Cosby’s coming to Turlock

It appears that Bill Cosby’s past has caught up with him just as he’s coming through the Valley.

He’s booked Jan. 18 in Turlock, Merced’s paper reports. The show is sold out.

And yet … here’s blogger Andrew Sullivan. “Reading through six near-identical accounts of women who publicly testify that he drugged and raped them, it seems clear to me, at least, that he is a serial sexual abuser and rapist. Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? In a court of law, absolutely. In the court of public opinion? Not at all. The odds of all these women lying – when they have nothing to gain and a certain amount to lose from telling the truth – is close to zero. ”

If I held tickets, I’d ask for a refund. Cosby should be shunned.

While we’re on the subject, another comedian I boycott is Paul Rodriguez. He’s played a couple successful shows at the Bob Hope Theatre. But he was the tool who joined Sean Hannity in that horribly skewed propaganda piece Fox did on water. They ridiculed the health of the Delta, ignored their limited legal water rights and basically called for us to be strong-armed.

Rodriguez behaved like such an enemy to our Delta region that I seriously considered writing a column asking why on earth any self-respecting Stocktonian would want to put money in his pocket. That he is not a pariah here speaks volumes about our political disengagement. Something to think about the next time he comes through.

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The North Valley: a region unto itself?

The three northern counties of the San Joaquin Valley — Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin — don’t really have the same economy as the rest of the valley and should cooperate as a region tied with the Bay Area.

So Jeff Michael of UOP’s Business Forecasting Center has concluded. Michael spoke Wednesday at  the North San Joaquin Valley Regional Economic Assessment Conference in Modesto, the Modesto Bee reports.

The North Valley. The conceptual birth of a regional identity.

While the North Valley shares an agricultural economy with the counties to the south, its economy is more diversified. It “has more jobs in warehousing, transportation, logistics and manufacturing than the rest of the San Joaquin Valley,” the Bee reports.

Not to mention in 2010 around 70,000 North Valley workers commuted to the Bay Area for work.

Michael appears to be testing the waters to see if “North Valley” counties are interested in forming a regional governance or marketing entity and working to develop economic links to the Bay Area. He’s going to issue a report soon. It’s a promising idea.

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On Fugazi’s traffic stop

Some of the things people talk about most they understand least. Case in point: the story about Council member-elect Christina Fugazi’s traffic stop and police allegations that she and her boyfriend ran stoplights in a car reeking of marijuana and booze.

Christina Fugazi at a September candidate's forum


Speculation is natural — rumor and speculation fill a vacuum of fact — but such talk is of little value in getting at the truth.

So when I see on the Stockton Safe Streets website someone saying she believes Christina Fugazi’s version of the incident that has now twice made page 1, I wonder what factual basis anybody has for believing anyone. Or doubting anyone.

The jury’s out.

Believing Fugazi, though, does lead to this: that police, after identifying her as an incoming council member (by running her plate or seeing campaign literature in her car) — again, full well knowing she was an incoming council member — fabricated allegations about her. Think that over.

Absent more information, about all I can ding police for is not writing Fugazi a ticket. As someone who walks downtown a lot, I’d kind of like people who allegedly run stoplights to be cited.

Of course, if there was any evidence Fugazi was driving impaired, they should have given her a sobriety test. That could have saved lives. It also could have vindicated Fugazi, instead of leaving her with a black eye and the public with a he said/she said scenario.

The irony is that the Stockton Safe Streets website, which pretends to be devoted to public safety, broke ranks with Stockton Police. The site has essentially joined Fugazi in throwing police under the bus, calling police rookie incompetents, liars or racist profilers. With friends like those guys, who needs enemies?

Such disloyalty earned Fugazi drew a rebuke from the police union.

The truth about Stockton Safe Streets is that it is primarily devoted to politics. Its backer N. Allen Sawyer is a political consultant with an ax to grind. He, like Mayor Anthony Silva, use crime as a way to exploit the fears and anger of voters and to advance their interests. Sawyer, or whoever did the Q&A with Fugazi on the site, abjured the proper fact-finding method necessary to get at the truth (interviewing all sides) in favor of damage control of their candidate.

This proves they care about power, not police.

As for Fugazi, though she arguably has handled this incident so far with more words than wisdom, she deserves to have the facts laid out before a final public judgment.

This much is clear, though: voters chose a candidate endorsed by Mayor Silva and immediately got unwelcome drama.


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San Berdoo spares pensions, too

Although the judge in Stockton’s bankruptcy case ruled that pensions can be cut, Stockton chose not to go there, and now San Bernardino has followed suit.

That’s in interesting decision by San Berdoo. Stockton’s case had not only cleared the way for other cities to cut pensions, it vanquished the intimidating specter of the whopping “termination fee” of full remaining pension funding CalPERS threatened — $1.6 billion, in Stockton’s case.

The judge ruled that fee would be just another contract subject to a haircut in federal bankrupcy court.

Yet San Bernardino, like Stockton, decided not to cut pensions.

“Taken together, Stockton and San Bernardino’s decisions, suggest that, even if a judge says it’s legal, severing ties with th powerful California Public Employees Retirement system is extremely difficult as a practical matter,” observes the Sacramento Bee.

That is exactly right. As the Bee also notes, if Stockton had cut pension payments, retiree pensions would have been hacked by 60 percent. Which, in turn, would have triggered a stamped of city employees out the door. Mr. Anarchy would have set up shop in Stockton.

My take-away from all this has to do with the community activists who argued passionately that Stockton’s bankruptcy was a golden opportunity to cut pensions. They were very smart guys. Yet they were more than wrong; the course they proposed would have led to disaster. They failed to see beyond the numbers to the reality of municipal management.

That is no shame. Stockton’s bankruptcy was virtually unprecedented. Everyone was, and to some degree still is, on terra incognita. In such circumstances a robust civic debate is the best medicine.

But the premise of debate is that the best ideas should emerge victorious. It appears debate is lost on some because of their ideology. Ideology is certitude of the right path even in new terrain. Which is why certain ideologues would have walked this city off a cliff.


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You left out “bloviating”

“Persons addressing the Council shall not make personal, impertinent, unduly repetitive, slanderous or profane remarks to the Council, any member of the Council, City staff or the general public, nor utter loud, threatening, personal or abusive language, nor engage in any other conduct that disrupts, disturbs or otherwise unreasonably impedes the orderly conduct of the Council meeting.”

—From Tuesday’s City Council agenda (starting on page 151). The council is addressing rules of conduct for City Council meetings.

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“Cruelty lives in Manteca”

Bill Reis-Knight sends this:

The commentator is someone named Jo Sparkles. A fitting name for the author of this somewhat Pollyanna post. Yes, society ought to address the causes of poverty. Communities ought to hook the homeless up the the benefits to which they are entitled.

But some homeless people use dumpster diving as a pretext for casing for burglaries. This happened to me. The homeless person who kicked pickets out of my fence started by taking my recyclables, but later stole my lawn mower and possibly other things because, I later learned, they had a monkey to feed.

So with due respect to Sparkles, I support both anti-poverty programs and laws that restrict strangers’ access to property.

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The latest exasperating hyacinth picture

Police chaplain Joel Lohr writes:

“I took this on Wednesday from an upper room in one of the Police buildings.”

A bit dim, but … wow. The hyacinth has smothered the channel all the way from the head past the marina. It looks more like a parkway than a channel. Or a link on a golf course. Par 3 to the I-5 bridge.

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The juice for downtown’s comeback

Millennials aren’t buying houses, this story says.

The B&M Building, downtown

“… a lot of these younger folks are going to be more comfortable renting for a longer period of time,” says one wonk. “I just think that we’re not going to have this ‘oh, they’re going from 23 to 27, they’re going to get married, have kids and buy a home.’”

” … that’s led to a trend of re-urbanization. For instance, in 2013, the number of permits issued for residential buildings with five or more units doubled the amount of permits issued for single family homes (emphasis mine).

“That’s opposite of the trend during the housing bubble, when single family permits nearly doubled those for residential buildings with five or more units.”

Millennials bought homes with the rest of America during the boom. They got burned. Now they’ll rent. More opportunity for dowtown housing.

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How can we miss Franklin if it won’t go away?

To the surprise of no one familiar with Franklin Templeton Investments, the unappeasable investment firm is appealing the ruling in Stockton’s bankruptcy trial that gave it 12 cents on the dollar.

If time permits this week, I’ll boot up the laptop I took to the trial and share the judge’s ruling, which he spelled out point by point. I’m no lawyer, but it sounded like a conclusive rebuttal of Franklin to me.

Beyond the legal aspects the ruling might have contained a bit of strategic policy. Bankruptcy court is a cage match filled with brawling interests. There has to be incentive to negotiate and settle or the process will drag out infinitely. Conversely, there has to be disincentive to stonewall as Franklin reportedly did.

The incentive is a better deal. The disincentive is a militarily short haircut.

Rumor has it Franklin turned down an offer of 50 cents on the dollar in AB 506 negotiations. If so, the ruling sent a message to future Ch. 9 creditors: don’t reject every offer, hoping to be the last man standing and pick up whatever financial scraps remain. The court has an interest in making this clear. Imagine what grueling nightmares Ch. 9 would be if every creditor behaved like Franklin.

As opposed to the legality, the ethics of the loan and the city’s treatment of Franklin are debatable. The city’s strategy was partly collateral-based. Creditors with essential assets for collateral got better deals. Franklin, which had the crummy collateral of money-losing golf courses and Oak Park, was invited to eat dirt.

Franklin will argue that is unfair. On the other hand, besides reportedly rebuffing mediators in negotiations, Franklin loaned the city money when Stockton was already fiscally distressed. It sold the city on more debt when more debt was untenable. It made a bad loan secured by bad collateral. Whose fault is that?


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Is John Muir irrelevant?

An interesting L.A Times story takes up that provocative question, with “an expert on southern California culture,” D. J. Waldie opining that Muir’s influence created a passe love of remote, pristine wilderness cherished by old, well-off white people.

“We have to reimagine our relationships with nature to accommodate modern, increasingly diverse communities that see the world differently than white Anglo-Saxon Protestants like Muir did in the late 19th century,” Waldie said.

“For many communities of color, nature of great significance isn’t out there in distant charismatic Sierra peaks; it’s in urban parks, in local mountains and along local rivers — and under their fingertips in the stuff they grow in their own backyards,” he said.

Issues of “color” aside, I agree that cities such as Stockton need a healthier relationship with nature. Our county has but one swath of natural Valley environment, Caswell Memorial Park. Stockton’s river is polluted. The Delta is famously compromised.

But thinking smaller is constructive. What about Mormon Slough? Is the ugly Slough of Despond really the best we can do? Or couldn’t it be re-watered and made a parkway? Do the banks of the Deep Water Channel have to be concretized and homogeneous? Couldn’t more natural growth be nurtured?

There must be more land in our vicinity like Oak Grove Regional Park ripe for conservation. More potential park land out in the Delta suitable for hiking or camping. Mountain land on the Diablo arm of the Coast Range suitable for day-tripping.

Local environmental groups are perpetually preoccupied with combating sprawl. They could make another contribution by finding natural places and proposing their restoration or conservation.

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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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