Whoa, we’ve seen this show before. Phones and computers were down for several days last week at Lodi Unified. In response, the district threw up the information firewall. No one was saying anything, except for the bare minimum.

An email to Superintendent Cathy Washer wasn’t returned. Trustees we contacted were tight-lipped. District spokesperson Chelsea Vongehr said it was a “cyber security” issue that was being investigated. Last time something like this happened it was the city. They were hit a couple years ago with a virus that shut down critical systems. The perps demanded an undisclosed amount of cash to fix it. Nothing was paid to them, but the city spent some $140k on lawyers and security experts who helped guide the city out of the digital darkness. It took weeks to completely restore all systems.

It remains to be seen if this is the same scenario. It has all the earmarks.

HONOR ROLL: Former Lodi Mayor Evelyn “Evie” Olson passed away last week at the age of 93. She was only the second woman in Lodi’s history to hold a seat on the city council. She and her husband Ed owned and operated Robinson’s Feed store and the Music Box for years. They later sold each respective business to their two sons, Jeff and Rex. Ed died in May. Evie’s dad Willard Robinson farmed grapes, so naturally she grew up driving tractors, hauling irrigation pipes and doing other chores on the farm.

That’s where she learned her work ethic. Evie served on the council from 1982 through 1990, including two stints as mayor. Former Councilman Randy Snider and Olson were both elected to the council at the same time, in 1982. Randy was 29. He best remembers Olson’s “fierce loyalty to her city, her family and her colleagues.” She was extremely proud to be a Lodian, recalls Snider.

Public service ran in her family. Olson’s dad also served on the city council and was the town’s mayor. That made it even more special when it was her turn. She was named Lodi’s Outstanding Citizen, inducted into the Lodi Hall of Fame, served as chairwoman of the Lodi Arts Commission, was past president of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, was past president of the Soroptimist International of Lodi, and past president of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Just to name a few. Community service was in her blood. She said in a 2012 News-Sentinel article about her time on the council, “We may have discussed issues passionately during the meetings, but when we walked out of the chambers, we left our differences behind."

IT’S OFFICIAL: Last Wednesday the city council approved the purchase of property on Sacramento Street, which is where the city will locate a new homeless access center. The selection of that location has been met with considerable resistance from the public and some council members.

Robin Knowlton led an effort to organize opposition to the site, providing the council with a petition containing dozens of names and signatures from people opposing that location. As a last-ditch effort, Knowlton sent a letter to the council, which said, in part, “Locating the access center on Sacramento Street will result in an irrevocable change to the nature of the neighborhood.” She may be right. The center will be built next to the Salvation Army, which is in a semi-industrial area. However, one block away is a residential neighborhood. … The city’s “tiny homes” project on the corner of Washington and Lodi Avenue is progressing. Site work is currently underway, and three of the four homes will be installed by the end of this month, says Community Development Director John Della Monica. The fourth will arrive a few weeks later. He says the whole project should be done by the end of December. The homes will provide transitional housing for folks who have completed a recovery program, says the city.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: How would you like new neighbors? The state just enacted a new law that essentially strips the city of its power to enforce residential zoning codes. Under the new law, someone can buy your neighbor’s house, tear it down, and build an apartment house there. The city can’t stop it, according to City Manager Steve Schwabauer. The city permitted such a practice back in the ‘70s when builders and developers switched out single-family homes for apartments. Survey what happened back then. It completely changed neighborhoods on the Eastside, such as on Locust, Elm and Pine streets. Schwabauer isn’t too worried about it now because property values are so high that a switcheroo like that wouldn’t pencil out. But he concedes that it may, someday.

CONSTRUCTION ZONE: The new Talavera subdivision on Cochran Road, just east of Lower Sac, is also moving along. The streets, curbs and sidewalks are in, leaving little else to do before lots are sold and home are built. The property was once home of the Sunwest Swim and Racquet Club in the early ‘70s. It later became Twin Arbors Athletic Club, whose owners closed the facility a few years ago, deciding to subdivide the 5.42-acre parcel and sell 27 residential lots.

REFRESH: Every 10 years following the U.S. Census, cities must redraw their city council districts in order to reflect population shifts and changes. The new maps must meet strict requirements for population “equality and voting rights protections,” according to city officials. City Attorney Janice Magdich says the process hasn’t started yet because the “redistributed census data” has not been issued by the state. Once the data arrives, says Magdich, people may go on the city’s website and submit their own proposed maps, using the online tools provided. A consultant will likely also propose maps for consideration. There are currently five council districts and five council members, one for each. The city has budgeted about $45k for the process, says Magdich.

LOOKING BACK: A few weeks ago, we mentioned a new business that is being planned for Downtown Lodi on the property that used to be the home of early day concrete contractor Jules Perrin. Well, we heard from his great grandson, John Limbaugh, who says the Perrin family has been involved in Lodi for more than 100 years. “Jules and his sons started building Lodi back in the early 1900s,” he says proudly. We also heard from Fred Knust, who says his home in the 400 block of West Elm was “one of those that he cast the blocks for. Our house is built with 12-inch-thick cast concrete blocks and has stood for well over 100 years,” he says. History you can touch.

MASKED: As you know, school sports are back in action, in person. What you may not know is the COVID mask mandate extends to youth sports that are played indoors. That means the high school basketball players, for example, must wear masks while on the court playing. Folks we’ve heard from are scratching their heads over this one. … Lodi Unified teachers are required to receive the COVID vaccine by the time they return from fall break in October, or else submit to weekly testing. That directive doesn’t sit well with some teachers. A small cadre showed up at a recent school board meeting to object to the mandate, one telling trustees that he will continue to refuse, even if it means getting fired. Wow.

REMEMBRANCE: We note the passing of local businessman Jim Elson, a true gentleman, who died on Oct. 7. He owned and operated Max Elson Insurance agency, which morphed into Mid-Central Valley Insurance Producers. Jim worked together with his dad Max for many years, taking over the agency when his dad passed. Jim had a keen sense of humor and was very involved in the community. He was generous, gregarious, and giving. He worked into his 70’s until failing health forced him to sell his insurance practice. Toward the end, with his health declining, he quipped to a visitor as they were leaving, “See you in Heaven!”


Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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