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Vallejo council to consider forming committee to help VCAT TV - Times Herald

Vallejo council to consider forming committee to help VCAT TV - Times Herald | VCAT Archives |
Vallejo council to consider forming committee to help cash-poor VCAT By Sarah Rohrs - Times Herald  


Without adequate funding, Vallejo's public access television channel signal could dim and the City Council will tonight consider one way to keep it bright.

Councilmembers will discuss forming an ad hoc committee to explore ways to financially save the Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT) station.


Another recommendation is to approve a three-month contract for VCAT which now has no funding, contract or management, according to former executive director and consultant Clayton Leander.


The nonprofit VCAT has been facing lean financial times for more than a year, but earlier this year got a small influx of city money to keep it temporarily afloat.


The VCAT station broadcasts on Comcast Cable Channel 27. It has a television studio at Jesse Bethel High School that also is used by students wishing to enter broadcasting.


The station broadcasts coverage of community events, and also allows members and others to film and broadcast their own shows.


Councilwoman Erin Hannigan will ask her colleagues to consider her proposal to form the committee, although she will be unable to attend the meeting while on vacation.


Hannigan has asked Councilman Hermie Sunga to propose the issue on her behalf.


Though Leander is no longer an official consultant for the group due to lack of funding, he is still advising the station's board of directors.


One major issue facing the station is an inability to access a city account flush with restricted funds, Leander and Hannigan said.


The Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA) funds flow into city coffers annually from a tax that Vallejoans pay on their cable television bills. However, federal law requires those funds to be spent only on equipment and other capital expenses.


This fiscal year some $260,000 in DIVCA funds will be collected, Leander said.


Some communities have gotten around the restrictions, Leander said, adding that he's prepared to share his proposals with the proposed committee.


"I am confident there are a number of solutions and opportunities available for leveraging and maximizing the city's investments," Leander said.



The council meeting starts 7 p.m. at City Hall, 555 Santa Clara St.


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Vallejo officials eye scuttled Lucasfilm studio project - Vallejo Times Herald

Vallejo officials eye scuttled Lucasfilm studio project - Vallejo Times Herald | VCAT Archives |


Vallejo officials eye scuttled Lucasfilm studio project


By Jessica A. York, Vallejo Times-Herald


VALLEJO -- George Lucas fever, spreading like wildfire since the award-winning filmmaker's company Lucasfilm Ltd. scrapped plans to build a Marin production facility, has touched down in two Solano County cities.


An online petition at, with 358 signatures as of Tuesday, bolsters Vallejo's Mare Island as an ideal new home for the scuttled Lucasfilm Inc. project.


"Mare Island is an historically significant place with lots of room for development and many historic buildings ready for renovation," the petition introduction states. "With strong community support, easy access from all parts of the Bay Area, and a lovely setting, this would make a great location for this company."


Lucasfilm's development arm, Skywalker Properties Ltd., decided to pull the plug on the Marin project last week, citing nearby homeowner opposition and four years of working to secure necessary development permits "with no end in sight." State and federal fisheries and water agencies have also raised concerns about creek restoration on the planned Grady Ranch site, according to the Marin Independent Journal.


In recent interviews, Vallejo City Manager Dan Keen and city Economic Development Director Ursula Luna-Reynosa shared their interest in attracting the proposed studio facility construction to Mare Island.

"I'm investigating the opportunity and if there appears to be any interest from Lucas then we'll seriously pursue the opportunity," Luna-Reynosa wrote in an email.   The city of Benicia was eying the development project as well, until receiving some disheartening news.


"I made contact with Lucasfilm, Ltd.," city Acting Economic Development Manager Mario Giuliani said. "They are already in (discussions) with at least two other potential locations and not taking in other suitors at this point."


Giuliani had no specific Benicia site in mind at the time he made his pitch, and was not told which cities were being considered, he said.


In its statement released last week, the company alludes to its alternative project location talks already under way, noting a need for a facility by early 2013.


"We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities," states the letter, also available for download on the Grady Ranch website,


A Lucasfilm Ltd. spokesperson declined an emailed interview request on the company's plans going forward, writing, "Thank you for your email and interest in Lucasfilm. At this time we are not accepting any more interviews regarding Grady Ranch..."


In Vallejo, the idea of housing a film studio is not a foreign one. At the end of 2010, a group entered into exclusive negotiations with the city to negotiate the conversion of the city-owned north end of Mare Island into a film studio. Last year, Vallejo officials broke off discussion with the group, which named itself Mare Island Studios, citing a reported lack of timely progress on acquiring funding.


Subsequently, in August, Vallejo solicited developers to submit credentials and qualifications to develop the land, and a rough sketch of a project idea. The city accepted pitches from Avant Housing LLC and LDK Solar for the 150-acres space in September. There has been no word of progress on project development for either company since.


The proposed Marin project, planned for the old Grady Ranch, would have covered 269,701 square feet on 52 acres, according to Skywalker Properties Ltd.'s Grady Ranch website.


Some 187 acres of open space would have surrounded the development. It was designed to house a digital media production facility for movies and television, with a focus on "production" -- a capability, space-wise, unavailable at Lucasfilm's other sites in Marin and the Presidio in San Francisco, according to the website.

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Vallejo's Community Access Television station works to strengthen its viability - Times Herald

Vallejo's Community Access Television station works to strengthen its viability - Times Herald | VCAT Archives |

Vallejo's Community Access Television station works to strengthen its viability

By Sarah Rohrs
Posted: 03/04/2012

Vallejo's financially challenged community access television station is focused on changing channels to a more fiscally abundant signal.

The nonprofit Vallejo Community Access Television Station (VCAT) nearly closed its doors last year due to a severe lack of funding, staff and board members said.

Still facing dire economic times, VCAT, found at Channel 27, now has its former executive director on board, plus a small influx of city money to keep it at least temporarily afloat.

The station also is planning fundraisers, with help from nonprofits and businesses, as well as trying to find ways to legally gain access to a large pot of restricted money to cover day-to-day expenses.

VCAT board members also say the station is moving forward after a former staffer was arrested last month. She faces charges of stealing thousands of dollars through fraudulent checks from the station.

That money has since been returned to VCAT, and the case is winding through the courts, said VCAT board chairman James Canady, who declined to discuss the matter further.

VCAT's impending closure was averted late last year when the city issued a $25,000 operating grant from the general fund to cover operational costs.

"We're still in operation and we still plan on being a big part of the community," Canady said. "We're going to be reaching out to the public for support and asking for contributions."

The VCAT station broadcasts on Comcast Cable Channel 27 and has a television studio at Jesse Bethel High School also used by students wishing to enter broadcasting.

Volunteers, some who put in 30 or more hours per week, mostly run the station, though VCAT has two part-time staff members.

A community organization formed in 1998, VCAT has 335 members and broadcasts about 34 shows, including educational and public forums, poetry readings and art demonstrations, plus sessions on yoga, health, seniors, business and other topics.

The station also broadcasts coverage of community events like the Fourth of July parade, Juneteenth and Unity Day.

After training and orientation, VCAT members have access to equipment and studio space to tape and air their own shows.

The most recent addition is former VCAT executive director Clayton Leander who served between April 2005 and July 2006, the last time the station had a paid leader. He was instrumental in helping establish the station and get it opened in early 2006.

A Contra Costa County resident who has worked in cable television for 20 years, Leander said he will help undertake a detailed review of VCAT's contracts and funding accounts as well as try to forge a long-term financing plan and ways to harness community interest.

"Vallejo has such a strong community spirit. I have strong reason to believe the station can be successful, but it will require some assistance from the entire community," Leander said.

With Solano Community College Dean Jerry Kea on its board, Leander said he sees a lot of potential to forge alliances with the college, as well as the Vallejo Business Education Alliance. He said VCAT also intends to build strong bonds with community nonprofits.

Finding a way to fill VCAT's coffers is crucial because the $25,000 won't last forever, Leander and Canady said. Further, VCAT is up against a June deadline to draft a new accord before the city agreement expires.

In the next three months, VCAT hopes to raise money and also find a way to access a restricted pot of money which is tantalizingly full, but out of reach.

That account has nearly $117,000 in restricted Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA) funds which can be spent only on equipment and other capital expenses, city of Vallejo Chief Information Officer Gonzalo Gonzalez said.

Annually, the account collects as much as $250,000 from a required tax on Vallejoans' cable television bills, according to city records.

Some $150,000 went this year for equipment, but not for staff and operations. With a relatively healthy budget for capital expenses, VCAT has acquired a fleet of new computers and other studio and production equipment.

Former VCAT board president John Kelly said the new items are nice but the station needs operational funds to remain vibrant.

"You can buy lots of things but there is no money for operations," Kelly said. "The city wants us to operate a TV station with no money."

The December city resolution authorizing the $25,000 grant indicated that $5,000 more would be given if VCAT could provide a match.
The organization did put up the $5,000 match but the city denied the additional funds, Canady said.

Gonzalez said the funding was withheld because the VCAT money was not raised in the last seven months of the 2011-12 fiscal year, as the council resolution required.

The inability to use DIVCA money for operations is hurting scores of community access channels, Leander said, adding that 50 such stations in California have closed since the law's 2006 passage.

"Fortunately, the VCAT board opened dialogue with the city to come up with options so at least we have a short-term arrangement and then we can work out something more long-term," Leander said.

Sacramento cable television consultant Sue Buske, who has worked on Vallejo VCAT issues, said some cities get around DIVCA restrictions through creative, yet legal, approaches in accounting and interpretations of equipment and capital expenses.

The state DIVCA legislation was set forth as a result of ATT wanting to get involved in the cable television business, Buske said. However, an unintended consequence was a provision restricting how cable community access money could be used.

The DIVCA law also removed the authority of local cities and counties to directly negotiate cable franchise agreements, and also was to ensure lower rates, she added.

"The lowered rates simply haven't happened and, instead, communities are stuck with a state law which prohibits how stations can meet the needs of the citizens," Buske said.

An upcoming federal bill called the Community Access Preservation Act could overturn the DIVCA funding restrictions, Buske said. However, many fear the bill could get stymied in Congress, she said.
Until that bill is introduced and passed, the city and VCAT should continue to work together to find a way to get the station more than $25,000, Buske said.

Meanwhile, VCAT is moving on in the wake of the Feb. 4 arrest in Vallejo of a former part-time administrator who allegedly stole between $5,000 and $10,000 through the writing of fraudulent checks, according to police and court records.

Vallejo police arrested Jain Spence Cannard, 59, on a $25,000 warrant for grand theft, a felony which was lowered to a misdemeanor this month, according to Solano County court records.

Cannard, who also used a last name of Meighan while in Vallejo, served in Solano County Jail until Feb. 22 when she was picked up by San Mateo County for warrants in that jurisdiction, jail and court officials said.
She also had an extradition pending from Washington state, a result of a 2008 arrest warrant issued for larceny, records indicate.

Cannard worked at VCAT for about a year in 2010-11. Her court case was continued to March 16 in Solano County Superior Court.

Vallejo Sgt. Jeff Bassett said a police report about Cannard's alleged embezzlement was taken last March.

However, it took nearly 11 months for the district attorney to issue a warrant and for officers to arrest her, he said.

A former VCAT board treasurer suspected alleged financial irregularities connected to Cannard including a handwritten note indicating a check for $300 had been entered into the agency's books twice.

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Channel 27 Coming Soon - Sept. 20, 2005 - L&BH

Letter from the Editor



Channel 27 Coming Soon

Clayton Leander is the recently appointed Executive Director of Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT). At age 41 he has lived about half his life in Contra Costa, where he has been involved in various aspects of community television broadcasting for many years.  Community Television was, at the time, an opportunity for him to learn skills that enabled him to get a job in the commercial television broadcast industry. The same opportunity will soon be available to a new generation of would-be Vallejo television producers. But even after Clayton landed a paying job in the industry, he would still look forward to getting off work so that he could get back to his projects in community television, where he had more freedom of expression.

He covered live events on a show called “Mid-Air Jam” that brought much needed exposure to up-and-coming rock bands. The professional standards he learned on the job during the day, he tried to apply at night in community television, doing the best he could with equipment that was often sub-standard.  He wasn’t aware at the time that cities could require cable companies to provide Community Access Television. Cities can negotiate funding for PEG (Public, Education & Government) channels, and also for INET a program to interconnect schools, libraries, non-profits and community centers.  He has since gained much experience at community media centers throughout northern California in negotiating with cable companies on behalf of community television stations. Although he did not directly negotiate, he "did serve in an advisory capacity, and as an activist/advocate,"  and has served on the Western Alliance for Community Media, which operates with the motto, “Building Community Through Media.”

 Contracts between cities for community access television and the cable companies that provide a channel,  are negotiated every ten to fifteen years.   Currently   In Vallejo, the original cable contract included PEG, but Vallejo’s Channel 27 finally became possible by “just what we were able to get from contract non-compliance.”   The city was able to force the issue by exercising its right to not approve the transfer of ownership from TCI to AT&T (at the time) for “non compliances.” Currently, local cable is provided by the latest controller of the airwaves,  Comcast.  Negotiations are generally a three-year process that will begin again for the City of Vallejo in 2006, and should be completed in 2009. We can hope that Vallejo will then emerge with a budget for a full community access television operation equivalent to those of Santa Rosa and Monterey. Both of those cities are part of a network of community access stations that keep in touch with each other, and with which Leander has either worked for, or collaborated with over the years.

 In the year 2005, Leander believes that “Community access channels are more valuable than ever for their local programming. A Sly Stone wouldn’t be possible today, because he got his start on local radio. There aren’t any opportunities like that anymore.”  Three weeks ago the City Council finally approved a resolution that released funds for purchase of equipment.  He expects the construction of the VCAT studio at Jesse Bethel High School to be completed by mid-October, and plans to have it fully equipped by the end of the year, so that production of shows can begin in the New Year. He had hoped for these events to take place sooner. “When the Assistant City Manager, Mary Hill, left, she took a lot of the motivation and knowledge that was keeping things on track.  After she left there didn’t seem to be anyone coordinating with the City and the school district, but I was happy to be part of the solution.”    

 So what does all this mean for the TV producer in you, just aching to express him or her self?  Well first of all, let it be known that your work will not be pre-screened for content, only for technical quality.  Your freedom of expression is still guaranteed by the US Constitution. Cable and PEG channels are also not part of “Broadcast Airwaves” regulated by the FCC. You may produce a political talk show with any slant, an arts interview show, an ongoing drama, live music, stand-up comedy. These are just a few of the possibilities. What winds up on channel 27 in Vallejo will be up to the citizens and producers-to-be to produce. But keep in mind that you will also be personally liable for the content of your show, which must adhere to “community standards”. You will be required to sign a programming agreement for each tape submitted for broadcast playback.

To have access to the equipment, you will be required to become a member of VCAT. Membership will cost between $40-$50, although “no one will be turned away for lack of funds.” You must first complete basic training courses in television production that will be provided by VCAT, at no extra charge. You will then be allowed to borrow equipment and use the studio. Public and educational shows will be run on Channel 27. The public will have access to the studio on evenings and weekends. During the day the studio will be used by Jesse Bethel High School for educational purposes. VCAT will begin accepting tape submissions in January. Producers will be asked for their first, second and third choice of broadcast times. Those wishing to produce a regular weekly series will have to prove they are capable by submitting three shows already in the can. A time slot will then be negotiated.     

 If you have a tape already completed and ready to be aired, then you need only submit it to the station for airing playback. Your tape will be run on a first-come, first-serve basis. If it is adult content, it will be assigned a night slot.


I asked Clayton what he expects the benefits to be for the community. His reply: “My hope is that the community will engage in a dialogue that will increase its sense of self-awareness, and become better connected. There’s a place for everybody to get involved. I just facilitate the thing.” As time goes on he hopes to build up the web component, which would include video on demand.






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Friday film festival to be held for the first time

Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT) will host the first annual Ursula Awards at 6:00 pm tomorrow, September 21. This film festival will feature.
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Cable law could mean dead air for Vallejo community access TV - Times Herald

Cable law could mean dead air for Vallejo community access TV - Times Herald | VCAT Archives |

Cable law could mean dead air for Vallejo community access TV

By Jessica A. York/Times-Herald

A state law effective January 2007 is only now coming home for cities across California as existing cable franchise agreements, including Vallejo's, expire one by one.

Vallejo's contract with cable provider Comcast ended March 31, with no public word on what would happen next for Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT). The public access station relies on volunteer hours, donations and an annual subsidy from the cable provider to keep its doors open.

The 2006 Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act put the power of negotiating cablefranchise agreements in the hands of state leaders, eliminating the city-by-city negotiations that once ruled.

VCAT's founding director and current board of directors member Beverly McGain said with or without this power structure change, nonprofits are suffering in this economy, and the city's public access station -- housed in a Jesse Bethel High School classroom -- is no exception.

"We're a very small nonprofit and we function mostly by our commitment to public access to community education," McGain said. "Staff is overworked and underpaid."

The community access station offers a do-it-yourself opportunity to community members interested in producing their own segments aired on Comcast Channel 27 -- whether ongoing weekly shows or one-time episodes.

McGain lists recent VCAT programming, such as a town hall meeting with Congressman George Miller in Benicia and the Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society's Barkitecture, that enrich ongoing shows.

"There's just so many things that need community attention, because it's just so easy to have negative press," McGain said.

Lenard East, VCAT volunteer and board finance committee member, has been producing and hosting the half-hour "Real Talk" show once a week for the past five months.

East, an IT professional by trade, has about 15 complete shows under his wing, running the gamut from comedy to politics, with guests that have included the likes of Mayor Osby Davis and New York Yankee pitcher/Vallejo native CC Sabathia.

"I think there's nothing like being able to get in front of a camera and connect with the people," East said. "There's something unique about it, because there's nowhere to hide."

Facing Vallejo and other cities is an adjustment to the state cable franchises takeover.

An existing city contract agreement provides VCAT with 10 cents a month per Comcast subscriber, or between $30,000-$40,000 a year, said Sue Buske, president of the consulting firm Buske Group that helped negotiate the agreement.

The state's takeover is generally seen as a one-size-fits-all attitude toward municipalities, Buske said.

Clayton Leander, who assisted what would later become VCAT's founding members and served as VCAT's executive director from 2005 to 2006, called the 2006 act "the death knell for public access in California."

"DIVCA (the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act) killed the negotiation process as we know it," Leander said. "There are some provisions for local control and administration, but it's far diminished than what it used to be."

In Vallejo's case, though, the state law (Assembly Bill 2987) will enable the city to collect a higher fee to support its community access channels, at 1 percent of all city cable providers' revenue.

The catch is that Vallejo must institute an ordinance that underlines its ability to enforce collection of that fee -- or it gets nothing at all, Buske said.

Buske said she has been asked to meet today with city officials to discuss building such an ordinance. The longer the city waits to pass an ordinance, the less of the fee it can collect from cable companies, Buske said. 

City officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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Vallejo citizens group launched VCAT effort in 1998 - Times Herald

Vallejo citizens group launched VCAT effort in 1998 - Times Herald | VCAT Archives |

Vallejo citizens group launched VCAT effort in 1998


Times-Herald staff report / Posted: 03/04/2012


The Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT) had its first day of broadcasting six years ago -- a day that followed many years of planning, work and advocacy.


A nonprofit to run the community television station formed in 1998, a small group of citizens that strongly pushed to give the city its own/community broadcasting format.


Cable access television consultant Clayton Leander, who helped launch the station, said there were many efforts over the years to bring the station to fruition.


But stumbling blocks remained, including the continuous sale and consolidation of Vallejo's cable television station, Leander said.


Finally, with the help of the City Council and a few city staff members, cable television expert Sue Buske was hired.


In 2002, the council approved a plan which established Channel 27 for community access use as part of a cable franchise settlement agreement between the city and Comcast Cable.
Two years later, the city and VCAT approved a contract to operate the channel and manage the TV studio at the Jesse Bethel High School campus.


In 2005, VCAT hired its first staff members, including Leander who had helped the nonprofit organize a youth media training program which allowed young people to film Unity Day.


The city's agreement with Comcast provided a $200,000 grant to help establish the station, Leander said.

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Public Access Television has Finally Arrived in Vallejo - L&BH - March 1, 2006

Public Access Television has Finally Arrived in Vallejo - March 1st, 2006 - by martha mims 


Today is a day long awaited by those in Vallejo who have struggled for more than a decade to open the doors to a Public Access Television station for the people of Vallejo. Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT) will begin running twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, from the new studio at Jesse Bethel High School. If you subscribe to cable television you will find VCAT on Channel 27.


Now let's be clear, folks. This is your right. You are entitled to access to the cable channel. By law, the city is has required Comcast to make the channel available as provided for by federal law. If you subscribe to cable television, then you?ve been paying for it all this time. The reasons why you haven?t had access up until now are many. But rather than get into all that, (all over again) today is a day to celebrate.


What?s the big deal? Well, your freedom of speech for one thing. Where else can you go and express your opinions without censorship and without the decision of whether or not it will be aired, being left up to people who may or may not share your point of view? I could count those media outlets on one hand. Can you give your tape to ABC, CNN, Channel 5 or any other commercial outlet and feel certain that it will be aired or even considered? Sadly, that?s a rhetorical question. But your local cable access channel will only judge your tape on its technical quality, not its content. If your tape is up to broadcast standards, it will be aired.


I'm moving a little too fast though. Today will start modestly with the airing of the VCAT Bulletin Board. Local not-for-profits and community groups can post announcements by visiting the and downloading the Electronic Bulletin Request Form. Your independently produced videos will begin to be broadcast around March 16, 2006.


You needn't consider the consumer behavior of your projected audience, or even consider who your audience will be. You might be idealistic and believe that what you produce would be appealing to a diversity of people (imagine that!). The point is that you don?t have to worry about whether or not your audience is going to run out and buy products that are being pushed in commercial breaks during your program, because there will be no commercial breaks.


OK, it's true, no one is going to pay you to produce these programs. It?s up to you to get it done. But you can get training for practically no money. A Basic Producer membership includes receiving newsletters, the annual report, eligibility to vote in VCAT elections, basic video workshops, and access to the studio and equipment, for the cost to an individual of $40 per year. For an additional $20, a producer may attend advanced workshops and have access to advanced equipment. There are discount rates for seniors, and rates for organizations and businesses as well. Just to make sure there is no confusion, you will technically be a volunteer producer, because you are not getting paid, but any volunteer will have to become a member and get through the program before having access to the studio or equipment. Compare this to the expense of attending television production classes at a community college or private school and you will see what a great resource VCAT will be for any aspiring television producer with a limited budget.


Another aspect of non-commercial programming is that producers may push the edges of their medium. I have no doubt that in the next few years Vallejoans will be viewing computer animations, experimental comedy, political commentary and world premiers of plays and movies by local writers and producers. It is not only an opportunity to be aired, but a first step toward syndication on a host of public access stations from one coast of the United Sates to the other. Have you considered that possibility? Do your research and you will find some examples of what I?m talking about.


Some people have raised the concern that the people who are permitted access to the equipment may steal it. Most businesses have to deal with the reality that they may experience theft. But of course, none of us can even go into business these days without purchasing costly insurance. So, it seems to me that is not really a valid concern, but I checked anyway, with Clayton Leander, Executive Director of VCAT, to find out if he shares this concern. He stated that in all the years he has been involved in public access television, (and his depth of experience is impressive) "no one has ever stolen checked out equipment." Accidents happen, and equipment will need to be repaired, but these are issues any business must deal with to remain functional.


If by now you are ready to get started, then the first step is to attend a VCAT orientation class. The next one will be on Saturday, March 4 from 10am to 12pm. If you have never even touched a television camera don?t be intimidated. You will find that some of the people in your class will have experience and others won?t. The point is to level the playing field and give everyone a chance. You'll find pictures of the first orientation held last weekend on page five. If you can?t make the meeting this Saturday, you can check our Community Bulletin Board for future dates, or just go to the VCAT website at 



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