s-2020-12-10

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by RAhEEM F. hOSSEINI

Project 25 Promotes diverse artists page 24

AmAzon’s Ring mAy hAve helped cAtch A killer, but new surveillAnce tools Allow cops to spy on everyone— including you

sac sheriff holsters gun Permits page 10

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SACRAMENTO’S NEWS & ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY | VOLUME 32, ISSUE 6 | ThURSDAY, DECEMbER 10, 2020 | SACRAMENTO.NEWSREVIEW.COM | @SACNEWSREVIEW


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contents

December 10, 2020 | Vol. 32, Issue 6

Charles Albright makes music during the Trump era

editor’s note essay greenlight 15 Minutes news feature arts + Culture MusiC

04 06 08 09 10 18 24 27

27 dish plaCe Calendar CannaBis ask joey

28 30 32 36 38

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Our Mission: To publish great newspapers that are successful and enduring. To create a quality work environment that encourages employees to grow professionally while respecting personal welfare. To have a positive impact on our communities and make them better places to live. Editor Foon Rhee News Editor Raheem F. Hosseini Staff Reporter Scott Thomas Anderson Arts Editor Lindsay Oxford Arts Writer/Calendar Editor Patrick Hyun Wilson Contributors Ngaio Bealum, Debbie Arrington, Rob Brezsny, Aaron Carnes, Jim Carnes, Joey Garcia, Kate Gonzales, Howard Hardee, Ashley Hayes-Stone, Jim Lane, Chris Macias, Ken Magri, Tessa Marguerite Outland, James Raia, Patti Roberts, Dylan Svoboda, Bev Sykes, Jeremy Winslow, Graham Womack

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We’re heading into a long, dark winter of COVID-19. So could the timing be any worse for disarray in the top ranks of Sacramento County? County CEO Nav Gill is under investigation after top public health officials called for his firing, accusing him of creating “a toxic culture rife with sexism, intimidation, racism, and a blatant disregard for public health.” His most prominent accuser is Olivia Kasirye, the county’s public health officer. And county Health Services Director Peter Beilenson is leaving after also facing criticism, most recently for using a racially insensitive term for Asian Americans during a public meeting. Supervisor Patrick Kennedy says he’s very concerned about the virus spreading even faster during the holidays, but he doesn’t sound as worried about the leadership situation. In a Nov. 17 closed session, Kennedy joined Phil Serna and Don Nottoli in a 3-2 majority to express “no confidence” in Gill and make that public. Kennedy, who with Serna called in October for Gill to resign, told me there was also a vote on firing Gill, but there were not the four votes required. The Board of Supervisors did vote 5-0 to put Gill on paid administrative leave during the investigation. And on Nov. 30, supervisors appointed Ann Edwards, director of the county’s Department of Human Assistance as acting county executive, the first woman to hold that job. Kennedy said with her deep experience and level-headed personality make, Edwards is better suited than Gill to lead the county through what appears to be the worst of the pandemic. He said the investigation of Gill, county CEO since January 2016, is expected to take until late December or early January. Once it’s complete, Kennedy said he will push for another vote on termination. On Jan. 4, Rich Desmond will be sworn in to replace Susan Peters, which Kennedy said “could change the dynamic” on Gill’s future. Kennedy said he has “a great deal of faith” in Gill’s accusers, who are “trusted and experienced” professionals who came forward despite the risk to their own careers. They sent a letter to supervisors on Nov. 10 with their accusations. Gill was already under scrutiny for using most of the county’s $181 million share of federal coronarivus relief money to pay the salaries of Sheriff’s Office and other employees and to avoid budget cuts. Then on

fo o nr @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

Oct. 15, Gill held a meeting where some of the 40 department heads and other officials did not wear masks. One later tested positive and several had to go into quarantine. Beilenson disclosed on Dec. 2 that he’s resigning effective Dec. 22, citing family emergencies in Baltimore, where he worked before accepting the county job in 2018. He had also been accused of bullying public health staff. On Nov. 17, speaking on a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, he said, “It’s a crucial thing we need to be doing to address the issues of the African-American, and brown, and yellow folks, as well as the white folks.” Beilenson apologized, telling CapRadio that it was “a significant mistake” and that he “obviously should have said ‘Asian American.’”

Sacramento County supervisor Patrick Kennedy wants to dismiss county CEO Nav Gill.

All this controversy comes at one of the most dangerous times since the pandemic began in March. As of Dec. 1, Sacramento County was averaging 24.4 new cases a day per 100,000 people, its highest rate so far and six times the rate on Oct. 20. On Dec. 3, the county passed 40,000 total cases and 600 deaths. Also on Dec. 3, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the Sacramento region is expected to soon go under a new stay-at-home order for at least three weeks, when ICU capacity falls below 15%. The county desperately needs smart and unified leadership to get this surge under control and get out from the lockdown that is devastating small businesses. Instead, it has uncertainty. Ω


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essay

by Reuven H. Taff

Out with the old, in with the new After all the travails of 2020, we must keep hope alive for a better 2021 If ever the saying “Out with the old, in with the new” had meaning, it is now. In just a few short weeks, we say adieu to 2020 and usher in 2021. Reuven H. Taff retired in August after serving as rabbi and spiritual I imagine that most of us cannot wait until the leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento since 1995. ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of the new year; 2020 will be remembered as one of lost three balls in the water hazard and posted his the most challenging and devastating years in recent worst score ever with a 10 at the par 3 12th hole. As memory. I watched incredulously as his game seemingly selfLast January, we were informed by the World destructed, he somehow found the mental strength to Health Organization that a deadly new coronavirus finish the remaining six holes with five birdies and a had emerged in Wuhan, China. In a matter of months, par. It was truly remarkable. He completely let go of the virus has spread around the globe to more than that catastrophic hole and persevered with focus and 67 million people, resulting in more than 1.5 million resilience to accomplish something that very few of us deaths. To date, our own country has reached nearly would ever think possible. 15 million cases resulting in 282,000 deaths. Jerome Groopman, an author, professor So many other events this past year and physician, offers us another lesson have brought us lower and lower: The that hope for the future is possible. In COVID-19 lockdowns that destroyed his acclaimed book “The Anatomy businesses and left many without of Hope,” he writes about his How do we hold work. The police killings of cancer patients who stayed George Floyd, Jacob Blake, onto hope that the optimistic—and how their Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna faith and hope made a positive depressing events of 2020 Taylor. The peaceful protests difference in their outcome. that were followed by riots and will fade into the past, Groopman writes that hope has destruction. The political unrest yielding good things for changed his own practice of that fractured families and medicine: “We are just friendships. the future? beginning to appreciate hope’s And now, after the November reach and have not defined its presidential election, the limits; I see hope as the very heart of polarization continues. President-elect healing.” Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Tracy Chapman, the Grammy-winning Kamala Harris will have their hands full to singer-songwriter, said it best in her hit song “New unite a frayed nation. Beginning:” So how do we hold onto hope that the depressing The whole world’s broke and it ain’t worth fixing events of 2020 will fade into the past, yielding good / It’s time to start all over, make a new beginning / things for the future? There’s too much pain, too much suffering / Let’s I wish I had the magical answer to that question, resolve to start all over.” but three people—a professional golfer, a Harvard “Out with the old, in with the new” suggests that we oncologist and a Grammy Award winner—offer all need to move forward. And to move forward, we some guidance. must purge, release and let go of those troubling things Tiger Woods can give us a glimpse of hope for in the past. After all we have been through in 2020, let 2021 from the lesson he taught us last month. In us resolve to make 2021 that new beginning. Ω the final round of the 2020 Masters tournament, he 6

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stReetalk

by PaTRick Hyun Wilson

What would it take for you to wear a mask? Asked on @sAcnewsreview instAgrAm

Just asking me to wear a mask during a pandemic is enough for me. As a lupus sufferer; my daily fight to function does not need the added stress of COVID-19. Anything that is required to help me remain safe and healthy I’m in, end of story. Sunshine Jenkins

Probably a local governmentenforced mandate prompted by some kind of international infectious pandemic. Devon McMindes

It hasn’t taken much convincing to “make me wear a mask.” It’s such a small way to show compassion and care for others, while providing me more protection. Katie Ball

Nothing. While I understand that wearing a mask is annoying, I also understand how important it is to wear one in order to keep yourself and others safe. I’ve worked first hand with COVID patients at Sutter and have to wear the N95, face shield and all the other PPE for 12-hour shifts. So in comparison to that, wearing a mask seems like a small price to pay in order to decrease my risk of COVID. Hannah Hetherington


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greenlight

How to make progress in the next four years by Jeff vonKaenel

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je ffv @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

The election is over. The results are in. And the from charging more in America than they charge outcome is painfully clear. Our country remains overseas. The Democrats must overcome their deeply divided. fear of Big Pharma. Joe Biden received 81 million votes, but Repeal tax breaks for the rich and hedge fund Donald Trump received 74 million votes. In a operators. The vast majority of Americans support time when a president needs a clear mandate to increasing the taxes on the rich. So let’s do it. create change, Biden and the Democrats do not With the money this will raise, we can support have it. The Senate is currently in Republican infrastructure and green energy projects that will hands, the Democrats barely have a majority in create blue-collar jobs. the House and the Supreme Court is controlled by The left needs to revise our political priorities right-wing zealots. away from issues that increase polarization and So what to do? look for issues where we can get majority support. I am a very liberal Democrat. I We need to build coalitions. We need to support increasing taxes on the listen to and understand the issues rich, making serious of the disenfranchised people If we want environmental changes to who voted for Trump. reduce climate change, White voters without to accomplish enforcing antitrust a college degree favored anything in the next regulations, breaking Trump over Biden by four years, we need up the tech companies, 35 percentage points, reforming the criminal according to exit polls. to find common ground justice system, This election should be with people who have recognizing systemic a wake-up call for the racism, reducing our left, encouraging us to a radically different defense budget, find common ground with vision of America. legislating gun control and these angry Trump voters. giving women control over If we can’t do that, we’ll face their reproductive choices. another four years of divisiveness This election did not give either and stalemates. I don’t think either side a mandate for their policy positions. our country, or my stomach lining, can take Rather, if we want to accomplish anything in the another four years of polarization. next four years, we need to find common ground Without Trump, many of his 74 million voters with people who have a radically different vision will be looking for the party that is looking out of America and who clearly felt betrayed by a for the little guy, that believes the system is rigged political and social system they believe is indiffer- against the working class, that isn’t controlled by ent and even hostile to their interests. If we want corporate interests. our country to come together, then we need to find I don’t think they are looking for the party of those issues that are both important and that can Sen. Mitch McConnell. It can be, and should be, be supported by a majority on both sides of the the Democratic Party. Ω political divide. Here are a few such issues: Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. This was supported by 60% of Florida Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the voters, who also backed Trump. News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno Pass legislation to prevent drug companies


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Tenzin Yunuen, @ShopBIPOCSac Many artists have found the COVID-19 pandemic has limited how they can share their work. Small businesses run by Black, Indigenous and other People of Color often find their opportunities are even more limited. Tenzin Yunuen recognized the need and created the rapidly-growing Instagram account @ShopBIPOCSac just in time for the holidays.

ShopBIPoCSac is pretty new [and] growing quickly. Why did you decide to start the Instagram account? I [was very influenced as a teenager by a] magazine called Giant Robot. It was so exciting because their goal was [promoting] Asian artists and performers. [It] was just phenomenal… I couldn’t get out of my head. But what really got this going is recently I had a friend launch [a] business, and I promoted her on my personal page. And I got a lot of likes…Within minutes, people were [saying], “You know, this is something Sacramento needs. This is something that like I’ve been waiting for.” And I was like, “Yeah, same.”

What methods have you used to go beyond your circle of friends? That very first post, “Do you or somebody you know, that is BIPoC, own a small business in Sacramento,” that was actually on my personal account first. And I am friends with a few really amazing activists in Sacramento. So of course, they’re in those comments already posting a bunch…I get to shout out @cutiesofcolorsac.

They’re volunteer-run [and] have been [spreading the word]. So many [other], businesses, artists, and people, not just them. The networking grows it. If I post something, somebody else is going to share it. And then from then on, whoever shares it afterwards gets to see it.

How do you plan to keep people engaged with businesses that you promoted, say last month? I go back every day, twice a day, and I go back to the businesses that I first promoted, and I look to see if they have any deals, or if they have any new posts or a new product, and I will repost that.

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I’m…getting to know really their business like, pretty intimately and like I’m having to scroll down into their Instagram pages to screenshot their pictures to be able to curate their photo sets. So I’m getting to know quite a few Sacramentans.

Do you plan to keep it Instagram-only? I’m going to keep it on Instagram, but I do really want to grow it into a multimedia platform, either like something that people can have in their hands because not everybody has access to Instagram—like a mini pamphlet…I’m not necessarily offering any promises. I can’t say, “This is going to get you more customers”…All I can do is be a good community member, and a good neighbor and [provide] a platform where [businesses are] more likely to be visible. Ω

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As requests to carry concealed firearms soared, Sacramento County’s pro-gun sheriff holstered his approval A vocal 2nd Amendment proponent, Scott Jones chose gun control over gun rights during the pandemic by Raheem F. hosseini

A version of this story originally appeared at sacramento. newsreview.com.

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In a year that saw rising gun violence, surging gun sales and predictions of post-election unrest, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones did something he hasn’t done in a decade: He stopped issuing concealed firearm permits to a well-armed public. There are nearly 10,000 active licenses to carry concealed handguns in Sacramento County—or one for every 160 residents. There could have been more this year, but the sheriff who was behind the record increase in permits |

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pumped the brakes hard in 2020, an SN&R analysis found. According to data obtained through a public records request, the sheriff’s office received 2,307 applications to carry hidden firearms through the first nine months of 2020—more than it had in either of the past two years and close to the total the office received for all of 2017. Yet the department denied 73% of the applications it received this year, showing unprecedented restraint under

Donald Trump fueled by dog whistling to his militia followers while denying Joe Biden a smooth transition into the White House. But few expected Jones, a vocal Trump supporter, to reverse himself on an issue as central to his political identity as gun rights. “I’ll tell you what really stood out to me is that Sheriff Jones is denying permits,” said Amanda Wilcox, the California legislation and policy chair for Brady United Against Gun Violence. “I would expect more applications. I would not have expected a reduced rate of approval from this sheriff.”

ArmIng the publIC— untIl 2020 ra he e mh @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

Jones, a Second Amendment champion who has been criticized for flooding Sacramento with more concealed firearm licenses than almost any other California police official. “The increase in applications isn’t surprising and probably arises from the same set of concerns that produced an increase in purchases,” said Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. Those concerns include the current political instability one-term President

California is one of eight “may issue” states, meaning law enforcement officials have the authority to determine which civilians can carry concealed weapons. Few elected sheriffs have applied that authority as broadly as Jones. Jones took office in December 2010 promising to make it easier for civilians to covertly arm themselves. He kept that promise through much of his decadelong tenure, reaching permit approval rates of 90%. Part of Jones’ logic, he told SN&R in 2015, was to offset recession-era layoffs to his department by arming more residents. His approach drew fire from gun control advocates and Democratic


politicians, but also raised his profile in sharply this year, to the extent that only the California Republican Party, which 629 applicants received licenses to carry backed his unsuccessful congressional bid concealed firearms through Sept. 30. in 2016. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Rod Grassman But as the pace of mass shootings said he couldn’t speculate why applications accelerated and as perpetrators became rose this year or why the department chose increasingly linked to white supremacist this year to deny the vast majority of them. ideology, national attitudes on guns But he said licenses are often denied or shifted. Jones’ approach shifted as well, revoked for similar reasons. but only after a critical state audit that he “The main reason why permits are pretended to dismiss. revoked and in a broader sense, denied In December 2017, the California in the first place, is most often due to State Auditor’s Office concluded that applicants not fully disclosing details to Sacramento employed a lax definition questions on the application or omitting of what constituted good cause to carry information all together on the a concealed weapon, likely resulting in application,” Grassman wrote in an email. more licenses than two larger Southern Still, the record-low approvals repreCalifornia counties, Los Angeles and sent a marked change for the three-term San Diego. sheriff—and it may be costing him his Most jurisdictions require gun owners most rabid support on the right. to demonstrate a credible fear or threat A ‘lone wolf’ in before granting them licenses to carry concealed firearms in public. Jones mArtyr’s clothing interpreted his authority differently. In July, sheriff’s authorities used The Sacramento County Sheriff’s California’s “red flag” gun control laws Office, the audit found, “granted to seize a 9-millimeter pistol registered concealed handgun permits to anyone to Andrew Richard Casarez, the alleged who expressed an interest in self defense leader of an online neo-Nazi group and issued licenses without complying inspired by racist mass murderer Dylann with its internal standards for good moral character, county residency, and training.” Roof. The agency then secured what’s called The sheriff’s office also didn’t charge an emergency gun violence restraining permit seekers the fees order to prevent Casarez from required to process their legally possessing or obtainapplications, which According ing firearms by contending forced the county to data obtained that he was an “outed to cover the white supremacist” at through a public deficit through its risk of becoming “a general fund. records request, the ‘lone wolf’ attacker to The audit sheriff’s office received prove his status to the stopped short cause.” 2,307 applications to carry of recommendCasarez—a 27-yearing California hidden firearms through old pizza delivery driver lawmakers clarify the first nine months who allegedly ran his the state’s “may online hate group from his of 2020 issue” approach to parents’ Orangevale home licensing hidden handunder the name “Vic Mackey” guns, but recommended (the fictional corrupt detective at the specific changes to Sacramento’s center of the FX antihero drama The sheriff. While Jones vowed to disregard Auditor Elaine Howle’s report, his agency Shield)—unsuccessfully opposed the restraining order. But he has become quietly decreased its approval rates by something of a minor martyr for gun 30%. rights extremists. In 2017, the same year the state In October, the nonprofit Firearms auditor put Jones’ practices under a Policy Coalition filed a civil suit accusmicroscope, his office denied only 17% ing the sheriff’s office of violating the of the 2,318 concealed gun applications California Public Records Act and seekreceived. In 2018, after the report, the ing all records related to Casarez’s case, sheriff’s office denied 45% of the 1,749 as well as warrants and orders regarding applications it received. Last year, the other firearm seizures this year. agency denied 42% of 1,831 applications. “People have a right to know how But the lingering influence of the the government is enforcing its laws and audit doesn’t explain why denials rose so

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, a vocal Second Amendment proponent, has grown stingier about issuing concealed handgun permits—especially in 2020. iStock photo

policies, especially in cases that involve the seizure of firearms and the suspension of fundamental, constitutionally enumerated rights,” FPC legal strategy director Adam Kraut said in a Nov. 11 release issued by the group. FPC didn’t respond to SN&R’s requests for comment. The sheriff’s office also investigated whether Casarez posted anti-Semitic fliers outside the Temple Or Rishon synagogue in 2017, The Jewish News of Northern California reported in August. Court records show the sheriff’s office has sought a total of four emergency gun violence restraining orders this year, with two granted and two to be decided. Since 2017, the sheriff’s office has revoked 259 concealed handgun licenses from gun owners who were convicted of felony, domestic violence or drug crimes, served with restraining orders or deemed a threat to themselves or others, among other causes. The department rescinded 37 permits this year through the end of September. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 residents have active licenses to carry concealed handguns in Sacramento County. That represents an almost unfathomable increase from the time before Jones took office. On Oct. 22, 2009, only 150 Sacramento residents had permits to carry concealed handguns. Eleven years later to the day, 9,718 residents can legally carry hidden firearms most places they go. “The number exploded basically in Sacramento County,” Wilcox said. Firearm trade associations and media outlets estimate that new gun owners are

driving 2020′s exponential rise in gun sales, and Wilcox wondered aloud if a local faction of first-timers was behind the increased requests to privately wield their guns in public. “The people who wanted [conceal carry permits] all along … already have them,” Wilcox surmised. “My guess would be many of these [denied applicants] are new gun owners who did not own a gun for years and years and years. So they have less experience. “Whatever the reason … the fact that he is denying more is heartening to me,” Wilcox said of Jones. “It is. It’s heartening. That’s better for public safety.” Researchers with UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program recently identified a correlation between increased gun sales and higher rates of gun violence during the pandemic. In a July 2020 paper in the journal MedRxiv, researchers estimated firearm sales in the two months from March through May shot up 2.1 million over what they would be in a normal year and 776 more fatal and nonfatal gun injuries “had no increase in purchasing occurred.” “We find a significant increase in firearm violence in the United States associated with the coronavirus pandemicrelated surge in firearm purchasing,” the authors wrote. As of Nov. 30, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has investigated 40 murders, two attempted murders and one justifiable homicide this year, crime mapping data shows. Through the same period last year, the agency investigated 36 murders and 12 attempted murders. Ω

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A glutton for political office Why would deputies’ PAC give $80,000 to a lame duck sheriff? by Raheem F. hosseini

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones made it sound like he would hang up his badge after his third term expires in 2022, but a burst of political donations from a reliable political action committee suggests he could change his mind—as he did the last time. Since his last electoral victory, Jones has accepted $80,000 from the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Association PAC. According to electronic campaign filings, the PAC gave $50,000 to Jones’ campaign committee in May 2019, $20,000 on Sept. 30 and another $10,000 on Oct. 22. That arms the incumbent sheriff with nearly $85,000 in campaign cash to spend, according to SN&R’s calculations. What that means for Jones’ political future, if anything, is unclear. Thus far, Sacramento County sheriff’s Capt. Jim Barnes is the only person officially running for sheriff in 2022. The 53-year-old Jones hasn’t filed papers for any state or local office. In an email, Jones longtime campaign manager Tab Berg would only say, “No public announcement has been made.” Jones canceled his retirement plan once already, when he pursued a surprise third term after his chosen successor bowed out of the 2018 race. 12

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Before that, the controversy-prone deaths, refused to share COVID-19 sheriff mounted an unsuccessful infection data with the state and issued congressional campaign to oust public statements that his officers would Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in 2016, ignore public health orders intended to aligning himself with the immigration contain the pandemic, even as his office policies of then-candidate Donald accepted more than $100 million in Trump. The bitterness of the 2016 federal aid to contain the pandemic. election and the negative outcome for Jail deaths rose to a 14-year high in Jones appeared to swing him 2019 while suicide attempts broke further to the right. a 12-year record in 2020 In the ensuing by the end of August, The years, he’s clashed according to recent with California’s SN&R investigations. bitterness of state auditor over Still, Jones the 2016 election his issuance of remains a popular concealed gun figure in the and the negative permits and with suburbs and a outcome for Jones civil rights groups formidable over deputy killings fundraiser—two appeared to swing and jail conditions. reasons the him further to Jones has also California bridled at requests to Republican Party the right. be more tapped him to challenge forthcoming with the Bera in 2016. public or to enforce state and The Deputy Sheriffs local public health orders regarding the Association PAC is by far Jones’ biggest coronavirus outbreak. financial supporter, throwing more than Aside from his years-long refusal $146,000 at him in the last election, to adopt body-worn cameras and an according to campaign filings. Distant unpopular 2018 decision to oust an runners-up are oral surgeon Richard inspector general, the sheriff has all but Moorehouse and Sacramento Gun Club stopped informing the press about jail LLC, both of which gave more than

Sheriff Scott Jones is raising campaign cash like he might run for a fourth term.

$20,000. PDF Commercial and Law Enforcement Managers Association both contributed more than $13,500, while Sean Astle, owner of The Gun Range, gave more than $11,000. Under federal election law, Jones can’t use campaign money for personal spending. He could transfer the funds to a future campaign if he decides to run for office again, or donate the money to charity. He can also give limited amounts to other candidates or make unlimited transfers to political parties. Jones has little in the way of outstanding debt, reporting just north of $360 as of June 30. During the first half of this year, the sheriff spent $11,000 to settle most accounts, including $8,534 to Citi Cards for office expenses, $2,534 to his treasurer David Bauer and $1,400 in civic donations to Friends of the NRA in North Highlands. Campaign cash also went to Amazon, Lifelock and 511 Tactical in Modesto for office expenses. By SN&R’s calculations, that leaves Jones’ political committee, “Friends of Sheriff Scott Jones,” with $84,808 left to spend. Ω


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Residents of this gated community in Stockton appeared to have no idea what was happening inside one of their neighbor’s homes. Photos by scott thomas anderson

Disturbing forced labor trial reveals another side of human trafficking Ads placed overseas for housekeepers and nannies were a gateway to abuse by Scott thomaS anderSon

A Sacramento couple were both sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for luring women from India to work in his home, only to subject them to coerced labor, starvation, sleep deprivation, false imprisonment, assaults and even burns on a stovetop. Experts say that the case is emblematic of a lesser-known side of 14

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human trafficking in Northern California.

The lockeD houSe The investigation into 46-year-old Satish Kartan and his wife, 40-year-old Sharmistha Barai, began in January 2016, when a distraught 51-year-old woman suddenly appeared at the Stockton Police Department.

sc o tta @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

She had just escaped from a home Kartan owned in San Joaquin County. Agents from the Sacramento office of the Department of Homeland Security were called to the scene. The woman told them that she came to California from India on a B-2 work visa, specifically to be a housekeeper for Kartan and Barai. She was sponsored by one of Kartan’s

relatives who was a friend of her late mother. According to an affidavit filed by Homeland Security special agent Marc T. Beeson, Kartan paid to have the woman flown to Sacramento International Airport and then brought by taxi to a house he owned near White Slough in Stockton. The large, two-story residence was nestled in an upscale, gated community called Brook Hollow Circle, and its backyard and side yards were surrounded by a solid, six-foot-high wooden fence with locking gates. The woman said Kartan and Barai began forcing her to work 18 hours a day. She was paid no money and only fed a small amount of rice once every 24 hours. The victim also recalled that whenever she slowed down from exhaustion, Barai threatened to throw hot water on her. The couple also listened to the brief phone conversations they allowed the woman to have with family members back home. After weeks of escalating abuse, the woman told Kartan she wanted to leave. He physically stopped her and demanded that she pay $2,500 to go home. Eventually, the woman spotted a chance to get out of the house and the gated neighborhood when Kartan and


Baria weren’t paying attention. Once she was with federal agents, they recorded her speaking with Kartan over the phone. He threatened to have her deported during that conversation. Seven months into Homeland Security’s investigation, the Stockton police received a call from one of Kartan’s neighbors. The witness told 911 that a woman from India had shown up at his door frantically looking for help—and protection from the couple she was working for. She could not speak English, but used hand gestures to indicate someone had been hurting her. When agents arrived with an interpreter, this woman said that she escaped after he took out the garbage, forgetting to lock the yard gate. Her story was similar to the first victim. She was recruited through an ad in an Indian newspaper for a nanny, discovering too late that Kartan fostered atmosphere of constant intimidation, paid her virtually nothing and cut her off from contact with her family. When Baria found out that the woman had managed to tell at least one relative in India that she was being mistreated, Baria struck her in the face, the woman told agents. Beeson and another agent took the victim to the hospital that same evening after learning Baria had pushed her hand down on the open flame of cooking stove. “[The victim] claimed after this incident, she’d lost feeling in her fingers,” Beeson wrote in court filings. “According to the emergency room doctor, [the victim] was slightly dehydrated and had burns on her hands that were several days old.” On Sept. 7, 2016, law enforcement personnel watching Kartan’s house spotted a 50-year-old woman from Nepal standing in the driveway. With help from an interpreter, they discovered she was yet another migrant tapped to serve as a maid in Kartan’s fortified house. The woman said that she’d yet to be paid and that Kartan had been physically coercing her into working long hours, including when she was sick. Like the other victims, the woman found herself trapped inside the house at times by doors locked with deadbolts.

The TransaTlanTic Trick Homeland security agents searched Kartan and Baria’s Stockton property, obtaining emails and text messages between the couple and the trio of known victims. This evidence collaborated much

of the women’s accounts. The agents also found clear signs there were other victims. According to court filings, Kartan had been using an Indian community portal called Pragathi.com to coax women to work as housekeepers and nannies, promising them good conditions, treatment and pay. The agents recovered numerous messages that Kartan exchanged with unknown individuals on WhatsApp. One of these texts involved a nanny who was trapped in the house in the summer of 2016. The message, sent from that woman’s daughter to Kartan, begged him to stop hurting her mother. “She is all the time weeping,” the daughter wrote. “And scared about her situation.” The woman eventually told Kartan that she’d call police if her mother wasn’t released. In another text exchange that agents and involuntary servitude more than 150 zeroed in on, an unknown man helping years ago,” Dreiband said following the Kartan recruit workers from abroad said sentencing. “Yet, inhumane forced labor word was getting out about conditions at and deprivations of liberty and dignity the Stockton home. persist because human traffickers “We need somebody now,” Kartan proliferate modern-day slavery, and texted. endeavor to exploit their fellow human “I’m sorry, I had asked so many beings for profit and other gruesome people, but they are scared to come to your house because of the work,” the man purposes.” While several nonprofit organizations replied. have been formed in California to combat “Did you ask the woman from India?” international sex trafficking, the Kartan messaged back. Little Hoover Commission has “Yes, I asked her, but she recently been evaluating knows you, so she does The whether the state has not want to come,” the woman said adequate resources man told him. dedicated to labor “I did not know Kartan and Barai trafficking. The I am so famous,” began forcing her to work commission issued Kartan texted. a report in October 18 hours a day. She was The other man stressing that there then asked an obvipaid no money and only is no centralized ous question: “Why fed a small amount of referral tool in are all the people California for victims rice once every 24 talking about you, of labor trafficking, and are scared of you?” hours. nor is there any method Kartan didn’t respond. of tracking the number of Kartan and Barai were survivors, nor of evaluating the charged with multiple felonies. effectiveness of programs for victims. The case against him and his wife was “We still know far too little about prosecuted by Eric Dreiband, assistant the individuals who are harmed by this attorney general for the Department of abusive crime each year, and do not Justice’s Civil Rights Division. yet understand how best to help these After an 11-day trial in March, Kartan individuals recover and thrive,” Little and Barai were both found guilty of Hoover Commission Chairman Pedro forced labor, conspiracy to obtain forced Nava wrote. labor and committing fraud in foreign Ashlie Bryant, co-founder and CEO of labor contracting. In mid-October, they 3 Strands Global, a nonprofit based in El were both sentenced to 15 years in prison Dorado Hills with experience in helping by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. victims of both sex and labor trafficking, England Jr. agrees that good data and statistics in “The United States abolished slavery

The federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento was the scene of a trial on labor trafficking.

California are scarce. She says that many people tend to think that labor trafficking happens primarily in the agriculture and cannabis industries, but ads placed abroad for restaurant, janitorial and housekeeping work is another major conduit. “When you look at cases with people being brought over to be nannies or domestic servants, it’s important to remember it’s not happening the way smuggling happens,” Bryant explained. “Often times the victim is brought over with a debt to be paid off, and then the person will never let them to pay off the debt … The M.O. of taking away the victim’s passport and then threatening to deport them is also something that happens in many of these cases, along with telling the victim law enforcement is not going to help you. There’s a breaking down and caging of the mind.” 3 Strands Global is now making prevention and education training a major part of its mission to help the public recognize the signs of labor trafficking. Bryant notes that while awareness around sex trafficking has risen tremendously in the last decade, the same is not true for forced labor. “In the United States, we have a harder time recognizing labor trafficking,” she said. “Eighty-percent of human trafficking victims are labor trafficking victims … There’s a cultural piece to this. We have this idea that we’re the home of the free, so the idea that there would be labor trafficking, or what we might call modern slavery, just doesn’t compute. We’re in denial of it.” Ω

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Investigations are underway at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione to determine how many inmates have stolen unemployment funds.

the big scam Rural prosecutors say they don’t have the resources to tackle California’s unemployment fraud behind bars by Scott thomaS anderSon

an unabridged version of this story is available at sacramento. newsreview.com

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Over the last two months, investigators across California determined that the dire events of 2020 are being capped by the largest instance of public fraud in state history. According to the California District Attorneys Association and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, tens of thousands of inmates—including convicted serial killers, rapists and 133 death row inmates—illegally obtained unemployment benefits, diverting funds that are badly needed by out-of-work Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of elected prosecutors said during a Nov. 25 press conference that the fraud is happening inside county jails, state prisons and federal penitentiaries. The revelation is particularly jarring for several rural district attorneys offices charged with prosecuting crimes inside state prisons. These prosecutors say early indications are that the scope of the fraud completely outstrips their resources. Nevertheless, they don’t have the option of deprioritizing the cases because, for the moment, the state Employment Development Department will only stop unemployment aid flowing to an incarcerated person if a DA’s office files charges against that inmate. “The governor needs to turn off the faucet because these investigations are going to go on for months, and even years, especially in the rural communities that don’t have the resources,” said Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe, whose office overseas Mule Creek State Prison. “It’s a black hole of taxpayer dollars.” The first signs that convicts were widely sharing a technique to defraud EDD emerged in July, when a San Mateo County DA investigator named Jordan Boyd was listening to phone calls in that county’s jail for an unrelated case. |

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s c o t t a @ne w s re v i e w . c o m

Boyd heard an inmate telling a visitor about a new method the inmates were using to get paid. As Boyd followed leads that would trigger the arrests of 22 San Mateo jail inmates, investigators with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were also detecting signs of the fraud. It was CDCR’s Institutional Investigative Services team that informed Kern County DA Cynthia Zimmer that EDD claims were being made on behalf of inmates inside the five prisons that are scattered across Kern’s rural patchwork. In some cases, inmates allegedly filed unemployment claims from inside the prisons, while in other instances an accomplice would file from the outside with the inmate’s identification. EDD would then send benefits to the outside conspirator in the form of a state debit card that requires no identification to use at an ATM. At that point, the accomplice could withdraw cash and give it to the inmate through money orders, deposits to an inmate’s commissary account or smuggled contraband, according to the state district attorneys association. ISU agents soon made a similar notification to Riebe’s office in Amador County, as well as to Susan Rios, the DA of Lassen County, which is home to both High Desert State Prison and California Correctional Facility, better known as Susanville State Prison. Trying to unravel what was happening, a number of DAs contacted U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott in Sacramento, prompting federal prosecutors to serve CDCR with subpoenas for records. This compelled the state to give the U.S. Department of Labor a list of its entire inmate population, which federal authorities then matched against data for unemployment claims made between March and August.

Photo by Scott thomaS anderSon

According to a letter 10 county DAs sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the probe revealed 20,150 unemployment claims had been paid to, or issued in the name of, incarcerated individuals, totaling $140,253,207 in lost funds. Zimmer said that, within that six-month window, her investigators and prosecutors are now tasked with handling at least 4,000 potential cases of EDD fraud. “The fraud in Kern County alone is over $16 million,” Zimmer told reporters. “In my nearly four decades as prosecutor in this state, I’ve never seen fraud on this magnitude.”

Small cOuntieS, big fallOut Lassen County is a high Sierra ranching community of 34,000 people. Its DA’s office has one investigator and three prosecutors, including Rios. Based on the data from the labor department, their bantam team now has more than 1,500 cases of alleged EDD fraud to deal with. The county doesn’t have the budget to hire an online forensic company to narrow down the search for evidence as some larger counties are doing. “It’s a little overwhelming, to be quite honest,” Rios told SN&R. “That technology some other places are using is just not feasible for a county our size to pick up, given our financial situation. Our investigations are having to be done by hand, by listening to jail calls.” The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office has dedicated two detectives to Rios’ team. ISU is also assigning several of its prison investigators to Lassen. Still, Rios doesn’t

feel there are enough hands on deck. Understanding that counties such as Lassen, Amador and Kern would face major investigative hurtles, the state DAs association and U.S. Attorney’s Office formed a joint task force. Reviewing the available evidence, the task force estimates that the amount of unemployment funds lost to criminals in 2020 could turn out to be in excess of $1 billion. It’s also estimating that 25% to 30% of inmates inside each state prison are involved in perpetrating the fraud. Given that gangs and other criminal networks on both sides of the prison walls are implicated in the fraud, Riebe and Rios say the task force is essential for mapping out the players and preventing duplicative investigative efforts. “It’s a spider web,” Riebe said. “We’re working together to share information, to use our combined resources, and to gather information from reluctant state agencies, because we need to find out who’s who.” El Dorado County DA Vern Pierson, president of the DAs association, said that while the 17 fraud investigators who work for EDD have been cooperative, the department’s upper management has not. Pierson also said that EDD’s leadership is well aware that 25 other states currently utilize a cross-referencing data system to prevents prison convicts from filing for unemployment, but California didn’t implement that system. “We could have avoided this nightmare,” Riebe said. “It’s a department under siege.” Ω


BUILDING A

HEALTHY S A C R A M E N T O

A Dialogue Begins BY E D G A R S A N C H E Z

D

elphine Brody, a queer transgender woman who lives in Sacramento, is terrified of the city’s police force. “During emergencies, I avoid calling 911,” Brody told this column on Nov. 21. “I fear that a police response would only escalate violent situations and inflict greater harm.”

In an online forum five days before, Brody and others from the LGBTQ+ community had told the Sacramento Police Department that its officers unfairly harass and beat LGBTQ+ people, especially those of color. “Being white, I don’t tend to be harassed by cops,” Brody, 51, said during the 90-minute Zoom town hall, “but a lot of my Black friends are.” It was the first virtual session to be hosted by SPD for LGBTQ+ residents. A followup town hall featuring Chief Daniel Hahn will be held Jan. 25, exact time to be announced. SPD’s stated goal: to learn why the LGBTQ+ community is “displeased” with the department, as a step to build better ties. SPD committed to holding “listening sessions” under a renewed 2019 partnership with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, which is supported by The California Endowment. Among other things, SPD also pledged that new officers would undergo “LGBTQ-focused community engagement training.” Invitations to the meeting, distributed by the Center, emphasized that it wasn’t the organizer. “This town hall will not...put an end to police violence,” the Center’s

invitations said. “However, this is where possible change can start.” Several officers, led by Lt. Stephen Moore of SPD’s Outreach and Engagement Unit, heard more than a dozen LGBTQ+ guests. Their collective message: For the most part, SPD doesn’t respect LGBTQ+ people. “I’m so dismayed at the conduct of police officers,” Judah, a transgender African American man, told the officers. “We keep telling you what’s going on, and nothing’s changed. “I honestly don’t see a

“THIS WAS A START.” Lt. Stephen Moore, at the end of a historic town hall hosted by Sacramento police for LGBTQ+ people.

path forward for change,” the 30-year-old Sacramentan continued. Judah later told this column he was traumatized by a SPD officer of color during a 2017 traffic stop. “Somebody had stolen my rear license plate and put on a different one,” said Judah, adding the officer apparently noticed the mismatch by running a check on Judah’s car. Judah was clueless about the theft until the officer yelled, “Why are you driving around like this? Why...?”

About 60 people attended a recent Zoom town hall held by Sacramento police for LGBTQ+ residents. One guest was Delphine Brody (above), a queer transgender woman, co-founder of Sacramento’s Trans and Nonbinary Housing Collective. Photo by Edgar Sanchez

living, suffered a panic attack. “I was afraid I would end up on the news” as another African American shot by police, Judah said. A second officer apologized. Judah was let go. At the end, Lt. Moore thanked the roughly 60 forum participants. “This was a start,” he said. The meeting was facilitated by Niva Flor of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES In 2010, The California Endowment launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to improve the health of 14 challenged communities across the state. Over the 10 years, residents, communitybased organizations and public institutions will work together to address the socioeconomic and environmental challenges contributing to the poor health of their communities.

Judah, who has PTSD caused by rough

Your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live – but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live. Health Happens in Neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools. Health Happens with Prevention.

PAID WITH A GRANT FROM THE CALIFORNIA ENDOWMENT

For more info about The California Endowment, visit https://www.calendow. org/places/sacramento www.SacBHC.org 12.10.20   |  SN&R   |  17


Homicide detectives Christopher Britton and Courtney Bartilson arrived at the short, gabled home in the Bowling Green neighborhood of Sacramento County around 2 a.m. on April 14, 2019, a Sunday.

Who killed privacy? AmAzon’s Ring mAy hAve helped cAtch A killer, but new surveillAnce tools Allow cops to spy on everyone—including you

Britton found the residence tiled in broken glass and heavily spattered in dark, dry stains. He followed the sound of running water to the master bedroom. The victim, identified as Damien Gregory Michael, age 49, lay on his back. Britton didn’t know the man but wouldn’t have recognized him if he did. Michael’s face had been driven in by a heavy object wielded with unrelenting force. “The condition of the house was in disarray, especially in the master bedroom,” Britton recalled during a video-conferenced preliminary hearing this September in Sacramento Superior Court. “Blood was everywhere,” testified Britton, now a sheriff’s sergeant at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. “The decedent had been dead for at least a couple of days, in my opinion.” The killer was long gone, so Britton went looking for the killer’s instrument. Someone had plopped a laptop and electrical fan in the master bathroom’s tub and turned on the faucets. Britton moved to the guest bathroom where a kettle bell was getting doused in the sink. The fifth-year detective’s walk-through had turned up a possible murder weapon. He only had to backtrack to the front door to locate a potential eyewitness. Fixed to the outer wall was a plastic, two-toned console with a pinpoint orb staring straight ahead. It was a Ring video doorbell, an increasingly popular home security gadget that turns the front of the house into an endless stakeout. Detectives hoped the device had seen the killer. Privacy advocates warn it sees more than that.

Alexa, please play Ring on Fire TV For a multinational corporation as bent on world market domination as Amazon, there is no problem that cannot be monetized. Such was the case when the theft of packages bearing the company’s smiling arrow logo became a common complaint in recent years. In 2018, Amazon acquired Ring LLC, a start-up that Santa Monica inventor Jamie Siminoff founded six years earlier. Siminoff had the idea to implant doorbells with tiny motion-sensitive cameras so homeowners could watch and eavesdrop on whoever was outside without getting up from their couches. Siminoff said his wife loved the idea and urged him to pursue it. So did Amazon, which gave Siminoff money in 2016 to pair his invention with the e-commerce giant’s Alexa cloud-based voice device, Echo Show smart speaker and Fire TV media player. Once Amazon owned Siminoff’s company, it

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In June, Amazon capitulated to a one-year moratorium on letting police use its facial recognition tool. A month later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released an analysis showing that half the agencies Ring granted access were responsible for more than a third of the nation’s police killings, including the controversial deaths of Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling and Sean Monterrosa. In the Sacramento region, Ring has cut deals with police departments in Elk Grove, Citrus Heights, Folsom, West Sacramento, Roseville, Rocklin and Auburn, according to EFF’s Atlas of Surveillance open source research project. Neither the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office nor Sacramento Police Department has a formal relationship with Ring just yet. But that doesn’t mean Sacramento’s largest agencies don’t have a multitude of other surveillance tools at their disposal.

by Raheem F. hosseini raheemh@newsreview.com

put Ring’s Neighbors social media app on iPhone and Android products and introduced a whole array of new products, variations on a paranoid theme— putting homes and what passed outside them under constant surveillance. The local news media even helped Amazon with its marketing by sharing questionable “reports” that Sacramento was a top destination for porch pirates, which originated from a company that advertised Ring’s products. The California Department of Justice was reporting decades-spanning declines in crime rates, but statistics are no match for fear-based advertising. With each chiming Ring notification on their smartphones, customers were primed to suspect the world outside. For privacy advocates, it was both a canny marketing strategy and insidious form of classical conditioning. “The truth is if you didn’t have Ring, you wouldn’t know if someone stopped in front of your house to tie their shoe,” said Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “But it’s going to make you feel like your house is under siege.” Amazon also built on Ring’s friendly relationship with law enforcement, formalizing partnerships with nearly 1,500 agencies around the country, including more than 120 in California, most of them in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The partnerships allow police to request video footage directly from Ring customers. Guariglia, who has written extensively about unchecked surveillance, said police can make these requests in bulk, clicking and grabbing an area on a map, checking a box for the crime they say they’re investigating and firing a mass of automated emails to every customer in the area. The emails are a little deceiving. They come with two options: Share the footage or review the footage before sharing it. If a customer doesn’t want to turn over their footage, Guariglia said, they have to ignore the email, which might not seem very intuitive. Amazon and other large tech firms have already faced backlash over their soft marketing to police, especially after the killing of George Floyd in May and law enforcement’s violent response to the demonstrations that followed.

Seen of the crime Several hours after Michael’s body was found inside his south county home, Detective Britton emailed Ring to ask if it saved footage from the dead man’s front door. He received a generic response minutes later. In response to a search warrant, the sheriff’s office received footage covering the previous two weeks. Detective Bartilson testified that the footage showed a man and a woman arriving at the residence around 11:30 p.m. on April 8, 2019, six days before detectives made their grisly discovery. Surveillance footage from a home across the street showed the two arrived in a Lyft. The woman wore a knitted cap and sleeveless blouse. The man wore a hooded sweatshirt and gloves. He had a high, distinct hairline that receded halfway up his skull and made his features look smaller. Less than an hour after they arrived, the pair left the residence with the victim. They got into the victim’s rental car, which pulled across the street to a community mailbox before exiting the view of the other house’s surveillance camera. Around 2 a.m., the men returned without the woman. The man with the high hairline appeared to hover behind the victim, looking around, Bartilson testified. “As the victim opens the security screen door, the defendant is seen reaching over and locking the interior door lock to the bottom handle of the security screen door without the victim noticing,” Bartilson said. Around noon later that same day, the Ring footage showed the man with the high hairline exit the front door wearing different clothes. The footage showed him leaving the house a couple more times over the next 20 minutes, once with a trash bag and items in his arms and once to clean the doorknob with what Bartilson said looked like a pillowcase. “To me that suggests that he is trying to get rid of any evidence—fingerprints, DNA—that would show he was there,” he testified.


“There’s really no evidence that surveillance prevents crime,” especially with Ring.”

Footage from across the street showed the man with the high hairline get into the victim’s rental car and drive off. Ring didn’t record the murder. Indeed, it hadn’t captured a single violent deed or word. Damien Michael’s final moments, like most people’s, were scattered across unrecorded time. But for detectives, the Ring camera documented an unmistakable arithmetic: Two men entered a house. Only one exited. Detectives used the surveillance images of their suspect to create and distribute a flier to surrounding law enforcement. A sergeant with the county parks department contacted detectives and said he thought the man with the high hairline was someone he recognized. His name was Joshua Thomas Vaden, aka “King Josh.” Vaden was a convicted carjacker and child molester who had done two stints in state prison, online court records show. He was also on parole, so detectives sent their images to Vaden’s parole officer, who confirmed the park ranger’s ID. And another thing: Vaden was wearing an ankle monitor that showed him at the victim’s house on March 25, 2019, the officer said, weeks before the murder. That was also the last date the ankle monitor was active. The assumption was that Vaden cut it off.

The eyes have it In November 2019, sheriff’s deputies on patrol in North Highlands used facial recognition technology to arrest a young Black woman for allegedly lying to them about her name and carrying an open alcoholic beverage. The deputies were able to do this because their agency contracts with a South Carolina tech company called DataWorks Plus, which stockpiles tens of thousands of mugshots and other digital images in a server that some of California’s biggest law enforcement agencies contribute to and access. The use of such an invasive technology to make such a low-level arrest is not what the sheriff’s office advertised when it secured county supervisors’ approval to expand its relationship with DataWorks Plus three years ago.

MaTThew GuaRiGlia, Policy analyst at the electronic Frontier Foundation

“This increased functionality will help to more effectively identify individuals with outstanding warrants, fugitives, and others wanted by law enforcement,” Sheriff Scott Jones wrote in a 2017 staff report. That’s what many law enforcement officials say, according to experts on policing and surveillance. “A lot of these tools are sold initially to find potential murders or investigate acts of terror and that sort of thing,” said Angel Díaz, counsel for the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Setting aside whether that’s accurate … it also often times becomes the case that they’re used in more ordinary situations.” Díaz observed incidents in New York where facial recognition technology was used to arrest people for petty thefts, such as stealing a six-pack of beer or pirating an Amazon package. More concerning to him, though, is how flawed surveillance tools are misused or abused. Innocent people have been pulled over, held at gunpoint and detained because of mistakes made by facial recognition software and automatic licenseplate readers. Facial recognition technology’s documented biases in accurately identifying women, children, the elderly and people of color is why Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last year stalling law enforcement’s ability to use the technology for three years. But privacy experts warn that improving the flaws in the technology won’t improve humans’

ability to use it responsibly. In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection got caught flying a Predator drone over a Minneapolis demonstration sparked by Floyd’s death. The New York Times reported that Border Protection’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, “deployed helicopters, airplanes and drones over 15 cities” where demonstrations occurred, “logging at least 270 hours of surveillance.” All that footage, The Times reported, “was then fed into a digital network … called ‘Big Pipe,’ which can be accessed by other federal agencies and local police departments for use in future investigations.” These surveillance tactics weren’t employed during the “reopen” protests against COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, noted Olugbenga Ajilore, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress who previously studied police militarization at the University of Toledo. “Which raises the question: How are these tools being used and who are they being used against?” The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has spent the past year declining to answer these questions, breaking California’s public records law in the process.

Person to person

CONTiNueD ON PaGe 20

Detectives’ big break in the Michael case came from an ordinary human. According to homicide detective Kevin Lawrence, Edwin Paz-Ortiz was drinking beer outside a liquor store in Anaheim around 9 p.m. on April 9, 2019 when a man exited the store and the two struck up a conversation. Paz-Ortiz had been drinking since earlier that day and was inebriated, Lawrence testified, but not so buzzed that he didn’t notice the stranger had an unnaturally high hairline. It was Vaden. He bought Paz-Ortiz some more beer. Paz-Ortiz got into Vaden’s car and the two drove to a bus stop where Vaden allegedly copped some meth. They stopped for gas, then rode to a spot where Paz-Ortiz thought they might be able to chat up some women. They struck out and hopped onto Interstate 5 headed for Mexico, Lawrence testified. Vaden and Paz-Ortiz stopped in San Diego and parked behind a Denny’s, where Paz-Ortiz started to have second thoughts about his new friend. Vaden was acting strange. He talked about robbing a liquor store or bank and handed Paz-Ortiz his cellphone and ID and told him to smash up the ball of meth. Paz-Ortiz then saw how frustrated Vaden got when

Atlas of Surveillance is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s open source database that shows you which police agencies have which surveillance tools. ◄ SCAN CODE TO VIEw

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Elk Grove PD uploaded a video of its surveillance command center on Facebook that looks like something NASA or the Pentagon might use.

he couldn’t open the trunk of his car and started suspecting he’d been joy riding in a stolen vehicle. Paz-Ortiz told Vaden he needed to hit the can, but instead ran to a nearby gas station and asked an employee to call the police. Paz-Ortiz still had Vaden’s ID, and gave it to the cops. Outside the Denny’s, Vaden and the victim’s rental were gone. Later, detectives reviewed the security footage from the service station and saw Vaden, still in the clothes he wore when he left Michael’s home, come and go in the victim’s rental car. On May 13, 2019, about a month after he canvassed the murder scene, Detective Britton received word that Vaden was in Tijuana, Mexico. Vaden was extradited to the United States, where Britton interviewed him at the San Diego County jail. Three days later, Vaden was booked on a felony murder charge into the Sacramento County jail, where he’s been held ever since. Whether the prosecution has more than what it presented during September’s preliminary hearing is unclear. No confession or physical evidence linking Vaden to the murder was offered, but preliminary hearings only require enough probable cause for a trial. That trial is tentatively set to begin on Dec. 21, though Vaden’s public defender expects it to be delayed until early next year.

So much for transparency In February, after a sheriff’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to questions about the drinking in public arrest, SN&R submitted public records requests seeking to learn how the sheriff’s office uses facial recognition data and whether it’s had any contact with a company called Clearview AI, which scrapes social media to create a massive library of faces for law enforcement. The California Public Records Act gives agencies 10 days to determine if they possess the records being sought and a 14-day buffer if they need more time. Except for automated confirmation emails when the requests were submitted, the sheriff’s office has stayed silent for 10 months. One records request the agency did answer concerned the “Sheriff’s Electronic Eye.” S.E.E., as it’s also called, is a voluntary camera registry program that asks residents and business owners with personal surveillance systems to register their locations so that when a crime occurs, detectives can quickly determine who might have video evidence and request it.

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we don’t do that,” Díaz said. “Usefulness isn’t the only thing.” ◄ SCAN CODE TO VIEW VIDEO ON FACEBOOK Jimenez noted that his suburban department, which had no murders of its own last year, was able to make an arrest in a Livermore homicide last August, when the suspect’s vehicle passed a fixed “It’s just a list,” said Elk Grove police Sgt. Jason license-plate reader in the city and alerted staff in the Jimenez, whose department has its own camera observation center. Personnel located and tracked registry. “Some people think it gives us access, but the vehicle using traffic cameras and sent real-time it doesn’t. It just saves us some time having to walk updates to responding officers. Jimenez said the that street” looking for cameras. cameras were able to determine there was only one The S.E.E. program has enrolled 1,754 person in the car, which influenced how officers registrants since 2014, according to the sheriff’s conducted the vehicle stop that led to the arrest. response to SN&R’s inquiry. As for the number of “That was helpful,” Jimenez told SN&R. “With registrants the agency has contacted or the number the abundance of cameras now, that just gives us of videos it has recovered, the sheriff’s office stated, the ability to hopefully capture something that will “No responsive records exist.” help detectives solve those crimes.” That either means the S.E.E. program But for every one of those cases, has been a total flop or that the sheriff’s privacy experts say there are office doesn’t believe it has to say examples where surveillance how it administers it. A sheriff’s technology has been used to spokesperson didn’t respond to racially profile, harass or requests seeking clarification. monitor someone who didn’t It’s also unclear whether deserve it. the proliferation of newer A Biden administration technology has improved law should look more favorably enforcement’s ability to solve on civil liberties than the crimes. Trump administration, but both The sheriff’s office—which the president-elect and Vice has facial recognition President-elect Kamala Harris, technology, gunshot detection California’s former attorney sensors, license-plate readers Joshua Thomas Vaden, aka “King Josh” general, have stressed they’re and a technology that can (above), and the woman recorded on the not in favor of defunding victim’s Ring camera leaving the murder intercept and locate cellphone police. scene the night before. signals—was unable to solve That means it might fall more than 60% of violent on local officials to determine crimes last year, according to how much privacy is worth the California Department of preserving. Justice. Before the pandemic, cities The agency has improved across the country were its ability to make arrests in beginning to rein in their motor vehicle thefts over the police departments’ ability past decade, closing 41% of to acquire new technologies cases last year, a 22-point without public hearings, said improvement from 2010. Díaz. The Sacramento Police “There are a number of Department—which has drones, jurisdictions that are starting to pass license-plate readers, gunshot sensors, those laws and correct some of the observation devices and a surveillance imbalances we’ve started to see,” Díaz said. command center that can access them all— “But in a lot of places, these tools are being used in cleared only 40% of violent crimes last year and the dark.” less than 10% of motor vehicle thefts. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office secured The Elk Grove Police Department partners with its facial recognition tech without the public’s Ring, operates drones, runs a camera registry and its knowledge and it has refused to tell the media how own observation center with more than 300 license it’s using it. plate readers, traffic feeds and cameras on city For Díaz, that’s reason enough for a final buses. It cleared more than half of violent crimes warning. and 11% of motor vehicle thefts. “Police are human and humans can do bad “There’s really no evidence that surveillance things,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve fully grappled prevents crime,” said EFF’s Guariglia, “especially with the whole gamut of things that can and are with Ring.” going wrong.” Ω But even if there was, Díaz of the Brennan Center contended, results shouldn’t be the only consideration. Not unless Americans want to live in Thank you for reading. Please become a surveillance state. a supporter today to keep local, “It might be useful for police to come into your house whenever they want to solve a crime, but investigative journalism like this alive.

We can’t do it without you in 2021.


building a

HealtHy

Sacramento

Aggie Square By EDgaR SanCHEZ

I

n mid-2018, Bill Motmans received an invitation he couldn’t refuse.

The Tahoe Park resident was asked to serve on a committee that would help guide development of Aggie Square, the cuttingedge innovation center proposed for a site near Oak Park. The invitation was signed by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and UC Davis Chancellor Gary May. Motmans immediately agreed to serve on the Aggie Square Community Engagement Advisory Committee, formed by UC Davis and the city, the launching partners behind the public-private enterprise with a $1.1 billion Phase 1 cost. “I believe neighborhood residents should have some say on a project of that import,” Motmans said in a recent interview. “I was thinking about the opportunity to have some real input into something that had so much potential to help” Oak Park, Tahoe Park and other nearby neighborhoods. Motmans made those remarks nearly three weeks after abruptly resigning from the committee on Sept. 4. In a Sept. 16 press conference, Motmans stated: “UC Davis and the city (of Sacramento) have ignored neighborhood concerns since the beginning of this project ... Despite almost a dozen meetings ... (and) conversations with UC Davis, city staff, city elected officials and others,” the committee’s recommendations have been disregarded for two and a half years. Motmans was not alone. At the press briefing, his words were echoed by speakers from Sacramento Investment

Without Displacement, a coalition born from The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. The coalition wants a legally binding community benefits agreement detailing how Aggie Square will help residents with jobs, health care and anti-displacement measures. “Sacramento has more than 11,000 unhoused people. We can no longer continue to displace people” with projects like Aggie Square, Faye Wilson Kennedy, representing the Sacramento Area Black Caucus and the Poor People’s Campaign, told the media.

“UC DaviS aND tHE CitY (of SaCramENto) HavE igNorED NEigHBorHooD CoNCErNS...” Bill Motmans Tahoe Park Resident

Mayor Steinberg did not respond to a request for comment, but UC Davis said in a statement:“The Aggie Square team has worked closely with our Community Engagement Advisory Committee and other neighborhood organizations for more than two years...We are grateful for their guidance and input because they have directly shaped the programmatic focus of Aggie Square. We will always welcome their ideas and

Bill motmans (left) and faye Wilson Kennedy (right) spoke at a recent press conference where aggie Square developers were accused of ignoring neighborhood concerns regarding the mammoth project. other speakers included leaders of agencies such as Sacramento area Congregations together and the Sacramento Housing alliance. Photo by Edgar Sanchez

feedback. Our building partner, Wexford Science & Technology, is working on programs for workforce development, youth development, public access to innovation spaces and a community partnership with a formal voice for representatives from area neighborhoods on an ongoing basis.” The developers will work to ensure new opportunities for people in surrounding neighborhoods, it added. SIWD and residents will continue to monitor Aggie Square and push for a community benefits agreement.

Your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live – but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live. Health Happens in Neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools. Health Happens with Prevention.

paid with a grant from the california endowment

BUilDiNg HEaltHY CommUNitiES in 2010, the California Endowment launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to improve the health of 14 challenged communities across the state. over the 10 years, residents, communitybased organizations and public institutions will work together to address the socioeconomic and environmental challenges contributing to the poor health of their communities.

To watch a video of Sacramento Investment Without Displacement’s press conference, visit BHC Sacramento Facebook and scroll down to Sept. 16

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building a

HealtHy

Sacramento

Environmental Justice by Edgar SanChEZ

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s wildfires and a merciless pandemic convulsed California, a Sacramento conference explored 2020’s perils and how minorities are bearing the brunt of COVID-19. The Oct. 15 virtual event—entitled “The World on Fire: Environmental Justice Now!”—had five local environmentalists speaking from home about climate change and other crises confronting the planet. The impacts of COVID-19 “have not been felt by every community equally,” said keynote speaker Katie Valenzuela, a member-elect of the Sacramento City Council. Minorities in disadvantaged neighborhoods have been disproportionately victimized by the 7-monthold virus, she said. One shocking finding: As of Oct. 19, according to the State Department of Public Health, about 48% of Californians killed by COVID-19 were Latinx, despite making up 39% of the population. “Very early on, we started to see (COVID-19) spikes in communities of color,” Valenzuela said, explaining that from the outset, Latinx and African Americans in marginalized neighborhoods contracted the virus at higher rates than whites in affluent sectors. The hard-hit communities were more vulnerable due to issues such as poverty, overcrowded housing and lack of health care, she stated. “Quite possibly the most disturbing revelation came in a Harvard study,” said Valenzuela, who has worked as an environmental lobbyist. “It showed that pollution was actually carrying the virus.”

Air pollution is a big problem in South Sacramento, the next speaker, United Latinos organizer Herman Barahona, said. His nonprofit, which is supported by The California Endowment, has fought for cleaner air and water in the Sacramento Valley for three years. Many low-income South Sacramento families suffer from chronic

“I StartEd FEELINg ILL, ProBaBLY SIx moNtHS (aFtEr movINg to SoUtH SaCramENto).” Mary Cervantez Ex- Placer County resident

respiratory conditions, cancer, heart disease and other disorders associated with bad air, Barahona said. Contamination emanates from three major freeway corridors, as well as commercial and industrial businesses, including a power plant. But, Barahona noted, unlike other communities, South Sacramento has no federal air quality monitors, and United Latinos wants them installed. One of his friends developed asthma soon after moving to South Sacramento, he said.

Herman Barahona, of United Latinos, (left) told a virtual conference that a friend had developed asthma soon after moving to South Sacramento. that friend is mary Cervantez (right), who blames the neighborhood’s toxic air for her illness. Photo by Edgar Sanchez

That friend is Mary Cervantez, 46, who told this column she was healthy when she and her daughter moved from Placer County to South Sacramento in 2017. “I started feeling ill probably six months later. I was wheezing,” said Cervantez, recently laid off from her administrative job. She was eventually diagnosed with asthma, a condition she attributes to toxic air. Cervantez has joined United Latinos, which seeks environmental justice—meaning everyone deserves clean air and water and has the right to participate in major decision-making in his neighborhood.

Your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live – but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live. Health Happens in Neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools. Health Happens with Prevention.

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BUILdINg HEaLtHY CommUNItIES In 2010, the California Endowment launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to improve the health of 14 challenged communities across the state. over the 10 years, residents, communitybased organizations and public institutions will work together to address the socioeconomic and environmental challenges contributing to the poor health of their communities.

For more information on United Latinos, visit unitedlatinos.org www.SacBHC.org


building a

HealtHy

Sacramento

Seeds of Change by EdgaR SanchEZ

R

ubie Simonsen has worn many hats. The 30-year-old Sacramentan has been a yoga instructor, a community volunteer, a poet, a website designer and a youth program manager. But the role Simonsen values most is being a young farmer – and imparting her knowledge of how to work the land without disrespecting it. Whether people reside in the country or in a metropolis, “Mother Earth is always humming in the background, ensuring we have the right environment to live,” one of her poems says. Another says: “Weeds happen ... even if you have planted good seeds.” In other words, farming is tough, with no guarantees of prosperity. In 2018, Simonsen taught 10 adults who had accepted that blunt concept to be ecologically sensitive farmers and to give back to their communities. Consisting of 10 evening workshops spread over five weeks, the tuition-free class met at 252 Accelerator, an Oak Park academy that Simonsen launched as a one-year project with The California Endowment’s support. Upon graduation, the students interned for a year at area farms, their wages paid by The Endowment. That class led to Simonsen donning a new hat. She became a consultant for the California Coalition for Rural Housing. The Sacramento nonprofit wanted her 252 curriculum on the internet to serve Native Americans throughout the state. “I started working with the tribes last year, hosting

in-person workshops on community gardening,” Simonsen said. “The online class, specifically for California-based tribal members, will begin in midNovember.” Her new students need those skills: After losing their ancestral lands, many Natives also lost ancient traditions of how to grow healthy edibles.

“WEEdS HaPPEN ... EvEN if You HavE PlaNtEd good SEEdS.”

Rubie Simonsen, wearer of many hats, lost her favorite fedora months ago. to show solidarity with african americans, she wore a stunning head wrap during a recent visit to Sacramento’s World Peace Rose Garden. Head wraps were first created by Black women who toiled in the sun. Photo by Edgar Sanchez

Line from a Rubie Simonsen poem

Now, an emerging “food way” movement has Native Americans relearning and preserving those practices. “As we’ve moved into COVID-19, a lot of (Native) communities have started growing their own food” in remote areas, some of which she plans to personally visit, including a Pauite community in Bishop, Inyo County, Simonsen said. The Sacramento native spent much of her youth at farms owned by her relatives in California, Oregon and Idaho. She committed to farming in 2016 by completing the seven-

month California Beginning Farmer Training Program at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Woodland. Simonsen, who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Sacramento State, does not own a farm but will, some day. Some graduates of the 252 class in Oak Park are now doing community gardening. One hopes to buy a farm soon, according to Simonsen. Others are looking to start plantrelated businesses. Simonsen, who sells lavender balms, mud sticks and other natural products she creates herself, remains grateful to The California Endowment for its past support.

Your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live – but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live. Health Happens in Neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools. Health Happens with Prevention.

paid with a grant from the california endowment

BuildiNg HEaltHY CommuNitiES in 2010, the California Endowment launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to improve the health of 14 challenged communities across the state. over the 10 years, residents, communitybased organizations and public institutions will work together to address the socioeconomic and environmental challenges contributing to the poor health of their communities.

to learn more about Rubie Simonsen, visit www.firstmother farms.com

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Photos by Patrick hyun Wilson

Project 25 is Sacramento’s newest gallery and it’s got a mission: Cultivate community, not competition

E

ight years after the Solomon Dubnick Gallery closed its Midtown location’s doors, Project 25 has moved in to revitalize the dormant space. The project began in the mind of owner Mark Escobedo three months ago, and when an opportunity presented itself, he didn’t hesitate. “They were renting it out for pop-ups and social gatherings,” said the former waiter. “I came into it and just took a risk.” Escobedo didn’t take that risk alone. Local artist and Wide Open Walls board member Raphael Delgado promptly joined Escobedo in opening Sacramento’s newest art gallery. Ironically, upon moving to Sacramento, Delgado once had the gallery’s doors slammed in his face. “Literally, slammed the door in my face,” Delgado said with a laugh. “The exhibit closed at nine and I was there at eight... At a karmic

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level I want to be a gallery that lets the doors open to different artists.” He and Escobedo were joined by local event organizer and arts coordinator Aurora Love, who had been jobless for a month by the time Escobedo reached out. “Out of the blue he was like, ‘Hey, I bought a gallery. I want you involved. Can we talk?’ and I was like, ‘Pfft, can we talk? Let’s talk!’” Love said. “We just started sharing ideas and it snowballed into this beautiful, passionate project.” Soon after, Atlanta transplant Ashley Ragan joined the budding Project 25 team, after living and searching for a studio in Sacramento for eight months. “I came here and I was like, ‘Oh yes, this is the place,’” Ragan said. “I just decided to rent the room and then from there I recognized that there was some more help that I can put into it.”


Ashley Ragan and Raphael Delgado stand in the former Solomon Dubnick Gallery, now home to Project 25, Sacramento’s newest commercial gallery space.

“As artists, we’ve all struggled with the ups and downs and trying to get into galleries and trying to get galleries to see us.” Raphael Delgado, a founder of Project 25

Raphael Delgado is among the featured artists represented by Project 25. Jose Di Gregorio is another featured artist at Project 25.

According to Love, the space is meant to give two impressions, first as a commercial gallery/studio where patrons can watch residents at work, and second as an exhibition/event space. Project 25 hosted its soft opening on Nov. 14, with plans to host a grand opening event in January.

Fate and challenging timing Months before its opening, Escobedo picked up, side work with furniture maker Steve Taylor. At Taylor’s warehouse, Escobedo saw an open space with craftspeople at work in alcoves that surround a central lobby. He imagined artists at work in their place. The next day, Escobedo says he learned that the Dubnick Gallery at 1017 25th St. was for sale. “It was kind of like, if I don’t jump on it, I’m going to regret it,” he said. “It was a hard decision, but I couldn’t pass it up.” As quickly as the Project 25 team jumped, coronavirus spread faster. In accordance with Sacramento County’s Nov. 13 regression into the most restrictive purple tier, Project 25 cancelled plans for a December event featuring Delgado’s work. But he isn’t

too upset. “We’re in the heart of a hotbed of creativity and social unrest and all these catalysts for great art to make Sacramento the right place at the right time,” Delgado said. “A lot of artists, are like, ‘When’s it going to go back to normal?’ There’s no normal dude, you have to really ride it out.” Project 25 is enforcing a 10-person limit and requiring masks during the gallery’s business hours, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. Escobedo is hopeful that once Project 25 fully integrates an online storefront, the gallery will be able to sustain itself. “It sounds like it’s a bad time, but I think if we get the online store up and going, we could get a little traction and when everything does mellow out with the coronavirus, we’re going to be in good shape,” he said. “It’ll come in time.” Currently, the website features a range of talent, including established artists such as Delgado and Jose Di Gregorio. However the focus of the gallery is fostering new artists in the community. “My whole idea was to build culture and the art community in this area again, and to make it affordable for the artist that isn’t socially connected, that don’t

really go out, that just want to do their art,” Escobedo said. “I want to get the homegrown artists in here and get them exposure.” That includes Ragan, who sold her first piece out of the gallery. Ragan said she hopes that the gallery can be a professional space with a laid-back atmosphere, through events such as the live painting at the soft opening and by simply working in the open studio on the gallery floor. “It’s really neat when I’m in here working on something and somebody walks in and just, watches,” Ragan said. “How often do you get to see an artist in their like, hiding hole doing their thing, you know?” The gallery is also featuring the work of Patrick Prager, executive chef at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. Prager recently began painting again as a way to explore other avenues of creativity during the pandemic. “As a kid, in high school, I used to paint quite a bit actually,” Prager said. “I found a canvas in the garage—that was my daughter’s— and I had just watched Pollock—the movie—and I thought, ‘Oh, what the hell, I’ve always wanted to try this out.’ I found some house paint, and I started flinging it onto the canvas.” Impressed by his own work, Prager began to post photos onto Instagram and Facebook, where he gained a small following that included Escobedo. When Project 25 opened, Escobedo asked him to join the team and soon after he took the honor of making the gallery’s first sale. While success has come quickly to Prager, he says he

has no plans to leave the restaurant world. “I’m happy to revisit painting and drawing, these different mediums, because cooking is an art form, too. I’m not switching gears at all, just adding new mediums,” Prager said. “We’ll see where it takes me.”

Growing new artists Delgado also hopes the gallery will be a space for new artists in Sacramento to grow. “I foresee a space where there’s not so many barriers to get into the gallery,” he said. “As artists, we’ve all struggled with the ups and downs and trying to get into galleries and trying to get galleries to see us.” While Delgado was a self-described “oneman show” in past projects, he says with Project 25 he is an adviser, looking to the leadership of Escobedo, Love and Ragan. They hope to provide a space to cultivate “community over competition,” which according to Love includes using the gallery space— specifically the back conference room—as a place for budding artists. “Having this new garden if you will and having our roots just starting to take a little bit, we want to be able to plant even more artists in our network and watch them grow and flourish,” Love said. “We just want you to feel like you can express yourself, especially the youth.” While the team has yet to formally launch any supplemental programming, Love says it plans to offer art classes, solo lessons and mentoring. Also, according to Escobedo, the parking lot adjacent to the gallery will be used for outdoor live painting events. While much of the programming has been put on hold due to the pandemic, Love is hopeful for the long-term future of Project 25. “I’d really just love to have it open as a platform, that’s my dream,” Love said. “In five years, hopefully our network, being strong and secure, would allow us to branch out with other galleries and organizations to really start to bring even more programs to the city as a whole, so we can be a true contributing player to the arts in Sacramento.” Ω

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by Graham Womack and Patrick hyun Wilson

On the fast track The Atrium, a new arts nonprofit, pulls in city money and builds political clout

shira lane (left), founder of the atrium, consults with artist yenne Zhou on Dec. 5. Photo by Graham Womack

The sunlight is fading on the Old Sacramento waterfront as a lively event at one of downtown’s newest nonprofits wraps up. A couple of members of the Sacramento chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stand outside, while a handful of artists are close to calling it a day, following a show by Kip Bridges, a Sacramento-based artist involved with the Sisters. Everyone’s here because of the nonprofit that moved in August into the city-owned market space, an artist collaborative known as The Atrium, led by Shira Lane, a former filmmaker in Australia, Israel and Los Angeles. Lane has rapidly ascended in the local arts scene over the last two years, making up for a lack of time in Sacramento with political savvy. Among her champions are Mayor Darrell Steinberg, political adviser Dennis Mangers and veteran consultant Wendy Hoyt, a member of The Atrium’s board. “She got infected with an understanding that if you don’t get into politics, you better get out of the arts,” Mangers said. Lane talks with bright energy, a lingering Australian accent and an easy laugh about uniting local artists, recently launching an online marketplace for them to sell their works and developing local cable TV programming and has been leading artists workshops online. Lane’s fast emergence, however, isn’t going over so well with some members of Sacramento’s arts community, though they don’t want to air their complaints publicly. For her part, Lane said it wasn’t her intention to ruffle feathers. “If there’s something that I’m doing that is not up to spec, it’d be cool if they told me,” she said. “If you want to tell me, I’m happy to work through things.”

Pandemic opportunity In normal times, The Atrium might not have had a chance at landing a $219,430 city grant in September, one of more than 300 awarded to individual artists, organizations and nonprofits, totaling about $20 million of the $89 million the city received in federal COVID-19 relief money. The city’s Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy Commission typically requires three years of financial statements from grant applicants. The Atrium didn’t receive its federal tax-exempt status until October 2019. Its sole tax filing so far showed $49,101 in revenue for 2019, with Lane working an average of 50 hours a week as founding executive director and receiving

compensation of $8,400. Nonprofit executives in the capital region can easily make more than $100,000. The Atrium received $100,000 less than it requested, while the other eight nonprofits in its division were fully funded. During an Aug. 19 arts commission meeting, Doni Blumenstock questioned the amount of money going to “pretty high salaries and fees and so forth for the consultants and the people involved.” In an interview, Blumenstock stuck by her assessment but also praised The Atrium’s marketplace project. “It’s worth funding. It just wasn’t worth funding at the level they were asking.” Lane said all of the money is going to the online marketplace, including to hire three staff members. “I don’t want this to be money that we’re given, and then we’re done,” she told SN&R. “I want this to be something that actually makes a difference.” Artists can put their work on sacramento.shop for free, with profits split 70% for artists and 30% for The Atrium. In return, Lane says she also offers business advice to artists, many of whom have little e-commerce experience. According to Lane, more than 120 artists have already applied to be on the site. So far, the site features more than 15 creatives, including Safiya Neal, who says it’s a perfect place to grow her bath bomb business, Safiya & Co. Neal said staff at The Atrium photographed her products, made bar codes for each product, helped her write descriptions and listed the products on the website within 24 hours. “They did it so professionally,” Neal told SN&R. “It’s like a well-oiled machine, it made me feel so comfortable.” Lane also wants to encourage sustainability, integrating Upcycle Pop, a previous Atrium venture. Another artist on the site, Kat Martinez, is selling her abstract paintings for $40 to $175 to raise money to clean the oceans. “Doing it myself, via social media or word of mouth, is good, but it’s not as good as having an actual online shop,” Martinez said. Mangers said he’s known Lane for two years, and said political connections are crucial to make up for a lack of local donor or corporate funding. Lane said she met Hoyt and Steinberg while filming a commercial for the Power Inn Alliance and recently got to know SMUD board member Gregg Fishman, who just lost a bid for Sacramento County commissioner and who confirmed that Lane was paying him to do public relations work. Ω


by LindsAy OxfOrd

lind sa y o @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

Making music in Trump era Charles Albright on why a threeyear-old record still feels new “I have to acknowledge that Trump won,” Charles Albright says. “He didn’t just do a mildly successful local band based on the fakeness of celebrity. He rules the world with the fakeness of celebrity.” Thankfully, we’re near the end of that reign. The records Albright has given me in advance of our interview are each annotated with Post-its written in Sharpie. They include a 2005 LP by The Knightmares, a recent Globs record annotated “Released just as the Pandemic hit!” and the just-released split LP with Cross Class and Albright’s band RAD—an album whose proceeds will go to the Movement for Black Lives. The huge bag of records contains a very small sampling of Albright’s musical projects from the last 15-ish years. It’s possible even his own efforts to document bands he’s been in (there’s a spreadsheet online) miss a few. In our interview, we agree three bands at a time and a record a year sounds about right. Normal music profiles highlight a recent release, but in those stack of annotated records, there’s one that warranted three Post-its and intrigued me most: 2018’s Everything Went Charles Albright. One note says: “My proudest moment came out when Liza was born…in my mind, [this record is] still new.” What does it mean for an album recorded in 2017 and released in 2018 to feel “new” as 2021 approaches? Liza—his daughter with Christine Shelley, his frequent musical collaborator and his wife—was born before the album’s release, and just a few weeks after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. These surreal almost-four years of his daughter’s life have seen both the unavoidable reduced

artistic pace parenthood brings and a renewed commitment to a Sacramento DIY ethic that was already cranked to eleven. at all, and he’s the fucking president of “The pace in which one does things as the most powerful country in the history a young person, teen years through early of the world.” 20s…you can have a really vital band, It’s an album that acknowledges the that’s a major part of your life… but the potential for ego gone overboard, but band might only exist for 18 months or Everything Went Charles Albright goes two years,” Albright says. “But things beyond self-indulgent scenester happen really quick, [and for] in-joke. It’s genuinely good, someone like myself who’s if hard to pin down genre40 and who works and wise. In places it’s a has a kid...I’ll be in a driving punk rock band for four years, record; in others—or and it seems like it’s in the middle of just started.” some—it’s indistinct Everything Went dialog, bits of Charles Albright is saxophone thrown a nod and wink to in here and there. the self-indulgence It’s chaotic and and cult of occasionally tough personality that without veering into surrounds not just Charles Albright dude-bro territory. artists, but that brought Lyrically, it’s smartly us a reality show host silly: If pre-pandemic you president. were the type to stand in front There’s no reference to the of the stage chanting along to tough-dude Trump presidency in the album. It’s easy— refrains, you may find a peculiarly goofy and fun—enough to listen to it without COVID lockdown relief in screaming along context. But once you’re hip to the album’s as Albright yells: “Dane Cook, Nickelback, premise, once you’re in on the joke, it’s The Olive Garden, WHAT?” hard to divorce the record from the era that Everything Went Charles Albright took a birthed it. jab at hubris as we all navigated through the “I really got bummed out when Trump mire of 2018. So what takes it beyond snotty got popular because he’s stealing my punk rock joke? Why revisit a record from idea,” Albright says, laughing. “He’s a a musician who’s put out two records since, vacuous celebrity that has no value to him

“I really got bummed out when Trump got popular because he’s stealing my idea”

With Everything Went Charles Albright, the eponymous musician explores themes of self-indulgence during America’s most self-indulgent political regime.

Photo courtesy of charles albright

with more in the pipeline? “[Making music] is in large part… engaging in that cultural part of the Do It Yourself work ethic, seeking out what’s right and wrong...” Albright says. “And I think that’s why punk and DIY music and indie music is so appealing. It gives you that little bit of courage to like, do something and to put your voice out there. And...I think that that’s like more impactful for different groups of people at a specific moment.” “When you have a kid, it weirdly makes you more courageous in some ways, and then it weirdly makes you more vulnerable,” he says. It’s Albright’s and Shelley’s intent to share that courageous side of things as Liza grows up. And for Albright, that specific moment— the final days of the Trump administration—is captured in the tongue-in-cheek Everything Went Charles Albright. It still feels new because we are still fighting four years of political self-indulgence. “Apathy and cynicism [can] very much [present as] self pity or a self indulgence… And when you have a kid…you have to play your part in trying to make the world better with other people who think the same way as you, right?” Ω charles albright-related records are available at sacramentorecords.com

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Once a year, Sacramento Regional Transit District riders get a bit of holiday cheer: From Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, RT will continue its yearly tradition of offering free rides on various bus routes. “Holiday Bus” riders are then encouraged to donate their fares to a designated charity. This year, it’s the Food Literacy Center, whose mission is to encourage healthy eating—specifically, fresh fruits and vegetables—among children. “Because in Sacramento, we already have high rates of diet-related disease, like childhood obesity, and diabetes.” says Amber Stott, the center’s executive director. “And these diseases...actually put folks at risk for higher severity if they are infected with COVID. So it’s really critical that we...help prevent these diseases so that our kids don’t have these health disparities.” Both the center and Regional Transit are struggling with the pandemic. With students not in the classroom, the Food Literacy Center can’t provide its traditional school-based education programs, so it pivoted to twice-weekly “meal boxes” that allow children to prepare a meal for as many as four people (with parental supervision, of course).

lind sa y o @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

“We are seeing rates of food and nutrition insecurity on the rise for the students that we serve” says Stott. “It’s really important for us to be the beneficiary because it one helps us to get the word out, and two hopefully, as folks ride, they’ll be making some donations that can help us because we’re a very small, local nonprofit.” RT’s ridership is down 55%, a direct impact of people losing their jobs and working from home. That means the potential of only 45% of a regular year’s “Holiday Bus” donations. And with cashless programs such as Mobile Zip Pass and Connect cards, there’s considerably less opportunity to hear a clink of spare change into the donation box. “If [riders] don’t have cash on them,” says Regional Transit spokesperson Jessica Gonzales, “we do have QR codes right on board where they can directly donate to Food Literacy Center.” While QR codes are not an ideal choice— it’s only recently that smartphones have been able to read them without a downloaded app—they do offer contact-less donations during the coronavirus era. Riders on the lookout for the fare-free holiday bus can visit sacrt.com/holidaybus, where direct donations can also be made. Ω


building a

HealtHy

Sacramento

Taking Root by EdGar SanchEZ

I

n March 2016, Alfred Melbourne walked out of Wasco State Prison in Kern County—free at last. He had served 18 years for assault with a firearm and assault with a deadly weapon. Eager for a new start, Melbourne immediately returned to West Sacramento, his hometown. He repeatedly asked a local agency for a job—any job. “Three times I was told to check back later,” recalled Melbourne, 43, a Lakota Sioux. “The fourth time I was told I would have to create something on my own.” That’s exactly what Melbourne did. In May 2018, he founded a network of organic farms in West Sacramento, where youth learn to cultivate the soil, be law-abiding and give back to their community. The nonprofit venture took root on a donated plot formerly occupied by a Christian church that burned down. The endeavor has grown to three more farms, two of them part of the incubator farm program of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Woodland. The fourth operates under a memo of understanding with the International Rescue Committee.

Named Three Sisters Gardens, or TSG, for the traditional Native companion plants of corn, beans, and squash, they total a combined 1.15 acres, with the biggest just under a half acre. They produce a cornucopia of healthy veggies year-round, from lettuce and carrots to radishes, most of which are given to people in need.

“Technically, it was an open vacant lot,” Melbourne said of the hard, uneven former church grounds that gave birth to his bountiful enterprise. The project required patience, a virtue he had acquired in prison. “As far as technical knowledge, it was handson learning,” said Melbourne, who also took farming classes through the Center for LandBased Learning. Besides feeding the hungry, Melbourne had another priority: helping youth avoid the school-to-prison pipeline, in which students of color are set up for failure.

“THiS will TEaCH You morE THaN a SCHool.” Miguel Lopez, 17, referring to a TSG farm, one of four where he has learned organic farming.

He and other TSG volunteers currently mentor 10 youth, including Miguel Lopez, 17, a part-time TSG worker. In two years, Lopez has mastered organic farming, from how to plant vegetables to how to spread nutrients on the soil. “This will teach you more than a school,” said Lopez, a senior at Heritage Peak Charter High, as he toiled at the TSG farm on Fifth Street. While undecided about a career, farming remains an option for him.

a believer in “Educate, Don’t incarcerate,” alfred melbourne (right) has turned his motto into action by mentoring youth like miguel lopez (left) at TSG farms in west Sacramento. Photo taken at TSG farm on Fifth Street. Photo by Edgar Sanchez

Melbourne, Lopez said, also taught him to respect all people. “I like Alfred,” he said of his mentor. “After everything he’s been through, he’s trying to show a different path for the youngsters.” TSG is supported by The California Endowment and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

Your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live – but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live. Health Happens in Neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools. Health Happens with Prevention.

paid with a grant from the california endowment

BuilDiNG HEalTHY CommuNiTiES in 2010, The California Endowment launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to improve the health of 14 challenged communities across the state. over the 10 years, residents, communitybased organizations and public institutions will work together to address the socioeconomic and environmental challenges contributing to the poor health of their communities.

For more details, visit info@3sistersgardens.com www.SacBHC.org 12.10.20

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P

garden

PlAce

A living quilt A Santa Rosa-based artist creates an inspirational flower bed in Sacramento’s Sojourner Truth Park by Debbie Arrington

This “quilt” was sown, not sewn. Threaded with double meanings, it’s part of an inspirational flower “bed,” created as an art installation as well as landscaping. Now sprouting in Sojourner Truth Park in Sacramento’s Pocket/Greenhaven neighborhood, the living “quilt” will take months to reach full bloom with the flowers echoing the colors of the planting squares. Jane Ingram Allen, a Santa Rosa-based artist with a worldwide following, created the evocative project as part of a city program to bring art projects to every council district in Sacramento, often using park sites as canvases. “I’m putting a quilt down to cover the Earth,” said Allen, who has made paper-based art projects around the globe. “It will change over time. Nature will control it.” For this installation, Allen was inspired by the park’s namesake, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, abolitionist and suffragist. The artist chose the “North Star” quilt pattern because of its meaning to freed slaves. “The North Star was part of the secret code for escaping slaves,” Allen explained. “If they saw this quilt hanging outdoors, they knew which way was north—the way to freedom.” There’s more symbolism: The North Star— in the sky, not on a flower bed—can guide anyone during a journey or challenging times, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. After nearly a year of planning and working with pandemic restrictions, Allen’s project debuted Nov. 21 with a small sociallydistanced dedication and planting ceremony. Allen, who has family in Sacramento, 30

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Photo by Debbie Arrington

Mayor Darrell Steinberg puts a quilt square in place at Sojourner Truth Park in Pocket/Greenhaven.

recruited local basketmakers to create the headboard and footboard for her flower “bed.” Members of the Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild used mulberry canes and grapevines to shape the whimsical bed frame, which will double as trellises for sweet peas. For the quilt blocks and strips, Allen made paper, studded with wildflower seeds. The flower color matches the red, blue, yellow and white used in the blocks. The white strips are planted with sweet alyssum, baby’s breath and white poppies. Blue spaces will be lupine and bluebonnets. Yellow squares will sprout California poppies, tidytips and golden cosmos. Red poppies and sage complete the color blocking. Allen likes the combination of crafts and interests tied into her art project. Besides the history and symbolism of the design, the project features papermaking, basketry, quilting and, of course, gardening. “Whether the world is ready or not, it’s time to sew—and sow,” she quipped. During the dedication ceremony, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Councilman Rick Jennings were on hand to help “plant” the bed. Wooden skewers topped with wine corks were used to secure the quilt panels in place. “It’s wonderful to be out here on a beautiful fall day, especially during 2020,” said Steinberg, wearing a face mask. “To get outside and celebrate a community gift, it is a blessing.” Now, all this art needs is rain. “It should sprout by the first of the year,” Allen said. “We’ll see the first flowers in March, and hopefully it will bloom all summer. Some flowers will even come back again and again. “With time, the color pattern will become very abstract,” she added. “That’s nature’s way.” Ω Debbie Arrington, an award-winning garden writer and lifelong gardener, is co-creator of the Sacramento Digs gardening blog and website.


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fo R the mo Nth of Decembe

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snr c a le nd a r @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m

by

COVID-FRIENDLY EVENts CALENDAR While some venues are holding live events, remember to follow public health guidelines. Many events are still virtual due to COVID-19. Keep up to date and list events at

sacramento.newsreview.com/calendar.

Days of Midtown. On Dec. 10, Zocalo offers 50% off pitchers, Temple Coffee is offering a free holiday mug with the purchase of two 12oz bags and Der Beirgarten, Revolution Wines and other businesses will be offering special deals. Various times, no cover. Midtown Sacramento.

sOIL BORN FARMs ONLINE MARKEtPLACE & DRIVE-tHRU FARMst AND PICKUP: Soil Born Farm’s weekly online marketplace features organic produce, prepared foods, herbs, seeds and more. It’s an easy way to buy local goods all in one place. The weekly selection is curated from more than 25 local family farms 12am, no cover. Soil Born Farms, 2140 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GERD ALTMANN+

U H t 1 12.3

FILM SATURDAY, 12/19

RIO LINDA ELVERtA RECREAtION AND PARK DIst RICt DRIVE-IN MOVIE NIGHts : The whole family can enjoy a fun drive-in Christmasthemed double feature every month. 5:15pm, $10. Nations Life Chapel, 4433 Florin Road Suite 710.

COMEDY

We’re nearly at the finish line Planet earth, 11:59 Pm, no cover A global pandemic, an irresponsible government, social unrest, the phrase “in these unprecedented times.” EVENts 2020 has been a weird, terrible year, but that one day everyone is looking forward to is just around the corner. On Dec. 31 at 11:59pm, we will enter the final minute of 2020. It will be a time to reflect on all the memories we made this year: That Zoom meeting where you

accidentally were unmuted the entire time and no one told you; that one time you channeled your inner Uta Barth, staring at blank spaces on your walls for hours watching the light move; when you walked down the street to pick up your dinner but by the time you got there you realize you forgot your mask at home. All these moments will be lost when the clock strikes midnight. Good riddance.

LAUGHs UNLIMItED COMEDY CLUB: Myles Weber featuring Javon Whitlock-Inside the Showroom! Weber is a comedian on a mission. He took first place in the 40th Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition and has found success online, with more than 6 million views on his YouTube channel, where you can find his current docuseries Street Comic, which follows him as he performs comedy on street corners across America. 7pm. 12/11-12.

D’sean Ross featuring Ocean Glapton-Inside the showroom! His performances are pretty tame as far as crude humor goes, but he is absolutely hilarious. A graduate of Cal state Fullerton, Ross has been on the stand-up circuit for about five years, winning over many fans along the way. 7pm. Through 12/18-19. 1207

Front St..

ON STAGE ACE OF sPADEs: Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian

FESTIVALS

a-longs, games and fun activities. 10am, $10-$55. River Fox Train, 18095 County Road 117, West Sacramento.

THURSDAY, 12/10

MAGIC MOMENt WItH sANtA At CAMPELLI’s EAst : Mr. & Mrs. Claus are coming to town

SATURDAY, 12/12

HOLIDAY FUN At FAIRYtALE tOWN: Celebrate

to enjoy a meet and greet with your family and Campelli’s professional photographer. The host will be checking for COVID-19 symptoms. 4pm, $35. Campelli’s Pizza East, 1805 Cirby Way, Suite 3, Roseville.

FRIDAY, 12/11

MAGICAL CHRIst MAs tRAIN: All aboard a magical train ride to a holiday wonderland complete with hot cocoa and treats. Each car will have an elf to guide Christmas sing-

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the holiday season at Fairytale Town for two weekends, Dec. 12-13 and Dec. 19-20. Enjoy holiday themed crafts and activities, a scavenger hunt, hot cocoa, s’mores and even snowfall. Plus, Santa himself will be making a special stop for socially distanced visits and photos on the Mother Goose Stage. 10am, $7. Fairytale Town, 3901 Land Park Drive.

SUNDAY, 12/13

sACRAMENtO ANtIQUE FAIRE: The Sacramento Antique Faire has reopened with COVID-19 protocols in place. 300 vendors from California, Nevada and other neighboring states sell antiques and collectibles that are at least 20 years old every second Sunday of the month, rain or shine. 6:30am, $3. 21st & X Streets, 2350 21st St.

FOOD, DRINK THURSDAY, 12/10

12 DAYs OF MIDtOWN: Celebrate Midtown businesses during the final three days of 12

Nutcracker stream. Go back to a simpler time and celebrate this Christmas tradition with the whole family. See Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker from the best seat in the house: your living room. Hear it first-hand from world-class artists, designers and the creators of this cherished production, plus an up close look at the behind-the-scenes action. 4pm. saturday 12/19. 1417 R St.

sACRAMENtO tHEAtRE: We Need A Little Christmas Broadway Sings for the Holidays. For two days, watch the Sacramento Theatre Company sing Broadway tunes from such musicals as “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas.” Various times. 12/11-12. $25. 1419 H st.

UC DAVIs: [re CLICK]. “[re CLICK]” is a contemporary drama, spotlighting five students

who struggle with their identity in the digital age. The show is co-produced by the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance and the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. “[re CLICK]” is performed through a special website that allows the viewer to follow the char acters by selecting various portals on the homepage, which alters the storytelling perspective. 7pm. 12/9-10&12. No cover. re-click. ucdavis.edu.

ART PENCE GALLERY: Jeff Nebeker Celebrating Expressionist Couples and Donuts. Jeff Nebeker’s ceramic portraits of artists and their partners from the German Expressionist period include several couples such as Paul and Lily Klee, Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff and others. He uses vibrant colors to generate a sense of movement and personality. As both a ceramic artist and a pastry chef, Nebeker also makes ceramic desserts, including donuts. Various times, 12/4-27, no cover. Pence Gallery Holiday Market. Enjoy shopping at Pence’s annual holiday market for affordable, one-of-a-kind art, crafts, textiles, soaps, jewelry and honey, featuring the work of more than 50 local and regional artists. 11:30am-5pm, 12/4-24, no cover. Michael Shemchuk Paper Trail. Shemchuk’s large-scale mixed media paintings are created with layers of household paint and collaged paper. His compositions dance with gestures, calligraphic marks and symbols. This exhibit includes his “surface tension” works, resulting from a unique pro cess for painting with paper using pressure and water to print colors dissolved from dif ferent papers. Various times, 12/11-1/24, no cover. 212 D Street, Davis.

tHE BARN GALLERY: The Lighter Side Humor in Photography-Virtual Tour + Exhibit Information. An exhibit that will make you smile, The Barn Gallery will be hosting the exhibition The Lighter Side, Humor in Photography. This is a juried show featur ing the work of Viewpoint Gallery members and will be introduced by Viewpoint board member and Sierra College professor Rebecca Gregg. Noon, 12/10-2/27, no cover. 512 Gibson Road, Woodland.

tHE CENtER FOR tHE ARts : Denise Wey, A Retrospective. “Painting for me is like breathing…I have no choice but to paint wild, beautiful Nature!” writes Denise Wey in her artist statement for this show focused on the Yuba River and surrounding areas. Various times, 11/6-12/23. 314 W Main St, Grass Valley.

VIEWPOINt PHOtOGRAPHIC ARt CENtER: TWELVE Hindsight 20|20. The twelfth annual Viewpoint juried show opens with Hindsight 20|20 in both the main and stepup galleries at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. Various times. 12/10-1/2, no cover. 2015 J St, Ste 101.

MUSEUMS CALIFORNIA MUsEUM: Fight for the Right 100 Years of Women Voting. Featuring artifacts, historic photographs and interactive


SATURDAY, 12/12

Houswarming for the Unhoused donation drive Cal expO Main Gate lOO p, 8aM-1pM, nO COver

While the year has taken a lot out of everyone, there is still a way to feed your soul by giving back to those who are less FESTIVAL privileged. Sacramento Self Help Housing is hosting—for the third consecutive year—its Housewarming for the Unhoused Donation Drive. As winter approaches, consider donating linens, home appliances and kitchenware at the Cal Expo main gate loop on Dec. 12 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help furnish a home for someone who can’t afford it. Volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves and maintaining social distance to assist with contact-less donations. 1600 Exposition Drive, sacselfhelp.org

enjoy each other’s company. Noon, no cover. South Yuba River Citizens League, 313 Railroad Avenue in Prairie City.

been dark for many, you can join United Way’s Shine Your Light holiday campaign and contribute to their nonprofit partners’ gift drives this holiday season. United Way,

MONDAY, 1/4

PATRONS AT PLAY: Patrons at Play delivers

yourlocalunitedway.org/holiday-giving.

a 60-minute performing arts class led by a professional teaching artist where art supporters of all levels and ages can participate and experience the art form first hand. Workshops can be held at your location, or in The Auditorium at CLARA. Various times, various prices. The

VIRTUAL STORYTIME: Enjoy Storytime at home for a live story read on the Sacramento Library Facebook page and website. 10:30am, no cover. Sacramento Library, saclibrary.org/Education/Early Learning/Storytimes.

Auditorium at CLARA, 1425 24th St.

FRIDAY, 12/11

PHOTO COURTESY OF PIXABAY

ORANGEVALE VIRTUAL COMMUNITY TREE LIGHTING: Celebrate the Orangevale tree

VIRTUAL activities, “Fight for the Right 100 Years of Women Voting” is an all-new temporary exhibit chronicling women’s struggle for the right to the vote. Various times, through 5/30. $7-$10. Yosemite People. “Yosemite People” explores the people who live, work and visit Yosemite National Park in recognition of the historic site’s 130th anniversary. Developed by Exhibit Envoy and photographer Jonas Kulikauskas, the traveling photography exhibit offers visitors a unique look at the complex and contradictory relationships between the park’s natural wonders and its inhabitants. Various times, through 1/17. $7-$10. 1020 O St.

BOOKS THURSDAY, 12/10

BOOK WREATH GRAB BAG: Pick up a free Book Wreath Grab Bag at the Grass Valley Bear River Library. You’ll get everything you need to make a lovely wreath out of unus able book pages from the library. Call when you arrive and they’ll bring a bag out to you. Various times, no cover. Bear River Library, 11130 Magnolia Road in Grass Valley.

SUNDAY, 12/13

JANE AUSTEN VIRTUAL REALI-TEA: The Sacramento Public Library hosts its 11th annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea—a virtual reali-tea. This year, celebrate Austen from the comfort of your own estate. You can sip a dish of tea in your wing-back chair, dressed in your Regency finery as the library brings this live event to your home screen. 2pm, no cover. Sacramento Library, saclibrary.org.

TUESDAY, 12/15

GREAT MIGRATION!: Dive into the incredible movement of migration. Explore various species and why they travel such long distances. Then meet an animal ambassador whose species migrate 6,000 miles to South America and then make the same trip back. 2:30pm, $2-$5. Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael.

SATURDAY, 12/19

HIKE THE MONROE RIDGE: Gregory Lake, a longtime volunteer with American River Conservancy and a Gold Rush history teacher, invites you to join him on the “most historical trail” in California. Going from James Marshall’s monument to the home site of the pioneer Monroe family and back through the town where the gold rush started, you will explore three miles of nature and history on this hike. 11am, $5$10. American River Conservancy, 348 State Highway 49, Coloma.

TAKE ACTION SATURDAY, 12/12

HOUSEWARMING FOR THE UNHOUSED: Sacramento Self Help Housing will be hosting its 3rd annual Housewarming for the Unhoused Donation Drive at Cal Expo. This holiday season, help persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by donating linens and small appliances. 8am, no cover. Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd.

CLASSES SPORTS & OUTDOORS THURSDAY, 12/10

CHECKPOINT CHALLENGES DISCOVERY PARK: Checkpoint Challenges is a physical and mental outdoor sport that can be enjoyed by active people of all skill and fitness levels. 9am, $5. Discovery Park, 1000 Garden Highway.

HIBERNATION CONVERSATION: Winter is around the corner and certain animals will start preparing for slumber. Learn all about hibernating animals while checking out amazing bio facts. 2:30pm, $2-$5. Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael.

TUESDAY, 12/15

CLAY LAB TUESDAY: Clay Labs are open to the public every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm and Tuesday evenings from 4:30pm to sundown. Verge is operating outside. 4:30pm, $15-$25. Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S St.

FRIDAY, 12/18

NATURE RX JAPANESE FLOWER ARRANGING: Are you interested in the concepts of the Japanese floral arrangement? Work on a small glass table arrangement with Haruko Sakakibara, professor emeritus of East Asian languages and cultures. 12:10pm, no cover. UC Davis, 1 Shields Ave in Davis.

SATURDAY, 12/19

CONNECT WITH SOL COLLECTIVE: In this slow-paced yoga class, explore ways to connect mind, body and heart through gentle movement, mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises and guided meditations. No prior yoga practice is necessary. 11:30am, $5-$20. Sol Collective, 2574 21st St.

WEDNESDAY, 12/23

WRITING AS HEALING: A twice-monthly writing group for anyone dealing with issues of illness, disability or recovery. Open to patients, caregivers, staff, community members and health-care providers. The intention of the workshop is to create a sense of freedom and excitement about writing as a tool for self-expression. 6:30pm, no cover. UC Davis, 1 Shields Ave in Davis.

THURSDAY, 12/24

RIVERS LAB LANDSCAPES THAT WORK FOR BIODIVERSITY AND PEOPLE: Rivers Lab is a report reading and discussion group assembled so that you can, as a community of river lovers, break down the prestigious walls of academic papers to learn more about the systems you care for and have a chance to ask questions, discuss and

THURSDAY, 12/10

MATTEL OPENS VIRTUAL “FISHER-PRICE TOY MUSEUM:” Mattel has announced the grand opening of the Fisher-Price Toy Museum, a first-of-its-kind digital experience and virtual museum designed to celebrate the brand’s 90-year legacy. This museum is hosted via Instagram, and it enables visitors to relive their favorite toys through a curated exhibition. 12am, no cover. fisher price.com/en-us.

OFFICE HOURS-STREAMING LIVE: Got a mountain of creative projects you want to get to? Got a little difficulty with structure and accountability? So did STAB! Comedy Theater owner Jesse Jones, which is why he started STAB!’s Office Hours! He creates a space for himself and everyone else who could benefit from a little bit of structure. 9:30am, no cover. STAB! Comedy Theater, twitch.tv/stabcomedy.

TOP 10 LIST PODCAST-LIVE STREAM: Each episode of the Top 10 List Podcast features two guests competing to assemble a top 10 list on a new subject. They ask several viewers to participate each week. Become a “Switcherooni” and tune in. 6pm, Sacramento Comedy Spot, saccomedyspot.com/live.

UNITED WAY’S SHINE YOUR LIGHT HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN: At the end of a year that has

lighting from the safety and warmth of your home. Families and organizations are welcome to register to pick up one free ornament to decorate and return to the Orangevale Community Center to go on the tree. 6pm, no cover. Orangevale, ovparks. com/events/community-tree-lighting.

TWEEN COMIC BOOK CLUB: Join librarians Lindsey, Caitlin and Nate live for a Tween Comic Book Club. They’ll discuss what we think is rad about “Surviving the City” this book and ask for your questions, before an art activity inspired by the comic book. 4pm, no cover. Sacramento Library, facebook.com/saclibrary.

SATURDAY, 12/12

BUSINESS ESSENTIALS WITH GIRL SCOUTS: Learn how to start your own business, create a marketing plan and pitch an investor. This all-day virtual event will feature workshops for every grade level, led by professional businesswomen. 9:30am, no cover. Girl Scouts Heart of Central California Webinar, girlscoutshcc.org/.

COMEDY SPOT MIXTAPE-EXCLUSIVE ONLINE SHOW: Comedy Spot Mixtape is an exclusive live-stream event featuring comedians and special guests doing stand-up, improv,

CALENDAR LISTINGS CONTINUED ON PAGE 34

EVERY DAY

Hear a story 24/7 On y Our ph One, 24/7

If there’s one thing that can make the whole world seem right, it’s being read a story. The soothing sounds of a kind voice reading a narrative can make the entire year seem like a minor speed bump. The BOOKS Sacramento Public Library is offering stories read in either English or Spanish, a new story every Tuesday. The latest was “Maybe Something Beautiful,” a story of a young girl discovering the power of art in her community. The story is relatively simple. So simple in fact it almost seems like a children’s story. Have I been falling asleep to children’s stories? Sacramento Library, (916) 441-1234 or (866) 241-7490.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PICK PIX

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cale NdaR eveNtS SaNitized f OR yOuR pROtecti ON. See MORe aNd SuBMit yOuR OwN at Sacramento.new Sreview.com

t hur Sday-Saturday, 12/10-12

our monthly adults only write night. Be a part of the same magical, word-filled, empowering atmosphere that youth experience in our workshops. Pour yourself a glass of wine or sparkling non-alcoholic cider, fix that cheese plate, grab your favorite pen and notebook and join us for an evening of prompts, sparks, writing and sharing. 5pm, no cover. 916 Ink, 916ink.org.

three more days of 12 days of Midtown midtown, v Ariou S time S And loc Ation S, no cover

Friday , 12/18

MaNual ciNeMa a cHRiStMaS caROl : In this world premiere online event for audiences of all ages, world-renowned performance collective Manual Cinema brings holiday cheer with a livestreamed visually stunning adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless “A Christmas Carol.” 7pm, $15. Manuel Cinema, manualcinema.com/christmascarol/.

For 12 days, select businesses in Midtown are offering a variety of deals for the holiday season. The final three days the Midtown Association’s 12 Days of Midtown are Thursday, Dec. 10 through Saturday, Dec. 12. Show your support for local restaurants such as Zocalo, where you can get 50% fOO d & dRiNk off pitchers, or Temple Coffee, where you can get a free mug with a purchase of two 12 oz. bags of coffee, or Bliss Marketplace, where you can receive a free gift for wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. Check Midtown Association’s website for details and a list of participating stores. Midtown, exploremidtown.org.

Saturday , 12/19

cRaft S aNd dRaft S: It is the last River City Marketplace event of the year. Get that holiday shopping done in style with more than 75 local creative vendors and makers, while sipping on locally brewed craft beer. Also featured is PizzaSmith Restaurant, Outdoor Bar and Beer Garden Lawn Games. Solomon’s delicatessen, 730 k St.

JOSH GROBaN tHe viRtual cONceRt SeRieS:

Photo By Jd weiher

cale NdaR li Sti NGS cONti Nued f ROM paGe 33

SMall BuSiNeSS SatuRdayS iN dOwNtOwN SacRaMeNtO: This year, local businesses need your support more than ever so the city is extending Small Business Saturday all season long. #DowntownSac has something for everyone on your gift list. various times, no cover. Sacramento, exploremidtown. org/sbs/.

sketch, videos, music, characters, games and more. Help keep the Comedy Spot open by buying a $10 ticket to see this show. 8pm, $10 Sacramento Comedy Spot, saccomedyspot.com/mixtape.

fall acti NG cla SSeS: STC’s acting and theatre classes allow students to tap into their imaginations by starting a lifelong relationship with theatre. In a nurturing, non-competitive atmosphere, students gain self-confidence while increasing skills in public speaking and cooperation. various times, $160-$180. Sacramento Theatre, sactheatre.org.

viRtual aRt RX: Get your daily dose of art at the Crocker Art Museum’s ArtRx. It’s just what the doctor ordered. 11am, no cover. Crocker Art Museum, crockerart.org.

viRtual BRickwORld le GO HOliday 2020: Brickworld Presents, an online LEGO exposition featuring the Great Ball Contraption, Interactive Robotic Connect Four, building activities for young and advanced and amazing displays built by adult fans. 9am, $9. Brickworld, brickworld. com/brickworld-virtual-dec-12/.

fRee ONli Ne ROaSt Of HOMe al ONe: Front Row Film Roast will be roasting “Home Alone” for free and you are invited to laugh along with them. Play drinking games online with filthy animal comedians as they make jokes over the movie that should have ended with the parents’ arrest. 7pm, no cover. Front Row Film Roast, frontrowfilmroast.com/ subscribe.

monday , 12/14

Happy tiMe aRcade-StReaMiNG live : Ready for a happy arcade time? Happy Time Arcade Joy (Pew Pew!) is Emma Haney and Jesse Jones’ new hangout and treats taste test extravaganza. Mainstream games, weird penny games from the discount bin of online game shops—they play them all, interspersed with questionable voice dubbing and commentary. 7pm, no cover. STAB! Comedy Theater, twitch.tv/ stabcomedy.

MORe fROM StaB! cOMedy tHeateR: You’ve heard of destination weddings. Now how about destination comedy shows? Comedians tell jokes on a different Animal Crossing island every show. Grab your sunhat, pack your bags and then put everything away because all you need for the island hopping comedy tour 2020 is the digital device you’re reading this on and a sense of adventure. 6pm, $5. STAB! Comedy Theater, twitch.tv/stabcomedy.

tue Sday , 12/15

RaNdOM actS Of ScieNce: Join Amy each week

SatuRday faMily cRaft S: Brittany will demonstrate how to create a Saturday Family Craft that can be used to decorate your home. This is a self-guided activity that will allow families to create together. Watch the tutorial video each week on the library’s Facebook page. various times, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/ nevadacountylibrary.

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as she demonstrates a super fun science experiment on Facebook Live. Then stop by the Grass Valley Library to pick up a kit so you can do the experiment, too. 4pm, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/ nevadacountylibrary.

wedne Sday , 12/16

aRt attack viRtual aRt clu B fOR tweeNS & teeNS: This Zoom event is especially for teen and tween artists. Art Club meets weekly for an activity demonstration, drawing, painting, collage, etc. For ages 10-18. 4pm, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/ nevadacountylibrary.

tHe Bad flick SHOw: Host Alex Shewmaker finds the worst clips from the worst movies and shares them with comedians who are blown away by just how bad these movies really are. 6pm, no cover. Sacramento Comedy Spot, saccomedyspot.com/live.

Unprecedented times like these call for moments that raise us up—and no one is better suited for the job than Josh Groban. Having one of the best voices in the biz, Groban has uplifted audiences around the globe with his angelic baritone pipes and moving lyrics. Join him as he continues to share his many musical gifts with this series of livestreamed concerts. 1pm, $25$65. Josh Groban, joshgroban.com.

tue Sday , 12/22

call tO aRtiStS- MaGNuM OpuS: Now accepting entries of all media. Submit a large and important work of art. Enter your magnum opus into Sacramento Fine Arts Center’s premier annual exhibit, reflecting the most recent outstanding art achievement for participating artists. 12am, $20-$65. Sacramento Fine Arts Center, sacfinearts.org.

Friday , 12/25

aMeRicaN RiveR Relay : The American River Relay course tours the most scenic sections of the American River Parkway as it winds through hills, woodlands and river bars. Compete with other participants on individual segment leader boards. Noon, $37.50-$52.50. Sacramento Convention Center Complex, raceroster.com/ events/2020/33177/american-river-relay.

Friday , 1/1

fi RSt fRidayS aRe wHeRe it HappeNS witH GiRl ScOut S: Are you looking for a place to connect and chill with your friends or fellow Girl Scouts? Join the Girl Scouts of Central California for First Friday—the Zoom where it happens. 6pm, no cover. Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, girlscoutshcc.org.

Sunday , 1/3

MiNdful NeSS Meditati ON: Start the week off right with this mindfulness meditation. While it is kid- and teen-focused, this meditation on Facebook Live can be utilized by all ages. Welcome to ten minutes of calm. 8am, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/ nevadacountylibrary.

monday , 1/4

viRtual cRafti NG ciRcle face BOOk live !: Join Bear River Library as it goes live on Facebook with a crafting circle. They’ll be crafting for an hour, so bring whatever project you’re working on or something new. 1pm, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/nevadacountylibrary.

tue Sday , 1/5

diveRSe peRSpective S BOOk clu B: Diverse Perspectives Book Club gives us the opportunity to learn about various cultures, ideas and perspectives. Each month has a dedicated theme; this month the focus is National Religious Freedom Day. Discuss this month’s book, “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land” by Yossi Klein Halevi. Noon, no cover. Bear River Library, facebook.com/ nevadacountylibrary.

viRtual cOMMuNity wRite NiGHt: Experience the whimsy of the 916 Ink way yourself at

Saturday, 12/19

Moscow Ballet Great Russian Nutcracker live stream Ace of Sp AdeS, 4pm, $25-150

In 1982, according to Marylou Tousignant, writing in The Washington Post, critics of the Moscow Ballet’s performance of Great Russian ON StaGe Nutcracker called the play’s battle scene’s clumsy, the costumes dull and the Sugar Plum Fairy chubby. In spite of this, the play has become a staple in the American holiday tradition. This year enjoy a livestream of the ballet at Ace of Spades, one of the Live Nation venues hosting the one-day event. Face masks and social distancing will be required for the duration of the performance. 1417 R St., aceofspadessac.com.

Photo courte Sy o F thoma S tay Lor hammond


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AmAZINg FooD & DINNer sPeCIALs NYE party is planned with Locked & Loaded DiNNEr packagEs avaiLabLE 3,000 sq foot patio with heaters, bar & awesome food! best burgers in town! NYE Dinner packages available through stoneyinn.com Live music with Locked and Loaded 7-10pm or til midnight if allowed. Limited seated and sold in packages of 4 5-7 seating $50 per person • 7-cL seating $75 per person includes choice of prime rib, jumbo prawns, salmon or chicken marsala, plus a caesar salad & cheesecake for dessert. Early seating 5pm-7pm with acoustic music late dinner seating 7-cL with Locked & Loaded price includes food service gratuity and tax. if covid cancels NYE, you will get a refund. We will schedule a belated NYE party in January if this happens.

stoney’s is doing live music every saturday night at 7pm (times may vary with covid rules)

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Open Everyday • Debit, Credit, Coin Accepted 12.10.20

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A patch of raw land at Sonoma Hills Farm, which plans to apply for an “appellation of origin” for cannabis cultivation.

C a n n a b i s

Cannabis connoisseurs California to recognize marijuana growing locations, just like for fine wines by Ken Magri

If you’ve ever argued that specific of Palmdale—establishes standards for locations provide unique characteristics licensed cannabis cultivators to also for growing cannabis, so is the state of apply for an appellation designation. California. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into Beginning in 2021, the state law in September, and the CDFA is set to Department of Food and Agriculture will begin accepting applications sometime in begin to identify such locations, early 2021. designating them as “appellations of Mark Isidro, assistant to Lackey, said origin” for cannabis cultivation—a that the assemblyman wants to fight the “protected designation that identifies the illegal market and that some vendors geographical origin of a product and how promote cannabis strains as artisanal that product was produced.” products from famous Just as California locations, though they wines from exact may not have been locations are produced there. coveted for “Providing their unique appellations combinations of origin to of soil, water cannabis and climate, so products,” he are cannabis said, “is one strains. Such step towards a “taste of the building soil”—whether confidence and from misty Aaron Keefer, vice president of legitimacy in coastlines, hot cultivation and production at our state’s legal valleys or foothill Sonoma Hills Farm cannabis market by elevations—can assuring that produce strains with consumers know exactly signature tastes and aromas where their product was that consumers want. produced.” Currently, the state recognizes Growers know that micro-climates “county-of-origin” designations, matter. Even in the same general locale, meaning that any cannabis coming from cannabis grown along the coast, for a California county may be sold as such example, may have a different taste as long as 100% of those plants were and potency than the same strain grown grown in the county. Even more specific a bit further inland. Slight changes in are “city-of-origin” designations, which the amount of sunlight or humidity can follow the same rules. affect a plant’s terpene profile, its aroma But Senate Bill 67—co-authored and taste. by state Sen. Mike McGuire of The origin designation is supported Healdsburg and Assemblymen Jim by growers including Raw Garden, a Wood of Santa Rosa and Tom Lackey Santa Barbara extract maker. “We chose

“For premium craft cultivators, we believe it’s this sense of place that will drive the growth of the cannabis industry.”

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Photo courtesy of sonoma hills farm

to grow here for the combination of fertile soil, hot sun and cool nights which yield an incredibly diverse, potent and flavorful crop of cannabis flowers,” said Khalid Al-Naser, its head of product. Sonoma Hills Farm grows cannabis on 37 acres of land in the Petaluma Gap appellation, one of the nation’s premier wine terroirs. Now, it plans to apply for a cannabis appellation. “An appellations designation is valuable knowledge for the consumer,” said Aaron Keefer, its vice president of cultivation and production. “As an industry, we are moving one step closer to producing the highest quality cannabis, and these designations seem a logical next step for all involved.” “With cannabis, the traditional focus has been on strain and THC content, the equivalent of wine labeled strictly by varietal and alcohol percentage— drinkable, but unlikely to attract the attention of a connoisseur,” he said. But like boutique vineyards, craft cannabis producers can create soughtafter flavors and aromas. And with appellation designations, customers can choose where and how their cannabis was grown. “For premium craft cultivators, we believe it’s this sense of place that will drive the growth of the cannabis industry,” Keefer said. The new designations are not meant to replace political boundaries. They

identify a much more specific location, or “canopy,” where the cannabis was grown. They also add strict standards for growing conditions, which “excludes the practices of using structures, including a greenhouse, hoop house, glasshouse, conservatory, hothouse, and any similar structure, and any artificial light in the canopy area,” according to Rebecca Forée, communications manager at the CDFA. That means indoor cannabis operations, which typically modify the natural growing conditions, will not qualify for appellations. Indoor growers, however, may still qualify for county or city origin designations. Additionally, the CDFA has also proposed a designation called “comparable-to-organic,” because the federal government restricts use of “organic” to describe cannabis. Later in 2021, growers who can certify that their conditions are all natural can apply for this label as well. With all of these certifications dovetailing into one another, aficionados will have more information than ever before when choosing premium products. In November, the Bureau of Cannabis Control announced the launch of a new online interface where qualified growers can submit applications and sign up for updates. Ω


C

ask 420

c an n a b i s

Weed keeps winning By Ngaio Bealum

a s k 4 2 0 @ne w s re v i e w . c o m

Hey! Happy Holidays and all that stuff. Got any predictions for the new year?

from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, which would be defacto decriminalization, because the Drug Enforcement Administration would no longer need to go after people for using or selling cannabis. Internationally, Mexico is once again (but seriously, this time) about to legalize adult-use cannabis. The Mexican Supreme I’m glad you asked. Cannabis is still Court has set a Dec. 15 deadline for its winning. In the November election, Arizona, congress to pass a law. Mexico would join New Jersey, Mississippi, Montana and South Canada and Uruguay as the only countries Dakota voted to legalize cannabis. You heard to have nationwide legal weed. me: Montana and South Dakota. Wild. Oh, and before any International policy But my guess is that weed is gonna wonks start to chime in with “BUT THE be even more legal all across the country UNITED NATIONS SAYS THAT WEED by 2022. A few things will need to IS BAD AND LEGALIZATION happen. WOULD VIOLATE First, the feds will have INTERNATIONAL LAW,” On to decriminalize. On Dec. let it be known that the 4, the U.S. House passed December 4, U.N. Commission on the MORE Act, which Narcotic Drugs just the U.S. House passed would decriminalize voted to remove the MORE Act, which cannabis, let people cannabis from its list out of jail and expunge would decriminalize of dangerous criminal records. It’s narcotics, clearing cannabis, let people out the first time a chamber the way for more of Congress has taken of jail and expunge countries to legalize such a vote. without jeopardizing any criminal records. The bill would also international treaties. (As add a federal cannabis sales if pot was even a narcotic to tax, which would make begin with. Cannabis is really cannabis even more expensive, more of a mild euphoric.) but let’s not worry about that yet. So weed stays winning. A COVID-19 Keeping people out of jail is the number one vaccine is on the way, and by this time priority. next year you could be on a nationwide or Of course, the MORE Act isn’t going to international cannabis tasting vacation. Stay see the light of day in the Senate before the safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, don’t current session ends, because Majority Leader share joints and have a great holiday season Mitch McConnell is a good-for-nothing and a happy new year. Ω obstructionist. By the way, it’s funny that 95% of congressional Republicans, who always claim they want small government and more personal liberty, voted against a law designed to give people more freedom. But anyway, if the good people of Georgia vote Jan. 5 to send two Democrats to the Senate, McConnell would no longer be in Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him charge, and legalization via the MORE Act questions at ask420@newsreview.com. could be on the horizon. Failing that, when he takes office, President-elect Joe Biden could issue an executive order removing cannabis

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Free will astrology

ask joey

For the week oF Dec. 10, 2020

we met the enemy— and it isn’t 2020 by JOey GARCIA

ARIES (March 21-April 19): According to Taoist

@AskJoeyGarcia

kick split-thinking to the curb: 2020 isn’t the “worst year ever” label is drama and a the worst year ever. distraction. It’s a global wake-up call that shows Become a true influencer: A Mayan us who we are. All world-shifting events daykeeper (a person trained to interpret are reminders that we’re only in control the Mayan calendars) once told me to of our own words, actions and behaviors. stop using the Gregorian calendar to And while it’s normal to feel angry, sad, set goals. Make plans on a 50-, 100-, jealous or anxious in the face of adversity, and 500-year cycle, he said. A long it’s our response that counts. view reminds me that my actions have Resilience is our ability to adapt to far-reaching consequences that affect the change and withstand severe stress. planet and future generations. A resilient person reframes Cleanse your inner Trump: threats as challenges. She Some of the most virulent knows herself well Trump haters I’ve met seem enough to recognize unaware that they share While it’s true her body’s fighthis style of arguing our 2020 losses flight-or-freeze (attack, lie, blame, response and to deflect, repeat). Other have been brutal, the engage in selfhaters tend to have “worst year ever” care before she’s an individual in their overwhelmed. A life who behaves like label is drama and resilient person President Trump, but distraction. builds inner strength they “don’t feel safe” through positive standing up to that person. activities that push him Hey, projecting hate beyond his comfort zone. at Trump is easy. Hating the People with a daily gratitude man is even easier. Recognizing and practice and those who enjoy spending healing our own complicity in racism, time alone tend to bounce back faster. It sexism, misappropriation of funds and also helps to examine our thoughts: other abusive behavior, requires effort. If Drop the doomsday perspective: you’re a hater, here’s a free resource for a Let’s test the “worst year ever” claim: In mental cleanse, thework.org. 536 A.D, a volcano erupted in Iceland, There’s still time to be the change. smothering the sun for 18 months and Keep a daily gratitude list. Take a course initiating a catastrophic global cold spell. that requires you to confront and heal In 1860, the United States went to war your racism. Slow down and notice your with itself over whether it was wrong mindset. Shed conditioned beliefs that no to enslave and sell human beings. The longer serve you or a 21st century world. deadly Spanish flu pandemic swept the Channel emotional energy into positive world in 1918. Any single year of the action. And stop comparing yourself to Great Depression (1929 to 1933) might be others. Find someone who longs to be a contender for the worst year suffered. where you are. Extend your hand and pull And 1968 is a competitor: Martin them up. Ω Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. Protests across the country to condemn racism, poverty and the Vietnam War turned into violent riots. A nasty, divisive presidential election Email Joey at askjoey@newsreview. placed Richard Nixon in the White House com. Give your name, telephone number (for verification purposes and nearly 50 American soldiers were only) and question—all correspondence will be kept dying daily in the Vietnam. So while it’s strictly confidential true that our 2020 losses have been brutal, 38

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by ROb bRezsny

scholar Chad Hansen, “Western philosophers have endlessly analyzed and dissected a cluster of terms thought to be central to our thinking,” such as truth, beauty, reason, knowledge, belief, mind and goodness. But he reports that they’ve never turned their attention to a central concept of Chinese philosophy: the Tao, which might be defined as the natural, unpredictable flow of life’s ever-changing rhythms. I think that you, more than any other sign of the zodiac, have the greatest potential to cultivate an intuitive sense of how to align yourselves vigorously with the Tao. And you’re in prime time to do just that. TAURUS (April 20-May 20): What’s the cause of the rumbling at the core of your soul? How do we explain the smoke and steam that are rising from the lower depths? From what I can discern, the fire down below and the water down below are interacting to produce an almost supernatural state of volatile yet numinous grace. This is a good thing! You may soon begin having visions of eerie loveliness and earth-shaking peace. The clarity that will eventually emerge may at first seem dark, but if you maintain your poise it will bloom like a thousand moons. GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Author and student Raquel Isabelle de Alderete writes wittily about her paradoxical desires and contradictory qualities. In accordance with current astrological omens, I encourage you to ruminate about your own. For inspiration, read her testimony: “I want to be untouchably beautiful but I also don’t want to care about how I look. I want to be at the top of my class but I also just want to do as best as I can without driving myself to the edge. I want to be a mystery that’s open to everybody. A romantic that never falls in love. Both the bird and the cat.” CANCER (June 21-July 22): What would it take for you to muster just a bit more courage so as to change what needs to be changed? How could you summon the extra excitement and willpower necessary to finally make progress on a dilemma that has stumped you? I’m happy to inform you that cosmic rhythms will soon be shifting in such a way as to make these breakthroughs more possible. For best results, shed any tendencies you might have to feel sorry for yourself or to believe you’re powerless. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Novelist Tom Robbins says you have the power to change how you perceive the world. You can change reality—and how reality responds to you—by the way you look at it and interpret it. This counsel is especially useful for you right now. You have an unparalleled opportunity to reconfigure the way you apprehend things, and thereby transform the world you live in. So I suggest you set your intention. Vow that for the next two weeks, every experience will bring you a fresh invitation to find out something you didn’t know before. VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected in 2019. During his campaign, the Virgo-born politician arranged to be photographed while wearing the saffron robes of a Hindu priest and meditating in an austere Himalayan cave. Why did he do it? To appeal to religious voters. But later it was revealed that the “cave” was in a cozy retreat center that provides regular meals, electricity, phone service and attentive attendants. It will be crucial for you to shun this type of fakery in 2021. Your success will depend on you being as authentic, genuine and honest as you can possibly be. Now is an excellent time to set your intention and start getting yourself in that pure frame of mind. LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): When author Ernest Hemingway was working on the manuscript for his novel A Farewell to Arms, he asked his colleague F. Scott Fitzgerald to offer critique. Fitzgerald obliged with a ten-page analysis that advised a different ending, among other

suggestions. Hemingway wasn’t pleased. “Kiss my ass,” he wrote back to Fitzgerald. I suggest a different approach for you. In my view, now is a good time to solicit feedback and mirroring from trusted allies. What do they think and how do they feel about the current state of your life and work? If they do respond, take at least some of it to heart. SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on trees, weakening them. On the other hand, it has been a sacred plant in European tradition. People once thought it conferred magical protection. It was called “all-heal” and regarded as a medicine that could cure numerous illnesses. Even today, it’s used in Europe as a remedy for colon cancer. And of course mistletoe is also an icon meant to encourage kissing. After studying your astrological potentials, I’m proposing that mistletoe serve as one of your symbolic power objects in the coming months. Why? Because I suspect that you will regularly deal with potencies and energies that could potentially be either problematic or regenerative. You’ll have to be alert to ensure that they express primarily as healing agents. SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I’m envisioning a scene in which you’re sitting on a chair at a kitchen table. At the center of the table is a white vase holding 18 long-stemmed red roses. The rest of the table’s surface is filled with piles of money, which you have just unloaded from five mysterious suitcases you found at your front door. All of that cash is yours, having been given to you no-stringsattached by an anonymous donor. You’re in joyful shock as you contemplate the implications of this miraculous gift. Your imagination floods with fantasies about how different your life can become. Now, I invite you to dream up at least three further wonderfully positive fantasies involving good financial luck. That’s the medicine you need right now. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Boisterous Capricorn novelist Patricia Highsmith (1921–1995) once made the following New Year’s Eve toast: “To all the devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I do battle—may they never give me peace.” Right now I suspect you may be tempted to make a similar toast. As crazymaking as your current challenges are, they are entertaining and growth-inducing. You may even have become a bit addicted to them. But in the interests of your long-term sanity, I will ask you to cut back on your “enjoyment” of all this uproar. Please consider a retreat into an intense self-nurturing phase. AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): In the French city of Strasbourg, there’s a wine cellar built in the year 1395. Among its treasures is a barrel filled with 450 liters of wine that was originally produced in 1472. According to legend, this ancient beverage has been tasted on just three occasions. The last time was to celebrate the French army’s liberation of Strasbourg from German occupation in 1944. If I had the power, I would propose serving it to you in honor of your tribe’s heroic efforts to survive—and even thrive—during the ordeals of 2020. I’m predicting that life in 2021 will have more grace and progress because of how you have dealt with this year’s challenges. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): There are too many authorities, experts, know-it-alls and arrogant ideologues trying to tell us all what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, the cosmic rhythms are now aligned in such a way as to help you free yourself from those despots and bullies. Here’s more good news: Cosmic rhythms are also aligned to free you from the nagging voice in your own head that harass you with fearful fantasies and threaten you with punishment if you aren’t perfect.


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