to Renovated City Hall a Rewarding Experience
never had too many reasons to visit Sacramento’s
venerable City Hall, erected in 1911 and already nearing
its 15th birthday when I was born. Oh, I’d always
check the clock in the tower when passing by, if only
to see whether its hands coincided in position with those
on my watch, but that was about it.
It was, I recall, a popular spot for group pictures. One I remember being in
was of the Columbian Squires, a youth group sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Another, taken in 1942 or 1943, was on the entire personnel of state Selective
Service headquarters when I worked there as a mail room clerk under Sgt. Glen
But as for business inside? Except for buying dog and bike licenses when our
kids were small, the only time I spent more than mere minutes in the civic landmark
was, of all times, the early hours of one January 1.
It was about 40 years ago, maybe a few more, that for the first time in decades
fireworks – the “safe and sane” kind – were being allowed
in the city. Licenses to nonprofit organizations were limited in number, awarded
on the first day of the year. It was strictly first come, first served, and I
was prevailed upon to obtain one for the River Park Little League.
As I recall, the city’s offices opened at 8, and if one didn’t get
in line by midnight or shortly after, your group was out of luck. I have no recollection
of whether I was drafted or volunteered, but there I was while everyone knew
I was out partying.
There was no place to sit except the floor, but at least we were allowed in out
of the cold. Still, it was about the worst New Year’s Eve non-celebration
in my memory. And without any doubt at all the driest, too.
It had been years since I’d given much thought to City Hall, except to
take note that it was undergoing a complete rehabilitation and that a splendid
annex was going up behind it. When a grand opening of both structures was announced,
we decided we had to go.
It was a rewarding day. The 94-year-old original City Hall looked splendid, the
paint all fresh and the brass all shined and, as far as I could tell, the clock
high above indicating the correct time. City staff were all over the place, smiling
proudly and handing out brochures and souvenir pins.
From the lower level – please, don’t call it the basement – we
emerged into a spacious esplanade and walked across to the brand new structure.
It’s something of which all Sacramentans can be proud. There’s a
really handsome meeting room, with comfortable seating for a sizable audience.
It’s a worthy match for the county supervisors’ corresponding facility.
In addition to various offices on the upper levels, there are private offices
for the nine City Council members, with an exceptionally handsome space for Mayor
Because we had not joined one of the escorted groups, we did not see – and
so I cannot report on – Her Honor’s private bathroom.
I guess I could say we failed to see the seat of municipal power in Sacramento.
There was continuous entertainment across I Street in Cesar Chavez Plaza and – a
real touch of class, I thought – complimentary water dispensers both around
the buildings and in the Plaza.
And in case anyone needs more incentive to pay a visit, there is a wealth of
first-class art to be seen all over the new building. Go. You won’t be
• • •
foregoing brings to mind Bart Cavanaugh, arguably Sacramento’s
greatest city manager ever. He had a finger on everything,
answering calls to major fires, even checking on attendance
at the zoo.
One time I mentioned in a casual conversation a narrow
street which was particularly dangerous with parking allowed
sides and heavy traffic. No investigations, no meetings,
nothing except quick action. A week later, “No Parking” signs
went up on one side of the street.
A real meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, Bart had no time for lofty talk on basic
issues. There came the night, at a City Council session, that a learned savant,
one with multiple degrees, was orating at length at some issue. Bart had swiveled
his chair around to look at a chart or a map on the wall, making no secret of
At that point one of his aides whispered, “You should pay attention, Bart,
Dr. So-and-so has something important to say.”
“Dr. So-and-so?” replied Bart, “Did you call him doctor? Can
he cure the ——-?” (At that point, Bart employed a short word
for what used to be called a “social disease.”)
“Well, no, of course not,” replied the aide.
“Then,” Bart responded, “He’s no doctor!”
• • •
here’s an international story with strictly local ramifications
concerning World Games water ski competition in Duisburg,
Germany. Bear with me, please,
as I explain.
One of the highlights of the recent event was the Gold Medal won in overall
competition by Tarah Benzel, a student at Florida’s Rollins College.
What makes her victory unique is that her mother, Cyndi Matranga Benzel earned
Medal in slalom 24 years earlier. That made them the first mother-daughter
duo to win Gold Medals in the World Games.
It wasn’t the first dual honors for Tarah and Cyndi. They’d also
been the first mother-daughter pair to make national slalom teams simultaneously – Cyndi
as a veteran, Tarah in the 17-21 category.
Oh, that local angle? Tarah is a Sacramento native and the daughter of John and
Leora Matranga, Grant Union High grads who have a mantel crammed with their own
water skiing trophies amassed over the years.
retiring from a long and respected career with The Sacramento
Bee, Stan Gilliam found that he just couldn't stop writing. So
his "Stan's Sacramento" column to the Spectrum, where
it has been a favorite of readers for 15 years ... and counting.
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