Tuesday, July 26, 2005

New Suisun manager wants focus on morale and redevelopment

From Daily Republic // July 26, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suzanne Bragdon was looking to work in a city facing fiscal challenges and economic opportunities.

She found that in Suisun City.

"There is the opportunity here to bring in new investment and that is exciting," Bragdon said, during a Monday visit to meet with city leaders.

Bragdon, 46, was named Suisun City's city manager last week with city councilmembers lauding her experience with economic development and her resourcefulness for improving the cities' finances.

Recruiters hired by the City Council to find a replacement for Steve Baker, who departed in December, approached Bragdon "because they knew I wanted to work in a city with challenges," she said.

At the time, Bragdon was economic development consultant for the small city of Grover Beach. Prior to that, she served as city manager for Pismo Beach and assistant city manager in Napa.

Bragdon and the City Council still have to tidy up several small details on her contract. She is expected to start work on Sept. 1.

Specific general fund issues such as what to do about public safety, which now partly relies on the Solano County Sheriff's Department, will have to wait until she gets settled in her job.

Her first impressions of Suisun City center on its downtown and waterfront which she described as very attractive.

Bragdon said she is impressed with the City Council saying it understands the policy role and that her relationship with the members will be a nice partnership.

Her first task will be getting a permanent management team together, finding people to fill at least three city positions now filled with interim department heads.

With lower-than-average executive salaries, she said the city will have to "get creative" to bring in good talent.

City worker morale also needs to be boosted in the wake of repeated budget cutbacks and stagnant salaries brought on by the city's fiscal problems.

"There are things you can do for morale that doesn't cost money," Bragdon said.

Bragdon lauded the city's redevelopment efforts as the bright spot that has a very good chance to pull the city through, especially with plans for a Wal-Mart just west of Old Town and the Main Street West redevelopment campaign.

"The city has a strong redevelopment agency and the city has property they own," Bragdon said of what she considered a strong foundation for economic revival.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Suzanne Bragdon
Age: 46.
Experience: Economic development consultant for city of Grover Beach; Pismo Beach city manager; Napa assistant city manager; Ralph Anderson & Associates management consulting firm.
Education: Magna Cum Laude in political science, University of Washington.
Family: Husband Kirk and 13-year-old daughter Stephanie.

Plan seeks to clear Suisun railroad

From Daily Republic // July 26, 2005
By Barry Eberling // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY -- Passing trains can cause some rush-hour traffic chaos on Sunset Avenue.

Down go the crossing gates over the Union Pacific tracks. Vehicles on Sunset Avenue back up past the nearby northern Railroad Avenue intersection. Meanwhile, drivers are trying to turn between the two streets.

"People tend to do things that sometimes are not entirely safe," interim Community Development Director Gerald Raycraft said.

Suisun City thinks it has the solution: Relocate the Railroad Avenue intersection. It is planning to do this and a series of related projects in phases at a total cost of $6 million.

The Planning Commission is to discuss the environmental study for the project (Tuesday July 27, 2005) [Note: The Commission approved the environmental documents for the project.]

Railroad Avenue is a key Suisun City street. For the most part, it parallels the Union Pacific railroad tracks at the border of Suisun City and Fairfield.

People traveling on Railroad Avenue the length of the city cannot do so withough traversing a short section of Sunset Avenue. They'll hit a T-intersection at Sunset Avenue, then drive along Sunset Avenue to a second T-intersection.

It would be better to have Railroad Avenue simply cross Sunset Avenue at the southern intersection, then jog north along a new alignment, city officials decided. Then that northern T-intersection near the railroad tracks would no longer be needed.

Suisun City also wants to widen Railroad Avenue from the Laurel Creek channel to Humphrey Drive. It wants to delete the Railroad Avenue/East Tabor Avenue intersection and push Railroad Avenue through to Olive Avenue, which leads to East Tabor Avenue.

Finally, it wants to widen sections of Sunset Avenue and Olive Avenue near the railroad tracks.

Suisun City plans to make the improvement in three phases. The $2.5 million to $3 million first phase is realigning Railroad Avenue at Sunset Avenue. No construction is planned for this year.

Suisun City received several letters commenting on the project environmental study.

The state Department of Fish and Game noted there is potential for the protected vernal pool fairy shrimp and alkali milk vetch plant to exist in the area. These species are associated with vernal pools.

A vernal pool exists south of Railroad Avenue near Blossom Avenue, the city responded. The first option is to avoid the pool. If that's not possible, the city could preserve wetlands elsewhere.

Some property owners have expressed concern about how the realignment will effect their land.

Suisun City has planned the realignment of Railroad Avenue since 1996.

Reach Barry Eberling at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

New city manager has a flair for drama

From Vacaville Reporter // July 21, 2005

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

At City Hall in Suisun City, dramas may occasionally unfold, but with the town's new city manager, they often do. She's a screenwriter in her spare time.

The City Council unanimously approved Tuesday the hiring of Suzanne Bragdon as the new city manager, a position currently occupied on an interim basis by David Martinez.

Along with a 25-year career in civic management and consulting, Bragdon will bring her writing talents to the city.

Bragdon has recently dabbled in screenwriting, and her first screenplay - a drama titled "Crossing the Line" - was a finalist in Miramax Studios' 2004 Open Door Contest.

Bragdon said she expects to start her day job as Suisun City's top executive on Sept. 1, focusing first on improving the city's financial standing, filling key staff positions and furthering the city's redevelopment efforts.

Bragdon has served in the past as the city manager for Pismo Beach, as well as the economic development consultant for the central California city of Grover Beach. She was also an assistant city manager for Napa for seven years and spent 16 years in the private sector.

Suisun City has been looking for a new top executive since December 2004, when then-City Manager Steve Baker announced his resignation.

The details of Bragdon's contract are still being worked out and will have to be ratified by the council, city public information officer Scott Corey said in a press release.

Bragdon said Wednesday that the city's troubled financial situation has to be a top priority.
"You have to be financially viable to do the fun things," Bragdon said.

She said the challenges within Suisun City's government drew her to the job, adding that she turned down a job offer with another city because it seemed too hum-drum.

"I was looking for a city where there'd be challenges and exciting goals," Bragdon said.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Suisun City names new city manager

From Daily Republic // July 20, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council tentatively agreed to hire former Pismo Beach city manager Suzanne Bragdon as the city's top executive Tuesday night.

The council and Bragdon still need to work out some final details to her contract, "but it is nothing that is insurmountable," Mayor Jim Spering said.

Councilmembers lauded Bragdon's educational background, managerial experience and her desire to make Suisun City a destination city.

"Ms. Bragdon's extensive knowledge of city operations, and her resourcefulness and attention to detail will definitely assure Suisun City of a steady march toward putting in place the infrastructures to generate the revenues needed to deliver basic services to the public," Vice Mayor Pete Sanchez said.

"We picked a good candidate and she will do wonders for the city," City Councilman Sam Derting said.

Bragdon, 46, is expected to start work here on Sept. 1 as the city manager/redevelopment agency director.

She is replacing interim City Manager David Martinez who held the job since Steve Baker stepped down in December 2004 to become city manager for the Central Valley town of Oakdale.

Councilmembers said they want the next city manager to be more of a redevelopment director than a traditional city manager in order to push the city's economic fortunes.

Martinez proved to be an able stand-in with his work getting the city's Main Street West redevelopment project off the ground earlier this year.

One of the new city manager's first duties will be what to do with four city positions presently filled with interim department heads - the community development director, the economic development director and assistant to the city manager and the finance director.

She will also face putting city finances on a solid footing and bring more economic development to the city.

One attribute that caught the council's eye was what councilmembers described as a proactive style in encouraging input from city staff and the community as well as creating workable solutions to tough problems.

Bragdon is moving here from Pismo Beach where she had served as city manager, and more recently, as an economic development consultant for the neighboring city of Grover Beach.

Prior to that, she was assistant city manager for Napa and spent 16 years with the firm of Ralph Anderson & Associates, a management consulting firm that worked for local governments.

Bragdon is married to artist Kirk Bragdon and has a 13-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Easing poverty in Africa--Suisun City filmmaker says hip hop could create job opportunities

From Daily Republic // July 17, 2005

By Amy Maginnis-Honey

SUISUN CITY - Michael Wanguhu has joined the ranks of rockers Bob Geldof and Bono in calling for an end to the poverty in Africa.

Wanguhu, a Suisun City resident who is a native of Kenya, prefers a different approach to solving the problem - the hip hop industry in his homeland.

"I don't believe in donations (aid)," he said. "I believe in creating opportunities."

The growing popularity of hip hop is a great starting point, feels Wanguhu, who has produced and directed a documentary on the topic, "Hip Hop Colony: The African Hip Hop Explosion."

Filmed in 2003, "Hip Hop Colony" hopes to educate the public and policy makers that a successful hip hop artist in Africa can create a multitude of jobs ranging from chauffeur to record producer.

However, at present, only 1 or 2 percent of hip hop artists are making money at it, said Annette Ruah, Wanguhu's wife. "A lot of talent is going to waste," she added.

Most of the popular Kenyan hip hop artists rely on record companies in Australia to record and distribute their work. If someone were to step forward with the same in Kenya, an industry would be born, Wanguhu feels.

Some artists have gotten endorsement deals, but there's still a long way to go, Ruah said.

"Older people are still not very warm to it. But it's creating industries. They're not seeing the bigger picture," she said.

Ruah and Wanguhu knew a different Africa than was being represented in the mainstream media and films.

"Africa isn't just about AIDS, poverty and hunger," said Ruah, who is also a Kenya native. Nor is it National Geographic-type scenes. "Once you've seen a lion in Nairobi, it's the same as seeing one at the Oakland zoo," Wanguhu said. "There are so many stories on Africa that aren't being told. But we need to tell the stories that can make a difference."

So, he ventured to Kenya twice for filming. "I had to make the people understand what I was doing. People in Africa feel a stigma," he said.

Making the film was a labor of love. "I wanted this to empower them," he said. "I saw that the only way to do that was to expose them (hip hop artists) to the rest of the world. "

Being a Kenya native helped. "They knew I was a filmmaker and they had faith in me. I could tell the story from our perspective. This was our voice. I'm part of them," he said.

"I'm still wondering how we have come this far," said Ruah, who works tirelessly to get the film into as many venues as possible and dreams of screening it locally.

She experienced the same passion as her husband, traveling to Kenya once during filming. "The idea of doing something you love is phenomenal," she said.

The couple, who have a 2-year-old daughter, cut back on expenses to help produce the film. It was about two years in the making, all the time Wanguhu working his job as a videographer. The couple also took some loans.

Interviews and performances by some of the most popular hip hop artists in Africa are featured.

Dismissed as a passing fad in the early 1990s, today's hip hop fuses traditional Kenyan music with a strong influence of American sounds.

"In the film, one of the messages is, 'America influences the rest of the world,' " Wanguhu said.

The film has been shown about 10 times, most recently at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Though Wanguhu was unable to attend, he heard it got very positive reviews.

"It is my understanding that it attracted the most youth (at the festival) and they were heard saying that it was a movie they could understand and relate to," he said.

"Hip Hop Colony" was named the best urban film at the Houston Black Film Festival. Wanguhu is looking for a distributor and continues to show the movie as much as possible.

"I'd like the film to reach as many households as possible," he said. "It's educational and entertaining. You see the real thing. The characters connect with the audience. If the film gets in to many households, it will pretty much neutralize the stigma."

Wanguhu wants to see change in his homeland. He followed the recent G8 summit that gathered the leaders of the world's most powerful nations who pledged $50 million in aid to Africa.

"There can't be a real breakthrough without clear commitments to fair trade," he said. "Unless we tackle trade we will forever be talking about aid. Africa won't get real help until trade barriers are removed."

It is the people, not just it's leaders that need to make a difference because really, when it comes to crunch time, most individuals are only interested in their own comfortable lifestyles and value their flashy techy-advanced lives above clean water and food for Africa's children."

And, he's not impressed with the concept of the G8.

"There is no good to come out of a conference that allows the major cause of the world's problems to supposedly suggest 'realistic solutions.' You can't give a fox keys to the henhouse and suggest that he knows what's best, it is suicide, man.

"Africa has a part to play as well. It's leaders have to end corruption so that when this aid flows in it's channeled to the right places."

The film, he feels, is a good example to the world that fair trade can go a long way, noting that it can affect change intellectually, emotionally and practically.

"The U.S. has vaguely educated its citizens about Africa and Kenyans have found a way to spread their own message through their music, telling the world about their life through the rhythm and style of their music," Wanguhu said.

As for the Live 8 concerts that took place around the world two weeks ago, Wanguhu said they were a "wonderful idea that served a real purpose."

He was inspired to see so many people focus on the issues of global inequity and injustice, he said.

"But was all this people power enough to influence the leaders of the G8 summit?" he asked rhetorically. "Nah."

You can see a clip of the film and keep up-to-date with screenings at hiphopcolony.com.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or

The Grind continues in Suisun City

From Daily Republic // July 17, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Overstuffed chairs next to a fireplace and a wide variety of coffee blends ranging from a caramel mocha to an iced cappuccino or a Fog Lifter are what the newly opened It's A Grind Coffee House in Suisun City offers.

"People will be impressed with the quality of our coffee and products served in a relaxing environment with cozy chairs and a crackling fireplace," owner Tim McCabe said.

The Suisun City location across Highway 12 from the Sunset Shopping Center is the second store opening for McCabe who opened his first It's A Grind Coffee House in Galt in 2003.

This is McCabe's second career after spending 27 years in retail management, including 12 years as an executive for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"I had decided it was time to try something on my own," McCabe said of his career change. "(Running coffee houses) is a fun business that is still growing and is popular."

Before opening his first store, McCabe attended a "coffee boot camp" in Southern California where he learned how to make the best coffees.

McCabe's two stores are part of a five-year-old specialty coffee house franchise that has 57 stores in 11 states ranging from Pennsylvania to California.

He picked the Suisun City location because it's next to Highway 12 and because the Fairfield-Suisun population of coffee drinkers is still growing.

"I felt it was a good fit for what we are doing," McCabe said.

The coffee shop offers a variety of micro-roasted coffees from around the world as well as espresso and ice blended coffee drinks made from scratch. Bagels, muffins, scones and other assorted bakery items round out the menu.

"There is a little bit of everything for everybody," McCabe said.

It's A Grind Coffee House makes it a point to serve customers at their tables. It has a complete kids' menu and even offers a sampler bar where customers can try out as many as six blends a day.

The kids menu is aimed at parents who want to bring their children in "and allow the children to enjoy themselves as well," McCabe said.

"Our It's A Grind Coffee House not only provides an exceptional coffee experience, but customers who come in immediately feel at home," McCabe said. "The store provides living-room-like touches with an upscale, comfortable environment filled with wingback chairs, a cozy fireplace and sounds of blues and jazz."

The shop also offers catering packages for events such as office parties, birthdays and other special events.

McCabe also plans to be an active part of the Suisun City community with plans for regularly hosting events such as Little League registrations, charitable fund-raisers, sports award dinners and other functions.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Suisun City residents life of Puerto Rican cultural festival

From Vacaville Reporter // July 14, 2005

By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Suisun City residents Victor and Linda Agosto are used to being the life of the party. People love to hear Victor, known as "Cafe," play timbales - a Caribbean drum set that includes tunable drums, cymbals and two cow bells. He might be playing with his band, "Orquestra Borinquen," or with a smattering of international musicians.

His wife, Linda, has a special talent for the soiree; when she gives the word, people readily converge.

So when a local Puerto Rican group dissolved several years ago, the Agostos - whose ancestry is Puerto Rican but who have spent most of their lives in the United States - stepped in easily to fill the gap.

"I said to Cafe, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we did a Puerto Rican picnic?' " Linda recalled. "He said, 'You put it together, and I'll make the music happen."'

Before their first Festival de la Isla - or island festival - in 2003, Linda worried about being able to sell all 300 tickets. The concern turned out to be needless.

"We had a thousand people come," Linda said.

The festival arrives for the third time this Saturday. The Agostos expect between 2,000 and 3,000 people to attend the event at Vacaville's Pena Adobe Park.

The daylong affair will feature Bay Area bands, including Orquestra Sensual and Conjunto Alegre, as well as acclaimed musician Ray de la Paz, who will be flying in from Puerto Rico. Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales made of root plants and pork meat), and coco rico (coconut soda) will all be on hand.

"We're proud people," said Linda, of Puerto Ricans. "We tend to look for each other and unite."
"When we see each other we say 'Hey, boriqua,' "- an endearment for a fellow Puerto Rican, said Linda.

According to the U.S. Census, there were 2,801 Puerto Ricans living in Solano County in 2000.
But Puerto Ricans aren't the only ones who attend the festival, said Linda. The event attracts salsa lovers of all backgrounds and ethnicities, she said.

"What's great about it is it's a real mixture," said Linda. "It's mainly an older crowd and their families. We focus on keeping it very traditional and family oriented."
Linda said she never would have expected the event to grow to its current proportions.
"It was just an idea," she said, wonder in her voice.

Festival de la Isla will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Pena Adobe Park. Tickets for the event cost $10 in advance, or $15 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. The children's fun and games carnival costs $5.

To buy tickets or for more information, call the Agostos at 426-5591.

Julie Kay can be reached at schools@thereporter.com.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Coffee shop chain opens in Suisun

Daily Republic // July 12, 2005

By Jeff Mitchell // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Tim McCabe's new coffee shop is proof positive that there is life in the shadow of Starbucks and other coffee giants.

Following the successful opening of a store in Galt in 2003, McCabe recently opened his second "It's A Grind Coffee House," in Suisun City at 1240 Anderson Drive, near Highway 12 and Grizzly Island Road.

McCabe brings to his new business 27 years of experience in the retail industry, including 12 years as an executive for Wal-Mart Stores.

The store, which features a drive-thru window, will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

The new Suisun City store is one of 57 franchised "It's A Grind" locations across the nation. The company, Long Beach-based IAG Coffee Franchise LLC, was formed in 2000 by founders Marty

Cox and his wife, Louise Montgomery.

The new Suisun City location can be reached at 399-8490.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Yard sale is a family affair in Suisun

From Daily Republic // Monday July 11, 2005

By Brad Stanhope // staff writer

SUISUN CITY - For Samantha Lee, the pricing part is easy.

"I decide by how much I use it and how many times I use it," the 10-year-old says while sifting through her items at a yard sale. "The less I've used it, the more I charge."

Samantha lives in Henderson, Nev., but is visiting her grandparents. She hopes to raise as much as $20 in the yard sale - "so I can give it to my grandpa, so he can fix up the house to sell," she says.

Samantha, her brother and three cousins are helping out in front of the home once owned by her great-grandmother, whose sons - Allan Sammons of Vacaville and Richard Sammons of Suisun City - are preparing the house to be sold.

Samantha's 11-year-old brother, Anthony Lee, is working at the sale, as are three cousins - 13-year-old Daniel Chavez of Vacaville and his brothers, 9-year-old Cisco Chavez and 8-year-old Gabriel Chavez.

Each of the kids has a blanket on the front yard with their wares. It's the third day of a four-day sale - and the best transactions so far were a laser tag set and a lava lamp, each of which brought $4 to Cisco. David says he sold a box of his stuffed animals for an undisclosed price.

Samantha is offering teddy bears and dolls, as well as some knickknacks.

"I decided on them because people like to have funny stuff," she says, smiling.

Samantha enjoys the annual trip to California - and the Chavez brothers are enjoying seeing their cousins. That they're in business together makes it even more fun.

People come and sift through the items. There are books and clothes for the adults, but kids are interested in the things Samantha, her brother and cousins are offering - dolls, teddy bears, toys.

On Samantha's blanket, the price structure is fairly rigid: "It only goes up to $1.50," she says.

And that's for things she hasn't used much, she adds.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Suisun concert series kicks off

From Daily Republic // July 10, 2005

By Ian Thompson // staff writer

SUISUN CITY - Jazz will fill Sunday afternoons on the Suisun City waterfront starting this weekend when the Sunday Jazz Free Concert series kicks off.

Vallejo native Dalt Williams and his quartet will host the first concert of the seven-week series with the most popular jazz tunes from the 1920s to the 1960s.

All of the two-hour performances kick off at 3 p.m. at the Harbor Plaza in Suisun City's Old Town.

Williams' quartet has performed at jazz festivals all around the San Francisco Bay Area since it formed in 2001 and has performed with music notables such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones.

Keith Stout's Alive Music Orchestra, augmented by the Singers in Harmony, will follow Williams' lead on July 17 with music ranging from contemporary to traditional jazz as well as big band and gospel music.

Following on successive Sunday afternoons will be performances by SMG Band, formerly known as Dean Jackson & Co. (July 24); the Delbert Bump Band (July 31); three-year Jazz Concert veterans Second Planet Bank (Aug. 7); Touch of Jazz (Aug. 14) and Reality Check (Aug. 21).

For more information on the series, call 421-7309 or go online to www.suisun.com.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Hidden treasures in Suisun

From Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA // July 4, 2005

By Matthew Bunk // Staff Writer

SUISUN CITY - Sure, people shopping for specialty gifts can find what they need in a hurry at Treasures Boutique. But the quaint little shop on Suisun City's Main Street is better suited for those who want to browse around.

The boutique, which opened earlier this spring next to Nautical Salon, sells vintage gifts, jewelry, paintings by local artists, decorative dishes and a lot more. Just about everything in the store is for sale, even the mirrors in the bathroom and the glass display case by the front door.

"We're trying to have things here that you wouldn't find in other stores," said co-owner Vicky Clayton, a Dixon resident who has lived in Solano County since she was about 4.

"If you need a quick gift for somebody, we can put it together," she added. "But most people who come in spend a lot of time looking around. Some of them make a couple of loops through the boutique. There's no need to rush."

Clayton owns the salon next door, where she met her friend and business associate Melody Garsee more than 16 years ago. Garsee, a manicurist, decided to go into the gift shop business as a partner when Clayton rented the space next door.

Like most business partners, Clayton and Garsee have different, and complementing, strengths. Garsee is quiet, Clayton is more outspoken. One is the brains, the other is the brawn.

"She's the brawn," Clayton said, laughing, one afternoon in the boutique. "She's good with screwdrivers and hammers, and she'll climb ladders."

"And she's the brains," Garsee said.

It's pretty clear which one is more talkative.

"Melody is very friendly, but she's more reserved than I am," Clayton said.

The items you'll find at Treasures Boutique aren't run-of-the-mill products that sit on shelves at large discount stores. Local artists contribute oil and acrylic paintings, others submit glasswork, knitted baby clothes and jewelry. Still others bring in vintage furniture on consignment.

In a part of Suisun City known to locals as Old Town, it seems like Treasures is a perfect fit. Even the building at 411 Main St. is itself a sort of treasure, having been erected in the early 1900s.

"We have handmade items coming in all the time, it's quite a variety," said Clayton. "It's got a small-town atmosphere - not like going to Wal-Mart or the mall."

Treasures is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.

Open for Business
Treasures Boutique
Owners: Vicky Clayton and Melody Garsee
Address: 411 Main Street, Suisun City
Phone: 429-9095
Date Opened: May 1