LOONY Tunes in Isleton Again?
Is there something in the water?
Isleton Officials Try To Torpedo Cajun Festival
From the early years of Isleton California history, where Bootleggers and Bordello's were winked at in this tiny delta community, many colorful and interesting characters brought national attention to this community. Police Chief Gene Bird, circa 1980's grabbed headlines for raising funds for his department by issuing easy handgun carry permits as long as one had a clean record, otherwise, no more questions asked.
Isleton has always been known as a town with two faces...much like in Greek Theatre with Comedy & Tragedy masks that represent the good and the bad... kind of a yin & yang dichotomous "tar baby" of sorts. On the one hand the town produced the Isleton Crawdad Festival which for years brought tens of thousands of folks to this delta hamlet every Fathers Day weekend. The picturesque old town ambiance gave the festival a flavor that people enjoyed to come back for every year.
The town had a bustling and growing main street merchant and business boom that looked like it's taxes and fees would help this small city provide the needed services to it's 800 plus residents. But between hard times and inept management, the city began grasping at straws and hatching hair-brained schemes that has caused a national spotlight of embarrassment to those who worked hard and conducted themselves ethically. The marijuana growing scheme for medical pot brought indictments from the Sacramento County Grand Jury and threats from the DEA. Bizarre sex-capades in police cars, Police Chief firings and the entire police force disbanded, city councilpersons as suspects in drug dealing, and the list goes on and on and on. (See links below)
Now we find the city management trying to roadblock the new reorganized Chamber of Commerce Isleton Cajun Festival by extortion and intimidation. The original Festival had been illegally sold to a group in Red Bluff California by the former Chamber officials who disbanded and then went to work for the Red Bluff group, and now basically run the show up there. They may have a "Hand" or two in this new debacle.
Jean Yokotobi, outgoing president of the new and improved chamber revived the old festival as the Cajun Festival. The first year of 2011 it was a success. But last year due to a heat wave and fewer resources, they lost money. This year was going to determine if the festival could be saved and taken back to it's original glory. But the Comedy of errors and village idiots are again on Isleton's "theatre of the absurd'" marque.
“The chamber is being hit with all kinds of barriers to prevent this festival from happening,” said Jean Yokotobi to Delta News & Review. “Scott Baroni stood up at the podium and said the Rio Vista Fire Department was paid $15,000 for their services during the Bass Derby. He is saying they should be paid comparable to that amount. I called Barbara Lee from the chamber and they paid nothing to the fire dept. Scott publicly lied which is really bad for a public servant. What else can I say about Isleton? The chamber may have to find another home for the festival.”
The truth beneath all of the hyperbole about Fire & Safety issues is a smoke screen by a group who have everyone convinced to push the Chamber out of the way so they can all run the festival with their "fingers in the pot." The new Chamber as a 501 (C) (6) has open books and ethical people trying to do the right thing. They overcame bad publicity from the old festival that was riddled with gang activity and stabbings and fights by gearing the new one to be "family friendly" and keeping the festival from being known as a big drunken party. As a result, alcohol sales which some of the groups who hide behind civic minded associations want to change it back.An investigation by the Attorney Generals Office and Justice Department regarding the illegal sale of the Crawdad Festival is ongoing, as is investigative reporters assisting law enforcement.
The tactics of the City Management is nearly tripling the cost of fire and E.M.S. services to the festival, Isleton City Manager Dan Hinrichs established a list of four rules that festival organizers must follow in order to hold an event within the city limits. These all came up at the last minuet this year when they could have been given a heads up sooner. But the point is that it is evident they do not want the chamber to succeed.
- All agreements must be in writing
- All costs anticipated by the City will be estimated prior to the permit approval
- All events will require submittal of a business plan
- Use of City property will include a charge for rental
City Manager Dan Hinrichs said when he took the job last year, "This is a mess on steroids," Hinrichs said simply as he surveyed the job he has been handed as Isleton's interim city manager.
September 7,2016 Update
A dilapidated trailer sat in front of the suspected drug house, transients living inside.
In Sacramento, such a problem is to call the police or city. But this is Isleton, which hasn’t had a police department since 2012 and where the local government didn’t do much beyond ask the property owner that the trailer be removed.
So one resident did the kind of thing that happens a lot in this remote Delta town on the southern edge of Sacramento County: He took matters into his own hands.
One night in the past couple of years, the resident backed up his truck, hitched the trailer to it and took off. The story goes that while the resident was pulling out of town, freaked-out methamphetamine users were bailing out of the suddenly very mobile home.
The trailer wound up on Jackson Slough Road on Isleton’s outskirts. When Gerry Zink, the city’s public works director at the time, got word of the trailer’s location, he hauled it to a gated area at Isleton’s sewage ponds so the tweakers wouldn’t retake it. Six months or so later, the trailer burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances.
Problem solved, Isleton style.
In a tiny city that’s been broke for years, crazy capers sometimes rule the day. Some of these schemes have crippled Isleton in years past. Today, the city is nearly insolvent, with dwindling public services and resources, standing on the brink of bankruptcy or disincorporation.
But old habits die hard.
Now, even the mayor believes that Isleton should just give up, call it quits as a city and relinquish all control—and its very identity—to the county. “We’re on the bubble,” said Mayor Mark Bettencourt. “How much longer do you want to run on that knife’s edge?”
He’s not the only one asking that question.
Located along a bending tributary of the Sacramento River, Isleton is a speck hanging on to a map for dear life and losing its grip. The city still has its loyalists, residents who glimpse new opportunity and remember the city’s storied past, when it was referred to as the “Little Paris of the Delta.”
But the years haven’t been kind to that memory and the small town stands at a crossroads: Suffering wounds both cosmic (the recession) and self-inflicted (we’ll get to those in a moment), the city of Isleton is a tweaker trailer being dragged to the dump.
Can its leaders stop feuding long enough to take the wheel?