Proud Pilot Still Flying High

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

Gail Spelis and her father, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert J. McMurry, have co-authored a memoir chronicling his life as a WWII pilot. --Photo by Jacqueline Fox

Local WWII Pilot Co-Authors Memoir with His Daughter

Picture putting a paper bag over your head and trying to land a C-124, four-engine cargo plane in Iceland, in the middle of winter, with two engines down.

“It’s called ‘zero-zero visibility,’ said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert J. McMurry, 96, who actually pulled off that landing and many other nail-biting missions during his 24-year career as an enlisted aviator.

McMurry and his daughter, Gail Spelis have co-authored his memoir, Proud Pilot: A True Story of Family, Wartime and Survival Against the Odds, which traverses his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska, the middle and teenage years in the Bay Area, the events that led to in his enlistment and all things in between. Several chapters are devoted to the many white-knuckle experiences McMurry endured while serving in the air force, including that 1956 mission to an Icelandic refueling station, which he calls “the most harrowing of all.”

Seven years in the making, Spelis says the decision to help co-author her father’s memoir was divinely inspired, but as is the case with many of the close-call stories in the book, its fruition also had a lot to do with timing.

“I had heard my dad tell stories all my life about being a service pilot and I’d always wanted to write this book,” Spelis said. When the economy soured in 2008, her family real estate company took a heavy blow, which put her at a personal crossroads. “The recession came along and I did not know which direction to turn. I was at my desk, praying for guidance and I asked God to show me what he wanted me to do next.”

The creative spirit, says Spelis, came to her almost immediately, however, she began writing a very different book. “It was flowing out of me faster than I could keep up with,” she said. A short time later, as her father was recounting stories during a family reunion, it hit her: “dad’s memoir” was the book she needed to be working on.

“I knew that was it,” said Spelis. “I had my direction and I wanted to honor dad by writing this book to help give his life meaning and purpose,” Spelis said.

More than 50 years had lapsed between the military and the memoir, published in 2015. McMurry was 87 when they began the writing. Between the air force and civilian pilot employment, he clocked some 33,000 hours in the air. He’d survived cancer and other illnesses, and experienced the death of his wife, Jeanne in 2012 after 69 years of marriage.

But memory had a will, and through it all McMurry’s memory had a mission of its own. He is, after all, a member Mensa and, to keep his mind sharp, he works the crossword puzzle every morning. In ink.

“There’s nothing wrong with his memory,” said Spelis, who says she wrote as her father dictated. “I’d ask dad to start in and remember the next thing, and he’d just sit back, close his eyes, put his fingers on his forehead and he’d go right there.”

As a young man, McMurry wanted to be a professional trumpet player. In high school he had his own band, which even backed up a fledgling entertainer and former Burlingame High School alum, singer, TV personality and media mogul, Merv Griffin. “I was never really great at it,” recalls McMurry. “It was frustrating. All artists want to be great at what they do.”

Then, World War II broke out and, as an enlisted member of the National Guard, McMurry was called to active duty on March 3, 1941. Two months in, he found the hours of pulling army caissons and cannons over unforgiving terrain on horseback and sleeping on the ground nothing short of miserable. When a notice was posted announcing pilot training exams, McMurry jumped at the opportunity. He was the only member of his company to pass.

“World War II changed everything for me,” McMurry said.

Spelis said the core of the book was “on paper” in about six months, however, the collection of photos, editing and other finishing touches took seven years. Her passion for her father’s work and their unshakable bond, they both agree, made this “labor of love” a reality.”

“I could not be more proud of Gail, and I enjoyed the whole process,” said McMurry. “We worked for hours every day. We would get tired, and sometimes we’d even forget to eat.”

Proud Pilot, a True Store of Family, Wartime and survival against the Odds, is available online at:

Chamber of Commerce Works to Strengthen its Brand

Story and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

Mark Creffield, Executive Director, Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce.

Experiencing a dip in membership, Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce executives say they have plans to retool existing programs to boost membership, elevate awareness of membership value and improve communications.

“We are not alone in our struggle to boost and retain membership and get our members to better understand the value of their membership and what it can provide for them,” said Mark Creffield, the chamber’s executive director. Currently, membership stands at 260. For the 2016 fiscal year, membership fell by 7.5 percent, he said.

That messaging will involve fine-tuning the chamber’s brand awareness, something chambers often overlook, said Creffield. “Historically, chambers do not do a good job of tooting their own horn. One of our goals is to do a much better job of that.”

Creffield said he’d like to see the addition of 48 new members this year. With retention challenges a factor, however, that will likely be closer to 24. “If we get half of that 48 I’ll be very pleased,” he said.

Creffield, who formally served in similar capacities at the Vacaville and Vallejo chambers of commerce, said many members are not taking full advantage of all the benefits on offer. For example, members can enjoy creating an online presence on the Chamber’s site with features for adding a range of social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with new and existing customers.

“Many of our members just aren’t using these features benefits for some reason and we want to find out why and fix that,” Creffield said.

There are also are member-to-member workshops, networking lunches with elected and city officials, breakfast roundtables, and myriad ways members can meet and support one another. In short, annual membership to the chamber, which ranges from $295 to $1,560, depending on the number of employees, plus a $60 application fee, includes much more than a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Our issue is we just aren’t getting enough members to show up to our events,” said Creffield. “The challenge is getting members to stay engaged after their ribbon-cutting ceremony and get them to come to more than that first or second event.”

Creffield said his staff is considering hiring a part time membership sales representative to double-down on expanding membership, while its current development team will be working to identify lapsed members and, where possible, bring some of those folks back into the fold.

“We are not desperate, but we want to know why they have fallen off,” he said.

The absence of significant mid-term elections in the region will mean a softer push on legislative issues this year, Creffield said. That’s not to suggest the advocacy piece isn’t critical, but the strategy, he said, is to rely on the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) for recommendations on what, if any local, state or federal legislative issues his team will advocate for.

“We are going to hold off on coming out on any political issues of concern for now,” Creffield said. “My policy in the past has always been to look to the CalChamber to take the lead and they have never steered us in the wrong direction.”

That includes taking a position on the proposed immigration crackdown under the Trump administration, which many view as a threat to business. Citrus Heights, indeed, the entire region, employs a significant number of immigrants in its hospitality, agricultural and manufacturing sectors who are likely among the throngs of California workers operating in fear of deportation under the Trump proposals.

“Advocacy is absolutely key, said Creffield, who has a background in the restaurant management sector. “Believe me, the immigration concerns are very important to us. I know firsthand what it means to lose good, hard workers because of immigration issues.”

Indications are strong the CalChamber will advocate for opposition to the bulk of the Trump administration’s proposed immigration policies. According to a February online survey of its more than 14,000 members, the majority agree U.S. immigration policy needs comprehensive reform, however, most do not support the ramp up of deportees.

Both Creffield and newly installed board chair, Johnnise Downs agree there are challenges, but success, they add, hinges upon communication, which they say is the key to driving membership and engagement.

“During my installation in January, I declared communication with our membership a top priority,” Downs said. “So we want to also put a heavy focus on creating new and more innovated ways for connecting with our members. It won’t be easy. I’ve only got one year, and it takes two months to get fully dug in, so we have our work cut out for us.”

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REACH Volunteers Gather for Night of Good Food and Camaraderie

By Elise Spleiss  |  2017-03-23

On March 6, 2017 more than 100 volunteers from Citrus Heights’ 11 neighborhood areas gathered at the Citrus Heights Community Center for the 4th Annual Workshop and Pot Luck.

REACH is the Residents’ Empowerment Association of Citrus Heights. According to event chair, Anna Portillo, “These are volunteer individuals that give their heart and soul to make the city/communities a much better place to live. This annual event brings many of the city’s volunteers together to enjoy an evening of laughter, share a favorite dish and spend an evening with others who share the same vision and passion for the betterment of their community.”

Tim Schaefer served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. An officer of Area 5 and immediate past president of REACH, Schaefer greeted attendees and introduced dignitaries including members of city council, Police Chief Ron Lawrence, and Sue Frost, former mayor of Citrus Heights, now representing the City on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Following dinner, REACH president Dr. Margaret Cleek presented a workshop on “Mindfulness: Fully Focusing for Efficiency and Effectiveness”. Her work as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist has given her much to work with on this topic. She summarized the points in her talk:

“Mindfulness is the process of being fully engaged in the present without preference or judgement.

“When we focus on regrets or lost glories from the past we become depressed and when we focus on the uncertainty of the future we become anxious. The present is all we really have and to miss it is to miss life.

Due to our busy lives and the intrusion of technology into our lives it is difficult to stay mindful as our attention is always pulled in multiple directions.

On multitasking, most people believe the they are excellent at multitasking and can accomplish more when juggling multiple projects. In fact research tells us that mindfully concentrating on one thing at a time is more efficient and effective than multitasking.”

Tim Schaefer was the evening’s second guest speaker. His presentation was entitled “Volunteerism, Be proactive in Your Community”

He adopted this ‘heart’ symbol and explained that this heart represents the volunteers of Citrus Heights that bring so much joy to our city.

This interactive talk addressed: recruiting and retention of volunteers, the widely-varied ways that individuals can help, and that time is the most valuable gift that can be given. He also talked about heading off volunteer burnout. When it’s time to say “no” that is OK.

Over the years so many of Citrus Heights residents have volunteered with great heart and enthusiasm. By definition, Citrus Heights is a city with Heart and we are a better city and community for it.

At the end of the evening, many happy attendees took home one of the dozens of unique, themed raffle baskets.

Portillo would like to thank those who helped put this event together: Michael Lagomarsino, Lorraine Furry, Janet Botill, Forrest Allen, Margaret Cleek, Tim Schaefer, and Tonya Wagner. Thanks also goes to the volunteers who helped with set-up and clean-up.

To locate your Neighborhood Association and become involved visit and search for ‘REACH.’

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Busting the Book Drive Record for Sayonara Center

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

From left to right: Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce Education Commit-tee Chair Rosa Umbach, chamber Executive Director Mark Creffield, Reads program co-founders Jim Riemann and County Supervisor Sue Frost, Barnes & Noble representatives Mike Troyan and Ron Roberts.

The Citrus Heights Reads Program is celebrating a record-breaking book drive and new partnership with the Birdcage Barnes & Noble store, where sales staff managed to collect donations of more than 1,800 books for children in the fall, all of which were officially delivered this week to the Sayonara Community Center.

“It’s really incredible,” said Rosa Umbach who oversees the Reads Program as chair of the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce’s education committee.  Her committee now administers the program, jointly launched in 2004 by Jim Reiman, president of neighborhood area 11 in Citrus Heights, County Supervisor Sue Frost, and local Rotary Club representative Charlie McComish.  “It’s really challenging for sales associates to solicit customers and convince them to spend more money once they get to the registers, but we almost doubled the number of books donated this time around.”

Previous book drives have netted only close to 500 books. Last year’s first book drive with Barnes & Noble as a partner, however, generated 1,000 books.  This year, the sales team at the Birdcage store produced 1,800 books for Sayonara Community Center, which provides critical afterschool programs for students in grades K-12 in a neighborhood that has overcome high-crime and poverty issues over the last decade.  Customers who shopped the Birdcage Barnes & Noble between November and December of 2016 were asked to purchase a book in addition to their sale, which was then set for donation to the center.

The company has, historically, stuck to its own, company-wide holiday book drive, during which store team members select charities to support.  But clearly the partnership between the chamber’s Reads Program and Barnes & Noble is amidst the building of a new tradition.

“We are really impressed with how this went,” says Mike Troyan, Barnes & Noble manager of community and business development who was onsite for the official book delivery to Sayonara Center.  “This is a new drive, separate from the holiday drive we have done annually for years, and a new partnership for us. We didn’t even have signage for it when we entered into the agreement.”

Reads Program co-founder Jim Rieman said the fundamental need to ensure all kids can read is something he takes personally.

“I was one of those kids who couldn’t read,” Rieman said. “By the time I got to the fourth grade, I was in trouble. But fortunately, my fifth-grade teacher knew what was going on for me and helped me. This is why I got so involved in starting the reading program to begin with. All kids need to be able to read in order to stand a chance.”

The chamber’s education committee includes representatives from Citrus Heights schools, businesses and the greater community.  The Reads Program is just one piece of the committee’s efforts to serve area schools. Roughly 15 program “reader leader” mentors also provide reading help for K-12 students in eight schools across the city for a minimum of one hour per week for one year.  There also is a Student of the Month contest, in which one student is selected for exceptional citizenship and academic achievement, a spring and summer book drive, an annual schools supply drive, which has, exceeded $8,000 for classroom supplies and growing, as well as mini-career fairs and job preparation workshops.

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The Big Pot Fight

By Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

On Monday, March 27, the County Planning Commission will be finalizing recommendations for zoning changes that, if adopted by the full board of supervisors at its April 11 meeting, will officially ban all commercial sales of marijuana in the county, effectively criminalizing the establishment of so-called pot dispensaries, as well as pot sales through delivery services, commercial growing, and other means.

County, Law Enforcement Take Steps to Prepare for Prop. 64’s Impact

The Sacramento County Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, city officials and the region’s top law enforcement representative are beginning to plant the seeds for both complying with and addressing potential impacts from the legalization of marijuana under the passage of Proposition 64 in November.

On Monday, March 27, the County Planning Commission will be finalizing recommendations for zoning changes that, if adopted by the full board of supervisors at its April 11 meeting, will officially ban all commercial sales of marijuana in the county, effectively criminalizing the establishment of so-called pot dispensaries, as well as pot sales through delivery services, commercial growing, and other means. It’s a bolstering of laws already in place, but necessary for the county as other changes under the law take effect.

In addition, the full board of supervisors will be discussing cleanup language for existing zoning laws now governing medicinal marijuana use and cultivation in private residences in order to bring county codes into compliance with laws now permitting the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

With its passage, the law makes it legal for all adults 21 and over to now grow up to nine pot plans inside a private residence or accessory unit, such as a small green house. The county previously amended zoning laws to allow for the personal use and cultivation of medicinal marijuana, however existing “permissive zoning” code on recreational pot use and cultivation still prohibits it.

“We’ll be taking up the zone amendment and talking about clean up language in order to come into compliance with the new law and take measures to deal with commercial marijuana use and growing,” said County Supervisor Sue Frost.

The AUMA puts the state of California in charge of governing the licensing process for commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana and it has until January 1, 2018 to accept applications for that process. The state, however, is leaving it up to the local municipalities to adopt and enforce local ordinances aimed at either regulating or, if they chose to, as Sacramento has, prohibit all commercial marijuana sales “activities.”

Once zoning code amendments are in place, the county supervisors will also likely have to contend with the thorny issue of compliance with the new law and enforcement of violations and related crime as they may or may not come into conflict with laws set by the federal government, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal Class 1 controlled substance.

“I can only speak for myself, but we may be having conversations at some point about crime and other issues, and I want to proceed very carefully because we do not jeopardize the funding we get for several programs from the federal government,” Frost said. “Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance and is still illegal as far as the federal government is concerned.”

That said, Frost added she has also begun talking with local law enforcement about the likely future impact on local crime and other issues by the legalization of commercial marijuana sales in other counties.

“It’s bound to spill over,” said Frost. “But, I’m from Citrus Heights, and here we weigh out all of our options very carefully before we make any decisions. That same principal will apply here as far as I’m concerned. I can’t speak for the entire board, but that’s my approach.”

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said she has already made it clear she sees a through line between the passage of Prop. 64 and Prop. 57, which allowed for the early release of some convicted felons on incarcerated for what are considered “lesser crimes,” many drug- and alcohol-related, and the potential myriad problems to come with the new laws on pot use in the state.

“I’m planning to be there at the meeting on the 11th to make sure the board of supervisors understands all of our concerns about what this passage means with respect to crime,” said Schubert. “What this law effectively does is not only makes it a misdemeanor for having just a little over the limit, but it’s still just a flat misdemeanor even if you are caught growing mass quantities over the limit.”

In addition, said Schubert, there are the potential side-effects impacting community services and its residents, including a likely uptick in the number of DUIs on marijuana, underage use of marijuana, emergency room visits, car accidents, and spikes in crime.

“I am concerned about crime going up, I’m concerned about hospital visits going up due to accidents, the number of DUI offences under the influence of marijuana going up, and all the things that relate to that,” Schubert said. “Now, we are going to comply with the laws are they are written, but we also want to figure out how we are going to effectively plan for these other issues going forward.”

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Library Recognized as Finalists

Sacramento County  |  2017-03-22

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has announced that Sacramento Public Library is among the 30 finalists for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and are making a difference for individuals, families and communities.

“The 2017 National Medal Finalists represent the leading museums and libraries that serve as catalysts for change in their communities,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “It is our honor to recognize 30 notable institutions for their commitment to providing programs and services that improve the lives of individuals, families and communities. We salute them and their valuable work in providing educational opportunities to their community and celebrate the power libraries and museums can have across the country.”

Finalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. IMLS is encouraging community members who visited Sacramento Public Library to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page. To Share Your Story and learn more about how these institutions make an impact, please visit

The National Medal winners will be announced later this spring. The representatives from winning institutions will travel to Washington, D.C. to be honored at the National Medal award ceremony.

To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Get With the Flow

By Sacramento Suburban Water District Staff  |  2017-03-22

WaterSense-labeled sink faucets and accessories use a maximum of 1.5 gallons of water per minute and do it without sacrificing performance.

Did you know that by replacing your old, inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense-labeled models you can conserve water and lower your energy bill? It’s a win every time you turn on the tap.

WaterSense is a partnership program created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the future of our country’s water supply by providing consumers with an easy way to identify water-efficient products, new homes and services.

The WaterSense label is applied to those products, which have been independently certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient than average products, and to offer the same or better performance.

WaterSense-labeled sink faucets and accessories use a maximum of 1.5 gallons of water per minute and do it without sacrificing performance. And because they use less water, less heat is needed, reducing your energy bill.

Replacing older inefficient faucets and aerators can save the average family 700 gallons of water per year. If every home in the United States installed WaterSense-labeled models, we could save $1.2 billion in water and energy costs and 64 billion gallons of water annually!

The WaterSense label can also be found on:

  • New Homes
  • Showerheads
  • Urinals
  • Toilets Rebates are now available from SSWD!
  • Weather-Based Sprinkler Controllers Rebates are available.

Make a difference every time you turn on the faucet by installing WaterSense-labeled faucets and aerators. And remember to turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving.

SSWD even has free WaterSense-labeled aerators available at the office! Pick one up today; twist it into place and start using water wisely.

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Diamond in the Rough

Story and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-22

Doug Ose, manager of Gibson Ranch County Park is pushing for a long-term renewal of his contract to manage the 325-acre park.

The County board of supervisors is preparing to weigh the options presented by developer Doug Ose to frame a renewed contract for his continued private-level management of Gibson Ranch County Park. 
On Monday, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost toured Gibson Ranch for the first time since Ose assumed management of the 325-acre nature reserve and events center in 2011. Due to steep financial losses, the county was on the brink of closing the park. After her tour, Frost said she supports a fast-track to renewing a contract with Ose before his current agreement expires April 30th.  From her perspective, no one wants to see Gibson Ranch close.
“It’s a beautiful space and we want to do everything we can to continue to let the community have access to this wonderful space,” Frost said. She stopped short of discussing specifics in either Ose’s proposal or those the Sacramento County Dept. of Regional Parks have put on the table. “I am not sure what the board will ultimately approve or not approve, but we are set to discuss all of the items and ideas and make a decision very soon.”
For Ose, the clock is ticking. “As of right now, I’ll be out of here on April 30th unless we can agree on something better,” said Ose. 
Ose said he’s asked the county to consider a 20-year contract that would likely include increasing the park’s entry fee from $5 to $8, adding as many as 50 full hook-up RV camp sites, and the designation of the park as an official graduation space for local high schools.
“The ground rules have changed, and now we are at a point where I think we all want to see Gibson Ranch continue to remain open, but I need to stop the bleeding,” said Ose, who asserts that, although he saw a $22,000 profit in 2015, monthly losses in 2016 mounted to roughly $20,000 a month, largely due to increases in labor costs.
Visitation to the park however, is substantial.  According to Ose, roughly 100,000 visitors came through the gates of Gibson Ranch in 2016. There are currently 90 special events on the books for 2017, including 43 weddings. Nonetheless, Ose, who is also a former congressman, said the costs of maintaining the facility are outpacing revenues.
“I have to pay for 14,000 hours a year to run the place,” Ose said. “Somebody’s got to paint, trim trees, take care of the livestock, answer phones and book events. But with the costs of labor, insurance and electricity going up since we took over, the deal we have with the county is simply no longer working,” 
That deal involves payment by Ose of $1 a year for rent and half of his profits to the county.  In turn, the county agreed to pay Ose $500,000 over the current life of the contract for deferred maintenance, a much lower amount, Ose says, than it would have had to pay if the county managed the park on its own, considering the labor-intensive work involved.
“The primary difference between the government’s history of running the park and our tenure is that we can work seven days a week because we are not bound by government labor laws,” Ose said, adding that the county was losing roughly $5 million annually prior to his contract.  “We’ve proven the theory that the county doesn’t have to lose $5 million a year. In fact now they are about $2.5 million ahead.”
Regional Parks Director Jeff Leatherman did not return calls for comment.  Ose said he’s not sure what Regional Parks wants for Gibson Ranch, but hopes they will see the value in the details of his renewal proposal. 
The RV park idea, for example, claims Ose, could be one of the most viable options for ramping up revenue without significant changes to the park’s natural setting, something Regional Parks has had concerns about in the past.  Ose said he’s had an engineer come out to evaluate the space available for the RV sites and, if approved, he thinks that piece alone could generate as much as $12,000 a month.  Combined with event revenue and a hike in the entry fee, Ose says, things could easily turn around.
At the core of Ose’s proposal, however, is the request to lengthen his contract. A 20-year lease, as opposed to another five-year lease, he claims, would give him the time to implement significant revenue-generating programs and amenities.
“I have asked the county to consider a 20-year contract, something long enough to really put this private corporation to work,” Ose said. “We’ll see what happens, what the other ideas are, and hope for the best.”

County Supervisor Sue Frost has not said she specifically supports a plan to renew Doug Ose’s contract to manage Gibson Ranch, as was reported (Diamond in the Rough, March 24).  Frost does support a quick resolution to keeping the doors of the park open and, alongside the full board of supervisors, will be weighing all the options presented.

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Sanctuary State Puts Californians in Harm’s Way

From the Office of Senator Jim Nielsen  |  2017-03-22

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama)

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Along partisan lines, Senate Democrats passed two legislative proposals that would make California a safe haven for convicted felons who are in the country illegally and provide free legal service for them.
Former chairman of California’s state parole board, Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), and sheriffs across the state denounced the Democrat-controlled legislature’s actions.
“How many more lives have to be harmed before Sacramento politicians wake up and realize these policies are dangerous for our communities?” said Senator Nielsen. Nielsen represents the families of two sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty by a convicted criminal who was deported twice for committing several crimes, for membership in a drug cartel, and for entering the country illegally. “This is not about immigration; this is about enabling criminal behavior and activity that endangers our citizens.” 
The California State Sheriffs’ Association stated in their letter to the author, “This bill creates a severe public safety problem.”
Specifically, Senate Bill 54 (De León), is a legislative proposal that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, school police and security departments from sharing information about criminals with federal officials.
The second measure Senate Bill 6 (Hueso) would provide free legal services to arrested individuals. SB 6 takes general fund monies from programs like scholarships for college students to give to organizations to defend criminals.
“California leaders must protect the safety of our citizens from convicted felons who are here illegally – not hire lawyers for them,” said Senator Nielsen.
To contact Senator Nielsen, please call him at 916.651.4004, or via email at

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Honoring A Special Lady During Women’s History Month

By Sheila LaPolla   |  2017-03-22

Centenarian, Lieutenant Lynn Balmer. Photo Courtesy: Brenda Sheriff, President American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, CA.

Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role of women in American history. The vibrancy and legacy of women past and present unifies and nourishes our collective whole as we march onward towards fundamental human equality.

Lieutenant Lynn Balmer, born September 12, 1907, on the family homestead in Plumas, California, has seen history unfold before her eyes and is creating a bit of history herself. At 109 years old, Lt. Balmer is the oldest living female veteran in the United States. She is the second oldest veteran in the United States (Corporal Richard Overton of Austin, Texas is the oldest veteran at 110 years old).

After WWII started, Lynn Balmer joined the military, “to free a man for active duty.” She served in the U.S. Coast Guard and achieved the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) LTJG. Lt. Balmer secured a top-secret clearance and worked in Military Intelligence. Using her keen mathematical abilities, she read and interpreted weather maps and charts and used morse code to help ships navigate through dangerous waters and adverse weather conditions between the United States and England.

Prior to her military service, Lt. Balmer was an elementary school teacher, teaching her first class in 1927. She later taught mathematics to high school students. In 1943, her passion for teaching and love for her students, (having no children, she treated each and every child as her own) gave way to her patriotism and love of country when she enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard.

Yes, Lt. Balmer entered two noble professions and gave of her immense talents whole heartedly.

Between the years of 1946 and 1967 she attended the University of Washington part time, taught mathematics to junior high school students, volunteered at a children’s orthopedic hospital, and was a professional skater to boot! She retired and moved to Chico, California, in the late 1990s with her husband, Charles (now deceased). At 109 years old, she presently lives comfortably in an assisted living facility in Chico, adored by her loving family.

Lynn Balmer’s passion for life lives on. She tells stories about living through World War 1, living through the nationwide flu epidemic in 1918 by wearing bags of asafetida around her neck to school, living through the Great Depression, and when there were shortages of grain and sugar, feeling very lucky that her father had bees so their family of nine children had honey.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was going strong in her childhood and when Lynn was 18 years old, she remembers that her mother got to vote for the first time in her life during the 1920 election. When Lynn became of legal age, she, too, proudly exercised her right to vote and encourages all women, young and old, to exercise their hard-earned right to vote.

Lt. Balmer’s deep love of country and patriotism still flourishes. As a veteran, she is a member of our nation’s largest veterans service organization, the American Legion. She is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova, where her nephew, Sgt. Ken Hicks, U.S. Air force veteran, is Historian. On her 108th birthday, she was recognized by American Legion Post 709 as the oldest living female member of the American Legion. (See photograph.)

She is also a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, California, where her Great-niece, Brenda Hicks Sheriff is President, and Virginia Hicks (Sgt. Hick’s wife and Brenda’s mother) is Treasurer.

On September 12, 2017, Lt. Lynn Balmer will celebrate her 110th birthday. She did not, and does not, let life pass her by. She still has richness of character, strength, gentleness, and her pioneer spirit.

During Women’s History Month, it is only fitting we pay special tribute to Lt. Balmer during her golden years and reflect upon and celebrate the lives of famous women pioneers and leaders in our history, as well as celebrate the unsung woman heroes of our daily lives.

Source: Sheila LaPolla Historian, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 383, Fair Oaks, CA

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