Water rights: is there a better way?

Throughout my career I have accepted as fair and beneficial that certain farmers have senior water rights. I believed this not only because the principle of first-come, first serve seemed fair but because I could not imagine an alternative system of water allocation that was not dominated by the powerful special interests that have subordinated California’s state agencies.

I have to say, though, that CNN’s John D. Sutter, the guy who kayaked the entire San Joaquin, has me thinking twice about my long-held position.

For instance, in this brief video, he recommends thinking of senior water rights holders not as the “first-come” but as the 1%

Just because one can’t envision something does not mean it’s not possible. Now I seek the debate on a better way.

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Anteros Club: a class thing

Carmen Spradley, intrigued by Stockton’s Anteros Club, sends an excerpt from “Exploring the Nineteenth-Century City,” by Jacob Friefeld.

She writes: “Probably more than you’d need for your column, but it is pretty interesting, and it puts the construct of the bachelor club into sociological context.”

“Excerpts from the Friefeld piece:”As middle-class domesticity became a pervasive power in nineteenth-century society, bachelors living in the century’s second half became seen as “an ever visible social problem.”[22] This was likely because, while bachelorhood had been prominent within sex districts earlier in the century, by 1890, over forty-one percent of American men aged sixteen or over were bachelors—bachelors were everywhere.

“At the same time, a number of new public leisure spaces developed in which men and women could pursue relationships outside the purview of their parents.  Moreover, these social and physical relationships practiced within amusement areas did not have the demand for commitment more parentally supervised relationships of the early century had demanded. Seeing this, social reformers, like Jane Addams, lamented that these single, unrestrained men “were forming the vanguards of social breakdown.”  These concerns were tied to the living habits of late nineteenth-century bachelors.

“Bachelors generally sought to live with their own families, other families who rented rooms, or boardinghouses.  Usually the living situation of particular bachelors separated on class lines.  White-collar bachelors generally lived with their own families, while a larger number of working-class men lived as boarders.  Boarders could rent from boarding houses or families with extra rooms.  While renting from another family usually provided greater amounts of privacy, boarding houses that catered to poor bachelors were generally crowded and amounted to little more than a cramped area in which to sleep. These living quarters struck the outside middle-class world as antisocial, non-domestic, and outside of appropriate middle-class existence.

“In order to insulate themselves from the criticisms of dominant middle-class culture, bachelors adopted their own modes of popular cultural consumption.  Importantly, bachelors of the late nineteenth-century ordered themselves into exclusive groups.  For working-class men, gangs were an important source of camaraderie and amusement while middle-class men enjoyed exclusive clubs.  However, neither of these amusements were primarily bachelor settings, they were male settings with a specific class membership.  In this way, bachelor men of the middle-class separated themselves from working-class bachelors in a way that had not been done within the cultural frontiers earlier in the nineteenth-century.”

So in the early 20th century, a wave of men migrated from farms to cities, where they were seen by some as a social threat. Joining a club like the Anteros Club was both a way of expressing that you played by the rules and of proclaiming your (middle, not working) class.


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Speaking of Anteros …

The Anteros Club, subject of Fitz’s Stockton, was not the only thing bearing the moniker of Anteros, Greek god of love requited, or love returned.

In 1912, Stephens Bros. boat builders of Stockton built a ferry named Anteros for William Colberg.

“Colberg ran a transportation service throughout the Delta before the network of roads, bridges and ferries made travel by automobile possible,” writes Tod Ruhstaller, head of The Haggin Museum.

Here is the Anteros circa 1915, dropping Venice Island schoolchildren off at the Channel Head.

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The art of fence-sitting

These campaign signs were spotted on a north Stockton lawn.

The problem is that Holman and Grewal are running for the same District 1 council seat. It’s rare to see someone supporting rival candidates. But it’s a free country.

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Silva goes south again

In the first six months of his tenure, Mayor Anthony Silva generated talk of recall by his dismaying lack of decorum and destructive attacks on his fellow council members. Then he cleaned up his act.

Now he’s backsliding.

The other day Silva went to a lowbrow Facebook site and gave a “like” to a post that calls Councilman Elbert Holman as a “crook” and “a worthless piece of (bleep).”

First, Silva’s inner Dr. Jekyll apologized, as well he should. Then, Mr. Hyde took over. Silva took back his apology and doubled down on the attack.

“I stand by my like,” Silva said in this story.

The mayor of Stockton stands by calling a councilman a “worthless piece of (bleep).” The word “classy” does not come to mind.

“That’s the way I’ve been treated by him for two years,” Silva said, playing the victim, as usual. “All Elbert Holman is, is a lapdog for the elite of Stockton.”

So here’s the deal: Silva should provide evidence of Holman’s political servitude, naming the “elite” that control him and spelling out  how the lapdog deals go down.

That, at least would justify calling Holman a “lapdog.” We’re listening, Mr. Mayor.

As for liking the “piece of (bleep)” line, though, that is indefensible. It says way more about Silva than Holman: that the mayor of Stockton is unable to restrain his angry, juvenile impulses.

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Mark Lewis rides off on the Gravy Train

Mark Lewis, Stockton’s controversial city manager 2001-06, has resigned as Chowchilla’s city manager. Under pressure, it appears.

Mark Lewis in Stockton City Hall

“Mayor Richard Walker said it was best for the city to break ties with Lewis,” this story says.

The city agreed to pay Lewis severance worth $122,525 — or $13, 613 a month — for nine months,though Lewis’ contract required the city to pay only six months’ severance.

So Lewis got himself a pretty good deal. Especially since he’s been on administrative leave since Sept. 2. Lewis said in a statement back then he had done nothing wrong. We can’t tell, thanks to the excessive secrecy that clouds California government.

Lewis got things done — at tremendous expense in Stockton. He could have been the guy who took the strong steps necessary to reduce Stockton’s expanding debt — he was tough enough to stand up to the unions — but instead he seemed to want to placate the unions with whatever they wanted to he could get on with the important stuff.

Though Merced’s paper reports he balanced the budget in Chowchilla. The old dog learned new tricks.

One way to look at Lewis’ legacy here is that his costly work is unfinished. It is up to Stocktonians to transform the arena and other projects into profitable and more popular assets by reviving downtown into a healthy neighborhood. It’s almost not fair to evaluate those projects while they remain stranded assets.

We wish Lewis well — again — in his retirement, even though he’s riding the gravy train into the sunset. In closing, here are some L.A. Times stories about Lewis that suggest his tenures were often turbulent.


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Chart of the day

Stockton residents are far more likely than average Americans to struggle at speaking English, a new Brookings study says.

A problem endemic to the whole San Joaquin Valley, evidently. Look for a story about this in Sunday’s Record.

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Rain rain, going away

It’s still raining, but the weather soon will revert to “persistent and intense” drought for at least the next three months, this L.A. Times story says.

Oh, bad. Our region typically receives 30% to 40% of its precipitation during those months, the story says. It is also arguably bad because the drought is an effective campaign for the water bond.

A PPIC survey that came out this week says, “As more Californians see the drought as the state’s most important issue, the water bond (Proposition 1) has a two-to-one margin of support (58% to 29%).”

I stand by my preliminary assessment of Prop. 1 as a tolerable compromise. But (note to self) it is time to move beyond that assessment and deeply research the thing. The drought is driving the bond towards passage, so we must uncover any policy harmful to our region.


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Hope for historic City Hall

Two lines in the story about City Hall’s unlucky rain damage (see item below) gives some hope that all is not lost for Stockton’s historic City Hall.

“It is no secret City Hall is in need of renovation,” the story says. “The city has been planning tentatively to temporarily move its headquarters into office space at 400 E. Main St. while repairs are done.”

Up until that blurb, I believed the Council and city employees had resolved to permanently forsake the 1926 building. Which would be a grievous error, as I argue here. because it is such a big part of our civic and architectural heritage.

It turns out that the abandonment of the building, which could send it to its deathbed, is not a lock.

The city has a tentative agreement, subject to approval of its bankruptcy plan Oct. 1, to lease 65,000 square feet of space at the new City Hall building, 400 East Main Street for eight to 12 years at a good rate.

After this move, the city will have the old City Hall analyzed. “After we move we’ll see the extent of work that needs to be  to to this bulding, and how we would pay for that,” said cit spokesperson Conie Cochran.

If restoring te building is affordable, moving the city workforce back in remains an option.

That’s good news. Though the cost of repairs is probably going to be a whopper, it means the building is not as good as condemned. It raises the possibility that a drive to save City Hall could raise funds.

So there’s a chance.

This is not to be indifferent to the need for city employees to have a comfortable and efficient work space. But consider what abandoning the building means: that over the years city of Stockton employees and leaders deliberately starved the historic treasure of proper maintenance so they could afford their budget-busting compensation. The old City Hall would be a monument to bad government and the new building would open under a cloud.

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A rather superstitious proposal

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I’m afraid of it anyway. Particularly when giving thought to the city of Stockton’s bad luck.

As reported in this story, the city plugged its drains for one day during the Asparagus Festival — and Mother Nature chose that one day to break a historic drought and rain.

Just that day.

It pooped the Asparagus Festival party, tipping the event into insolvency and killing it.

It flooded the basement of City Hall.

There’s a context for lamenting Stockton’s bad luck. Remember the city was Ground Zero of the foreclosure crisis. Of all the cities in all the land, this city had the misfortune to be the hardest hit. So in addition to bankruptcy, the city generated tons of bad press.

This city has bad mojo. Not the sort of issue the International City Manager’s Association routinely handles.

I’m too rational to believe in curses. But let’s bring in a multi-faith squad of priests, pastors and shamans so that prayer and incantation — sacrifices, whatever — can lift the curse off Stockton. Just to cover all the bases.



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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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