Living in an old firehouse

Here’s the Sonora Street home mentioned in today’s column, back when it was Firehouse 8.


Here’s the station’s fire pole  on display in The Haggin Museum.

Here’s the pole back in the day.

Here’s a closer look. The man in the photo is the late historian Horace Spencer.

The firehouse also had a Civil Air Defense air raid siren to warn of nuclear attacks. Here’s a “siren map” of Stockton showing the locations all over town and the range of its sound.


If time permits today, if not then Monday, I’ll build this post up with more historic photos and Stockton Cold War memorabilia.

–Photos courtesy The Haggin Museum and Stockton Fire Department. Map courtesy Office of Emergency Services.


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The chloramine dilemma, II


An interior shot of the Delta Water Supply Project, where Stockton's water is being chloraminated.

Taking the high road, the editorialist as well as the lead letter-writer in today’s paper call for city of Stockton officials to participate in Monday’s forum about chloramine in the water.

“Sure, Anthony Silva is trying to politicize this issue of chloramines in some of Stockton’s drinking water, …” writes William Maxwell, “but that does not eliminate the need for the city to send a knowledgeable staff member to the forum to answer the public’s questions. … City Manager Kurt Wilson is letting his personal ambivalence toward the mayor stand in the way of … doing what is best for the citizens of Stockton.”

The editorialist wrote, “Wilson has an expert — Mel Lytle, director of the Municipal Utilities Department — who has expertise and a Ph.D. He could be helpful in assuaging the angst … Lytle should be there.”

True, there is something almost poignant in the video Wilson released about chloramines. It is an attempt by a sophisticated city manager removed from the rough and tumble of Stockton’s polity to communicate reasonably that chloramines were the city’s best option. As if democracy can be run from an ivory tower.

But the folks on the high road may underestimate the feelings of City Hall insiders towards the mayor. Though Wilson is too classy to say so, I doubt very much he feels any “ambivalence” towards Silva at all; I imagine he loathes the mayor. Most City Hall insiders do. They reel at Silva’s lack of constructive leadership, for his hollow publicity stunts, for the drama he brings which distracts from real governance and progress.

They loathe him for for telling the masses that “Stockton government doesn’t work” when city staffers work hard and (usually) effectively while he skips off the the Epic Lounge, or wherever he goes when he disappears for long stretches.

They loathe him, in other words, not jut for politicizing the chloramine issue but for politicizing them as aloof and dysfunctional elites.

Asking them to support his forum stems from the belief that personal animosities are secondary and the public good ought to come first. Granted. But Silva has made a career out of making political enemies, and they have a belief about the public good, too: that it is unconscionable to do anything to help Anthony Silva get re-elected.

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Another pension sweetener

Reader Matt Brodie writes:

“You left out the auto cost of living adjustments. A chief who retires at age 53 and lives a full life (to age 88) will see his annual retirement gift grow to $400,000 with 2% annual adjustments.

“If the COL goes up to average 3% over that chief’s lifetime, a $200,000 gift recipient at 53 he will be receiving $560,000 annually when he passes at 88. And what we don’t know is if any of these chiefs are receiving reduced payouts in favor of surviving spouses continuing to receive largesse upon the death of the “bread” winner.

“These payouts sicken me.”

I don’t know if Brodie’s arithmetic is correct. But his point is well taken. Cost of Living Adjustments are just perpetual raises by a fancy name.


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The chloramine dilemma


City Manager Kurt Wilson

City leaders face a dilemma: if they support Mayor Anthony Silva’s Monday forum on chloraminated water, they legitimize a remarkably bad mayor that has irresponsibly ginned up a public health scare to raise his public profile.

If they don’t support the forum, they play into Silva’s meme that City Hall elites are aloof from the people.

City Manager Kurt Wilson has chosen to abstain. I imagine he just can’t bring himself to be complicit with the mayor’s uncalled-for exploitation of citizens’ fears. Wilson can seem aloof — he’s just not a guy you expect to see at Chuck’s — and the mayor is exploiting that, too.

But what is gained by hammering the city manager for not living in Stockton? Wilson is, after all, a capable leader crucial to Stockton’s post-bankruptcy recovery. Yammering at leaders for not living here only makes them like working here less. It’s an attack on competent government.

Silva lives here. Silva is an incompetent, self-serving populist whose constant denunciations of a city government he lacks the skills to master only breed public disaffection.

The low-information voters now alarmed about a standard water disinfectant show why Stockton is so hard to govern. Silva understands them. But he lacks any ability to actually help them. Any improvement in governance, any improvement in their quality of municipal life, will be achieved by others. The others whom Silva is turning the public against.

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Poetry Corner

A reader sends a poem by “b.e.fitzgerald.”

your art is what you defeat

I swear to every heaven ever imagined,
if I hear one more dead-eyed hipster
tell me that art is dead, I will personally summon Shakespeare
from the grave so he can tell them every reason
why he wishes he were born in a time where
he could have a damn Gmail account.
The day after I taught my mother
how to send pictures over Iphone she texted
me a blurry image of our cocker spaniel ten times in a row.
Don’t you dare try to tell me that that is not beautiful.
But whatever, go ahead and choose to stay in
your backwards-hoping-all-inclusive club
while the rest of us fall in love over Skype.
Send angry letters to state representatives,
as we record the years first sunrise so
we can remember what beginning feels like when
we are inches away from the trigger.
Lock yourself away in your Antoinette castle
while we eat cake and tweet to the whole universe that we did.
Hashtag you’re a pretentious ass —.
Van Gogh would have taken 20 selflies a day.
Sylvia Plath would have texted her lovers
nothing but heart eyed emojis when she ran out of words.
Andy Warhol would have had the worlds weirdest Vine account,
and we all would have checked it every morning while we
Snap Chat our coffee orders to the people
we wish were pressed against our lips instead of lattes.
This life is spilling over with 85 year olds
rewatching JFK’s assassination and
7 year olds teaching themselves guitar over Youtube videos.
Never again do I have to be afraid of forgetting
what my fathers voice sounds like.
No longer must we sneak into our families phonebook
to look up an eating disorder hotline for our best friend.
No more must I wonder what people in Australia sound like
or how grasshoppers procreate.
I will gleefully continue to take pictures of tulips
in public parks on my cellphone
and you will continue to scoff and that is okay.
But I hope, I pray, that one day you will realize how blessed
you are to be alive in a moment where you can google search
how to say I love you in 164 different languages.


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Time out for art

Artist Vanessa Hadady sends us one of her latest paintings:

Lilacs in Crystal (ode to Manet), acrylic/canvas board, 9 x 12 inches Copyright (c) Vanessa Hadady

See a video of how she built up the painting here.

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Quote of the Day

“Although the county had a relatively stable year financially, the bottom line dropped like a rock when accounting for the pension liability. In fact, the bottom line fell to depths it has never reached before.”

—State Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, the only CPA in the California State Senate, writing in the Orange County Register.

Moorlach is talking about Orange County, but the same applies to San Joaquin and to the city of Stockton. The “pension liability” is the money obligated to pay for pensions that nobody has come up with yet.

A new law requires California municipalities, and the state itself to add this black hole to their annual financial reports.

Here’s Moorlach again on California: “The Unrestricted Net Deficit last year already was $117 billion. Once the state’s unfunded liabilities are revealed and accounted for, expect the deficit to hit the $250 billion area. A quarter of a trillion dollars – that’s roughly $6,400 for every man, woman and child in California.”

That figure was just over $4,000 in 2005. So you can see the trend. Pensions are a runaway train, and unions and labor-frielldy lawmakers are doing everything they can to oppose urgent reforms.

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Helping Timothy Barfield


"It's cold out here."

Jon Mendelson of Central Valley Low Income Housing writes:

“Just wanted to thank you for pointing out where Timothy was living. We were able to talk to him during one of our regular outreach efforts to the homeless encampments, and his significant other came in to the office today — we’re trying to get them help through our Rapid Re-Housing program.

“If they don’t have enough income to achieve stable housing with that short-term assistance, they’ll be placed on a waiting list for longer term housing through a Permanent Supportive Housing program (though the waiting list for that one, unfortunately, is pretty darn long.)

“To be honest, with Timothy’s only income coming from SSI, there’s a very slim chance he will be able to sustain housing even if we can get him a deposit and first month’s rent. But that’s an issue faced by many who wind up on the street — there’s just not enough housing available in this county that is affordable to someone whose only income is SSI.

“That said, we continue to press for long-term solutions to increase the availability of affordable housing for all residents, homeless and otherwise, and identify more resources to help the homeless into housing. And luckily, there is a growing groundswell from the police, county officials, and service providers. Cautious optimism.”

If anybody can help get Barfield off the streets, Mendelson can. We already know who cannot: Mayor Anthony Silva, who used Barfield as a prop in his State of the City address, then stopped taking his calls.

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The wages of wagering

Here’s the sign the poor slob had to display after coming in last in his Fantasy Football league.

… At one of Stockton’s busiest intersections. While dressed in woman’s clothes.

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Silva’s chloramine hypocrisy

Low-information voters are thanking Mayor Anthony Silva on his Facebook page for exposing the hazards of chloramine.

Here’s the resolution to put chloramine in Stockton’s water supply. Note the signature at bottom.

chloramine resolution_2013-04-16

If ya can’t lead ‘em, scare ‘em.

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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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