Alfalfa fields near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Steamboat Slough.

Spending Water Like Money

When conservation alone can't solve the state's water problems

For many environmentalists and residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the solution to California’s water supply sounds brilliant in its simplicity: Use less than we do now, particularly in areas of the state that have precious little of their own to begin with, thereby eliminating the need for spending billions of dollars on new water storage. But don’t try selling that idea to the bulk of California’s most powerful water stakeholders, many of whom contend that all the low-flow toilets and drip irrigation systems in the world won’t mean much without more dams and reservoirs to capture water during wet years and reap the benefits in dry times.

Oct 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Cache Creek Casino Resort began as a bingo hall but has slowly added amenities, such as this year-old 18-hole championship golf course, in its push to become a destination resort.

Full House

Have casinos reached market saturation in the Capital Region?

Red Hawk Casino opened in December, just weeks after economic woes sent the stock market plunging. The launch of the new venue just off Highway 50 coincided with a sharp drop in gross gaming revenue at Nevada’s Lake Tahoe casinos, and California casinos also felt the sting as gamblers gave Red Hawk a try.

Oct 1, 2009 Adam Weintraub
Newton Wallace purchased Winters Express in 1947 and has since handed the reigns to his son, Charles.

Wintry News

A community newspaper stays afloat in Winters

Newspapers across the nation have been in a painful freefall for the past couple of years, cutting budgets, pages and staff nearly as quickly as they can relay information. The culprit, of course, is a lackluster economy that has severely hindered advertising revenue piggybacked on a readership that’s demanding free content in new mediums. So it comes with a few raised eyebrows to find Winters Express, a small weekly, still plodding along.

Oct 1, 2009 Christine Calvin


Making health care work

This summer we saw the debate over health care reform heat up. The result has been partisanship, too little dialogue and too much misinformation. As a small-business owner, I’m concerned about reform, reform that will protect the country’s millions of small companies against skyrocketing health care costs. My own research has led me to a few basic conclusions.

Sep 1, 2009 Winnie Comstock-Carlson
The Jelly Belly Candy Co. opened a manufacturing plant in fairfield in 1986; as of December, it employed 480 workers.

(Photo courtesy of the City of Fairfield)

Assembly Line

Can the state increase regulation and create manufacturing jobs

This summer, the Milken Institute released its second report on manufacturing in California. Seven years the institute sounded the alarm that California was losing its manufacturing edge, the driving force for postwar prosperity from the aerospace industry through high technology. The institute said policy makers should pay attention to the state’s manufacturing decline.

Sep 1, 2009 Tony Quinn
Rich Brooks, a partner in Tatum LLC, works for a Tatum division called Kinetic Advisors LLC, a boutique firm for middle-market debtors in distress. Brooks often sits between the borrower and the bank to help the two sides work out a deal.

Rescue Me

Working out a deal when a banker calls

It’s the meeting no business owner wants, an adult equivalent to sitting in the principal’s office.

Only instead of a principal, the person calling you in is a banker. And instead of the dreaded “permanent record,” the folder on the desk is an agreement for a business loan, a line of credit, equipment financing or some other form of borrowed money that helps keep the company afloat.

Sep 1, 2009 Robert Celaschi
The Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct (shown here near Westley in Stanislaus County) stretches about 400 miles, carrying water from Northern California to users in the south.

Hydrating the System

The state's water woes and its faltering economy

Most recognized California as “the Golden State” long before lawmakers adopted the official nickname in 1968. But while California’s standing as the land of big ideas and golden opportunities is well-earned, so too is its recent reputation as a state in perpetual crisis. In few places is this more evident than the state’s ongoing debate over its aging and unsustainable water management system.

Sep 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Researchers have found that decision making can exhaust the brain.

Brain Exam

A play-by-play of your body's most important organ

What’s your brain doing right now? What was it doing when you woke up, got hungry, went to work, danced, made love, got angry, got happy, fell asleep and dreamed? Judith Horstman is a local writer and frequent Comstock’s contributor. Her new book, “The Scientific American Day In the Life of Your Brain,” chronicles hour-by-hour what goes on in your brain through a typical day and night.

Sep 1, 2009 Judith Horstman

Dancing with Deception

Making sense of cognitive impairment

Uncle Bert seemed normal to me, so I wondered what was going on when a phone call ripped into an otherwise peaceful Monday. It was Dave, a trusted family friend. “Honey, your uncle has dementia, and all his friends are very concerned about it,” he said. “You need to do something.”

Aug 1, 2009
(Photo illustration: C.J. Burton)

Organizational Misbehavior

Are you grooming or stifling tomorrow's leaders?

With the national economy stumbling along like a wounded animal, the only steady growth these days is in the number of workers being shown the door. But while layoffs can be demoralizing, those workers who remain on the job may find “the Great Recession” to be a huge career booster.

Aug 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen

Air Time

Mary Nichols on statewide solutions to global issues

Mary Nichols is no stranger to innovation. As one of the nation’s first environmental attorneys, Nichols has spent her career protecting natural resources at the state and federal level. She also served as the California Air Resources Board Chairwoman from 1978 to 1983, and now she’s at it again.

Aug 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Students at Folsom Lake College receive hands-on training in classrooms such as these used to teach water and wastewater management.

(Photo courtesy of Los Rios Community College District)

Filling the Gaps

How local colleges plan to meet work force needs

It may seem odd that local colleges, universities and vocational schools are putting energy into building a large base of qualified workers in an economy that is already showing double-digit unemployment and forcing many to leave retirement.

Aug 1, 2009 Bill Romanelli
From May 2008 to May 2009 the price of lumber and plywood fell 13.8 percent nationwide, and suppliers such as Pacific Coast Building Products' Anderson Lumber are grappling with the aftermath.

Material Witness

Construction costs' momentary lapse of reason

The cost of lumber, steel, asphalt and other construction materials has been on a wild ride since the early part of this decade, but don’t be fooled by the relatively placid prices in 2009. Industry players say it’s likely just a brief respite before the roller coaster starts climbing again.

Aug 1, 2009 Adam Weintraub
Residents of the Chateau at River's Edge participate in a Tai Chi class.

Selling the Boom

The slogans behind senior living

Terri Bacon participates in line dancing, water aerobics and a book club in her community, Glenbrooke by Del Webb, which targets active adults older than 55. She recently started a club that attends theater performances. “I’m busier here than I’ve ever been, and I’m doing things that are worthwhile,” says Bacon, who turns 62 this month.

Aug 1, 2009 Ingrid Ahlgren