The Fant dilemma


Sam Fant

Sam Fant presents a ticklish problem.

On the one hand, he appears to have leadership. He says he got on the Manteca Unified school board because the district was neglecting his Weston Ranch district. He claims he improved funding and educational outcomes to that district, a claim I have not confirmed.

Fant is the Fair Board member who seized the opportunity to lure the X Fest to Stockton, thereby enriching both the fairgrounds and the city of Stockton with a major new music festival.

And Fant is Black. Given the way society criminalizes young black men, one wants to cut an up-and-coming Black leader as much slack as is ethical.

On the other hand, I sat in with the Editorial Board when Fant made his recent appearance, and rarely have I heard a local candidate talk more and say less. The man is a real B.S artist.

And then there are his legal troubles. Fant claims the entire District Attorney’s Office is prejudiced against him. He claims the D.A. is prosecuting him at the behest of Stockton plutocrats. So I asked him straight to to name them and identify their agenda. It was an offer to help him.

Fant hemmed and hawed, but would not ID the wealthy and powerful puppeteers who are driving the D.A. to persecute him.

So I believe the prosecutor who said in this legal filing that the D.A. suspected Fant conspired to perpetrate voter fraud, but didn’t have the evidence until it emerged in the preliminary hearing of his alleged co-conspirators.

That is not to say Fant is guilty; a jury can judge his case. It is to say I believe the District Attorney filed charges against Fant because she believes Fant to be guilty.

Fant has charged that Assistant District Attorney Scott Fichtner acted unethically in a previous case involving Fant. So at best the D,.A., to avoid the appearance of impropriety, should recuse Fichtner, though that in no way is to believe Fant’s allegations about him.

But the Fichtner is not prosecuting Fant. Another prosecutor is. Fant’s call for the entire D.A.’s Office to bow out seems unjustified.

“There is simply no credible evidence of a conflict between this Office and Defendant that he did not manufacture out of whole cloth,” the filing says.

Predictably, Ralph Lee White, a former councilman who supports anyone who says they’re for the disadvantaged, supports Fant. As does the NAACP. But voters should not do as they have done and fight for social justice by ignoring the very real concerns about Fant. A person accused of cheating the political system should not be elected to anything until his name is cleared.

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The mayor on street protests

Mayor Anthony Silva released a three-minute campaign video giving his take on last Friday’s the Black Lives Matter protest and violence.

“Personally, I don’t believe that closing down streets or yelling at people a City Council meetings is the answer,” he says. “But I believe there should be a proper venue and forum for people to ask for investigations (into alleged police misconduct) and some of these allegations.

“Hopefully,” he continues, “the Police Oversight Review Board can bring some peace and really calm the city down. And give people who have these concerns, and are extremely frustrated, a voice.

“We don’t need any unnecessary situations in Stockton,” he concludes.

Yes, if you don’t need something, it’s unnecessary. Seriously, I have not reviewed the details of Silva’s proposal for a police review board because he hasn’t offered any. I would not dismiss the idea, though. Rightly or wrongly, a segment of Stockton’s population is seething over police shootings. There has to be an outlet.

Focusing on police misses the one of the big issues, though: out-of-town protesters. Inviting protesters from Oakland is subversive and irresponsible. Nothing against Oakland — viva Oakland — but Stockton has a powder keg of its own. We don’t need to import another.

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A peek inside BellaVista

I toured the interior of the soon-to-be BellaVista restaurant, Rima Barkett’s update of the former French 25. She taken some bold steps.

Rima Barkett in the interior of her soon-to-open restaurant, BellaVista.


Finding the interior stale, as well as too dark and heavy, she painted light color over the expensive wood on walls and columns. It took some nerve to paint over that much money. But she did it.

“The restaurant has to reflect me,” she said. “I’m not dark and heavy. I’m light and colorful. ”

She removed the large, low chandeliers, considering them ponderous. She topped the bar with white marble. And she’s bringing in colorful artwork.

She’s also taken the booths out of a section by the bar and will replace them with casual bar tables. The rest of the space on the south side of the bar she is setting aside for meetings and banquets.

So, big changes. I look forward to the opening. If the city joins me is wishing her success, it should restore order to the lawless waterfront area.

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My letter in reply to Montrose


The late Bishop Donald Montrose

Since retired Bishop Donald Montrose was nice enough to write letters from O’Connor Woods about my “anti-Catholic bias” until his dying day, I’d like to return the compliment and show the true cost of his sexually ignorant and morally weak leadership of the Diocese of Stockton.

Here it is.

  • $15 million to survivors of sexual abuse and a trust for the benefit of survivors.
  • Payment of at least 50 percent of what is owed to unsecured creditors.
  • Restructuring of secured loans.

Let’s bat these around. The $15 million is just the mop-up of tens of millions already paid out to victims that never would have been victims if Montrose and Cardinal Roger Mahony had just done the obviously and right thing when evil reared up right before their faces.

Because they didn’t, an institution that should be a paragon of ethics will now short-change all it owes money by up to 50%.

And the fiscally hobbled Diocese will be paying off other loans for two forevers. Which, of course, enfeebles its ability to do the good works that are its very reason for existence. Congratulations, Bishop Montrose and Cardinal Mahony, and my humble apologies for my  anti-Catholic bias.

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CalPERS actuary: cities should pay even more

CalPERS’ numbers guy, Chief Actuary Alan Milligan, on his way out the door to retiremenent, says CalPERS should charge cities more, though the pension monster helped bankrupt Stockton and will bankrupt more.

According to the L.A. Times, “Milligan told the CalPERS directors that they should consider lowering the long-term discount rate to 7.25%, though his report on Tuesday projected the coming decade will only see an average return of 6.12%.”

The discount rate — the rate at which CalPERS can discount the bill for pensions based on its investment returns — is an unrealistic 7.5%. That fantasy number is one of the tricks by which CalPERS has long concealed the true cost of pensions, and by which it has run up a staggering shortfall in pension funding. That shortfall will have to be made up sooner or later, by you.

The bad news is that a lower discount rate would force Stockton to pay millions more to fund its retiree pensions. That will cut into every modest service the city struggles to offer. The good news is that the savvy financial consultants who prepared Stockton’s Long-Range Financial Plan saw this one coming. They based the city’s future budget on a discount rate lowered 7.25%, the number Milligan recommends, and one which ultimately CalPERS will have to adopt..

The bad news after the good news after the bad news is what happens down the road from the day CalPERS lowers the discount to 7.25%. Further reductions seem inevitable. Meaning ever-growing bills that may one day bankrupt Stockton again. But I guess we Stocktonians have enough to worry about for now.

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Skelton comes out for Prop. 53


Dino Cortopassi, center.

L.A. Times political guru George Skelton likes Prop. 53, the measure by Stockton-area farmer Dino Cortopassi to give voters a say in certain big-spending state bond issues.

I’ve been skeptical about Prop. 53. But Skelton has persuasive counter arguments. To wit:

When a Chamber guy calls the measure “stupid,” Skelton retorts:

“Why? Because, he says, there are no taxpayer risks in revenue bonds. They’re paid off by a project’s users. “The folks at risk are the bondholders who lent the money.” So voter approval shouldn’t be needed.

“But that argument ignores the obvious: Voters and water ratepayers and bridge commuters are one and the same. They’re members of the public. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to vote on whether their water bills are significantly boosted or their bridge tolls are tripled?

“But Prop. 53 opponents ask why Los Angeles voters should be permitted to cast judgment on a project to be used mostly by San Francisco Bay Area residents, such as a new bridge. The bridge wouldn’t benefit them, so why would L.A. people support it?

“Cortopassi’s answer: Why wouldn’t they? It’s not going to cost them any money. Bay Area drivers would be paying.

Concludes Skelton: “It just seems to me that on the mega projects, some people other than a few political appointees should decide. People like voters.”


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When radio was fun

Jay Richard, a deejay on KSTN in the Eighties, comments on a column about KXVS 92.1.:

“I just wanted to say that it’s not just AM.  AM or FM doesn’t do anybody any favors with all this automation and voice tracking.  All that does is make a person’s passion for the business moot.  It’s really a shame that we have whole generations who have never heard disc jockeys. After all, the bottom line is content.

“Here’s KSTN when it was fun.”

Unfortunately, the bottom line is the bottom line — as managed by several industry giants who have a stranglehold on the airwaves. That’s why a stations such as KXVS, for all its shortcomings, deserves support.


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Support a gun violence database

Patrick Purdy's AK-47 knockoff.

The no-brainer on Jerry Brown’s desk: SB 877, Sen. Richard Pan’s bill to require California to create a gun-death database.

Government’s fundamental role is keeping us safe. And government can’t do that unless it understands gun violence better. Unfortunately, on the national level, the NRA has pressured Congress into absurd and lethal position that gun violence cannot even be studied.

California can do better. “Gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2014,” Pan and Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) write in the Sacramento Bee.

That’s crazy. “That wasn’t always so; auto fatalities previously far exceeded the number of gun deaths. That changed when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. in 1975. Now, every time a person is killed on the road, agencies share information and provide the database with more than 100 unique variables. … Analysis of data has resulted in safer cars and fewer motor vehicle deaths.”

Pan’s bill complements Wolk’s SB 1006, establishing the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis. That bill is huge, with implications to California and the nation.

Case closed — except to add that Stockton has more than one dog in this fight. Gun violence is the scourge of the city. The first of the modern-era schoolyard shootings occurred here, five young schoolchildren killed, 30 wounded, and one teacher.

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A talk on “Wide Open” Stockton

This is the Virginia Rooms, just before its demolition.

The Virginia Rooms was a house of prostitution. It was ensconced on the second floor over a fish market on Channel Street, where the state building stands now.

A second-story secret

Customers in the know stepped over the third step,which concealed a pressure plate. If you stepped on it, a light went off upstairs. The madam would not admit you to the parlor.

That’s the sort of spicy history I’ll be discussing today at 3 pm At Delta College’s North Forum in a slide presentation, “Wide Open: Stockton’s Era of Over-the-Top of Vice.” The talk is free and open to the public.

Preparing this presentation is why I haven’t blogged much this week, by the way. So if you’re not doing anything at 3 pm, stop by the North Forum. I can promise you some eye-opening history.

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The San Joaquin River: justice delayed

So now it emerges that the restoration of the San Joaquin River will take longer than expected. A lot longer.

“… Instead of completing construction work to prepare the river channel to accommodate larger volumes of water by the end of this year, those projects won’t be finished until 2030,” this story reports.

Everyone seems to accept this disheartening delay as a matter of course.

“The reality is that when you’re restoring California’s second-longest river, you don’t just get to snap your fingers and have it happen,” says an attorney from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the environmental group whose lawsuit forced the river restoration.

Well, no, of course not. On the other hand, some skepticism is necessary towards the idea that the project’s glacial timeline needs to be extended 14 years. The way to express that skepticism is to inquire in detail about what needs to be done and why it must take so long, I guess. So perhaps I will.

Because the river was killed in violation of the law. The system that ensued deprived all who live along the San Joaquin of their birthright to a healthy river. That was an incalculable blow to Stockton and to the Delta. So restoring the river is not just a matter of ecology but of justice. And you know what they say about justice delayed.


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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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