New life for Life Center

After weeks of waiting, some frustrated senior citizens finally can return to class. California State University, Sacramento, forced the Life Center’s move last November when it announced that it would be raising the rent on the center’s home, the Julia Morgan House and Gardens, from $1 to $1,500. (See “House divided"; SN&R News; November 17, 2005.) Now, with the worst behind them, Life Center students can attend fitness classes at the Coloma Community Center on T Street and the East Portal Park facilities on Rodeo Way.

Lois Bulgarides, the Life Center’s faculty director, credits their find to the city of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which made the program’s housing problem a priority.

During the transition, the Life Center isn’t offering quite as many classes, but Bulgarides says that may change soon.

“It may change shape a little bit. We’ll find what the needs are in each community we go into,” Bulgarides said.

Still, some Life Center students felt cheated by CSUS’s eviction notice.

CSUS alumna and Life Center student Sharon Patrician said, “I’m disappointed that the college felt that after five years of us being there, that we were no longer cost-effective.”

—Amanda Dyer

Republicans and sex offenders

Republicans in the state Legislature don’t like crime. And the worst kind of criminal, in their books? Sex offenders. Each session brings another handful of bills to support law enforcement.

The obstacle: Democrats control the public-safety committees in both the Senate and Assembly. So, the so-called tough-on-crime legislation rarely sees its way to a full floor vote. Last session, Republican Assembly members even re-dubbed their house’s Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the “Public Endangerment Committee.”

So, the husband-and-wife lawmaking team of Senator George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, both R-Antelope Valley, have taken a page from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tattered playbook: Circumvent your opponents under the Capitol dome and take the issue to the people in the form of a ballot initiative.

The Runners announced last week that they are well on their way to gathering enough signatures to put “Jessica’s Law” on the November ballot. According to the Runners, the proposal would amount to the toughest sex-offender legislation in the nation, increasing penalties for violent sex offenders and child molesters, restricting where registered sex offenders may live and requiring lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring for felony sex offenders.

“Jessica’s Law,” which is endorsed by Schwarzenegger, needs 373,816 valid signatures before a February 21 deadline. With nearly a month remaining, the Runners said that they’d already gathered about 400,000.

—Jeffrey M. Barker

Pushing back on PG&E

Backers of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s proposed annexation of parts of Yolo County are pulling out the big guns. They’ve now retained political powerbroker Richie Ross to run the counter-counter-insurgency against PG&E.

Ross is among the most successful political consultants on the local scene. He ran Mayor Heather Fargo’s two election campaigns and helped most of the Sacramento City Council get elected.

SMUD board President Genevieve Shiroma and other board members also have created a political campaign committee to combat PG&E’s ability to spend an unlimited amount of money fighting the public-power proposal. Sacramento voters likely will consider a non-binding ballot measure in June. And in November, both Yolo and Sacramento voters will decide on whether SMUD proceeds with the annexation. SMUD, being a public entity, is prohibited from spending any money on political campaigns.

Shiroma said she believes local businesses will contribute to the campaign, because she’s convinced the Yolo annexation will mean lower rates for all SMUD customers over the long run. She also hopes individuals will contribute on principle. “There are a lot of folks out there who believe in public power. So, we hope it will come from a wide range of folks who care,” Shiroma said.

—Cosmo Garvin