Volunteerism Alive and Well in California

There is no question that California is going through a tough period. The coronavirus health crisis has challenged the state in a way it hasn’t seen in many decades.

But the challenges have also brought out the best in many people. For instance, take coronavirus: People around California (and not only here, of course) have not only lined up at vaccination stations, but the long lines have inspired many people to get involved with the vaccination drive by volunteering to assist medical and logistics crews.

It’s true on a macro scale as well. Scientific American reports that ordinary Americans who were frustrated by administrative red tape have used Facebook and other social media sites to facilitate information and to answer questions.

For example, one Google employee named Manish Goregaokar enlisted a team of 200 volunteers to create a website that tracks vaccine availability throughout California. Every day, volunteers call hospitals, pharmacies and other vaccination locations and publish appointments on the site

“There aren’t that many opportunities where you don’t need to be special to help,” he says. “You don’t need to have contacts with the government or tons of money; you can just help with skills that a lot of people have and come together to make something better.

“This may be the most impactful thing I ever do. I’ve done other volunteering, but this directly translates to lives saved. It’s humbling and scary to be in that position,” says Goregaokar.

NoCal Hoping for Sacramento-SF Train Link

Plans for a high-speed rail network in California’s Central Valley were delayed Saturday, but further north residents of Sacramento said they remain hopeful that plans to launch train service between the capital and San Francisco would move ahead eventually.

Cabbage growing in California’s Central Valley

Currently, commuters between the cities have to switch to a bus to complete the journey.

In the Central Valley, the  Associated Press reported that project managers cited cost changes and Covid-related delays as the reasons for the postponed opening of a Bakersfield-to-Madera route, a 119-mile stretch of track through some of the state’s critical farming bowl.

Brian Kelly, the project’s chief executive officer, said he would update the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors on plans to open the route by 2023. He also said he would ask for additional funding to cover expected cost overruns from $12.4 to $13.8 billion.

Making (IDT) Energy More Efficient

As winter turns to spring, Americans will find themselves in the great in-between-seasonal time of being able to save money on electricity bills.  During this time of year, neither the heat nor the air conditioner is being used so bills should be down and thus in general, households report that their IDT energy bills are lower in the springtime.

Given that, spring provides the perfect opportunity for dedicating time to energy saving techniques that will bode well for the seasons where electricity bills do tend to rise.  Herewith a few examples:

First, service the air conditioner.  Since it seems that each year the temperature in the California area gets hotter, an efficiently functioning air conditioner is crucial. For those who are able to do it themselves, cleaning the filters (or even replacing them) is a great way to make the air conditioner unit last longer. Air conditioning units are expensive so taking care of them is a good idea.  In fact, the first day of spring is a great day to have a reminder set to take care of this.  As well, the evaporator coil should be checked and cleaned around the same time.

Second, consider using this time for the installation of energy efficient window treatments.  Examples of this include any kind of blinds or shades which reduce heat gain when there is an increase in temperature.  In addition, such treatments enhance the home’s aesthetics.

Third, work on any leakage holes.  One way to do this is through caulk.   When purchasing the caulk, factor in approximately half a cartridge for each window or door; with around four cartridges for the foundation sill. To do this, one needs: a caulk, a caulk gun, a tool to remove old caulk (like a sharp knife/screwdriver); flashing material for any large openings. The simplest method is to first clean the area, next prepare the caulk gun, then aim it at a 45-degree angle to the dried area and then push into the crack.

Of course, some people may decide to hire someone for these tasks, but with a bit of know-how as explained above, most people have the abilities to undertake these springtime projects.

California Enjoys Budget Surplus for New Year

The Covid-19 pandemic may have wreaked havoc with many parts of the state’s economy, but California managed to finish 2020 with a $15 billion surplus.

California, which relies heavily on income tax collections from wealthy residents, had a strong fiscal year due to high returns from a strong stock market,.

“The state is in much better financial condition to avoid the very large cuts that they’ve had to do in the past that cut significant services right when California residents needed it the most,” Dora Lee, the director of research at Belle Haven Investments, told Bloomberg News.

“The California budget is in some ways a situation where some other states might be envious and would like to be in,” Lee added.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would use the budget surplus to bolster the state’s public education system, spur a broad economy recover and pay down almost $10 billion in state debt.

Downtown Sacramento Partnership Launches ReImagine Activation Micro-Grants

The Downtown Sacramento Partnership recently announced a new ReImagine Activation Grant Program, offering micro-grants to downtown businesses and supporting organizations looking to utilize spaces safely and with social responsibility.

The program also hopes to support local artists – of all genres and platforms—in their efforts to increase the cultural offerings in downtown Sacramento.

Downtown small businesses already benefitting from the grants include: Brannan Manor Restaurant & Spirits, Kodaiko Ramen & Bar, Koja Kitchen Sac Town, Solomon’s Delicatessen, Tango by the River, and Visions of Eden, Inc.

Politics turns Pretty

The 2020 elections are now a thing of the past. But the thousands of political yard signs that dotted Sacramento County lawns are getting a new life.

As most of the signs are not made from recyclable material, a coalition of local environmental and cultural activists is collecting and distributing them to Sacramento area artists who will turn them into art.

“Some artists want to take it and turn it into planters. Another one wants to turn it into a new type of canvas,” said Shira Lane, of The Atrium 916, “Others want to create kind messaging to make America kind again and bring us together again.”

The goal of the initiative according to Lane is to ensure that the signs do not wind up in landfills. Crafters, hobbyists, art teachers, students, and others have all reached out to get some signs.

Museum Re-Opens, Neighboring Businesses Hopeful

Sacramento’s largest art museum,  The Crocker Art Museum, reopened on October 16, 2020. Patrons must reserve tickets in advance; the facility is operating at 20% capacity for the time being.

Nearby Sacramento businesses, hard hit by the dramatic loss of customers over the past six months, are hoping the museum-goers also visit other storefronts, eateries, and shops.

Sacramento Small Businesses Get Relief Loans

Nearly the entirety of Sacramento’s $89 million of federal coronavirus aid has been allocated. The city’s council recently voted on how to spend the last iteration of funds, including a few subcategories for small business assistance, tourism, culture and the arts, employment growth, and services for the homeless. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, Sacramento Mayor Darell Steinberg indicated his intention of using the aid to help the city’s disadvantaged and underserved populations.  He also shared his interest in helping nonprofits that had been in line for Measure U sales tax funding

“It’s a significant achievement what we have done thus far to intentionally decide we’re going to spend this money on and in our community and then to execute it in the way we have,” Steinberg said. 

The category with the largest allocation of $22 million is small business assistance, with most of the money being distributed in the second round of funding for 1,347 Sacramento businesses. Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso reported that this round of funding saw a diversified pool of applicants than the original round of loans, which mostly went to businesses in the center of Sacramento.

New Dollar General in West Sacramento

New Dollar General in West Sacramento

A 200,000 square feet Dollar General cold storage facility will open in West Sacramento.

The Greater Sacramento Economic Council announced the location of the facility on Channel Drive. The council also indicated that the new venue will generate 50 full-time jobs, $27 million in regional economic activity over three years, and revitalize the pandemic-hit economy over the next three years.  Specifically in West Sacramento, some $4 million are expected to come in as a result of the new facility each year.

“Dollar General’s supply chain network plays a critical role in ensuring the products customers need and want are delivered to our nearly 17,000 stores in a timely and consistent manner. The addition of these facilities continues to drive efficiency and service through our exceptional supply chain network.”

Mike Kindy, Dollar General’s executive vice president of global supply chain
New Dollar General in West Sacramento
The new West Sacramento Dollar General cold storage facility will stimulate the economy and preserve food supplies.

Summer Sacramento: The Business Perspective

The summer in Sacramento – like many other places – slows down over the summer.  While a lot of SME owners panic during this time, it is actually a positive thing if used in the correct way. It is a time to take stock, master new skills, prepare for the post-lull and bolster current systems.

According to photographer Mozes Victor Konig, this is a time when he gets his most business clients.

“When a company is doing well but business is slow, many CFOs look at what needs to be done to build up the existing foundation.  During the rest of the year most companies are very busy.  In the summer when there is a natural slowdown, rather than resting on their laurels, smart companies figure out what can be done in-house to place the company in the optimal continued growth position,” Mozes Victor Konig explained.

These days a solid presence on social media is no longer a luxury and “just for other companies” but a real necessity especially for those looking to grow their business.  That’s why Konig gets calls to take profile pictures of employees and even take a field trip with some companies. 

“One summer I went with a company on a day trip to Golden 1 Center. We started with official photos back at the office, then I followed them around taking candid photos of the scavenger hunt the company did for the staff.  I’ve seen that the summer is also a popular time to do company day trips and ‘fun days,’ which are always important to bolster company morale,” Konig said.

Don’t see the summer as a time when sales drop.  Take a different attitude. Understand that this is part of the natural ebb and flow of the annual cycle and use the time to effectively find other ways to invigorate company culture and regenerate for when things naturally pick up again.