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It takes a village
Controversial housing development resumes behind City College

October 14, 2010
by Lovelle Harris | Features Editor

Originally published in the Express on 10.14.10

The Sacramento City Council unanimously approved the Petrovich Development Company’s plan on Sept. 28 to move forward with the contentious Curtis Park Village community project to convert the former Union Pacific railyard into commercial, multi-family housing, affordable senior housing apartments and single-family residential units with a pedestrian bridge linking the community to City College.

The development is the latest project by local infill developer Paul Petrovich, who has made a career of turning Brownfield sites—abandoned industrial land that may be contaminated by hazardous waste or pollution—into viable communities.

“One of the challenges we’ve had with the property when I bought it seven years ago [was] there was a plan I inherited that said, based on then- current science and borings taken, that I had to export 80,000 cubic yards, which is about 140,000 tons of soil off the property,” Petrovich said.

“So I spent five years hauling off what was the equivalent of a 25 mile-long train of contaminated soil to Utah at a cost of $14 million, and when I went back and tested the areas I was supposed to clean up, it was still dirty.”

The land, about 73 acres located behind City College, has been a toxic wasteland for decades as a result of activities associated with railroad maintenance, including the dismantling and reassembly of trains and rail cars—activities that left the area’s soil laden with toxic elements such as lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and asbestos, according to an August 2003 report by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

At the heart of the controversy is Petrovich’s decision to bury the toxic soil underground and cover the hole with a synthetic, impermeable membrane cap. At odds with the developer’s decision, the nearby Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association and its representatives have challenged this method of dealing with the toxic material as unsafe.

“I would have some concerns,” said Steve James, City College biology professor. “I mean even though they’re putting a membrane over the top, there’s always a concern that the membrane will rupture and affect things above it. There’s also the concern that the effects below where that material is could affect ground water.”

In response to these objections, a revised plan, recently accepted by the city, calls for the burial of the toxic soil underneath the streets in the community, rather than in containment bins, according to Petrovich.

While cleanup activities have been ongoing since August 2003, and are slated to continue through 2010, according to the DTSC, projections indicate the proposed community would be a boon for the local economy.

“What is important to many people these days is [the development] would generate 1,600 jobs, $2.5 million in new annual property taxes and $900,000 in sales tax per year,” Petrovich said.

Land Park plays host to political forum
Jerry Brown speaks to locals

September 7, 2010
by Lovelle Harris | Features Editor

Originally published in the Express on 9.7.10

The race for California’s new governor came to William Land Park today as Jerry Brown rallied his supporters and presented his political platform at a Labor Day celebration.

“We’ve got to pull together, if we do, we’ll get it done,” Brown said. “The wealth is there, the good will is there, but it takes the leadership that’s going to talk straight, that’s going to level with people. No more puffy plans and snappy slogans. This is the time for truth.”

The Los Rios College Federation of Teachers was a primary sponsor for the event, which started off with Race for Democracy, a 5K, 10K and kids run at 7:30 a.m. and later culminated in a picnic fundraising event sponsored by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and Citizens Independent-Democratic FUND to raise funds to increase voter participation and elect Democratic candidates, according to the event organizers’, the Democratic Party of Sacramento County’s website. The Los Rios College Federation of Teachers was a primary sponsor of the event.

“I’m going to start right after the November election. We’re going to call all 120 legislators together. We’re going to focus on this budget, we’re going to look at each issue, we’re going to bring in business and labor and we’re going to talk about it. We’re only going to make it when we pull together and recognize what’s on the table. Not the smoke and mirrors [and] the hocus-pocus,” Brown said. “I’m going to level with you; I’m going to tell you the truth.”

The event was also a venue for other Democratic contenders on the November ballot to bring forth their respective platforms to community members, teachers and various labor union representatives and their constituents.

“California is not a logo to be rebranded by Meg Whitman,” Brown said. “We don’t want to gut our schools, our hospitals, our roads…over this pipe dream that if you just keep taking money out you’ll somehow magically get it back. It didn’t work in Washington, [and] it won’t work here.”

City College journalism program recognized
Annual state convention awards City College publications

April 19, 2010
by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 04.19.10

Express newspaper editor in chief Stephanie Rodriguez’s news article covering last semester’s recall of the Associated Student Government president won No. 1 in the state April 8-10 for excellence in reporting.

“I could not believe it,” Rodriguez said. “I was so excited, I didn’t know what to say. I think I smiled that whole day.”

The Journalism Association of Community College awarded the achievements of the editorial and design elements of saccityexpress.com, Mainline and the Express publications with an additional 17 awards at its annual conference in Los Angeles.

According to graphic communication professor and Express design adviser Don Button, more than 100 California community college journalism programs participated.

“And the fact that we received honorable mention in seven out of 10 to 12 design awards, and that our current editor in chief won No. 1 news story in the entire state, I mean it speaks for itself,” Button said.

Last semester, the Express underwent a facelift that may have contributed to some of the success at the award ceremony, according to Button.

“We went to tabloid, so we are no longer in a broadsheet format of old-style newspapers, so it has a really fresh, modern look,” Button said. “Most of our design entries came from the fall [semester] when we had gone to tabloid, in fact maybe all of them did, so it was the tabloid that really kind of had an impact.”

The JACC awards validate the talent of many students as they transition out of City College and into the professional world.

“Some of the students that won awards for last year’s awards are out there working right now, a few of them are still here, but a couple of them — Charles Henderson and Lori Llanillo — are out there working in the real world doing design now on the job and they’re our top two GCOM students.”

One of the students to receive honorable mention in the student-designed advertisement category expressed surprised after winning for her Halloween-inspired ad.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Express design editor Casey Mar. “It was really exciting because I had no idea that they even submitted my ad in the first place. Also I am not that kind of designer. I’m a layout girl. I can do creative stuff with layout but when it comes to actually conceptualizing things and doing it that way, I don’t tend to step into that arena very often, so it was very flattering.”

With the business of journalism going the way of the Internet, the Express appears poised for future.

“Saccityxpress.com won general excellence as the No. 1 award for community college online journalism and it was their first semester, their first semester!” Button said “And they won best in the state, so that’s huge.”

Cycling at your own risk
Group seeks to make Freeport Boulevard safer

by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 04.05.10

While many at City College have taken their daily campus commute from the freeway to the bike lane, a long, narrow, and oftentimes unforgiving, stretch of that commute is currently under fire, as a grassroots movement to make Freeport Boulevard more bike-friendly takes shape.

“I’ve been hit by mirrors a couple of times,” said art department instructional assistant Jennifer Griffin. “And the other thing that bothers me is that you’re so close, people will throw stuff at you or hit you. I’ve had Cokes dumped over my head, so it’s not fun.”

Years of frustration over the hazardous conditions for cyclists and pedestrians sparked the alliance of concerned residents, students and business-owners, which coalesced into the group Safety Along Freeport For Everyone (SAFFE).

According to the SAFFE Web site, the group’s objective is to implement a “complete street” concept which will ensure that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

After 21st Street becomes Freeport Boulevard once it crosses under the freeway, the boulevard passes in front of McClatchy High School, and then City College, and eventually continues to the town of Freeport, south of Sacramento. The area at the epicenter of this movement, however, is the 0.92-mile stretch of roadway that runs between Vallejo Way and Sutterville Road.

“It’s not my favorite street,” said art professor Gioia Fonda. “I feel like given that there is a high school and a college on the street there should be bike lanes.”

Architecture major Kolin Sullivan, who commutes to campus four days a week and occasionally rides his bike down Freeport, said it’s a complicated situation.

“It’s heavily traveled by vehicles, and people park on both sides of the street, which squeezes the bike lane and restricts it,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes I feel like should ride on the sidewalk but then there’s pedestrians.”

Particularly vexing to cyclists is one inconvenient stretch of road caused by the 21st Street conversion project completed by the city in 2007.

“I think the lightrail and the traffic lights totally impact it [safety],” Sullivan said. “They’re just out of cadence and you have to wait a long time to get through that intersection by Taylor’s Market.”

SAFFE is in the process of lobbying the City Council to conduct a traffic study on Freeport.

Students prepare for tax time
New law gives taxpayers additional credits for education

by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 03.22.10

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, City College students filing their own tax returns can reap rewards from a variety of new deductions and tax credits aimed at offsetting the rising cost of higher education.

“Now the new credit — this American Opportunity Credit — is probably the most generous,” said Shanna Stein, City College professor of accounting. “The new credit has a max credit of $2,500, but the Higher Education Tax Credit has a $4,000 deduction, but that’s different because it is a deduction. A deduction reduces your taxable income. A credit reduces your tax. Credits are good, deductions are good too, but credits are better.”

“I think it is [a good credit] for students,” said full-time City College student Jones Robinson. “Because students can get that money back for expensive books that maybe they thought were overpriced.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the new credit modifies the existing Hope credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, making it available to a larger range of taxpayers, including many in higher income brackets and those who owe no tax.

“The Hope credit’s been around a number of years. So student have always known they’ve got a deduction,” Stein said. “You get a form 1098T from the school, and if you’re using a software program, if you put that into the software program, it’ll give you the best deal.”

Renaming the credit wasn’t the only change made by the IRS in 2010.

“The new one, you can deduct your tuition, any fees associated with school and materials,” Stein said. “So like your books would be included in that. This is the first time they’ve ever given really anything for books. Up until now it’s just been tuition and fees.”

“This is the first year that I got the [1098T] slip,” Robinson said. “It gave me, I’m not sure, I think it was like $200.”

According to the IRS, the full credit is available to individuals, whose gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. While the credit is not applicable to taxpayers with incomes above these levels, these income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and lifetime earning credits.

Stein said while she cannot provide tax advice and those seeking advice should speak with their tax preparer, students should be aware of some common pitfalls associated with filing that could cause delays in processing.

“The IRS reports that the biggest errors they find on tax returns are math errors,” said Stein. “[Also] there is another credit, the Making Work Pay Credit, which is brand new, and it’s up to $400 per person.”

Tutoring center aids struggling students

by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 03.22.10

In the era of Furlough Fridays, budget cuts and ever-present pink slips, a City College program aimed at providing students with necessary skills has managed to survive another semester.

While the Web site for the Learning Skills and Tutoring Program indicates the College Success

Workshops program is unavailable, according to one of the program coordinators, because of some last-minute funding, the workshops, which employ students to help those in need, will continue.

“We’ve been offering workshops since about 2006,” said evening and weekend tutor coordinator Kakwasi Somadhi. “We’ve had pretty good staffing levels up until we lost about half of our tutoring staff. We normally will employ between 40 and 50 students a semester [but now] we’re down to about 20.”

Workshops are geared toward improving academic performance and providing students with the skills necessary to improve success in college.

“Quite a bit of what we do is what instructors are telling us, and we set up workshops accordingly,”

Somadhi said. “Faculty are always trying to get their student to improve on how they approach subjects. So they will often give their students a bit of extra credit for coming to those workshops.”

Some of the upcoming workshops offered this semester include today’s Coping with Stress and Test Anxiety (March 23), an ATB math workshop March 24 about the basics of taking, or retaking, the Ability to Benefit test — required for students without a high school diploma or GED — and Developing Good Study Skills March 25.

“Students often fail, or do poorly in classes, not because they can’t grasp the work, but because they don’t know how to approach doing it,” Somadhi said.

City College students appreciate the services.

“Everytime I have any type of question they go farther than what’s expected of them to help me,” said City College nursing major Ernesto Sabala.

“We have a wait list and right now on our wait list there are better than 100 students that we cannot serve or we’re having difficulty serving,” said Somadhi, who admits the program is still feeling the effects of budget cuts.

City College assessment complete
Review determines educational standards are up to par

by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 02.08.10
Additional reporting by Crystal Anderson.

City College earned the highest rating possible when its status as an accredited institution was reaffirmed recently by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, according to a Feb. 2 announcement by City College President Kathryn Jeffery.

Accreditation, according to the ACCJC’s Web site, is granted to an educational institution that has been found to meet or exceed stated criteria of educational excellence.

“We’ve decided ourselves, as an institution, as a district, that we are going to follow a certain set of standards. It’s a voluntary decision,” said Kelly Irwin, senior IT technician and the classified chair of the Accreditation Steering Committee’s tri-chairs. “What that means for the institution, and for students, is that if we are accredited your units can be transferred to other accredited institutions.”

City College earned the commission’s highest rating of reaffirmation of accreditation, but must submit a follow-up report by March 13, 2011. According to the letter of accreditation issued Jan. 29, the commission recommends the college begin an assessment of student learning outcomes at all levels of instruction in order to meet the standards by 2012.

The process of accreditation involved administrators and the student body.

“Student input was obtained in three ways,” said Marybeth Buechner, City College dean of Planning, Research and Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation Liaison Officer. “Through an opinion survey, by having student input to writing the self-study, and by the visiting accreditation team talking with students.”

The accreditation team visited the City College campus last October and spoke to students about their educational experiences.

According to their report, seven standards were evaluated in the process. From institutional effectiveness to information technology, City College met or exceeded most of the standards. Other recommendations included implementation of a more interactive process to keep the campus informed of capital construction projects, Web site re-design and “implementation of reciprocity of student placement evaluations district wide.”

“If we were to not be reaffirmed all of the units that you just did would be non- existent,” Irwin said. “It’s a big deal.”

“[It’s] sort of like making it legit or something,” said student Priscilla Rincon.

Security ramps up
Funding allows for several safety upgrades

by Lovelle Harris | Print News Editor

Originally published in the Express on 02.08.10

With a number of security upgrades currently underway on campus, a result of the Los Rios Community College District’s effort to beef-up security on each four of its campuses, City College has taken a decidedly proactive approach to ensuring the safety of its faculty, staff and students.

“Several programs have been funded by the district with regard to safety,” said Greg Hayman, director of Operations. “But it’s really an ongoing process.”

A multi-phase project to install security cameras throughout the district, the replacement of doors with swing-type door hardware and the implementation of the Wide Area Rapid Notification system are in the process of being implemented, according to a report issued by the LRCCD’s Preparedness Assessment Team.

“The emergency notification system sends warnings via email, text and phone,” Hayman said. “A group of us met on Jan. 12 to go over protocols and standard messages, and we’re hoping to implement it by the end of the spring semester, but we’re just getting it all set up now.”

According to the same PAT report, in the wake of several high profile incidents of violence on campuses nationwide, the district created the group in 2007 to enhance its emergency preparedness. “The district felt that in light of the Virginia Tech incident we should remove the hardware on the doors so they are not chain-able,” Hayman said. “There are approximately 90 doors on campus that will be replaced.”

The upgrade with the greatest potential for providing the City College community with a greater sense of security is the installation of a video surveillance system that is directly linked to the Los Rios Police Department.

“About a dozen cameras have been set up on campus,” Hayman said. “Primarily around the parking areas.”

And not a moment too soon. While the LRPD patrols campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a recent a crime alert bulletin issued by the LRPD reported on Jan. 14 at 7:15 p.m. a student was robbed at knifepoint by four suspects at the campus light rail station.

“Luckily the victim was not hurt,” Hayman said. “The light rail has their own camera system but our new video cameras will also pick up what is going on there.”

While a concerted effort is presently in progress to ramp up the level of security on campus, opinions vary on the current state of safety at City College.

“There is an issue of safety,” says Juan De Anda, the 19-year-old victim of the light rail station robbery and sports editor of the Express. “The incident made me scrutinize the security here – we need to come to school, but if there’s no security how do we feel safe?”

“I ride light rail to and from every day and haven’t had any issues whatsoever,” said Tom Jones, a 26-year-old anthropology major. “I’m on the train four days a week, usually early in the morning and late in the evening. I come through here actually sometimes as late as 10 p.m.”

Community college enrollment booms
City College sees significant increase

by Lovelle Harris | Staff Writer

Originally published in the Express on 11.09.09

Enrollments at two- and four-year institutions spiked in 2008 as nearly 40 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 registered for instruction at places of higher education – the surge coming almost entirely from enrollments at two-year colleges, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center Oct. 29.

The report showed that national college enrollment rates are projected to continue growing at record-breaking levels as young people look for solutions in an increasingly hostile economy.

This trend is readily apparent at City College, where enrollment in 2008 increased by 9.6 percent over the previous year with an especially noticeable increase in the number of first-time freshmen, according to City College’s Self-Study Report for Reaffirmation of Accreditation submitted on Aug. 14.

“It’s a lot cheaper than state, basically,” says Eric Sousa, a 23-year-old City College freshman.

While the U.S. Census Bureau advises their findings on enrollment trends for 2009 won’t be published for many months, a current population survey released by the agency in September suggests that enrollment rates for 18- to 24-year-olds will continue to follow the all-time high trend set in 2008.

According to Dean Marybeth Buechner at the office of Planning, Research and Institutional Effectiveness, while the 2009 figures won’t be available until the end of the fall semester, preliminary reports indicate a current enrollment of approximately 25, 300.

Amidst a recession that has had a stranglehold over the economy for the last year and a half, according to the Pew report, nearly 3.4 million young adults invested in their education not by attending private or state universities, but by enrolling in community colleges instead.

“I didn’t want to go straight to a four-year college quite yet,” says Kristeen Monrry, an 18-year-old freshman who graduated last year from River City High School in West Sacramento. “I kind of wanted to ease my way into it and get the feel of college before I go into something more difficult.”

Los Rios Community College District research data files also show a marked increase in the census headcount with City College’s total enrollment, jumping from 22,352 in 2007 to 24, 506 in 2008.

With this uptick in enrollment, and the CPS report projecting that the high levels of college enrollment will continue, it remains to be seen whether the campus can handle the influx of new students in the face of budget cuts and class reductions.

“I think they should be able to handle it,” Monrry says. “It kind of all depends. It kind of evens out like awhile after the beginning [of the semester] because a lot of kids drop out.”

“[The college] can handle it if they let the students know where the classes are besides Sac City; like the outreach centers that we have at UC Davis or Downtown or in West Sac,” Roman Hodge, City College student, says. “If they let students know where these other options are, and if students are willing to travel to those other places, yeah, we can deal with it.”

Voting irregularites from spring semester still plague student trustee election

by Lovelle Harris | Staff Writer

Originally published in the Express on 09.15.09

The Sacramento Superior Court returned a lawsuit to the federal court Aug. 21 that had been filed by the American River College Students for Liberty Campaign concerning the legality of the Los Rios Community College District’s decision to void approximately 4,000 votes in the April student trustee election.

“The lawsuit is actually specifically calling for the district to count the votes and elect the person who received the majority of the votes,” said George Popko, ARC student, trustee candidate, and president of the ARC Students for Liberty Campaign. “In other words, elect the person who won the election democratically.”

According to LRCCD spokesperson Susie Williams, the decision to invalidate the election and appoint Brandon Kleine as trustee was made because of differences in the voting hours on each of the four campuses during the election.

“Prior to invalidating, [our] vice chancellor for education and technology and our associate vice chancellor did a full review,” Williams said. “They went out and asked to talk to student life coordinators, students, students in positions of leadership, and it was pretty unanimous throughout the district folks felt that, yes, it could cause a false election result.”

Following the decision, the ARC Student Association launched its own inquiry into the local campus general election and on April 30 unanimously passed Bill S09-20, calling for an independent audit of the election process to examine the evidence that cited irregularities between the number of ballots cast and the number of voters.

“Unfortunately the effort to resolve this issue with the audit was basically stalled by the administration, so it never actually took place,” Popko said. “Basically they refused to release the funds for the bill.”

The district confirmed that the audit did not occur.

“They wanted to use money for the audit that wasn’t designated for the purpose,” Williams said. “I don’t think it was really clear what the audit was [intended to accomplish]. The issue was that there were more hours of voting time, not the votes themselves.”

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