Smart thoughts on trees

Below is more comment on the column about Stockton’s ailing city trees.

Bill Becker writes:

This is how I dealt with mistletoe: a 27′ pruner.

“A homeowner in a reasonable state of health on a ladder, with a spotter or safety line, could get way , way up on a tree.

“Perhaps Stockton could do “tool lending library” as other cities established. Oh … that’s right … libraries are in that “service insolvency” thingy.  Maybe the tree huggers could step up.”

Next up, John R. Beckman, Chief Executive Officer, BIA of the Greater Valley:

“Thank you for your acknowledgment of the requirement on new subdivisions.  I’ve raised this issue with several council members in several cities with an ideal solution, but collectively the politicians are unwilling to discuss an honest solution due to the political blowback.

“As you recognize, new subdivisions have maintenance districts that pay for tree and landscaping maintenance.  Over time this will create a clear delineation between areas of the city with and without maintenance districts because some parts of town will have trees and beautiful green spaces and other parts won’t.

“Before this calamity befalls the city it would be best to overlay either the parts of the city without maintenance districts or create a city wide maintenance district to save trees citywide.  Speaking on behalf of the BIA we would much rather see an equal amount of trees dispersed throughout a city as opposed to the looming vision of haves and have not’s where the newer subdivisions stand as a stark contrast to the older parts of a city.

“City streets and sidewalks are in a similar situation.”

Now Harold Monroe:

“I would like to see the city come up with a plan that would bring all the parties involved to share in the process. The city would work up a plan with all of the major tree maintenance operations and … assign neighborhoods to each company.

“The city would notify these neighborhoods that this tree company has agreed to trim or remove trees at a set price with the provision that most or hopefully all the property owners in an area would agree to having their trees trimmed or removed at a set time so the tree companies could blitz an area for one or several days and make the most use of their expensive equipment. The city could review the bids submitted to the owners to ensure they are getting a fair reduced price for the work involved.”

“By getting all of the owners in a neighborhood involved they will put pressure on the reluctant owners to join the program and rid their area of dead and dying trees.

“If trees need to be replaced the city could make provisions again for reduced pricing on the approved trees that the owners would purchase and have the tree companies plant.  Maybe the city could find the funds to provide the replacement trees for the owners.”

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A blight worse than mistletoe?

Jodi Carlson, Urban Forester, City of Park Ridge, Illinois, writes:

“Loved your take on trees in Stockton. Well done!

“Just wait until the emerald ash borer invades the area.


“It’s been a huge burden on municipalities here in the Midwest, where many cities tree canopies are 10 – 20% ash.

“Imagine if Stockton had to remove 10,000 – 20,000 trees within 3 years or risk having branches or entire trees come crashing down on residents. Combined with a slow economic recovery, the infestation has actually been responsible for a shortage of trees in the nursery industry.  Even cities that have money to plant new trees struggle to procure them.

“It’s coming! What will Stockton do?”



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The revenge of Black Jesus

They found a slick way to do it without being explicit, but the council last night rejected perennial candidate Motecuzoma Sanchez as a member of the Charter Review Commission.

Sanchez is accused of “homophobia and racism by LGBT leaders in Stockton,” this story said.

Sanchez had railed against the “gay Mafia.” I don’t think that’s any worse than Rush Limbaugh decrying women as “feminazis.” It’s not hate speech. It’s not proof of homophobia. But it is divisive.

Divisive. As in, you’re going to make some friends with this impolitic post. But you’re going to make some enemies.

While I’ll give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt on that one, I stand by my view that comparing Council member Michael Tubbs to Black Jesus was — if not racist — a needless injection of race into the issue of Tubbs’ DUI. You want to criticize Tubbs for driving drunk, fire away. Why inject race?

I blogged before that Sanchez is hopelessly contentious. He’s also a classic example of Stockton populist politics. It may seem obviously unwise for an aspiring politician to attack the leaders whose ranks he aspires to join. But there’s a strong anti-establishment sentiment in Stockton’s working class and among its poor, a belief that The Man doesn’t care, or he’s overtly racist and trigger happy. Barking at City Hall gets you lots of likes on Facebook.

But then there’s no “dislike” button on Facebook. An aspiring politician has to know where the dislike button is. If Sanchez doesn’t figure it out after last night, he never will.

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The creditor from Hell (cont’d)

To the surprise of no one, relentlessly litigious creditor Franklin Templeton Investments has filed an appeal of Stockton’s bankruptcy ruling.

Franklin attorneys and Judge Christopher Klein at Stockton's bankruptcy trial. Illustration by Vicki Behringer

The investment giant claims Judge Christopher Klein’s ruling was “discriminatory and punitive.” Perhaps it was, but the question is whether it was unjustly discriminatory and punitive.

I think Franklin got what it deserved.

It opposed Stockton’s Chapter 9 filing, contending absurdly that the city wasn’t really insolvent.

It refused to make a deal with the city in pre-bankruptcy AB 506 negotiations.

It refused to make a deal in court-ordered mediation during the Ch. 9 trial.

It fought confirmation of Stockton’s plan of adjustment.

It tried to get the lower court to put a stay on the plan, pending its appeal.

And now, this appeal.

Throughout this process, Franklin has focused exclusively on its interests. Klein’s ruling suggested that while advocating vigorously for interests is fine and to be expected, advocating exclusively as if no other valid interests exist is counterproductive to the balance of interests that must be achieved in bankruptcy.

So to the extent Klein may have discriminated, he discriminated between parties who followed court directives and reached deals and Franklin, which did not; to the extent the ruling may be punitive, it punishes Franklin for pursuing a holdout strategy of litigation, not court-ordered negotiation. Which is fair.


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LAO: Consider kiboshing retiree health care

Instead of polishing brass on the Titanic, with two-tier retiree health care, or other PEPRA tinkering, give serious thought to abolishing public employee retiree health care altogether, the Legislative Analysts Offices says.

Who not? Any serious analysis should consider that alternative. Public employee retiree health care and pensions are destroying cities.

Calpersions has the story.

“Before California builds a funding model to pay for this benefit (retiree health care) for decades to come, the Legislature should consider whether this benefit should continue to be a part of the state employee compensation package for new hires,” said the analyst’s report prepared by Nick Schroeder and reviewed by Marianne O’Malley.’

For “Before California builds a funding model to pay for this benefit for decades to come” read: “Before California hocks itself and sucks services out of all municipalities in virtual perpetuity.”

“If prospective employees do not value this benefit as much as it costs, the state and the new employee might be better off if the state offered future employees an alternative form of compensation.”

Read the Calpensions story. Surely there is a a way to fairly compensate public employees without sacrificing everything else a city government is suppose to do.

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A big blast of ‘no can do’

Sally Lechich writes:

“Are you supporting this idea (Ten Space’s downtown project), Michael? Really?

“I am sorry but I will never believe that downtown Stockton can be renovated….more BS…here we go again…may as well get Mark Lewis back as City Manager….

“Downtown Stockton will NEVER happen…just me saying what my intuition tells me but lets not get carried away again please…don’t encourage this…let us get CLEAR of the Bankruptcy for a couple years before being so so so full of positivity….

“Let’s not get into bankruptcy again.. let the dust settle first…PLEASE do NOT encourage this …

“Stockton is what it is and will NEVER be what it never was…”

I’m sure many Stocktonians share Lechich’s pessimism. But a couple critical differences should be noted.

First, the incompetents who bankrupted the city have been voted out of office or shown the door. Talented people are running City Hall now (Mayor Anthony Silva excluded).

Second, it is wrong to compare the arena and other capital projects to Ten Space’s project. The arena was a public project. This is a private sector project, done with private capital and little or no city money.

Lewis & Co. ignored the Urban Land Institute’s warning not to build the arena entirely with public money. The whole point of redevelopment, the ULI said, is to encourage private investment. But our leaders knew better, which is why the arena loses money to this day.

But Ten Space is acting in accord with the ULI’s advice.

Beyond the arguments, what I hear Lechich saying is that she is so jaded by City’s Hall’s previous mistakes she can no longer believe Stockton can make progress. I hope better familiarity with the city’s new realities help people to reconsider such defeatism.

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The people hurt by drought

In Friday’s column, I wrote, “We can look at water exporters as Big Ag. Many are. But clearly the livelihoods of many ordinary people are at stake when decisions are made about Delta water.”

Right on cue, the Hanford Sentinel does a story illustrating who those “ordinary people” are.

I defy you to read this story and not feel sympathy for these people. Such people explain the relentless push by representatives such as Hanford’s David Valadao for ever-more Delta water, as well as their rhetoric about “fish over people.” It is their way of communicating empathy for those suffering due to the drought.

Which, unfortunately, they blame on water cutbacks driven by biological opinions — by judges who accept the verdict of scientists that excessive water exports are killing off the Delta. I reject their implicit policy of “people over fish.” All deserve to survive. But stories such as the one above are why exporters should not be caricatured or dismissed.

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The return of the Porkometer

Since congress banned earmarks, the Porkometer is rarely spotted these days. But he’s squealing with delight to hear state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani secured an extra $4 million to fight water hyacinth this year.

The failure of the state Department of Boating and Waterways to properly abate the crazy weed was the sort of systemic failure that requires leaders to step up and find solutions. Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller worked on a long-range plan; Galgini’s earmark will sure come in handy this year.

Otherwise our waterways will be absurdly infested.

Senator Galgiani also will be hosting an oversight hearing on the issue. The hearing will take place on Friday March 27, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the San Joaquin Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, 6th floor, 44 N. San Joaquin Street.

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Quote of the day

“Do unions overreach at times? Yes.”

—Police union president Kathryn Nance, announcing her 2016 bid to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney.

Nance also said, “Does city government overreach at times? Yes. What we have to do … is to open those lines of communication.”

She is seeking to downplay the destructive role the Stockton Police Officers Association played in the city’s fiscal crisis by making a moral equivalence with City Hall. Oh, we all over-reach.

Not so fast. Voters and new city leaders ousted the executives that contributed to Stockton’s fiscal calamity. Nance wants a promotion for her part in it. She should not get off easily for the astute and obstructive actions of her union, which I sketched here.

You are judged by your record. That’s only fair.

But a record is only a part of evaluating a candidate. I look forward to hearing Nance’s platform. She’s a rare bird, a union Republican. That alone is interesting.

But, as her campaign consultant pointed out in this story, McNerney’s previous challengers have all been lacking in one way or another. Can Nance present a well-rounded set of ideas? Can any platform supersede the union’s attempts to sabotage city reforms?

I’ll answer that last one: Yes. But it would it would have to be a very good platform.

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Bob Kearney dies at home

The gravely ill Stockton man who got a ride home form a New Orleans hospital thanks to the generosity of readers has died.

Bob and Catherine Kearney in better times

Bob Kearney “died peacefully at home in the arms of his wife, Catherine, on March 15, 2015 after fighting liver disease for many years,” according to his obituary.

That was the last wish of Kearney, whose insurance would not pay for him to return to California. After a column on the subject, readers contributed around $10,000 to bring Kearney  back to California.

Here, his friends and loved ones said their goodbyes.

According to his obituary, “A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, March 22nd at 5 p.m. on the basketball court at Capitol Athletic Club at 8th and P Streets in Sacramento, CA. In honor of Bob, jerseys, sneakers, and other sports attire are encouraged. In lieu of flowers, please make a point of spending time with someone you love. Bob would never pass of the chance.”

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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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