Costner on playing a Stockton guy

“I was proud to play the essence of Jim White,” Kevin Costner says about the movie McFarland, which is about a Stockton man who coached poor Latinos on a tiny town’s track team to a record nine state championships.

“I’m not Jim White,” Costner says. “You know, I think we’d all like to be Jim White in some way.”

The Fresno Bee Q&@ with Costner here.

The column on Jim White here.

A mixed, generally positive review here.

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Nance considers a run

Kathryn Nance, exploring a run against Congressman Jerry McNerney, declares in this story she is a “strong and capable leader.” So it’s worth looking at the union she leads, the Stockton Police Officer’s Association.

In the field, they are Stockton’s finest. They risk their lives for our safety.

At the bargaining table, it’s another story.

When the city of Stockton was sliding towards insolvency, no union caused it bigger problems than the SPOA. The SPOA flat-out denied that Stockton was in a fiscal crisis.

When the city declared a fiscal emergency, which allowed the city to cut employee over-compensation, the SPOA refused for a time to come to the table and negotiate.

Instead, when Stockton was down to $1 million in cash reserves, the SPOA sued the city to challenge the fiscal emergency.

The union doggedly contended the city could not break the contract. Had the union prevailed, the city would have been legally obligated to pay SPOA members’ back pay. And give them raises. That would have cost between $9.1 million and $10 million.

In a blatant attempt to intimidate the city manager, the SPOA bought the house next to him. Its leader, Nance’s predecessor, even crowed the union was considering buying a second house near the city manager.

So locked in to self-serving influence, and animosity towards all who would reduce it, the SPOA even refused to endorse Measure A, the tax to beef up the police department! The reason: the union wanted special privileges in return for its endorsement. The police union was the only city union not to back Measure A.

When she is in the field, Nance deserves our gratitude. When she is doing union business, Nance is part of an organization that exemplifies the astute special interests that contributed to Stockton’s fiscal destruction and to the degradation of its public service ethos.

Examining this record is just step one of evaluating Nance as a congressional candidate. If she runs, Nance deserves to be evaluated on her platform, as well. And her principles. For instance, whether she can make the shift to public service in which the good of the many outweighs the good of the powerful few.


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The farmer who sprang Angela

Patrick Wall writes:

“I went to hear Angela (Davis) last night, and I learned something new.

Angela Davis and Rev. Willie A. Douglas prior to Tuesday's lecture at the University of the Pacific Black History Month Program

“When she was imprisoned in the early 1970s, a white Fresno County farmer put up his farm as bail for her release.

Here’s the story from the L.A. Times.”

Interesting. You would expect south Valley farmers to contribute to a fund to keep Davis in jail. It’s a reminder that not all south-Valley farmers are wingnuts. Far-right wingnuts, anyway.

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The council stigma lifts

I’m sure easy cynicism towards Stockton’s city council still abounds. Still, one wonders of the outbreak of good government that occurred during Stockton’s fiscal crisis has raised the esteem of the council. It should.

Exhibit A that it might be so: all the candidates lining up to run. Not marginal characters who seek power out of all proportion to their aptitude, but substantial community people.

Another silver lining of the bankruptcy? Let’s hope so.

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“Closure:” a code word for revenge?

Timothy Miller writes:

“Execution is clearly not a deterrent to violent crime.

“If we executed a thousand of people a year, or more, instead of about 40, and if criminals were executed within weeks or months of their nasty crimes, then execution might be a deterrent. I’m not advocating that, and it is never going to happen anyway.

“If we could save money by executing nasty criminals, to avoid the cost of keeping them locked up, that might be a good reason for capital punishment. I’m not advocating that, and that’s never going to happen either.

“What, then, is the purpose of execution? It’s impossible to avoid this conclusion: The purpose of capital punishment is revenge.

“When the victim’s friends and family say they need “closure,” closure is a code word for revenge. If you read between the lines, “We cannot rest until <victim’s name here> gets justice,” it means, “When the public, acting on our behalf, ‘gets even’ with the criminal, by executing him, we anticipate we will feel better.”

“The friends and families of victims always say they “need closure.” No one ever comes back to the friends and family of a victim, years later, to ask, “Did the execution give you ‘closure’?” No one really knows, but I suspect that the friends and families of victims don’t feel much better after an execution. Heck, they might feel worse. All that news coverage and drama might keep the pain and anger alive.

“The desire for revenge is not hard to understand. It might be maddening. It seems possible I might also crave revenge if a friend or relative had been murdered. That desire seems to be a feature of human nature, in most cases, though not all.

“Revenge is not a good reason for capital punishment. It’s actually a really bad reason. By executing murderous criminals, strictly for the sake of revenge, the state is setting a bad example for the rest of us.

“Many ugly violent acts, pointless fights and assaults, and some murders, are motivated by the desire for revenge. We don’t want our citizens thinking, “By god, I have a right to revenge. If capital punishment gives the public revenge for a violent crime, I’m entitled to revenge, too.”

“That kind of thinking is a recipe for out-of-control curbside justice. You think that isn’t a problem already? Most drive-by shootings and “gang-related” shootings are misguided attempts at curbside justice.”

Miller’s insight that “closure” is a euphemism for “revenge” is perceptive. While execution might be revenge for the family, however, it is justice for the state, which has a stake in punishing people for their crimes if, for no other reason, so that others do not. It’s the state telling victim families “We got this,” to channel their vengeful anger into a deliberate system. Except, in the case of the death penalty, the state doesn’t have this at all.

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A less fortunate Fitzgerald

John Kindseth responds to my mention of the redoubtable destroyer USS Fitzgerald.

“Nice to have a USS class ship carrying your name in registry!   However, retain some humility, because there is also another “Fitzgerald”

R-i-i-ight …

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More about Calgary

A former resident of Calgary, Canada — who for some unfathomable reason wants to remain anonymous — sends a bit more trivia about Calgary:

“Just a bit more info from a former Calgarian. … Add mention of the “Chinook”-a warm wind something like the Santa Ana, which can warm a cold spell from -20′+ below to 50′ above zero, melting the snow, turning icy roads into streams, in a few hours.”

“Also: Calgary has a fairly large population of Americans, due to the oil industry.”

A 70-degree temperature swing in a matter of hours? You definitely want to dress in layers in Calgary.

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Derelict barge adrift in the Delta

Milly McCoy writes:

“A year ago you wrote about Herman and Helen’s. They were going under the choppy water.  This is a tragedy for all of us who have been cruising the San Joaquin for decades.

“This is a photo I took this week of some of the fallout from the tragedy. It’s a house and a bunch of junk on a barge. It was at H&H. San Joaquin county kicked them out.  Late last fall the owner moved this hulk to Potato Slough and tied it to a berm and abandoned it. Recently it broke free and is now drifting with the tide in potato slough next to Venice Island.

“This hulk is an unsightly toxic mess and a hazard to navigation. none of the powers that be will touch it and the owner hasn’t taken responsibility. I think it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when the county can’t afford to take action against the blight.”

Behold the reason my enthusiasm for colorful Delta vessels is tempered with caution and skepticism. Perhaps because of the anti-business regulatory climate, some Delta business operators run on a wing and a prayer and a lawsuit. It’s great when things work out. When they don’t, taxpayers get the bill.

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Scold of the week

A ”sexual addiction treatment provider” writing in the Fresno Bee compared “Fifty Shades of Grey” to the slave trade and other “atrocities.”

“As a therapist specializing in treating sexual addictions, I’m deeply concerned about the release of the book-made-movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this Valentine’s Day weekend,” writes Forest Benedict. “Not only does the ‘Fifty Shades’ series portray pornographic and dehumanizing themes, it also glorifies highly abusive relational dysfunction.

Benedict fumes on, pathologizing softcore entertainment: “Like other forms of pornography, this movie communicates messages of degradation, objectification and abuse. History’s famed atrocities, from the slave trade to sex-trafficking, have been fueled by the objectification and dehumanization of people. These messages hurt all of us, especially the most innocent among us: our children.”

If this guy was in my turf, I would create the Forest Benedict Award and hand it out annually to purveyors of horrendously overheated opinions. As it is, I’ll just scoff — not at sexual addiction, but the attempt to compare a movie about sex between consenting adults to “history’s famed atrocities.”

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New urban trend: “youthification”

It’s not gentrification. It’s young people moving downtown, as older people head out to the suburbs.

Writes Richard Florida in CityLab:

“Young people in the U.S. and Canada are experiencing less job security, more chinks in the social safety net, high housing prices, delayed childbearing and a growing enthusiasm for urban living. For these reasons, renting closer to the city center—where increasing stocks of divided row housing and condos are readily available—becomes a more attractive option.”

Florida lays out the research of Markus Moos, who figured out what preconditions would cause, say, downtown Stockton to youthify.

Given these prerequisites, it could happen in Stockton. But it would take a deliberate approach by planners and builders to add youthification amenities. In recent history, Stockton planners have not exhibited sufficient urban savvy to pull off something like that. Can they now? We’ll see.

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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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