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Powerful poem by County inmate highlights poetry proclamation

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During the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ celebration last week of National Poetry Month, Aileen Cassinetto briefly described the Project READ poetry program serving inmates in the County Jail. And similar to many great poems, Cassinetto didn’t need a lot of words to express the program’s impact on her.

“I read somewhere that to be a poet you have to go hell and back,” said Cassinetto, who has been the County’s Poet Laureate since January. “These poets who happen to be in jail have been through so many hells. And reading their powerful poetry, it’s a way toward rehabilitation and toward rejoining their families.”

Cassinetto’s remarks occurred after the Board of Supervisors proclaimed April as National Poetry Month in the county. As part of her two-year honorary role as the County Poet Laureate, she visited the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office inmate poetry program. The experience not only had a big impression on her, it led to some powerful poetry.

During the board meeting, Bill Burns, a longtime Project READ worker who teaches poetry to inmates, read one such poem written by a young inmate who was inspired by Cassinetto’s visit.

The poem, called “Startled Deer,” reads in part, “…I take a step forward, and a twig snaps. She looks up and sees me watching her. Our eyes meet and for a moment she holds my gaze. Then startled, she flees back into the woods. Even in her moment of fear, she remains composed and graceful. I step back and release the breath I forgot I was holding. I wonder if that dough could ever understand the impact she had on me, or the gratitude I felt for having had the good fortune to share her song.”

Burns said the program, a six-week course, helps inmates put their feeling on paper. Many of the poems end up in print, and currently about eight years worth of works from the Jail will be printed and then sent to local libraries, Burns said.

The program is just one example of the importance of poetry, and why county officials believe it deserves a month-long celebration in San Mateo County.

“Poetry enhances and enriches our lives” and “fosters critical thinking, discipline, creativity, self-expression, and problem solving skills,” the County proclamation states.

Cassinetto, a San Mateo resident, hopes to forward the county’s mission to uplift poetry. On Saturday, April 27, she is set to host Poetry & Community: A Concert at the Burlingame Main Library. The free event will feature local poets and the West Bay Community Band, and is part of Cassinetto’s Poet Laureate campaign, Speak Poetry, which aims to celebrate the literary arts and their roles in public life.

Cassinetto is the author of The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves and Other Poems, Traje de Boda, The Art of Salamat, B & O Blues, and Tweet. She is the publisher of Paloma Pressopens a new window, an independent literary press established in 2016, which has released 12 books to date.

3rd Annual Queer Youth Prom to be ‘biggest yet,’ set for Box HQ

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For a third consecutive year, local LGBTQ students and their allies have an alternative option to the traditional high school prom celebrations: the Queer Youth Prom.

On Saturday, April 27, the Queer Youth Prom will be held in an expanded space at Box headquarters at 900 Jefferson Ave. in downtown Redwood City. Tickets are free to this event, which runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., although they are in limited supply. Tickets can be reserved here. The event is open to youth ages 15 to 19.

“This year’s queer prom is set to be our biggest yet,” according to the San Mateo County Pride Center. “We’re at a larger venue, have drag performers, musical performances, swag bags and some games for folks to play.”

This year’s theme is Gay-ties Night and will feature ’80s inspired performances, organizers said.

The first Queer Youth Prom occurred in the summer of 2017. Several queer and trans high schools students came up with the idea to craft an event that would allow LGBTQ students to truly and freely express their love and joy in a safe, supportive environment. They partnered with the LGBTQ Commission of San Mateo County and the newly opened San Mateo County Pride Center to hold the event. Thirty-five people attended in the first year. This year, organizers raised the event’s capacity to 100 attendees.

This year’s event is sponsored by the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission, Genentech, Box, Verizon, and First Church of Redwood City.

See the flyer for more information.

Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market set to open April 20

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Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market set to open April 20

The Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market is set to open for the new season on April 20.

The farmers’ market, which only sells produce and vegetables grown in California, operates in the 500 block of Arguello Street near the Sequoia train station on Saturdays from 8 a.m. till noon, April through November.

On Monday, Redwood City Council voted to extend the popular market’s presence at this site through November 2024.

It has operated for 40 years and is the oldest and largest farmers’ market on the Peninsula. John S. Hensill, Ph.D., along with three other community-minded individuals launched the market to support local independent farmers and supply fresh produce to the community, according to the market’s Facebook account, which provides regular updates on the market.

Along with produce, the market offers other unique food products, jewelry, arts and crafts and other items.

City staff said the community receives “significant benefits” from the market.

“The Kiwanis Club’s income beyond expenses are used to purchase pallets of food for meals for low-income residents prepared by St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room,” city staff says. “In addition, vendors donate fruits and vegetables not sold to St. Anthony’s. The Kiwanis Farmers Market operates with volunteers that includes local college students who are provided school tuition stipends for their services. The Kiwanis Club also provides a booth, as needed, for City community engagement programs and activities.”

Photo Credit: Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market

Political Climate with Mark Simon: ‘Mr. Sunshine’

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Plenty of studies show that boys don’t really become men until we are well into our late 20s. Most men I know, and most parents of boys, can pretty much confirm that.

This particular contemplation is on my mind on this date because 26 years ago Alexander Mark Simon came into the world and into my arms. I remember thinking I would never want to let go. Turns out I was right.

He’s large and furry. He has a mop of largely unkempt hair and a big, bushy beard and I wish both were more than a little tidier. Although, I notice a lot of men his age with mops of unkempt hair and big, bushy beards and it doesn’t seem to bother me, so I really ought to recognize it is what some guys do at his age and I should just get over it.

As we learned a generation ago, when we all were growing our hair long, none of that really matters much.

What really stands out about him is joy. When he was little, we called him “Mr. Sunshine” because he was always so happy. Much as he did as a child, he will burst into a room, full of noise and motion and the newest thing that excites him or makes him laugh or has got him miffed in a way that is fun and funny to watch. He can fly high and sink low, but he’s learning how to manage both and that’s a big part of growing up.

It has taken him a while to shake off the curses that constitute the teen years. His mom died four years ago and that’s never easy for anyone. He went through some rough times. Don’t we all? It’s during those times that you work as hard as you can to help him through them, only to realize he has to do the work himself. Along the way, he is learning how to do his own hard work – not just how to start, but how to stay — and that should serve him well the rest of his life.

But what has reemerged is the joy. The way he can fill up a room with noise and laughter and enthusiasm and sheer energy.

He has a wife and a 3-year-old son. It was my honor to preside at their wedding on Halloween. He was dressed as Frankenstein and his wife, Karen, as the Bride of Frankenstein. It is a privilege to watch as they work through all that is involved in being a new family. And it is inspiring to see them work through the struggles facing young families in a place where it is far from easy for young families. It’s more than a little amusing to see my son trying to be patient with his son, who recently discovered how to be uncooperative in that way so unique to 3-year-olds.

And it is more touching than I can say to see him with his own son, holding onto him like he never wants to let go.

At my age, there is more behind me than there is ahead, but it feels fine – like this is the way it’s supposed to be. There is so much ahead of him. Boys don’t become men until well into their 20s.

Anyway, this is what I’m thinking on this particular day. It was a Sunday, right around Easter. And in a hospital room, he was putting up a fuss and someone put him in my arms and I held him and rocked back and forth, trying to soothe him. It worked that day. Over the years, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But I never stopped trying.

This column isn’t very political and if you’re looking for the usual political fare, I’ll write another column. But sometimes, some days, it’s good to think about other things and that’s what I felt like doing on this day, because 26 years ago, Alexander Mark Simon came into my life.

Contact Mark Simon at

Person fatally struck by Caltrain near Hillsdale Station

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Person struck by Caltrain at Main Street

A person was fatally struck by a Caltrain near Hillsdale Station about 4:22 p.m. today, officials said.

The person, who hasn’t been identified, was “trespassing on the tracks” when struck by southbound train No. 602, Caltrain officials reported. No injuries were reported among the about 300 people on board the train.

The incident has caused trains in the area to hold in both directions, leading to delays.

Check back for updates.

Breaking With an Egg to Make an Easter Brownie

in Featured/Food/Headline by

Of all the pastel-hued, brightly foiled Easter candy out there—the malted eggs, the big chocolate bunnies—nothing quite grabs my childhood heart like a Cadbury Creme Egg.

I have very vivid memories of eating Cadbury Creme Eggs as a child, except part of the memory includes not loving all of the goopy “yolk” inside. There was always just a little too much, and even then I didn’t love the sticky mess it made. One spring afternoon I took matters into my own hands, poured out half of the sugary filling and … fed it to my aunt’s cat. It made good sense at the time.

As an adult I want to partake in the joys of Cadbury’s seasonal offering, but I still don’t want the commitment to a whole, messy egg. Enter the Cadbury Creme Egg-inspired brownie, from the blog Love and Olive Oil. I like to think of this as a less messy version of the candy from which it’s inspired. Sure, it’s still a total sugar bomb, but I like to argue that using high quality cocoa adds some antioxidants, and going the homemade route cuts out whatever weird preservatives are lurking inside that hollow chocolate egg. And of course, with a brownie, you have portion control—if self-restraint is your thing, that is.

Creme Egg Brownies by

These brownies are sweet — there’s really no denying it. But they’re fun to make — and make for the perfect homemade spring treat. So embrace your inner child, and go for it.

For brownies:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons dark or Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For cream filling:

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Yellow food coloring (if you’re going for the full egg effect)

For glaze:

  • 3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes



  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on two edges.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler or a medium-large bowl set over gently simmering water. Stir until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in sugars and stir until dissolved and mixture has cooled slightly.
  1. Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract until just combined (do not overmix). Sprinkle flour mixture over top and fold in to chocolate mixtureusing a large rubber spatula until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan.
  1. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow tocool completely.
  1. For cream filling, beat together corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt on medium-high speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar, a littlebit at a time, mixing until creamy. Dump 3/4 of the cream mixture on top of cooled brownies and spread into an even layer. Add adrop of yellow food coloring to remaining cream mixture and stir until evenly colored. Drop dollops of yellow cream on top of whitelayer, and then swirl gently with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.
  1. Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or a small saucepan set over low heat. Stir until smooth. Pour over cream filling,carefully spreading into a thin, even layer. Return to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible(brownies are best when chilled overnight).
  1. Remove brownies from pan using the edges of the parchment paper to lift the entire block out of the pan. Using a large sharp knife,cut into 2-inch squares. Brownies will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

This story was published in the April print edition of Climate Magazine.

San Mateo County man arrested for firing gun inside home with toddlers

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A 33-year-old man was arrested Monday night on suspicion of firing a gun inside a home in North Fair Oaks while two toddlers were in the next room, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

At 10:41 p.m. Sunday, San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in the 100 block of Amherst on a report of shots fired, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Responded deputies learned there had been a domestic disturbance — after an argument between residents, suspect Christopher Green retrieved a gun from a back bedroom and fired a single round into a closet, they said.

“Two young toddlers were in the next room when Green discharged the firearm,” the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies found the firearm and the bullet lodged in the door frame of a closet.

Green was arrested and booked on charges including felony discharge of a firearm with gross negligence and felony cruelty to a child.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to call the Detective Bureau at 650-599-1536 or the anonymous tip line at 1-800-547-2700

Redwood City Council meeting roundup for April 8, 2019

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Redwood City Council meeting roundup for April 8, 2019

Redwood City’s ongoing, controversial districting process, along with its participation in regional planning efforts in regards to flooding and rising sea levels, were among several important topics discussed at the City Council meeting on Monday, April 8, 2019.

Here’s a brief overview of decisions made during the meeting:

SEA-LEVEL RESILIENCE: Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the San Mateo County Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency Agency Proposal. The plan intends to establish a unified county agency that would be better positioned to win grant funding for projects concerning flooding and sea level rise. The council also approved spending $55,000 annually for three fiscal years to support the agency’s start up.

DISTRICTING: City Council held another public hearing on its tumultuous transition from at-large council elections to district elections. Council is prepared to decide on a final map on May 6. More on this subject in Mark Simon’s column later this week.

SAFE STORAGE: Redwood City staff was also directed by council to draft a proposed ordinance requiring the safe storage of firearms for future consideration. The consideration comes after the county recently approved a similar ordinance. Councilmember Diana Reddy expressed some reservations about the ordinance, saying it doesn’t provide necessary public education on safe storage and lacks plans to enforce it. She said she plans to work with city staff on the proposed law.

STANFORD: Also, council unanimously approved Stanford University’s request for authorization to conduct parking enforcement at their Redwood City Campus. Stanford plans to implement a virtual parking permit system similar to its Palo Alto campus where enforcement is conducted by vehicles equipped with License Plate Readers (LPRs), according to city documents.

APPOINTMENTS: Rene Alejandro Ortega was appointed to the Planning Commission, and Ashley Quintana was appointed to the Civic Commission. Each received five council votes. Mayor Ian Bain urged those who were not appointed to apply at a future date, as there were “so many qualified candidates.”

TRAFFIC SAFETY: the council approved a number of items, including a $132,860 contract with Lisa Wise Consulting Inc. to prepare residential design guidelines in the city. The guidelines will attempt to address neighborhood compatibility concerns regarding projects to build second-story additions and two-story single-family homes in the city.

Council also approved two contracts for traffic calming measures: a $107,725 contract with Alta Planning + Design, Inc. to design pedestrian crossing safety improvements at Jefferson Avenue and Cleveland Street, and also $108,340 with Fehr & Peers for the Roosevelt Avenue Traffic Calming Plan.

FARMERS MARKET: In addition, council approved a three-year term with two one-year extensions to have the Redwood City Kiwanis Club’s Farmers’ Market locate on Arguello Street at Bradford Street.

SEQUOIA STAMPEDE: The market plans to open for the 2019 season on April 20. The council also approved temporary street closures on April 20 for the 8th Annual Sequoia Stampede 5K sponsored by the Sequoia High Booster Club.

Suspected drug store thieves found with 30 gallon trash bags filled with products

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A traffic stop in San Carlos last week led to the arrest of two suspects found with several 30-pound trash bags filled with stolen toiletries, over-the-counter medications, health products and cosmetics, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident occurred Wednesday about 9:45 p.m. when driver Lavett Williams, 26, of Oakland, was pulled over for various traffic violations on Holly Avenue and the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp. Williams admitted to the officer to having a suspended license, and a passenger in her vehicle, Erisha Johnson, 25, of Oakland, was on probation for burglary out of San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, sheriff’s officials said.

The 30-gallon trash bags filled with products were found during a search of the vehicle.

‘Many of the products still had security alarms attached to them and appeared to be stolen property,” the sheriff’s office said. “The total value of the stolen property was approximately $15,000. At least two stores in San Mateo County have been confirmed as victims.”

The suspects, described by the sheriff’s office as an “organized retail theft crew,” were arrested and booked into San Mateo County Jail.

Redwood City to consider safe storage law for firearms

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After San Mateo County passed a new ordinance in February requiring the safe storage of firearms in homes in unincorporated areas, Redwood City is considering a similar law.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Shelly Masur is set to call on her council colleagues to direct staff to develop a safe storage of firearms ordinance modeled after the county’s. The ordinance would be considered at a future City Council meeting, according to city documents.

According to the County’s new ordinance, guns stored in homes in unincorporated areas must be kept in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock. Lost or stolen firearms must be reported by their owners to law enforcement within five days of their knowing that the firearms are missing. Failing to do so could lead to prosecution for violating the locked container provision.

The consequences for failing to safely store firearms in homes is up to six months in County Jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

When the County Supervisors adopted the safe storage ordinance, they hoped it would serve as a model that all 20 cities in the county would also adopt, Supervisor David Pine stated in a letter to Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain (see full letter below). Recently, San Carlos introduced a nearly identical ordinance. Fourteen other California jurisdictions have adopted similar ordinances, Pine said.

“The County ordinance goes further than state law by requiring gun owners to actually use those safety devices when storing a firearm at home,” Pine said. “The ordinance fills an important gap in existing law and aims to reduce accidental gun shootings, gun-related homicides and suicides, and the theft of unsecured firearms.”

In 2013, Sunnyvale voters approved similar regulations that survived a court challenge by the National Rifle Association. In addition to safe storage rules, the Sunnyvale law also includes a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more ten rounds.

Tonight’s City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at 1017 Middlefield Road.

Pine’s full letter to Redwood City’s council follows:

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