of pregnant women and infants who may have been exposed to Zika virus.

Most people infected with Zika virus will not develop symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they are usually mild and include fever, rash and eye redness. If you have returned from an affected country and have fever with joint pain, rash within two weeks, or any other symptoms following your return; please contact your medical provider and tell the doctor where you have traveled. While there is no specific treatment for Zika virus disease, the best recommendations are supportive care, rest, fluids and fever relief.

There is concern that Zika virus may be transferred from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Preliminary reports suggest that Zika virus may cause microcephaly (abnormal fetal brain development). This possibility has not been confirmed and is being actively investigated. CDPH has requested that health care providers report suspected Zika virus disease or associated conditions of microcephaly to local health departments. Local health departments will report cases to CDPH, which is coordinating referral of any specimens to CDC for diagnostic testing.

For more information on Zika virus disease and other mosquito-borne illnesses, please visit the CDPH Zika virus information webpage.


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A newly published study of California’s overwintering monarch butterflies confirmed many previous migratory studies. But the findings also showed some unexpected and surprising patterns of movement, reports a research team led by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the early online version of the print journal Ecography, examined the natal origins, or “birthplaces,” of butterflies at four California overwintering sites.

“We hope that this paper improves our understanding of where monarch butterflies grow up in western North America,” said lead researcher Louie Yang, a community ecologist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

“Building a clearer understanding of where they come from could help us better understand many aspects of their ecology,” Yang said.

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of North America overwinters along the California coast and in the central mountains of Mexico. Previous studies have indicated that the western monarchs — those that originate west of the Rocky Mountains — overwinter along the California coast, while the monarchs that develop east of the Rockies overwinter in central Mexico.

The New Study

Yang and colleagues looked in more depth at the western monarch population. The researchers collected butterflies from the trees where they had gathered in four California overwintering sites in early December.

Those locations included two northern sites — Lighthouse Field State Beach and Moran Lake, both in Santa Cruz County — and two southern overwintering sites — Pismo State Beach in San Luis Obispo County and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve in Santa Barbara County.

The researchers examined the butterflies’ wings for shape, structure and telltale hydrogen isotopes. The different isotopes, known to be associated with precipitation in various regions in the United States, allowed the researchers to correlate the wing size and shape with how far the butterflies had migrated from their birthplaces.

Of the 114 overwintering butterflies sampled, they found that 30 percent developed in California’s southern coastal range, 12 percent in the northern coast and inland range, 16 percent in the central range, and 40 percent in the northern inland range.

Across all four overwintering sites, they found butterflies from a wide range of locations, although most were from the southern coast of California and the more distant northern inland U.S. But there were marked differences between the northern and southern overwintering sites. Most of the butterflies collected from the study’s two most northern overwintering sites originated in the southern coastal range, while most of the butterflies collected in the two most southern overwintering sites originated in the northern inland range (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington).

Collaborators and Funding

Collaborating with Yang on this study were Dmitry Ostrovsky of the University of Colorado, Denver; and Matthew Rogers and Jeffery Welker, both of the University of Alaska.

The project was funded in part by a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Program grant and an NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program grant.


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The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers, one of the most common “Dirty Dozen” tax scams seen during tax season.

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, and other scams that hurt taxpayers. That’s why unscrupulous preparers who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers with outlandish promises of overly large refunds make the Dirty Dozen list every year.

“Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Most preparers provide high-quality service but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal from their clients and misfile their taxes.”

Return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Choosing Return Preparers Carefully

It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on your tax return.

  • Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select. IRS.gov has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.

  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of: Attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents , Enrolled Actuaries, Annual Filing Season Program participants.

  • Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you—not into your preparer’s bank account.

  • Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.

  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

  • Make sure the preparer is available. In the event questions come up about your tax return, you may need to contact your preparer after the return is filed. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

  • Understand who can represent you. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, can represent clients in limited situations. However, other tax return preparers cannot represent clients before the IRS on any returns prepared and filed after Dec. 31st, 2015.

  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

  • Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, research the IRS preparer directory, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task.


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No Ship of Fools for These Cruise Acts

Story by David Dickstein  |  2016-02-08

Comedian Chas Elstner adjusts his routine between West Coast and East Coast cruises. Photo courtesy Chas Elstner

Garry Carson has heard it thousands of times on cruise ship elevators and as passengers walk into the theater where he’s about to perform: “I don’t like magic, but let’s see if the guy is any good.”

Some entertainers would have bruised egos not being recognized in a crowded place, especially one as small as an elevator. But after working cruise ships for roughly 5 months a year for 18 years, the well-traveled comedy magician knows the life of taking an act on the road where there are no roads.

“These people are not there because they love or even like magic,” said Carson, pointing out a big difference between playing land-based shows and those on the high seas.

Except for special sailings featuring live performances by major acts, virtually no one books a cruise based on the onboard entertainment.

Then there’s the matter of demographics. Carson has noticed that the funny stuff that kills in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia doesn’t get the same reaction in Asia. “I have to get into the mindset of not relying on the comedy being as strong as the magic and mystery or laughter being as loud if I’m performing in certain areas of the world,” Carson said.

It’s not just an international hurdle for these guest performers; audiences on cruises out of Long Beach and San Pedro aren’t the same as those embarking in New York and Galveston. References about grunge rock and coffee houses might work on Alaskan cruises sailing out of Seattle, but greeted with crickets on itineraries originating from Miami.

This hurdle is higher for stand-up comedians, hypnotists and, as Carson knows, magicians because their acts inherently rely heavily on audience participation. As Carson noted during a recent Mexican Riviera cruise out of San Pedro, on the Norwegian Jewel, people go on faith, expecting to laugh if it’s a comedy act, be amazed if it’s a magic show and do both if a hypnotist is about to go on stage.

What’s a cruise ship entertainer to do?

“An old clown gave me this piece of advice: Never play the audience,” said veteran comedian Chas Elstner, who before doing stand-up on 300 cruises and at countless land-based clubs was going for yucks as a featured clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. “There are so many nuances that you just sort of have to play through it all.”

Elstner, from inside Carnival Conquest’s Punchliner Comedy Club, elaborated on what types of nuances.

“Like with cruises out of L.A., it seems the first night is hit or miss,” he said. “They take a day to get energized. It can’t be because they’re tired from traveling since most live within a short drive to the port. I can’t figure it out. But then the second and third night, it’s like, oh my God, California audiences just become wonderful.”

For cruises out of the East Coast, New York in particular, Elstner said audiences take their time warming up to a comic. “They want you to prove you’re a funny guy first, and then they’ll allow you to do your act,” he said.

Tough crowds have also been the experience for master hypnotist Asad Mecci with cruises out of New York.

“You really have to hammer them right away,” said the Toronto-based entertainer. “New Yorkers want to see how confident you are on stage. If they feel as though you’re hesitating when you’re delivering your lines they will definitely make trouble for you. When New Yorkers love you they really love you. When they hate you they really hate you.”

Cruises leaving Los Angeles area ports draw audiences that are, in Mecci’s words, “more chilled out and relaxed.”

“It is stereotypical but it’s the truth,” he said. “They’re a laid back, chilled out, relaxed, fun group of people.”

His take on audiences from southern states depends on whether they hail mostly from Dixie, meaning out of such ports as New Orleans and Mobile, or the handful of Floridian harbors.

“Southerners, in particular, are really rooting for you,” Mecci said. “Out of Florida you’ll get some cat calls and other types of heckling, where in New Orleans it’s dead quiet during the parts I’m telling jokes and tales.”

Mecci stopped short when asked which region of the U.S. spawns the most entertaining hypnotized subjects, but he did say that participants out of New Orleans are a blast.

“I just think their energy level is super high,” he said. “They’re excited to be in the theater watching the show and that kind of translates on stage as well.”

As a comic, turned cruise director, turned comic, Mark Hawkins has performed before audiences of all regions many times over. While he’ll respond with an “of course” when asked if L.A. cruisers are different than those from New York—“You can see that just walking around the ship” —he says that regional variances disappear as they enter the lounge.

“When they become an audience, the reality is people are people,” Hawkins said moments before taking the Punchliner stage aboard the Carnival Conquest. “The demographics are very different, but the people are very much the same.”

A pet peeve of Hawkins, one of the few he doesn’t joke about in his act, is the myopia of certain comics, particularly those who pander to audiences with regional material just for easy laughs.

“There’s comedians who bring a Southern act to cruises out of Texas and doing jokes that start with, ‘Hey, how many people here love the Waffle House?,’ and they get immediate applause. They are these things peppered in the act to get applause, and comedians who do this annoy me because they’re insulting the audience. I hate when people say people in the South are stupid. They’re not. They’re smart, they’re cool, they’re hip, and you should treat them like they’re smart and cool and hip.

“It annoys me when comics complain about regional differences. Yes, they have different accents, but they’re still just people—they’re married, they’ve got problems, and when you stop treating them like they’re different they treat you with more respect.”

Hawkins describes his act as “very personal,” drawing much of his material from being a husband and father of two daughters just doing as best he can. “About 10 years ago I found there are certain things that are universal and I made the show as common as I could. It’s hard to offend somebody when I’m talking about me.”

Another cruise favorite whose shows are personal in nature is musical comedian Steve Moris. Working for Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity, the Southern California-raised entertainer has performed on more than 600 cruises since 2004. With a guitar always within reach, his sets are sprinkled with Beach Boys music and two decades’ worth of stories harkening back to when he opened for the group and would jam with Brian Wilson and gang during concerts. Because his routines are heavy on classic Baby Boomer-era tunes, and yarns about how he and his siblings were parented and comical self-deprecation, Moris said he doesn’t feel the need to modify material based on where a cruise originates.

“No matter where I go working cruise ships, everybody loves the music—it cuts right through,” said Moris from the Regal Princess’ Vista Lounge, where he performed to an audience the prior night. “I don’t change the act because I talk about growing up as a Baby Boomer, and everyone can relate to what mom and dad did. The music I add to the act is universal.”

That doesn’t mean he considers his crowds as cookie-cutter. His takes on playing before East Coast and West Coast prove that.

“The toughest crowds I may have—may have—are from the New York area, which is ironic because both sides of my family came from Brooklyn,” Moris said. “And as for cruises out of Southern California, I don’t change any of my material—I just slow it down…he says laughing, quote/end-quote.”


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Smile Kingdom Dental Participates in Free Dental Day

Story and photo by Margaret Snider  |  2016-02-08

Denis Castillo, 9, of Citrus Heights and Jose Juarez, D.D.S., owner of Smile Kingdom Dental, give thumbs up as Denis receives dental treatment.  “He is receiving a very big filling on one of his adult teeth,” Juarez said. “…He did wonderful.”

Imagine a whole office of dental professionals working all day without compensation, just because they want to help kids. That is what happened on Saturday, Feb. 6th at the Smile Kingdom.

Smile Kingdom Dental owner and operator Jose Juarez, D.D.S., his practice manager Danielle Mendoza, dental assistants Aida Camper and Robyn Alongi, and office volunteer Erin Castleberry, worked an entire day to give qualified kids the chance to overcome their dental problems. The Sacramento District Dental Society (SDDS) program also sent a dentist, Dr. Penumetcha, and her assistant to help with the higher volume this year.

Last year at Juarez’s office just six patients came to receive treatment on the special day set aside. Others were scheduled but did not show. This year, 17 patients were treated and there was only one no-show, perhaps indicating that the process is becoming more clear to parents of the children who are screened and recommended for the program. Work done included 17 exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments, 100 x-rays, 16 fillings, one root canal, three crowns, and seven extractions—totaling a dollar value of $14,026.

The dental treatment performed at no cost for patients at the Smile Kingdom Dental office is the culmination of a long process that begins each year with the schools. Under the SDDS program, schools in a five county region—Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, Amador, and El Dorado—may opt to have dental screenings performed for the children by volunteer dentists associated with the dental society’s charity dental program. The dentists do screenings at the various schools in the fall.

According to Erin Castleberry, students are given a score of one, two, or three. “One means they look good, two means they probably should see a dentist, and three means [the dentist] visually can see urgent needs,” Castleberry said. The school follows up on those rated with a three to see if they have dental insurance. If they do not have insurance, those children are referred to the SDDS Smiles for Kids program.

Castleberry, who worked previously for SDDS, now works as an administrative specialist for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. “I worked with the program for 10 years, so it’s kind of my baby,” Castleberry said. “[The kids] come in scared. A lot of times they come in with a lot of problems, and oral health in kids is so important. It really affects their whole overall health in their whole body, so it’s really important to get them off on a good start.”

Alongi works now for the California Dental Association Foundation, and was back just to help out. “I love to give kids a smile day,” Alongi said. “It brings me back to my dental assistant roots and being in the community helping the dentists help the kids.” She worked in x-ray and sterilization.

A limited number of dental offices participate, which Castleberry estimates at 25 to 40 offices in the entire five county region. “From what I know,” said Practice Manager Danielle Mendoza, “we are the only ones in Rancho Cordova participating with this charity.”

If the child needs work from a specialist, something that can’t be done on that day at that office such as orthodontics or another specialty, the parents are instructed to call SDDS and the dental society has a list of specialists who will complete the treatment at no cost.

For more information about the dental program, please contact your school and ask if they participate in the SDDS annual dental screening.


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Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. recently announced the following appointments:

Lori Ajax, 50, of Fair Oaks, has been appointed chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation at the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Ajax has been chief deputy director at the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control since 2014, where she has served in several positions since 1995, including deputy division chief, supervising agent in charge and supervising agent. She is a member of the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association and the St. Sava Mission Foundation. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $150,636. Ajax is a Republican.

Veronica Harms, 34, of Woodland, has been appointed deputy director of communications at the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Harms has been a consultant and media specialist for the California State Senate Democratic Caucus since 2012. She held multiple positions at Ogilvy Public Relations from 2007 to 2012, including senior account executive and account supervisor. She held multiple positions at KCRA-TV from 2004 to 2007, including national sales assistant, local sales assistant and account executive, and was a local sales assistant at KOVR-TV in 2003. Harms earned a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University, Sacramento. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $98,520. Harms is a Democrat.

Peggy Reynolds, 69, of Oakland, has been reappointed to the Carcinogen Identification Committee, where she has served since 2012. Reynolds has been a consulting professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Health Research and Policy since 2007 and senior research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California since 2006. Reynolds was chief of the Environmental Epidemiology Section at the California Department of Public Health from 1993 to 2006. Reynolds earned a Master of Public Health degree in behavioral science and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Reynolds is registered without party preference.

Luoping Zhang, 59, of Berkeley, has been reappointed to the Carcinogen Identification Committee, where she has served since 2012. Zhang has served in multiple positions at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health since 1992, including adjunct professor, associate adjunct professor, specialist, associate specialist and assistant specialist. She is a member of the Society of Toxicology, Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society, Genetic and Environmental Toxicology Association and the American Association for Cancer Research. Zhang earned a Master of Science degree in biochemistry from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in biochemical toxicology from Simon Fraser University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Zhang is a Democrat.

Ulrike Luderer, 54, of Irvine, has been reappointed to the California Scientific Guidance Panel, where she has served since 2007. Luderer has been a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine Department of Medicine's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine since 1999. She was a senior post-doctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health from 1998 to 1999. Luderer is a member of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Society of Toxicology, Endocrine Society and the Society for the Study of Reproduction. She earned a Doctor of Medicine degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in neurobiology and physiology from Northwestern University and a Master of Public Health degree in occupational and environmental medicine from the University of Washington. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Luderer is a Democrat.


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