Protesters beat bystander

A video of the beating five protesters gave a bystander after last Tuesday’s Council meeting has been posted on Facebook.

Protesters always have a counter-narrative justifying their actions. In this case, the story is that several protesters offered a homeless man a slice of pizza; he responded by striking one of them with a stick.

No offer of pizza is visible in this video. No stick is visible. Only a pack of thugs.

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Silva embraces euthanasia

Former Mayor Anthony Silva’s jailhouse interview with this paper contains any number of remarkable statements.

There’s this one: “When I go back to my room, I curl up in a little ball, put my head inside my sweatshirt and breathe hard to warm the air inside to survive,” though a Sheriff’s spokesman said the thermostat is set at 72 degrees.

There’s the noirish, “I came back to face the music.”

But the one that I find most remarkable is his statement that he may sue the Sheriff because the inmates are anguished. “They need as much mental health (care) as possible. I look at their lives — I don’t know why they would want to go on. It’s changed my opinion on euthanasia.”


Yes, Silva appears to be saying that jail is so miserable that inmates should be put out of their misery. That sort of compassion they could probably do without. Though it would ease jail overcrowding.


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One man’s A Day Without a Woman

"I have to do everything myself:" Mike Contreras.

The two female office workers at Stockton Monument left work Wednesday in to participate in the national A Day Without a Woman march in San Francisco. Stockton Monument owner Mike Contreras was left to run his headstone business all by himself.

Contreras left me a phone message.

“I have no women working for me today,” he said plaintively. “Can you give me a call at my office? I’ll be answering the phone.”

We spoke this morning. “It was hard for me to run my office, man,” Contreras groaned. “The girls were in San Francisco. I went crazy man. It was like, what do I do? To be honest with you it was crazy.”

Contreras had to do everything himself. “Oh, man I had to sell, work with the customers—I couldn’t even do a computer design for people here.”

There was an upside, Contreras said. “A lot of the women who came in, they were glad that they came out,” Contreras said, meaning glad that his employees participated in the event. “They liked the idea that younger people were were invloved.”

His staff having returned today, Contreras was philisophical. “It was all for good cause. Being that my mom was a single parent aren’t, and she struggled. I said, ‘What the hell, why not? It was for the women.”

But, he admitted, “I had a terrible day.”



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It didn’t work. Try again.

How it's supposed to be.

Attempts to regulate protests at City Council meetings failed last night to protesters who are destroying Council meetings.

Well, technically the Council whizzed through a consent calendar and the protests got out of hand afterwards.

But protesters are ruining Council meetings, sure enough. If you were going to receive a certificate of appreciation from the Council, would you attend such a meeting? Likely you would not. If you wanted to speak on permitting a liquor store in your neighborhood, would you show up? Likely not. Would you take your kids to such a meeting to inspire them to civic participation?

Hell no. Any youth who witnessed last night’s Council meeting would be turned off from civic engagement for life.

Municipal democracy has been monkey wrenched.

How it is.

It has been subverted by malcontents, misfits and poseurs using Black Lives Matter and the legitimate issue of police shootings as a Trojan horse to throw bombs.

It has been compromised by protesters who presume on the sympathy of decent people. On the slack cut them by observers who feel sorry for a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. People who feel sorry for a mother who lost a son to a police shooting. People who revere free speech.

Many of the protesters are demanding justice of a system to which they have contributed nothing. The mahyem is their version of gainful employment. Their holier-than-thou calls for justice camouflage a contempt for law and order and the election that rejected their travesty of a mayor.

None of this applies to peaceful protesters.

Handing out leaflet warning of legal consequences should the meeting be disrupted is a good start.

It didn’t work, though.

Just as people have a right to peaceful protest, City Hall has a right and a duty to defend its ability to do the public business. In defending that right, leaders defend the rights of all. In allowing out-of-bounds protesters to disrupt meetings and intimidate the public, leaders allow city government’s broader public mission to be impaired.

Back to the drawing board, leaders. Find effective measures.


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Record alum’s brilliant new essay

Sam Quinones

Sam Quinones, who lived in Mexico for years after working as a Record reporter, has a brilliant essay in Foreign Affairs called, “Donald Trump is the Opportunity Mexico Has Been Waiting For.”

The author of “Dreamland” opines, “The new U.S. president’s value to Mexico is precisely that he goes down like battery acid. If the country’s people and political elites will take it, his term could be their great moment — a time to behave like true Mexican patriots, begin an honest, probably painful, self-examination and push for what will, in the long run, make their country a place where their hardest-working people want to remain.”

This focus on emigration as the tiresome Mexican safety valve — so the political class can ignore reforms to Mexico’s deep-seated and self-limiting political and cultural deficiencies — is such an important diagnosis.

“Regardless of how much money they sent home, the loss of these dynamic and hard-working people to the United States was far more damaging to Mexico than the loss of territory in the mid-1800s, though it is the latter lesson that is taught in Mexican schools,” Quinones writes.

You can’t understand California unless you understand Mexico, and you can’t understand Mexico unless you read Sam Quinones. His essay in Foreign Affair is here.

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The D.A. answers questions about the Silva case


San Joaquin County District Attrorney Tori Verber Salazar.

Yesterday we posted the questions likely to be posed to San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar following Anthony Silva’s arraignment. Today we post the answers.

What triggered the investigation?

They wouldn’t say, citing the confidentiality of the investigation.

How long has your office investigated Silva?

The wouldn’t say.

Do the charges relate to Silva’s time on the Stockton Unified school board (Or has the statute of limitations expired)?

The charges relate to the period 2010-14 when Silva ws CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Stockton, and when he became Mayor in 2012.

Do they relate to the Boys and Girls Club of Stockton, his time as mayor, or both?


Are more charges contemplated?

The investigation is ongoing. So more charges are possible. 

Any idea why Silva allegedy embezzled?

Lifestyle. At least that’s what they said. If he allegedly laundered money into his political campaigns, they didn’t say so.  

Or what he allegedly did with the money?

I periodically received curious tips when Silva was spotted repeatedly gambling at out-of-town card clubs. And the D.A. citied his trips to South Lake Tahoe, where gambling is legal. But I never knew the extent of Silva’s gambling, and the D.A. made no specific comment about gambling or gambling losses.

So we’re left with what they told us: Silva allegedly bought electronics at Best Buy, stays at Motel 6, funded trips to Tahoe and bought himelf a membership at a Filipina dating website. His purchases with allegedly ill-gotten gains need to be more thoroughly detailed.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau

Why weren’t these charges filed while Silva was in office?

They didn’t directly address that. These alleged offenses occurred on the watch of the previous District Attorney, James Willett. It’s unclear if Willett declined to investigate or prosecute, whether he handed an ongoing investigatiion to Tori Verber Salazar or whether she initiated the investigations. 

What can be said is this is a complex investigation involving multiple accounts and thousands and thousands of pages of financial documents that had to be pored over by a forensic accountant. It obviously took months, perhaps years.

Is the investigation ongoing? Are others under investigation? Do you believe there was a broader conspiracy? When are these investigations expected to conclude?

The investigation is ongoing. Nobody explicity said anyone else is under investigation. But Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said newcomers to the Club’s board were stonewalled “by Mr. Silva and those people associated with Mr. Silva on the Stockton Boys & Girls Club board.” That strongly implies a conspiracy. It is to be expected the main co-conspirators are being investigated and, if possible, will be charged. 

Why is bail so high?

The standard bail schedule calls for bail in such serious cases the $600,000 range, and this case has enhancements.

The possibility that Silva is a flight risk is a tricky question. Himelblau pointed out the remarkably coincidental timing of Silva’s decision to leave the country. As to the counter-argument made by Silva’s attorney, N. Allen Sawyer — that Silva, after all, came back, thereby demonstrating he is not a flight risk — Himelblau said, “I don’t believe a thing Mr. Sawyer says.”

And how will you confirm Silva has not posted bail with allegedly ill-gotten gains?

By making Silva prove where they money came from. No proof, no bail.

What do you say to people who believe this prosecution is political?

Himelblau: ”If Mr. Sawyer … wishes to argue our motivation is political and personal, there is a process,” Himelblau said. “It’s not the press. You go to a judge and argue it. You don’t go to the press and whine.”



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Oakland’s debt: $17,500 per household

It boggles the mind the way some cities ignore basic fiscal reality.

Take Oakland. ” … the city now faces a projected $100 million annual shortfall by the 2019-20 fiscal year, a forecast 74 percent worse than just two years ago,” writes Dan Borenstein.

“Some of that difference is due to using more realistic assumptions. But the city’s latest five-year projection still ignores payments on major debt and makes overly optimistic predictions about the strength of the economy.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf talks to reporters before the start of a round table to improve relations between local law enforcement and the community, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

“The numbers show that Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Council still have not corrected Oakland’s structural budget imbalance. As a result, city finances continue to teeter at a fiscal precipice in danger of plunging in the next recession.

” … The shortfall has increased in two years from $2.4 billion to about $2.8 billion, or an average $17,500 per household.”

Schaaf inherited the debt — but went on a hiring binge instead of paying it down. So … what happens when the next recession hits?

This is the sort of thing City Manager Kurt Wilson had in mind when he said in this column, ”I estimate far greater than half — maybe 90-plus percent — of other cities would hit the rocks before us. You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the guy next to you.”

I hope his implication is right: that the epicemic of municipal bankruptcies of cities such as Oakland will compel the labor-friendly Dem lawmakers, or the courts, to fnally rein in the pension monster. Because if he’s wrong, the bear will eat Stockton, too.


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Book gives nod to Stockton’s “Johnny Oakseed”

A new children’s book by a Marin author acknowledges the help of the late Gary Gunn-Smith of Stockton.

Laurin Abramson of San Anselmo wrote “Acorn” after googling oaks and finding stories about Gunn-Smith, whom she contacted for advice.

Gunn-Smith (1953-2016) was a Realtor who planted Valley oak trees and even entire oak groves. He and I met when he came to my curb to scoop up the acorns and leaves dropped by my trees. He planted the acorns in pots in a big outdoor Delta nursery. He used the leaves for mulch.

“I have probably a 150-year-old, massive Valley oak that towers over my house, and scares me to death during Winter storms,” Abramson said. “It has like, seven trunks.”

Laurin Abramson

Abramson noodled over writing a book, “And the idea came to me about an acorn growing to that massive size.”

The book would be illustrated by photographs. But where to find photos of an acorn cracked open by a sprout? She researched online. My stories about Gunnn-Smith came up.

“He was real kind. He said, “Come on down.” So my husband and I we figured out our way. He met us at the little post office (Holt?) We followed him to his property. We spent the day there and wandered around. He gave us the little saplings in the buckets.”

“Acorn” is available through Robertson Publishing. 

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Another view on immigration

A United States citizen protests on Thursday outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, About two dozen U.S. citizens demonstrated their disagreement with the immigration policies put forward by President Donald Trump.


Victor Davis Hanson gets beyond the dogma:

“Employers have long sought to undercut the wages of the American underclass by preference for cheaper imported labor. The upper-middle classes have developed aristocratic ideas of hiring inexpensive “help” to relieve them of domestic chores.

“The Mexican government keeps taxes low on its elite in part by exporting, rather than helping, its own poor. It causes little worry that some $25 billion in remittances sent from Mexican citizens working in America puts hardship on those expatriates, who are often subsidized by generous U.S. social services.

“Mexico City rarely welcomes a heartfelt discussion about why its citizens flee Mexican exploitation and apparently have no wish to return home …”

Mexico is dysfunctional and its people want a better life. Hanson has a strong point that Americans do use that to their advantage, even as they complain about anchor babies and welfare.

My own view is that the U.S. does subsidize Mexico with the welfare it gives immigrants, many of whom send home remittances. But Mexico , in turn, subsidizes the U.S. with cheap labor. I can’t say who gets the better deal. What I can say is that when you look around the world we are doing a whole lot better than most. Our bilateral relationship, for all its flaws and tensions, is one reason.

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History, underfoot

Today’s Fitz’s Stockton brings this from Steve Horvath:

“Sad to see the history of Stockton burn up.  There is still some under our feet. This manhole cover is on the Pacific campus.”

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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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