Your tax dollars at work

CalTrans has released a video of its projects in San Joaquin County. One of the projects gave me a column idea.

Can you guess which one?

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Ostriches of the new normal

Stockton’s post-bankruptcy finances require citizens to step up and be part of the solution.

Or, as today’s story about the dangerous flowering pear tree shows, complaining works, too.

Stumped for solutions: Neighbors were so feckless, and City Hall so laggard, a councilman paid out of his own pocket to have a dangerous tree removed.

Residents around this tree said it was an imminent threat to life and property — and promptly demonstrated how serious they took the situation by doing acting as if simply calling a tree surgeon was as improbable as mushing a team of huskies from here to the North Pole. Instead they asked the city over and over to do take down the tree.

Which the city should have done. Even in its cash-strapped state, an emergency is an emergency. I’m just saying there’s the way the city ought to be and the way the city is. The way the city is, citizens should step up and solve their own problems.

But as the story shows, passivity and complaining has its pluses, too.

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The mayor’s shift on homelessness

“I’ll be honest about this,” Mayor Anthony Silva said in the interview behind this column. “I was overly compassionate about the homeless.”

Mayor Anthony Silva talking last May with Frank Armendarez, left, and Robert Hernandez beneath the Crosstown Freeway.

Silva came to realize some want a hand up and others a handout.

“They (churches) have time and time again gone down there an given these folks banquets, and food after food after food,” Silva said. “Ithink some of them are thankful. I think some of the homeless expect this all the time. That things are just going to come to them.”

This sense — that a shelter system cannot satisfy infinite needs, that a community should do what it can do, then expect other communities to do their part — should be part of a comprehensive homeless policy. Especially since Manteca and Lodi reportedly have enacted strict new laws that are driving more homeless people here.

The implication is that homelessness is a regional problem best addressed through regional collaboration. Stockton is nowhere near this policy.  Yet what is needed is to fill this void of leadership with a broad policy a la the Marshall Plan to address homelessness through every aspect of a collaborative system with buy-in from department heads who understand it best and the import of additional evidence-based programs.

Yet Stockton is just passive. So again we witness a long-simmering problem City Hall fails to address. Which is the surest way to lose the public esteem.


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McNerney: extradite my hijacker

Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to support extradition of the sole surviving gunman who in 1971 hijacked a plane on which McNerney was travelling.

The reluctant traveler: Congressman Jerry McNerney


Here’s that story. Quite a ride.

“As a passenger of the hijacked plane, I am deeply saddened that Hill, and numerous other U.S. fugitives, have not been brought to justice,” McNerney writes.

Here’s McNerney’s letter. KerryCubaLetter7-24-15


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Pension reform: the counter-attack begins

And it’s self-serving balderdash, as expected.

Some of the words used by the chairman of Californians for Retirement Security to describe the Voter Empowerment Act’s reasonable (and urgently needed) pension reforms in this SacBee op-ed: an attempt to “force-feed warmed-over political ideas; a “gutting” of the public pension system; “Orwellian;” “sinister;” a “brazen assault on retirement security.”

And this: “They are falsely selling their proposed ballot measure as a proposed cut in pension for new employees. In reality it could cut or eliminate pensions earned by current employees for future work.”

And that is precisely why the measure deserves support. Pensions are killing cities. The Voter Empowerment Act takes nothing away from what employees have earned. But it gives voters the power to reduce unsustainable pensions going forward.

Because public employees are irresponsible supporters of their gravy train.

The measure simply gives voters a choice: do they want all their municipal tax dollars going to pensions? Or do they want cops, firefighters, library hours, road maintenance?

It is not Orwellian to call this voter empowerment. It is accurate, and a healthy assertion that power in democracy flows form the people, not public servants.

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Meet the new tunnels, worse than the old tunnels

UOP analyst Jeffrey Michael dismembers Brown’s revised tunnel proposal.

“The latest numbers estimate the tunnels will increase water exports south of the Delta by an annual average of 257,000 acre-feet, with no increase in drought years when it is needed most,” he writes in this SacBee guest editorial. ”The cumulative value of that water supply over 50 years is $2 billion to $3 billion.

“For comparison. San Diego’s new desalinization plant will provide 56,000 acre-feet of drought-proof water for a capital cost of $1 billion. Desalinization is the most costly water supply alternative, but it still provides more than three times the water supply per dollar invested than the Delta tunnels.”

He’s also very strong rebutting the argument that the tunnel is needed should earthquake ruin Delta levees.

“The earthquake argument is not only economically wrong, it’s morally outrageous. The real damage from what some call California’s Katrina would be death and destruction in the Delta itself . the state’s model of this tragedy shows hundreds could die and that 80 percent of the economic damage was from the loss of property and infrastructure in the Delta.

“It’s shocking that the state’s response to this are water tunnels that protect only 20 percent of the economic loss and zero percent of the life loss. Levee upgrades are much cheaper and reduce risks for all Californians.”



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From Larry’s vaults

Larry Valterza sends a photo of downtown Stockton during the flood of 1892.

The building to the right is the San Joaquin County Jail,  ”Cunningham’s Castle,” as it was known.

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Tourism “regardless of the city’s image …”

Wes Rhea, head of Visit Stockton, responds to today’s column:

“I always feel it’s a good article when I finish reading and say, “that was not so bad.”  Thanks for spreading the word about our efforts.”

Wes Rhea with Visit Stockton's drone


“I can appreciate poking at the Celebrate branding effort (many of us were never in love with it).  That was a DSA led process funded primarily by the city, and it just never got legs in 2008,  somewhat due to the fact that we had checklist of things we were recommended to do to make the brand happen – of which very little got done. One being a city events commission to become the  “event city.” And we continue to talk about events today…”

Rhea’s money graph:

“I totally agree that image is not changed by branding and we do not expect to change any image with this process. Regardless of the city’s image we must still do what we need to do to attract visitors, groups and businesses to Stockton. If we can do that with a consistent and cohesive marketing brand, then that makes the dollars go farther.

“We do not expect the world to change with this new brand, but we do hope more of us will work together to market and promote or city with some semblance of togetherness. It should be much more than a tagline and logo. This process, like many, is very research driven, and for us in marketing, that will go along way.”

The failure to follow up on the “Celibrate!” campaign is understandable — Great Recession, foreclosure capital, bankruptcy, etc. — but still a failure of government.

Rhea’s hotelier constituents pay taxes and expect results. I understand that, and I respect the job he has to do. Just, please, no more exercises in wishful thinking and marketing ineptitude from City Hall. Rhea, at least, sounds like he knows what it takes.

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Slate beams to Mt. Shasta

Recently we talked to a local guru who took followers to Mt. Shasta to meet with Compassion, a higher being communicating through a crystal skull.

In earlier years we learned the story of the man who built a following for his tales of discovering Lemuria within Mt. Shasta.

What is it with Mt. Shasta?

Slate magazine takes up the topic:

“In modern times, people believe that Bigfoot roams Shasta’s slopes. Others say that the 8-foot-tall descendants of the lost city of Atlantis live inside the mountain in a crystal city named Telos.

“Others claim that UFOs refuel at the peak, or that mountain inhabitants called Yaktavians use sound to manipulate reality. People claim that Shasta is flush with energy vortices; that it sits on a ley line, like Stonehenge; and that it wields a magnetic power, drawing people in and holding them emotionally captive.

“In Shasta’s woods, the founder of a movement called “I AM,” Guy Ballard, met an “Ascended Master,” a spiritual entity who considered Ballard a trained messenger and spoke through him …”

The story here.

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If Fresno can do it …

A Fresno developer just completed renovation of a “Warehouse Row” of old brick warehouses down by Fresno’s Amtrak station. William Dyck of Summa Development Group mixed new buildings with old renovations in a splendid $13 million project.

A model for modern building repurposing.


Vision, anyone?


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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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