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Events and Such for March 15 and 16 in Vallejo







Word on the Street



By Paula McConnell




While on his whirlwind twenty five hour flight back and forth to Africa, Mr. Mayor Osby Davis forgot and left his expensive smart phone on the air plane along with his wallet. The smart phone was almost new, and he paid upwards of $400 for it. He retrieved the phone, but not the wallet. When he landed, he had no money and no means of communication. Do you feel sorry for him now?

Also regarding the infamous trip, it seems that former City Council member ( circa 1970's) Larry Asera’s wife Lillibeth called to lobby current Vallejo Councilmember Bob Sampayan, along with Ms. Dinah Villanueva, to vote in favor of sending the Oz on his overseas jaunt. Ms. Lillibeth works for the travel agency that booked the trip; commission anyone?


People say that Sampayan buckled under the Filipina pressure. Elsewhere on City Council, before the night’s expected Consent Calendar agreement to send the Oz to Africa, a savvy union heavyweight (also of Asian decent) allegedly approached Verder-Aliga on the dias and quietly said: “When you get to go to the Phillipines, I want to come along.” Just call me BIG EARS. Alas, some supporters were upset with Sampayan for voting in favor of the Oz trip.

And of course word is out that Pippin Dew married earlier this year. She is now Pippin Dew-Costa and the happy couple is expecting their first child on or about August 14th. If it’s a boy I wonder if she'll name it name it Jon?...OK, enough of that already.


Funny, ain’t it? When asked if they would like to run for the Vallejo School Board, most people will say, “No way!” But listen up folks. If we do not change the schools in Vallejo, we shall never change the business culture of Vallejo. Companies simply will not come to a town where there is often violence, theft and poor ratings in the high school graduation classes. In fact, barely 50% of Vallejo’s High School students ever graduate. Change on the school board is one of the most important elements that could possibly turn Vallejo around, and it often met with abandonment. So please check with people you know who might be qualified to run for the School Board. There are three seats open for the November election: Hazel Wilson who has been there well over a decade. Tony Ubalde, and Adrienne Waterman. We need dedicated people to help change the vicious cycle we have known for almost twenty years in the Vallejo school system. When one of the Vallejo Unified School District board members sends her only child to a Charter School, and when one of our City Council members sends her children to Benicia schools, you know that is trouble. Last year alone some twelve teachers were either hospitalized or given medical treatment due to student violence at Vallejo High School alone. And the Grand Jury report regarding the Vallejo schools is pretty bad – no, it’s egregious. Something has to be done, so please pay attention to the School Board election this year, even if you do not have children.


Each year about this time the local City Council forms a pow-wow to decide what the most important elements are for them to consider, and attempt to accomplish.

The Vallejo City Council just completed their 2014 goal setting sessions. They started out with some 59 goals, and narrowed it down to only a few.

One of the most important, according to Vallejo Planning Commissioner Tony Adams is their call for better using the fiber optic network in Vallejo. “The City of San Leandro has already implemented this. Vallejo already has the infrastructure in place. If this is addressed properly, Vallejo could increase their internet connectivity dramatically which would make businesses want to come here. We could be the most advanced little town on the Bay if we get serious and pursue this,” said Adams.

Another council goal is to decide how to handle the Cook property (that is the large open acreage on Admiral Callahan Way near Turner Parkway).

Yet another goal is the attempt to improve downtown, particularly with respect to the Empress Theatre which reverts back to Vallejo’s total jurisdiction at the end of this year. Remember folks, Vallejo spent over $8million on the renovation of the Empress, so we cannot blow it all off now. Let’s hope the council can get through those few goals this year without killing one another. It is quite a diversified crew on the council these days with the Filipino contingent in darn near majority. Also, some council members have their own private agendas, so keep an eye out…hmmm.


Donna Finney celebrated her birthday at the Townhouse with a pajama party recently. The naughty nighties worn by some of our LGBT friends were to die for; more than 100 people paraded through in various stages of dress and undress. Don’t forget to check out the Drag Queen shows at the Townhouse on Georgia St. The shows are some of the finest bits of theater this side of Broadway. Remember to stop in to check the art shows there too. No, you don’t have to be LGBT to enjoy the fun. Brian O’Reilly, in conjunction with Todd Williams, and others downtown have organized the upcoming “Going, Going, Gong Show” to be held at the Empress Theater on Saturday night, March 15th at 8pm. It should be great fun with over twenty acts participating. The show will benefit the Children Arts Summer Camp, in conjunction with VCAF. Local talented singer, Sylvia Carlson will perform, along with Walnut Creek comedian George Hsieh and local actress Margaret (Bunny) Nash. We’re also told that some members of the Board of Realtors will perform, Tix are $15 in advance, and $18 at the door. It is for a good cause, and a good chance to see some entertaining acts. Word has it that O’Reilly himself will perform too. It’s a sure bet that some of them will get the gong.It will be a great chance to see Elvis, Shakespeare, Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston and Hank Williams all on the same stage. So try not to miss it!

Also on the 15th of March, the Solano County Library Foundation is offering free tax preparation for people earning less than $52,000 a year.

And on March 28th, there will be a party in “Celebrating Women of Courage, Character, Commitment” also at the Joe Nelson Community Center at 622 Village Dr. in Suisun. Tix for that event are $25 & more information is available at 707 421-8075. And Bay Area Stage returns to our downtown Vallejo Museum with Samuel Becket’s “Waiting for Godot” which will open on April 4th. In this play two wanderers wait for Mr. Godot who will hopefully change their lives. Sounds like Vallejo, don’t it? We have been waiting for Godot for over 25 years now.

And things continue to rock and roll at Moschetti coffee at 11 Sixth St. every Saturday morning. Artists sell their wares, free coffee samples abound, and a good time is had by all. And on March 18th, parents can take their children to ‘Youth Ag Day’ at the Solano County Fairgrounds located at 900 Fairgrounds Dr. It represents the 12th annual ‘agventure’ for Solano County 3rd graders which gives them a chance to meet animals and agriculture up close. Future farmers of America will be abounding.

The annual Barkitecture fund-raiser to benefit the North Bay Humane Society will start with the “People’s Choice vote and preview party on Friday, March 28th, culminating with their gala and auction on Friday, April 4th. This year’s theme: ‘Woofstock’ – too cute Peter.

The Black Irish Band will be in concert at the Benicia Camel Barn museum at Stone Hall on 2024 Camel road. Tix for this event are $20 and the concert will begin at 8pm. Plan for a rousing, inspirational Irish experience.

And for those who like hiking, or boat rides, check with Myrna Hayes at the Mare Island Preserve at any time. She always has a list of outdoor activities for the family to enjoy. Nature abounds out there on the south end of Mare Island. And while you are there, ask about the history of the Spirit Ship.

Don’t forget, there is always a lot of activity at the McCree-Goudeau Gallery on the corner of Florida and Marin Street; Jeanette and Goodie are always warm and friendly there to greet y’all.

And the bi-monthly Art Walk action of the Hub gallery on Georgia St. (near Marin) is worth a look too. The jewelry there is particularly fun, and the sculpture is marvelous so drop by when you can.


GVRD Men’s Bastketball League will begin on March 19 at Hogan Middle School from 6:00pm to 10:00pm. Their cost is $30.00 per player to play. They are looking for players to join and compete, so call 648-4611 or go on to web to if interested.


On February 11th the local newspaper reporter Raskin-Zrihen wrote: “The grapes for a highly rated wine that’s been served at the White House come from Vallejo, though this fact is not widely known.” You betcha it is not known. Some years back Meyer Cookware came to Vallejo with a plan to expand their cookware operation. So the then ‘town fathers and mothers” bent over backwards and practically gave them our land. So what does the owner then do? He built a little warehouse, planted some award winning grapes and moved his larger operation to Fairfield. And all we have to show for it is an occasional pots, pans and crock pot sale during the holidays. Meyer CEO Cheng owns our land, the rights to his award winning wine, and voila. Vallejo is screwed once again. So when you see the little vineyard at the convergence of Solano Avenue and Curtola Parkway (formerly Maryland St.) you can salute Hestan Vineyards – a three acre grape growing parcel owned by Hong Kong native, Stanley Cheng. And in his literature, he describes his vineyard thus on the Internet: “Where the mouth of the Napa River meets the Bay.” Has a nice ring to it, right? The cursed name of Vallejo is never even mentioned, God forbid. Isn’t that a crock?


Yes, Virginia, we do have a California State University (should be called Vallejo State University) right here in town, but their board prefers to call it Cal Maritime, and continues to keep the name Vallejo out of their literature. Yet according to Kurt Lohide, V.P. of Administration and Finance, there is good news for them on the horizon, as they are soon going to offer Master’s Degrees, and will open a Center for Excellence for Maritime Studies which is a sort of think tank for the maritime industry. He further announced that the starting salary for a graduate in Engineering is $75,000. Gee, they could save the money on tuition and double their salary by joining the Vallejo Police Dept. instead, huh? The academy has about 1,050 students at this time, and plans to expand by the year 2029. They plan a boat house, more residence halls, a new lab and administration building, etc. So maybe they will take over more of those rough motels up and down Magazine Street. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the cost of their summer cruise on their Golden Bear Ship is $8,500. Students pay half of their individual fee, and grants usually cover the rest.


Mr. Joe Callahan was successful in getting his plans for a Veterans Administration building passed by the Design Review Commission. Cynthia Ripley and Doug Darling were holdouts against it. Seems that Kathy O’Hare was not crazy about the proposed Veteran’s building either, but soon thereafter Kathy resigned the commission. Word has it that she wants to concentrate more on the artistic contraption race, The Obtainium Cup, upcoming again on Mare Island. (Last year was a blast!) Ripley was concerned that there would be too much parking. “That was criteria for getting the bid,” said Callahan after the meeting. Some say that Callahan did back flips and hoola hoop moves to make this happen. “There are other competitors both in Oakland and even on Mare Island for this Veterans Admin building,” said Callahan. Word is that past Vallejo councilmember Stephanie Gomes and former Mayor Terry Curtola played a role in resolving the city's lawsuit with Triad, thus allowing this project to move forward. “This project will cost about $13 to $14 million. The next hurdle is moving the Vallejo Housing Authority over to the JFK Library building. They had over 20 employees and are now down to about 15, so it should be a little easier move for them now,” according according to Callahan.

And rave reviews are in for the restaurant that replaced ‘Ano Thai’ on Tennessee Street (near Broadway). The new restaurant ‘Simple Thai’ has been receiving great kudos from a wide variety of people. The primary owner, Bao Ngo, presents excellent food, in a quality ambiance, and most importantly, he constantly ‘works the room’ to make sure his customers are happy. “I learned the restaurant business from my parents who have a Thai restaurant in San Francisco,” Bao said. They taught him well. It is world class food with Vallejo prices. For the beer and wine crowd, he does not yet have his permit to serve, but he does not charge corkage if you BYOB.

And if Mexican is your thing some are saying that Taqueria El Valle at 1400 Tennessee has decent prices and offers plenty of food on the plate. They are fairly new too, so give them a whirl.


As we earlier mentioned, the three incumbents on the school board will probably throw their hat in the ring again. And Assembly member Susan Bonilla showed up recently at the Bayard Rustin LGBT Democratic club. As a former teacher, Assembly member Bonilla taught school at Concord High School and commented “There are layers and layers of problems in our schools which are not fully addressed,” she said. “There is a changing landscape in education, school boards are becoming more and more important,” she continued.

Bonilla also celebrated the fact that Travis Air Force Base has recently introduced its first LGBT organization ever to be implemented on an Air Force Base. “What is happening at Travis is very important to the LGBT community,” Bonilla said.

Mike Thompson’s recent pasta feed was a success with over 200 people attending recently at “Uncle Buck” Kamphausen's car museum/event center. Verder-Aliga and Sampayan, along with Congressman Thompson, among others served pasta to the hungry crowd. Thompson also gave computers to four non-profits and spoke passionately about the importance of education. He and his cohorts purport that if a child cannot read by 3rd grade, they will be doomed to a challenged life in school, and a potential life of crime. Thanks for caring Congressman Thompson; with similar attitudes in Congress, maybe the Tea Party folks will ultimately make education a priority.


Artist and gallery owner, Harold Beaulieu will soon leave downtown Georgia Street due to the fact that Ken Ingersoll (Gracie’s Barbeque) has purchased his building. So Beaulieu must go. When asked, where? he said: “I feel that I have given much already to the Vallejo arts community. Maybe I will go to South America. I have always wanted to live in Brazil,” he said. When asked if he understood any Portugese, the answer was no.

Vallejo has sadly said good-bye to some of the most celebrated and important people. Our dear stalwart Vallejo icon, Judith Hilburg transitioned to the other side after a heart attack in February. Everyone is invited to celebrate her life on March 16 at 2p.m. in the McCune Room at the JFK Library.

And Vallejo must say good-bye to two of her dear friends and equally important stalwarts, Allen and Alice Plutchok who are selling their fabulous home in the Heritage District (The Widemann mansion) for some $685,000. The Plutchoks (Allen is a retired physician from Kaiser) recently purchased the former home of Benicia Council member Christina Strawbridge (owner of the First St. boutique: Christina S) who sold them the former Benicia library on East ‘G’ Street for some $690,000. It seems the Plutchoks’ home in Vallejo was ‘almost’ sold to a lawyer. But in real estate, almost does not count. The Plutchoks will be sorely missed in Vallejo because they did much on behalf of the progressive political movement in town. They recently moved, quietly, without fanfare, and will be sorely missed. Heaven knows how they will ever survive on the EAST side of Benicia which is purported to be the ‘less than desirable’ area of town. Isn’t that a crock too?? Speaking of real estate, it seems that Mr. Ric Lemke’s home on 717 Georgia St. sold for some $318,000. According to real estate broker, Dan Scott of Exit Realty, it could have sold for much more, (asking price: $350ish) but a lot of dry rot was found during the inspection. Rots a ruck to that one. Congrats go too to St. Patrick, St.Vincent High School senior Rialie Sarmiento who recently sang at Carnegie Hall for the American High School Honor’s Performance. Notice: Private School, NOT Vallejo High School?

Stopped by Stephanie’s Boutique on Sonoma Blvd. (no relation to a former council member). Stephanie worked in real estate prior to opening her shop, but did a brief stint at a relative’s boutique in Oakland “after the crash.” She then decided to try her hand at retail and seems to be doing a great job. She and her husband are warm and friendly with a keen eye on shop lifters; they have stopped a few. The boutique has many neat accessories, and most items are very well priced given their quality. “Some of my best customers are the Prostitutes,” said Stephanie. We can understand that, besides the Vallejo cops, they are the only ones in this town making any real money. “Things are finally picking up now that the Subway has opened next door,” she said.


Whoa, lest we not stay up too late in Vallejo – a billiard room on Solano Avenue managed to get the Planning Commission to agree to later night hours recently, and the new restaurant /event center owner at the Glen Cove Marina had to grovel to get his weekend hours extended to 11p.m. on one weekend evening, and midnight on the other. But he is disallowed to have loud or amplified music out on his porches or decks, and must keep his doors closed whenever he has a loud late night band. Alas, he is happy to be allowed to host weddings, parties and other events for now particular after the millions of dollars he has put into this establishment. Indeed, he is lucky to be here after surviving the draconian Vallejo permit processes of this little town. Do I hear provincial anyone?

Thank heavens for Tony Adams, Bob Schussel & Jim Scoggin who are all currently on the Vallejo Planning Commission. They are perpetual resounding voices of reason.

Do try to attend a General Plan meeting happening throughout town now. Check with the Planning Department for meeting locations and times. City Manager Dan Keen encourages citizen input. If you can’t make it to one of their meetings, at least try to pop off your thoughts in an email note, or on-line at the city website. If you don’t state some of your concerns & suggestions about the town now, you can’t complain in the future.


We hear tell that the Admirals Baseball Team, which played in Vallejo for the first time last summer, will return this summer backed by an investor who also apparently likes wine. Some say he has homes in Hawaii, New York, L.A., etc. Word is that he will put up some $150,000 to bring the players back in hopes that Vallejoans and surrounding neighbors will support the great American sport right here in River City. Play ball Uncle Buck!

Lastly, former Vallejo Council member, and current Solano Supervisor Erin Hannigan celebrates her birthday this month close to dear old St. Patricks Day. Her cronies uh...supporters are throwing a big fund raiser in her honor. As my late, dear old Irish grandma would say: Erin Go Braugh. Happy St. Patty’s Day to one and all, and may the winds be always at your back!


Note: All opinions expressed in the "Word on the Street" column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin. 

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