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By Eric Johnson
Published Feb 26, 2024

Downtown Sacramento, seen from  Sutter's Landing Park in Midtown. Downtown Sacramento, seen from Sutter's Landing Park in Midtown. Image credit: Eric Johnson

California’s Awesome Capital City

Hi and happy Monday. As always I write today from Sacramento, and this week I bring you news from your state capital, all built around a thesis: Sacramento is its own kind of awesome.

First, staying with the Black History Month theme that The Newsletter has been championing for the past four weeks, I am pleased to celebrate two venerable Black cultural institutions, and introduce a brand new institution that is likely to draw national attention. Out of order:

1. Last night I caught a performance of the 1975 play for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, staged by Celebration Arts, a Black theater company founded in 1986. This revolutionary Obie Prize-winning work consists of a series of monologues (or “spells”) in which the performers dance to accompany their stories, or another character’s stories, which are sometimes joyous and often devastatingly painful. Set on a spare stage with minimal props, these "choreopoems" relied entirely on the seven actors’ voices, bodies and hearts, and the show was thrilling. 

Celebration Arts has dubbed this the season of Black Girl Magic. Its next production, Zora and Langston, is written and directed by Sacramento’s own Imani Mitchell, and is drawn from correspondence between the novelist Zora Neale Hurston and poet/playwright Langston Hughes during the Harlem Renaissance. It opens Friday, March 1.

2. Last week, the Sacramento Observer reported that Sacramento State University will be the first public university in the nation to host a Black Honors College on its campus. Sac State President J. Luke Wood, an alum, said the college will be modeled on the Historic Black Colleges and Universities of the South and Northeast, and that the effort represents “something that has never been done before outside of an HBCU, which is to have an honors college that is specifically designed to serve students who are from the Black community, who are interested in Black history, Black life and Black culture, and to use that as a way to protect the environment so that students are leaving having their brilliance, dignity and morality extolled.”

3. The Sacramento Observer itself has been covering the Black community here since 1962. Cofounded by longtime publisher Dr. William H. Lee, it is now guided by his son, Larry Lee, who in 2023 was named named Publisher of the Year by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. That organization has selected The Observer as the nation’s top Black newspaper seven times in its history, including last year.

I Heart Sacramento

The clouds can be spectacular this time of year in the Sacramento Valley. Walking on the levee by the American River late last Thursday afternoon, we were looking up to marvel at their puffy beauty when we noticed the almost full moon. Nice! The Sierra were also looking fine on the eastern horizon, draped in fresh snow.

I had no idea before we moved here from Santa Cruz that Sacramento is such a beautiful city. I did not know that you can see the snow-capped Sierra from here on clear winter days, or that bald eagles occasionally hunt this river right in town. This morning, taking a walk down at the river to clear my head, I heard the comically loud bugling of sandhill cranes overhead, and looked up to see a flock flying in V-formation way up there, so high that, even with their six-foot wingspans, they looked like a plain old flock of geese. Stuff like that happens almost every day.

In the seven years since we moved here, Sacramento has continued to surprise me. Midtown, the neighborhood where we live (right near the banks of the American River) is a showcase of old-school mixed-use development. We are in a modest hundred-year old duplex directly across the street from a stately, five-bedroom home and kitty-corner from an apartment complex that has been home to a string of Sac State students since we’ve been here. Every block for several miles in every direction is lined with its own parade of magnificent old trees—Paris may be the only city in the world with a more impressive urban forest than Sacramento. I’m not making this up. 

Sac really is in many ways a case study in good urban planning; there are a lot of parks, and we can walk to great restaurants and bars—on Friday night, I popped into Harlow’s to see Helado Negro, just one of the countless great shows I’ve seen in my neighborhood nightclub.

I realize I’m bragging—you’re welcome. Come visit—you’ll thank me. I know (roughly) where you live, and Sacramento is no more than a few hours beautiful drive from your home. (Another great thing about this city: We’re centrally located in the heart of Northern California—in 90 minutes, I can be at my favorite XC ski destination in the Sierra Nevada, or in San Francisco. If the traffic allows, I can be back in Santa Cruz in a couple hours plus.) Okay I’ll stop.

Art History: Sacramento’s Most Enduring Cultural Institutions

These arts groups have deep roots in the capital city.

20 Free Things to Do in Sacramento County

Sign up for a free spin through the Capitol Building and its gardens.
Home to the state capital, Sacramento County offers many amusements for visitors and locals alike. But only some require no cash outlay.

Recipe of the Week

Our friends at Sacramento Digs Gardening publish a recipe from their gardens every Sunday, which we feature here so you can start your week with some yum.

See more recipes in their Taste Winter! cookbook.

Versatile asparagus casserole perfect for any meatless meal

Light and creamy, asparagus-mushroom bake can be a meatless main course or side dish.
Recipe: Easy asparagus-mushroom bake with eggs and cheese.

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San Benito County Historical Society logo San Benito County Historical Society

Since 1957, the Historical Society has devoted itself to collecting and preserving materials pertaining to the San Benito County of yesteryear.

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Caltrans released a how-to video on Youtube advising travelers how to approach and navigate the new intersection, which is the first of its kind in California.

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Nearly four months after forming a bipartisan select committee, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas announced legislation to combat shoplifting and organized retail theft.

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Recent Local News

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• SJB City Council Discusses Downtown Vacancies and Parking

The San Juan Bautista City Council debated possible changes to the city’s business district regulations and whether to reopen discussion on instituting a parking plan.

(02/26/2024) → Benito Link

• Hollister Council Approves Traffic Study on San Benito Street

The Hollister City Council agreed to a traffic calming study to determine if four-way stops are needed along San Benito Street from Hawkins Street to Nash Road.

(02/22/2024) → Benito Link

• Film Production Boosting San Juan Bautista Economy

A sizable number of crew members are working to recast locations near the Mission Plaza as a “Southwestern Town” for the “DL Project,” an as-yet-named film by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

(02/21/2024) → Benito Link

• County Gets Going on Public Transit Improvements

Transportation Planner Douglas Kean says less than 1% of county residents use San Benito County’s public transit system and that transit operations need to be fundamentally restructured.

(02/20/2024) → Benito Link

• Cal State Faculty Vote to Ratify New Contract

Members of the California Faculty Association approve a two-year agreement that the union and administration hammered out after a strike last month that lasted one day.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters

• California’s Chief Plan for Seniors Overlooks the Realities Rural Families Face

California’s latest Master Plan for Aging underscores the need for policies to address the challenges aging populations face. But it fails to portray the realities for older adults in rural areas, who are at greater risk of poverty.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters

• How Many Bills in the 2024 California Legislature?

With the dust settled after the Feb. 19 bill introduction deadline, the California Legislature’s count for new bills this year is 2,124.

(02/19/2024) → CalMatters
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Recent Statewide News

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• Wildfires Are Killing California’s Ancient Giants. Can Seedlings Save the Species?

Ecologists estimate that up to 14,000 sequoias have been killed in recent wildfires. The National Park Service for the first time has begun replanting some severely burned areas.

(02/26/2024) → CapPublicRadio

• Will CA Voters Like ‘Newsom Recall, the Sequel’ Any Better?

Conservative activists who worked on the failed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 have launched another attempt, arguing that conditions in California only worsened in the two-and-a-half years since then as Newsom’s attention shifted to national politics.

(02/26/2024) → CalMatters

• Meet Some of the Biggest Donors Shaping California's U.S. Senate Race

Here are the biggest donors in the 2024 California Senate race, both for and against the top candidates: Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, Steve Garvey and Barbara Lee.

(02/26/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• What California College Students Think About Online Classes

EdSource asked students at California colleges and universities why they are choosing between online or in-person options.

(02/26/2024) → EdSource

• What California Voters Want to Know About the 2024 Election

Voting in California can be complicated. Here are answers to some common questions, plus what the leading U.S. Senate candidates say they would do if they’re elected.

(02/26/2024) → CalMatters

• Scientists Warn That a Crucial Ocean Current Could Collapse, Altering Global Weather

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(02/25/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• Awaiting the Count—Gray Whales Population Has Been Declining

There was a time not so long ago when trained observers were overwhelmed by the number of whales migrating through Monterey Bay.

(02/24/2024) → Monterey Herald

• Central Coast Ranch That Is Home to Endangered Species to Be Preserved

The Wildlife Conservation Board voted to award $10.3 million to the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County to preserve the 27,000-acre Camatta Ranch in Santa Margarita.

(02/23/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• Promises for New City in Solano County Are Worth Hundreds of Millions—if They Stick

California Forever CEO Jan Sramek says promises of new homes, jobs, investments are binding, but legal experts and elected officials are skeptical.

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• Classroom Fight Ramps Up in CA Election

On one side: Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ advocacy group. On the other side: Protect Kids California, a parents rights organization.

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• Bay Area Car Owners Have Yet Another Crime to Worry About

License plates are getting stolen from vehicles, Livermore officials say.

(02/20/2024) → SF Gate

• After Heavy Storms, Death Valley Is Now Open to Kayakers

A temporary lake in Death Valley National Park doubled after recent rains and is now deep enough to launch a kayak. Prior to August, ghostly Lake Manly hadn’t appeared in 19 years.

(02/20/2024) → Los Angeles Times

• The Inland Empire’s Once-Unstoppable Warehousing Industry Falls Into a Slump

Logistics has been an economic lifeline for the Inland Empire for decades. Now that the industry is hitting a downturn, the region is feeling the pain.

(02/20/2024) → Los Angeles Times
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Government Announcements

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Image of United States seal. United States   (02/23/2024)

G.A. Mart Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of H&NATURAL TejoRoot and H&NATURAL Brazil Seed Dietary Supplements Due to the Presence of Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana), a Poisonous Plant Native to Mexico and Central America

February 22, 2024 - San Luis, AZ, G.A. Mart dba H&Natural, is voluntarily recalling 2 lots of H&NATURAL TejoRoot, 10g pills and 2 lots of H&NATURAL Brazil Seed, .167g Seeds to the consumer level. The products have been found via random FDA testing to contain yellow oleander, a poisonous plant native
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/22/2024)

Backstage Center is Issuing a Recall of Approximately 280 Bottles of Alipotec Raiz de Tejocote, Dietary Supplements, that are Labeled with the "Alipotec King" Sticker

Backstage Center is issuing a recall of approximately 280 Bottles of Alipotec Raiz de Tejocote, dietary supplements, that are labeled with the "Alipotec King" sticker. This recall is being initiated because FDA analysis found that the product contains toxic yellow oleander. The recalled product, whi
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/22/2024)

LQNN, Inc. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Egg in Banh Ba Xa and Banh Pia Products

LQNN Inc., of Garden Grove, California, is voluntarily recalling Banh Ba Xa and varieties of Banh Pia because they may contain undeclared egg. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. The af
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/16/2024)

Nordic Naturals Issues Voluntary Recall of Baby's Vitamin D3 Liquid Due to Elevated Levels of Vitamin D3

Nordic Naturals is voluntarily recalling one lot of Nordic Naturals Baby's Vitamin D3 Liquid, 0.76 fl. oz. (22.5 mL), 400 IU (10mcg) D3. This recall is being conducted due to a manufacturing error that resulted in an elevated level of Vitamin D3 dosage or super potent dose. The affected lot number i
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Raw Cheddar Cheese - Voluntary Product Recall

On February 15, 2024 Raw Farm was contacted by the FDA and CDC regarding the epidemiological possibility that Raw Farm raw cheddar cheese might have caused some illnesses within a date range of October 18th 2023 and January 31st 2024.
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Capitol Distributing Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Sesame in Product

Capitol Distributing is recalling 3,934 sandwiches because they may contain undeclared sesame. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to sesame run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/15/2024)

Don Novo & Son Recalls Ready-To-Eat Meat Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2024 - Don Novo & Son, a Miami, Fla. establishment, is recalling approximately 9,330 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes...
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/14/2024)

Bristol Farms Recalls Chicken Taco Kit Because of Possible Health Risk

Bristol Farms is recalling Chicken Taco Kit 9oz, Sell by1/18/24, because the Chipotle Crema sauce cup has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes,
Image of State of California seal. State of California   (02/13/2024)

John Laird CA Senate 17:
Senator Laird’s Statement in Support of SB 1098

I wholeheartedly support the recent legislative proposal championed by Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D Encinitas) recognizing its critical importance in revitalizing the Los Angeles San Diego San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) rail corridor. It is a vital transportation link for San Luis Obispo to Southern California.
Image of United States seal. United States   (02/12/2024)

Mg Foods Voluntarily Recalls Ham & Cotija Torta Sandwich Distributed in Florida Due to Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination of Cotija Cheese

MG Foods is voluntarily recalling a Ham & Cotija Torta Sandwich on Telera Roll sold in Florida. This voluntary recall is being initiated as a result of the Rizo-Lopez Foods, Inc. recall of cotija cheese due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes and associated with an outbreak the FDA