A conscience call by Ruhstaller

Termed-out San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller, reconsidering his neutrality, has endorsed Councilwoman Kathy Miller as his replacement. A blow to her rival, Councilman Paul Canepa.

According to this story, Ruhstaller did it in part because attack ads are twisting Miller’s position. Which they are. I sat in on the meeting in which Miller made the statement that Stockton can never arrest and jail its way out of its crime problem.  Her enemies seized on this statement as evidence Miller lacks firm commitment to beef up the police force.

But the paper’s webmaster/videographer posted only half her comment. Just before the part of her statement that was posted she expressed firm commitment to beefing up the force. She never said she wanted Measure A money to go elsewhere, unless you count Measure A’s other programs such as gang intervention, which is good government and which was part of the ballot language.

So what Miller was saying is that more police and jail space, while essential, will never be enough if not complemented by a holistic approach that saves at-risk youth on the front end and provides alternatives to incarceration on the back end. This amounts to hard-earned wisdom, and we can be thankful for leaders who reject superficial, hang-’em-high platforms in favor of smarter policy.

This explanation — that Miller’s remarks were taken out of context — has been made before. So it is likely Miller’s opponents know they are characterizing her remarks falsely. Consider what that says about them.

Canepa spun the endorsement as political payback:  ”I have been a hard critic of the ‘catch and release’ at the County Jail,” he said. “I knew there would be consequences for my political stance.”

But Ruhstaller explicitly said he is endorsing Miller for another reason: she is simply better qualified. “I am endorsing Kathy Miller because I believe experience and leadership clearly make her the best candidate to represent the unique interests of District 2 residents,” Ruhstaller said.

Miller’s opponents in labor are making this all about them. But voters should think hard about the bigger picture. We need supes who understand complex issues like water and can champion San Joaquin interests strongly in state forums. 

And yes, we need leaders who will keep public employee compensation at sustainable levels. Canepa is running against the reforms that purged Stockton of the overcompensation that bankrupted it. He is unlikely to win office on his undistinguished record so he is standing back while the public employee unions and the shady characters in Stockton’s political backstage do a number on Miller. 

No responsible steward of the public trust should remain silent at such conduct. Ruhstaller ‘s endorsement shows what an honorable man he is.


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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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