Another viral video

Another unsettling video of a “forceful arrest” — replete with questions about better police procedures — another lame excuse by a citizen for not complying with police.

Click on the image to see the video.

“He kept saying, ‘What’s your name? What’s your name?’ ” Danielle Harris, the woman on the ground, says in this story. “I said I don’t have to identify myself because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

I’m researching the law on this point. But her line of thinking is solipsistic. If citizens can decide the authority of police doesn’t apply to them then police lose the power to maintain law and order. Imagine how that would play out around people who take no responsibility for their behavior.

Besides, she may well have done something wrong; police were responding to a complaint about her loud music. On the other hand, she says she turned it down. Oftentimes the problem with these videos is not that they show the truth, but that they show part of it and leave part out. Faced with the holes in the facts, viewers fall back on their ideological views. That’s polarizing.

The question hovering over incidents such as this one is whether certain communities in Stockton have delegitimized the police, or whether the police have delegitimized themselves by being unfair. We have to keep an open mind about that one.

And another issue. Police have long kept order by using force. That’s why they call it “law enforcement.” The middle class has looked away. Now phone video cameras and police body cams are going to confront the public with the reality that law and order is sometimes kept through muscle.

Some cops use too much muscle. Then again, some people are just scofflaws. Situations involving either tend to escalate.

We have crossed the threshold of a new era of technology in which these videos will stir things up again and again. Ultimately, that could be a good thing. I can’t imagine a Stockton police officer being complacent about excessive force after the latest videos went viral. But what a wrenching community debate.


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The moon from Weber Point

—Courtesy Bill Ries-Knight

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The capital of chutzpah

I believe I have identified the capital of chutzpah in California: Kern County.

There, a cheeky group called Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, a group of Kern County landowners, sued the city of Stockton for polluting the Delta.

Of course, Stockton does pollute the Delta. All Delta cities do. But nothing Stockton does has a scintilla of the impact of Kern County landowners — farmers — who have drained the Delta to the point of collapse.

Their suit strongly suggests that Kern County farmers believe their own baloney when they say their excessive water exports are not what ails the Delta; that darned minnow is; and other “stressors” such as Stockton.

And Congress created the drought. In other words, the ideological filters of south-Valley conservatives are so blinkering that they live on another planet where they’re not responsible for anything.

“Coalition for a Sustainable Delta” — give me a break.

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New law will help downtown’s comeback

Stockton — with its blighted downtown so badly in need of redevelopment — lost one of its best tools in 2012 when Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies (RDAs) statewide.

But now Brown has signed AB2 (by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville), reviving RDAs in economically depressed areas.

Stockton is back in business. It can now legally set up an authority that can fund infrastructure upgrades, build low and moderate income housing, clean up toxics form the ground, do seismic retrofits, buy and transfer property, and issue bonds.

Most of those abilities are necessary for redevelopment: aggregation of land, cleaning it up, and improving the insfrastructure, for instance, levels the cost playing field for developers working downtown. Which, for instance, is to say it enables them to build homes that cost no more than homes in the greenfields.

Of course, the law permits a lesser RDA, with with fewer powers. The law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1. And the city must go through a setup process.

But when the new authority is up and running, bond revenue could help along projects like Ten Space’s Open Window project to revive 15 downtown blocks, said Michah Runner, Stockton’s economic development director.

“It’s still relatively new,” said Runner. “We need to look at where the opportunities are and make sure we’re utilizing this for our greater redevelopment strategy.”


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Dissent of the Day

Stuart Henderson writes:

“I was disappointed by the lack of understanding and nuance you showed in your recent article about the viral video showing police officers taking a 16 year old boy into custody.

“You write at the end of your article:  “Still, Mayfield probably could have stopped the conflict at any time. Kid, next time do what the cop says. Just give it a try.”

“In your Insight interview (this morning–MF), after prompting by Beth Ruyak, you admit that people look at the world through different prisms of culture, race (we can also add age, social economic status, etc). And you somewhat acknowledge that your prism is shaped by your time as a beat writer for police. That certainly helped me understand why you described the whole incident through the eyes of a police officer.

“Your article contains very little reflection on what it might have been like for the “punk.” What it was like to have your legs pressed into your body making you squirm and having a police officer, who you probably don’t trust, telling you to stop moving and stop resisting as he continues pressing the baton into your shins. For a 16 year old there may also be tensions with authority figures or just defiance that comes with lack of maturity. You disparagingly call him “kid,” yet you expect him to be the adult in the situation–to stop the conflict.

“Here’s an idea and another ending to your article: “Still the officer probably could have de-escalated (or not started) the conflict at any time. Officer, next time think about ways to address the situation without violence. Just give it a try.”

An excellent, thoughtful letter, and a model for casting more light than heat on a controversial topic. I accept the criticism. I just disagree on one point: being a police beat reporter does not make one a mindless supporter of police. I take incidents on a  case-by-case basis. I called police on it when they mishandled the fatal bank heist; I stand with them when they deserve it. And all in all, it takes as much fortitude to stand with the police these days as against them.

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The new Ferguson? Not.

The “9 against one” viral video has now been reported in the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. Its reach is impossible to overestimate. Possibly a Mongolian is clucking over the video in his yurt outside Ulan Bator.

Response to the column on it has been overwhelmingly supportive. But then in my line when people like what you do they call you or e-mail you. When they don’t like what you do, the write a  letter to the editor, post snarky comments in the comment boxes online, or fuss and fume on Facebook. So the full range of response has yet to play out.

This case is one of those multicultural house of mirrors. One can strive to grasp the truth. But equally one should listen to the truth as others perceive it. Those who insist on a certain interpretation and demonize those who disagree are actually part of the problem — the problem being things that divide us in our diverse city.

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A sneaky bill to keep things secret

Closed-door bargaining for public employee compensation screws the public. We never know what public employees are demanding, or what city officials are counter-offering, until the agreement goes to the Council. Often the proposed contract reflects politicians’ fear of the unions, and their money, more than their concern for the citizenry or fiscal prudence.

As far as the greater public good, there’s no reason negotiations should be opaque.

So some municipalities have instituted Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN). They let the public know what the unions have demanded, and what City Hall proposes instead. That’s a great idea.

So naturally a pro-labor lawmaker has introduced a bill to sabotage COIN. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) has a bill on Brown’s desk, SB 331, that would require COIN municipalities to  apply the same transparency standards to a range of outsourcing contract over $250,000.

Mendoza argues disingenuously that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If that were the case, his measure would apply to all municipalities. But the measure only applies to COIN municipalities. In short, he wants to make it harder for COIN cities to do business to discourage more COIN cities.

The Sacramento Bee quotes an analyst: “In short SB 331 would impose extraordinary burdens  on agencies working to promote a better understanding of labor costs.”

It’s a terrible bill. If Brown signs it, expect continued service insolvency by municipalities as public employee compensation worked out in the dark continues to gobble ever-more of the public treasury. And more municipal bankruptcies when the next recession comes.

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The heart of Stockton

… was for almost a century Hunter Square. After World War II much of it was turned into a parking lot.

Hunter Square, 1964

Now the County of San Joaquin is building its new courthouse on it.

So, no more plaza — unless the county recognizes the importance of building a new plaza.

Here, courtesy of The Haggin Museum, is a visual record of Hunter Square.

The plaza in the 1870s …

… and a street fair around 1900.

This Ralph Yardley drawing shows preparation for a political rally on the plaza.

And this one shows the rally.

A WW1 recruitment structure …

This flag-raising image captures the civic importance of the square.


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On Tim Egkan’s death

A man with a passion for reviving the heart of the city — a downtown City Hall failed to revive — is gone.

It’s a crime against whole whole city.

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Saving Stockton design

You can better see in these pictures what David Lipari is doing to save Stockton’s design elements.

Here’s the Hotel St. Leo.

Now here’s the image Lipari extracted from its sign.

“Basically what I do I take an image—like the image I took of the Hotel St. Leo—and using photo shop I’ll realign it so it’s somewhat square—I’m not renting a crane, so I can’t take it perfectly — then I’ll take that image into Adobe Illustrator. Then, using the pen tool, I’ll essentially trace the artwork. (The trace is) not made up of little pixls. It’s like a perfect line. So I could take the Hotel St. Leo and blow it up as big as the original sign without any degradation.”

You’ll notice, though, that the sign has faded in spots, leaving gaps. Lipari says they give him scope for personal expression.

“Filling in the blanks, I’m making decisions,” Lipari said.

Here’s the Federal Building.

Here’s the captured design.

Here’s Lipari’s website. A project worth following.

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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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