Newspaper article

Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2016 edition of the West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link).





Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

by Thomas Farley

West Sacramento’s tradition of fine Mexican food continues with the arrival of Chando’s Tacos. Chando’s Boatman Avenue building will house a restaurant and be the base for a dining dynasty. Besides the eatery itself, the location will house Chando’s Enterprises, offices and ovens to serve “Chando” Madrigal’s growing chain of restaurants and food trucks.

Chando’s has renovated and repurposed the United Bakery building north of Industrial Boulevard. It will now prep food for the West Sacramento restaurant, as well as the Roseville, Power Inn, and Arden outlets. The individual locations, however, will still barbecue their own chicken, fish and carne asada. Looking ahead, Madrigal envisions diners in Folsom, Carmichael, and Elk Grove. Perhaps beyond.

Madrigal’s family is from Michoacan, Mexico. His father owned and ran a tortilla factory there, and now things are coming full circle. The West Sacramento facility will produce 100 percent stone-ground corn tortillas. It will also bake them along with all the bread needed for each Chando’s Tacos location. Food storage and vegetable preparation will also be a function of the building.

Chando’s is located in a mostly triangular area that is rapidly becoming a West Sacramento foodie district. Yolo Brewing, Bike Dog and Jack Rabbit are three craft breweries located among warehouses, corporation yards, and document storage companies. In the shadow of the Rice Farmer’s Cooperative silos, new people and new energy are coming to an area that offers affordable space and room to grow. Helping that growth is everything mobile.

Three high end food trucks make up Chando’s fleet with a fourth a possibility this year. These $100,000 kitchens on wheels are more than just taco trucks. And Chando’s is also mobile in cyberspace. They’ve developed an app lets you call in orders before you arrive. Customers may also go mobile if Chando’s plans for drive-through kiosks take off. What’s on the menu?

Chando’s Tacos presents their own take on Mexican food. Not entirely traditional and not yet not Americanized, the food tastes lighter than that served in most Mexican restaurants. Meatless options are also presented, including mango ceviche tostadas and tacos de Papa, or potato tostadas.

We’ll have to see if Chando’s popularity rivals the now gone Emma’s Taco House or the still operating Sal’s. But it’s safe to say the tradition of great Mexican food in West Sacramento will continue.


Chandos’s Tacos (external link)

Newspaper article

Two More Newspaper Articles Published

Two more of my articles have just been published in the West Sacramento News-Ledger, the paper of record for West Sacramento:

The Sail Inn is Back In Port (external link)

Artwork for Joey Lopes Park (external link)

I have also archived them at my site in case the above links die:

The Sail Inn is Back In Port (internal link)

Artwork for Joey Lopes Park (internal link)




Newspaper article

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson Looks Back

This article ran in the January 6th edition of the West Sacramento New-Ledger. (external link) Their site will be updated soon, until then, it appears here.

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson Looks Back

by Thomas Farley

Carol Richardson retired last September after 28 ½ years as West Sacramento’s Assistant City Manager. She started in 1987 when West Sacramento was incorporated, folding into single governance the towns of, Broderick, Bryte, Washington, and Southport. She reflected on her career for the News-Ledger.

Richardson was hired by Gene Roh who was the first City Manager. Did the job description actually match the job? “There was no job description! We were putting together a city organization and that was part of it. In those early days we all did what had to be done to get the job done. I really had no idea what I was getting in to. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun.” Carol would eventually work for four City Managers. “They all were unique in their management style but very competent. The City Councils had an uncanny ability to pick the right City Manager for the times facing the City. I was fortunate that all of the Managers gave me a chance. That is not always the case.”

Along the way there were numerous memories and milestones. Like that day in December, 1999 when she picked up the phone. “I just got home from City Manager Joe Goeden’s Christmas party and he called. He said there was flooding at City Hall on Stone Boulevard and he needed me early the next morning. I had no idea it was as bad as it was. Someone had turned on the fire hose on the 3rd floor and let it run. The building and everything in it was trashed. Luckily, Joe called the IT Manager Drew Gidlof that night and he went in and removed the servers and hardware. Asbestos complicated the recovery. We fully intended to move back in initially but various circumstances led us to stay in our temporary quarters until the new City Hall on West Capitol was built. Our improvised Council Chambers was in the center of the room with a makeshift dais. The offices and cubicles were all around. It was one of those disasters that brought everyone together and had a happy ending.”

As with any City, there were always contentious issues. The casino planned for the area IKEA now occupies was one. “The Councils were very committed to that area being a retail center. Prior to the casino there was a push to rezone the area for offices as some thought retail was a pie in the sky dream. The Council at that time resisted in spite of a lot of pressure from some. They stuck to their vision and it paid off.”

The Rivercats entry into West Sacramento was equally challenging. “Those were difficult times. So much was on the line for everyone involved. Again, while the Council wanted the team and stadium they were not going to compromise their policies and principles to get it. City Manager Joe Goeden deserves a great deal of credit.”

What were her most important personal accomplishments? “I am most proud of helping to build the City organization and helping to hire some of the great people who have worked there and some who still do. I am also proud of working with others on the Civic Center and assisting with the City’s Early Learning Team.

She says the City’s outlook is bright. “I think there will be more entertainment and restaurants in the City’s future. And the streetcar, waterfront development, and the Washington District are all coming along. So many good things are coming to West Sacramento.”

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson pictured here with the four City Managers she worked with. (L-R) Martin Tuttle, Toby Ross, Joe Goeden, and Gene Roh. City of West Sacramento photo.


Newspaper article

The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success

This article appeared in the November 18th issue of the West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link).

The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success

by Thomas Farley

The new Principal at West Sacramento’s Yolo Education Center is Alejandro Ramos. Everything indicates that he is changing learning and lives for the better. Allen Young, a Center educator, says that Yolo Ed was once a battlefield of gang culture but that has changed under the leadership of Ramos. He also says the Center has received six-year accreditation and recent recognition from Yolo County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jesse Ortiz.

Four schools make up The Yolo Education Center: Yolo Continuation High School Grades 10-12, Evergreen Opportunity Middle School grades 7-9, Evergreen Opportunity Elementary grades 4-6, and the Washington Adult School. All four help students who may have had trouble learning in traditional schools. Principal Ramos explains some of the differences between traditional and alternative schools:

“I think one of the biggest differences with alternative schools is that we are able to meet kids where they are at, build on that strength, and take a holistic approach to learning. We have the flexibility to be different; we’re not as scripted as a traditional school. We tailor the educational environment to take in the needs of the kids. Students come with a variety of needs and we’re able to work with them, support them, and get them to engage. The primary goal is for us to teach kids they can be successful.”

The entire Center staff is focused on success. Staff meetings include everyone from the Principal to janitorial employees. All Yolo Education personnel keep a friendly and concerned attention on every student, communicating concerns between each other whenever necessary. The Yolo High students I talked to did not mind this monitoring, indeed, they seemed to favor it.

Senior Tanya Alvarez explained the difference in learning at Yolo Ed. “I think we have more communication with our teachers because of the smaller classes. Teachers pay more attention to each of us.” Another two-year student of Yolo Ed, James, comments, “I like this school a lot better. Smaller, better atmosphere.” That atmosphere is not accidental. Behavior like bullying or ridicule are not tolerated, they are contrary to what everyone at Yolo Education is trying to achieve.

Educator Young explains the Center’s new culture. “A culture of family. In many cases these are students that have been marginalized throughout the district, their environment, or the community. In many cases this could be their only stable environment. We want an atmosphere of family, we want to make sure that this is their safe haven, and I think Principal Ramos has done a great job of doing that in the last year of change.”

Continuation school perception is also changing. Young stresses that there is no longer any stigma attached to such a designation, that every student going through Yolo Ed is as academically qualified as anyone going through, say, River City High School. And that their graduation certificates read simply Yolo High School, without any disparaging wording.

With such progress made in such a short time, West Sacramento should eagerly look forward to what Ramos’ staff and students produce in the coming years. Certainly better learning, certainly better lives.

Question and Answer with Mr. Ramos by Monica Stark

1.) Talk about your background and what led you to West Sacramento. How long have you worked for WUSD and in what if any other capacities?

I began my teaching career in alternative education for the Solano County Office of Education. My first assignment was teaching in a Vallejo group home designed as a second chance for incarcerated youth. This challenging yet rewarding assignment reaffirmed not only my desire to pursue education as a profession, but also highlighted the power an educator has in redirecting the lives of underserved and marginalized students.

I have been in education for 18 years, having taught most of seven years for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. I am on my eleventh year in school administration. Prior to coming to Washington Unified, I worked for the Berkeley Unified School District. Three years as a vice-principal of Longfellow Middle School and four years as Dean of Students for Berkeley High School.

I am on my fourth year here at Washington Unified School District. Two years as Assistant Principal for River City High School and currently working on my second year as Principal for Yolo Education Center.

2.) What’s the difference between your campus and the River City High School — what makes Yolo unique?

Student enrollment and class size are the immediate differences. This allows for more direct interaction and relationship building with students. Teachers get to know the myriad of issues that are impeding success in school and work on addressing the road block or referring out to outside support services.

We have the support of a school social worker that runs a girls focus group and a foster/homeless youth support program weekly. For outside agencies we provide a counseling room to work with out students. We currently have the following agencies that provide outside wrap around services for our students: Yolo Family Services, CommuniCare Health Center, Victory Community Services, Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Foster Parent Recruitment and Retention, Each 1 Reach 1 Alliance, and Chicks in Crisis.

Yolo High School is fortunate to count on a Career Specialist on site that works directly with students on transitioning them out of High School and preparing them for College or Career. He consistently meets with seniors to keep them on a path to graduation and works both in and out of the classroom with career exploration, college FASA workshops, Scholarship information, Vocational/Technical opportunities, community service hours as well as hiring guest speakers, while networking with outside agencies for student support.

Another significant distinction at Yolo High School is the opportunity for students to recover credits. We offer online classes practically in all subject matter geared for high school graduation. Students can work at their own pace both during school and from home.

A successful addition to our site is our parent outreach. We currently have increased parent participation on campus not only through back to school nights and open house, but also through parent meetings both in English and Spanish sessions.

3.) How does a student become enrolled at Yolo?

Most of the students at Yolo High come from River City High School. Primarily because they are credit-deficient and are not engaging academically. A significant portion of those that come from River High are students that are overwhelmed by the size of the High School and need a smaller learning environment. To our credit we are increasingly receiving students electing to come here by choice. This year all but a couple of our transfers were voluntary. A small portion of our students are transfers from other districts.

4.) If there was one message you’d like your students to take to heart when they leave Yolo what would it be?

I want my students to seize the opportunities available. I want them to be advocates for a positive direction in their lives by embracing their potential and seek out their dreams!


Yolo Education Center (external link)



Bottom photo: Alejandro Ramos on the right, Allen Young on the left.


















How to Start Writing Locally — Making Pitches

Your writing website is finally in order (internal link) and you’d like to start writing locally, perhaps for an area weekly, a community paper or a local news website. I’d recommend you query an editor with ideas, not just a link to your URL.  Don’t always come to the editor for ideas, take the initiative and propose stories yourself. Make pitches and make yourself more valuable.

Here’s a very long suggestion list I made before writing for the new team at the West Sacramento News-Ledger. (external link). I’d probably limit it to ten today. None of these pitches are lengthy or detailed. Editors are busy people and they know almost instantly if a story seems worth pursuing.

Just two of these pitches were accepted but I always keep a list of ones that weren’t. A new editor may come on the scene and they may have a different focus. As you write your accepted stories, continue to develop new pitches and keep sending them in.

1.) Sail Inn update. This local landmark is under new owners and is undergoing renovation. I wrote about its close a while back. (internal link) Will it reopen soon?

2.) A report on the Port. (internal link — story accepted) I’d find out what they are doing these days, who is operating it, and what the future holds. Everyone sees the port but few know what’s going on there. Much more than just rice.

3.) A look at the current home residential real estate market in West Sacramento. I’d talk with two or three agents/realtors about what it’s like today in Southport, Broderick, and Bryte. Interview new home owners to see why they decided to buy in West Sac.

4.) A look at the current commercial real estate market. There’s quite a bit of commercial going up in the Southport area. Time to find out why.

5.) Houses of worship. A short interview with the people behind three major religious centers in West Sacramento: the Sikh Temple, The Russian Baptist Church, and The City of the Dharma Realm.

6.) How are our trees doing? An interview with the city arborist.

7.) School update. The high school is always doing something of interest.

8.) A report on Nor Cal beverage, a powerhouse in our community. I live near the production facility near the port. Five hundred people employed! (external link)

9.) A report on the UPS facility on Harbor.

10.) A short report on each of the West Sacramento fire stations. Maybe a paragraph or two on each. (Story idea accepted but never written. This idea did generate another story that was written, an article on a firefighter auxiliary named CERT (internal link))

11.) A report on how the new library is doing.

12.) What about original writing for movie reviews? I can also do an original gardening column. How about information on Ships In Port?

13.) Mediterranean Food and Music festival. Sept. 12 and 13. (Newspaper sent photographer to cover the event.)

14.) Where to fish in West Sacramento. Talk with fisherman and the local bait shop. I could draw up a map.

Bugs Bunny Pitches


I’ll be covering the TBD Fest this weekend

I’ll be reporting this weekend on the art and musical festival for the West Sacramento News-Ledger  (external link, site under reconstruction). Are you going? Please send me any comments you have on the event, even if you don’t attend. You can send me an e-mail at this link: I need to send my story in by 8:00 a.m. on Monday, so don’t delay.

My editor, Monica Stark, wrote a tremendous overview of the festival in this week’s Ledger. Look for it now on newsstands throughout West Sacramento.

Interested in going? Here’s a link to TBD’s site: