A bananas weekend


What's a banana festival without monkeys?

Apropos of this weekend’s first Stockton Banana Festival, some banana tidbits:

• Though I couldn’t locate any banana farm in San Joaquin County, there may be one flying below the radar. Jeff Michael, the analyst at UOP, wrote this in 2011:

“I had our analyst track down and confirm our less than 1 acre “crop” of bananas, and he tracked it to a location off 205 near Tracy.” So somebody was growing a plot of bananas then and may be now.

• Michael’s blog item about the grow also mentions more about  the banana grove belonging to MC Hammer. Hammer can be surprisingly philosophical about his bananas.

“The more you cut them back, the taller and stronger they grow,” he once wrote. “In life, it is the moments that we are cut back, that we should look forward to new growth in our lives.”

• In today’s column, I write that most festival proceeds go to a Sacramento nonprofit that brings arts to disadvantaged kid but, “McDaniels said she’s started talks with Mayor Michael Tubbs about bringing those programs to Stockton.”

“She came to the mayor’s office hours,” said mayoral spokesman Daniel Lopez. “She was looking for a building in Stockton but she wants us to provide it for free or for a dollar rent. This is something we cannot help (her) with at this time.

•Margarita Diaz writes:

“I read your article on The Banana Bestival on Facebook and online. About no bananas.  But that is not all true. Here are my bananas I grew and harvested last year.”

One more photo:

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Stockton’s racist past

The Ku Klux Klan parades down Stockton's Weber Avenue, July 14, 1919. Photo Courtesy The Haggin Museum.

George Skelton has a strong column in the L.A. Times about California’s racist baggage.

“When it comes to racism and bigotry, California admittedly can’t be too smug,” Skelton writes. “The state ranks No. 1 in the nation for hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are 79 active here.

“There’s also our shameful history, although we’ve mostly owned up to past sins and steadily become more tolerant.”

Skelton goes on to tour California’s Hall of Shame: genocide against Native Americans; virulent discrimination against Asians, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act; and so on, up through 1994′s Prop 209, denying public services to illegal immigrants.

In mentioning cities and things name for Confederates — Ft. Bragg, and the like — Skelton touches on Stockton. “A Stockton street was named for Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson.”

Far more than that, Mr. Skelton. As I wrote in 2015, Stockton’s founder Charles M. Weber, purged the city of streets named for Confederate Generals, but the developer of Lincoln Village brought many Confederate names back.

That was merely a developer’s subdivision theme inspired by Lincoln Road, which runs through Lincoln Village. The developer apolitically paired confederate names with Union names, too.

But a history of Stockton’s racism would find some of California’s worst transgressions. Murderous hatred of Chinese argonauts; laws prohibiting Japanese from owning land; laws forbidding Asians from living north of downtown; exploitation of migrant workers, redlining of African-American homebuyers; CC&Rsl prohibiting sales of northiside homes to people of color; de facto segregation by Stockton Unified schools; and our own act of domestic terrorism, the Cleveland Schoolyard massacre.

Stockton even had a robust chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

I mention this not to guilt trip anyone. I say this because it’s true. Some are willfully blind to it, and because that blindness allies itself with the racism that is surging across the country, we have to open our eyes. Owning our past is an act of humility. It cautions us to the depths to which we can sink. All we have to do is accept the idea that some people belong above others and the parade is on.

–Photo courtesy The Haggin Museum


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The new octopus

In Stockton's 2014 bankruptcy trial in Sacramento, CalPERS attorney Michael Gearin argued before Judge Christopher Klein that CalPERS is "an arm of the state" and not a creditor to Stockton. Klein disagreed.

David Crane says California has switched masters:

Until 1910, the dominant political force in California was the Southern Pacific Railroad. … A century later, state and local government employee associations are the new Southern Pacific.

“… the wage-earning members of government employee associations (eg, police, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, et al.) collect more money from state and local governments and school districts in California than anyone else, pocketing over $100 billion per year in salaries and benefits. Their share of government budgets can exceed 80 percent.”

The problem: ” … legislators know government employee associations are paying attention and that citizens, students and taxpayers are not. In fact, legislators often count on their constituents not knowing such truths.”

The solution: ” … to pay attention. That means more than tweeting and cocktail-party conversation. It means serious, studious and sustained political activity, including financial support …”

Public employee unions have bent California to their will. And their will is self-enrichment. Unfortunately, Crane’s solution is problematic. When bargaining time comes around for Stockton’s nine public employee unions they go behind closed doors with public management officials and bargain in secret. How is cocktail-party conversation supposed to counter that?

Crane is right that the buck stops with the public. Stocktonians snoozed through the decade in which public employees gained unsustainable overcompensation. Then when bankruptcy loomed they responded by electing Anthony Silva mayor. That does not suggest a civic IQ equal to tempering public employee unions.

The city’s bankruptcy led to a Long-Range Fiscal Plan that caps public employee compensation. But even that has had to yield to the reality of statewide wage levels. Leaders had to bend the plan to pay police more and stop them from leaving for higher-paying cities.

A more likely solution is relief through the courts. The state Supreme Court, due to consider several pension cases, may overturn the “California Rule” that pensions are inviolate even if they destroy government. Failing that, deliverance may still come through courts — federal bankruptcy court, when innumerable municipalities founder into bankruptcy, Stockton experiences Chapter 18 and pensions are finally impaired.

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Preservationist: We can fix old depot


The century-old Western Pacific railroad depot was damaged again by fire in June. The depot is located on Union and Main Streets in Stockton.

Alex Thompson, best known as the guy who bought the historic Henery Apartments and started a DIY restoration project, called to say the old Western Pacific Depot, scheduled for demolition after two heartbreaking fires, can be saved.

“The cheap part is what burned,” said Thompson, who sized up the cost of a budget remodel, his speciality.

“Sixty-two roof frames: less than $700 for the framing. Not including the tile, I realize,” Thompson said.

I’ve never known entirely what to make of Thompson, but he knows his stuff. And, unlike the Philistines who swung the wrecking ball at some of Stockton’s architectural gens, he values historic buildings.

“That property has  a lot of potential for helping restore downtown Stockton,” Thompson said. “The things that former station could do. Think of the Stockton Transportation Museum. Old rail cars. We could open that up as a number of different possibilities.”

A restored depot could be the gateway for Bay Area tourists, Thompson said. “A place to go if they take the train for the Central Valley.”

As it stands, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has voted to demolish the building pending salvage of some of its architectural features. So I doubt the building will escape its fate. Still, I wish there were more Alex Thompsons out there. This town was created by people with his can-do.


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The Miracle Mile’s other snafu

It’s not in a league with their other troubles, but the design of the Dutch Bros. coffee kiosk is a mistake, in my opinion.

Dutch Bros. drive-thru coffee chain opened in June on the Miracle Mile.

I researched the process that led to the Dutch Bros. only because so many people complain about it.

The long-vacant lot was zoned General Commercial, so a public hearing was not required. Nor was it necessary to send “proximity letters” to neighbors soliciting input. The developer had only to apply for a “ministerial permit,” a permit okayed by a planner in the Community Development Department.

A planner reviewed the site plan and the design and approved them. My contention is that the planner’s review was done incorrectly. You don’t have to be a urban design specialist to see why: the recessed kiosk breaks the “street wall” of unbroken shop fronts bordering on the street. Street walls maintain pedestrian interest.

The ministerial permit was granted just before David Kwong took over as head of the Community Development Department. Kwong said he would not have granted the permit.

“No, I would not have,”Kwong said. “Becuase I didn’t think necessarily it met the pedestrian flavor of that corridor.”

The kiosk should have been moved up to the sidewalk, with the drive-thru behind it, said Kwong.

Of course, the design aspect does not address the other two beefs frequently heard: the increase of traffic in the Walnut Street neighborhood and the proximity of a corporate coffee kiosk to a locally owned and operated coffee cafe.

Both objections have certain merit. But the Miracle Mile Improvement Association okayed the corporate competition. That’s their call.

In the case of Walnut Street I believe if you choose to live within a walking distance of a commercial district you should be prepared to trade easy access for higher traffic and somewhat more noise.

Kwong didn’t want to identify the planner who permitted the Dutch Bros. design. “It is  judgement call, and I respect he judgment call that was done to the extent that it’s a ministerial review,” he said diplomatically.

By the way, though I don’t drink coffee, I stopped by and briefly chatted with the young baristas working at Dutch Bros. They are cool, positive people.

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In defense of Denham

Dean Andal responds to yesterday’s blog item about Rep. Jeff Denham:


Rep. Jeff Denham

“As usual, you give no scrutiny to this group – which is obviously a Democrat party front group organizing against Congressman Denham.

“Please note the attached Board of Directors – a who’s who of California’s leftists. Lets be clear about their motives – they are not coming to visit Congressman Denham as well meaning constituents trying to have a discussion with their elected representative. They are there to try and create a conflict and media coverage against a member of Congress that outside-of-the-district liberal groups want to defeat in the next election.

“This is the rank media bias half of America hates.

“They had every right to attempt their media stunt – but you should have identified the sources of money behind this group (as you no doubt would have vigorously done for a pro-free enterprise group).  Denham is an excellent Congressman who is so attentive to his constituents that he regularly gets re-elected in a seat with a majority of Democrat voters – I am sure without the one local activist from Manteca they offered up to you to front for their escapade.”

Andal provides a CARA board list.

I take Andal’s point.

While I screen out falsehoods from blog items — and do baseline due diligence — no one should expect me to research these items in the same multi-interview depth I put into columns. There is no time. Blog items are sketches, newsy items and off-the-cuff opinions which I often research and refine into columns.

I’m always open to counter-opinion. But I do have a right to express mine, and letting that partisan piece in was my way of endorsing the criticism of the assault by Denham and other Republicans on Americans’ health care. If the GOP bill he supported had become law, congressional analysts estimate that 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026, including 14 million by next year.

And Republicans who want to scrap Obamacare have often ducked constituents and town halls. That’s what made Denham vulnerable to the Dem stunt. If his people had let the visitors in, heard them out and said “thank you” for the cupcakes, there’d have been no story.

As for Denham’s bipartisan popularity, ahem. In the last general election, the congressman just edged a victory over Democratic challenger Michael Eggman by 50.79% to 49.21%.

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Rep. Denham: I don’t need no steenkin cupcakes

Going to the dogs? Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. with Lily, his French bulldog.

The California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) says its members experienced “completely inappropriate and hostile resistance from Congressman Denham’s office” Tuesday morning:

  • Cupcake and card delivery blocked from Congressman Denham’s office
  • Constituents not allowed to enter the congressional office buliding without appointment
  • Caution tape blocking off lawn and parking lot
  • Handicapped parking spaces denied for constituents with handicapped placards
  • Three officers called to the site

“Outside Congressman Jeff Denham’s office, retired constituents rallying for healthcare and social security were met with three officers and throngs of caution tape.  When supporters of California Alliance for Retired Americans arrived, security personnel were taping off parking lots and grassy areas near the office building. Even visitors with handicapped placards were told that they cannot park in the handicapped parking nearest to the building.

“Seniors were not allowed inside the office building containing Congressman Jeff Denham’s district office.  These constituents– mostly women, mostly disabled — intended to deliver a card and a batch of sugar-free cupcakes to the office staff to celebrate the 52nd birthday of Medicare/Medicaid, and the 82nd birthday of Social Security.  Officers escorted in a few select representatives who had previously met with Denham’s staff — but the cupcakes were forbidden.

“It seems that Congressman Denham and his staff are rattled by increasing innocuous and peaceful gestures.  A week ago there was a peaceful demonstration involving balloons on Congressman Denham’s birthday, and six officers were called to the site when constituents delivered balloons into the office.  Congressman Denham seems to be scared of senior handicapped women delivering cupcakes and balloons and speaking out against his healthcare vote.

“I’ve been advocating for these issues for 50 years; I’ve never been escorted into a congressional office by a sheriff before,” says Nan Brasmer, Manteca constituent and President of California Alliance for Retired Americans. “It’s just infuriating that Denham is acting this way.  They just don’t want to hear us tell them that we don’t like what they’re doing.”

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Eighteen deaths? No problem!

Skydive Lodi Parachute Center owner Bill Dause addresses the media after two men died in 2016 during a tandem jump at his drop zone.

The FAA cleared the dubious Skydive Lodi Parachute Center of wrongdoing in a double skydiving death that occurred last year — appallingly, the 17th 18th fatality at that drop zone, as best we can tell.

“The FAA could not take action against the Parachute Center for using an non-certified instructor, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said,” in a Sacramento Bee story running in today’s Record.

“The reason: Kwon had paperwork indicating he received the training he needed for certification, Gregor said.”

In other words, the drop zone is the victim of the instructor’s impostiture.

The story quotes owner Bill Dause’s comment earlier this year that there’s no problem. That’s false. The FAA caught his drop zone neglecting legally required airplane maintenance on over 2,000 flights. Authorities slapped him with $1 million in fines.

Dause simply refused to pay. Because of cockamamie federal regulations, the case went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute — a glaring failure that has allowed Dause to go on running things his way.

“A man answering the phone Monday at the Parachute Center refused to identify himself and hung up in response to a request for comment,” the story says.

Why would drop zone people scoff at oversight? Because they can.

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A slow start, but getting its bearings

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones during news conference about large gang bust that confiscated drug and guns.

That seems to be where the setback-prone Office of Violence Prevention is in its third year. It’s important because the OVP is at the nucleus of Stockton’s long-overdue effort to reduce its intolerable violent crime.

Here’s more city information on the OVP.

Office of Violence Prevention


The Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) works to significantly reduce violence in the City of Stockton through data-driven, partnership-based violence prevention and reduction programs, and strategies rooted in best practices.


Defining Success: Performance Measurement Plan

  • OVP has developed a 3-phase plan for measuring performance.
  • To date, our priority has been collecting data to inform our Peacekeepers and help them do their jobs
  • We are investing in new technology for case management and reporting
  • We have developed reports for internal use; the data that doesn’t disclose confidential client information will be publicly available
  • Examples of the types of data reports we are building out are included below


Status of Performance Measurement Plan

Phase 1: Complete – Problem Analysis completed by California Partnership for Safe Communities in 2012, with a 2017 update pending; Case Audit completed by BASE, LLC in 2017.

The Problem Analysis identified that less than .25 of 1% of Stockton’s population is responsible for 70-80% of violence.  This represents approximately 50-100 very high risk individuals at any given time from the 700 individuals representing the 18 gangs/groups active in violence.

The profile of very high risk individuals is gang affiliated males between the ages of 18-35.  More details on the original Problem Analysis can be found at: http://www.stocktongov.com/files/2013_2_08_MarshallPlan_Symposium_CAPartnershipSafeCommunitiesPowerpoint_24pages.pdf.

The Case Audit identified that 70% of current active Peacekeeper clients are very high risk individuals, un-employed, gang-affiliated, ages 23-26, and meet 4 of 6 risk criteria:

(1) Probation or parole for a violent incident?
(2) Has been shot or seriously injured due to turf/group-related violence?
(3) History and/or immediate risk or engagement in gun-involved activity?
(4) Live or hangs out in targeted hot spot area?
(5) Has had a close peer, friend, or family member shot and/or killed due to turf/group-related violence in the last three years?
(6) Interact regularly with known turfs or groups involved in violent activity?

Current clients: 85

  • 86% of our current active caseload are gang-related clients that comprises the top five designated groups with the highest violent activity in Stockton as derived by Stockton Police Department analysis
  • Age range for entire current Peacekeeper caseload: 23-26
  • Average Age of Ceasefire Clients: 26


Critical Needs of Clients:

  • Critical Safety Needs: 44% (at imminent risk of being a victim or perpetrator of gun violence)
  • Unstable Housing issues: 22%
  • Unemployment: 36%
  • Non-Access to Daily Meal: 22%


Client Services

  • January through May
    • 188 services or referrals were provided to clients
    • 64% have been assisted with employment placement
    • Of the active 85 clients, 66 have been referred to services
    • Typically, one client receives between 1-4 services of referrals
    • Services and referrals include:
      • Acquiring Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, SSI, DL or CA ID
      • Legal counsel/court attendance
      • Training services
      • Employment services
      • Education services
      • Mental Health Services


Comparison of Critical Needs of Clients from May 2017 to July 2017

  • Critical Safety Needs: dropped from 63% to 44%
  • Unstable Housing issues: dropped from 33% to 22%
  • Unemployment: dropped from 51% to 36%
  • Non-Access to Daily Meal: dropped from 32% to 22%

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The new best view

Nick Curtin writes:

“I just returned from a visit to the new courthouse … If you have not been to the Jury Room you must go … What great panoramas of our fair city. From the classic building such as the Medical-Dental building (it never looked so good as from 12 stories up!) to the most recent additions to our downtown landscape.

“I left the experience convinced that there is a possibility that our beautiful downtown could come back.  Please take time to experience what my wife and I experienced this afternoon and share it with the rest of our population.  With your wordsmithing-talents you may even make people want to do jury duty!”

I was almost out the door the day of the courthouse tour, but stayed behind when the Mimi Nguyen story broke. Taking Curtin’s advice, I went up there.


The commanding view from the new San Joaquin County Courthouse's 12th floor. Photo: Michael Fitzgerald

A long balcony looks west, and will look farther to the Diablo Range when smoke from the fires lifts. A window in the elevator bay commands an view to the east, too. Future Stockton coffee table books will feature photos taken from these vantages.

Of course, the view also allowed Chamber boss Doug Wilhoit to see the waterfront algae that bugs him so (visible above).

“… the view is wonderful but the GREEN GUNK looks horrible …” Wilhoit wrote.


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    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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