Abriter Foster Family

Fair Oaks Folks Talk Transients and Scammers with Sheriff's Deputies

Story and photos by Seraphim Winslow  |  2016-02-05
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Deputy Jason Gillock of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department advises the public on neighborhood safety.

On Jan. 26th, Sacramento County Sheriff officers from all three shifts—morning, swing and graveyard—were on hand at La Vista School in Fair Oaks to discuss neighborhood security at a community sheriff’s meeting with local residents and participants in active neighborhood watch groups. Deputies talked about projects they have been working on in the area, and members of the public expressed concerns and posed questions about suspicious activity in several Fair Oaks neighborhoods.

The main speaker of the evening was Deputy Jason Gillock, who is responsible for the Carmichael, Orangevale, Old Foothill Farms, and Fair Oaks areas. One issue that Gillock highlighted was the prevalence of a variety of ongoing scams, both by telephone and door-to-door solicitation. There is, for example, a so-called “grandma scam” that occurs when an elderly resident receives a phone call from a speaker who starts the conservation with words like, ‘Hi, Grandma (or Grandpa). It’s your grandson/daughter.” The scammer then proceeds to elicit as much personal information as possible before the resident realizes what is going on. Other scams include callers posing as representatives of local electric and gas companies, banks, and even the I.R.S. Sheriff’s deputies urged the public to be extremely cautious when answering the telephone.

Another pressing problem, which is mostly the concern of the County Sheriff’s Transient Enforcement Team, is the acute rise of suspicious activity throughout Sacramento County arising from the homeless population. North Crime Prevention Specialist, Sherrie Carhart, said that, “One of the big complaints we get is people hanging out in front of businesses asking for money.” Carhart also told the story of a local resident who did not realize that a transient had been camping out in her backyard for over two months. Sergeant Michael Haynes remarked that residents should report the presence of vacant houses in local neighborhoods, since unoccupied homes are a magnet for squatters and transients.

Since so much of this activity goes unreported by the public, law enforcement officers face a daunting challenge in their attempt to monitor and control incidents of suspicious transient activity, as well as the confidence tricks and scams, which they mentioned at Tuesday evening’s meeting. In this regard, Sergeant Haynes mentioned one instance of “an older Russian gentleman who goes from house to house telling people that he’s down on his luck and needs help. We hear talk about him, but no one ever reports him.” Unreported cases like these are more common than most people think, and if the sheriff is not informed about them, they continue to be a nuisance to the community.

In light of these difficulties, Officer Gillock encouraged the public to be diligent in reporting any and all suspicious activity. There are a number of ways this can be done. “We have on online reporting system,” remarked Gillock, as well as the numerous telephone numbers through which the public can access the relevant branch of the sheriff’s office. Apart from 911, a few of these numbers include the sheriff’s non-emergency line at (916) 874-5115 and the sheriff's emergency number at (916) 974-5111. Nuisance complaints involving activities such as abandoned shopping carts, illegal dumping, street light problems, and vacant or dangerous buildings can be reported by dialing 311.

Sac Choral Society

The California State Board of Equalization (BOE) will consider lowering the excise tax rate for gasoline by 2.2 cents for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016-17 during its Feb. 23rd, 2016 meeting in Culver City. If adopted, the excise tax rate on gas will be 27.8 cents per gallon from July 1st, 2016 through June 30th, 2017. The current excise tax rate of 30 cents per gallon remains in effect until June 30th, 2016.

“Californians overpaid gas tax last year due to a bizarre and complex formula that most people don’t understand,” said Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner. “When prices fall we must lower the rate to ensure fairness. The cut will be a welcome and much-deserved tax break for Californians, who currently pay more taxes at the pump than drivers in other states.”

California drivers pay two types of state taxes on gas: sales tax, which is a percentage of the price and a per-gallon excise tax. Before AB x8 6 and SB 70—collectively referred to as the “fuel tax swap”—took effect in 2010, drivers paid the full sales tax rate (then 8.25 percent), and an excise tax rate of 18 cents per gallon. The fuel tax swap lowered the sales tax rate on gasoline to 2.25 percent and requires the BOE to set a per-gallon excise tax rate annually before March 1st. This excise tax rate is calculated such that drivers still pay the same amount in overall taxes at the pump that they would have paid before the swap.

In FY 2014-15, the BOE collected nearly $5.4 billion in excise tax for the state’s Motor Vehicle Fuel Account, which helps pay for highways, roads and other public transportation projects. The sales tax on gasoline also helps fund a variety of state and local road programs.

How the rate is determined

The excise tax rate takes into account a number of factors including: forecasted gas price, forecasted amount of gallons sold, sales tax revenue that would have been collected prior to the fuel tax swap, and tax revenue over- or under-collected in the prior fiscal year. The rate ensures that over a three-year period, motorists do not pay more or less in overall gas taxes than they would have prior to the swap.

The five-member California State Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board. The BOE collects $60 billion annually in taxes and fees, supporting state and local government services. It hears business tax appeals, acts as the appellate body for franchise and personal income tax appeals, and serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes. For more information on other taxes and fees in California, visit the California Tax Service Center.


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Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner today issued the following statement regarding a BOE staff proposal to cut the excise tax on gasoline by 2.2 cents per gallon for the 2016-17 fiscal year, effective July 1st:

“Californians overpaid gas tax last year due to a bizarre and complex formula that most people don’t understand. When prices fall we must lower the rate to ensure fairness. The cut will be a welcome and much-deserved tax break for Californians, who currently pay more taxes at the pump than drivers in other states.

“In addition to tax relief, Californians need a clear tax system that’s easy to understand. The current gas tax formula is a convoluted scheme enacted by the governor and Legislature in 2010. The lack of transparency continues to erode public confidence; the public deserves to know how much tax is being collected and how it’s being spent.

“Some will use this adjustment as an opportunity to clamor for tax increases. The reality is that there is more than enough money available to repair our roads without raising taxes. It’s all about spending priorities.”

The Board of Equalization will consider and vote on the proposed tax rate change at its Feb. 23rd, 2016 meeting in Culver City.


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Guard Against Mosquito Bites

Source: CDPH  |  2016-02-09

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today advised that although there is no evidence of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus in California, people should always take steps to avoid mosquito bites, including removing standing water and wearing insect repellant when necessary. Californians should also be advised of international travel alerts for the countries where Zika virus is circulating. 

“Although no one has contracted Zika virus in California, mosquito bites can still be harmful and the public should take steps to protect themselves,” said Dr. Smith. “Help reduce the risk of mosquito bites by removing standing water from around your home and wearing mosquito repellant when appropriate.”  

As of Jan. 29, 2016, there are six confirmed cases of Zika virus in California, all of which were contracted when traveling in other countries with Zika virus outbreaks in 2013 (1), 2014 (3) and 2015 (2). CDPH will continue monitoring for any confirmed cases in California and will provide weekly updates every Friday. To protect patient confidentiality, specific locations of infected patients cannot be disclosed.   

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that can transmit dengue and chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes — which are not native to California — have been identified in 12 California counties, although there are no known cases where the mosquitoes were carrying the Zika virus in this state. The six confirmed cases of Zika virus in California were acquired in other countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: American Samoa, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

People traveling to these and other countries with known Zika virus risk should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, including:

Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol for long lasting protection. If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding can and should choose an EPA-registered insect repellent and use it according to the product label

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net

Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets

The CDC and CDPH have also issued guidance for pregnant women recommending they avoid countries where Zika virus is circulating. Pregnant women who cannot avoid travel to these countries should talk to their health care provider and take steps to avoid mosquito bites. The CDC and CDPH have also provided guidance for physicians on the evaluation of pregnant women and infants who may have been exposed to Zika virus.

Most people infected with Zika virus will not develop symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they are usually mild and include fever, rash and eye redness. If you have returned from an affected country and have fever with joint pain, rash within two weeks, or any other symptoms following your return; please contact your medical provider and tell the doctor where you have traveled. While there is no specific treatment for Zika virus disease, the best recommendations are supportive care, rest, fluids and fever relief.

There is concern that Zika virus may be transferred from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Preliminary reports suggest that Zika virus may cause microcephaly (abnormal fetal brain development). This possibility has not been confirmed and is being actively investigated. CDPH has requested that health care providers report suspected Zika virus disease or associated conditions of microcephaly to local health departments. Local health departments will report cases to CDPH, which is coordinating referral of any specimens to CDC for diagnostic testing.

For more information on Zika virus disease and other mosquito-borne illnesses, please visit the CDPH Zika virus information webpage.


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Sue Frost for Supervisor picked up critical endorsements as her campaign continues to pick up steam. Recently, Frost’s campaign announced that she has earned endorsements from the Republican Party and the Sacramento Rental Housing Association.

“Sue Frost earned the early endorsement from the Republican Party with an overwhelming vote,” said Sacramento County Republican Party Chair Sue Blake.  “District 4 is the most Republican seat in the County, and we’re fully committed to helping Sue Frost win.”

Frost also announced endorsements from grassroots Republican clubs, including the Sacramento State College Republicans, Sacramento Republican Assembly, and Republicans of River City.

The Sacramento Association of Realtors endorsed earlier in the campaign, and after an interview process, the Sacramento Rental Housing Association announced their endorsement of Sue Frost as well.

“We are proud to endorse Sue Frost for Supervisor,” said Robert Winger, President of the Rental Housing Association.  “She is a businesswoman and community volunteer who rolls up her sleeves to solve real problems that confront our communities.”

“She is the one candidate with a real record as a fiscal conservative,” Winger continued, “she shares our belief that the first obligation of government is to keep our neighborhoods and citizens safe.”

Sue Frost currently serves as Councilwoman in Citrus Heights, and recently completed her term as Mayor.


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The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers, one of the most common “Dirty Dozen” tax scams seen during tax season.

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, and other scams that hurt taxpayers. That’s why unscrupulous preparers who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers with outlandish promises of overly large refunds make the Dirty Dozen list every year.

“Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Most preparers provide high-quality service but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal from their clients and misfile their taxes.”

Return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Choosing Return Preparers Carefully

It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on your tax return.

  • Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select. IRS.gov has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.

  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of: Attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents , Enrolled Actuaries, Annual Filing Season Program participants.

  • Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you—not into your preparer’s bank account.

  • Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.

  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

  • Make sure the preparer is available. In the event questions come up about your tax return, you may need to contact your preparer after the return is filed. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

  • Understand who can represent you. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, can represent clients in limited situations. However, other tax return preparers cannot represent clients before the IRS on any returns prepared and filed after Dec. 31st, 2015.

  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.

  • Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, research the IRS preparer directory, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task.


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Carmina Burana: Then and Now

Source: SCSO  |  2016-02-08

The church in Ottobeuren where the Carmina documents were discovered by composer Carl Orff in the 1930s, kept safe since the 11th and 12th centuries. Photo courtesy SCSO

“The SCSO owns Carmina Burana!” This was the review immediately following the outstanding performance by the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra on their 2003 East Coast debut of Carmina Burana at Carnegie Hall. Three standing ovations is no small feat in the music world, but this New York audience knew excellence when they saw it, so stand and applaud they did!

The Carmina trilogy of 2003 included not only the performance at Carnegie Hall, but back here at home in Sacramento’s own Community Center Theater and UC Davis’ brand new Mondavi Center.

The SCSO performance of Carmina put Sacramento on the musical world map and the first international tour soon followed with performances in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. Since then, they have performed Carmina seven times and are in rehearsals now for the next performance scheduled for March 5th at the Sacramento Community Theater.

What is the excitement of Carmina Burana all about? Literally translated as Songs of Beuren, the over 1000 songs and poems discovered were originally penned in Latin, German, and medieval French by defrocked clergy and otherwise fun-loving, ‘worldly’ sorts of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. These poems were not discovered until 1803 in the library of the Benedictine Abbey just outside of Munich where the SCSO performed in 2003. It was not until 1934 that German composer Carl Orff chose 24 of the secular poems and set them to what he termed a “scenic cantata,” a choral and orchestral masterpiece that depicted tales of love, springtime, gluttony, and a bit of debauchery.

At 42, Orff became an overnight celebrity with the 1937 premier of Carmina in Frankfurt, Germany. He was quoted as saying, “Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.”

The SCSO’s 2003 stunning premier of Carmina at Carnegie Hall included the New England Chamber Ensemble, Carnegie’s resident orchestra, as well as the Manhattan (NYC) Children’s Chorus. This year’s Sacramento performance features world-class soloists: soprano Shawnette Sulker, tenor Brian Staufenbiel, and baritone Lee Poulis. The large SCSO Team for the March 5th performance will be sure to please as the 160-plus members of the SCSO, along with 60 members of the Sacramento State University Chorus, 40 members of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus, and a full 62-piece orchestra, promise to deliver the spine-chilling and soul-stirring rendition of Carmina Burana.

Along with the performance of Carmina, the March 5th repertoire will also include the American Premier of Jonathan Dove’s Psalms for Leo, performed entirely in Hebrew, Karl Jenkins’ Songs of Sanctuary, and Josef Suk’s Towards a New Life. The night’s event will represent composers from Germany, England, Wales, and Czek Republic (respectively.) A dynamic not-to-be-missed pre-concert talk by Conductor Donald Kendrick will set the scene for the evening and projected supertitle translations will add to both the enjoyment and understanding of the music performed.

Tickets sales are robust and early purchases are encouraged to guarantee seats. Ticket prices range from $35-$55 with a 50 percent discount for students. The SCSO is also offering a limited special “SCSO VIP Experience” and is available to student groups of 10 or more and includes admittance to the Friday night rehearsal, exclusive pre-concert meeting with conductor and artistic director Don Kendrick, a commemorative name badge, and a Carmina Burana CD. You can find out more at www.SacramentoChoral.com or by calling the SCSO office at (916) 536-9065.


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Recruiting 2016 Citizens Academy Class

Source: Sacramento County DA Office  |  2016-02-08

The Academy’s 2015 graduates. Photo courtesy Sacramento County DA’s Office

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department are proud to announce their 16th Annual Citizens Academy.

The academy was created to improve communication, foster a better understanding and develop relationships between members of the criminal justice system and citizens, including those from different ethnic, cultural, and faith-based communities. Since the start of the academy in 2002, there have been 15 graduating classes with more than 860 participants.

The program provides an overview of the criminal justice system (law enforcement roles, responsibilities and challenges) and engages citizens from all backgrounds in discussion, participation, and mutual learning about issues within the criminal justice system. New topics this year include a panel discussion on sensitive current events and “outside the box” approaches to the justice system.

Representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, law enforcement, the judiciary, and community organizations will present information, answer questions, and address community concerns.

There is no cost to participants. The 10-week course is held Tuesday evenings starting April 5th, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the new location: (APAPA) Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association’s Office - 4000 Truxel Road, suite 3, Sacramento 95834.

The deadline for submitting applications is March 11th, 2016. Application forms can be found here: http://www.sacda.org/communityrelations/citizens-academy/. Program Contact: Erica Sevigny at (916) 874.5251 or sevignyer@sacda.org.

 

 


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No Ship of Fools for These Cruise Acts

Story by David Dickstein  |  2016-02-08

Comedian Chas Elstner adjusts his routine between West Coast and East Coast cruises. Photo courtesy Chas Elstner

Garry Carson has heard it thousands of times on cruise ship elevators and as passengers walk into the theater where he’s about to perform: “I don’t like magic, but let’s see if the guy is any good.”

Some entertainers would have bruised egos not being recognized in a crowded place, especially one as small as an elevator. But after working cruise ships for roughly 5 months a year for 18 years, the well-traveled comedy magician knows the life of taking an act on the road where there are no roads.

“These people are not there because they love or even like magic,” said Carson, pointing out a big difference between playing land-based shows and those on the high seas.

Except for special sailings featuring live performances by major acts, virtually no one books a cruise based on the onboard entertainment.

Then there’s the matter of demographics. Carson has noticed that the funny stuff that kills in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia doesn’t get the same reaction in Asia. “I have to get into the mindset of not relying on the comedy being as strong as the magic and mystery or laughter being as loud if I’m performing in certain areas of the world,” Carson said.

It’s not just an international hurdle for these guest performers; audiences on cruises out of Long Beach and San Pedro aren’t the same as those embarking in New York and Galveston. References about grunge rock and coffee houses might work on Alaskan cruises sailing out of Seattle, but greeted with crickets on itineraries originating from Miami.

This hurdle is higher for stand-up comedians, hypnotists and, as Carson knows, magicians because their acts inherently rely heavily on audience participation. As Carson noted during a recent Mexican Riviera cruise out of San Pedro, on the Norwegian Jewel, people go on faith, expecting to laugh if it’s a comedy act, be amazed if it’s a magic show and do both if a hypnotist is about to go on stage.

What’s a cruise ship entertainer to do?

“An old clown gave me this piece of advice: Never play the audience,” said veteran comedian Chas Elstner, who before doing stand-up on 300 cruises and at countless land-based clubs was going for yucks as a featured clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. “There are so many nuances that you just sort of have to play through it all.”

Elstner, from inside Carnival Conquest’s Punchliner Comedy Club, elaborated on what types of nuances.

“Like with cruises out of L.A., it seems the first night is hit or miss,” he said. “They take a day to get energized. It can’t be because they’re tired from traveling since most live within a short drive to the port. I can’t figure it out. But then the second and third night, it’s like, oh my God, California audiences just become wonderful.”

For cruises out of the East Coast, New York in particular, Elstner said audiences take their time warming up to a comic. “They want you to prove you’re a funny guy first, and then they’ll allow you to do your act,” he said.

Tough crowds have also been the experience for master hypnotist Asad Mecci with cruises out of New York.

“You really have to hammer them right away,” said the Toronto-based entertainer. “New Yorkers want to see how confident you are on stage. If they feel as though you’re hesitating when you’re delivering your lines they will definitely make trouble for you. When New Yorkers love you they really love you. When they hate you they really hate you.”

Cruises leaving Los Angeles area ports draw audiences that are, in Mecci’s words, “more chilled out and relaxed.”

“It is stereotypical but it’s the truth,” he said. “They’re a laid back, chilled out, relaxed, fun group of people.”

His take on audiences from southern states depends on whether they hail mostly from Dixie, meaning out of such ports as New Orleans and Mobile, or the handful of Floridian harbors.

“Southerners, in particular, are really rooting for you,” Mecci said. “Out of Florida you’ll get some cat calls and other types of heckling, where in New Orleans it’s dead quiet during the parts I’m telling jokes and tales.”

Mecci stopped short when asked which region of the U.S. spawns the most entertaining hypnotized subjects, but he did say that participants out of New Orleans are a blast.

“I just think their energy level is super high,” he said. “They’re excited to be in the theater watching the show and that kind of translates on stage as well.”

As a comic, turned cruise director, turned comic, Mark Hawkins has performed before audiences of all regions many times over. While he’ll respond with an “of course” when asked if L.A. cruisers are different than those from New York—“You can see that just walking around the ship” —he says that regional variances disappear as they enter the lounge.

“When they become an audience, the reality is people are people,” Hawkins said moments before taking the Punchliner stage aboard the Carnival Conquest. “The demographics are very different, but the people are very much the same.”

A pet peeve of Hawkins, one of the few he doesn’t joke about in his act, is the myopia of certain comics, particularly those who pander to audiences with regional material just for easy laughs.

“There’s comedians who bring a Southern act to cruises out of Texas and doing jokes that start with, ‘Hey, how many people here love the Waffle House?,’ and they get immediate applause. They are these things peppered in the act to get applause, and comedians who do this annoy me because they’re insulting the audience. I hate when people say people in the South are stupid. They’re not. They’re smart, they’re cool, they’re hip, and you should treat them like they’re smart and cool and hip.

“It annoys me when comics complain about regional differences. Yes, they have different accents, but they’re still just people—they’re married, they’ve got problems, and when you stop treating them like they’re different they treat you with more respect.”

Hawkins describes his act as “very personal,” drawing much of his material from being a husband and father of two daughters just doing as best he can. “About 10 years ago I found there are certain things that are universal and I made the show as common as I could. It’s hard to offend somebody when I’m talking about me.”

Another cruise favorite whose shows are personal in nature is musical comedian Steve Moris. Working for Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity, the Southern California-raised entertainer has performed on more than 600 cruises since 2004. With a guitar always within reach, his sets are sprinkled with Beach Boys music and two decades’ worth of stories harkening back to when he opened for the group and would jam with Brian Wilson and gang during concerts. Because his routines are heavy on classic Baby Boomer-era tunes, and yarns about how he and his siblings were parented and comical self-deprecation, Moris said he doesn’t feel the need to modify material based on where a cruise originates.

“No matter where I go working cruise ships, everybody loves the music—it cuts right through,” said Moris from the Regal Princess’ Vista Lounge, where he performed to an audience the prior night. “I don’t change the act because I talk about growing up as a Baby Boomer, and everyone can relate to what mom and dad did. The music I add to the act is universal.”

That doesn’t mean he considers his crowds as cookie-cutter. His takes on playing before East Coast and West Coast prove that.

“The toughest crowds I may have—may have—are from the New York area, which is ironic because both sides of my family came from Brooklyn,” Moris said. “And as for cruises out of Southern California, I don’t change any of my material—I just slow it down…he says laughing, quote/end-quote.”


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Smile Kingdom Dental Participates in Free Dental Day

Story and photo by Margaret Snider  |  2016-02-08

Denis Castillo, 9, of Citrus Heights and Jose Juarez, D.D.S., owner of Smile Kingdom Dental, give thumbs up as Denis receives dental treatment.  “He is receiving a very big filling on one of his adult teeth,” Juarez said. “…He did wonderful.”

Imagine a whole office of dental professionals working all day without compensation, just because they want to help kids. That is what happened on Saturday, Feb. 6th at the Smile Kingdom.

Smile Kingdom Dental owner and operator Jose Juarez, D.D.S., his practice manager Danielle Mendoza, dental assistants Aida Camper and Robyn Alongi, and office volunteer Erin Castleberry, worked an entire day to give qualified kids the chance to overcome their dental problems. The Sacramento District Dental Society (SDDS) program also sent a dentist, Dr. Penumetcha, and her assistant to help with the higher volume this year.

Last year at Juarez’s office just six patients came to receive treatment on the special day set aside. Others were scheduled but did not show. This year, 17 patients were treated and there was only one no-show, perhaps indicating that the process is becoming more clear to parents of the children who are screened and recommended for the program. Work done included 17 exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments, 100 x-rays, 16 fillings, one root canal, three crowns, and seven extractions—totaling a dollar value of $14,026.

The dental treatment performed at no cost for patients at the Smile Kingdom Dental office is the culmination of a long process that begins each year with the schools. Under the SDDS program, schools in a five county region—Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, Amador, and El Dorado—may opt to have dental screenings performed for the children by volunteer dentists associated with the dental society’s charity dental program. The dentists do screenings at the various schools in the fall.

According to Erin Castleberry, students are given a score of one, two, or three. “One means they look good, two means they probably should see a dentist, and three means [the dentist] visually can see urgent needs,” Castleberry said. The school follows up on those rated with a three to see if they have dental insurance. If they do not have insurance, those children are referred to the SDDS Smiles for Kids program.

Castleberry, who worked previously for SDDS, now works as an administrative specialist for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. “I worked with the program for 10 years, so it’s kind of my baby,” Castleberry said. “[The kids] come in scared. A lot of times they come in with a lot of problems, and oral health in kids is so important. It really affects their whole overall health in their whole body, so it’s really important to get them off on a good start.”

Alongi works now for the California Dental Association Foundation, and was back just to help out. “I love to give kids a smile day,” Alongi said. “It brings me back to my dental assistant roots and being in the community helping the dentists help the kids.” She worked in x-ray and sterilization.

A limited number of dental offices participate, which Castleberry estimates at 25 to 40 offices in the entire five county region. “From what I know,” said Practice Manager Danielle Mendoza, “we are the only ones in Rancho Cordova participating with this charity.”

If the child needs work from a specialist, something that can’t be done on that day at that office such as orthodontics or another specialty, the parents are instructed to call SDDS and the dental society has a list of specialists who will complete the treatment at no cost.

For more information about the dental program, please contact your school and ask if they participate in the SDDS annual dental screening.


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