Recruiting 2016 Citizens Academy Class

Source: Sacramento County DA Office  |  2016-02-08
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The Academy’s 2015 graduates. Photo courtesy Sacramento County DA’s Office

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department are proud to announce their 16th Annual Citizens Academy.

The academy was created to improve communication, foster a better understanding and develop relationships between members of the criminal justice system and citizens, including those from different ethnic, cultural, and faith-based communities. Since the start of the academy in 2002, there have been 15 graduating classes with more than 860 participants.

The program provides an overview of the criminal justice system (law enforcement roles, responsibilities and challenges) and engages citizens from all backgrounds in discussion, participation, and mutual learning about issues within the criminal justice system. New topics this year include a panel discussion on sensitive current events and “outside the box” approaches to the justice system.

Representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, law enforcement, the judiciary, and community organizations will present information, answer questions, and address community concerns.

There is no cost to participants. The 10-week course is held Tuesday evenings starting April 5th, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the new location: (APAPA) Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association’s Office - 4000 Truxel Road, suite 3, Sacramento 95834.

The deadline for submitting applications is March 11th, 2016. Application forms can be found here: http://www.sacda.org/communityrelations/citizens-academy/. Program Contact: Erica Sevigny at (916) 874.5251 or sevignyer@sacda.org.

 

 

Abriter Foster Family

The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers, one of the most common “Dirty Dozen” tax scams seen during tax season.

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, and other scams that hurt taxpayers. That’s why unscrupulous preparers who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers with outlandish promises of overly large refunds make the Dirty Dozen list every year.

“Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Most preparers provide high-quality service but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal from their clients and misfile their taxes.”

Return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Choosing Return Preparers Carefully

It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips when choosing a tax preparer:

•Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on your tax return.

•Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select. IRS.gov has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.

•Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of: Attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents , Enrolled Actuaries, Annual Filing Season Program participants.

•Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

•Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you—not into your preparer’s bank account.

•Ask to e-file your return.  Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.

•Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

•Make sure the preparer is available. In the event questions come up about your tax return, you may need to contact your preparer after the return is filed. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

•Understand who can represent you. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, can represent clients in limited situations. However, other tax return preparers cannot represent clients before the IRS on any returns prepared and filed after Dec. 31st, 2015.

•Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

•Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

•Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, research the IRS preparer directory, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task.


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No Ship of Fools for These Cruise Acts

Story by David Dickstein  |  2016-02-08

Comedian Chas Elstner adjusts his routine between West Coast and East Coast cruises. Photo courtesy Chas Elstner

Garry Carson has heard it thousands of times on cruise ship elevators and as passengers walk into the theater where he’s about to perform: “I don’t like magic, but let’s see if the guy is any good.”

Some entertainers would have bruised egos not being recognized in a crowded place, especially one as small as an elevator. But after working cruise ships for roughly 5 months a year for 18 years, the well-traveled comedy magician knows the life of taking an act on the road where there are no roads.

“These people are not there because they love or even like magic,” said Carson, pointing out a big difference between playing land-based shows and those on the high seas.

Except for special sailings featuring live performances by major acts, virtually no one books a cruise based on the onboard entertainment.

Then there’s the matter of demographics. Carson has noticed that the funny stuff that kills in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia doesn’t get the same reaction in Asia. “I have to get into the mindset of not relying on the comedy being as strong as the magic and mystery or laughter being as loud if I’m performing in certain areas of the world,” Carson said.

It’s not just an international hurdle for these guest performers; audiences on cruises out of Long Beach and San Pedro aren’t the same as those embarking in New York and Galveston. References about grunge rock and coffee houses might work on Alaskan cruises sailing out of Seattle, but greeted with crickets on itineraries originating from Miami.

This hurdle is higher for stand-up comedians, hypnotists and, as Carson knows, magicians because their acts inherently rely heavily on audience participation. As Carson noted during a recent Mexican Riviera cruise out of San Pedro, on the Norwegian Jewel, people go on faith, expecting to laugh if it’s a comedy act, be amazed if it’s a magic show and do both if a hypnotist is about to go on stage.

What’s a cruise ship entertainer to do?

“An old clown gave me this piece of advice: Never play the audience,” said veteran comedian Chas Elstner, who before doing stand-up on 300 cruises and at countless land-based clubs was going for yucks as a featured clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. “There are so many nuances that you just sort of have to play through it all.”

Elstner, from inside Carnival Conquest’s Punchliner Comedy Club, elaborated on what types of nuances.

“Like with cruises out of L.A., it seems the first night is hit or miss,” he said. “They take a day to get energized. It can’t be because they’re tired from traveling since most live within a short drive to the port. I can’t figure it out. But then the second and third night, it’s like, oh my God, California audiences just become wonderful.”

For cruises out of the East Coast, New York in particular, Elstner said audiences take their time warming up to a comic. “They want you to prove you’re a funny guy first, and then they’ll allow you to do your act,” he said.

Tough crowds have also been the experience for master hypnotist Asad Mecci with cruises out of New York.

“You really have to hammer them right away,” said the Toronto-based entertainer. “New Yorkers want to see how confident you are on stage. If they feel as though you’re hesitating when you’re delivering your lines they will definitely make trouble for you. When New Yorkers love you they really love you. When they hate you they really hate you.”

Cruises leaving Los Angeles area ports draw audiences that are, in Mecci’s words, “more chilled out and relaxed.”

“It is stereotypical but it’s the truth,” he said. “They’re a laid back, chilled out, relaxed, fun group of people.”

His take on audiences from southern states depends on whether they hail mostly from Dixie, meaning out of such ports as New Orleans and Mobile, or the handful of Floridian harbors.

“Southerners, in particular, are really rooting for you,” Mecci said. “Out of Florida you’ll get some cat calls and other types of heckling, where in New Orleans it’s dead quiet during the parts I’m telling jokes and tales.”

Mecci stopped short when asked which region of the U.S. spawns the most entertaining hypnotized subjects, but he did say that participants out of New Orleans are a blast.

“I just think their energy level is super high,” he said. “They’re excited to be in the theater watching the show and that kind of translates on stage as well.”

As a comic, turned cruise director, turned comic, Mark Hawkins has performed before audiences of all regions many times over. While he’ll respond with an “of course” when asked if L.A. cruisers are different than those from New York—“You can see that just walking around the ship” —he says that regional variances disappear as they enter the lounge.

“When they become an audience, the reality is people are people,” Hawkins said moments before taking the Punchliner stage aboard the Carnival Conquest. “The demographics are very different, but the people are very much the same.”

A pet peeve of Hawkins, one of the few he doesn’t joke about in his act, is the myopia of certain comics, particularly those who pander to audiences with regional material just for easy laughs.

“There’s comedians who bring a Southern act to cruises out of Texas and doing jokes that start with, ‘Hey, how many people here love the Waffle House?,’ and they get immediate applause. They are these things peppered in the act to get applause, and comedians who do this annoy me because they’re insulting the audience. I hate when people say people in the South are stupid. They’re not. They’re smart, they’re cool, they’re hip, and you should treat them like they’re smart and cool and hip.

“It annoys me when comics complain about regional differences. Yes, they have different accents, but they’re still just people—they’re married, they’ve got problems, and when you stop treating them like they’re different they treat you with more respect.”

Hawkins describes his act as “very personal,” drawing much of his material from being a husband and father of two daughters just doing as best he can. “About 10 years ago I found there are certain things that are universal and I made the show as common as I could. It’s hard to offend somebody when I’m talking about me.”

Another cruise favorite whose shows are personal in nature is musical comedian Steve Moris. Working for Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity, the Southern California-raised entertainer has performed on more than 600 cruises since 2004. With a guitar always within reach, his sets are sprinkled with Beach Boys music and two decades’ worth of stories harkening back to when he opened for the group and would jam with Brian Wilson and gang during concerts. Because his routines are heavy on classic Baby Boomer-era tunes, and yarns about how he and his siblings were parented and comical self-deprecation, Moris said he doesn’t feel the need to modify material based on where a cruise originates.

“No matter where I go working cruise ships, everybody loves the music—it cuts right through,” said Moris from the Regal Princess’ Vista Lounge, where he performed to an audience the prior night. “I don’t change the act because I talk about growing up as a Baby Boomer, and everyone can relate to what mom and dad did. The music I add to the act is universal.”

That doesn’t mean he considers his crowds as cookie-cutter. His takes on playing before East Coast and West Coast prove that.

“The toughest crowds I may have—may have—are from the New York area, which is ironic because both sides of my family came from Brooklyn,” Moris said. “And as for cruises out of Southern California, I don’t change any of my material—I just slow it down…he says laughing, quote/end-quote.”


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With winter storms slowly boosting water supply, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today increased its water delivery estimate for most recipients from 10 percent of requests for the calendar year, as announced in December, to 15 percent.

“Our modest increase underscores the fact that we still have a critical water shortage after four-plus years of drought that we don’t know when will end,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “One look at our low reservoirs tells us that we need a lot more wet weather before summer.”

Although there is no exact formula for ending the drought and conditions vary region by region, a rough guidepost is that approximately 150 percent of average winter precipitation — rain and snow — would significantly ease statewide conditions, with the major exception of groundwater depletion.

The State Water Project (SWP) delivery estimate (allocation) may be increased further if storms continue to build rainfall and snowpack totals. The 29 public agencies that receive SWP water (State Water Project Contractors) requested 4,172,786 acre-feet of water for 2016. With today’s allocation increase, they will receive 631,115 acre-feet.

Collectively, the SWP Contractors serve approximately 25 million Californians and just under a million acres of irrigated farmland.

It is important to note that nearly all areas served by the SWP also have other sources of water, among them streams, groundwater, and local reservoirs.

Key reservoirs are beginning to rise from early winter storms, but remain low.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal reservoir, was recorded recently as holding 1,366,061 acre-feet, 39 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity and — 60 percent of its historical average for the date. Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, was holding 2,138,566 acre-feet, 47 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity and 71 percent of its historical average. San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta pool for both the SWP and CVP, reflects the same trend of lower reservoir storage this year. San Luis was holding 641,729 acre-feet, 31 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity and 41 percent of normal for the date. Folsom Lake, a CVP reservoir near Sacramento, is holding 398,523 acre-feet of its 977,000 acre-foot capacity, 79 percent of average for the date.

Though still critically low, many reservoir levels have dramatically risen from recent storm runoff. Groundwater aquifers recharge more slowly, with many in the Central Valley sinking toward record levels.

Last year’s (2015) 20 percent allocation was the second lowest since 1991, when agricultural customers of the SWP got a zero allocation and municipal customers received 30 percent of requests. In 2014, SWP deliveries were five percent of requested amounts for all customers.

The last 100 percent allocation — difficult to achieve even in wet years largely because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish species — was in 2006. SWP allocations in recent years:

2015 – 20 percent

2014 – 5 percent

2013 – 35 percent

2012 – 65 percent

2011 – 80 percent

2010 – 50 percent

2009 – 40 percent

2008 – 35 percent

2007 – 60 percent

2006 – 100 percent

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought state of emergency on Jan. 17th, 2014 and followed up with statewide water conservation mandates. Since then, the state has been swept by drought-fueled forest fires, vast tracts of farmland have been fallowed and some communities have scrambled for drinking water.

Long-range weather forecasts are uncertain, and there is no way to know if this winter will deeply dent the state’s historic drought.

DWR’s California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) Web sites show current water conditions at the state’s reservoirs and weather stations.

Reservoirs: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/getResGraphsMain.action

Precipitation: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow_rain.html

Snow: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/sweq.action

While the early winter rain and snowpack are promising, this may yet prove to be a fifth consecutive year of drought in California. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water; find out how at SaveOurWater.com.


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From Senator Jim Nielsen: “The State’s first priority must be saving money for the Rainy Day fund to ease the pain of budget cuts in an economic downturn. Programs that provide care to the most vulnerable Californians like Developmental Disability Services have not been adequately funded.

“To better serve people with developmental disabilities, I introduced Senate Bill 818, a bill similar to the one I introduced in Special Session last year. My commitment to make this funding permanent in the State's General Fund is unwavering.

“And I am so glad to hear that the Governor reaffirmed his commitment to build water storage. We must increase the state's above-ground water storage.

“Conservation alone won't get us out of this historic drought nor will it help get us through the next drought.

“Sites Reservoir is shoveled-ready to store up to 1.8 million acre feet of water.

“Planning for access to clean water is essential to the prosperity of future generations.”

Source: Office of Senator Jim Nielsen

 

From Senator Gaines: “In a state with the highest poverty rate in the nation, hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities, and some of the highest gas taxes and worst roads, I hoped to hear more about the Governor's vision for solving those massive problems without crushing taxpayers.

“I’m happy that the state revenues are surging, but that should be viewed as an opportunity to pay down debt and fund one-time, high-priority projects. This month's stock market meltdown shows that our budget picture could change dramatically in just one year proving again that California needs to be a model of prudent, careful spending.

“I want the Governor to put some money back into working families' pockets. No tax increase extensions, and no new taxes on gas and health plans. Let’s—for once—grow the quality of life instead of growing bureaucracy.”

Source: Office of Senator Gaines

 

From Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner: “I share the governor’s optimism when it comes to California's future. Our state has a diverse economy, a strong commitment to education and more than enough revenue to fully fund roads, schools, and water storage without raising taxes.

“As the governor himself warns, we must continue to exercise fiscal prudence. The true test of his leadership will be whether he can hold the line on spending against the tax-and-spend liberal legislators of his own party.

“Instead of raising taxes, our focus should be on providing greater value for Californians by improving quality of life and by seeking solutions that make this state a more affordable place to live and work.”

Source: Office of George Runner

 

From Assemblymember Rocky Chávez: “Today, the Governor continued his theme of fiscal caution and hopeful planning for the future in his comments. While I applaud his recognition of this important principle, Governor Brown needs to focus on practical government solutions that cut back on waste and gets our State back to common sense governance,” said Chávez.

“We have a major hole in our Healthcare system, we have a backlog of billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs and we continue to face one of the worst droughts in California with no adequate water storage. The rubber band can only stretch so far until it snaps. We need to put practical solutions into place to take care of these issues while continuing to budget for our rainy day fund.”

“In his closing, the Governor discussed being courageous yet cautious. With the changing world markets, the uncertainty of how foreign affairs will affect our state and our volatile income tax dependency, Brown made one thing certain today, 2016 will not be 2015,” said Chávez.

Source: Office of Rocky Chávez


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American Pickers to Film in California

Source: American Pickers on History Channel   |  2016-01-29

This hit show follows two of the most skilled pickers in the business, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, as they embark on an epic road trip across the U.S. in search of America’s most valuable antiques from motorcycles, classic cars, and bicycles to one-of-a-kind vintage memorabilia. Photo courtesy American Pickers on History Channel

California is excited to welcome Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz and Antique Archeology to the area. The team will film episodes of their hit series American Pickers throughout California. Filming is scheduled for early March.

American Pickers is a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique “picking” on History. This hit show follows two of the most skilled pickers in the business, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, as they embark on an epic road trip across the U.S. in search of America’s most valuable antiques from motorcycles, classic cars, and bicycles to one-of-a-kind vintage memorabilia. Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle America, restore forgotten relics to their former glory, and learn a thing or two about American history along the way.

American Pickers is looking for leads and would love to explore what you may have. They are on the hunt for interesting characters with interesting and unique items.  Some of what they look for: vintage bicycles, toys, unusual radios, movie memorabilia, advertising, military items, folk art, vintage musical equipment, vintage automotive items, early firefighting equipment, vintage clothing, pre-50’s western gear.

American Pickers is produced by Cineflix Productions for History. New episodes air Wednesdays at 9pm E.T. on History.

If you have a large collection or want to refer someone to Mike and Frank, email: your name, number, address and description of the collection and photos to: americanpickers@cineflix.com (855) OLD-RUST.


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Take a Sentimental Journey via Cabaret

Source: River City Chorale  |  2016-01-29

The River City Chorale, 60 voices strong, has been presenting the Cabaret for many years and it is by far its most popular concert. Photo courtesy River City Chorale

The River City Chorale presents its ever-popular Cabaret on Saturday and Sunday, March 5th and 6th, with two shows each day: 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. It’s conveniently located at the Serbian Church Hall, 7777 Sunset Ave (between Sunrise and San Juan), in Fair Oaks, Calif. 95628.

With the theme of Sentimental Journeys you will be transported back to the era of such songs as “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Route 66,” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

Upon entering the hall you will be greeted by the sounds of a traditional jazz combo and escorted to your reserved place at decorated round tables seating up to eight persons. Hors d’oeuvres will be served at your table by the singers and you can partake of libations at an open bar. You’ll also have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for one of four fun prizes, with winners to be announced at the end of the concert.

Then the show begins! In keeping with the tradition of the cabaret you will be entertained by small groups, soloists, a chamber choir as well as the whole ensemble who will be perched—cabaret style—on stools onstage. A combo led by Richard Morrissey, the director of the Chorale, with piano by the very talented Kathy Earl Midgley, will provide the accompaniment.

The River City Chorale, 60 voices strong, has been presenting the Cabaret for many years and it is by far its most popular concert. So get your tickets early by going online at www.RiverCityChorale.org or call (916) 331-3810.


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Are You Ready to Rugby?

Ray Schwartz  |  2016-01-20

Today, top high school rugby players have often grown to compete over six or eight seasons, and in some cases, played under the same coach, or program, the entire time. The quality at the top keeps growing finer each and every year. 
--Photo courtesy David Barpal Photography

Sacramento Valley Rugby Foundation Set to Host The 32nd Annual “Kick Off Tournament” at Cordova High, Jan. 30th And 31st

What started from humble beginnings—an opportunity to get pre-season playing time for lots of young high school rugby squads—has blossomed into the largest Youth and High School Rugby Tournament in the United States (and likely the entire Western Hemisphere!).

The Kick Off Tournament, affectionately referred to as the KOT, is still run today by some of the pioneers who first took this on in 1984, when seven high school clubs were featured. Jerry Ahlin, Ray Thompson, Pete Deterding, Bob Lutrell, Joe Cavallero, Zack Finney, and a posse of their finest friends, come together in a massive volunteer effort to pull off quite a show, each and every year. They do so for the love of the game, and for the kids who love to play!

Many of the finest players, coaches, and rugby clubs in America have been featured over the years, including Jesuit High, many times over National Champions. Other top local clubs to have begun their season at the KOT, and gone on to compete that Spring at the National Championships include Cougars (Del Campo), Islanders (Burbank), Vacaville, Christian Brothers, and most recently Dixon, Granite Bay, and Sierra Foothills.

By 2005, the event had grown to 30 clubs, playing on three fields at Granite Park. The popularity of youth and high school rugby was beginning to explode at that time, not simply locally, but across the Bay Area and indeed America. In fact, a recent report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (according to the Maryland-based organization’s U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report) reveals participation in tackle football fell 21 percent from 2008-2013, while rugby experienced the biggest gain of all youth and high schools sports, growing a whopping 81 percent during that time!

The KOT, a large, established structure on the game’s competitive calendar, was uniquely positioned to help foster this growth. 2006 saw the addition of Girls play, while 2007 saw the event expand to two days and include a free Middle School clinic. For the past three years, now at Cordova High, seven to nine fields have seen play all day, both Saturday and Sunday, featuring an average of 130 sides playing a staggering 205 30-minute matches!

Clubs have visited the KOT in the recent past, seeking some warm California sun, and the chance to compete with locals, the likes of the Jesuit Marauders…, clubs from across the Bay Area (Santa Rosa to Morgan Hill), but also from as far away as Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Washington, SoCal, and even several from Alberta, Canada.

Referees visit from even further, with several coming each year from Canada, but also Pittsburg, New York, Massachusetts, Idaho, Germany, and South Africa! In order for the KOT to grow, and to continue to provide quality matches, the word went out across USA Rugby, “Send us your refs!” Four brave souls answered the call in 2006, and more and more refs have come every year since.

As the KOT grew, however, the need to help produce and develop a local crop of refs came with the territory. So the KOT leveraged our wealth of sunshine and matches needing officials, to create a unique Referee Development Program. The KOT RDP features a free day of referee training Friday at Sac State, and two full days of valuable referee coaching throughout the event. Our own Raley’s College Greens donates all the food for the ref tent!

As richly rewarding as hosting young stars of the game can be (many ruggers who’ve played at past KOTs have gone on to play for, and even Captain, USA National teams), there’s no greater joy than watching U-8s and U-10s blossom into feisty U-12s and eventually become skillful, competitive middle schoolers!

It’s at these junior levels that the popularity of rugby has finally taken off. Today, top high school rugby players have often grown to compete over six or eight seasons, and in some cases, played under the same coach, or program, the entire time. The quality at the top keeps growing finer each and every year.

So why rugby?
To some rugby is a muscular ballet with mud and blood, while to others it just looks like a brawl. A violent contact sport with no padding? In this day and age of heightened concerns over sports concussions? But to those who take the time to peel back the veneer and take a closer look, they see adults mentoring children; coaches who carefully teach players to respect themselves, their opponents and the game itself.

With top notch coaching, confidence and skills grow over time. Fitness reigns supreme. The head and neck must never be a part of the rugby tackle. Speed and power, choreographed teamwork, brilliant ball handling and precision kicking are often on display. But look closer still and you'll notice there are no timeouts. The coach, who runs practice, has little to no input once the match has started. The coach elects a Captain, who is the only conduit to the Ref.  The Ref, in turn, tries to manage a fair contest between two sides through the Captains.

Rugby is certainly an interesting contradiction. Though the players seem to be trying to tear each other’s head off, they help each other up off the ground, and cheer each other (and meet to shake hands) after every match. And players will always refer to the referee as “sir.” While the ref is just trying to keep heads from being torn off, a good ref can bring a competitive match up to a boil, while never allowing it spill over. All players contribute, all get to handle the ball, and all shapes and sizes of players are welcome. Passion created from this game is measureable.

Why Sacramento Rugby?
Students of sports history know the oldest sport offered at Cal (UC Berkeley) is rugby, which started playing in the 1880s. Other local rivals, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara and Stanford, all share long, rich rugby traditions as well, with St. Mary’s having just won their first National Championship (in any sport), May 2014, at Stanford (featuring many local ruggers), and repeated in 2015!

As the First World War concluded, the Olympics embraced rugby, offering a Gold Medal (won by the USA) in both 1920 and ’24. Graduates of these Universities combined, with rugby players from San Francisco’s Olympic Club, to train, as they traveled by ship, and win these medals. Captaining the ’24 team was Colby “Babe” Slater from nearby Woodland. But after the Gold Medal match in Paris, where unruly French fans nearly rioted as USA beat France, rugby was dropped from the Olympic program.

The tradition of rugby, however, lingered across Northern California. Though college and then pro football took over, 1953 saw a small rebirth of rugby when the first Monterey Rugby Classic was held. Clubs and tournaments popped up everywhere throughout the 1960s (UC Davis and Sac State have both recently celebrated their 50th year of rugby). In 1982, a sturdy group of Sacramento sportsmen travelled to Europe on a rugby tour.  They went as players, only to return with a newfound desire to teach the game they grew to love. So a new high school rugby competition began in Sacramento, kicking off with our first ever KOT!

Most years, weather permitting, Sacramento offers a long winter/spring playing season, as local clubs draw upon a wealth of coaches, referees, and administrators to help develop young players and squads to enjoy the game, the same game played in Olympics of old. The size and depth of the local competition here remains unrivalled across American rugby’s landscape. It is no coincidence that as soon as Sacramento built a top notch soccer facility, USA Rugby scheduled an International match here.

As USA beat Canada in front of a sold out crowd, 8,000 made it out to Bonney Field, June, 2014, the blazing Sacramento sunshine proved a valuable advantage. When USA played the mighty New Zealand All Blacks at sold out Soldier Field in Chicago, November 1st, three Jesuit grads suited up for USA (Lou Stanfill, Eric Fry & Blaine Sculley) while another three players came from Bay Area high school programs.

A doubleheader then came back to Bonney Field last July (during the State Fair) as we witnessed USA beat Japan, and Fiji tie Samoa. And as PRO Rugby announced its inaugural season (this coming April-June), Sacramento was awarded its first of six teams!

An abbreviated brand of the game of rugby called “Sevens” has traditionally been played locally, though only in the summers. Sevens is now introduced to the Olympics, with the first Gold Medals, Men’s and Women’s, on offer in 2016 in Rio de Janiero. With USA Women presently ranked 5th, and the Men ranked 9th (and rising!) on the World Sevens circuit, we can certainly expect to see Americans, and hopefully some Sacramentans, competing in the Medal rounds in Rio!

So, to get your rugby knowledge and appreciation flowing, plan to attend the 32nd Annual KOT at Cordova High Jan. 30 and 31! Matches kick off early both days!

This year’s KOT features (in addition to the usual local clubs) a first ever Girl’s Middle School seven-a-side competition, and far more Girl’s play than ever. Gridley makes its first appearance, fielding 6 sides! Davis and Dixon has combined to form Solo (Solano-Yolo) Rugby, Los Gatos United is coming strong, Liberty (Washington) returns for their fourth KOT, bringing 3 sides.


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CSN Bay Area (@CSNAuthentic), the exclusive television home for Golden State Warriors games in Northern California, has partnered with the team and Save Our Water (@saveourwater), California’s official statewide conservation program, to produce a public service announcement featuring the “Splash Brothers”—reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star guard Klay Thompson of the NBA Champion Warriors.

As California prepares for a fifth year of drought, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. recently issued an executive order that calls for additional actions to build on the state’s ongoing response to record dry conditions, including an extension of a mandatory statewide 25 percent water use reduction if drought conditions persist in January 2016. Even as California moves into what is likely to be a wet winter, Save Our Water is urging Californians move beyond short-term water saving solutions and make permanent changes to conserve.

“Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson PSA: http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/splash-brothers-psa-save-our-water.

“We know California is in a serious drought and our hope with this PSA is to help raise awareness to encourage more Californians to conserve water,” said Thompson. “As a community we all need to do our part to help the cause.”

Regarded as one of the best shooting backcourt duos in the NBA, Curry and Thompson got the nickname “Splash Brothers” for their ability to shoot the basketball and “splash” the net from long-range, particularly from beyond the three-point line. During the 2014-15 championship season, Curry broke his own NBA record for the most three-pointers in one season with 286, Thompson finished second in the league with 239, and the “Splash Brothers” became the league’s most prolific three-point duo with a record 525 threes.

“We appreciate the support of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the NBA champion Warriors and thank them for their efforts to raise awareness of the Golden State’s unprecedented drought and to encourage Californians to conserve water,” said Ted Griggs, president and general manager of CSN Bay Area and CSN California.

“We are thrilled the Splash Brothers have joined the growing chorus of Californians spreading the word of the need to save water, even during a wet winter,” said Jennifer Persike, deputy executive director of External Affairs and Member Services of the Association of California Water Agencies. “Save Our Water thanks the Golden State Warriors and Comcast SportsNet for their contribution in raising awareness that in this drought regular conservation isn’t enough—we must take extraordinary measures to save water.”

Save Our Water’s website is available in both English and Spanish and is filled with tips, tools, and inspiration to help every Californian find new and creative ways to conserve. From tips on how to keep trees healthy during the drought to an interactive section allowing users to visually explore how they can save water both inside and outside the home, Save Our Water can help everyone easily conserve at home and at work, every day. Save Our Water connects with Californians on its Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

About Save Our Water: Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has directed the first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions in California, calling on all Californians to reduce their water use by 25 percent and prevent water waste. Save Our Water is a partnership between the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Department of Water Resources.

About CSN Bay Area: CSN Bay Area and CSN California, both part of NBC Sports Regional Networks, serve more than four million households in Northern California, Nevada, Southern Oregon and Hawaii. CSN Bay Area, the television home of MLB’s San Francisco Giants, NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and the official regional sports network of the San Francisco 49ers, also features a robust lineup of Emmy Award-winning news, analysis and original programming. CSN California offers live coverage of MLB’s Oakland Athletics, NBA’s Sacramento Kings, NHL’s San Jose Sharks, MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes and is the official regional sports network of the Oakland Raiders. Collectively, these networks deliver more than 600 live sporting events per year, over 1,500 live studio shows, including SportsNet Central, SportsTalk Live, Pregame Live, Postgame Live, Press Conference Live, as well as compelling digital content, up-to-the-minute scores, highlights and breaking news via www.CSNBayArea.com and www.CSNCalifornia.com. Follow both networks on Twitter via @CSNAuthentic.


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Lanterman Coalition and Legislators Partner to Push for Funding of Developmental Disability Services

Source: Office of Senator Jim Nielsen  |  2016-01-13

Families, healthcare providers, and supporters marched to the State Capitol recently to highlight the lack of state funding for California’s most vulnerable and voiceless population, those with developmental disabilities.

“Increased access to care should be a budget priority,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “Nearly 50 years ago, the state made a promise through the Lanterman Act that children and adults with developmental disabilities would be cared for.”

“This promise should be kept,” Senator Nielsen added.

In July, Governor Brown called for a Special Session of the Legislature to address health care. In response, Senator Nielsen along with Senator Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta), introduced a legislative proposal to help the developmental services community achieve additional funding.

Specifically, their measure, Senate Bill X2-4, would provide the Department of Developmental Services with the means to fund targeted rate increases for regional centers and providers through any General Fund surplus revenues. It would also pay the same for Medi-Cal providers through funding from the Department of Health Care Services with these increases being made retroactive to July 1, 2015.

The Legislature denied a public hearing for SBX2-4, preventing it from being debated. This roadblock deprived funding for the developmental services community.

Providers have endured a decade of rate cuts and freezes.

The state is projected to receive an additional $3.6 billion in unanticipated tax revenue according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.

Senator Nielsen and his colleagues continue their push in support of funding for the developmental disability community.

“State revenues are strong. Helping Californians with developmental disabilities must be the first item discussed in this year’s budget before anything else,” said Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield).

Michael Ziegler, PRIDE Industries President/CEO said, “We appreciate the leadership of Senators Nielsen and Stone in championing critical funding for services supporting individuals with intellectual and development disabilities.

“We support any initiative that can restore and ensure community-based programs that serve our most vulnerable citizens.”

PRIDE Industries is a nonprofit organization and leading employer of people with disabilities. Meeting the manufacturing and facilities services needs of business and government agencies nationwide, PRIDE creates jobs for people with disabilities in its own businesses and by partnering with others in the community.

Senator Jim Nielsen represents the Fourth Senate District, which includes the counties of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba. To contact Senator Nielsen, please call him at 916-651-4004, or via email at senator.nielsen@senate.ca.gov.


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