Thursday, June 30, 2005

A look at Solano's economic future

See full UOP report at

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA // June 30, 2005
By Matthew Bunk // Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD - California's housing market will begin to deflate by 2007, fewer Fairfield workers will commute to work in the year 2030, and tourism will be a major economic engine for Solano County if the popularity of wine continues to grow.

Those were findings of a study released Wednesday by The Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific. The 100-page report contains short-term and 25-year projections for the state and 11 metro areas, including Fairfield-Vallejo.

"Any time you make long-run comparisons you really have to rely a lot more on trend analysis, while the quarterly forecasts can incorporate things like business cycles, monetary policy and fiscal policy," said Sean Snaith, director of Pacific's Business Forecasting Center and author of the report. "The further out you look, the more difficult it is to be specific and, quite frankly, accurate."

Researchers tried to get a grasp on California's wily real estate market, a task that's kept many economists and analysts busy for the past couple of years as the price of homes rose to record levels.

Similar studies have predicted home prices would continue to rise at a record pace and others have warned of a bursting bubble. But Snaith's study took a moderate tone, likening the housing market to a delicately baked pastry.

"The current housing market is like a soufflé because it is the end result of just the right ingredients put together at just the right time in just the right environment that has allowed for prices to make this historic climb," the study states. ". . . Once any of the ingredients are taken out of the mix, the soufflé will begin to deflate."

It's unlikely, Snaith said, home prices will continue to rise 30 percent every year, and it's just as unlikely the market will crash. Instead, there might be a slowdown as mortgage rates rise, and that could happen by 2007.

"But to go from 30 percent per anum appreciation to 2 percent doesn't seem to me like a bubble bursting," he said.
The wider economic picture shows steady expansion for the next 25 years, with Fairfield-Vallejo expected to progress faster than the state in many economic categories. In particular, personal income growth in the region is expected to outpace the state average.

The employment outlook for Fairfield-Vallejo is strong as well. After marginal growth for the past couple of years, total employment is expected to increase an average of 2.4 percent for the next three years, with the construction industry leading the way.

"I think employment growth is rising at a nice clip," Snaith said. "The Fairfield-Vallejo metro area is above the state average and certainly above national average growth. It's one of the stronger metro areas we covered in the study."
That's because the state will experience a shift in growth centers from the coastal areas to farther inland as the traditionally popular cities reach buildout, Snaith said.

The Business Forecasting Center at Stockton's University of the Pacific was founded in 2004.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

East Bay predicted to lead region in economic gains

Related article: Daily Republic, June 30, 2005
From Contra Costa Times // June 29, 2005

By George Avalos // Business writer

The East Bay will be the economic bulwark of the Bay Area over the next five years and will outpace the region's other major urban centers in economic growth, job creation and personal income, according to a forecast released today.

What's more, the East Bay is helping propel growth not only in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but also in adjacent areas, according to the quarterly economic report by the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific.

The expansion in the East Bay is one reason Solano County should boom between now and 2010. Growth in housing and population in Solano will also fuel development in that county, which is mostly rural outside the Interstate 80 corridor, said Sean Snaith, director of the Business Forecasting Center.

"In a lot of ways, the East Bay is an engine," Snaith said. "It is pulling Solano County and part of the Central Valley with it as it grows."

The economy of the East Bay is projected to grow 14.6 percent in the coming five years, total personal income by nearly 36 percent and employment by 6.5 percent. And the East Bay already has a bigger economy than either the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region and Santa Clara County, the UOP forecasters found.

"The East Bay has become the employment center of the Bay Area," said Bruce Kern, executive director of the Oakland-based Economic Development Alliance for Business.

The report points to the growth of residential and commercial construction in areas such as eastern Contra Costa County and eastern Alameda County as key reasons for the robust economic outlook for the East Bay.

"Those areas have a lot more room to grow," Snaith said.

The East Bay also is an engine that has managed to avoid the bumpy spots that remain in the wake of the Internet and technology debacle that erased hundreds of thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area.

"There is still some slack lingering from the boom and bust of the dot-com days," Snaith said. "But I see that slack starting to be picked up."

Solano County looks to be an even faster-growing region in the next five years. Solano's economy is forecast to expand nearly 18 percent, total personal income will soar 38 percent and jobs will swell by 13 percent, the UOP researchers predict.

Manufacturers have opened a number of sites in Solano over the years, including beer and candy factories, as well as newer biotech production complexes.

"It's a combination of the new biotech manufacturing base, the growth of Travis Air Force Base, some traditional agriculture, and an increased population," said Michael Ammann, president of the Fairfield-based Solano Economic Development Corp. "We have a lot of opportunities to participate in growth."

The jump in population has kindled interest in major retail projects along I--80 in Solano. Developers intend to transform part of the county fairgrounds in Vallejo into a retail and entertainment complex. Another entertainment and shopping center is in the works for the Nut Tree site in Vacaville. And an upgrade is being crafted for the Westfield regional mall in Fairfield, Ammann said.

The various growth factors in the East Bay and Solano have prompted banks and other companies, such as Wells Fargo & Co., to ramp up their services, said Michael Billeci, a Wells Fargo regional president who heads the bank's operations in the East Bay and South Bay.

"It makes sense for businesses to follow the housing," he said. "We are definitely in an expansion mode in the East Bay. We also believe the other parts of the Bay Area are not going to grow as quickly as the East Bay and Solano."

Despite the prospect of favorable trends, Kern warned that the East Bay must soon confront a number of challenges that could cause the Alameda-Contra Costa economy to sputter.

"The cost of doing business in the region continues to move upward," he said. "We are concerned about the affordability of housing in the East Bay."

It's not enough, Kern maintained, to have stronger employment and income growth.

"We have to focus on creating a competitive economy to sustain the opportunities for the East Bay that the UOP forecast portrays," he said.

George Avalos covers the economy, financial markets and banks. Reach him at 925-977-8477 or

New Fairfield-Suisun schools chief settles in

From the Vacaville Reporter // June 30, 2005

By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Three and a half months after the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District board appointed Arnold Woodrow Carter as superintendent, the administrator and retired Army colonel arrived Monday, eager to get started.

Carter described his first few days as "outstanding."

"I've been very warmly received," said Carter, who moved to Fairfield two weeks ago from Oakland to take the post being vacated by former Superintendent Sharon Tucker, who is retiring. Carter and Tucker are working together this week before she leaves. Carter, 56, has served as deputy superintendent for the Oakland Unified School District for the past two years.

The Floyd County, Kentucky, native, who goes by A. Woodrow Carter, spent 27 years in the Army, serving as a battalion commander with the 101st Airborne Division during the 1991 Gulf War. Carter retired from the military in 1998 to become the state administrator of the Floyd County school district and returned to school to study education and public administration.

From July 2001 to December 2002 Carter served as superintendent of Bourbon County school district, and was nominated to attend the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.
The center, founded by billionaire Eli Broad, is led by a faculty which includes CEOs, government leaders, and policy makers. The center accepts only about one out of 10 applicants.

Carter said his interest in education began when he served as a school board member in Killeen, Texas, while still in the Army. Students from various schools in the district would come to the meetings to give presentations, said Carter.

"You could see the passion school board members, parents, and teachers had for their children," said Carter. "I took it very seriously."

Carter believes strongly that student achievement must be a district's top priority, and that politics should never be allowed to get in the way of that.

Fairfield-Suisun, he said, has done an admirable job.

"It's a very mature district," said Carter. "I spent a lot of time researching before I decided to apply. I found a school district that set aside special interests and adult interests for the benefit of student achievement."

That wasn't the district's only attraction, said Carter.

"Fairfield-Suisun has every possible indicator that any aspiring superintendent would check off," he said. "Parent involvement, an informed, educated board, a good academic performance index."
Carter dismissed the idea that he arrives at the district at a difficult time.

"I think some people look at it as a challenging time," said Carter. "I look at it as a point of opportunity. That might sound trite, but in my experience in education the pendulum swings back and forth. We're in a down cycle; this will not last."

In Fairfield-Suisun, said Carter, "I think the challenge ... is to make sure we are maximizing resources" and looking at funding decisions from the perspective of how they ultimately impact kids in the classrooms.

Carter said he has enormous enthusiasm for the work ahead.

"I could have done other things after I retired from the military," he said. "But this is what I want to do."
Julie Kay can be reached at

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Anchoring Suisun's waterfront bonanza

From Daily Republic, Fairfield // June 26, 2005

By Matthew Bunk // staff writer

SUISUN CITY - A lot of developers think all the waterfront land in the Bay Area is used up, but one local real estate investor and the owner of a Suisun City boat shop know of an empty parcel on the Suisun Slough - a secret of sorts - with a lot of potential.

"It's kind of undiscovered," real estate investor John Scaff said the other day while standing on the grass-covered lot tucked between Kellogg Street and the river channel. "Most people in Suisun don't even know it's here, and that's a shame because it's such a nice spot."

Scaff and his partners hope to one day place a white-tablecloth restaurant, some offices and a kayak rental shop in a new building overlooking the water. Part of the plan includes a yacht dealership and a hull to pull large boats out of the water for repairs.

The result, as Scaff sees it, would be more foot traffic in a section of town dotted by small retail shops, a sales tax boost for the city and a lucrative development deal that would continue to churn out money for years to come.

On sunny afternoons when there's a slight breeze wafting over the delta, it certainly seems as though prime waterfront land is wasting away while the city scrounges for money to erase considerable debt brought on by redevelopment investments that haven't yet panned out.

Only a few yards farther inland lies Adams Marine, a boat dealership and repair shop whose owners now want to expand. Looking across the marsh toward the Sacramento River, however, reveals nothing but open space and the purple silhouette of Mt. Diablo.

For several years, the city has resisted selling the waterfront parcel just beyond the end of the boat slips, but is now considering letting it go. Mayor Jim Spering and senior staffers met with Bill Adams, owner of Adams Marine, last year to discuss terms of a sale.

Adams and Scaff worked out an arrangement that would allow Adams to expand his business to a certain point and give Scaff the room he needed to construct a two-story building right on the water. They would invest more than $3.5 million in the project, they said.

But just as Adams thought he had a deal in hand to buy the waterfront property and the leased land on which his business rests, the secret was blown; another development firm made a bid for the land.

Development consortium Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher came forward with a vision of eight executive homes with designated work spaces on the bottom floor. Similar live-work spaces in the adjacent Promenade subdivision sell for upwards of $1 million.

Right now, the city hasn't given its full support to either proposal. But some members of the City Council have said Adams should at least get a chance to expand his business. After all, Spering said, he's already invested there.

But Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher are doing all they can to open the city's ears to their proposal to build homes on the land. They unveiled their design plans to the City Council last week.

Jim Pitcher said his group needs the entire waterfront parcel, including the portion for the Adams Marine expansion, to make the residential development feasible. His partners agreed, and said the city should resist playing favorites and instead choose the project that makes the most sense.

"We're not interested in public property being wheeled and dealed to one party," James Jensen said. "Both projects need an equal opportunity."

Adams feels he should get first dibs because he's been offering to buy it ever since he opened the boat shop six years ago. But he also realizes land deals with government agencies don't always hinge on his style of logic.

"What we've got right now is a vision," he said. "If the city can get behind it, it's going to happen. If they don't, it won't."

Both factions say something should be built on the remaining waterfront property to spur economic growth in that part of town. They have different opinions, however, on what type of development would attract more attention to the area.

To John Scaff, the real estate investor who also manages Pacific Security Realty in Fairfield, the answer is obvious.

"You bring in a nationally known restaurant, with a lounge upstairs and porches hanging over the water, people from the Bay Area will say, 'Hey, let's go up to Suisun and spend a few days there.' It's becomes a destination," he said. "But it needs something great to anchor it."

Scaff and Adams say they could start construction as early as November, if the city is willing.

The whole thing could open for business in two years, Scaff said.

"The city is always talking about not having enough money, and this would bring in revenue right now and every year afterward," Adams said with a glance toward the open space preserves west of Suisun City. "It's time to finish off the waterfront."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Insect invasion raises concerns

(Related Article: June 16, 2005 Daily Republic)

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA // June 26, 2005

By Barry Eberling // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Whatever the Suisun City insect invader is, it sure packs a wallop.

Swarms of the tiny, biting insects turned up in the Lawler Ranch and Montebello Vista subdivisions last week. Police put out a recorded phone message to residents advising them to stay inside.

The problem seems to have subsided in some parts of the subdivisions and persists in others. Lawler Ranch resident Roger Miller has seen swarms of the gnats outside his second-story window in recent days.

"This has never happened before last month," he said. "In the years before, it's never happened."
Dwight Acey no longer sees many of the insects in his Lawler Ranch neighborhood. His problems came last week, when the bugs came streaming down his chimney and out the fireplace.

Acey also encountered them in Potrero Hills. He opened his window and stuck out his arm to leave an item in a mailbox. He got what felt like tiny syringes poking into his arm.

"I've never been bitten like that before," Acey said. "They were like repeatedly attacking me. My arm was just covered with insect bites and eruptions."

His neighbor did some gardening outside and got bit in the face, he said.

Suisun City on its Web site called the invaders black flies, also known as buffalo gnats. It called them "marsh insects" native to most areas of California below 6,000 feet in elevation.

"The flies normally hatch in running water and the local population will likely decrease as creek and marsh levels decline," the city press release said.

But some people think Suisun Marsh is getting a bad rap.

Steven Chappell is executive director of the Suisun Resource Conservation District. Chappell lives in the heart of the marsh. He doesn't see these gnats, he said.

The insects aren't black flies, but black gnats, said Carol Evkhanian, biologist with the Solano County Mosquito Abatement District. District workers in the field battling mosquitoes get bit by them all the time, she said.

These gnats lay eggs in cracked adobe clay soil, she said. Adult females emerge around May, but sometimes later. The gnats can also be found in some areas around Dixon, Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville and Rio Vista, she said.

"It has nothing to do with the marsh itself," Evkhanian said. "These guys can't fly very far. They're very tiny."

Both Evkhanian and Suisun City agree the late rains and cool weather led to the unusual insect invasion.

People who encounter the gnats can try putting on mosquito repellent and wearing long clothing, Evkhanian said. They can stay indoors during the cooler part of the day if there is no breeze. Sustained hot weather will kill the insects, she said.

Jan Greenwell lives in Montebello Vista. She got bit by the gnats a couple days ago while washing windows.

"I don't know what they are," she said. "But I just wish they'd go away."

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Friday, June 24, 2005

Three firms move into Wiseman buildings

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA // June 24, 2005

SUISUN CITY - A financial services firm, a mortgage company and a chiropractic office will relocate to buildings in Fairfield and Suisun City owned by The Wiseman Company.

North American Title Co. has leased space in the building known as 333 Sunset, according to a press release from The Wiseman Company.

Dream Home Financial Services recently moved into Suite 220 at 333 Sunset.

Pazdel Chiropractic will move their offices to 5030 Business Center Drive in the Green Valley Executive Center.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Middle school site to go up for sale

From Daily Republic, Fairfield // June 23, 2005

By Ian Thompson // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City will put the old Crystal Middle School site on the market for redevelopment once the Fairfield-Suisun School District signs off on its portion of the agreement.

The Suisun City Council on Tuesday approved the deal, which requires the city to sell the school site within the next 12 months to developers.

If the city doesn't find a buyer within that time, the city will have to pay the school district at least $2.25 million, the appraised value of the site.

The school district's governing board is expected to vote on the agreement July 14.

The only sticking point Tuesday night was what the split would be if Suisun City sells the school site for more than the assessed value.

Suisun City leaders wanted a 50-50 split, while the school district preferred to get 75 percent of any profits, interim Suisun City Redevelopment Director Al da Silva said.

The disagreement was shelved for the time being with an agreement that both sides would meet and work out their differences once they find out how much the site goes for.

Suisun City has wanted to push forward aggressively with the school site's redevelopment since the school was closed and the school district decided to build its district offices elsewhere.

The school district wants to use the money from the sale to pay for building new district offices at Hilborn and Martin roads overlooking Interstate 80 in northern Fairfield.

Now, Suisun City has to decide whether it will put out a formal request for proposals from developers or start feeling out potential developers more informally. The city plans to market the site for residential development.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Two developers propose to develop Suisun City waterfront property

(Related Article: June 26, 2005)

From Daily Republic, Fairfield // June 22, 2005
By Matthew Bunk // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - As several redevelopment projects move forward that will shape the future of the city, one parcel along the waterfront is quickly becoming its most highly contested chunk of land.

Just beyond the end of the boat docks lined up along Suisun Slough and right behind Adams Marine lies a grass-covered lot that could become a housing development or a high-class restaurant surrounded by shops, depending on who the city chooses to develop it.

Bill Adams, who owns Adams Marine boat shop, wants to expand the business toward the waterfront and team up with a developer to build a two-story building with a restaurant, lounge and shops overlooking the slough.

Development consortium Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher, however, says the property is ideally suited for a residential development of eight three-story homes with work spaces below. It would be similar to the live-work spaces of the adjacent Promenade development.

The debate on what should be done with the property overshadowed other topics on the agenda for Tuesday night's Suisun City Council meeting. Surprisingly, it stole the spotlight from the much-ballyhooed Main Street West project, which was discussed once again without revealing any details.

That project, intended to enhance the city's business structure by building homes and shops at key points of Suisun's downtown, is the largest ongoing urban renewal effort in the city. But even though representatives for developer Miller Sorg Group have presented plans to city leaders, they still didn't say what would replace the undeveloped gravel lots that dot downtown.

"It's still preliminary at this stage," city economic development specialist Al da Silva said. "There are no details except that it's mixed use."

The city council approved an exclusive negotiating agreement that gives Miller Sorg 100 days to present its ideas.
As for the disputed waterfront property, several council members said Adams Marine, which has been at the site for the past eight years, should have a chance to expand. That should be a priority, Mayor Jim Spering said, because owner Bill Adams has already invested there.

But the Adams Marine expansion would take up only part of the property, and there would be additional room for a different type of development along the waterfront. The city should put that parcel out to bid, a majority of council members agreed.

"I'd like to see both proposals brought forward," Councilman Sam Derting said.

Both Bill Adams and the opposing developer Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher told the council they're ready to move ahead with whichever project the city approves.

"Two years ago I offered to buy that property, and I've been working on it ever since," Adams said. "I'm hitting this as fast as I can hit it."

Jim Pitcher, of Ballman, Jensen and Pitcher, said the entire plot of land is needed to make the residential development feasible. His partners agreed, and said the city should resist playing favorites.

"We're not interested in public property being wheeled and dealed to one party," James Jensen said. "Both projects need an equal opportunity."

Reach Matt Bunk at 425-4646, ext. 267 or

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ideal for family? Try Suisun City

Related Article: June 13, 2005 from Press Release

From the Vacaville Reporter // June 21, 2005
Megan Lloyd-Jones // Reporter Intern

A recent report named Suisun City among the 10 best value-for-money towns in America for families with children.

The report, issued by the NeighborhoodScout search engine, selected the top cities based on quality public schools, safety from crime, a high proportion of families with children in the community, many adults with college degrees, many families who own their own homes and homes that are predominantly single-family residences.

All towns selected are within 40 miles of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the nation.

Andrew Schiller, a demographic specialist, created NeighborhoodScout and used the search engine to analyze data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said he wasn't surprised by the selection. He said the traditional small-town environment and closeness to the Bay Area makes Suisun City a great destination.

"We have worked very hard to achieve the quality of life and sense of community we have here," Spering said. "The city isn't too big, where you can't pick up and call your elected officials."

Suisun City Councilwoman Jane Day said the city has transformed itself and now is a place where residents can enjoy a good life with less crime and a lot of amenities.

"The city has turned around from being the worst to the best and people recognize us," Day said.
Suisun City Vice Mayor, Pete Sanchez, said with the city's closeness to Sacramento and San Francisco, great universities and medical facilities, residents really do get their money's worth.

Sanchez said the city council plans on publishing the news of the NeighborhoodScout report in Suisun City's next newsletter and may announce it at one of the events scheduled for the summer.

"We are going to make sure everyone who can hear, read and see in Suisun knows that the city council has made it a better place to live, work and retire," Sanchez said.

Schiller said he selected towns that excelled in areas across the board.

"We were looking for those very select communities that have both top-quality public schools and an exceptionally family-friendly environment, not towns that may excel at one or two criteria but are lacking in other ways," Schiller said in a press release.

Megan Lloyd-Jones can be reached at

Monday, June 20, 2005

Suisun City Council looks to extend library lease

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, Ca. // June 20, 2005

By Ian Thompson // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council is voting Tuesday to keep a branch library in town by extending the lease on the library's home at 333 Sunset for another three years.

Councilmembers are also voting on a deal with the Fairfield-Suisun School District that requires the city to sell the old Crystal Middle School site within a year to developers.

The proposed lease extension is to ensure residents will continue to have a library while Suisun City, the Solano County Library and the school district finish planning and building a permanent library next to Suisun Elementary School on Pintail Drive.

The plan is the result of efforts to keep a library branch in town after the City Council said last year it can no longer afford to pay a $122,520-a-year lease for space at 333 Sunset because of budget problems.

The city had considered giving the library a permanent home next to the Joe Nelson Community Center in Heritage Park when it was built, but that idea was shelved.

The present lease is set to expire June 30. If the new deal is approved Tuesday, the city will pay the owner of 333 Sunset, The Wiseman Company, $111,384 a year.

In other business, the council will vote on an agreement to spend the next 12 months marketing the old Crystal Middle School to developers.

If the city fails to find a buyer within that time, the city will have to pay the school district at least $2.25 million, the amount the site was appraised at.

The school district wants the money to help pay for building a new school district facility. Suisun City wants to push forward aggressively as possible with the now vacant school site's redevelopment.

Should the city manage to sell the site for more than the assessed value, the school district will get half the profit, according to a memo to the city council.

If approved, the city plans to plans to market the property for residential development.

The Suisun City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Friday, June 17, 2005

Railway muesum gets grant for display building

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, Ca. // June 17, 2005

By Barry Eberling // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - This train is picking up speed.

The Bay Area Electric Railroad Association received a $310,520 state grant. That's one more piece of the funding needed to construct a display building at the association's Western Railway Museum.

This 38,000-square-foot display building will cost $2.1 million, museum executive director Phil Kohlmetz said. The museum, with the state grant, has raised about $1.6 million.

But the association hasn't waited to raise all the money to get started. People can see the building going up as they pass the museum located on Highway 12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista.
"The building is probably about halfway completed right now," Kohlmetz said.

When finished, the building will display electric train cars that are in the museum's collection.
Visitors can already see restored cars inside the museum's existing buildings. They can also take a ride on an electric train through rural Solano County toward Birds Landing.

The grant came from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment Board using money from Proposition 40, a $2.6 billion state park funding initiative passed in 2002. The state awarded a total of $11.6 million to 13 projects at its May meeting. The museum car house competed with 56 other grant applications.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, in a press release praised the $310,520 grant to the railway museum.

"The Western Railway Museum is the only place in California devoted exclusively to preserving a significant but vanishing thread of our state's history, its electric railway heritage," Wolk said.

The Western Railway Museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, please visit the Web site or call 374-2978.

The Bay Area Electric Railway Association is a nonprofit organization that runs the museum.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Survey shows continued job growth in Solano

From the Daily Republic, Fairfield // June 16, 2005

Matthew Bunk // Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD - Following two months of better-than-expected job gains in Solano County, employers expect to continue hiring more workers, a recent report said.

Although the employment outlook for the next three months is more favorable in California as a whole and in other parts of the nation, the county is positioned for continued job growth through September, according to a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released this week.

Businesses added 2,400 jobs in Solano County in the last two months, outpacing California and the U.S. in per-capita job additions, and the survey indicated another strong three months ahead.

There's a chance the hiring pace might pick up.

"Employers in Solano and Napa counties have slightly more favorable hiring intentions than in the second quarter," Manpower spokesman Greg Gardner said. He said, however, employers are more cautious about adding positions than last year.

Manpower Inc. is a staffing firm with a worldwide network of 4,800 offices. The company conducts a quarterly survey of 16,000 employers in the U.S. to gauge their hiring plans.

These are the results of the most recent survey in Solano County:

  • 27 percent of the companies interviewed plan to hire more employees from July until September.
  • 7 percent expect to reduce their payrolls.
  • 43 percent expect to maintain current employment levels.
  • 23 percent are not certain of their hiring plans

Job prospects appear best in construction, an industry at the forefront of the recent hiring spree.
As for California, 35 percent of employers said they plan to hire more workers in the next three months, while 8 percent expect to cut staff.

On the national level, 31 percent expect an increase in hiring for the third quarter, while 6 percent anticipate a decrease in employment opportunities.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Black fly swarms pester Suisun City

From the Daily Republic, Fairfield // June 16, 2003
For more information, see

By Barry Eberling // staff writer

SUISUN CITY - A tiny, biting insect caused a big problem in some parts of Suisun City this week.

The city got reports from citizens describing swarms of the flying insects. The Police Department phoned a recorded message to Montebello Vista and Lawler Ranch residents telling them of the situation and advising them to stay inside.

"We're not talking about a couple of hundred (insects) around your house, we're talking about a couple thousand," said Gemma Geluz, who took the citizen calls for the city. "Hopefully, they'll die off soon."

City officials said the insects are black flies, also known as buffalo gnats. The insects apparently came from Suisun Marsh because of a convergence of weather factors, such as late rains and heat.

But the locations of these swarms has been spotty.

Jan Greenwell lives in Montebello Vista. She didn't see huge swarms of the bugs, but she did see them.

"They're almost like a little gnat," Greenwell said.

And she felt their bites.

"On the back, on the arm, on the ear," Greenwell said. "My husband, his legs are all bit up. They're like mosquito bites."

Black flies are persistent biters and will even crawl into hair to bite the scalp, the city's Web site said. Bites are usually worse than those from mosquitos and can bleed long after the insect is gone.

City Councilman Pete Sanchez lives in Lawler Ranch. He heard the city phone message about the insects went out to 2,000 residents, but he didn't see anything unusual in his neighborhood bordering the marsh.

"I figured there must be too much of a strong wind in my area," Sanchez said. "They didn't reach my part of Lawler Ranch. I would definitely hear from my neighbors. They see me outside all the time."

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or

Sales tax hike could pave way to aid transit

From the Vacaville Reporter // June 16, 2005

By Emmanuel Lopez/Reporter Intern

Improving the Interstate 80 and I-680 interchange and improving traffic flow along Highway 12 were some of the main concerns brought forward by Suisun City residents Tuesday night during a public meeting held by the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority.

The meeting was the first in a series of public input sessions that are part of the authority's push to get a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation passed in Solano County.

If such a measure goes to a ballot, it will be the county's third try at a sales tax increase for transportation.

Measure A, on the November 2004 ballot, failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed. If that measure had passed, the county could have raised $1.4 billion during the 30-year life of the tax, $250 million of which would have been earmarked for the I-80-680 interchange project, officials said.

The measure garnered strong support in Suisun City, with 69 percent of voters supporting it.
"The city has a strong idea of what it wants," said Daryl Halls, executive director for the authority.

The transportation authority is planning to integrate the priorities of Suisun City residents into a proposed expenditure plan for the tax that it will present to each of the county's city councils.
Napa and Solano counties are alone among the nine in the Bay Area not to have a local transportation sales tax in place.

"Solano County has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the Bay Area," Hall said. "Even with a half-cent increase, we would still be lower than the urban counties like Santa Clara or San Francisco."

One of the top local transportation concerns for Suisun City residents is the improvement of traffic and safety along the intersection of Sunset and Railroad avenues. Railroad Avenue intersects Sunset Avenue at a four-way stop several feet from a railroad crossing. At this point, the southbound lane begins to narrow from two lanes to one.

Councilmember Michael Segala said the hazard comes from when cars in the right-most lane want to cut across the road to turn left onto Railroad Avenue.

"It's really hairy, especially in the morning, when people are taking their kids to school," Segala said.

The city is planning to change the road so that it intersects farther south, where the intersection is controlled by a traffic light, Segala said.

Another issue discussed was the improvement of sidewalks, streets, curbs and gutters throughout the city.

"If you look at our streets and sidewalks, it's a mess," Segala said.

Mayor Jim Spering said improving the I-80-680 interchange to include lanes for high-occupancy vehicles, such as buses and carpools, would vastly improve connections between the various communities in Solano County.

Spering said improving connections would provide more transportation options to consider.

Spering said it's critical that the county create a detailed plan for the future. "If we don't develop plans to provide transportation choices, there's no point in preserving mobility," he said.

After all the public input meetings are finished, the authority then will present its modified proposal to the city councils in each of the cities in Solano County to vote on it prior to presentation to the Solano County Board of Supervisors.

That could happen as early as July. Transportation officials are on a timeline that could make it possible to put the tax measure on the November ballot.

Emmanuel Lopez can be reached at

Monday, June 13, 2005

New study finds Suisun City among nation's most family friendly towns

From // June 13, 2005

Towns sure to please the whole family
Top 10 places to raise kids offer more than good schools

Andrea Coombes, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- What's the first thing families with children seek when moving? The town with the best schools.

But they may be putting too much emphasis on that one criterion, according to a new ranking of the top family-friendly locales in 10 metro areas nationwide.

Even though a town has great schools, it may have a higher crime rate or fewer families with children, both of which can affect quality of life, than a neighboring town with equally good schools, said Andrew Schiller, author of the report.

A "quality-rated public school in and of itself ... does not necessarily make a good town or community to raise children," said Schiller, a geographer and founder of Location Inc., and creator of, a site that lets visitors compare communities nationwide on various criteria.

Using census, crime and other data, Schiller compared towns in the 10 largest metro areas nationwide based on six attributes: Good schools, low crime rates, high homeownership rates, high numbers of residents with college degrees, families with children and single-family homes.

High homeownership rates "represent an investment in the location by those living there," Schiller said, and the number of college-educated residents is "a good indicator that the populace places a high degree of importance on education. Those parents who are educated tend to be those who work hard to promote good local schools and participate in the schools."

A high proportion of families with children means "the town provides great social networks for both the children and their parents," Schiller said.

Plus, in towns with fewer families there's "less political clout ... to continue to support those things that make that community good for families with children," he said. "Even if the schools are good now it's difficult to say that they would have the political will to continue."

Best schools don't necessarily mean best towns

In the Washington metropolitan area, the highest-rated school district is in Alexandria, Va., according to Schiller's data. But the town that won top honors for family-friendliness in that metro area is Potomac, Md.

"Alexandria tends to be a community that, depending on the neighborhood, has either a lot of young, upwardly mobile, single people, or seniors, or college students, depending on where you are in the city," he said.

But Potomac has a slightly lower crime rate and "neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood is dominated by a demographic that is families with children," Schiller said.
A similar picture emerged in the San Francisco Bay area, where Los Altos, Calif., won top honors as a family-friendly town.

Just a short drive up the highway, nearby Palo Alto offered the highest-rated public schools in the area but, while the town is safer than most communities in the U.S., it has a higher crime rate than Los Altos, according to Schiller's data.

Richest not always best

You might expect the towns with the highest home values to be among the best places to raise children, but that's not always true under Schiller's formula.

For instance, in the Boston metropolitan area, Sudbury, Mass., won top honors, edging out the pricier Lincoln even though both towns share the same top-ranked school district.

In most cases, the top locales for families are not the most expensive towns in that area, Schiller said. "It may be that ... families with children are priced out."

Still, the winning locales are often pricey relative to other parts of the country. "Most of the places that were best for families were rather expensive. They just weren't uniformly the most expensive places in these metro areas."

Top 10 towns

Schiller generated two lists, one that factored in home values and one that didn't. "We ran the research twice for each metro area, once without including cost at all and the second one with cost, looking for much more reasonably priced areas," he said.

"That revealed the top choices and the best value communities in each of the U.S.'s top 10 metro areas."

The following are the top locales for families with children, in each of the 10 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, with cost not a factor, according to Schiller.
  • In the Boston metro area: Sudbury, Mass.
  • In the New York metro area: Manhasset, N.Y.
  • In the Philadelphia area: Richboro, Pa.
  • In the Washington area: Potomac, Md.
  • In the Detroit area: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
  • In the Chicago area: Lake Forest, Ill.
  • In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area: Highland Park, Texas.
  • In the Houston area: Sugar Land, Texas.
  • In the San Francisco Bay area: Los Altos, Calif.
  • In the Los Angeles area: Moorpark, Calif.
The following towns are the best-value locales for families with children, in each of the 10 metro areas, according to Schiller:
  • In the Boston metro area: Holden, Mass.
  • In the New York metro area: Andover, N.J.
  • In the Philadelphia area: Downingtown, Pa.
  • In the Washington area: Columbia, Md.
  • In the Detroit area: Troy, Mich.
  • In the Chicago area: Wheeling, Ill.
  • In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area: Richardson, Texas.
  • In the Houston area: Stafford, Texas.
  • In the San Francisco Bay area: Suisun City, Calif.
  • In the Los Angeles area: Simi Valley, Calif.

Andrea Coombes is a reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco.

Police dispatcher provides home and hard-earned lessons to teen mothers

From Napa Valley Register / June 13, 2005

By MARSHA DORGAN / Register Staff Writer

Everyone can use a hug every so often. But if you are a young, homeless or a single mom, it takes a lot more than just a hug to get by.

That's where Lorraine Hargrave comes in.

Hargrave, 39, is one busy woman. The Napa police dispatcher not only puts in a 40-hour work week, she also is the founder of the Suisun City-based Children in Need of a Hug program. Hargrave launched CINOH in 2002. Three years later, as executive director of CINOH, she provides housing for three young women, all under 21, and their children.

Hargrave is no stranger to the perils and hardships of being a single teen mom. She had her first baby at 15, and for awhile she and her children were homeless. She is also a survivor of sexual abuse by a family member, as well as domestic violence.

"I've been there, done that. I wasn't a bad kid. I never did drugs, and I graduated from high school. I just liked boys," Hargrave said.

"These moms are in that same gap. They're out there and don't know where to go for help. Many of them have been sexually assaulted and have been victims of domestic violence and they are homeless. They are afraid to report what has happened to them. They don't want their boyfriends to go to jail. Or they are embarrassed or just plain scared. I call them my silent victims."

Hargrave has her own home in Suisun City. She has also rented a house nearby where the three young women and their children live for free.

But, it's not a free ride. She runs a tight ship, and the women must abide by the rules or find another place to call home.

"I have rules and regulations. The women are expected to learn to cook, budget their money and keep the place clean," she said. "I have a curfew. The women must participate in parenting classes and be alcohol- and drug-free."

It doesn't stop there.

The moms under 18 are required to attend school and get a diploma or their GED. Anyone over 18 must find a job and learn to support themselves and their offspring.

"I will not allow them to just sit around and collect their welfare," Hargrave said. "That's totally unacceptable. The goal of CINOH is have these moms get an education, find work, learn to be self-sufficient and get off the welfare."

Jessica Roberts, 17, and her 1-year-old son have been living at the CINOH house for four months.

"Before I came here, I was struggling. My baby and I were staying in a motel. My aunt gave my telephone number to Lorraine. When she had an opening, I was able to move in," Roberts said. "It's been a lifesaver for me. I am back in school and will graduate next year. I have a summer job at Mervyn's. There is no more negativity in my life. I'm in a good environment. My son and I are no longer exposed to drugs and other negative things. I don't know where I would be now if it wasn't for Lorraine."

Hargrave visits the women every day. She works the graveyard shift at the Napa police dispatch center. A housemother takes over the night shift at the women's home.

Usually, the women can spend up to 18 months at the CINOH home. However, if they are making progress, following the rules, but are not quite ready to go out into the world on their own, Hargrave will allow them to stay longer. Hargrave helps the young moms create resumes, find employment and has paid for child care for a few.

So far, she has had 17 come through CINOH. Unfortunately, the success rate is not that high, Hargrave admits.

"One of my moms has got her nursing certificate. One has graduated from high school, and another one is just about ready to graduate," she said. "Even though there has not been a record-setting success rate, the moms and their kids that have come and gone have had a safe place to live. It kept them from living on the streets."

Some of the women just can't cut the mustard, Hargrave said. "They can't adjust to the rules. They don't want to be home by 10 p.m. They can't take the structured environment. For many, they have been on their own for some time and want to live by their own rules," she said. "And we have had some girls who just want a place to flop for a while."Hargrave doesn't let up on the women. "

(They) cannot get pregnant while they are in the program. We talk about birth control a lot. I tell them we are working on getting them back on their feet. They certainly don't need to make matters worse by bringing another baby into the world," she said.

Napa Police Cmdr. Steve Potter touts Hargrave's dedication and passion.

"Lorraine does an excellent job for us. I have a lot of respect for her for her community involvement. She has a high stress job. It can get crazy at the dispatch center. With that stress, being a caring person can be a challenge," Potter said.

Having a house full of kids is nothing new for Hargrave. She is the mother of a six children, 23, 19, 15, 14, 5, and 1 -- four of them still at home.

School of hard knocks

Hargrave didn't learn how to help the less fortunate from books or in the classroom. Life has been her teacher. "My life got crazy when I was 12 and living with my mom in San Francisco. At 14, I discovered boys. I was running away and got pregnant at 15. I went back home to live with my mother. I kept the baby," she said.

It probably wasn't a good move to live with her mother. Hargrave said during this time she was sexually assaulted by a family member. After telling a counselor, she was placed in a foster home.

"I was 16 with a baby and going to high school. ... I was with other teen moms. It was a good place, but when I turned 18, I was turned out onto the streets," she said. "I was totally unprepared to live on my own."

Hargrave found herself homeless with a toddler. She managed to find housing at a rundown hotel in San Francisco.

"It was awful. I has to share the kitchen and bathroom. The place was full of roaches, mice and other creatures," she said. "I lived like that for about a year."

But Hargrave's determination to make a better life for her and her children prevailed.

She got a clerical job and her own apartment.

But the downhill spiral didn't stop there. She married the father of her second child and soon found herself in an abusive marriage.

"When he finally went to prison for a crime I can't even remember now, I was not longer afraid of him and filed for divorce," she said.

A counselor who helped Hargrave when she lived in the foster home encouraged her to apply for a San Francisco police dispatcher job.

"I was no stranger to the police. I called them to my house enough times when my husband would beat me up," she said. "I didn't think they would hire me."

But she was wrong. She joined the San Francisco police dispatch in 1989. Having a good-paying job enabled Hargrave to save enough money to buy a house in 1996 in Suisun City. She soon tired of the commute from her home to San Francisco. Hargrave was hired by Napa police dispatch in January 2001.

Hargrave is the main breadwinner when it comes to funding CINOH. "I pay for most of the expenses, including the rent on the home where the girls live, with my dispatcher salary. I get some private donations, but not much," she said. "It's hard to get grant money when you are only supporting three people. There have been a few times that I thought we would go belly up, but something has always come through."

Donations for CINOH may be sent to 274E Sunset Ave., No. 221, Suisun City, 94558.

On the Net:

Wanted: Strong city manager for Suisun City

From the Daily Republic, Fairfield / June 13, 2005

By Ian Thompson / Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Whoever Suisun City picks as city manager better be up for the challenge of bring a city budget back from the red, promoting more economic development and filling a host of high-level city management positions.

"If you look at what Suisun City is facing, we need a strong city manager, someone who is highly creative and strong with redevelopment," Councilman Pete Sanchez said.
On Wednesday the City Council will interview four or five candidates singled out by a consulting firm.

"We are looking for a guy who can balance the budget and hold the line, one thing (former City Manager) Steve (Baker) did well," Councilman Mike Segala said. "We want someone who can provide fiscal guidance for the city."

Baker left the job last year to become city manager of the Sierra foothills town of Oakdale. The council appointed former Vallejo city manager David Martinez as the interim.

Assistant to the City Manager Jim Randall said there was only a remote possibility a new city manager would be announced on Wednesday.

Depending on how quickly the council wants to forge ahead, a new city manager could be in place by August, Randall said.

The council wants the new manager to be on the job as soon as possible because the city has a slate of city administrator positions that are either vacant or filled on an interim basis.

The Redevelopment Agency director, the Community Development director and the Assistant to the City Manager are presently filled by interim employees. The city's Finance Director position has been vacant for months.

Sanchez, who has seen the finalists' resumes, called them "real go getters" and said he will push for a decision to be made Wednesday.

"We don't have time to waste," Sanchez said.

Councilmember Sam Derting - who wants a city manager who has good people skills, understands development and can work with a city in financial crisis - will make up his own mind by the end of the week, he said.

Once the top candidate has been determined, the challenge is figuring out if the cash-strapped city has the resources to entice the person on board, Sanchez said.

On the plus side, Suisun City's fortunes seem to be on the upswing with the naming of the master developer for boosting Old Town Suisun City's economy and plans for a shopping center on open land west of Old Town and south of Highway 12.

"For the first time in years, the Suisun City economic engine is firing on all cylinders," Sanchez said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Friday, June 10, 2005

Managing the marina -- Suisun's harbormaster takes care of tennants, berths and bouys

From the Fairfield Daily Republic June 10, 2005

Gus Barkas, marina supervisor, looks out over the Suisun waterfront from the harbormaster building. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith)

By Ian Thompson
Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Being the town's harbormaster is a natural for Gus Barkas.
"I am Greek," Barkas said with a smile. "The water is in my blood."

It also helps when an older Greek-American couple from Southern California with the last name of Maharis enter Barkas' office to ask about the cost of boat slips.

Barkas slipped into Greek to ask about their family and what part of Greece they are from, getting the answer in what he said later was a little rustier Greek than his. He also urged that they try the two Greek restaurants nearby.

A little earlier he walked the docks, part of his day's routine, pausing every once and a while to check to see if something needed replacing.

Marina tenants drop by the office, more for conversation with Barkas than for business, they said.

Barkas deals with all sorts of folks - from people cleaning their fish in the marina bathrooms to phone calls from people like the person who has doggedly called Barkas every day for the past 10 days asking for long-departed former city manager Steve Baker.

Still, it's the people - and the proximity to water - that make the job a good fit for Barkas.

"If you don't like people, you should not be a harbormaster," Barkas said.
As if to illustrate the point, the mailman comes through the office door, dropping off a couple of letters, lightheartedly thanking Gus for a nice day.

"I ordered it just for you," Barkas said with a laugh.

The core of the marina's tenants includes long-timers who Barkas describes as "a pretty good group and most of them are real nice people."

As tenants walk by the office, Barkas mixes small talk with business, one conversation starting with slough fishing and ending on the comparative merits of Greek and Italian cooking.

Barkas has been Suisun City's harbormaster for eight years, his office overlooking the downtown docks that line the city's Suisun Slough waterfront.

If you stick to formalities, the city manager actually is the harbormaster and Barkas is the marina supervisor, but it's Barkas to whom the local boaters turn for their needs at the marina.

Before coming to Suisun City, Barkas, who was born in Greece, was in the family recreation business at Lake Berryessa.

Barkas misses the boats he owned or worked on earlier in life, but says he gets to see boats every day here.

Most of his job is supervising maintenance of the docks, both at the marina and down the slough at the public boat launch, which he checks on twice a day.

His daily routine also involves making minor repairs where needed, dispensing gas and ensuring berth rentals are paid. He also does all purchasing for the marina.

"It is basically to make sure everything is safe and clean," Barkas said.

His world view is summed up in the small button perched on one windowsill that states "I Love Suisun."

"Suisun City is a nice, small town. It is like we have our own little peninsula here," Barkas said.

With his office located in Old Town, a part of the job is also public relations, pointing out the attractions of the area and talking up upcoming events.

Barkas is usually the first person visitors meet when their boats make their way up the slough from Suisun Bay to the waterfront.

At present, the 160-berth marina is 96 percent full, an occupancy figure Barkas would like to see rise to 98 percent this summer.

The marina has paid its way, according to Suisun City's 2004 budget, bringing in $302,600 in revenues while costing $252,110 to run.

"My weekends are busy," Barkas said. "Most of my days are spent walking the docks because I don't like spending too much time in the office."

He also works with both the Suisun City Police Department and the Solano County Sheriff's Department on anything going on in the slough.

"If any of the (marina) tenants needs assistance in the slough, I jump into the harbor patrol boat to help, and if I can't help, I call the sheriff," Barkas said.
At least once a week during the summer, he boards the small harbormaster's boat and travels down the slough as far as Hunter's Cut to check on the navigation buoys.

"They need to be looked after and repaired sometimes because jet skiers hit them, fishermen tie up to them," Barkas said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Suisun reveals developer, but not its plans, for Main Street

From the Fairfield Daily Republic June 8, 2005

Matthew Bunk, staff writer

SUISUN CITY - The city made its choice Tuesday from among a handful of developers jockeying to rebuild the neglected downtown business district, but company representatives only hinted at what they had in mind for the so-called Main Street West project.

Suisun City officials picked hometown development firm Miller Sorg Group and Petaluma-based
Basin Street Properties to team up on the city's largest ongoing redevelopment project.

The two firms will now begin working on plans to rejuvenate the city's oldest business district by uprooting several blocks of aging buildings and replacing them with a combination of homes and shops.

Representatives from both companies suggested, but would not confirm, what downtown will look like once the construction project is finished.

"It's similar to what we did in Petaluma," Basin Street's Frank Marinello said.

"Strikingly similar," echoed Mike Rice, who owns Miller Sorg Group.

They were referring to Basin Street's $100 million redevelopment project in Petaluma anchored by a 12-screen, multiplex theater. The developer reconstructed seven blocks with a mix of housing, retail office space and a parking garage, and invested $10 million in the theater alone.

The development team is now hailing the Petaluma project as an example of what it can do for the future of downtown Suisun City. Officials seem to have bought into the idea.

"I'm expecting this project to have some award-winning elements," Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said.

Rice wouldn't confirm whether the plan includes building a theater in Suisun. He did say, however, that one of the goals is to make it "the place to be" in the evening.

"Our job is to get feet on the street for more than just eight hours a day," he said.

When pressed for details, Rice defrayed questions until all agreements are signed.

He talked about an anchor attraction that is "so key to this project that I don't feel comfortable saying anything until it's done."

The development firms are forming a joint company, which they haven't named yet, to work exclusively on Suisun's Main Street West. The partnership is expected to sign a contract with the city later this month that will make it the sole developer on the project.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Basin Street Properties
  • Headquartered in Petaluma
  • Specializes in commercial development
  • More than 25 years of experience
  • Operates in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties
  • Past Projects: Earned statewide acclaim for a $100 million redevelopment of seven blocks in Petaluma, a project that included a $10 million multiplex theater.

Miller Sorg Group
  • Headquartered in Suisun City
  • Specializes in residential and mixed-use development
  • Founded in 1988 and moved to Suisun City in 1998
  • Operates primarily in Solano County
  • Past Projects: Built the 89-home Harbor Village in Suisun City, as well as the Promenade live-work district on the Suisun waterfront.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Fairfield-Suisun schools superintendent bids farewell

From the Vacaville Reporter June 7, 2005

By Julie Kay/Staff WriterTheReporter.Com

Hundreds of people packed Crystal Middle School's multi-purpose room Monday night to honor retiring superintendent Sharon Tucker for her devotion, her strength, and her spunk.

About half of those present sat at flower-adorned tables with the rest lining the walls, as they looked back over the Fairfield-Suisun superintendent's seven and one-half year tenure with laughter and a few tears.

More than a dozen speakers including teachers, former board members and city leaders remembered Tucker through stories, jokes, and reflections.

Armijo High School teacher Cathy Canaday recalled complaining on a winter day because there was no heat at the school. Tucker, she said, blithely suggested she sit in her car with the heat on for awhile.

Not long after, Canaday griped about Armijo's lack of computers. The next day, she discovered a new computer at the school - Tucker's own.

Mike Helm, one of the members of the school board that hired Tucker, began by comparing her
with Dolly Parton.

"They both believe that if you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain," he explained, smiling.

Helm ended on a serious note.

"I'm proud to be a part of the school board that hired you," he said. "I believe it was one of the best decisions we made."

Former teachers' union presidents Laurel Salerno-White and Liz Priest acknowledged years characterized by bitter debate between teachers and the district but lauded Tucker's commitment.

"When you do butt heads and still can ... come out working in a positive way: that is the sign of a good administrator," said Salerno-White.

Tucker sat at a table adorned with flowers and a stack of books, donated at her request in lieu of gifts. Tucker's family - including her mother, daughter, and son - joined her at the front of the room.

"I am so ... so really proud," said Tucker in her response at the end of the ceremony. "You have been very, very kind to me in Fairfield-Suisun and I do appreciate it."

She introduced her family to the audience and thanked them for their tremendous support.
Several audience members dabbed their eyes as Tucker's white-haired mother approached the microphone.

"I'm so proud," she said to Tucker. "I love you, daughter."

Julie Kay can be reached at

Suisun City director headed for Pittsburg

From the Vacaville Reporter June 7, 2005

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

Suisun City's economic development director will leave his post later this month to take a new job as redevelopment projects manager in Pittsburg.

Randy Starbuck, 47, who has been with Suisun City for six years, announced his departure Monday.

In his new post he will work on about 80 "ambitious" projects with redevelopment bond funds of $110 million, he said.

Starbuck said he will be doing the work he loves - redevelopment and called the new job a chance to make a positive impact on a community.

"You're changing the landscape, hopefully for the better," Starbuck said. "It looked like a good challenge to me in this part of my career, so that's why I went forward with it."

Starbuck said his greatest accomplishments in Suisun City were working with the Wiseman Company on the construction of 1 Harbor Center; Harbor Park, a mix of affordable and market rate housing, and Promenade, a single-family residential development on the waterfront.

He also looks forward to formalizing selection of a developer for the Main Street West project when the Suisun City Council meets tonight.

He acknowledged that he's leaving at a "very exciting time for Suisun."

Starbuck declined to discuss his new salary, but said he will miss his colleagues.

"There's been some wonderful people I've had the privilege of working with here," he said. "It's going to be hard to say goodbye."

Starbuck holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, as well as a master's degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Has worked in municipalities for 25 years.

For now, he said he will commute to Pittsburg so he can continue to reside in Suisun City with his wife, Elizabeth and his three children.

Barbara Smith can be reached at