Monday, March 31, 2008

A Showcase for Growth of Aviation

A Showcase for Growth of Aviation
Museum Offers Window to Travis' Past
By Brian Hamlin
Article Launched: 03/30/2008

A B-29 "Superfortress" has its home at the Travis Air Museum along with other bombers, trainers, fighters, and cargo aircraft. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

Travis Air Force Base is now a bustling center of 21st century aviation technology.
A little more than 60 years ago, however, it was nothing more than an unattractive stretch of windswept prairie east of an unremarkable little town called Fairfield.

Today, visitors can follow the evolution of the base at the sprawling Travis Air Museum, where they'll find everything from a World War II Japanese fighter pilot's uniform to dozens of restored military aircraft with monikers like "Voodoo," and "Flying Box Car."

"We try to concentrate on the history of Travis and the history of flight in the Pacific, but it's really a pretty eclectic collection," said museum director Dr. Gary Leiser. "We have a little bit of everything from World War I to the present."

The 20,000-square-foot museum, located in a structure that once housed the base commissary, provides a remarkably broad view of life at Travis and of aviation history in general.

Although Travis didn't exist during World War I, military aviation of the time is painstakingly explored in one corner of the museum, replete with model aircraft, uniforms, official orders transmitting the news of the Armistice in 1918 and even a complete volume of the military newspaper, "Stars and Stripes," with issues between Feb. 8, 1918 through June 13, 1919.

The front page of one issue highlights advances in combat dentistry of the era, with a headline announcing: "Tooth Yanking Car is Touring France".

Nearby, museum volunteers are building a diorama representing a scene from the World War II D-Day invasion, including a restored Piper L-4 Grasshopper observation aircraft, portable field desks and equipment. When it's finished, a large wall mural depicting a D-Day scene will complete the exhibit.

Nearby, visitors can view a completed exhibit depicting a World War II medevac mission in New Guinea. Center stage is a restored Stinson L-5 Sentinel aircraft configured to evacuate wounded GIs from combat zones.

Wandering through the exhibits, visitors can learn everything they ever wanted to know about World War II's Gen. Jimmy Doolittle - who, although never stationed at Travis, reportedly enjoyed duck hunting in the nearby Suisun Marsh - or explore a life-sized mock-up of an early Mercury space capsule from the 1960s.

The latter exhibit is supposed to be popular with kids, but it's surprising how many adults pause to climb into the tiny spacecraft.

Leiser is quick to point out that he's sometimes unable to pinpoint exactly where some of the smaller museum exhibit pieces originated.

"You never know what's going to come through the door here," he said. "The donations just seem to arrive."

Elsewhere in the museum, there's an exhibit dedicated to the achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen, a cavernous jet engine from a C-5 Galaxy transport, a Korean War era .50-caliber ball turret assembly from a U.S. Navy PB4Y, and a genuine atomic bomb casing identical to that of the "Fat Man" A-bomb that helped bring an end to World War II when it was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

On a considerably less serious note, the museum also has acquired a complete studio set of the Starship Enterprise's bridge from the original Star Trek TV series. It's going to need some work, but Leiser says volunteers hope to have it ready for visitors sometime in the near future.

The Travis Air Museum has one of the largest collections of military aircraft on the West Coast, with dozens of fighters, bombers and transports from World War II through Vietnam standing silent vigil outside the museum structure.

The B-52 Stratofortress jet bomber, a workhorse of the Vietnam era, is there, along with a Korean War F-86 Sabre jet fighter and a World War II C-47 Skytrain transport, the latter a recent donation from longtime Solano County aviation enthusiast Duncan Miller.

The museum is free and open to the general public although, because of post 9/11 security measures, visitors without military ID should contact the Travis Visitor Center at 424-1462; or the museum at 424-5605, ahead of time.

Philip White, 16, (left) helps Isabella Blalock, 5, both of Antioch, out of a replica Project Mercury spacecraft on display at the Travis Air Museum Thursday. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Bay Area Communities Get Creative to Draw Tourists

Bay Area Communities Get Creative to Draw Tourists
Saturday, 29 March 2008

BENICIA, Calif. (KCBS) -- The downturn in the economy has some Bay Area communities competing for tourists to help generate revenue. Sometimes the competition is between cities right next to each other. A classic example is Benicia and Vallejo, which both sit along the Carquinez Strait and offer great visits.

Yet, only Benicia is making a concerted effort to draw tourist dollars to town. In the next few weeks, the city council will be presented with a new marketing strategy for Benicia, including the slogan “Great Day by the Bay,” according to Amalia Lorentz, the city’s economic development manager.

Vallejo also has a waterfront location as well, but hasn’t done much in the way of getting a marketing strategy off the ground.

Mike Browne of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau says they’d set aside $80,000 for a marketing campaign, but it vanished. Coincidentally, that's about the same amount Benicia is spending on its campaign which could be unveiled this fall.

Browne says due to the city's tenuous fiscal health, his bureau may have to ask corporations, businesses and community organizations to raise the money to help shine a spotlight on Vallejo. He also hopes to launch a new city slogan as the North Star of the Bay.

Area Forecast Turns Brighter

Area Forecast Turns Brighter
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/31/2008

The same things that drove the local economy during the boom times are what's dragging it down now and will likely continue doing so for a few more months, according to a new economic forecast.

Jeffrey Michael and Christiadi of the University of the Pacific's business forecasting center said areas like Solano County that experienced a several-years-long building boom are being hard hit by the national economic slowdown. On the other hand, the diversity of the Vallejo area's economy will help mitigate the damage, they said.

"There is a distinct difference between the Bay Area and the Central Valley where construction has fallen off, and it was construction that was the economic driver in the area," said Michael, who heads the university's Eberhardt School of Business. "The areas where the construction boom was hottest are slowing down the most."

The Solano County economy has actually been slowing since the third quarter of 2007, Michael said.

All of California is suffering the effects of the real estate and credit crises, he said. Some areas are just feeling it more than others.

"On the other hand, the Vallejo area has some concentration in some more stable employment sectors like government, education and health," said Christiadi, an analyst for the center. Employment numbers should begin picking up in the final quarter of 2008, he said.

"We expect the economy to rebound in late 2008, and hopefully that will be the end of this crisis," Christiadi said.

The latest state employment statistics seem consistent with the center's finding. According to the Employment Development Department, the unemployment rate in Solano County was 6.1 percent in February. That's down from a revised 6.3 percent in January, but above the year-ago estimate of 5.3 percent, according to the state.

This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.1 percent for California and 5.2 percent for the nation during the same period.

Michael and Christiadi said their study suggests the economy will start turning around by the second half of the year, with employment lagging a little behind.

"We probably won't see any large improvement until the beginning of 2009," Michael said. "The (government-issued) rebate checks will help stimulate the economy and we'll start to see an easing of the credit crunch and a stabilizing of the real estate market."

Anyone able to weather the next few months should begin to be able to loosen their proverbial belts by the beginning of 2009, the men said.

"This is definitely a hard hit. A major adjustment is going on," Christiadi said. "But in the long run, the prospects are still excellent for California."

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Campbell Expansion of Dixon Facility Could Benefit Area Farmers

Campbell Expansion of Dixon Facility Could Benefit Area Farmers
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 28, 2008

The Campbell tomato processing plant in Dixon is planning an expansion that will aloow them handle 15 percent more tomatos. The plan could help local farmers. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Plans to expand the Campbell tomato processing plant near Dixon could also change the landscape of some Solano County farmlands.

An expanded plant is to handle 15 percent more tomatoes than the existing one. But it's also to handle specialty vegetables for ingredients in the company's V8 and V8 V-Fusion drinks.

'It's potentially going to open us up to growing different crops than we've done before, on contract with Campbell,' said Joseph Martinez, president of the Solano County Farm Bureau.

County farmers and officials hope this is just a beginning. The $23 million plant expansion comes as Solano County is launching a drive to bring more agricultural processing plants to the region.

'The Campbell announcement was a shot in the arm,' Martinez said. 'It can be the first step down the road of renaissance for agriculture in this county.'

What different crops might be needed by an expanded Campbell plant are still unclear. Campbell spokesman Anthony Sanzio refused to divulge this for proprietary reasons, saying the company will work with its suppliers and farmers.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Coast Still Not Clear in Lagoon Valley

Coast Still Not Clear in Lagoon Valley
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 29, 2008

Standard Pacific Homes is working on an agreement to develop part of Lagoon Valley. Mike McCoy Photo by Mike McCoy

VACAVILLE - With a recently approved urban land use initiative behind him, a developer wanting to build 1,025 homes in Lagoon Valley is now working on getting permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Standard Pacific Homes is in the process of working out how to meet the Army Corps of Engineers' requirements for mitigating the development's impact on wetlands, streams and ponds in the valley.

'There are still a few hurdles to cross,' said Jack Jarell of Irvine-based Standard Pacific.

Jarell hopes to get the permits later this year, but when the work will start depends on the general economic climate and the winter.

'That is very tentative because what they want now may change,' Jarell said.

The Vacaville City Council last Tuesday night approved the initiative that creates a line outside of which the city cannot rezone land for any use other than open space or farming.

See the complete stort at the Daily Republic Online.

Boat Sales Firm Signs Lease

Boat Sales Firm Signs Lease

California Marine Sports, Inc. will open a boat sales and service operation by mid-April near the public boat launch in Suisun City.

The company will offer five boat lines for sale in the 10,500 square-foot marine retail and showroom building while operating the four-bay marine service facility, officials said.

Restaurant Deal Signed in Suisun

Restaurant Deal Signed in Suisun

The owner of Merchant & Main restaurant in Vacaville, Bob Tooke has signed a lease to open a new restaurant on the Suisun City waterfront.

The restaurant will be located in Harbor Square, a 40,000 square-foot project currently under construction at the corner of Main and Solano streets, adjacent to Harbor Plaza. The new restaurant is slated to open in the fall and will feature an upscale menu, full bar and patio seating.

For more information on the Harbor Square plan, call 425-2975.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Benicia Picks Slogan To Brand City

Benicia Picks Slogan To Brand City
Council reviews plan to market city as 'great day by the bay'
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/28/2008 07:58:01

The Benicia Economic Development Commission selected this logo and slogan to present to City Council. (Courtesy image)

The Benicia Economic Development Commission selected this logo and slogan to present to City Council. (Courtesy image) BENICIA - Is Benicia "a welcoming, charming place to explore," or is it more "a great day by the bay?"

Those were the slogan choices officials were asked to consider at a recent meeting of Benicia's Economic Development Board. The advisory panel voted 5-1 for the "great day" slogan, said Benicia economic development manager Amalia Lorentz.

The City Council will review the plan developed by The Placemaking Group and either approve or reject it, she said.

The plan to develop a marketing strategy for Benicia, including adopting a logo and a slogan, has been in the conceptual stage for about two years, Lorentz said.

"We've been working since November with a citizens advisory board to work out what marketing plan would help bring people to Benicia," Lorentz said.

A consulting firm was hired to determine what makes Benicia special, she said.

"Benicia is a focal point for art, shopping and California history, set in a beautiful waterfront location - that's the wording," she said. "Our marketing strategy will concentrate on those elements."

"Hopefully we will adopt this within the next few months and then we can move ahead with its implementation," which will include signage and targeted advertising, Lorentz said.

Any city hoping to attract tourists, must find a way to set itself apart, Lorentz said.

"It's important for any community that wants to attract visitors to have a focus," she said.

The concept is not alien to Vallejo officials, just essentially unattainable because of the city's fiscal crisis, said Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau head Mike Browne.

Browne, in fact, tried to help launch a marketing program for Vallejo last year. At that time, the bureau had earmarked about $80,000 for a branding and marketing program, but drastic budget cuts nixed the plan.

"You have to consider the situation with our budget," he said. "Maybe when we get to it, it will come not from the city, but from a combination of forces like us and the Chamber of Commerce, the downtown association, the CCRC and local developers like Triad and Callahan DeSilva, working together to make Vallejo a much stronger destination."

Browne said he's attended some of the Benicia meetings on the issue, and continues to gather ideas in anticipation of when Vallejo officials can focus on recovery and see the benefit of "branding."

Browne said he's philosophical about Vallejo's inability to make a marketing plan materialize. But he hasn't given up on the idea.

"What Benicia is doing is very important for Vallejo to do, also," Browne said.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce President Rick Wells on the other hand, said he is slightly frustrated.

"I hear stories like that (about Benicia following through on ideas Vallejo seems unable to) all the time," Wells said. "There's clearly room for drastic improvement."

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SCC Shows Vacaville Center Site To Bidders

SCC Shows Vacaville Center Site To Bidders
By Nika Megino | Daily Republic | March 26, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Solano Community College's plans for a new center in Vacaville are going from blueprint to reality.

Potential bidders on Wednesday take a tour of the 60-acre site, which is directly across from the current center's location at 2000 North Village Parkway.

Plans for phase one of the project were approved by the Department of State Architecture. The college plans to select a company to lead the project within two weeks, said Ross Beck, the college's public information officer.

Phase one calls for the construction of a 40,000-square-foot facility and parking areas on 10 of the 60 acres. The two-story building will include a multi-use room, a learning lab, a lecture hall, two science labs, two computer labs, seven classrooms, study areas and offices for faculty and staff.

Beck said development of the 50 remaining acres, which will include athletic fields and other buildings, will come at a later date.

For the complete story see the Daily Republic Online.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

City Sets 20-Year Urban Growth Limit

City Sets 20-Year Urban Growth Limit
By Jennifer Gentile
Article Launched: 03/26/2008

Opting not to postpone a decision or call for an election, the City Council on Tuesday night put a growth boundary into effect around Vacaville.

The boundary, which the council approved unanimously, prohibits rezoning of the land outside the urban limit for uses other than agriculture or open space for 20 years. The initiative was part of a 2004 settlement agreement among the city, Triad Communities and the Greenbelt Alliance over development plans in the lower Lagoon Valley.

A growth boundary petition began circulating in January, and supporters collected more than 11,000 signatures. The county registrar of voters office determined that more than 8,400 of these were valid - which is more than twice the number required to get the measure on the ballot.

The council had three options when it met Tuesday - approve the boundary outright, send the matter to local voters or ask staff to prepare a report containing additional information. Staff recommended approval - explaining that the land inside the urban limit line is enough to meet the city's residential and economic needs for the next two decades.

With the exception of one resident, who favored an election, speakers from the public urged the council to take action. Shirley Swan, administrator at First Baptist Church, said she attended the meeting "to express my support and that of an overwhelming majority of our congregation."

"We believe the initiative is a wise and balanced policy that allows growth," she said, "while protecting our quality of life and the things we all treasure about Vacaville."

Amanda Brown-Stevens, field director for the Greenbelt Alliance, pointed out that more Vacaville residents signed the petition than voted in the last election.

"The response to the signature-gathering effort was overwhelming," she said, "and confirms the strong and widespread support for the initiative, which will help Vacaville grow in a way that preserves working farms and open space" as well as "vibrant economic growth."

Council members were also impressed by the number of signatures gathered and agreed that approving the limit line was the wisest option.

"(It) makes a lot of sense," said Councilman Curtis Hunt, "and promotes stability in our planning process."

Vice Mayor Chuck Dimmick said the line leaves adequate potential for both jobs and housing.

"If we send it back to voters, I'm afraid Lagoon Valley becomes an issue again," he said. "To go back and rehash that battle is counterproductive."

The limit line also had support from Councilwoman Pauline Clancy, who called it "a good boundary."

"It's good for Vacaville," she said. "I think the number of signatures indicates (how) the election would turn out without the expense."

In other business, the council approved a rate adjustment for local taxi service, which would raise the rate from .25 cents per 1/7 of a mile to .25 per 1/10 of a mile. Rates for local cabs have not been increased since 2004.

Benicia's Universal Environmental bought by Clean Harbors Inc.

Benicia's Universal Environmental bought by Clean Harbors Inc.
East Bay Business Times

Clean Harbors Inc. has acquired Universal Environmental Inc., an environmental services company, Clean Harbors said Monday.

Norwell, Mass.-based Clean Harbors (NASDAQ: CLHB) is a provider of environmental and hazardous waste management services. Universal Environment, which provides environmental services, has headquarters in Benicia and a site office in Sparks, Nev.

The purchase includes the land surrounding the Benicia office, which Clean Harbors said it will use for future expansion.

Universal Environmental has approximately 100 employees and was profitable and generated approximately $15 million in revenue in 2007, according to Clean Harbors' announcement.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Proposal To Make Route More Safe Wins Grant

Proposal To Make Route More Safe Wins Grant
By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/25/2008

A proposal to widen sidewalks and install radar speed signs by Steffan Manor Elementary School has won a $130,000 state grant, officials announced.

The Safe Routes to School grant also will provide funds for crosswalks, curb ramps and "bulb outs" along Cedar and Georgia streets by the school.

"Bulb outs" are traffic-calming devices that reduce drivers' speed by narrowing the street and widening the curb and sidewalk.

It's now up to the city to design the project and hire a contractor, said Public Works Director Gary Leach.

"Of course we're pretty excited to do something to improve access for school kids," said Leach, adding it could be difficult to finish the work by fall but he'll "push" to get it done quickly.

The grant couldn't come at a better time, Leach said. Without the funding, cash-strapped Vallejo wouldn't be able to afford the construction, he said.

Steffan Manor officials helped pitch the project in light of student safety concerns during student drop-off and pick-up times.

Kindergarten teacher Karen Zizzo said too many parents double-parking during the mornings and afternoons creates a situation where students are streaming out into the streets.

"It's a lot of kids being dismissed at the same time," Zizzo said, adding the traffic-calming project "sounds like a good idea."

Leach said school officials have resorted to using orange cones and assigning employees to direct traffic in the mornings and afternoons, creating an "awkward" traffic situation.

Administrators at the school, where students are on spring break this week and next, could not be reached Monday.

Vallejo and Suisun City were the only two Solano County cities to win state-legislated Safe Routes to School grants last week. Suisun City will receive $900,000 from the California Department of Transportation for a multiple-use path between Marina Boulevard and Sunset Avenue.

"In years past, Solano County cities haven't gotten as much money from this grant," said Sam Shelton, assistant project manager with the Solano Transportation Authority. "This has been a windfall year."

Caltrans approved $52 million in grants this year after receiving more than 400 applications for projects totaling $113 million from cities across the state, Shelton said.

The Safe Routes to School program is meant to give students easier and healthier ways to travel to and from school. The program aims to promote walking and bicycling to school, and improve traffic safety around schools.

Shelton said a recently finished countywide Safe Routes to School plan has identified $32 million worth of projects. Officials are now working on obtaining the funding, he said.

• E-mail Tony Burchyns at or call 553-6831.

Seeno Revises Benicia Project

Seeno Revises Benicia Project
Controversial Plan Scaled Back To Get City Council's OK
By SARA STROUD/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/25/2008

BENICIA - Key portions of a controversial mixed-used project have been scaled back by more than half in some cases, a preview of changes showed Monday.

Although project officials were unavailable for comment, a city official said that the major changes reflected the company's recognition that the proposed development needed work in order to win City Council approval.

The revised project slashes the amount of zoned industrial space by 55 percent - from about 4.4 million square feet to about 2 million square feet. It includes about 857,000 square feet of commercial space.

And, the 9 million cubic yards of dirt slated to be moved during grading - a figure often decried by project opponents - has been reduced by half.

The developer, Discovery Builders, submitted revised plans for 528-acre Benicia Business Park to city staff late last week.

On Feb. 19, the City Council approved the project's environmental impact report, but asked for a number of changes, noting that the project was in conflict with the city's general plan.

"I think they got the message," community development director Charlie Knox said of Discovery Builders. "It was quite an effort on their part."

Discovery Builders representatives were unavailable for comment Monday, but the firm's attorney recently wrote the city that the company had been working hard to make the necessary changes within the allotted time.

The planning commission is schedule to review the project on April 10, after which the City Council would have 30 days to consider it.

Overall, the proposed project will be about 60 percent open space, while preserving existing waterways. It includes some low impact development components, such as bioswales, which absorb water and prevent runoff, Knox said.

Low impact development was a sticking point at a recent council meeting, when Mayor Elizabeth Patterson retracted her support of the project's environmental report approval because it didn't include the environmental measure.

Even with the submitted improvements, there likely will be further environmental and traffic concerns, Knox said.

The plans do not include adding a lane to Interstate 780 to handle increased traffic from the development. The revised plans point to fewer car trips to the future park, eliminating the need for another lane.

"This development is going to produce traffic," Knox said.

The project has generated opposition among some community members, even sparking two groups mobilized against the business park - Benicia First! and Citizens Considering the Consequences.

Jerome Page, of Benicia First! said he had not yet seen the revised plans, but anticipated the group will meet soon to discuss the changes.

• E-mail Sara Stroud at or call 553-6833.

New Staples Store To Hold Interviews For Job Seekers

New Staples Store To Hold Interviews For Job Seekers
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | March 25, 2008

Construction crews continue to work on the new Staples store on Oliver Road Monday afternoon. Staples will be holding a job recruitment fair for the new store at Solano Community College. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - The new Staples store is scheduled to open in June, and the first order of business is getting employees.

Staples, the world's largest office supply company, is set to open on Oliver Road in early June, according to the City of Fairfield's Community Development Department. At more than 20,000 square feet, the store will be Staples' first in Fairfield and second in Solano County, following the Vacaville store.

And, as with any new store, the company is working to get folks on board to actually sell all those printers, paper products and pens. In preparation for opening, Staples will interview prospective job seekers today and Wednesday at the Workforce Investment Board office in Fairfield.

'At a time when the news is filled with stories of businesses closing down, Fairfield remains a bright spot for doing business in the Bay Area,' said Curt Johnston, the city's assistant director of economic development.

For the complete story see the Daily Republic Online.

Suisun City Brightens Streets With New Signs

Suisun City Brightens Streets With New Signs
By Ian Thompson | Daily Republic | March 24, 2008

Suisun City residents and visitors will have an easier time navigating the streets after the city finishes installing new reflective street signs, replacing old, fading signs. Photo by Brad Zweerink

SUISUN CITY - It is going to be a little easier to get around Suisun City after public works crews finish installing new, distinctive blue-and-white street signs.

The Quail Glen and Dover Terrace neighborhoods already have the larger reflective street signs. Heritage Park and the California Tapestry areas are in the process of getting them.

The signs, which were funded by a $125,000 state grant, will be installed in the rest of the city between now and early May, according to Suisun City Hall.

'This is a major community enhancement with significant benefits to the public safety response for Suisun City residents,' Public Works Director Fernando Bravo stated in a press release.

The new signs are specifically designed to be highly visible at night to provide landmarks to help the city's police and firefighters respond to calls quicker.

For the complete story see the Daily Republic Online.

Winds Of Approval Result In New Montezuma Turbines

Winds Of Approval Result In New Montezuma Turbines
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 03/25/2008

More than a year after the project first came to the county planning commission, 75 wind turbines were approved Thursday to be built in the Montezuma Hills.

The project had been postponed at several meetings after officials at Travis Air Force Base raised concerns the new turbines might cause interference with a new radar system.

But after the Air Force's objection was taken back earlier this month, the project was approved by the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission before being approved 4-0 by the Solano County Planning Commission.

The next step is for the applicant, enXco, to receive building permits and then begin construction, said Greg Blue, regional manager of external affairs. He said the process went a little longer than normal. However, he is happy all the correct steps were taken.

"We were glad to come to a final resolution where Travis and the wind farm can co-exist," Blue said from his San Ramon office. "Every project has issues that need to be resolved and we try and be proactive. We asked for the continuance, because we knew we had to come to a positive resolution."

One detail that remains to be resolved is enXco's offer of up to $1 million to Travis that the base may use to offset any potential radar issues caused by the turbines. Blue said the offer still stands, but the appropriate steps must be taken by the Air Force before the gift may be accepted.

The issue of $1 million originally was included in the county staff reports for the planning commission, but was removed prior to the vote after several commissioners said they felt the language did not belong, according to Ken Solomon, planner with Solano County.

"They felt it was inappropriate for a land-use issue," Solomon said. "They said 'If the Air Force doesn't have a problem, then why should they?'"

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Jewish-Run University In The Bay Area? Who Knew?

A Jewish-Run University In The Bay Area? Who Knew?
by dan pine staff writer

In a marshy corner of the Bay Area, under the radar of the Jewish community, sits a 44-acre university that is both Jewish-owned and Torah-inspired.

Although Jews make up a minority of its student body, Touro University upholds Jewish values as its creed, strictly observing religious traditions and dietary laws.

Located on Mare Island near downtown Vallejo, the university is one of 20 Touro campuses around the world. Like the others, this one closes for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Eating facilities are kosher, with not one but two mashgiachs (kashrut supervisors) overseeing the kitchens. The director of campus life is an Orthodox rabbi.

And there’s a mezuzah on every door.

Over the last 10 years, the health sciences-based Touro University has trained hundreds of osteopaths, pharmacists, teachers and public health administrators — and has big plans for the future. It also has pumped more than $20 million annually into the economies of Solano County and the city of Vallejo.

“The infrastructure is there,” says Touro Provost Harvey Kaye of the school’s Jewish underpinnings. “Whether we have two Jews or 300, it’s there. For that one student who might feel insecure, that insecurity evaporates knowing their Jewish beliefs are respected.”

That respect goes far beyond the weekly Shabbat dinners and Jewish ethics roundtables led by Yitzchak Kaufman, Touro’s staff rabbi. Kaufman points out that even the school’s gross anatomy lab was designed with traditional Judaism in mind.

For Kohanim (Jews descended from the Israelite priesthood), contact with cadavers is forbidden because of the risk of contact with tummah, or impurity.

“Tummah is best described as cooties,” Kaufman said. “With a dead body, these cooties go out wherever they can, but walls and doors can block it. So the entrances and exits of the anatomy lab have two doors, with a vestibule in between and an electronic setup so you can’t ever have both doors open at the same time. It keeps the tummah inside the lab, so it can’t spread throughout the building.”

For observant Jews, this is serious stuff. Because of tummah, some Jewish osteopathic medicine students have even sought training in foreign schools that do not require contact with cadavers.

“Some rabbis are more lenient,” Kaufman adds. “They told [students] they could be in the lab based on the notion that the majority of bodies are probably not from Jewish people. There’s less stringency about being close to the body of a non-Jew. The students were still not allowed to handle the bodies, so we made arrangements that they could be in there and watch.”

Kaufman’s official title is mashgiach ruchani, Hebrew for “spiritual overseer.” But since most Touro students are not Jewish, he strives to reach out to all.

“I am here for everybody,” he says. “Part of being a Jewish institution and promoting Jewish values includes sensitivity to others.”

Touro’s admissions office does not track students by religion, so there is no official tally of the school’s Jewish population. Current enrollment stands at 1,300 students in four colleges: education, pharmacy, health sciences (offering a joint master’s in physician assistant studies and public health) and osteopathic medicine.

Osteopathic medicine is a 130-year-old discipline that, according to the American Osteopathic Association, emphasizes the inter-relationship of nerves, muscles, bones and organs. Doctors of osteopathic medicine, or D.O.s, frequently practice a form of hands-on care called osteopathic manipulative treatment.

“A D.O. is similar to an M.D.,” explains Dr. Michael Clearfield, dean of Touro’s osteopathic college. “We offer the manipulative component, where you try to bring the body back to alignment, so blood flows right, the joints and articulations are aligned and nerves function more normally. It gives us a distinct advantage.”

Chicago native Ryan Skarbek, 27, is one of Touro’s Jewish students. He grew up attending Jewish summer camps and was active with Hillel at the University of Chicago, where he majored in biology. Though he values Touro’s Jewish underpinnings, he says it was the education –– and California’s balmy climate –– that drew him to the school.

“The facilities are great, and the anatomy lab is phenomenal,” he says. “I have never been to one with natural lighting. Most are in the basement and dark green. I am blown away continually by how personable the teachers are, how much work they put into it.”

As for Touro’s Jewish atmosphere, Skarbek attends Kaufman’s Shabbat dinners when he can. So does Marjam Niknam, a second-year pharmacy student. She says the Shabbat programs have broadened her Jewish knowledge. She also appreciates getting the Jewish holidays off.

“That’s not something you get if you attend any other school,” said the 24-year-old Los Angeles native. “I went to Pierce [Community] College, and had a professor there who didn’t respect the fact that sometimes I couldn’t attend class. I had points knocked off, and I never forgot that.”

At the same time, Skarbek acknowledges, his non-Jewish friends at Touro sometimes wish they could use the library computers on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

“Some aren’t sure what to think about it,” he says. “But a lot of students are open to it and want to learn more about it. I came here thinking there would be a ton of Jewish people. It’s a small number, but I’m finding new ones every day.”

Over at Farragut Inn, the dining hall, mashgiach Yosef Plotkin prepares more than 130 kosher meals a day, keeping a steady eye on his three kitchens: milchig, fleishig and parve. Every table in the dining hall has white linen tablecloths, not just for aesthetics but to keep the place kosher — after all, crumbs from yesterday’s cheese enchilada shouldn’t mix with today’s chicken satay.

Touro’s strict adherence to Jewish principles can be traced back to one man, Bernard Lander, who founded the Touro colleges in 1971.

An ordained rabbi, Lander has served as a dean at New York’s Yeshiva University as well as vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. His Touro campus system has sites in the United States, Germany, Russia and Israel. The Touro colleges offer degrees in a variety of fields, but every campus adheres to strict halachic guidelines.

Touro’s Mare Island campus occupies several former military buildings, including many preserved as state landmarks. One that remains unoccupied is the old hospital, a 69,000-square-foot behemoth that utterly dominates the campus landscape.

Someday, Kaye hopes to renovate it.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put in a hospital/disaster readiness center to serve the Bay Area?” he says. “We have initiatives to support that vision, but it would take governmental partnering. It would be a boon for the community to get that going.”

The stolid architecture of the hospital recalls Mare Island’s glory days as the Navy’s oldest West Coast base.

Established in 1854, the Mare Island base turned out more than 500 ships, from pre-Civil War paddlewheel gunboats to nuclear submarines. David Farragut, famed for his battle cry “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” was the base’s first commandant. At its height during World War II, Mare Island was home to more than 46,000 people.

But in 1993, the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended shuttering Mare Island.

Today the shipyard is a ghost town. Abandoned industrial warehouses line Railroad Avenue. Rusting cranes tower over the docks where sailors and stevedores once built America’s naval fleet. Today, this one-time hub of Vallejo’s economy seems little more than the roadkill of a relic age.

The closure nearly sunk the island’s economy and has had ongoing financial repercussions for the community.

Kaye says the university tries to help the local community whenever possible. The osteopathic students do rotations at local hospitals like Kaiser Permanente and staff a storefront clinic in Vallejo. Teacher trainees fulfill their student teacher requirements in the local schools, while pharmacy students intern in local hospitals and drug stores.

“A goal of Touro is to repair the world through health care and education,” Kaye says. “We try to breed a social consciousness. One of the things we look for in students is an altruistic streak, people who come in with a sense of mission and purpose.”

Though primarily supported by tuition, Touro applies for –– and receives –– research grants. One of Kaye’s pet projects is a $1.2 million clinical skills center designed to sharpen diagnostic abilities through hands-on practice (done by having actors take on the roles of assorted sick people).

But not all the money for the skills center — not to mention several expansion projects — is in place. So after years of lying low, the Bay Area’s only Jewish-sponsored university is looking to the Jewish community for support.

“We’re very respected in Solano County, but unfortunately this may be the poorest of the [Bay Area’s] nine counties, and there are few Jews here,” said Stanley Bresh, Touro’s director of institutional advancement. “So we’re looking to the Jewish community to help us fund things we need desperately.”

If the college can complete those projects, it will only help students like Skarbek, who graduates in 2011.

And though his family hopes he moves back to Chicago to launch his osteopathic practice, Skarbek isn’t so sure he wants to leave California.

Apparently the Bay Area good life has roped him in. “I’m going to yoga now and putting avocado on everything,” he says.

California's Unemployment Rate Drops In February

California's Unemployment Rate Drops In February
East Bay Business Times
March 21, 2008

California's unemployment rate dropped from 5.9 percent in January to 5.7 percent in February, according to the state's Employment Development Department. It was nonetheless higher than the year-ago estimate of 5 percent.

According to the department, the number of people unemployed in California was 1,043,000, down by 41,000 over the month, but up by 140,000 compared with February of last year.

The areas reporting job decline statewide over the last month were manufacturing, construction, information and financial activities, which reported declines of 9,600 jobs. The financial activities sector was down by 3,500 jobs, posting the largest decline over the month.

The same four areas also saw declines in a year-over-year comparison totaling 155,200 jobs, with construction employment showing a decline of 78,500 jobs.

The unemployment rate in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward metropolitan region declined from 5.3 percent in January 5.1 percent in February, but it was still higher than a year ago when it was 4.6 percent.

Job losses in the region between February 2007 and February 2008 were in the financial sector, which lost 4,800 jobs, and manufacturing, which lost 1,500 jobs.

Jobs increased in government, which added 4,900 jobs, and education and health care services, which added 800 jobs.

In the Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan region, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent in January to 6.1 percent in February, although it was higher than the year-ago estimate of 5.3 percent.

Solano County Museum Offers Flower Power, Electric Train Rides

Solano County Museum Offers Flower Power, Electric Train Rides
By Janet Fullwood -
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Volunteer John Krauskopf introduces visitors to the Western Railway Museum in Solano County. The museum, which seeks to preserve electric railways, offers scenic tours on its historic cars during the wildflower season. Audio slide show (Hector Amezcua /

Business at the Western Railway Museum in Solano County will hit its seasonal high in the next few weeks – about the same time the native wildflower bloom hits its peak.

An institution dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of California's once-thriving electric railways, the museum offers weekend rides in historic interurban train cars along a five-mile stretch of track that traverses a slice of rural landscape little changed in 100 years.

During April – when the wildflowers are blooming – three of the four daily interurban runs are designated "Scenic Limiteds," and the museum also opens on Wednesdays. For $5 over the $10 admission fee, passengers can take in the scenery and enjoy refreshments from an open platform car while docents identify what's blooming in the surrounding Montezuma Hills.

Among other sights to behold from the swaying antiques are newborn lambs, an old-fashioned windmill, newfangled wind turbines – and, in the distance, the historic Shiloh Church, a cherished Solano County landmark dating to 1870.

"With the operating part of the museum, we're preserving a kind of fantasy of what it was like for your grandparents," said John Krauskopf, a docent serving as conductor on the train's 11 a.m. run Saturday. "They went shopping on the interurban, went visiting, went on dates – anything you do in a car today, they did in these things.

"At the time this line was finished, about 1913, going through Solano County in a private vehicle would have been very slow and difficult," he added as Car No. 52 – a circa-1903 wooden relic of the Peninsular Railway that once operated between San Jose, Los Gatos and Palo Alto – clacked down the track at a sedate 15 mph.

With about 80 cars in its collection, the museum, founded in 1946 by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, is one of the most prominent facilities of its kind in the West. Its main exhibit hall houses historic photo displays, while the archives hold about 100,000 items, from station records to postcards, documenting the rise and fall of a transportation revolution that swept the country in the early 20th century.

"We've all lived through the Internet explosion, and now we can't imagine life without computers," said Phil Kolhmetz, the museum's executive director. "Electricity and electric railroads are tied up in the same way. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, engineers were finding all kinds of new applications for electricity – it could run lights, and it could run public transportation systems. So virtually every city in the country was building electric railroads."

In Northern California, one of the biggest names in interurban transportation was Sacramento Northern, whose trunk line stretched 184 miles from Chico to San Francisco. Consolidated from three existing lines in 1928, it carried passengers until 1941 and included networks of streetcars in communities along the route. Chico's trolleys, which kept chugging until 1947, were the longest to hang on.

Besides its signature, 50-minute interurban train rides, the museum offers 15-minute excursions on historic streetcars. And it's not just die-hard baby-boomer train nuts who climb aboard.

On Saturday, one of the most awestruck riders was Stanley Chan, a San Francisco 4-year-old infatuated by anything to do with trains.

"We have almost 100 Thomas the Tank Engine toys at home and he knows all the cars' names and numbers," laughed his mother, Iris Chan.

Volunteer John Krauskopf changes the line on a Birney Safety Car, an electric streetcar built in 1920. (Hector Amezcua /

New Marine Business To Move Into Suisun City

New Marine Business To Move Into Suisun City
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 21, 2008

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City has approved a deal allowing California Marine Sports to move into the vacant former Adams Marine building on Kellogg Street.

'We like the opportunity to work with the community,' said Grant Fulford, one California Marine's owners. 'We love the area and the small community.'

The Suisun City Council unanimously approved the lease in a special Thursday afternoon meeting to bring a marine sales and service facility back to the Suisun waterfront.

For the complete article see the Daily Republic Online.

Major Revamp Ahead For Fairfield Roads

Major Revamp Ahead For Fairfield Roads
Article Launched: 03/23/2008

Fairfield will kick off a project this summer to improve traffic circulation in the northeast sector of the city and improve access to Interstate 80.

The project has an estimated total construction cost of $24 million.

The first of two components will cost approximately $14 million and is called the I-80/North Texas Street Overcrossing and Interchange Project.

It includes widening the overcrossing from two lanes to four lanes and the addition of a sidewalk on the south side, providing access for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The project includes a seismic retrofit of the roughly 40-year-old bridge and relocation of the I-80 easterly on- and off-ramps to a new signalized intersection at Manuel Campos Parkway. Relocating the freeway on- and off-ramps will allow left turns for the Rolling Hills neighborhood from North Texas to eastbound I-80.

The second component will cost approximately $10 million and is called the North Texas Street/Nelson Road Realignments and Manuel Campos Parkway Extension Project.

This project realigns and widens North Texas Street from Dickson Hill Road north to a future intersection with Manuel Campos Parkway.

It will also relocate Nelson Road to the east of the existing commercial properties. The project will extend Manuel Campos Parkway from Dover Avenue to the improved I-80 /North Texas Street interchange.

The realigned North Texas Street and realigned Nelson Road will intersect the newly extended Manuel Campos Parkway at a signalized intersection.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by late February 2010. The project is funded using local developer fees, the North Texas Street Benefit District and construction license tax.

"This project is much needed to improve the traffic circulation in the northeast section of Fairfield," said Gene Cortright, Fairfield's Public Works Director in a press release.

The city will ensure access to affected businesses on North Texas Street.

The city says residents should expect scheduled day and night work for improvements to the bridge and North Texas Street realignments during the construction period.

If residents have any questions regarding the construction of the project, contact Thanh Vuong, project engineer, at 427-7017. For retail or commercial inquiries call Karl Dumas at 428-7454.

Friday, March 21, 2008

North Bay unemployment rates rise; Solano only region with less jobs year over year

North Bay unemployment rates rise; Solano only region with less jobs year over year

NORTH BAY, March 21, 2008 -- Unemployment rates in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Solano counties increased year over year in February, according to data released by the state Economic Development Department today. Jobs increased in every region except Solano, which had 1,000 fewer jobs when compared with February 2007.

For more on this story, visit

Land Sale Likely To Bring Jobs To Vallejo

Land Sale Likely To Bring Jobs To Vallejo
Frozen Food Company Plans To Open Plant On Benicia Road Parcel
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/21/2008

A new manufacturing operation that promises to be among Vallejo's largest private employers, should be operational by summer, the firm's owner said Thursday.

A deal on the company's new Benicia Road property closed last week, said Mike Ghiringhelli co-owner of Ghiringhelli Specialty Foods.

The firm makes fresh and frozen foods like salads and pizza for retail stores like Costco and Trader Joe's, he said. It manufactures the Mr. G's Fine Products, a line of frozen pizzas, potatoes and sauces and mostly private-label fresh foods which it distributes to more than 5,000 retail stores nationwide, according to the company's Web site.

"We're going to build a new food manufacturing plant," Ghiringhelli said. "We just closed the deal on the property and the city has given its approval to build."

When it's done, the site, at 101 Benicia Road will include 40,000 square feet of space and incorporate two existing warehouses and a second level that will be added, Ghiringhelli said.

The operation should be up and running by August, he said.

"I grew up in a restaurant family in the 1960s and '70s and (partner) Eddy (Ferrero) and I started a pizza place in Fairfax 22 years ago," Ghiringhelli said. "We both decided to expand out to other areas of food to do business in."

Ghiringhelli, 50, a Fairfax resident, and Ferrero, 44, of Vallejo, started doing pizza fundraisers for schools, Ghiringhelli said. That operation grew into one that supplies food to retail outlets, he said.

This is the company's third move, Ghiringhelli said.

Ghiringhelli Pizza started in Fairfax with 2,000 square feet, where it operated for 18 years, he said. The pizza restaurant remains, but the plant moved to San Pablo where it's been for nearly a decade. The move to Vallejo will allow the company to further expand, Ghiringhelli said.

"We're glad we're coming to Vallejo," he said. "We looked all over the Bay Area and even as far as Stockton, and we feel this space is perfect for our needs. The city was nice to work with. They were very accommodating and professional."

Vallejo community development analyst Annette Taylor said the city's been dealing with Ghiringhelli "for a while," and officials are pleased that things worked out.

"It's exciting they're coming to that location, bringing employment," she said. "That site is a vacant moving and storage facility, so this is a great re-use for the facility, and it's great they're bringing manufacturing to Vallejo."

The company expects to create about 120 jobs, making it among the city's top 10 private employers, according to Vallejo Chamber of Commerce information.

The types of jobs to be created by Ghiringhelli include those in production, warehouse, trucking, office, maintenance and sales, the firm's owner said.

"There will be a variety of jobs we'll need help with," he said.

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Intintoli Appointed To Ferry Board

Intintoli Appointed To Ferry Board
Former Vallejo Mayor To Serve As Vice Chairman Of State Water Transportation Authority
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/21/2008

Intintoli: Appointed to state ferry board.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday appointed former mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. as vice chairman of a powerful water transportation board designed to oversee state control of Vallejo and Alameda ferries.

Intintoli's appointment will give Vallejo a voice in how its four ferries, ferry terminal, schedules and fares will be transferred to the state next year.

"I'm looking forward to working to assure the Vallejo ferry service continues to thrive," Intintoli said. "Our ferry system is a very important link in the entire network. It's very important to have it continue to sustain growth."

The city views Intintoli's appointment as critical in helping to protect the Vallejo ferry system and assure adequate compensation for boats and infrastructure.

Mayor Osby Davis applauded Intintoli's appointment to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) which will own the ferry systems and coordinate response during earthquakes, terrorist attacks and other emergencies. He said the former mayor is experienced and has a wealth of knowledge about the ferry system.

"This is an excellent opportunity for us to have a say-so in what happens with our ferry system," Davis said. Intintoli will have Vallejo's interests at heart, he added.

The Vallejo ferry system is also an important ingredient in the city's downtown and waterfront improvement plans, and the Vallejo Station transit center.

State takeover of the Vallejo and Alameda ferries stemmed from a controversial state bill that went into effect Jan. 1. All Bay Area ferry services, except those run by the Golden Gate Transit Authority, are under WETA's control.

With Vallejo's coveted ferry service hanging in the balance, many said SB 976 was shoved through the Legislature in the waning days of the session, without giving local officials enough time to react properly. Signed into law in October, the law prompted Vallejo city leaders to vow to fight for the ferry service and assure the city is fairly compensated.

The state law and WETA will be critical in making the Bay Area better prepared for emergencies, Schwarzenegger said in an announcement.

"We all know how quickly ground transportation can break down in an earthquake or serious disaster making water transit so vital," Schwarzenegger said.

The city has hired several consultants to work with Sacramento lawmakers to protect Vallejo's interests as the bill goes into effect. Leach said cleanup legislation is in the works.

"We want to be treated fairly in the transfer of (ferry) assets," Leach said.

Schwarzenegger also appointed Charlene Haught Johnson of Colma as WETA's chairwoman and Gerald Bellows of Berkeley as a member.

Both Intintoli and Johnson served together on WETA's predecessor, the 11-member San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority.

The two other WETA seats have not yet been filled, said WETA community relations manager Shirley Douglas. The group's first meeting has not yet been scheduled, she added.

Intintoli, 69, left the mayor's office in December, after filling that seat 1987 to 1995, and again from 1999 to 2007.

Intintoli also served on the Vallejo City Council from 1977 to 1985, and as the chairman of the Solano Transportation Authority in 2007. He is a Solano County Children's Network board member, and as a St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School Advisory Board member.

State Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D Santa Rosa, in a prepared statement called Intintoli "a fantastic choice for vice chair."

"He has been a long-time leader on transportation issues. His commitment and expertise on a wide range of local and regional issues will make him a real asset to his colleagues on the new board," Wiggins said.

• Contact Sarah Rohrs at or 553-6832.

Expansion in Dixon 'Mmm-mmm Good'

Expansion in Dixon 'Mmm-mmm Good'
By Jennifer Gentile
Article Launched: 03/21/2008

Good economic news is hard to come by lately, but Campbell Soup Company had some for Solano County on Thursday - announcing that it will make a multi-million dollar investment in its Dixon tomato processing facility and increase production there.

The facility, built in 1975, is Campbell's largest tomato processing plant and employs approximately 180 people. The expansion, estimated at $23 million, includes new equipment and control systems for vegetable receiving, preparation, packaging and concentration, according to a news release.

The investment will increase tomato processing capacity at the plant by 15 percent," Campbell said in the release, and will also allow the company to process other vegetables for its beverages and specialty ingredients for its soups and sauces.

"This is a real coup for Solano County," said Sandy Person, vice president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, "and a tremendous boon to our local agricultural community."

Campbell is expecting to add 60 production days to the plant's operation with the investment, the release said - resulting in a longer processing season. The season now runs from July through October, and it will run from May through October with the expansion.

With a greater processing capability, the company also intends to expand its agriculture production arrangements with farmers in seven Northern and five Southern California counties.

"The expansion of the Dixon facility will enable us to process a wide variety of California-grown vegetables," said Michael Dunn, a Campbell vice president, in a written statement. "We expect the benefits of the expansion to extend beyond Campbell and have a positive impact on local farmers, as well as the many other businesses that support farmers, such as supply and transportation companies."

According to Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan, local farmers now can compete for contracts for more than 2,000 acres of tomatoes, amounting to 150 million pounds, and 1,300 acres of vegetables, amounting to 60 million pounds.

"Our farmers should be able to grow this stuff very well and compete for these contracts," he said.

Reagan congratulated "Team Solano" in a prepared statement, adding, "It's exciting to see all of our efforts working with major employers paying off."

"This announcement is particularly noteworthy, since Campbell was also considering locations in Mexico and Ohio," he continued. "This agricultural processing capacity increase is precisely the kind of enhancements recommended by the Ag Viability studies the Board of Supervisors commissioned over the past two years."

Campbell's beverage offerings include V-8, V-8 Splash, and V-8 Fusion. The news release said the "beverage unit was the company's best-performing business" in the 2007 fiscal year and has held strong in 2008.

The expansion, according to the company, will allow the Dixon plant to process a variety of organic vegetables for products like V-8, organic vegetable juice, Prego pasta sauce and Pace Salsa.

"We expect the expansion of our Dixon facility to help us meet the increased consumer demand for Campbell beverages," Irene Britt, a Campbell vice president and general manager, said in a written statement.

Work is expected to begin in June, Reagan said, and be completed by the summer of 2009.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Intel, Microsoft Choose UC-Berkeley To Host $10M Parallel Computing Center

Intel, Microsoft Choose UC-Berkeley To Host $10M Parallel Computing Center
Wichita Business Journal - by East Bay Business Times

The University of California, Berkeley, is one of two universities that will partner with Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. in establishing computer centers focused on parallel computing.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) on Tuesday announced the establishment of two Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers, one at UC-Berkeley and the other at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Intel and Microsoft plan to invest a $20 million over five years in the two centers, with each receiving half. UC-Berkeley researchers have also applied for a UC Discovery Grant, a matching grant that uses state and university funding to encourage industry investment in research at the school.

The centers will work to accelerate consumer and business uses for parallel processing -- computing systems where many instructions are carried out at the same time, making it possible to take a large task and divide it into many smaller ones to be carried out simultaneously. Such systems are now used in high-performance, or super-, computing, where multiple processors are joined together in clusters.

"This is a once-in-a-career opportunity to recast the foundations of information technology and influence the entire IT industry for decades to come," David Patterson, UC-Berkeley professor of computer sciences and a pioneering expert in computer architecture, said in an announcement on the center. "We are excited and proud to be a part of this ambitious effort."

In its announcement, Cal offered such examples of possible future applications of the research as using a cell phone to recognize the face of a passing acquaintance.

Patterson is joined in the research by seven other faculty members from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences: Krste Asanovic, Ras Bodik, James Demmel, John Kubiatowicz, Kurt Keutzer, Koushik Sen and Katherine Yelick. Patterson, Demmel and Yelick also have joint appointments at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

UC-Berkeley's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences was selected from 25 leading computer science departments to host one of the two UPCRC sites.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Still Showing Them What Can Be Done

Still Showing Them What Can Be Done
Fred Hearn Construction Marks Three Secades In Building Industry
By Robin Miller
Article Launched: 03/16/2008

Fred Hearn, CEO of the construction company that bears his name, is marking 30 years in the business this month. (Rick Roach / The Reporter)

It all began with a remodeling job on an old Victorian on Pleasants Valley Road.

It was the late 1970s and Fred Hearn was brand new to the construction business and still working on his license when he was called to take on the job.

"Mike Cherry had this house and every other builder had told him to just bulldoze it and start over," Hearn recalled. "But he wanted to restore it so I took it on and did it."

The Reporter, and then cub staffer Steve Huddleston, did a huge feature on the final product, emblazoned with a headline that read: "They Said It Couldn't Be Done."

"That put us on the map," Hearn recalled. "We started getting calls and things took off."

To say the least.

Fred Hearn Construction, which marks its 30th year in business this month, is now a $70 million a year firm with 80 some employees.

Through the years, the Vacaville firm has built just about every kind of project: houses, offices, banks, credit unions, hotels, churches, theaters, fire stations, and even remodeled a jail and built a roller coaster.

"You almost can't drive down a block without seeing something we've worked on," Hearn quipped.

But it has taken three decades of hard work for the company to become one of the most recognized and honored construction firms in the state.

Things were different back in 1978. In those days, Hearn put on his tool bag, worked all day as a carpenter, then came home and bid jobs in the evening and his wife Diane did the bookkeeping.

The business started out as Fred Hearn Construction, with Fred as its only employee. His slogan was "The only thing better than the price is the quality of the work."

Seven years later, Hearn teamed up with Jerry Swank, an engineer at the time, to form Hearn & Swank Construction. "Jerry brought discipline and corporate structure to the team", he said. The company moved into a better location off of Highway 80 on Bella Vista Drive now occupied by Swank Construction and changed from residential projects into commercial work.

In the recession of the early 1990s, construction slowed. Hearn & Swank experienced a decrease in business and went their separate ways in 1993.

Despite the slump, Hearn managed to expand - which he credited at the time to good management and diversification.

He hired a core group of employees, Rory McLeod, Fred Stage, Oscar Gutierrez, Donna DeQuillettes, and Rick Fisher. With the exception of Fisher, who retired last year, that devoted crew remains with Hearn today. "The key to our success ... has been assembling talented employees who are committed to delivering superior service and rewarding them for doing so," he said.

Another change for the firm took place in 1994, when Hearn met Gordon Stankowski, now Hearn's executive vice president. They worked together when Hearn was awarded the contract for the Notre Dame School Computer Science Lab. Admiring Stankowski's administrative and construction skills, Hearn offered him a job and Stankowski, he said, brought big company ideas and skills needed to support the company's steady growth. Stankowski established policies and procedures, including the dynamic project management programthe firm still uses, and eventually became part owner of the company and a board member.

The company continued to grow. Hearn purchased and remodeled the old Vacaville Lights Building at 630 Davis Street, which became his new offices. The office quickly grew too small, and Hearn purchased the Basic American Foods Lab Building at 411 Davis Street, which was refurbished and expanded to form the company's current headquarters.

The company incorporated in 1998 under the new name Hearn Construction and in 2005 merged with James Nolan Construction Inc., of Napa, forming Napa Pacific Inc., a holding company which owns both Hearn and Nolan.

Looking back, there are a number of projects that stand out in his memory, including the Madusa rollercoaster at Marine World in Vallejo, the remodeled Lincoln Theater in Yountville, the recently completed luxury hotel resort LeRivage along the Sacramento River, and the various projects that have provided low-income and senior housing as well as homeless and battered women's shelters.

"Those are the projects that make you feel like you are really giving something back to your community," he explained. "I feel blessed that the community has been supportive over the years. I owe my success to my family and friends, great employees and to the local subcontractors and suppliers."

As for the future, Hearn believes the possibilities are endless. Asked if there is anything he hasn't built, he quipped, "No bridges or skyscrapers, but some day ..."

The Davis Street brick and glass building that houses Fred Hearn Construction is among many past projects of the firm which is turning 30 this month. (Reporter file)

Fairfield Firm Among 'Best'

Fairfield Firm Among 'Best'

Copart, a leading online auto remarketer based in Fairfield, was recently named by San Jose Magazine as one of the best places to work in the Bay Area.

"Copart is proud to be voted one of the best places to work in the Bay Area," said Copart President Jay Adair. "One of the reasons we are such a great place to work is our employees who make it fun to come to work every day. We are a growing, dynamic technology company, and our employees help drive our success."

Copart has almost 3,000 employees in three countries, and prides itself on treating them like customers, Adair said.

"We believe that in order to give good service to our external customers, we need to treat our employees like internal customers," Adair said.

Copart, founded in 1982, provides vehicle suppliers, primarily insurance companies, with a full range of services to process and sell salvage vehicles, principally to licensed dismantlers, rebuilders and used vehicle dealers.

Lennar Asks Vallejo For Help At Mare Island

Lennar Asks Vallejo For Help At Mare Island
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/19/2008

Lennar Mare Island officials asked for the city's help in assuring Mare Island realizes its potential as a commercial and jobs center - an appeal made during a nearly two-hour City Council study session Tuesday.

Council members also urged the city to aggressively pursue economic development opportunities on Mare Island, and to designate a point person for Lennar to work with to expedite permitting and resolution of various issues.

"It behooves the city to provide all the help that they can," said Councilman Hermie Sunga.

Mare Island vice president of commercial development Wanda Chihak agreed there is a sense of urgency. "The more delay there is the more the potential (is diminished) to make money off Mare Island," she said.

Efforts to draw in more businesses are being slowed down by lengthy environmental clearances and Naval land transfers, said Lennar Mare Island vice president Tom Scheaf.

Some vital infrastructure improvements, including the rehabilitation of Azuar Drive and Railroad Avenue, are also being hampered, Scheaf said.

He asked for the city's help to encourage the state to swiftly sign off on the clean-up projects, and for the Naval to transfer key parcels of land slated for new businesses.

"We will need the city's help to continue at a high rate and to put pressure to bear on getting the (land) transfers complete," Scheaf said.

Lennar has drawn in 90 businesses and about 2 million square feet of commercial uses since 1997, company officials said.

In the same time frame, some 2,036 jobs have been created, including 124 new jobs stemming form 9 new businesses created in the last year, said Mare Island vice president of commercial development Wanda Chihak.

The goal has been to generate approximately 10,000 new jobs on the island, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said.

However, Lennar has utilized all the immediately available commercial space and needs to get into new areas to attract more businesses, said Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian.

To help speed things up, council members directed City Manager Joe Tanner to identify a main point person at City Hall for Lennar officials to work with rather than trying to resolve issues with staff members in three or four departments.

Tanner told council members Whittom had been devoting a significant amount of time on Mare Island issues, but was pulled off to work on the city's fiscal crisis, threat of bankruptcy and labor negotiations.

Tanner said it is hoped Whittom could return to Mare Island duties soon. In the meantime, it was suggested Tanner serve as Lennar's main go-to person.

Whittom said several top city department employees devote part of their time to helping push Mare Island projects along. He said city should have a renewed focus on Mare Island.

Citing frequent complaints about City Hall slowing down new business, Mayor Osby Davis urged staff to find a way to jump start economic projects on Mare Island, even if it means big sacrifices.

"We're going to have to do something to change it. We can't sit back and just talk about it. It's time to stop talking and start doing," Davis said.

Council members also sharply questioned Lennar about its plans to halt railroad activity on the island by the end of the month.

Chihak said rail activity has dropped greatly - from 1,575 cars in 2003 to 90 cars in 2007. She added it was too expensive to fix up the tracks and related facilities to meet governmental standards, and that Lennar was worried about assuming liability for rail accidents.

All rail lines are scheduled to be removed when street infrastructure projects are done, Chihak said.

However, Councilman Tom Bartee said he believes the city is missing out on many opportunities by not helping to assure rail lines remain on the island and become part of an inter-modal transit system.

Council members also asked for regular public updates on Mare Island reuse activities, and directed staff to return April 15 or April 22 with a detailed plan on how the city will be working work Lennar on economic development activities.

• Contact Sarah Rohrs at or 553-6832.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sutter Solano, La Clinica De La Raza Hope To Open New Primary Care Facility

Sutter Solano, La Clinica De La Raza Hope To Open New Primary Care Facility
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 03/18/2008

Carlos Castellanos, left, helps to check-in his friend, Mark Callejo, for nausea and vomiting at the Sutter Solano emergency room in Vallejo. (Stacey J. Miller/Times-Herald)

A partnership between two local health care providers may lead to fewer serious illnesses and lower health care costs in Vallejo, hospital officials said.
Sutter Solano Medical Center and La Clinica de la Raza hope to create a new primary care facility near Sutter to be run by La Clinica, officials from both organizations said in recent interviews.

The idea is to cut down on the number of uninsured and under-insured patients using the emergency room as their neighborhood clinic, they said.

"Sutter serves the lion's share of the un- and under-insured in southern Solano County," said Terry Glubka, Sutter Solano's chief executive officer. "If someone is uninsured or underinsured and they come in needing treatment, you don't just put them on the street. You treat them."

But an emergency room is an expensive operation, and using it for nonemergencies creates longer wait times for true emergencies, she said.

Many patients without proper insurance also wait for treatment until a minor illness becomes acute, which not only costs the hospital money, but is also dangerous for the patient, Glubka said.

Hospital officials think Sutter Solano will save about $500,000 annually if the clinic opens, she added.

La Clinica is already providing medical care in its Tuolumne Street clinic, and within the past couple of years was handed operation of Sutter Solano's "Great Beginnings" pre-natal and new mom/baby program.

That's working well, so hopes are high that an expanded primary care facility would, too, said Glubka and La Clinica spokeswoman Jane Garcia.

"We've already participated in one venture and that's been a real win-win for both organizations and the community, and we're going to do that again," Garcia said. "The many people who are making inappropriate use of the ER could really benefit from having a primary care facility."

The north Vallejo facility would be in addition to La Clinica's Tuolumne Street clinic, Garcia said.

Funding is the only holdup, the women said.

While Sutter is willing to contribute something, and La Clinica is entitled to government grants, plan proponents would like to see the county "step up," as well, Glubka said.

Glubka said she hopes to bring the idea before the Solano County Board of Supervisors before next year's budget decisions are made, but it isn't yet known exactly when that will be, said Sutter spokesman Russell Neilson.

If funding is found, the clinic could be operational within a short time, Garcia said.

"It's totally contingent on bringing in funding partners, but we could pull this off within three months if funding is found," she said. "We're already looking at ancillary services like lab, pharmacy and X-ray."

Emergency room diversion is a growing phenomenon nationally, Garcia said.

"If we create a true medical home for those who now use the ER for primary care, we can reduce the cost and the severity of illnesses in a large number of people," she said.

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

County Health Care Facts

• Between 2001 and 2005, the number of under- or uninsured patients increased nearly 15 percent, outpacing a 4.4 percent population increase.

• Between 2000 and 2006, emergency room visits per 1,000 county residents increased nearly 6 percent while emergency room visits dropped 4 percent statewide.

• Overall, between 2000 and 2006, the county saw a 13.1 percent increase in total emergency room visits, more than twice the statewide average.

• A significant portion of this increase comes from uninsured patients - 15.8 percent of all emergency room visits, compared to 7.7 percent of uninsured county population. Source: Terry Glubka, Sutter Solano Medical Center chief executive officer
Suisun City To Dredge Silt From Waterway
By Ian Thompson | Daily Republic | March 17, 2008

SUISUN CITY - The accumulation of silt that has bedeviled larger boats in the Suisun Marina and in Whispering Bay will be dredged this fall, according to Suisun City's public works and recreation departments.

That is good news to larger boat owners such as Don Sefcik, who now has to wait for the tide to rise to tie up his boat near the Solano Yacht Club.

Sefcik recently attempted to berth his vessel during low tide only to discover 3 feet from the dock 'that the keel was in the mud and I had to wait for three hours until the tide went up.'

Buoys set out by the harbor master mark off the worst spots, and 'you are pretty safe if you stay in the center,' Sefick said.

Very low tides sometimes expose the mud in some spots near the public boat launch on Kellogg Street.

Suisun City is working with residents of Whispering Bay to dredge both locations at the same time so both the city and the Whispering Bay assessment district can make their money go farther.

For the complete story see the Daily Republic Online.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vallejo's Touro University appoints new provost, CEO

Touro University appoints new provost, CEO
Article Launched: 03/15/2008 08:27:44 AM PDT

In an effort to strengthen its Vallejo and Nevada medical schools, Touro University has reorganized its Western Division and appointed a new senior provost and CEO, officials announced Friday.

Michael Harter, one of the founders of Touro University Nevada, has been tapped to fill the new position.

Under Harter's leadership, the Vallejo and Nevada campuses, previously autonomous, will forge an administrative alliance in health sciences and education, officials said.

Touro's Nevada campus - the largest medical school in its state - is in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson.

Both the Vallejo and Henderson campuses offer programs in osteopathic medicine and physician-assistant studies, in addition to other medical specialties. The schools are part of Touro's 29-campus system.

- Media News report Vallejo Times-Hearld, march 15, 2008

Vacaville's Opportunity Hill plan for review

Opportunity Hill plan for review
By Jennifer Gentile, The Reporter
Article Launched: 03/16/2008 07:45:05 AM PDT

A master plan, which was prepared to guide development of Vacaville's Opportunity Hill area, is completed and ready for review by the Planning Commission.

The commission may approve the plan at a meeting Tuesday night, and its vote acts as a recommendation to the City Council. In June, the Council approved a contract with EDAW, Inc., a planning and design firm, to draft an Opportunity Hill master plan.

The city started buying property in the East Main and Bush Street areas at least five or six years ago - envisioning a mixed-use extension of downtown. To date, it has acquired about five acres in what commonly is known as the Opportunity Hill area.

EDAW has spent several months gathering ideas through meetings with the public, the Downtown Business Improvement District, and developers. The finished plan has several goals, according to city staff, like providing affordable housing, improving signage, and improving linkages and connections.

"The completed master plan and design guidelines sets the vision for the revitalization of the East Main Street and Bush Street areas in a manner that builds on the plans, traditions and collective energy that have boosted the downtown's vitality,"

Housing and Redevelopment Director Cyndi Johnston added, "The plan itself has design guidelines that actually complement what exists in downtown already. It provides guidance on streetscape, lighting - all of those things."

The plan's land-use recommendations include specialty retail, office, housing, entertainment, restaurant, and heritage tourism. The residential component includes live/work units and affordable housing, according to staff.

The plan calls for high-density residential, or up to 65 units per acre, "on East Main/Wilson/Catherine/Mas-on street sites, with the ground floor commer-

cial/ retail along Main Street ..." staff's report explained. Meanwhile, "The Bush Street/McClellan Street sites are envisioned as

high-density residential, with ground-floor commercial/retail uses facing McClellan Street and an office use at Mason/Wilson streets."

Last month, City Council agreed to exclusive negotiations with local businessman Greg Banks, who wants to build an office building at the intersection of Mason and Wilson Streets.

According to Johnston, the city has no developer in mind for the remainder of the project. Staff said some changes would have to be made to city code to implement the master plan, such as an amendment to allow a greater residential density.

Overall, Johnston said, "We're very happy with (the plan). We think it's in keeping with what the community expressed."

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Solano a hot spot for Army recruitments

Solano a hot spot for Army recruitments
Signups in other Bay Area counties low overall
By Dogen HannahMediaNews Group
Article Launched: 03/16/2008 07:45:09 AM PDT

Editor's note: The U.S. military has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than six years, by far its longest combat commitment since the Vietnam War. The war's duration has strained the all-volunteer force, including its ability to attract recruits. The Army in particular has had to bolster efforts to fill its ranks. MediaNews analyzed three years of data from the Department of Defense, Census and other sources to identify areas where recruits have been plentiful or scarce.

Staff Sgt. Jason Eck has been flipped off, cussed at and told to get out of town for doing his job.

The abuse hasn't deterred the two-time Iraq war veteran from donning his uniform, sliding behind the wheel of his government-issued Chevy Malibu and hitting the road almost daily in search of new soldiers.

Still, as a recruiter, he faces a daunting task.

Almost nowhere in the nation is it harder to find willing and able enlistees than in the Bay Area. The region's nine counties have the lowest enlistment rate of any large metropolitan area other than in and around New York.

Among Bay Area counties, nowhere is it harder to find enlistees than where Eck and two other Army recruiters try to do it.

"We're fighting to give the Army a good name in Marin County, " said Eck, a 27-year-old Brooklyn native. "It's really tough."

Just 53 Marin County residents enlisted in the armed forces in 2006, giving the affluent and famously liberal county of 249,000 people the lowest enlistment rate of any county its size in the nation. For that matter, it had the lowest rate of any county with more than 50,000 residents.

In Marin County and elsewhere in the Bay Area, recruiters run into similar obstacles: an unpopular war and commander in chief; potential recruits and their parents leery of combat; parents and teachers wary of recruiting tactics; competition from civilian employers; and counter-recruiting activists.

Although low in many areas, enlistment rates have been relatively robust in other parts of the Bay Area. People have enlisted in an array of communities even as the Iraq war, which enters its sixth year Wednesday, has dragged on and as the toll of dead and wounded service members has climbed.

Family traditions of military service, patriotism, cash enlistment bonuses, money for college, career possibilities and opportunities for adventure and travel still attract people to the military, recruiters said.

In Solano County, 289 recruits from Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City and elsewhere kept the enlistment rate relatively high in 2006. It was the highest in the Bay Area and higher than in almost half of all counties nationwide.

Activists protesting Marine Corps recruiters in Berkeley, where 15 residents enlisted in 2006, have blockaded a recruiting office and grabbed national headlines. Yet scores of people enlist annually in many Bay Area cities such as Livermore, Daly City, Santa Clara, Hayward and Antioch.

Even in Marin County, Eck said, success is possible.

"I stay positive, no matter what. Not everyone's going to join the Army. But the people who don't join, if they see me as a positive guy, they see the Army as positive."

Hard work

Even in the best of circumstances, recruiters face long odds.

Nationwide, about seven of every 10 prime recruiting prospects - people from 17 years old to about 25 years old - don't meet physical, educational and other minimum standards for enlistment, recruiters said.

Prospects who come unsolicited to recruiting offices tend to fall below those standards, recruiters said. Much of recruiters' typical 12-hour workday is spent on the phone and in the community searching for qualified applicants.

"It's challenging," said Staff Sgt. Craig Barringer, an Iraq war veteran and Army recruiter in Tracy.

"Two tours in Iraq, multiple combat situations - I've seen it all. And this is probably the most difficult thing I've ever done."

Support for the military is relatively high in Tracy, a San Joaquin County city of 80,000 residents that's become a greater Bay Area bedroom community. Recruiters there signed up 91 people in 2006, giving the city an enlistment rate far higher than almost every Bay Area city. Still, like recruiters everywhere, Barringer spends hours on the phone making scores of cold calls to prospects culled from online job sites, lists of high school and college students, newspaper advertisements and commercial databases.

"To pick up that phone over and over and over and (hear) rejection over and over and over - it wears on you," said the 30-year-old Modesto native. "You've just got to be willing to put out the effort."

It usually takes about 30 calls to land one appointment, said Staff Sgt. Brock Turner, commander of the Army's Tracy recruiting station. A skilled recruiter such as Barringer enlists one person for every six appointments, Turner said.

That takes more than phone calls.

Recruiters place brochures and fliers in stores, talk to prospects at home and, when welcome, on high school and college campuses. They aim to turn casual encounters into appointments or at least to introduce people to the idea of enlisting.

To reach its goal of signing up 80,000 active-duty soldiers this year, the Army wants each recruiter to enlist at least two people every month. Unlike in parts of the Bay Area, Tracy recruiters usually meet their quota.

"You have your dry spots here and there, where it just doesn't come through, Turner said. But this station usually does well."

In the schools

Somewhere in the lunchtime crowd of chattering Tracy High School students swarming around Barringer and two other Army recruiters one recent day could be a future soldier - maybe even several.

Most of the students were too young to enlist but not too young for recruiters to begin to interest them. Standing beside a table set with Army brochures, small footballs and basketballs, lanyards and pens, the recruiters handed out the trinkets while chatting with students.

"We don't expect to get a lot out of these table-days except for putting the information out there,

Barringer said. "Later on, it generally pays off."

In a year or so when it s time for students to make post-graduation plans, recruiters will call them. Federal law requires most schools to provide recruiters with the names and phone numbers of students, except those students who object.

Typically, no more than about 10 percent of students at Tracy s two big public high schools withhold their names, recruiters said. In contrast, about 80 percent of students at one of Eck s Marin County schools withheld their names.

Yet even at Tracy schools, recruiters are not universally welcome. The recent Tracy High School visit was the first time recruiters tabled at the school after parents and teachers complained several years ago.

Principal Pat Anastasio said students should be able to meet recruiters, but recruiters cannot have unlimited access. Recruiters must stay near their table and not pull students from the crowd, he said.

"What I tell them (recruiters) is: 'Let's have an understanding,'' Anastasio said. "We don't draft kids.

They come to you; you don't come to them."

Recruiters' reception elsewhere in Tracy also has been mixed. Barringer said he has been praised by

people and been ambushed by an old lady in Gottschalks who told me that everything about my life was wrong.

Counter recruiting

It was a debate, not an ambush, that Sgt. 1st Class Jose DeLao walked into one day last month at Oakland High School. The event pitted the Army recruiter against conscientious objector Pablo Paredes.

Paredes, a Bronx native and Navy veteran, told the student audience that he had high hopes for the military. His recruiter had promised him discipline, travel, money for college and training for civilian jobs.

"I wanted to get out of the ghetto," Paredes said. "I wanted to go get skills and get a job that could help my family."

After enlisting, Paredes said, he discovered that much of what he d been told was false or exaggerated. Learning to fire an assault rifle or throw a grenade, for example, does not help to land a job at Wal-Mart or as a teacher, he said.

"Whatever dream you re trying to chase in the military, there are other ways to chase that dream," Paredes said.

DeLao responded that the military offers people genuine opportunities, not just dreams. The native of Los Angeles' historically rough Watts district said that for him and many other people the military has been a path toward a better life.

"I had to join something or be a part of a gang," DeLao said.

Job training, college funds and other benefits recruiters describe are not a "hoax you to get you to join," DeLao said. The Army "can give you all the tools to be successful in life. It's up to you to use those tools to be successful."

The debate was part of a week of counter-recruiting events activists organized in Oakland schools.

The ranks of Bay Area counter-recruiting activists include students such as 17-year-old Amy Saechao.

She and three classmates at Oakland s Metwest High School have been visiting East Bay schools to provide their peers with another point of view.

"I have nothing against people who do decide to join the military," Saechao said in an interview before the debate. "But I feel like if they are going to decide to join the military then they at least should be given the right to know the entire story, rather than just the one-sided image they see through the media and recruiters."DeLao, commander of the Army s Alameda recruiting office, rejected the assertion that recruiters mislead people. Recruiters vigorously pursue prospects but not at any price, he said.

"It's business; it's recruiting" DeLao said after the debate. "But our intent is to be straight-up with these kids."

Sweeten the deal

The military has met most annual recruiting goals since the onset of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In 2005, however, the Army fell more than 6,600 recruits short of enlisting its goal of 80,000 active-duty soldiers.

The Army rebounded by retooling advertising to target parents and other adults who influence potential recruits. It also began enlisting more less-qualified recruits and raising enlistment bonuses.

Bonuses have helped Army recruiters such as Sgt. 1st Class Michael Mason succeed. Even in the 36-year-old South Carolina native s eastern Contra Costa County territory, where recruits are relatively plentiful, the money is attractive to prospects.

"That's one of the first things they ask about," Mason said.

For Beth Ingram, however, the potential for a bonus was just one factor to weigh as she and Mason went over her options one recent day inside the Army s Antioch recruiting office.

The 21-year-old Pittsburg resident aimed to pursue a civilian law enforcement career and thought that a stint in the armed forces, perhaps as a military police officer, would improve her prospects.

Then she learned that being an MP would require her to serve on active-duty for five years, longer than she wanted. So she began considering other jobs with commitments as short as 15 months.

"Choices. Choices," she told Mason as she struggled to make a decision. "I swear I'm just going to put these jobs in a hat and pull one out."

Dirty looks in Marin

In the North Bay, when the academic year began last fall, Eck braced for little to come of his recruiting efforts at the two Marin County high schools in his territory.

After all, he said, none of last year s seniors had expressed even the slightest interest in enlisting. Many teachers and administrators at best had seemed to tolerate his presence on campus, he said.

Elsewhere around the county, Eck had received "tons of dirty looks" while driving or walking. One passerby yelled "get the hell out of here and punched Eck s car on a downtown San Rafael street.

"A lot of people just don t believe in the (Iraq) war," Eck said. "So, they pretty much are going to try to avoid a recruiter - like I have leprosy or something."

Eck enlisted no one for several months last year. Then he enlisted eight people between November and February.

He credited the turnaround to spending more time on campus getting to know students, career counselors, teachers and administrators. Also, they got to know him and his methods.Barbara McCune, college and career counselor at Sir Francis Drake High School, said Eck showed that he s not a pushy recruiter. "He's just here to answer questions and talk about careers. He s not out there to make numbers."

One of Eck's recent recruits was 18-year-old Jay Fallon, who begins basic training in July. The Drake senior said he enlisted to serve the nation and get money for college.

Fallon said his parents were fearful he might be hurt or killed but have come to understand and support his decision. His classmates and teachers remain divided.

"A lot of people support me and say, ]congratulations,'' he said. "Some people think it's bad and I'm stupid."

So far, Fallon has been Eck s only recruit from Drake this year, but two other students there and more elsewhere have shown interest. From Eck s perspective, things have been looking up in Marin County.

"From all of my schools, left and right, I've got guys asking me about joining the Army," Eck said.

"This year has been an excellent year."