City manager, police chief to attend town hall at home of Ralph Lee White

Former City Councilman and activist Ralph Lee White said this week he will host a town-hall meeting at his south Stockton home at 7 p.m. Monday. Officials from the city have confirmed that City Manager Kurt Wilson and Police Chief Eric Jones will be on hand.

White held a town hall in early December that reportedly attracted a turnout of about 70. Jones attended that meeting, too. Law-enforcement issues are expected to be the main topic next week, as they were last month.

White said those interested in getting more information about the town hall can call him at (209) 271-2466. His home is at 2201 E. Eighth Street in Stockton.

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City Manager: ‘Great news’ on impending bankruptcy exit

City Manager Kurt Wilson attended just about every second of Stockton’s bankruptcy trial but was not in the courtroom today for Judge Christopher Klein’s climactic ruling. Here’s what Wilson had to say in a statement released by the city this afternoon:

“This is great news. As the Judge indicated in court today, it removes a lot of uncertainty for all of us – employees, retirees, creditors, businesses and investors – and allows Stockton to move forward without the stigma of bankruptcy. All of the negotiated agreements must be finalized and checks prepared for payments due on the effective date of the plan, which is when we can formally declare that
we are out of bankruptcy. We anticipate that the plan will become effective in mid-February.”

You can read the full city press release on today’s court ruling here.

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Franklin Templeton’s reaction (or lack thereof) to its court setback today

Stockton won a key victory in bankruptcy court today. Seeking a reaction from creditor Franklin Templeton Investments, here’s what I got from spokeswoman Stacey Coleman:

“Thanks for checking in.  We have no additional comment beyond our existing statement:

“Franklin California High Yield Municipal Fund and Franklin High Yield Tax-Free Income Fund loaned $35 million to the City of Stockton in 2009.  Stockton defaulted in repayment of that loan and subsequently sought to adjust its debts in a bankruptcy case under chapter 9 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.  

“Franklin has participated in the bankruptcy case as a creditor.  Our focus always has been and continues to be on doing what is in the best interest of the investors in the Franklin funds holding the Stockton debt at issue.  Many of those investors are individuals and retirees who rely on us to protect the value of their investments and provide retirement income. 

Stockton proposed a plan of adjustment that pays less than 1% on our unsecured claim.  On October 30, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court stated that it would confirm Stockton’s plan over our objection.  We are disappointed by the Bankruptcy Court’s ruling and believe that the Bankruptcy Court made many factual and legal errors in concluding that the Stockton plan satisfies the applicable requirements of the Bankruptcy Code. 

“We have filed a notice of appeal in order to seek review and correction of those errors, and we intend to continue to fight for a fair and equitable recovery for our fund investors.”


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Silva on code enforcement, Weston Ranch and ‘verbal judo training’

As mentioned at various times this week, Mayor Anthony Silva had plenty to say at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Previously we’ve reported on his dialogue with City Manager Kurt Wilson and his plan to raise funds for a July 4 fireworks show.

Silva also weighed in Tuesday on the Stockton Police Department’s Neighborhood Blitz program, the Free Weston Ranch group, and what he called “verbal judo training” for the police. As with his public discussion with Wilson earlier this week, Silva prefaced his comments with compliments and said he is unaware of wrongdoing, then raised potential issues he says he sees.

“I think code enforcement is a great tool to clean up the city, period. And Stockton is a city that needs to be cleaned up. … The trash, the graffiti, this stuff needs to go, it needs to be taken care of. Folks that are living in substandard conditions, they have roaches, they have bedbugs. Guess what? The council, I’m sure, concurs with me that we’re going to clean this up and we’re going to do it apartment by apartment, complex by complex, and we’re going to do it. But I want to make it also clear that at no time should we be infringing on the residents of Stockton’s rights, their human rights, their personal rights, and it’s not going to be used as a tool to enter buildings and try to figure out who lives in that apartment and who doesn’t. I want to make sure it’s done by the book with the proper notification. I’m not saying anything that’s transpired has been incorrect. I’m saying now it’s on my radar and I’m going to pay more attention to it so we need to make sure that if we’re going to use the Neighborhood Blitz teams, that we’re going to do it fairly, professionally, and the same application is going to be used for different, various areas of Stockton, OK? And I want to be honest with you like I’ve talked about before. Certain areas that are allowed to have trash and graffiti and transients and panhandling, certain areas, it’s just sort of allowed in certain areas of Stockton. People go, ‘Oh, that’s Wilson Way, it’s just gonna happen there. That’s Charter Way, that’s Sierra Vista, that’s Conway, that’s Eighth Street.’ Well, I’m tired of us accepting that. Let me make it quite clear. That’s not going to happen behind the gate if I’m in Trinity Parkway or Brookside or Spanos Park, it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to be acceptable. Security will be on that in a second. That trash will be picked up in a second. I want it to be equitable throughout Stockton, so that’s really what I’m after this year.”

“These folks are now a hundred strong running around Weston Ranch collecting petitions … it’s not healthy for a city if one part of the community, if 30,000 residents, want to break away from the City of Stockton because they feel they are not getting a police presence, because they don’t feel they have a community center, because they feel they have half a library and not a whole library. … They showed me a lot of pictures of graffiti in the parks and all sorts of issues. I’m not defending them … because I know (Councilman Michael) Tubbs has met with them, I’ve met with them to try to do the responsible thing, but either way I think city staff needs to help the City Council come up with solutions because it’s not going to be healthy if they go to LAFCO and force the City Council here to take some kind of vote against them leaving the City of Stockton. It’s going to be bad publicity for the city. I’d rather go over there, clean up the graffiti, I’d rather give them a police officer out there for 30,000 people, these are things I’d rather do so we have peace in 2015.”

Tubbs then spoke up with what he called a “point of clarification” and his effort to clear up “misinformation.” Tubbs said, “City Manager Wilson and I met with two of the people from the Free Weston Ranch movement. I’m not sure it’s a hundred people, I’ve heard it’s eight or nine, but we met with two of them and we talked about some of the issues, and a lot of the issues were things that aren’t in city control and also predate the (current) City Council. But in terms of what we have been doing for Weston Ranch, for example, Weston Ranch has a monthly meeting with a lieutenant from the Police Department … and I’m not sure if any other part of the city has that. … So there has been a lot of work being done with Weston Ranch.”

As for Silva’s comment that he wants “peace in 2015,” Wilson said Wednesday during an interview, “It’s wonderful to avoid conflict. That’s always a goal. But it’s not the primary goal in the efficient allocation of public resources. … The purpose of having a modern city government structure is to have a buffer so decisions are made based on what is appropriate, regardless of whether it makes a specific individual happy.”

“I understand our Police Department is getting some, what I call verbal judo training, customer service training, on how to deal with the public. Because, hey, when you through all this rigorous training it’s real physical, it’s mental, and then you get thrown out into a city, you want to do a good job, and sometimes, as you guys know, just like in your everyday lives, sometimes things can escalate for no reason, but they don’t need to escalate. And so it’s about how you talk to a person, how you talk to them with respect, and it’s giving them the benefit of the doubt before you arrive on the scene and just assume that there’s some criminals or just assume people are doing things wrong. I’m not saying that happened. But what I’m saying is I’m very interested in hearing more about that training and making sure that things that happen in other cities with racial tension toward police and those sorts of things don’t happen in Stockton, California, because right now we have a lot of momentum, things are going great, so I just want to be proactive.”

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Mayor says he’s raising funds for July 4 fireworks show

Mayor Anthony Silva said at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting that he plans to raise money for a downtown fireworks show on July 4. In better times, the city held July 4 fireworks shows with the Stockton Symphony performing at Weber Point.

Here’s what the mayor said: ”A goal of mine, a goal of the Mayor’s, this July I would like to have a fireworks show in Stockton for the first time in years. I’ve been pricing out, I’ve gotten 15 different quotes, and I can get a 15- to 20-minute show in downtown Stockton for $21,000. I will raise the money myself. … I think it would be a great community aspect for us to have fireworks again.”

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Police body cameras: 8-to-1 ‘benefit/cost ratio’

Here’s an interesting email I received from a reader after yesterday’s story on police body cams appeared:

“Rialto, CA conducted a study of body cameras by their police force. The result was an 88 percent reduction in civil complaints and a 60 percent reduction in use of force by police (everyone is on their best behavior when they know they are being filmed). The results of the $90,000 purchase for cameras saved $400,000 in reduced complaints that cost $20,000 each in police resources and legal fees. An added bonus was that the Rialto, CA police chief could reassign two of his three police officers assigned to internal investigations to other duties, saving an additional $350,000. The benefit/cost ratio of the cameras is nearly 8 to 1.
Just last week, a New Orleans police officer wore a body camera after investigating a truck incident. The camera taped the subsequent chase after the driver got out of the vehicle. The chase was recorded of the suspect shooting back at two police officers chasing him first. One returned fire, hitting the suspect in the leg and hip. Somehow, he died at the hospital. While the officer doing the shooting was placed on administrative leave, the video exonerated his actions. Too bad the police officer in Ferguson, MO, did not have a body camera to support his interpretation of the incident with the person he killed.
“In another case, a police officer has been fired because he did not follow police procedures to turn the camera on when initiating a discussion with a citizen. The police are serious about its use once they have the cameras.”

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Calgary Flames President Brian Burke at Stockton City Council meeting tonight

As Scott Linesburgh reported last week, the NHL’s Calgary Flames are closing in on purchasing the Stockton Thunder, and it’s expected the team will be elevated from the ECHL to the higher-level American Hockey League. The Flames’ team president, Brian Burke, is at tonight’s meeting.












For those who do not follow hockey, Burke is a very big name in the NHL. You can read more about him here. I have to ask myself what is going through his mind as he sits through a Stockton City Council meeting. I have a feeling the City Council meetings, or whatever they are called in Calgary, are just a wee bit less colorful in that lovely city.

Burke’s late son, Brendan Burke, was a leader in the sports/gay rights movement before passing away in a car crash several years ago. I almost cringe when I ponder how he may react if Vincent Sayles, who is here tonight, makes some of his usual homophobic comments tonight.

Postscript: Sayles made his comments tonight without making anti-gay comments.

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New council, new seating arrangement

One week after the appointment of Dan Wright to replace Kathy Miller, the City Council is meeting tonight, and here’s the seating arrangement as determined by Mayor Anthony Silva (from left to right): Moses Zapien, Elbert Holman, Susan Lofthus, Silva, Christina Fugazi, Wright, Michael Tubbs.

For those keeping score, in the previous council, the arrangement was (from left to right): Miller, Tubbs, Zapien, Silva, Paul Canepa, Holman, Dyane Burgos Medina.

Read into the new seating arrangement as you see fit.

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No more maid service for Silva

Downtown Stockton has one fewer resident as of the last few days.

Mayor Anthony Silva had been living at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel since before he was elected in 2012. But this morning, Silva said he has finally made his way to the hotel’s check-out desk (perhaps he used online checkout, though we didn’t ask).

So where is the mayor living now? Silva said he has found roommates and is renting a house in north Stockton. No word on whether the rental agreement offers room service and housekeeping.

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The Wright stuff

Dan Wright’s roller-coaster ride continued last night with his appointment to the Stockton City Council.

Wright is principal at Harrison Elementary. But less than two years ago, he was a Stockton Unified assistant superintendent. Then he was demoted by then-Superintendent Steve Lowder.

Wright has worked for Stockton Unified since 1993. He was the principal at Commodore Stockton Skills from 1997-2001 before moving to the central office. His demotion came at a moment when Lowder was engaged in wholesale principal shuffling.

Wright, upon his assignment to Harrison, called being a principal “the best job in education” and said of his demotion, “The superintendent is building his Cabinet. He wants his own people. You’ll have to ask him why he doesn’t see me as part of his group.”

Lowder never provided an explanation.

Councilwoman Christina Fugazi, a teacher, worked with Wright years ago in Stockton Unified. She recounted last night a discussion with Wright at a party last summer and said Wright had joked with her that she was “crazy” to want to be on the City Council (Fugazi was a candidate at the time). Wright said later during an interview that he has always thought about entering politics and merely was joking with Fugazi last summer.

Interestingly, when it came time to vote last night, Wright did not make the cut as one of Fugazi’s top two choices. Her first-place vote went to runner-up Rev. Dwight Williams and her second-place vote went to Randy Hatch.  Below, you can see how the voting went (a “2″ represents a first-place vote and a “1″ marks a second-place vote).

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