Pivot point for pedicabs

The council’s Legislation Committee will take up the minor but telling issue of pedicabs tomorrow. Specifically, the leg committee will look at senseless city restrictions.

An unidentified princess takes a Halloween ride on a Stockton pedicab.

File under our ongoing posts about city red tape the regulation prohibiting pedicabs from operating on Stockton’s waterfront and other public areas.

Here’s I’d normally ask “Why on earth restrict pedicabs?” but the answer in these cases is always the same: fear the pedicab operator will hit and injure someone and the city will get sued.

Yet pedicabs manage to add to the urban vibrancy and fun in cities across the land. Crafting a safe but more liberal pedicab ordinance should not be rocket science, though it is an intelligent form of deconstruction, of dismantling brick by brick a municipal regulatory environment that has held the city back with its exaggerated fear of liability.

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Desalination, the Delta’s friend

The problem is, filtering the salt out of ocean water is quite expensive (Well, that’s one big problem. Another is California coastal regulations and environmental opposition. San Diego County had to fight 14 lawsuits over 14 years before getting the go-ahead).

San Diego County is paying $1 billion to desalinate 56 million gallons of seawater each day for San Diego County residents: about 7 percent of San Diego County’s annual demand.

Consequently few big desal projects are in the works.

But San Diego County is betting the future shortages will drive up the cost of water so high that it’ll cost as much as desal. That is not an illogical bet. Anyway, San Diego is a desert community over-dependent on Delta water, so diversifying their supply is good policy, if painfully pricey.

But then Prop 1, the water bond, has money for cities that invest in desal.

That part of the bond is good. The rest, as I wrote here, is merely the best California can do given the limits of its politics and vision.

Anyway, this story about San Diego’s project is a good opportunity to size up desalination. To the degree it takes pressure off the Delta, it is welcome.


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More on boathouses

Following up on Sunday’s column, Masood Cajee points out other examples of water-city boathouses:

Oklahoma City has a whole Boathouse District. Check it out.

Numerous boathouses line the Charles River, which runs from Boston Harbor inland. Here they are.

Stockton’s waterfront is actually a fun and interesting place to boat, as I wrote here, when I kayaked. But the point is that the city is blessed with a river and  a Delta. Ignoring them is a municipal pathology.

Another reader’s reaction:

Jeff Garrison: “West Sacramento also has at least two boathouses: one for the UC Davis rowing team and one for the River City Rowing Club (my daughter was a team member and coach … She still coaches for  River City,  in her spare time.

“Stockton’s current waterfront was built by the city’s fat cats (who then left for Palm Springs and Carmel on our dime) with our taxpayer dollars, so that it would exclude your average boater, while looking cute to the elite (tiny million-dollar apartments anyone ?).  We need restrooms, with showers, fish cleaning sinks, and bait shops, as well as boathouses.”


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Fugazi responds

District 5 council candidate Christina Fugazi responds to my criticisms of her Facebook page essay on crime:

District 5 incumbent Dyane Burgos Medina, left, and her rival, Christina Fugazi, at a September candidates forum.

“I wanted you to know that I read your blog (below) and agreed with quite a few comments but I wanted to clear up the point of my post.  Now, more than ever, we must pay attention to what works and what are our priorities as a city.  My post was trying to explain that there are core responsibilities and services a police department provides and that should not be overshadowed by other pursuits.

“I stand by my position that police staffing, community policing, and smart policing are the core responsibilities and services of our police department.  You described the efforts to improve retention and recruitment in the police department.  They are simply inadequate and we need to do more.

“We need to focus on keeping experienced officers and we need the ability to attract laterals.  The only way that is going to happen is if we acknowledge that we cannot compete in the Central Valley market place for officers.  So what is required to accomplish that goal?  We don’t know because our Council has not taken on the issue.

“I also want to point out that I firmly support most elements in the Marshall Plan.  As I am sure you are aware, the main element of the Marshall Plan, Peacekeepers, was highly successful in Stockton in the 90’s.  When the Marshall plan was announced in January of 2012, I was really encouraged that the City was going to finally focus on public safety.  As the details of plan were released, there was not a focus on police staffing.  I was convinced then, and I am more convinced now, that our path to a safe city is dependent upon adequate staffing.

“‘After a lot of public debate, the community demanded more police.  When Measure A and B was drafted I was glad that the emphasis was on police.  We now have the opportunity to achieve the beginnings of a properly staffed police department and we better because it is the last stop on our ability to raise our sales tax.

“Prevention . . . . What can I say?  I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of improving the lives and opportunity of our youth in Stockton.  I will not always be a politician, but I will always be a teacher.  My post didn’t delve into my thoughts on prevention but let me be clear now, the police department should always be connected to our community.

“Our police department should represent the makeup of our community without compromising qualifications.  We need to get police officers out of their cars whenever possible to walk our business districts, however our officers are not really trained to become social workers.  We must never forget what is the core responsibility of our police department, which is our public safety.

“In the end, I think the Smarties and the Neanderthals are closer than we all think.”

They are, in that all Stocktonians devoutly want city government to purge its dysfunctions and deliver a safer city. But frankly the depth and sophistication of the Marshall Plan eludes many voters. A good mayor would be championing the efforts, not declaring a state of emergency and calling for his colleagues’ heads. Fugazi, at least, is conducting responsible civic debate.

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The Big One, yesterday and tomorrow

You get into journalism in part to cover amazing stories such as the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Twenty five years ago today we in the newsroom felt the earth gently but firmly swaying. We rushed outside to see if any of downtown’s older buildings had toppled. They had not.

We quickly learned the quake was centered on the coast. The boss sent me into the epicentral region.

I recollected my experience here.

In the years that followed, it was dispiriting to watch the Bay Area and the state bicker and dawdle over the Bay Bridge retrofit, and dismaying to follow the stories that suggest CalTrans made a hash of construction.

Now, finally, Humpty Dumpty is finally put back together again. And this week brings news that four faults in the Bay Area are again stretched to the breaking point. It’s like a presentiment of deja vu, the distinct possibility of another cataclysm, another journalistic rendezvous with mayhem.


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Quote of the Day

“Firing 600 bullets indiscriminately is irresponsible and excessive force.”

—Gregory Bentley, attorney for the family of Misty Holt-Singh, the woman who was killed July 16 in a bank robbery/hostage incident.

Bentley must know something the rest of us don’t. Because I have not seen conclusive evidence that police fired indiscriminately. They provided cover fire to suppress the fusillade of bullets coming at them. Whether they did that correctly or recklessly has yet to be determined.

Of course, Bentley is an advocate. He’s there to advocate his client’s position.

“(Bentley) suggested that police could have held their fire and waited for the assailants to put Holt outside “like they did with the other hostages,” this story says.

The way I understand it — subject to correction as facts emerge — is that one hostage jumped. The other was driving when a gunman accidentally shot her in the leg; she said she could no longer drive, and he ruthlessly pushed her out of the vehicle. So waiting for them to put out Holt-Sing may have been futile.

We are presented with dueling interpretations.

Assertion: “Proper protocol was not followed and tragedy followed (Bentley)”.

Counter-assertion: “There is no protocol out there that applies to these dynamics (Chief Eric Jones).”

Jones has had three months to find protocols, if they exist. If he found them, and has realized the SPD bungled, his position and the threat of litigation might prevent him from issuing a public a mea culpa. But it seems highly unlikely he’d lie. He would not be saying there are no protocols, knowing the truth eventually will come out.

So I’d wager that the crime did indeed fall  into an law enforcement interzone for which there are no clear rules.

We have to remain open to the possibility that Bentley is right. But he has not buttressed his assertions that the PD didn’t follow protocol by producing the protocol they should have followed. With due respect to the family, that rubs me the wrong way.

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Semper Fi, Stockton

Bill Ries-Knight writes:

“I was watching “Scorpion,” a new TV show, and last week’s episode seems to have improved the profile for Stockton to have us as home to a USMC Training Facility.”

“I like to think it is a bit nicer image  than home to a violent gun-running biker gang,” Ries-Knight adds.

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Fugazi: crime “Neandertals” vs. “Smarties”

Council candidate Christina Fugazi speaks at a May 3 forum.


District 5 council candidate Christina Fugazi has written an essay on her webpage about crime.

“There have been some distortions in the media about the two different approaches to public safety that exist in Stockton,” says Fugazi.

The distortion: “One camp has the only intelligent approach to the generational demographics that will finally allow the city of Stockton to get to the root causes of crime. We will call this group the “Smarties.” The other camp has a pitchfork, and mob mentality and all they want is more cops. We will call this group the “Neanderthals.”

“The Neanderthals look to cities across the United States that have successfully attacked their “generational” crime problem. New York, Los Angeles, and Boston … looked at criminal behavior as a human behavior that can be controlled through law enforcement …The Smarties believe that criminal behavior is to be controlled by getting to the root causes of crime. They believe our police department should focus on poverty, hunger, education, and economic opportunity to attack crime.”

The only place I have seen this simplistic, binary formulation about crime is in Fugazi’s essay. Anyway, having set up this straw man, she comes to the point:

“If you understand the Smarties focus you will understand why they have failed to focus on retention and recruitment of officers. Really, law enforcement plays a little role in fighting crime for the Smarties. That is why the Smarties have successfully implemented the “Office of Violence Prevention.” The Office of Violence Prevention is the key tenet of their approach. Getting qualified and experienced officers can wait but the Office of Violence Prevention cannot.”

This essay manages to be clever and wrong. Clever in its subtle anti-elitism: the media distorts, the elites look down on the “mob mentality.” Citizens know best. Unlike those ivory tower Smarties who are focused on long-term social solutions, the common-sense crowd favors meat-and-potatoes law enforcement such as officer retention and recruitment.

Wrong in that if Fugazi really believes that, she is misinformed.

Officer recruitment and retention is the city’s top priority.  Over the past years, the city HR department has cut police hiring red tape,  the PD replaced an unpopular chief with a respected chief and City Hall put a measure on the ballot, passed by voters, for a sales tax to fund hiring 120 cops.

If that isn’t a focus on hiring, I don’t know what is.

The city has worked with San Joaquin Delta College to transform its part-time academy into a full-time academy, and the police department has partnered with it. A recruitment tool.

New hires sign an agreement: if they leave within five years they must repay the city the $30,000 it spend putting them through the academy. A retention tool.

Meanwhile, the PD has formed a group for police wives, to knit them together socially, so that even if the husbands want to leave, the wives will want to stay. A retention tool.

There are other measures, too. But you get the idea.

The hiring rate of 40 officers a year is not fast enough for anybody. But let’s be realistic. The bankruptcy, which worries cops their compensation may yet be further cut, is still scaring some cops off. The regional market of surrounding law enforcement agencies that pay more is luring cops away. And, frankly, it’s tough here. A Stockton officer responds to a higher percentage of felony calls than the state average. Some officers are lured away by quieter towns.

To ignore these countervailing forces and attribute the pace of hiring to a city that’s basically soft on crime is wrong, at best. At worst, it ignores the intense pressure the city has put on itself.

“We also have to aknowedge there are issues with  so many young officers,” Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said earlier this year. “That puts a tremendous burden on me and my officers and our training staff.”

A tremendous burden Fugazi ignores.

The city is not prioritizing social work over hook-’em-and-book-’em law enforcement. It has evolved a comprehensive strategy that combines both elements. The Marshall Plan was devised by top city/county/state law enforcement leaders. The District Attorney, the head of probation, gang intervention experts, the Sheriff, the Chief of Police and other experts are the guiding a revolution in law enforcement policy in Stockton, informed by an internationally renowned Harvard criminologist and best practices proven effective in other cities.

These are the Smarties Fugazi says are wrong.

Fugazi seem like an intelligent, engaged candidate. But her essay suggests she’s not well-informed about city law enforcement policy.

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The Hollow Mayor

Here’s another “mission accomplished” flyer from Mayor Anthony Silva, in which he takes credit for improvements in Stockton’s public safety.

He takes credit when things improve. But he blames his council colleagues when things get worse.

His preposterous opportunism is but one reason he has been pushed into the political margins. But also chooses to be a sort of City Hall drop-out. Here’s a message from a member of the Marshall Plan Committee, the group of effective leaders doing real, and hard, work.

“Just a note on Silva!  At the last month’s Marshall Plan meeting he was late arriving, sat texting on his phone most of the 20 minutes he was there, did not say anything and left before it was half over!”

I have received numerous similar reports.

Here’s some early reader reaction to today’s column:

From Dennis Lobenberg, retired CHP:

“The police Chief and his officers are a very committed group of men and women who are doing an extremely good job under extremely difficult conditions. You did an outstanding job of pointing out these difficulties in your article.

“In my thirty one years in law enforcement, I never met a politician who was as disruptive to the positive efforts of so many as Mayor Silva. Thank you for standing with the citizens of Stockton in highlighting his negative impact on our way of government.”

From Bobbie Fasano:

“I hope the residents of this city understand that the Police Chief is far more informed and prepared to address the issues of crime than Anthony Silva. Thank you for your in depth reporting and exposure of the truth behind the politics of Silva. He may fool a few but, I for one, am not swayed by this political rookie.”

From Frank J. Cardinalli:

“Even some Republicans I know are openly admitting that their support for his candidacy was a huge mistake.”



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A “match.com” for homeless housing

Interesting: the city of Los Angeles, which has 25,000 homeless people, has earmarked $213 million to expand a computerized system that links the homeless population with necessary services.

One observer calls it “a match.com for housing.”

The idea is to tame L.A’s hydra-headed bureaucracy.

“… the convolutionof shelters and housing groups often work at cross purposes,” says this Next City story. “Different agencies use different admission criteria (job status, criminal history, other personal factors), and many homeless people endure long lines and extensive paperwork only to be turned away because of overcapacity, or because they don’t match the criteria. Because these agencies compete for grant money, there is little communication among them. A person turned away from one non-profit is left alone to decipher which others he should visit. This process … can lead to dozens of stops, often in vain.

“If you can imagine being at an airport, and one of your flights get canceled, and then you’re just running from gate to gate to gate,” Ko explains, “that’s the experience homeless people are going through.”

Here the problem is as much one of capacity as bureaucracy. Still. Such a better mousetrap deserves recognition.

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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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