That’s what Santa Rosa residents discovered today, upon seeing that the iconic covered wagon, which for over 50 years has stood watch at Montgomery Village on the corner of Farmers Lane and Montgomery Drive, has been taken down.
I drove by Montgomery Village this morning, wondering why cars were moving so slowly. But as I got closer and noticed the wagon gone, I wasn’t the only one craning my head out the window to stare at the empty space. The wagon had been there my whole life. What happened to it?
Says David Codding, owner of Montgomery Village, “I think it’s run its course.”
The wagon was taken down yesterday, and it'll be given to Cattlemen's to use at one of their restaurants. But that's not why the wagon was taken down. To hear Codding tell it, during the remodeling process of the northwest quadrant of the shopping center, Santa Rosa’s Design Review Board had told him to get rid of the wagon.
“They said, 'We like the building and what not, we’ll approve the building,'” Codding told me today, “'but we want that wagon gone. It just looks ridiculous.'”
I knew Codding had some disputes with the city over his initial remodeling plan (disputes with city planners run in his blood, after all) so I wondered if this was all just residual sour grapes. But I called the architect on the job, Warren Hedgpeth, and another planner at city hall. Both confirmed that the city encouraged the wagon’s removal.
To longtime locals, hearing that the City of Santa Rosa wanted a landmark like the Montgomery Village wagon taken down is downright crazy. But here’s something to consider: the wagon that was taken down yesterday isn’t the original, historic wagon. It’s a replica. The original one was moved to the corner of Patio Court and Farmers Lane years ago—where it still stands, and where Codding says it’ll stay.
It took moving the wagon to show Codding just how much people cared about it. After he took over Montgomery Village and moved the wagon three blocks south, he got so many complaints from residents that he hired some Amish workers—“back in Utah or someplace”—to build another one for the corner at Montgomery Drive and Farmers Lane.
As for the future of that now-empty corner, a landscaped plaza is planned. Several bronze statues will depict children holding an American flag and, also, children feeding deer, Codding says. A sign telling the story of Montgomery Village will be set in a rock wall, with bas relief plaques of both Hugh Codding and village namesake Billy Montgomery, who was the first person from Santa Rosa to be killed in WWII.
The original, larger wagon has a special significance: it was a gift to Hugh Codding in the mid-1950s from Hollywood actor Fred MacMurray. As Codding says, “He called up dad and said, ‘You know, what you need at Montgomery Village is a covered wagon. I have a covered wagon at my ranch that would just be perfect.’ And Dad said, ‘That’s a great idea.’”
Here's how the wagon looked in 1962, courtesy of the Sonoma County Library History Annex. Note the payphone and corner mailbox, things you don't see much anymore, as well as the lack of sidewalks. (Zoom in and you'll see signs for Hal's Toyville, Eisenhood's Deli and the Maple Shop... anyone remember these places?)
The original wagon has been through a lot over the years. Once, when maintenance workers were repainting it, they found arrows with charred tips inside. “I think kids, at night, they’d go and they’d pour gasoline on an arrow and shoot it at the wagon, trying to burn it down,” says Codding. “I heard another report that another kid, or group of kids, tried to put a detonation device in it, with wires—and it malfunctioned, obviously.”
Of course, what everyone really wants to know is: has anyone ever managed to climb up inside the wagon? “Yeah, I think some kids have climbed up into that wagon,” Codding laughs, “and God knows what they were doing up there.”
I know this is now old news, but the movie really was terrible. I like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I like fantasy fiction. This movie took the shortest book of the series, chopped it into three movies, and added too many special effects to keep track of. It was too much for the editors, apparently, because there were unfinished portions in battle scenes. Repeated motions of computer-generated creatures were obvious and at times a sword would appear to go directly through an enemy with no reaction, like someone forgot to animate that part.
To boot, the movie was almost three hours long and there were several unnecessary musical numbers. Musical numbers! In a Tolkein film! Dwarves were cleaning up a hobbit’s house by tossing around the plates and singing. What is this, Sword in the Stone? And the physics of the battle scenes were too outrageous to ignore. A 50-pound log used as a shield repeatedly stops a giant, sharp sword swung by a giant beast? It was annoyingly impossible.
So the movie sucked, and so did one of the people in our row, we suspect. After discussing the possible sexual behavior that could be accomplished in the theater, a couple two seats over from us pulled the ol’ jacket-over-the-lap routine. I’m no prude, but this wasn’t in the back row or anything. It was loud and the film’s volume was too quiet, so everyone could hear the “coming attractions” playing smack dab in the middle of the theater. It was so quiet that when the daring duo was finished I could hear the guy next to me biting his nails—or, nubs of nails, rather—loudly and repeatedly starting and stopping, making it impossible to tune out. The guy in front of us dropped a large bottle—it sounded like a wine bottle—several times. Dude, put it in a padded bag or just leave it on the ground.
We finished the movie, astonished at our accomplishment. Both of us, it turns out, had wanted secretly for the other to lean in and whisper, “Let’s go get fro-yo.” But whether pride or just bad timing, neither caught on. By the time the marathon of unnecessary soliloquies was over, fro-yo was closed and we were annoyed. Moral of the story? Listen to your ticket booth attendant. She knows her stuff.
Inevitably, anyone who's polished off a few pints at the Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa eventually looks up, sees a sign on the wall that reads "New Albion Brewery," and wonders, "What the hell's that sign mean?"
As any beer snob sitting at your table will quickly tell you, New Albion happens to be hailed as the first "microbrewery," at least as we know the term now. They may explain that New Albion, in Sonoma, pioneered the way small-batch beer was made. They may even report that New Albion founder Jack McAuliffe lived in mythic seclusion for almost 30 years, brewing out of the limelight in Texas, completely unaware of his status as a totally goddamn awesome pioneer of the craft beer movement until his rediscovery a few years ago.
That's why it's kind of a big deal that on Thursday, Jan. 10, the Russian River Brewing Co. welcomes the man himself, Jack McAuliffe, back to Sonoma County. And who's coming with him? Ahem: Jim Koch, from Samuel Adams.
The whole thing's a celebration of Samuel Adams' re-release of New Albion Ale—a nice gesture on Sam Adam's part using Jack's original recipe. I'll let Russian River's Natalie Cilurzo take over:
Brewing pioneer Jack McAuliffe and the legendary Jim Koch, the face of Sam Adams, will be at the pub from 6-8pm discussing their recent "collaboration" on the resurrection of New Albion Ale! New Albion Brewery was located in Sonoma, California, from 1976 to 1983. This was the first newly licensed start-up craft brewery in the United States after the repeal of prohibition right here in Sonoma County. It's safe to say Jack was the first nanobrewer back when no such term existed. Vinnie and I were lucky enough to get our hands on the original New Albion Brewery sign which has hung proudly in our pub since the day we opened.
We will have New Albion Ale on draft at the pub that evening and hopefully for a few days after. Boston Beer is releasing bottles with an incredible reproduction of the original label for national distribution, but I'm not sure how much or where it will be available. I'm just excited to have it on draft at the pub while Jack McAuliffe and Jim Koch are both in the house! This is such a rare opportunity to have these two brewing legends in our brewpub at the same time.
Needless to say, I'd advise getting there early.
Jack McAuliffe and Jim Koch speak at Russian River Brewing Co. on Thursday, Jan. 10, from 6-8pm. 725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. Free... and packed. 707.545.2337.
During the store's closeout sale, everything is 75% off.
Last week, the store's windows were newspapered up, with a note indicating that the store was being renovated and the frozen yogurt machines serviced. But today, there were customers filling up bags full of cheap candy and bidding their adieus.
The space, which formerly housed Fleet Feet and, long ago, Burlington Bakery, is up for lease. Given that Santa Rosa is now allowing wine tasting rooms downtown, who knows what might occupy it next?
“I’m an old guy,” says Ash at a demonstration this morning for a new company offering sustainably-farmed salmon. “I’ve seen the ups and downs of farmed salmon.” He even took a tour in 1981 of a salmon farm in Norway, but it was less than inspiring. “It was like conventional chicken farming,” he says. “You could literally walk across the water on the backs of the salmon.” This created the need for extensive antibiotics and still resulted in low-quality fish. Fast forward thirty years, and companies are still trying to figure out how to sustainably farm the world’s favorite fish, but things are getting significantly better.
But no matter how tasty farmed salmon is, wild salmon will always be preferred by top chefs. David Holman, executive chef with the Charlie Palmer restaurant group in Reno, said he has to keep salmon on the menu year-round due to customer demand, but chooses to offer wild salmon when in season. He says customers are always informed of the origin of their fish.
Jodie Lau, of Sonoma County supermarket chain G&G, was on hand with other executives from the market. All seemed impressed with the fish and the company, and Lau said she hoped the market could look into ways to begin carrying the fish year-round. If offered at $10.99 per pound retail, it would be comparable in price to other farmed salmon of lesser quality.
Verlasso is trying to break the stigma of farmed salmon not just for profit, but for the future of the world’s fish supply, says Allyson Fish. The company is working with Seafood Watch in hopes it will become the first farmed salmon to earn a “recommended buy” from the organization. It’s one of six aquaculture companies, the only one producing salmon, vying for this certification. By shooting for the top, this opens the door for other groups like the Marine Stewardship Council to look at farmed fish in a different light, and hopefully help change public perception through education.
Mark Morgan started tapdancing five years ago, but when he broke his leg in San Francisco, he moved to Santa Rosa and kept on dancing. He has a plate in his leg, but still keeps the beat. I caught him tappin' in downtown Santa Rosa last night and had to take a video. He is busking partly for fun, partly to keep busy. When he's not doing electrical work or welding, he practices his dance moves. He says he just finished his part for a music video for SF band Urban Cigar Crisis, so keep an eye out for him.
Call it nitpicking, but I couldn't let this one slip by.
Tonight's city council meeting had it all: grandstanding, fireworks, hyperbole, backtracking and bickering.
What it didn't have, unfortunately, was any substantial clarification on gang-related crime.
Some may remember what started this discussion: Robert Edmonds' Bohemian cover story on the admitted inability of the Santa Rosa Police Department to report accurate gang crime statistics—even as the department was receiving millions of taxpayer dollars for gang prevention from Measure O, which required a "standard statistical reporting format" for "gang-related criminal data."
As editor, I was proud to run the story. I was also glad to see Kevin McCallum bring it to a wide audience on the front page of the Press Democrat this past Sunday. But what I really looked forward to was SRPD Chief Tom Schwedhelm's report on the matter to the city council tonight.
I like Schwedhelm. The fact that he agreed to sit down and answer tough questions from Edmonds, who's worked on police accountability issues for years, speaks volumes. As he himself said tonight, "We're being very transparent about this. There are other communities where this would never see the light of day."
As such, Schwedhelm has openly admitted that the department doesn't have accurate gang crime data, and for this he cites budget cuts and lack of officer training. Mostly, though, he's chalked it up to a change in the "reporting and methodology" for gang-related crime. That's the key reason, according to the department, that in documents supplied to Edmonds (and later, to city council members), gang crimes in Santa Rosa appear to have jumped a whopping 346 percent in the past five years.
Despite repeated requests from Edmonds, Schwedhelm didn't supply details. After the story ran in the Bohemian, however, this item popped up on tonight's council agenda: "GANG CRIME STATISTICS AND REPORTING METHODOLOGY UPDATE."
Here's the update, then. I went to tonight's meeting, and in his presentation, Schwedhelm reported that the department had "broadened" their statistical reporting, thus causing the alarming jump in reported gang statistics. But how broad was "broad," I wondered? When it came time for Schwedhelm's grand reveal on the overhead projector, the department's much-touted "new" definition of a "gang-related incident"—instead of a gang-related crime—read as follows:
“A gang-related incident is defined as an incident where there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual who is involved with the incident has been or is currently associated with criminal gang activity, or where the totality of the circumstances indicates that the incident is consistent with criminal street gang activity.”
Now, call me crazy, but to me that sounds a lot like saying "A gang-related incident is what we say is a gang-related incident." Which is not really saying anything at all.
So there are a few things I'd like to see.
After the presentation, and after Gary Wysocky and Ernesto Olivares traded some lively barbs ("I resent that," "I take offense to you," etc.), the public comment portion of the meeting finally included several mentions of what no one likes talking about: race. So with concern to racial profiling, I'd like to see some specific criteria on exactly how the department designates an incident as "gang-related," and what evidence the department uses to designate an individual as a gang member. Something like this, perhaps, which is a document showing how the department once identified gang members. Really, read it.
I'd like to know why the department has now decided to include "incidents" in gang statistics, which has sharply raised the statistics for gang activity in Santa Rosa, and I'd like to hear some concrete examples of situations that might constitute an "incident" as opposed to a crime.
I'd like to know more about Schwedhelm's twice-repeated statement tonight that "We don't track individuals, we track incidents." That seems to directly contradict the department's stated goal of identifying individuals that have been or are currently associated with criminal gang activity. Furthermore, I'd like to know if, like the majority of law enforcement agencies in the state, the SRPD works with CalGang, a statewide "intelligence database targeting specifically members of criminal street gangs, tracking their descriptions, tattoos, criminal associates, locations, vehicles, fi's, criminal histories and activities."
I'd like to know how often the police department and Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force receive additional outside funding in the form of grants, and if their chances of receiving grants are increased by doing just this—demonstrating higher statistical gang activity in Santa Rosa.
Mostly, though, I'd like to know where this all leads.
We can talk about statistics and funding all we want, but here's where my cynical side kicks in. I hate my cynical side, but here's what it's telling me: no matter what the statistics say, the police department can always make a case for more funding. If gang-crime statistics are down, they can say "We're doing a great job, here's the proof, keep giving us money." If the gang-crime statistics are up, they can say "There's a huge problem here in Santa Rosa, we need more money."
Then my positive side kicks in and says that the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force is truly doing a lot of good work with after-school programs and community festivals, even though they allowed children in South Park to play with semiautomatic weapons as part of "Gang Awareness Week," which I think is deplorable. (They also publicly boasted about banning "Snitches Get Stitches" shirts from being sold at the Santa Rosa Plaza, which I think is just kind of funny, actually.)
Then I think about all the anecdotal evidence, which is what the SRPD and Olivares prefer to talk about in the absence of hard statistics. Except the anecdotes I hear are a little different. The former gang members who can't get off the gang database. The kids who commit misdemeanors, like writing graffiti, which then get unfairly upgraded to felonies because the police say it's "gang-related." The times my wife has called the police reporting gang fights at her work, only to wait 45 minutes for officers to arrive. The friends I have living in Roseland who say the gang problem is blown way out of proportion as a political fear tactic. The officer who disfigured a woman when he crashed into her truck driving 100mph in response to a call about some kids at the DMV wearing baggy clothes. The guy from South Park who talked at tonight's meeting, who said the only authority figure that ever helped him avoid gang life was a school counselor, and the only thing Measure O ever did was cycle a bunch of his friends through jail and juvenile hall. There are hundreds of other stories.
At any rate, Measure O doesn't expire until 2026, so there's going to be plenty more years of Santa Rosa taxpayer money going to gang prevention. But always remember: it's our sales tax increase that we voted for—it's our money, really—and because of that, we have a right to be able to ask questions and expect clear answers about its effectiveness. And we definitely have a say in how the money is spent.
On Friday, Jan. 6, Occupy Santa Rosa joined with the Committee for Immigrant Rights, the Graton Day Labor Center and other Sonoma County organizations in a rally and march against Wells Fargo's position as an institutional holder of stock in Geo Group, Inc. The for-profit corporation builds, maintains and runs private prisons, including immigration detention centers in Arizona and California. For more information, check out a news blast from the Dec. 28 issue of the Bohemian.
Maureen Purtill and Jesus Guzman of the Graton Labor Center speak to the crowd of about 200 in front of the old Albertson's on Sebastopol Road about Wells Fargo and the rally. Purtill translated everything into Spanish.
"It's wonderful to see the Occupy movement really out in embracing the immigration rights movement," said Richard Coshnear, an immigrant rights attorney from Santa Rosa. After discussing the profit motives and laundry list of offenses at immigration detention facilities in the United States, he said, "The treatment of prisoners in detention is bad, but it's worse in for-profit private institutions."
Juan Cuandon and an unidentified man portray people held in detention at a private prison during a theater performance just before the march to the downtown branch of Wells Fargo Bank.
David Ortega of Occupy Petaluma rode his bike to the march from Petaluma. He was joined by Wendy-O Matik who rode her bike from Sebastopol.
85-year-old Marjorie Golden came out to support the fight for immigrant rights and the Occupy movement.
Two people were arrested outside of Wells Fargo after they attempted to "mic check" inside of the downtown branch, according to Occupy Santa Rosa organizer Carl Patrick. The bank locked its doors just after the protestors arrived. Police did not allow anyone on the property, including press, claiming "private property." Wells Fargo representatives did not respond to a written request from the Bohemian to speak about the closing of the bank or the protest.
Jerry Camarata of Sonoma County said that the orange jumpsuits printed with Sonoma County Jail symbolize the connection between private detention centers and the Secure Communities program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "They are allowing undocumented workers to open accounts while funding these private detention centers that profit off of the same workers," said Camarata.
As bank customers approached the doors of Wells Fargo and found it locked in the middle of the day, many walked away grumbling about the inconvenience of the protest. "I love my bank," said this woman, who refused to give her name. "You can kiss my ass!" Soon after, she nearly got into an altercation with a protestor while retrieving money from the ATM.
Not everyone found the rally and protest inconvenient. Here, the protestors cheer after one man, upon hearing about the possible connection between Wells Faro and immigration detention centers, said that he was going to move his money to another bank.