Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Suisun City discusses PD shift

NOTE: The Suisun City Council is expected to consider the FY 2006-07 budget at its regular June 20 meeting. The council meeting of June 6 was cancelled earlier this year because it is Election Day.

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City police could be back on the job around the clock as early as Aug. 31 if they get the two additional officers they sought from the Suisun City Council.

This would cost the city only $15,550 more than it is paying the Solano County Sheriff's Department to have deputies patrol Suisun City's streets during the early morning hours.

The proposal was put forward by Lt. Ed Dadisho as part of a budget workshop where Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon told councilmembers that the proposed budget holds a $492,000 surplus.

"It has been a very good year," Bragdon said of the 2006-07 budget she will formally hand to the council next week.

In January, Bragdon's mid-year budget report stated that city could expect a $300,000 surplus which could be even higher when the books for 2005-06 close at the end of June.

That is a big change from October 2005, when it was predicted that the 2005-06 budget would have a $200,000 deficit. That was when the council approved a $7.8 million general fund budget and $3.1 in reserves.

The proposal to put the police back on around-the-clock coverage is a big turnaround from three years ago when the city council had pondered contracting out all its police services to the sheriff's office.

Suisun City cut back its police coverage three years ago and contracted with the Solano County Sheriff's Department to patrol the city during the early-morning hours.

Suisun City's police have long stated they wanted to take back around-the-clock coverage as soon as they had more police officers on the job and the city was financially stronger.

The department spent the past year hiring officers and staff to fill positions that had been left vacant due to retirements and officers leaving for other departments.

Dadisho also suggested putting more resources into a dedicated anti-gang/drug unit that would hit the streets on a regular basis "instead of when we have the resources."

Councilmembers liked the police department's proposal, with Mayor Jim Spering recommending the police department work on retaining its officers, a problem the department has suffered from in the past.

"We should not move onto any new programs before we deal with the core problems," Spering said.

Councilman Mike Segala asked that the police devote more resources to its services to help the city's youth before they turn to crime.

Dadisho replied that the budget will have more money for a part-time school resource officer.
Councilmembers recommended investing more to repair the docks in the city marina to ensure the docks don't further deteriorate.

The city council is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the 2006-07 budget on Tuesday.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Suisun City gets sister city

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City got a new sister city, the Filipino town of Naguilian La Union, and kicked off formal relations Tuesday.

Representatives of Naguilian La Union in the Philippines started their first sister city tour with a signing and reception at the Suisun City Council chamber.

Both Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering and Naguilian La Union Mayor Reynaldo Flores shared a table which held the flags of both the United States and the Philippines as they signed the documents formalizing the relationship.

"It is an honor to have you here," Spering told Flores. "We hope to visit your town soon."

Flores returned the complement, saying "we are looking forward to many areas of cooperation with Suisun City" that range from how to provide public services to systems of governance.

The idea of creating a sister city bond came from local resident Aurelia Joven, whose hometown is Naguilian La Union, located on the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

This initial visit will last six days, with Flores and others starting off with tours of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District facilities and the Solano Irrigation District's Cement Hill Water Treatment plant.

Flores asked to examine these facilities to take back ideas for improving his town's infrastructure.

All the stops will be pulled out Saturday night when the city and the Filipino-American community host a Proclamation Night celebration at the Joe Nelson Community Center.

The evening will include singing national anthems, speeches by both mayors, exchanging of gifts and entertainment that will include Filipino folk dances.

The visit will wrap up on Monday with a boat tour of the Suisun Slough and Suisun Bay as well as discussing the future of the sister city relationship.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Suisun OKs return of summer concerts

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council gave the green light Tuesday to bring summer concerts back to the Old Town Plaza, starting as soon as late June.

"It is going to bring more people downtown," Councilman Sam Derting said.

The council told Community Services Director Mick Jessop to continue talks with Jim Ignatieff, the owner of Pepper Belly's Comedy and Variety Theater, who wants to organize a six-concert series.

Ignatieff recently approached Suisun City with a proposal to book the performers and handle much of the organizing of the events.

Even though June is just around the corner, the concerts' organizers believe they can put a quality product together that will bring people to the city's waterfront.

The plan calls for holding six events starting in late June at a cordoned-off area at the waterfront plaza. Tickets will be required to attend the concerts.

Entertainment will be selected from groups that perform 1970s and 1980s music, which will be aimed at the area's baby-boomer group and reduce underage drinking issues which plagued earlier events.

The main concern came from Mayor Jim Spering, who had questions about the fence that will surround the plaza saying it sent "the wrong visual message" about the public space.

Spering asked Jessop to examine that issue to ensure the fence does what its supposed to without being too visually imposing.

Suisun City had built up the popular summer concerts shortly after finishing the plaza's construction.

The concerts were cut back and then canceled three years ago because of problems with large crowds, underage drinking and because the city didn't feel it had enough staff to handle the growing number of people.

City Hall is expected to come back with a formal agreement for the concerts in the near future.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Suisun moves toward 24-hour policing again

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Recent improvements in Suisun City's police force - such as hiring more officers - has City Hall considering proposals on how and when to put the force back on the job 24 hours a day.

Such as move would be a welcome development for the Solano County Sheriff's Department, which has patrolled Suisun City's streets during the early morning hours for three years.

The Suisun City Police have recently let Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton know they are doing well and are in a position to take over around-the-clock enforcement soon.

While Stanton has said that the relationship between the two departments has been a good one, he could use his deputies back as soon as possible to handle other duties.

"We have a county fair coming up and want to have a heavier focus on gang activities and drug enforcement," Stanton said.

Just when and how this change will take place is still being worked out, with Suisun City Hall staff crafting proposals that are expected to go to the City Council later this month.

"We do have some proposals that we are looking at to make this happen and will present the recommendations to the council on May 30," Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said.

Just what those proposals specifically are has not been made public yet.

Suisun City contracted with the Sheriff's Department to provide early morning patrols three years ago as a cost-saving measure. Suisun City suffered from budget problems and its police department was understaffed due to officers retiring and leaving for other jobs.

"We have had a very good partnership and we are going to continue to be a partner in Suisun City helping with areas such as gang activities," Stanton said.

Putting Suisun City police back on patrol around the clock has been a long-standing city council goal, Bragdon said.

"We appreciate the partnership with the Sheriff and they are standing by us during our transition period," Bragdon said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Suisun concert series may return

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City could have its once-popular Friday night concerts back as early as late June if the City Council decides Tuesday that it likes the idea.

City staffers want council direction before hashing out the details of a deal with the owner of Pepper Belly's Comedy and Variety Theater, the Texas Street comedy club that also books musical groups. The plan is to partner with Pepper Belly's owner, Jim Ignatieff, who will book the performers and handle a lot of the organizing for the events, Suisun City spokesman Scott Corey said.

Even though it's late in the season to start organizing for a summer concert series, the organizers believe a quality concert series can be put together.

The plan, if approved, is to hold six events starting in June at the waterfront plaza. Tickets will be required to attend the concerts because organizers will fence off the plaza.

Suisun City officials pulled the plug on the popular Friday night concerts three years ago because the city didn't have enough staff to handle the growing number of people attending the events.

"It got large and popular, but when you have to do things with a limited staff it was difficult to deal with that," Corey said.Since then, residents bemoaned the loss of the concerts and repeatedly asked city officials and council members if and when the concerts would come back.

"We are now at a point where we have enough staffing to bring back the concerts," Corey said. And with Pepper Belly's handling some of the work, city staff won't have to do as much."

If the council thinks the plan is a good idea, "we are going test it and see how it works," Corey said.

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

New gang unit out in force

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City police unveiled their new two-man gang unit Friday through Sunday and made 18 arrests, police said Monday.

The new gang unit teamed up with the Solano County Sheriff's Office gang unit and patrolled Suisun City for criminal activities. Authorities wanted to quell any violence that can erupt over the Cinco De Mayo weekend, said Suisun City Police Lt. Ed Dadisho.

The anti-gang officers also interviewed several people.

"We want to become familiar with the gang members," said Dadisho, who joined the teams on his days off.

One of the 18 arrests was an assault with a deadly weapon suspect. Police staked out the suspect's apartment Friday night then stopped his car when they saw him drive out, Dadisho said. The teams later found his gun.

Friday night was the busiest nights with eight arrests and eight cars towed for reasons such as no drivers license, Dadisho said.

On Saturday the Sheriff's gang unit interviewed two youths. They found a red bandana on them and CDs of rappers who allegedly belong to the Norteno street gangs. A correctional officer released the two and told the teenagers to spread the word that the gang units are in town.

Suisun City police dealt with a road rage situation on Sunset Avenue where the drivers left their cars to fight, Dadisho said. Police found a glass pipe on one of the drivers, police said.

A total of nine Suisun City police officers and five Sheriff's deputies worked as gang and crime suppression task force for three nights.

Suisun City police formed the gang unit because of a recent increase in gang activity and graffiti, Dadisho said. The new team will patrol on a regular basis.

"This is not just a one-time deployment; the unit will be deployed every weekend as staffing allows," Dadisho said.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Monday, May 8, 2006

Concert celebrates cultural diversity and unity

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Linda Hamel didn't feel well Sunday so she sought sun at the Suisun City waterfront to shake off her gloom.

Hamel did more than shake - she boogied - when she found her cure by the Suisun City Harbor on Main Street. The Fairfield resident stumbled upon the first Cultural Unity Day concert organized by Mount Calvary Baptist Church's Christian Education Ministry. The inspirational music floating through the waterfront got Hamel dancing.

"This makes me feel so high, so good inside," Hamel said as she shimmied to the Mount Calvary Mass Choir. "Since I came here I feel better, so much better."

Church members put on the free event as a way of giving back to the community, said Kathryn Williams, Mount Calvary's evangelical outreach director. The Christian education ministry assembled the various acts to bring different people to gather and recognize cultural diversity in the area.

"This is to celebrate cultural unity in our community," Williams said. "We also need to celebrate our sameness . . . We all belong to the human race."

Williams estimated hundreds - nearly 1,000 - participated.

Among the performers were the Formasan United Methodist Choir which sang in Chinese, poetic rap by Divercity, youngsters singing in Mount Calvary Voice of Promises and Jettie Taylor and the MC Praise Dancers. Comedian Dennis Gaxiola hosted the show and evoked laughter between sets.

"He's very smart, very funny," Phan Simmanotham said of the MC, as he watched the entertainment from under the shade.

Suisun City Councilman Mike Segala noted the wind ceased and the weather increased by 20 degrees the day of the show. The audience got refuge from the bright sun by lounging under the shade of palm trees.

Saxophonist Andrew Beal blew sultry notes of gospel jazz. For his last song Beal jammed with the Mount Calvary Band and danced.

The Mount Calvary Mass Choir belted out songs of praise, prompting many audience members to clap, sway, hop and groove to the music.

Nicole Barnett said she hopes Mount Calvary has the concert next year.

"In the past years we've seen the cultural event in Vacaville," Barnett said. "It would be nice to see something like that in the Fairfield-Suisun City area."

Williams said others have asked if the event will be annual. She said that they will if divine intervention wills it.

"If the Lord says so," Williams said.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Masonic lodge's unusual, long history -- Suisun City group made up mostly of black members

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The imposing two-story brick building with its stained-glass windows stands over Main Street as a 120-year-old curiosity, one of the few buildings in Northern California designed specifically as a Masonic hall.

The Masonic lodge it shelters, the Stanley Beverly Lodge No. 108 of the Prince Hall Masons, announces itself only with a marble plaque stating when it was founded.

But there is nothing secretive about the primarily African-American Masonic lodge that calls Suisun City's Old Town home and whose roots extend all the way back to Revolutionary War Boston.

"There are no secrets in Masonry, but there are things that only Masons should know," said Mason Larry Hill, alluding to such things as the password required to enter a Masonic meeting.
That openness ranges from the community projects the Masons undertake to a willingness to talk abut Masonry to anyone interested.

"It is different from when my dad was a Mason," Hill said of the time when Masons simply went around helping their community quietly. "Now we are more visible and let people know we are here.""We are open to any member, but we are primarily African-American," longtime member Fred Young said.

Many years ago, black Masons weren't welcome in primarily white lodges, but now members from different lodges visit more frequently, Hill and Young said.

Masonry is all about fellowship and is based on the principles set down in the Bible, members said.

They denied they are a religion and pointed out people of every religion belong to the lodges, with the only proviso being a belief in a supreme being.

"It has helped me in dealing with life," Young said. "It allowed me to meet people from all over the world who share a common belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man."

"It just makes people better," he added. "Color doesn't have to be a factor."

Most of the members are second- or third-generation Masons such as Young, whose father was a Mason while stationed on Okinawa.

"I grew up in the lodge," he said.

He joined in April 1968 while serving as an Air Force loadmaster on C-130 Hercules transports.
Hill has been a Mason since 1977 and was inspired to join the fraternity because his father was also a Mason.

"I just like doing this," Hill said. "If you like helping people and your community, you will enjoy it. You can do more as a group than as an individual."

The building was erected in 1888 and its ground floor has housed everything from pool hall to an auto parts store.

The two-story Gothic Revival building is considered one of the few Masonic lodges in Northern California that was built expressly for use as a Masonic lodge - it originally housed Lodge No. 55, Free and Accepted Masons before that lodge moved to new quarters in Fairfield.

While stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Young went to halls in the Sacramento and the Bay Area but then noticed this area had a growing number of Masons.

"We had enough people so we formed in 1973," Young said.

The Stanley Beverly Lodge held its first meetings in the veterans hall a couple of blocks up Main Street in 1973.

The group was only 25 strong then and has grown to a little more than 100 now with members scattered among Suisun City, Fairfield, Travis AFB and Vacaville.

Almost all of the original 25 were active-duty military members. Only 20 of the present 109 lodge members are in the military, but many others such as Hill and Young are retired military.
"You find a lot of Masons in the military," Hill said.

Not long after forming, they heard the Masonic Hall was being used for storage and approached the owner of the building, who was a member of the Masonic Hall that relocated to Fairfield.

"The guy said he would sell it and we bought it in 1974," member Young said.

The lodge meets twice a month, sponsors a Little League team, has a scholarship program and offers youth activities for the members' families. Members also work as tutors at local schools.

The first meetings of the month are business meetings while the second meetings are devoted to study and presentations on masonry.

They also respond to requests from community groups, schools and young people asking for sponsorships or donations for various community causes, Hill said. The group plans to expand community involvement with more programs to help youth.

Young and Hill say the Stanley Beverly Lodge is no different from the Masonic group that meets in Fairfield. Six years ago, the leaders of the two groups met and established visitation rights that allow each to attend the others' meetings.

Suisun City is now one of 5,000 lodges and 47 grand lodges with an estimated 300,000 Masons who can trace their lineage to the Prince Hall Grand lodge.

The Stanley Beverly Masons are still working to bring the historic building "back up to what a Masonic hall should look like," Young said.

The stained-glass windows overlooking Main Street have been restored already and redoing the floor is next on the agenda.

"We are trying to bring it up to date," Hill said of the ongoing efforts.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Masonry goes back to the medieval stonemason guilds of Europe.

The history of the Prince Hall Masons goes back to March 1775 when Prince Hall and 14 other African-Americans were made Masons in a Masonic Lodge attached to a British regiment stationed in Boston.

When the British left, the British masons left behind a permit allowing the black Masons to continue meeting as a lodge. In July 1776, the African Lodge was formed.

By the time Hall died in 1807, there were several lodges established on the East Coast and in honor of Hall, the Boston lodge's name was changed the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

Hall, who was a leatherworker and later a minister, is now recognized as the father of black masonry in America.

"It is the only grand lodge to still have its original charter from England," said Fred Young, a Stanley Beverly Lodge No. 108 member.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Major crimes slip 2.1% in Suisun City

From Vacaville Reporter
By Reporter Staff

Despite a jump in violent crimes and a decline in property crimes, major crimes in Suisun City slid by 2.1 percent overall in 2005 as compared to 2004, statistics show. Suisun City police released this week their 2005 statistics regarding Part I crimes, which the Department of Justice defines as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.

No figures for arson were available.

According to the data, violent crimes were up by 30.9 percent. Homicides declined by one incident, rapes surged by three, robberies rose by nine and aggravated assaults climbed by 19.
Property crimes fell by 7.2 percent, with burglaries tumbling by 19 incidents, thefts plunging by 38 and auto thefts leaping by 12.

Already predicting improvement, the department expressed plans to, among other ideas:
• Strive toward 24-hour staffing;
• Improve officer access to key information from the field;
• Extend the department's reach through live camera feeds to dispatch and patrol units;
• Geo-Profiling;
• Crime Mapping.

In response to violent crime, officials said, the department is using a CalGangs tracking database and has organized a burglary task force and a gang unit.

Monday, May 1, 2006

SmartBoards, other technology make a difference in classroom

From Daily Republic
By Roxanne Mancha

"Middle school! What a challenge!" I frequently hear when asked where I work. True, a challenge, but also a delight, especially with such a truly diverse blend of students as we have at Crystal Middle School in Suisun City.

Although easily distracted, these adolescents, with their smiles full of braces, are curious investigators of the world around them. Once something captures their attention, they work hard to understand and conquer the skill.

The key is to capture their attention and technology in the classroom can unlock that door.
These adolescents have never lived in a world without instant communication and information. Their futures depend upon informational literacy skills as much as the content standards for each academic subject.

Teaching students means so much more than talking at them, it also involves coaxing them to ask good questions and connect with previous knowledge to make sense of new information. Using technology provides the tools to help them discover how things are connected and create presentations to demonstrate their understanding.

At Crystal Middle School, students' science and history teachers have SmartBoards that display information from the teacher's computer, and record both the teacher's and the students' notes on the board with a touch of the special pens. Students can work on a spreadsheet, stop a video and diagram it, change handwriting into printed text and collect data from the Internet - all with touches to the SmartBoard surface.

Gone are the days of chalkboards. These new devices allow students to interact with displays from places such as the planetarium or Smithsonian as a regular part of their lessons in the classroom.

English teachers use computer labs to teach students how to improve their writing skills with word processing, editing programs and a visual thesaurus that can even help them learn how to pronounce unusual words. Selecting and reviewing source material from the Internet builds critical reading skills. Technology communication expands the school walls to the world beyond as when at Grange Middle School, eighth-grade English students studying the Holocaust were able to talk to an actual survivor through video conferencing.

In math, we teach about the coordinate grid and geometric shapes with software such as Geometer's Sketchpad. Teachers use Interwrite pads and PowerPoint to present lessons on skills. Some are even starting to link these presentations to their individual Web sites so students and parents can review the concepts from home.

There is no lack of drill and practice as the district has invested in an interactive math practice program called Larson's that nearly all students use weekly. Students wear headphones and work out problems with markers on individual whiteboards, or in their math journals, while a voice coaches them and gives them immediate positive feedback with comments such as, "Precisely!" or "OK!"

The technology in our classrooms not only makes it possible for us to better prepare students for their future, but it also gives us the ability to communicate with parents. E-mail and teacher Web sites (many with student grades posted) are more readily available than ever .

You can link through to all schools' main Web sites from the district Web page.

Roxanne Mancha is a math teacher at Crystal Middle School.