Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Downtown Renewal Plan Receives Honor

Downtown Renewal Plan Receives Honor

Vallejo's downtown renewal plan has been named one of the best comprehensive plans by a regional planning group.

The American Planning Association's Northern Section California Chapter honored the city for its specific plan to revamp downtown Vallejo.

The document outlines the physical form and future uses of the area, including the design of streets and types of benches used on sidewalks.

"The scope and scale of this plan reflects a recognition of downtown Vallejo's historic past as well as its vibrant future," said Curt Johansen of Triad Communities. The development firm aims to transform the aging downtown into a regional attraction.

Vallejo won in the category of Comprehensive Planning, LargeJurisdiction. The award is for cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

Copies of the plan can be downloaded from
Time for Tax
Measure H is Iportant to Solano's Tansit Fture

The long, unfinished road to fixing our freeways, repairing our roads, improving the safety of how we get from here to there, has led us to a familiar crossing - the ballot box.

Measure H, before voters on June 6, asks for a modest, acceptable increase in the sales tax of a half penny. During the next 30 years it will generate about $1.6 billion that we can leverage to get additional funding to unclog the arterial confluence of Interstate 80, I-680 and Highway 12, plus fix the freeway potholes, repair city streets, improve the transit system for seniors and effect some safety measures on dangerous stretches of local roadways.

We've been here before. Twice. The third time is the right time.

Measure H has so many elements there are some every one of us will find unimportant or irrelevant. But it is a plan that must encompass the myriad challenges that our transportation system - from Rio Vista to Benicia, from Vallejo to Dixon - faces in the next 30 years.

No one likes, or wants, new taxes. But this one will generate additional money guaranteed to be spent on projects here at home. Without a local source of road funds, our legislative representatives are powerless to argue for matching federal and state dollars. Every county in the greater Bay Area contributes to road fixes. And that's why there are hundreds of millions being spent in nearby counties, but very little here.

Complain all you want about how unfair the system is. Gripe about the taxes, as we certainly will. Get angry about the high price of gasoline. But that will not invoke a solution to the problem here.

We have growing gridlock on our freeways that will:

• Increase the time motorists spend on freeways, which translates into more pollution and a loss of productivity for workers who are in their cars more and on the job less;

• Restrict the ability of businesses to ship their goods and services to other regions, which translates into an anti-business black eye for Solano County; and

• Corrode the quality of life that we enjoy here, a place we moved to get away from the crowded roads of other areas.

In addition, our rural roads and state highways are not getting any better. They are, in fact, getting worse. The commute between Solano and Napa counties is one of the most dangerous around, especially at night and in bad weather. Improvements to Highway 12 are imperative.

While Vacaville and Fairfield have done well to keep their city streets in good condition, they face other issues: improving ridership on buses, increasing parking in downtown locations, providing seniors a way to get to and from appointments, and fixing troublesome intersections. Other cities need more street repairs as well. Measure H provides them funds to spend on projects that local residents deem a priority.

The righteous indignation of "no new taxes" is understandable, but misdirected at Measure H. This is a proposition that will provide money for local projects that cannot be siphoned to other uses. It provides a citizens watchdog panel to keep an eye on where funds are spent. It mandates annual audits by independent sources.

Is it the perfect solution? Of course not. Can we find fault in bits and pieces of it? Of course we can. But a flawless funding plan for such a huge undertaking as highways and transportation is probably unachievable.

The last two measures with similar goals garnered overwhelming support from voters, but did not attain the two-thirds supermajority approval that taxes require. This time is the right time to put it over the threshold.

On June 6, vote yes on Measure H. Fix the freeways and the roads for us, for our children and for our grandchildren.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

California's Legendary Road Stop Is Back!

Fix the Problem - Vote Yes on H

Fix the Problem - Vote Yes on H

I have been reading the letters to the editor that have been published in the newspaper lately regarding the proposed half-cent sales tax for Solano County transportation. The letters seem to have a common theme, which in my mind is very realistic if you looked only on the surface of the issue.

The two common themes I hear is 1) we are already paying for the roads through the gas tax and it is not our responsibility and 2) the sales tax will be bad for local business as the increased cost will force people to shop elsewhere or not at all.

Here is the reality. Yes, we are paying into a gas tax currently and we are not receiving any funds in return. This is a fact and I am not happy about it. Why are we not receiving any money for transportation in return? Very simply, all the other counties in the Bay Area, except Napa, have a transportation sales tax. Napa is likely to approve their sales tax in the coming election. These counties are receiving the gas tax money we are currently paying into because they have matching funds that the government is looking to when funding projects. We call this self help. I call it the great incentive system. I wish that this was not the system, but it is. Let's face reality: nothing will ever get fixed in Solano County until we come up with matching funds.

Take a look around at the various counties, such as Contra Costa. They have a great freeway system and a great interchange at 680/24. Guess what? They have had a half-cent transportation sales tax since 1988 and in 2004 they re-approved the tax for another 25 years. The matching funds helped build the interchange and improved and expanded the freeway system.

I do not think that there has been rampant growth in Contra Costa because it has a good freeway system, although it does help the flow of traffic. The only places I have seen gridlock in Contra Costa is at the Benicia Bridge, where the cars have to come into Solano County. Contra Costa is currently paying an 8.25 percent sales tax. People will pay the tax if the infrastructure is good. Does this mean that residents of Contra Costa are coming to Solano to do their shopping? I don't think so. People naturally shop in their own local area.

All this being said, I endorse the sales tax plan because there is a plan to make things better. No plan is ever perfect. This plan has return to source funding, money for safety programs and money to fix the potholes and the interchange. Highway 80 is in horrible disrepair. Let's be productive and fix the problem.

It's always easy to say "no." It takes vision to understand the problem and provide a solution. Vote "yes" on Measure H.

John Nerland

President, Solano Bank

Vote Yes on Measure H

Vote Yes on Measure H

Voters have an opportunity on June 6 to make an investment in Solano County transportation projects that should benefit our communities for the next three decades and beyond.

The Solano County Transportation Improvement Authority has placed a half-cent sales tax on the ballot - Measure H - that will raise $1.57 billion during the next 30 years, money proponents of the measure say will be leveraged with state and federal dollars to help fund traffic relief and safety projects.

On the comprehensive list are highway corridor improvements, maintenance and repair of local roads, senior and disabled transit services, improved commuter transit projects, safety improvements and discretionary funds for projects in individual cities within the county.

Here is a breakdown of how the estimated tax revenue would be split:

= Highway improvement and safety: $625 million, 40 percent.

= Local streets and roads: $315 million, 20 percent.

= Commuter mass transit: $190 million, 12 percent.

= Safety projects and safe routes to school: $155 million, 10 percent.

= Money to county and cities for transportation projects: $155 million, 10 percent.

= Senior and disabled mass transit: $115 million, 7 percent.

= Solano Transportation Improvement Authority administration/finance: $15 million, 1 percent.

If the tax is approved, Solano would become one of several "self-help" Bay Area counties that have approved transportation-related sales tax measures. The hope is that the county will move up the funding list for projects if it provides matching funds with other sources.

Opponents of the tax call it extortion, but the reality is that state funding for transit projects remain fallow without those local contributions.

Perhaps a fairer method to fund transportation projects would be through a beefed-up gasoline tax, but that's wishful thinking. Gas taxes have lagged far below inflation levels for years and combined with higher-mileage cars on the road today, revenue generated by state and federal gas taxes would have to be more than doubled to provide any funding relief for transit projects.

Vote yes on Measure H. It's a sound investment.

Measure H Gives Us the Power to Take Charge of Our Problems

Measure H Gives Us the Power to Take Charge of Our Problems
By Mayrene Bates

Recently, a friend and I were discussing how we survived so many hardships. Both of us agreed that we looked to ourselves for solutions to problems in order to move forward. We learned that it would not serve any good purpose to blame the system or play the role of victim.

Today, just ask ourselves, would we have built new schools and improved our libraries if we had stood by and said, "It's not my job?"

Measure H, the Traffic Relief and Safety Plan on the June 6 ballot, is a good example of what we need to do to move forward. We have the power to take charge of our problems. It is an investment in Solano County similar to the investment we make in our homes, businesses and community. Our aging city streets, county and state roads, and interstates are all becoming more costly to maintain while city and county governments struggle to pay for them.

Safety is another major reason to support this tax. Many of our roads pose dangerous and unacceptable risk. While bad drivers cause accidents, poor road conditions and frustration from congestion are major contributors.

Everyone knows that over the last few decades not enough federal, state and local money has been invested in transportation infrastructure. It competed with all the other government services and often lost. Like maintenance on our homes and automobiles, road maintenance cannot be deferred for too long before it requires a costly overhaul.

It's obvious that our current strategy isn't working. We are only one of two Bay Area counties without a transportation sales tax. Measure H not only puts additional money into local transportation projects, but also enables us to get matching funds from the state and federal government for improvement of our streets and roads. Most of the surrounding counties have taken advantage of matching funds and are reaping the rewards. Both state and federal policies give priority to those counties who have made investments. Our current course of refusing "self-help" status denies us much needed revenues, and also delays projects that end up costing twice as much and wasting taxpayer dollars.

Measure H will provide us with money for the Safe Routes to Schools program, money for senior and disabled programs, money for an array of local and regional street improvements, money for the preservation of mobility throughout Solano County, money for countywide safety improvements to protect our citizens and a citizens oversight committee to assure our transportation money is spent wisely.

Measure H is about taking back local control of our streets and roads rather than leaving them entirely in the hands of those in Washington, D.C., or Sacramento. Our future should not be at the mercy of outside agencies. It may not be our job, but it's not going to get done without our help.

Mayrene Bates is a lifelong educator.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Measure H Definitely Necessary

Measure H Definitely Necessary
Reporter Editor:

Recently I was introduced to Measure H, the initiative to repair roads, highways and intersections in Solano County. I read the literature and am convinced that Measure H is the most responsible way to accomplish the desperately needed repairs and improvements.

There could be no argument about the fact that our roadways have become neglected during the past few years.

There are huge cracks and potholes on Interstate 80, Jamison Canyon Road (Highway 12) is hazardous, and rescue personnel have expressed concern about being able to respond quickly enough throughout the city to save lives in an emergency.

Spending money for roadway improvements is a bit like paying for brake repairs on a car: nobody likes to do it, but it is absolutely essential and the longer it is neglected, the more dangerous the situation and the more costly the job.

If we refuse to put money into road repairs now, the needed repairs will not magically happen, and costs are guaranteed to climb in the future.

I would urge everyone to please take time to read about Measure H before voting. The tax liability is minimal (not the 8.25 percent claimed on the misleading anti-Measure H signs), and built into the measure are safeguards and frequent audits to ensure the money is being spent properly. I like the fact that nearly 100 percent of the allotted money will be spent to improve the roads, with a bare minimum used for administrative costs. That kind of efficiency is practically unheard of nowadays.

A lot of good, logical thinking went into writing Measure H. I think Measure H is the safest, most efficient way to accomplish a necessary task. I haven't seen any better ideas coming from the opponents.

It is one thing to "just say no," it's quite another to come up with a constructive plan. Measure H is the constructive plan we need in Solano County.

Deborah J. McMindes, Vacaville

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Safeguards in Place for Spending Measure H Funds

Safeguards in Place for Spending Measure H Funds
Reporter Editor:

I support Measure H, the half-cent sales tax increase which will appear on the ballot on June 6. Measure H is of great concern, because it affects everybody, especially our seniors, veterans and disabled citizens.

Measure H establishes a contract with voters, locking in an investment plan that fixes potholes and maintains roads, upgrades safety at high accident locations and on school routes. Measure H benefits every Solano County taxpayer, from Benicia to Suisun City and Vallejo to Dixon. It legally binds politicians and bureaucrats to spend the money the way we the voters tell them and guarantees only the voters can make any changes to the plan.

At present transit funds are inadequate to meet the needs of area seniors, veterans and the disabled. People age 65 and up will increase from 9 percent to 19 percent of Solano County's population by the year 2030 and we need to address the special transit needs of this growing senior population.

Measure H will provide $115 million for senior and disabled transit services that include: fare discounts, expanded paratransit services around Solano County, and new expanded evening and weekend services to medical facilities, shopping and senior centers.

Also, as Vacaville's city treasurer, it is my responsibility to ensure the safeguard of city funds. Measure H has key taxpayer safeguards to ensure that this money is spent only on transportation projects and services. There will be a financial and performance audit every year to make sure the money is spent properly. Only 1 percent of the funds can be used for administrative costs and 99 percent of the money raised will go directly into transportation and safety improvements. These safeguards give me the peace of mind I need and they are why I'm supporting Measure H.

Measure H is not a Democrat, Republican or green issue. It is a people issue.

Just saying no brings us nothing but more gridlock and tragedies. Measure H allows us to finally take control of our transportation destiny.

I urge voters to vote yes on Measure H.

Garland Porter, Vacaville

Wednesday, May 24, 2006



The Napa City Firefighters IAFF Local 3124 represents the men and women employed by the city of Napa Fire Department in the ranks of firefighter, firefighter paramedic and captain. We would like to encourage the citizens of Napa to get out and vote on June 6. IAFF Local 3124 is pleased to announce the following endorsements for this election:

- Governor - Phil Angelides.

- Measure H - "Yes."

- Measure A - "No."

- District Attorney - Gary Lieberstein.

The Napa City Firefighters are committed to providing the best possible emergency response to the citizens of Napa. We feel that the above endorsements give us the tools to continue provide a high level of service.

Josh Pero, President, Napa City Firefighters Local 3124

Monday, May 22, 2006

Unemployment Down Again in Region

Unemployment Down Again in Region
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Unemployment rates in the Bay Area and Solano County have steadily improved during the last few years.

In Solano County the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent in April, down from a two-year high of about 6.5 percent in July 2004, according to the California Employment Development Department.

Another sign of economic strength came from a survey released this week by the Bay Area Council. It revealed more companies are planning to hire workers than any other time since 2001 - when the dot-com era went bust.

"This doesn't surprise me," said Robert Bloom, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County. "Generally, I'm hearing companies are hiring. Solano is healthy. It's growing."

But echoing the concerns of the 512 corporate executives polled in the survey, Bloom said some industries are struggling to find enough employees.

"We're getting close to full employment," Bloom said. "(Employers) are anxious to find any suitable workers and pull them in for an interview."

Bloom said construction companies and hospitals are particularly starved for workers.

The survey found 42 percent of executives report it is more challenging finding qualified candidates than 12 months ago. Only five percent said it was easier.

About 43 percent of Bay Area executives polled said they planned on hiring new staff in the next six months. Only 8 percent planned layoffs.

Business confidence was up a little bit, from 59 points last year to 60 this spring, according to the survey.

About 86 percent of executives surveyed said they expect the economy to be better or the same six months from now.

Nathan Halverson can be reached at 425-4646 X267 or

'Yes' on H - It's About Responsibility

'Yes' on H - It's About Responsibility

I will be voting for Measure H, not because I want to pay an additional half-cent sales tax but because I believe Solano County has to participate in solving its traffic-related problems. Solano County continues to grow and we drive our cars to school, work and play. We cannot continue to be part of the problem of our deteriorating roads and freeways and contribute nothing extra to fixing them.

Seven of the nine Bay Area counties have said they need to take responsibility for their transportation infrastructure problems and have approved sales tax measures for transportation. Two others - Solano and Napa - are considering sales tax measures. In Napa County there is universal political support and extremely strong business support for its measure.

In Solano, the support for Measure H seems a bit less solid. So if Solano fails to approve Measure H, we may have the distinction of being the only one of nine counties unwilling to lift our heads out of the sand. And with more state and federal transportation dollars linked to local "match" or local contribution requirements, failure to pass Measure H may prove to be extremely shortsighted.

I have seen signs advocating a "no" vote on Measure H with the tagline, "Stop the Waste." While a "yes" vote will not and cannot fix all our transportation problems, it at least takes a step in the direction of trying to reduce waste - your wasted time, for example, on Jamieson Canyon and in the Cordelia area.

It also provides support for transportation options - a worthwhile effort since it is fact that we will never build ourselves out of congestion no matter how much we invest in land and concrete, And getting people off the freeways and into alternative commute options, in effect, reduces traffic.

Voting "yes" on Measure H is the responsible thing to do!

Gerry Raycraft, Fairfield

Chamber Backs Measure H

Chamber Backs Measure H
Reporter Editor:

At a recently Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce meeting, both sides of the Measure H issue were invited to make a presentation before the chamber's board of directors.

After careful consideration, the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to support Measure H, the half-cent transportation sales tax increase on the June ballot.

There are several reasons that we feel it is time for this measure. One of the reasons is that fewer and fewer people will be inclined to travel to and from Rio Vista if the roads are not improved and widened. Our business community depends on safe and efficient highways and streets to survive and prosper.

We also feel that we have truly run out of options for these projects. A local funding source for transportation is necessary to be used in conjunction with federal, state and regional funding, and will leverage additional funding by demonstrating a local commitment to the projects in Solano County.

The No on Measure H committee opposes the measure, but it has no other solutions. We need solutions to these traffic and safety problems in our county.

Evelyn Wilson, Rio Vista

The author is the president of the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce - Editor.

Economy and Safety are Part of Measure

Economy and Safety are Part of Measure
Reporter Editor:

Biagi Bros Inc. is a transportation and warehousing company with facilities in Napa, Fairfield and Benicia. The situation on state Highway 12 and Interstate 80 is terribly disruptive to our business, as well as most other businesses in Solano and Napa counties. Delays cost us both money and a decrease in the service we can provide to our customers.

We primarily service the beverage industry, hauling glass to the wineries in Napa Valley and wine back out, as well as beer out of the Anheuser-Busch brewery and out of our warehouse in Benicia. The congestion on Highway 12 and I-80 increases the cost of being located in Napa or Solano county. If the cost of doing business in these areas continues to rise, more and more businesses will move out of the area, which will hurt the local economy and cost jobs.

This issue is not just an economic one. This issue is a safety issue. Many of our employees either live in Solano County and commute to Napa County or vice versa. My daily commute up I-680 and through Jameson Canyon takes an hour each way, and that is if there is not an accident. Highway 12 is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, highways in California. Coming from the trucking industry I pay attention to the traffic reports. The number of accidents on Highway 12 is alarming. I get very nervous every time I drive Highway 12. How many fatalities do we need to have on Highway 12 before we spend the money needed to fix it?

I urge voters to vote yes Measure H, the half-cent transportation sales tax.

Nick Biagi, Napa

Yes on Measure H: Initiative Will Benefit Solano County

Yes on Measure H: Initiative Will Benefit Solano County
By Len Augustine

A rare opportunity exists to make a positive change in our community's transportation system. It's likely each of us has experienced the congestion on our highways, potholes on our roads, lost time in traffic jams, and wasted fuel waiting in the heavy commuter traffic. The safety of our roads is a real concern to most of us, as well.

Issues such as the transportation needs of seniors and the disabled require funding and action now. Safe routes to schools is one of our top priorities. Reducing response times for public safety officials is essential. The impact on our lives in and around Vacaville cannot be overstated.

Hoping, pleading and cajoling for federal and state dollars to fix our transportation shortcomings - without providing matching funds - have not been successful. The amount of money necessary to get the job done far exceeds the available resources we foresee coming to Solano County. Construction costs are escalating rapidly. Procrastination in approving measures to provide matching funds has been counterproductive.

All of the projects will cost considerably more money in the future. They will still be needed, but the costs will surge out of reach.

We must get on with the design work as soon as possible and be ready to go out for bids. Having the projects ready to go is essential in obtaining funding and, of course, design work is costly, as well.

An independent oversight committee comprised of 11 citizens will be in place to ensure that funds are spent in accordance with the Traffic Relief and Safety Plan for Solano County. There will be an annual fiscal, compliance and performance audit. The Solano Transportation Authority, our local transportation agency, will administer the contracts. The STA meets monthly in an open forum and citizen participation is encouraged.

Measure H, the proposed half-cent transportation sales tax on the June ballot, will go a long way toward addressing the most critical transportation improvements. The longer we are delayed, the more costly it all becomes.

Measure H is an investment that will provide benefits to most everyone. The return to source funded projects will be clearly seen early on with some communities able to accomplish maintenance and repair sooner than they are currently capable of doing. Alternative modes of transportation were clearly seen as job-savers after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

And speaking of jobs, companies and businesses looking to bring jobs to Vacaville expect good roads and viable transportation alternatives to be in place. There is strong support from the major employers and business community, councils, labor organizations, public safety, environmentalists, schools, commuters, health community and many others.

The plan is a very good one. There has never been a more united effort in Solano County to make such a huge difference in the quality of life in our daily lives. The opportunity is here now to zero in on the issue before us.

All of the rationale for rejecting Measure H has been off target. That's because the need to pass Measure H is obvious. There is no alternative to moving forward.

I urge everyone to review the plan for themself. I am convinced that the future safety, our growing economy, our neighborhoods and our quality of life in Vacaville must not be compromised because of inaction.

It's our choice.

I am voting yes on Measure H.

• The author is the mayor of Vacaville and the chairman of the Solano Transportation Authority.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Marine World's Historical Impact Recognized at Luncheon

Marine World's Historical Impact Recognized at Luncheon
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

It's hard now to imagine Vallejo without Six Flags Marine World, but the city wasn't even in the running when the theme park was first seeking a new home, said the keynote speaker at a Wednesday tourism luncheon.
Held at the theme park, the 15th annual Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau Tourism Luncheon recognized Marine World's 45th anniversary and its 20th year in Vallejo. The event also saw the installation of the bureau's new board officers and members.

Mike Gallagher, president of City Pass, a national tourism program and former Marine World official, oversaw the park's move from Redwood City to Vallejo and the weeks and months leading up to it. It was a time filled with tense and amusing moments, he said.

"(Former park president) Mike Demetrios had a park he loved and wanted to move and (former Vallejo mayor) Terry Curtola had a city he loved and wanted to make better," Gallagher said. But the idea of moving the park to Vallejo was anything but automatic, he said.

"We had no space to grow in Redwood City, and the land was sold to developers," Gallagher said. The Redwood City property now houses software giant Oracle's headquarters. "We looked at 35 cities. We became experts on unsuccessful golf courses and landfills. But originally Vallejo was eliminated. We were going to move to the South Bay."

Curtola, who attended the luncheon, would not be dissuaded in his quest to lure the park to town despite the results of a feasibility study that panned the idea.

"He courageously took $20,000 of the city's money and had his own study done to prove the original was wrong," Gallagher said. The developers gave the park 90 days to leave Redwood City, and the decision to move to Vallejo was made.

"Terry said at the time that it was like chasing Marilyn Monroe for two years and she finally says yes," Gallagher said.

Nothing about the move was done in the usual way, he said. Park officials broke ground first and got the money later, never really securing a deal with a contractor, Gallagher said.

"And we moved in two weeks," Gallagher said. "We moved 2,000 animals, 5,000 plants, 100 mature trees and 5 million pounds of stuff."

Many of the animals were barged across the bay, acting like a modern day Noah's Ark.

The whale was the last to move, Gallagher said.

"He didn't want to go. We kept telling him, RWe have a much better place for you,' " Gallagher said. "At one point, the tail came up and hit the trainer in the head and knocked him out. There were a lot of things like that that went on."

The whale was driven to Vallejo overnight despite CHP objections and the move was complete, Gallagher said. The park opened June 16, 1986.

"About 30 million people have visited the park in the 20 years since, and many come away with a better understanding of animals, and that's the whole point," Gallagher said.

The annual luncheon was established in 1991 by Meme Sharp-Tenold, a former bureau president who attended Wednesday's event.

"I thought it would be a good way to help people come to recognize the importance of tourism to the local and regional economy, and since May is National Tourism Month, that seemed like a good time to have it," Sharp-Tenold said.

The event was attended by an estimated 100 people.

Vote Yes on Half-Cent Sales Tax

Vote Yes on Half-Cent Sales Tax
Reporter Editor:

As a Solano County resident for the past 35 years I have seen many changes. Some work well and some not so well. The quality of life found here in Solano County is not easily duplicated.

Our roads are not designed for today's use, which is compounded by lack of funding for proper maintenance. Measure H, the half-cent transportation sales tax on the June ballot, will provide funding for local transportation projects that will give us a return on our investment.

I strongly urge a yes vote on Measure H.

Ben Espinoza, Vacaville

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

UC Davis Rankings & Statistics

UC Davis Rankings and other general statistics

16th among public universities nationwide (National Research Council)
14th among public universities nationwide (U.S. News & World Report)
12th in research funding among U.S. ranked public universities and 5th among UC campuses (National Science Foundation) 17th, just behind Harvard, in the first ranking of American universities based on their contributions to society (Washington Monthly).

One of 62 North American universities admitted into the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Research funding: $505 million in 2004–05

Private support: $79 million in 2004–05

4 colleges (Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Letters and Science)
5 professional schools (Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine)

Student enrollment: 29,637 (fall 2005)

Alumni with degrees: 166,885

Undergraduate majors: 103

Graduate programs: 86

Intercollegiate sports: 26 (14 for women, 12 for men)

Campus acreage: 5,300 acres (largest UC campus)


UC Davis distinctions
The campus’s breadth of academic and outside-the-classroom programs, commitment to providing an attentive and research-enriched education, determination to address society’s needs and consideration of campus community members as family are truly distinctive.

A superb investment
UC Davis contributes nearly $3 billion each year to the California economy and returns $5 to California for every state dollar received.

Most comprehensive UC
UC Davis is a leader in interdisciplinary study, and its four colleges, five professional schools, more than 100 academic majors and 86 graduate programs make it the most comprehensive of all the UC campuses.

One in every 315 Californians is a UC Davis alum. Our alumni earn a mean salary of $93,100 annually—twice the California average.

Distinguished alumni
UC Davis alums achieving notable feats in 2005 include “Aggienaut” Steve Robinson ‘78, who transmitted the first podcast from space, and Emmy winners Steve McFeely ‘96 and Chris Markus ‘96.

A research giant
A Tier One research university, UC Davis ranks 12th in research funding among public U.S. universities, receiving more than $500 million in 2004–05.

Super in science
UC Davis awards more bachelor’s and doctor’s degrees in the biological sciences than any other U.S. institution. In 2004–05, the campus welcomed a new College of Biological Sciences and a new Genome and Biomedical Sciences Building to foster leading-edge research.

UC Davis Gears up for Largest Freshman Class almost 900 more

UC Davis Gears up for Largest Freshman Class
May 15, 2006

The University of California, Davis, is marshaling resources to welcome what could be its largest first-year class ever, with almost 900 more freshman applicants than expected accepting offers of admission for fall 2006.

As the campus readies for an incoming class with greater ethnic diversity and a record number of Regents Scholarship winners, it is taking steps to provide additional classes, housing and other student services.

"UC Davis is enthusiastic to welcome so many highly qualified students to the campus," said Fred Wood, interim vice provost for undergraduate studies. "We are committed to ensuring that they have the opportunity to thrive in their university experience."

The campus was planning to enroll between 4,753 and 5,093 freshmen; by the May 1 deadline, however, a total of 5,953 students indicated their intent to register at UC Davis in the fall.

Some attrition occurs over the summer, and it is expected to reduce the number of freshmen who actually enroll in the fall. Even so, Wood said, the campus must prepare for a significant increase in the size of the incoming freshman class.

"This is a challenge for the entire campus community," he said. "Faculty and staff members are hard at work. We're asking our new students and others for understanding, patience and flexibility."

Contributing factors
Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions, said two factors might explain the unexpected increase in the number of students intending to register as freshmen.

Increased efforts to attract prospective students to UC Davis contributed to an 8.6 percent increase in freshman applications. And other efforts geared toward admitted students met with overwhelmingly positive results -- seen, for example, in high attendance for campus tours and Southern California receptions.

Last year, 23.5 percent of freshman applicants admitted to Davis completed a statement of intent to register; this year, 26.7 percent accepted offers of admission.

Burnett also said some other colleges and universities across the country have been surprised by a particularly unpredictable admissions season, spurred in part by the trend of individual students applying to more universities to improve their options.

For example, The Wall Street Journal reported recently that admissions officers have been increasingly challenged to predict the rate of admitted students who will accept their offers. In a 2005 survey of more than 200,000 college students, the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that more than one in four students said they had applied to six or more colleges, compared with 18 percent of students 10 years earlier.

Academic needs
Deans are working with their departments to add courses and expand the number of those offered in the evening. Current students who will be juniors and seniors in the fall are being encouraged to enroll in some courses from the broader selection of summer offerings and, for fall, to explore upper-division courses to satisfy their remaining graduation requirements.

UC Davis, for example, is giving freshmen and sophomores the first opportunity to enroll in certain critical introductory classes before registration for these courses is opened, in a second round, to juniors and seniors.

"This will help ensure that the new students will be able to take the courses that they need and at the appropriate time in their academic career," Wood wrote in a recent e-mail to those expected to return as upper-division students in the fall.

"We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this restriction may cause you," Wood said. "We want to assure you that we will continue our work during the spring and summer to add capacity for fall so that seats will be available for you."

The campus also will continue to encourage current students to take advantage of summer instruction. Earlier, UC Davis announced a $300 credit for students who complete eight or more units in each of two Summer Sessions. Registration started May 9 for the summer classes, which begin in late June and early August.

The office of student housing is taking steps to be able to offer university housing to all freshmen. Measures include adding beds to existing rooms, converting common spaces to bedrooms and negotiating arrangements with an apartment complex adjacent to campus.

"UC Davis has a long tradition of offering university housing to all freshmen," said Bob Smiggen, director of student housing. "And we're going to continue that."

Historically, about 90 percent of freshmen want to live in university housing, so the number of beds might need to be increased by about 750, from 4,436 beds to about 5,200.

An estimated 388 rooms in Segundo North and Tercero South residence halls will be converted from double to triple rooms to house 1,164 students. The triple rooms in these newer residence halls were designed with greater square footage and higher ceilings to accommodate three students. An additional 123 rooms in Pierce and Thille halls also will be converted to triple rooms for 369 students. Families opting for the triple rooms will save about $1,200 over the cost of a double room for the academic year.

Some common study spaces in the Segundo high-rises and Pierce, Thille and Regan halls will be used to create triple or quad rooms for about 110 students. These rooms are about twice the size of a typical residence hall room.

The campus currently is working with the nearby apartment complex to have one- and two-bedroom units available for about 120 freshmen. Student residents, who would sign leases with the apartment management, would be able to purchase UC Davis meal plans and participate in residential education and social programs offered by the campus.

Student Housing also is planning to have some student resident assistants share their rooms with a student until other space becomes available.

Other services
To accommodate the larger class, an extra session has been added to the schedule for Summer Advising, a three-day program to help new students transition to studies and life at UC Davis.

Janet Gong, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said several work groups are identifying student services that might need to be augmented or modified to serve the larger number of students. The groups are focusing on three primary areas: academic support services, such as peer-based advising and tutoring; physical and mental health support; and student activities.

"We will be looking for innovative approaches to meet the increased demand we anticipate for some services," Gong said, adding that more services may go online for students' convenience.

Wood and Gong said the campus has a history of meeting enrollment challenges. In 2004, the campus successfully integrated an additional 500 students at the last minute. Late summer negotiations over the state budget had made it possible for the University of California to welcome students who had been diverted to community colleges.

Quality and diversity of the class
As UC Davis prepares for the new freshman class, officials are pleased by the academic talent and diversity of backgrounds the students will bring to campus.

Among the freshman applicants who accepted offers of admission are 143 recipients of the prestigious UC Regents Scholarship, a merit-based award valued at a minimum of $7,500 a year. This is the largest number of winners in the history of the campus.

The campus also reported some modest gains in the entering class better reflecting the mix of the state's population. More than 17.4 percent of the students accepting offers of admission are from historically underrepresented groups -- African American, American Indian and Chicano/Latino. Last year, they accounted for 14.6 percent.

Overall, campus enrollment has been about 30,000 for the last three years. The campus will be better able to project fall 2006 enrollment in a few weeks when the deadline passes for transfer applicants to accept admission offers and when numbers become available for continuing, graduate and professional students.

Media contact(s):
• Fred Wood, Undergraduate Studies, (530) 752-6068,
• Bob Smiggen, Student Housing, (530) 752-2034,
• Pamela Burnett, Undergraduate Admissions, (530) 752-3018,
• Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-8248,

Carousel Ride To The Past

Carousel Ride To The Past
City Brass Takes a Merry-Go-Round Ride
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Shawn Lum, Vacaville Museum director, rides the Nut Tree Family Park Carousel at Barrango Inc. headquarters in South San Francisco. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

It's not every day that the mayor rides a tiger.

But at Tuesday's unveiling of the custom-built carousel which will grace the plaza of the new Nut Tree Family park, Mayor Len Augustine was among dozens of Vacaville officials and council members who enthusiastically hopped aboard its 32 hand-painted horses and "menagerie animals," including ostriches, flamingos, frogs and zebras.

"We've all had this vision together about what we wanted (at the Nut Tree site)," Augustine said of those in attendance. "So to see it become reality and to see this beautiful carousel is just overwhelming."

Vice Mayor Pauline Clancy agreed.

Jeff Watts, artistic director at Barrango Inc., paints a horse on Tuesday during a media event which unveiled the Nut Tree Family Park Carousel and offered a sneak preview of what's to come to the new Nut Tree Family Park.

"It really takes you back to when you were a child. It's magical," remarked Clancy, who test-rode one of the carousel's wheelchair-accessible chariots. "I feel so fortunate that something so unique and wonderful will be located in our hometown."

First unveiled Tuesday in the South San Francisco factory where it was built by Barrango Inc.'s artisans over a five-month period, the carousel is reminiscent of wooden Dentzel carousels popular in the mid- to late-1800s.

Its 12 rounding boards - the decorative ovals located on the carousel's upper outside portion beneath its canopy - are paintings of the Nut Tree's past, recreated from photos obtained from the Vacaville Museum. Images include The Pied Piper with children on hobby horses, the ice cream pavilion, the Harbison House and waitresses at the Nut Tree Airport.

"They did a beautiful job," said Shawn Lum, director of the Vacaville Museum, as she rode the carousel. "It's a good use of the history, to take a photograph and actually incorporate it into the new experience."

Upon seeing the carousel at the entrance to the Family Park, people are "going to know that they've not only stepped back in time, but they're going to have a great experience with their family," said Lori Cowen, the project's manager from master developer Snell & Co.

The 3.7-acre park - part of the redevelopment efforts under way on the historic, 76-acre Nut Tree site - will feature a boat pond modeled after the one in Paris' Luxembourg Gardens, where children can push wooden boats with sticks, along with family-oriented amusement rides including "I-80 Traffic Jammers" bumper cars, the "Harvest Express" roller coaster, and the "Nut Tree Flight School" airplane ride.

"What a great place it's going to be," said Augustine. "You can take I-80 from New York City to San Francisco, and I guarantee you there'll be nothing like this anywhere."

The admission-free park - which is scheduled to open after Labor Day - will incorporate important Nut Tree icons.

Replicas of the hobby horses will abound, the original ice cream pavilion will function as the ticket booth, and the original Nut Tree train - which is being refurbished and will feature graphics identical to those from the Nut Tree restaurant - will traverse 1,700 feet of the park.

Additionally, a museum focused on Nut Tree and California history will be located in the center of the park in the Harbison House, the Nut Tree founders' original 1907 home. There will also be a birthday building and games building, which will not include video games nor violent games.

"It's a throwback to yesteryear," Cowen explained.

And it's very much meant to link the Nut Tree's past to its future, noted Kirk Smith, the Family Park's general manager.

"For years and years," he said, "dating back to July 3, 1921 - the first official day that the Nut Tree was in business - the Nut Tree was famous for providing unique experiences and memories for families and individuals that really last a lifetime."

Nut Tree memories, Smith noted, are nearly always recounted with passion, emotion and nostalgia.

The carousel, he said, is just the first example of how the Family Park will carry forward "that history and that nostalgia and that emotion into the new Nut Tree for a new generation."

Augustine remarked, "I can picture my granddaughter on there already."

Amanda Janis can be reached at

Nut Tree One Step Closer to Completion

Nut Tree One Step Closer to Completion
By Nathan Halverson

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO - Ohhs and awws, even a few tears, erupted from the suit-and-dress-clad dignitaries assembled to witness a monumental step in the redevelopment of the historic Nut Tree in Vacaville.

Creating all the excitement was a custom-crafted carrousel with 32 hand-painted animals sure to be among the highlights at the new Nut Tree Family Park.

The assembled crowd, ranging from Vacaville mayor Len Augustine to master developer Roger Snell, ogled the carrousel as it kicked to life and began spinning around for the first time in front of a crowd.

Developers unveiled the recently completed carrousel to about 30 onlookers Tuesday morning in South San Francisco, where the ride was custom built.

The unveiling is the one of several likely media events to be held in the build up for the 80-acre retail and family park scheduled to open shortly after Labor Day.

But unlike many events where canned speeches are delivered for sound bites fit for newspaper and broadcast, dignitaries such as Mayor Augustine seemed genuinely taken aback.

"I am so excited. I totally lost everything I was thinking of saying," Augustine said. "I'm overwhelmed."

Patricia Gideon said the carrousel reminded her of childhood.

"It's fantastic," she said.

Carol Yount, a Vacaville city employee and former worker at the Nut Tree in the 1960s, couldn't hold back her tears.

"I'm just so emotional," she said. "This is bringing back the memories of a wonderful place."

The Nut Tree began in 1921 when a farmer's wife began selling produce along what was then Highway 40. Her fledgling stand took root, grew and evolved into a destination point that even included a miniature train. The Queen of England even paid it a visit.

Westtrust, the new Nut Tree's developer, also unveiled the master site plane for the project, which includes 325,000 square feet of retail, the Nut Tree Family Park amusement park, 180 town homes, 150,000 square feet of office space, a limited-service hotel and a 200-room business hotel and conference center.

Jeff Watts, artistic director for Barrango - the company that designed the carrousel - spent about eight hours painting each animal, he said.

Watts was overwhelmed by the show of emotion from those in attendance.

"It's great. It makes me happy," he said. "It really does."

The family park's general manager, Kirk Smith, said the new park would be an escape from the everyday world.

"Now I have the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime," he said.

Nathan Halverson can be reached at 425-4646 X267 or

Monday, May 15, 2006

Yes on Measure H Responsible

Yes on Measure H Responsible
Reporter Editor:

Measure H is about responsibility. I will be voting for Measure H, not because I want to pay an additional half-cent sales tax, but because I believe Solano County has to participate in solving its traffic-related problems. Solano County continues to grow, and we drive our cars to school, work and play. We cannot continue to be part of the problem of our deteriorating roads and freeways, and contribute nothing extra to fixing them.

Seven of the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties have said they need to take responsibility for their transportation infrastructure problems and have approved sales tax measures for transportation.

Two others - Solano and Napa counties - are considering sales tax measures. In Napa County, there is universal political support and extremely strong business support for its measure. In Solano County, the support for Measure H seems a bit less solid. If Solano County fails to approve Measure H, we may have the distinction of being the only one of nine counties unwilling to lift our heads out of the sand. And with more state and federal transportation dollars linked to local "match" or local contribution requirements, failure to pass Measure H may prove to be extremely shortsighted.

I have seen signs advocating a no vote on Measure H, with the tagline, "Stop the waste." While a yes vote will not and cannot fix all our transportation problems, it at least takes a step in the direction of trying to reduce waste - wasted time, for example, in traffic on Jameson Canyon and in the Cordelia area. It also provides support for transportation options - a worthwhile effort since it is fact that we will never build ourselves out of congestion no matter how much we invest in land and concrete. And getting people off the freeways and into alternative commute options, in effect, reduces traffic.

Voting yes on Measure H is the responsible thing to do.

Gerry Raycraft, Fairfield

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Where Does All The Gas Tax Money Go?

Where Does All The Gas Tax Money Go?
By Barry Eberling

Richard Dinubilo fills up his tank at the Alliance Gas Station on West Texas Street. Gas prices have risen above $3 a gallon. (Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - During the 1960s, the federal and state governments built eight-lane Interstate 80 through Solano County without asking cities to put up extra, local money.

Things have changed. The trend since the 1980s has populous counties passing their own transportation sales taxes, then using the money to attract additional federal and state dollars to get interchanges built and freeways widened.

Some people call this "self help." Others call it "extortion."

The trend has arrived in Solano County. Voters on June 6 must decide whether to pass Measure H, a proposed half-cent county transportation sales tax.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price recently went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for transportation projects. He was part of a Solano Transportation Authority contingent that wanted money to fix the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange, among other things.

"The message was very clear: The 'self-help' counties across the country are the ones who receive federal matching dollars," Price said.

Vern Van Buskirk of the Central Solano Citizens/Taxpayers Group is among those who call the practice "extortion." In his view, the county shouldn't have to pass a local tax to get back tax money sent off to Washington and Sacramento.

What's clear is that the transportation world has changed since the heady building days of the 1960s. The state and federal governments could construct an interstate then. Now they have trouble fixing an interchange.

The rise of the gas tax

Government at the dawn of the auto age first grappled with the challenge of building highways. It came up with money-raising philosophy: you use it, you pay for it.

California in the early 1920s looked at methods to enact a users fee. The state considered tolls the best way, but couldn't justify collecting the money on sparsely traveled roads. That would have entailed setting up a far-flung system of toll booths.

Instead, the Legislature enacted the gas tax as a "second best" measure, said Martin Wachs, director of transportation, space and technology for the RAND Corp.

By 1932, all states had a gas tax. The federal government passed its first gas tax that year to help with a budget deficit, a Congressional report said.

In 1956, the federal government established a highway trust fund for its gas tax. Money went to transportation. The goal: To construct the interstate highway system.

This launched the heyday of road building in California and elsewhere. During the late 1950s and in the 1960s, Solano County saw I-80 take shape.

Gas tax problems

But those heady days of highway construction have long since passed, along with the buying power of the gas taxes.

"We haven't raised the motor fuel tax nearly enough to keep even with inflation," Wachs said.

Meanwhile, cars can go farther on less gasoline and construction costs have risen. That's made less money available at the state and federal levels, Wachs said.

The state gas tax in 1963 was 7 cents a gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that would be 43 cents a gallon today. California last raised the tax in 1995 to 18 cents a gallon.

And the federal gasoline tax in 1963 was 4 cents a gallon, or almost 25 cents in today's dollars. The federal gas tax today is 18.4 cents a gallon - again, below the rate of inflation.

The federal gasoline tax today is also involved in various controversies. Among them is California's status as a "donor state." State residents pay more in federal gas taxes than come back to the state for transportation projects.

Since 1956, this shortfall totals $2.1 billion, according to the California Performance Review.

Also, tax groups complain that Congress increasingly earmarks money in the federal transportation bills for projects they consider "pork." Examples include pedestrian paths, parking garages and expensive bridges in sparsely populated areas.

California voters in 2002 passed Proposition 42, which says that state sales tax from gasoline purchases will go to transportation starting in 2008. The state has at times used sales taxes from gasoline purchases for its general fund. This could bring an extra $1.4 billion annually for transportation.

Still, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says a transportation spending shortfall exists. The commission is a Bay Area transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency.

The Bay Area gets transportation money from such sources as gas taxes, tolls, transit fees and county transportation sales taxes. This is expected to bring in $118 billion over 25 years.

"Although a vast sum of money, the $118 billion budget is not enough," the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's 30-year plan says. "The Bay Area is faced with tremendous shortfalls just to maintain the existing transportation network."

The MTC plan explores ways to raise another $14.8 billion through such potential sources as a 5-cent-per-gallon regional gas tax, an additional $20 vehicle registration fee for the Bay Area, a statewide high-speed rail bond - and transportation sales taxes in Solano and Napa counties.

Filling in the gap

Counties in the 1980s noticed many desired transportation projects were no longer getting built. They started looking for ways to change the situation.

Santa Clara County passed the first California transportation sales tax in 1985. In the nine-county Bay Area today, only Napa and Solano counties are without transportation sales taxes. They both have tax measures on the June ballot.

"What I find interesting is the politics of these motor fuel taxes," Wachs said. "There seems to be less willingness among elected officials to support increases in gas taxes or tolls or whatever. The consequence is, more counties have to pass their own measures and raise taxes themselves."

Perhaps one reason the local sales tax increases are seen as more acceptable is they spread the increase over a wider base, Wachs said.

For example, a poll in Santa Clara County asked people whether they'd like to see the sales tax raised by 1 percent or the gas tax by 17 cents. Respondents preferred the sales tax increase.

Transportation sales tax advocates argue the tax is necessary to get projects built.

"Federal and state funding is insufficient to fully fund local transportation projects," an STA memorandum said.

Wachs sees some drawbacks to local taxes. For example, having every community selecting its own transportation projects de-emphasizes regional planning for regional transportation systems, he said.

Counties get the two-thirds votes to pass sales taxes by funding popular projects within their boundaries. Some, such as Solano County, use telephone polls to find out what projects will get the votes.

"I'm old-fashioned and I don't believe the way to do a regional, integrated, thoughtful transportation plan is by polls," Wachs said.

Still, Wachs agreed funding shortfalls exist at the state and federal levels. Very often, money from a local transportation sales tax is critical to getting projects built, he said. The local money fills the funding gap, he said.

"That's the name of the game now," he said.

Solano County resident Clif Poole wants to change the game. He doesn't buy the argument Solano County must pass a tax, like it or not, because the only other option is sitting in a traffic jam.

"Why just bow down to a situation?" Poole said.

Don't elect representatives such as Rep. George Miller and Rep. Ellen Tauscher if they urge the county to pass a sales tax, Poole said. Rather, he'd like to see people elected who will work to change the transportation funding system.

"That's what the ballot box is all about," Poole said.

The future

Wachs sees the local transportation sales taxes as an interim measure. In five, 10 or 15 years, he sees a return to the original idea of a user's fee.

"You pay for food when you go to the store, you pay for movies when you buy the ticket," Wachs said. "You should pay for roads when you make use of them."

When the Legislature in the 1920s reluctantly passed a gas tax instead of tolls, it expressed a desire to return to the tolls idea, if a practical method of collecting the money could be found, Wachs said.

"That's sort of been forgotten," Wachs said.

Eighty years later, the technology is here. Drivers on privately owned Southern California toll roads have devices called transponders in their cars that measure the miles traveled. The drivers get billed for their use of the roads. A similar device is available to motorists crossing Bay Area bridges to collect bridge tolls.

Wachs can envision something similar being done on a wider scale. Experiments are already under way in such places as Oregon.

An electronic device in a car could record the miles driven. When the driver goes to get gas, the device would send a signal to the pump. The driver would then pay the per-mile fee instead of the gas tax.

Ultimately, as time goes on, the per-mile fee could replace the gas tax. Then the Legislature's original idea could become reality: People pay for the roads when they use them.

The question is whether government will set the per-mile fee high enough to cover transportation costs, Wachs said.

But such ideas are for the future. The trend for the early 21st century remains county transportation sales taxes. On June 6, Solano County will decide whether to climb on board the bandwagon.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Taxing Transportation

Taxing Transportation - Measure Would Raise Money to Fix Highways, Fill Potholes, Run Ferries
By Barry Eberling

Traffic rolls down Highway 12 just west of Interstate 80 on Tuesday. Measure H will expand Highway 12 to four lanes. (Photo by Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)

Editor's note: A Measure H story tomorrow will explore why counties started turning to transportation sales taxes.

FAIRFIELD - Solano County is expected to get $2 billion in federal, state and regional transportation money during the next 25 years - far short of the $5.7 billion it wants.

That's not enough money to widen all the roads, fill in all the potholes and run all the buses, trains and ferries, local transportation leaders say. They want to pass a half-cent county transportation sales tax to help fill the gap.

Voters will decide June 6. They'll vote on Measure H, which is to raise an estimated $1.57 billion over 30 years.

County transportation tax measures failed in 2002 and 2004. Those versions got 60 percent and 64 percent of the vote. They needed 67 percent, or two-thirds of the vote, to pass.

Now comes Measure H, with a retooled spending list, trying to prove the third time's a charm.

Looking for more federal money

Measure H's spending list allots 40 percent of the measure's proceeds - an estimated $625 million - to highways.

Included in this category are dozens of projects including big-ticket items, such as improving the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange and widening Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon to four lanes. It also includes an array of ramp and lane improvements on highways and freeways all over the county.

But for all of this to get done, that $625 million in sales tax money would have to do the work of more than $2 billion. That's how much money is needed to complete all the eligible highway projects. The sales tax alone can't come near to doing the job.

"The intent is not to fully fund the highway program," STA Executive Director Daryl Halls said. "This is the local match."

By offering some local funds, the STA hopes to attract more federal and state funds.

Getting matches doesn't always go as planned. Napa County in 1998 passed a sales tax for a flood control project along the Napa River. It lobbies for state and federal money every year. The project was to be finished this year, but the date has been pushed to 2011 because the state and federal governments have paid less than expected.

The STA already has a good record getting federal, state and regional funds, Halls said. For example, he said, it's already pulled together $150 million for the interchange.

"That's been our aggressive pursuit of state and federal money," Halls said.

Having the local tax would allow the STA to keep projects moving forward during tough fiscal times for the state and federal governments, Halls said.

Plus, the local money can pay to get the projects ready to build, Halls said. It can pay for such things as the environmental studies.

"It's a lot easier to get state and federal dollars for construction," Halls said.

The interchange

Improving the I-80/I-680 and Highway 12 interchange is a flagship - and complicated - project. Autos can back up for miles here, especially on Friday nights and holidays. A design dating back to the 1960s doesn't work well in 2006.

It's still unclear what a reconfigured interchange would look like, beyond extra lanes and better connections between the two interstates and nearby Highway 12. Details will emerge during the next few months and years, as options are explored, an environmental study is completed and design work is done.

An additional $702 million to $1 billion is needed to fix the interchange. The local tax is to provide about $250 million to $300 million, Halls said. That is to be the local match to secure more state and federal dollars.

"The interchange will attract the most federal and state attention," Halls said. "It already has. It's not very difficult to explain. It's a link between the Bay Area and Sacramento. People understand that back in Washington."

With the tax, construction could be done in phases between now and 2030 as the various improvements are needed, Halls said.

Without a local tax, renovating the interchange could take 30 to 50 years, he said.

Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon

Another major project is widening Highway 12 through Jameson Canyon from two to four lanes.

This highway links Solano and Napa counties. The daily commute between the two counties continues to grow. The six-mile-long stretch of highway in the canyon can become a parking lot Friday evenings.

Solano County will need some help from Napa County to get this project completed because the county line is in the canyon. Napa County also has a transportation sales tax measure on the June ballot.

The project is to cost $112 million. Solano County, Napa County and the state are each to pay $30 million, with the rest of the money already available.

But it's possible Solano County could pass a tax for its share and Napa County won't, or vice versa. In such a case, does only half of Highway 12/Jameson Canyon get fixed, with the improvements stopping at the county line?

"It wouldn't solve any problems," said John Ponte of the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency. "It doesn't make any sense."

If one county and the state each put up $30 million, the county without the tax would have a big incentive to put up the remaining $30 million - even at the expense of other projects, Ponte said. That's because the money will have a multiplier effect with the other money on the table.

That county might be able to borrow against future state dollars for other transportation projects to come up with its share, Ponte said. But he sees a steep price, with those other projects possibly going by the wayside. Such planned projects as an interchange at highways 12 and 29 in Napa might not get done.

Both the Solano County and Napa County sales tax measures are called Measure H. That's no accident. Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon is the link.

"That was done because of that joint project," Ponte said.

Caltrans has estimated the project could be done by 2016. Ponte thinks completion could come sooner.

Other freeway projects

But getting rid of the big, most infamous traffic knots isn't enough. STA studies show the bottlenecks would move to other areas on the highways and freeways. For example, traffic going north through an improved I-80/I-680 interchange could come to a halt from Fairfield through Vacaville.

The STA in 2004 completed a master plan for I-80, I-680 and Interstate 780. These projects are eligible for sales tax money.

Highways in other parts of the county could also benefit. The STA completed a plan for Highway 12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista in 2001. A plan for Highway 113 is to come. Projects from these various plans would also be eligible for tax money.

Mass transit

Nineteen percent of the tax, an estimated $305 million, is allotted to mass transit. This is less than transit advocates initially wanted.

The county gets money for mass transit from the $1 toll hike on regional bridges that started last year, Halls said.

County Supervisor Barbara Kondylis had wanted more tax money for mass transit. But she considers the carpool lanes, which are in the highway spending category, as a mass transit project. Buses use carpool lanes to avoid congestion.

"It seemed to me silly to buy all those express buses and have them sit in traffic," Kondylis said at the Feb. 28 board meeting.

About $190 million is to go to commuter mass transit. This is to pay for three commuter trains from the Bay Area to Sacramento, express buses on Highway 12 linking Rio Vista, Fairfield-Suisun and Napa, additional express buses to the Bay Area and an additional Vallejo ferry.

Another $115 million is to go to senior and disabled transit. Projects could come from the STA's 2004 "Solano County Senior and Disabled Transit Study." They could include expanded paratransit services and transit to medical offices, shopping centers and senior centers.

The study sees the need as being there. About 9 percent of the county's population is 65 or older. This could grow to 19 percent by 2030, the study said. The older population tends to drive less and depend more on mass transit that can meet its special needs, it said.

Whether the money will be there is the question. Halls sees none available without a local sales tax.

"If you want to expand you senior and disabled transit services, this is your opportunity to do it," he said.

Street maintenance and safety

Twenty percent of the tax, or as estimated $315 million, would go for street maintenance. This money would essentially help get rid of potholes in Solano County's seven cities and in the rural areas.

Each city and the rural county will get an annual amount that is determined by a formula. This formula looks at population and how many miles each county must maintain.

Fairfield for years has tried to spend $4 million annually on street maintenance. However, it seldom meets the City Council-approved goal and more often spends about $2.8 million. The city would receive about $2.2 million annually from the sales tax.

Supervisor Duane Kromm has expressed concerns that cities might simply replace their own maintenance money with the sale tax maintenance moneys. Then citizens would get a fiscal shell game instead of fewer potholes.

To address this, the tax measure says cities must keep spending the same amount of their own money on street maintenance as they did in 2005-06. If a city failed to do so, it wouldn't get the tax money. The intent is that the tax money supplement, not replace, the existing money, the measure says.

The tax gives 10 percent, or $155 million, to safety projects such as improved intersections and safer routes to schools. Projects eligible for the money are included an STA safety study.

Money to the county and its cities

Solano County and its seven cities would also get some transportation money from the tax that they could control. They would split 10 percent of the tax, or an estimated $155 million.

Once again, the allotments would be made according to a formula. Fairfield would get $40.2 million, while smaller Suisun City would get $10.4 million.

Projects could range from road improvements to building transit centers. Whatever is done is to follow the goals of the STA's Transportation For Livable Communities program. This program encourages pedestrian-friendly developments where residents depend less on cars.

Vacaville needs such things as more parking and an intermodal station for different types of mass transit, Mayor Len Augustine said at a May 2 forum on Measure H. Other cities have other needs, he said.

"It's not one size fits all," Augustine said.

The STA will determine if the goals of the Transportation For Livable Communities program are being met.

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

Transportation tax spending list

Highway improvements and safety: $625 million, 40 percent. For highway projects throughout the county, including improvements at the Interstates 80/680 interchange.

Local streets and roads: $315 million, 20 percent. This money would fight potholes. Over 30 years, Fairfield would get $69.8 million, Suisun City $17.7 million, Vacaville $64.2 million, Vallejo $78.1 million, Benicia $19.4 million, Dixon $11.9 million, Rio Vista $5.1 million and the rural county $47.8 million.

Commuter mass transit: $190 million, 12 percent. For express buses, commuter trains and ferries.

Safety projects and safe routes to school: $155 million, 10 percent. Eligible projects include bike routes to schools, improved crosswalks, railroad crossings and traffic signals.

Money to county and cities for their own transportation projects: $155 million, 10 percent. Over 30 years, Fairfield is to get $40.2 million, Suisun City $10.4 million, Vacaville $34.3 million, Vallejo $47 million, Benicia $8.4 million, Dixon $7.4 million, Rio Vista $5.2 million and the rural county $4.1 million.

Senior and disabled mass transit: $155 million, 7 percent. Projects include more evening and weekend service, subsidized taxi services and fare discounts.

Solano Transportation Improvement Authority administration/finance: $15 million, 1 percent

Note: Based on 30-year revenue estimate of $1.57 billion

Source: Solano Transportation Authority

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

UC Davis Plows Back $3 Billion

UC Davis Plows Back $3 Billion
By Reporter Staff

The University of California, Davis generated $3.06 billion in economic activity in California during the last full fiscal year, the university's news service announced.

That represents an increase of 4.4 percent, or $130 million, in economic activity from the $2.93 billion generated in the 2003-04 fiscal year.

"We are pleased to make such a contribution and grateful to the state and others whose investment in U.C. Davis has helped spur this kind of positive impact," said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef in a written statement.

U.C. Davis remains one of the largest employers in the region, with 27,816 full-time and part-time employees. The university paid out $1.1 billion in salaries and wages to those employees in the 2004-05 fiscal year, ending June 30, 2005, while collecting revenues totaling $2.25 billion - half of which are thought to have come from outside the area.

Officials estimate that for every two direct jobs at UC Davis, approximately one other job is created in the state of California. That translates to

U.C. Davis' 27,816 full- and part-time positions generating approximately 15,500 more jobs across the state.

Additionally, the discoveries that result from university research and programs are increasingly being transferred to the public sector, with 142 U.S. patent applications filed in 2004-05, and 47 U.S. patents issued.

"U.C. Davis is dedicated to making a tangible difference in the lives of people everyday," noted Vanderhoef. "This latest financial report shows one way we are indeed doing that - through the campus' very significant economic benefit to the state and to the Sacramento region."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Work Begins on Veterans Cemetery

Work Begins on Veterans Cemetery
By Ian Thompson

DIXON - The ground is dry and workers have started leveling the area for the new veterans cemetery planned just west of Dixon.

If everything goes according to plan, the first veterans burials could start within six months in one 14-acre section of the national cemetery.

The cemetery doesn't have a formal name yet. That's still in the hands of the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Dean L. Moline, the cemetery's director.

Local veterans are lobbying to get the cemetery named the Solano National Cemetery while Sacramento area veterans groups have pushed to have it called the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

The VA bought the land in July 2004 to establish a 561-acre cemetery because of the large population of veterans in the area. The nearest national cemetery still open to burials is 100 miles away in Gustine.

Local veterans, the California National Guard and Travis Air Force Base's honor guard are starting work to create honor guards for those who will be buried there full honors.

"The Air Force and California National Guard is working hand-in-hand with local veterans and has guaranteed to have people available to render burial honors," Moline said.

It is estimated more than 2,000 people will be buried there during its first year.

"We are just getting started organizing a veterans honor guard," said Vacaville veteran Kathleen Herron, who is working to organize veterans in Solano County. "We are trying to set up foundation with local veterans to work with active duty to get the veterans what they deserve."

They will have their work cut out for them. The honor guard at Gustine National Cemetery conducts burial honors on the average of one every 15 minutes.

"We would like this to be a model for other national cemeteries to aspire to," said Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan, a retired Air Force officer, during a recent veterans groups meeting.

Moline set up temporary offices at the VA Outpatient Clinic on Travis Air Force Base to oversee construction, work with local veterans and organize the cemetery's administration.

Local veterans interested in helping organize an honor guard can call Herron at 430-7023.

For more information about the national cemetery near Dixon, call Moline at 437-1849.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Measure H is a Winner All Around

Measure H is a Winner All Around
By Doug Ford

It's high time for Solano County to start catching up with the rest of the Bay Area counties in improving its transportation facilities, one of the most critical elements of our infrastructure system. Our future prosperity and well-being requires that we act now to build for our future.

That's what Californians did back in what is now often called "California's Golden Age," in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Pat Brown was governor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was trying to emulate the first Gov. Brown with the massive infrastructure building project for which he recently tried, but failed to win legislative approval. According to "California 2025: Taking on the Future," an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California of the state's current infrastructure needs, the state highway plan adopted in 1959 is the largest public works project ever built in the United States by a single organization.

Even though only half of the project then envisioned was built, it provided the capital investment foundation for the state to grow an economy now unmatched by all but a handful of nations. It is time for us to do for the next generations what the "Greatest Generation" did for us nearly half a century ago.

We can do that for Dixon and Solano County by voting yes for Measure H on June 6. Back in the 1970s the state gasoline tax was the main source of funding for transportation improvements. But increasing fuel efficiency and the failure to adjust the tax for inflation have eroded the available funds. The gas tax now raises about one-third as much per mile driven as it did in 1970. Cuts in auto license fees by Govs. Pete Wilson and Schwarzenegger also have substantially reduced the state funding available.

In the system that has evolved in California through the past several decades, the only way that critically needed transportation projects can be funded is by passing local supplemental sales taxes, as in Measure H. Since 1978, 20 counties, including all of the Bay Area counties except Napa and Solano, have passed similar measures. Napa County has a like measure on the ballot in June.

Thanks to the leadership of Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville and the City Council, Dixon is ahead of other cities in Solano County in preparing for rail and other commuter services to the Bay Area and Sacramento with the grand opening of its transportation center noon today.

The largest part of the funds to be raised - 40 percent - will go to highway corridor improvements and safety projects along the interstate freeways. The biggest project, of course, will be to improve the Cordelia interchange of Interstate 80, I-680 and state Highway 12 which gives us all the shivers as it is.

High occupancy vehicle lanes - also HOV lanes or carpool lanes - will be established from Vacaville to Vallejo. Corridor and safety improvements will also be made along state Highway 12 and state Highway 113. Dixon is slated to receive $11.9 million for maintenance and repair of local streets and roads, and $7.4 million for projects to be determined by the local community. Safety projects and safe routes to schools are scheduled to receive $155 million or 10 percent of the total funding.

Federal and state governments have failed to keep up with our transportation needs for decades. The state and federal money that is available is allotted as matching funds to those communities who exercise local initiatives like Measure H. The money raised by Measure H will be spent 100 percent in the county and will create jobs for 30 years.

Measure H is a winner for Dixon, Solano County, and all of California. We can create a new golden era for coming generations to look back upon with admiration. I urge everyone to get out to the new train station and join in the fun today.

The author lives in Dixon and serves on the Solano County Board of Education.

Dixon Transportation Center Unveiled

Dixon Transportation Center Unveiled
By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

Country music legend Johnny Cash famously sang, "I hear a train a comin', it's comin' round the bend."

Those lyrics reflected the hopes of the hundred-plus crowd of Dixon residents, businessmen and county transportation officials who gathered at the new Dixon Transportation Center Saturday.

Now that the ribbon is cut, the center will begin serving as a hub for local and express buses, Dixon's popular Readi-Ride transit service and as a commuter transfer station.

But one of the major goals of the station, an attractive mustard yellow and brown-trimmed depot that hearkens back to Dixon's simpler railroad days, is to lure a passenger train service to come around the bend, said Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville.

"Passenger trains started fading away" (with the rise of the automobile in the 1960s), Courville told an enthusiastic crowd. "The trend is now toward putting traffic back on the tracks."

Specifically, Dixon transportation leaders are looking to make their station one of the next stops along the popular Capitol Corridor train service, which runs all the way north of Sacramento to San Jose.

A little ahead of the noon schedule, the Capitol Corridor train stopped in Dixon Saturday on a ceremonial trip, and as a way to show the Dixon crowd what could be.

Current projections say the train service won't make Dixon a stop until 2015.

But the new depot, a historic recreation of Dixon's old station, has officials hoping that their efforts could shrink that timeline.

City workers even dug up an old sign, weathered and painted white, that reads in simple block letters - DIXON.

The sign won't be enough for a train stop, but it's a step in the right direction, say city leaders.

The next phase of the station is to build a platform from the depot to the train tracks, which could host commuters waiting for a ride to work in as little as five years, officials hope.

Courville made her pitch for that accelerated timeline standing on a stage, accompanied by a school band, and flanked by local and regional transportation leaders.

"I believe it will be a lot sooner than (2015)," Courville told the audience. "All we need is money. That has never stopped us before."

Measure H, a proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation on the June 6 ballot, could be all the extra funding needed to speed a train along to Dixon.

In fact, the $1.6 billion in revenues that would be reaped by the tax over 30 years, could secure stops of the Capitol Corridor in Dixon, the in-progress Fairfield-Vacaville station and one planned for Benicia.

"Measure H really is an investment in your community," said Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering, the county's Metropolitan Transportation Commission representative. "It's so we can see projects just like this."

The county currently has a Capitol Corridor stop in Suisun City. That station serves many commuters conveniently, including one of the county's transportation officials.

Jayne Bauer, the spokeswoman for the Solano Transportation Authority, takes the train from Sacramento, near her Carmichael home, all the way to Suisun City every work day.

The authority's office is within easy walking distance of One Harbor Center, a successful redevelopment project that houses the STA and other offices.

The Capitol Corridor is starting to become recognized nationally as a successful service, say transportation officials.

It's currently the third largest rail corridor in the country and demand is growing.

The government-run service recovers nearly 50 percent of its costs at the fare box, which is considered good for public transportation. By September, the corridor will run 32 of the high-speed commuter trains, corridor officials said.

As an old freight rumbled by on the nearby tracks, Spering again pumped up an affable Dixon crowd scattered around the plaza of the new transportation center.

"We're going to hear that sound, but it's going to be Capitol Corridor train that stops in Dixon," he said.

While the goal of the transportation center is to land a commuter train, the station is hoped to be an emerging civic gem in Dixon.

The Dixon Chamber of Commerce plans to move into the new building sometime after the Dixon May Fair this month.

"We'll be more visible to the public," said Marcie Marania, a chamber representative.

The Chamber of Commerce will, of course, promote the city's burgeoning business scene from the new station. But the building will also serve as a historical touchstone for visitors and city residents as well.

The history of Dixon will be presented in the building in the same way as interpretative centers in museums, said city officials.

It's fitting that Dixon's history be presented at a train station. For many of its pioneer years, the city relied on the railroad.

So much so, that the United Methodist Church of Dixon, originally in Silveyville, was hauled into town so that it could be closer to the people.

Why it sits at its exact location on North Jefferson Street, is a little bit of Dixon charm and history, Courville explained.

The holy place was lifted off its foundation and moved to Dixon on rolling logs, but there was a snag.

"They couldn't figure out the logs and the church over the tracks, so they left it there," she said.

Jason Massad can be reached at

Measure H Makes Good Cents, Good Sense

Measure H Makes Good Cents, Good Sense
Reporter Editor:

For the life of me I can't understand the few vocal naysayers when it comes to Measure H. As a former traffic reporter for Bay Area television and radio stations, I can tell you whenever there is an accident on state Highway 12 - either going towards Stockton or Napa - it often involves fatalities and ties up traffic in both directions for hours.

I have commuted on Highway 12 to Stockton to work and still take that dangerous stretch to see family. I also use Jameson Canyon many times of the day and night for crucial family medical procedures in Napa. Due to the uncertainty of traffic conditions, I try to pick "the right time to travel," but am still often greeted with delays. It is unnerving to fear missing those hard-to-get appointments.

Now, I am a local Realtor and find that many of my clients are more concerned about commute times than other important factors influencing their decision to buy. Home values reflect the total quality-of-life package and transportation is a big quality-of-life issue.

We need the matching federal funds now. Voters can help prevent future danger, delays and uncertainty by joining me in being a part of the solution. It makes good cents and good sense. I urge voters to vote yes for Measure H.

Sheilah Tucker, Fairfield

Friday, May 05, 2006


University of California, Davis
March 22, 2006


March 29, Wednesday -- UC Davis will celebrate the opening of a new building dedicated to the study of mathematical sciences. The 65,000-square-foot, $22 million Mathematical Sciences Building provides new office and research space for the Department of Mathematics, Department of Statistics, the Center for Computational Science and Engineering, and the COSMOS (California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science) program. The guest speaker at the dedication will be Gayle Wilson, former first lady of California and chair of the COSMOS advisory board. Other speakers will include UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef; Winston Ko, dean of the division of mathematical and physical sciences; and dean emeritus Peter Rock.
The event will take place at the entrance to the new Mathematical Sciences Building, between Academic Surge and the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, beginning at 3 p.m. Opening ceremonies will be followed by student-led tours of the building.

Media contact(s):
* Amanda Price, College of Letters and Science, (530) 752-9023,
* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533,

Our full UC Davis directory of media services and 24-hour contact information is available at .
Need information from campus news archives? The UC Davis News Service database contains past (and current) UC Davis news stories dating to 1991. Go to .
More university news and an experts directory:

UC Davis News Service
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616-8687
Phone: (530) 752-1930; Fax: (530) 752-4068

Vacaville Shifts into Gear on Tax for Transportation

Vacaville Shifts into Gear on Tax for Transportation
By Robin Miller/City Editor

Mayor Len Augustine speaks Thursday at the the Chamber of Commerce to mark the Vacaville kickoff for Measure H. The mayor spoke about the importance of passing the measure. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Vacaville city and business leaders gathered with representatives of county and state government Thursday to rally behind Measure H, a proposed half-cent sales tax increase that will go before the voters in June.

Designed to pay for transportation improvements, Measure H is vital for Solano County's and Vacaville's future, said Mayor Len Augustine.

"It is a little unusual for a person as far to the right as I am to support a tax," he quipped. But having served in public office for so long, Augustine said he knows all too well the difficulty in obtaining state and federal dollars to fix roads.

"I've traveled to Washington and Sacramento and the first question is always 'Do you have matching funds,' " he said. "And if you don't, you are moved to the back of the line."

For Augustine and others at Thursday's press conference in the courtyard at the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, getting voters to understand that dynamic is vital.

"We've gotta get out of the state of denial and listen to those who are trying to deal with these issues," said County Supervisor Mike Reagan. "We have to have tax in order to get state and federal dollars to deal with the issues."

For Gary Tatum, former Vacaville police chief and current Vacaville Chamber of Commerce director, the issue has global ramifications.

"You have to think globally. How does our failing infrastructure affect business on a national and international basis?" he said. "This is a vital business transportation corridor."

Garland Porter, city treasurer, endorsed the measure, saying it guarantees funds will be used locally and will help senior citizens as it raises money for improved and expanded paratransit services.

"Saying 'no' will only bring more gridlock and tragedy," Porter said. "Measure H allows us to take control of our transportation destiny."

Robin Miller can be reached at

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

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