The underwhelming hyacinth campaign

From his waterfront window, Chamber CEO Douglass Wilhoit sends this picture of the mighty state armada attacking the water hyacinth that is choking Stockton waterways.

For obvious reasons, the state dislikes the term “eradication” campaign, preferring to call it a “control” campaign. But as my colleague, environmental reporter Alex Breitler, points out, the state is not controlling water hyacinth.

Have you seen the Calaveras River? If this is control, God forbid we should ever see uncontrolled growth of water hyacinth.

Surely there is a more effective way to control this unwelcome plant. Where is the leader who can streamline the bureaucracy and beef up the inadequate resources devoted to water hyacinth?

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The Gravy Train

The recession and unsustainable pension costs have led to varying degrees of reforms. They range from the radical cuts in Stockton’s bankruptcy to Gov. Brown’s modest reforms to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposals to reduce pensions going forward.

And then, at the other end of the spectrum there is … no reform. On the contrary. Some unreconstructed institutions still act against all actuarial data and fiscal prudence as if ever-more can be taken the public trough.

Such as CalPERS. In August the Hogzilla of California agencies voted up 99 bonuses for public employees, all pension sweeteners. As this L.A. Times story says, Hogzilla is an estimated $100 billion in the hole of unfunded pension liability — so why not increase the cost of pensions even more?

It’s preposterous. And outrageous.

But while CalPERS may be a fiscal black hole swallowing cities, at least its executives are secretive and disingenuous.

“CalPERS repeatedly told The Times it didn’t know how much the bonuses were adding to the cost of worker pensions even though cities submit detailed pay and bonus information that is used to calculate retirement pay,” the Times reports.

Translation: they’re trying to conceal their greed.

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Little did Kashkari know

… that the paddlewheel riverboat on which he toured Stockton’s waterfront on Wednesday has such amazing story of perseverance and tragedy.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari and Bob Wright, aboard the Kennon Doyle.

Decades ago Bob Wright, a sign painter, undertook to build that boat from scratch, though he had no training in boat-building and no design plans.

Proceeding by trial and error — sometimes big errors — Wright nevertheless built a wonderful riverboat, though it took him 25 years, much, much longer than he expected.

And on the very day he planned at long last to debut it to the world, he suffered major heart failure, which invalided him. He has largely recovered, but he may never fully recover. He never realized the ambitious plans he had for his vessel.

Anyway, the boats presumptive chartering by the local Republican group for gubernatorial Neel Kashkari is a well deserved moment of limelight for a Stockton dreamer and his remarkable accomplishment.

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The annals of dumb city laws

This just in from the International City Manager Association’s SmartBrief:

Wash. city council allows ticketing of minors who look high

The Liberty Lake, Wash., City Council has passed an ordinance that permits police to give minors a $50 ticket for appearing to be high on marijuana. Critics find the ordinance too vague, saying appearing to be high is not a crime and that police could have difficulty telling whether teenagers are high or acting like typical teenagers. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) (free content)

What are they smoking up there?

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The Halls of Motecuzoma

Motecuzoma Sanchez served his country as a U.S. Marine. He’s engaged in his community. And his Facebook Page is a lively community forum.

For instance, Sanchez raised valid questions about the qualifications of the new head of the Office for Violence Prevention. And he had the integrity (or foresight) in that post to disclose that he applied for the job.

But another reason his page is so lively is that Sanchez is hopelessly contentious. He’s always fussing and feuding. Take his online attacks on Council member Michael Tubbs, or his appearance at the council last night, as reported in this story.

“Sanchez said he does not support the mayor but suggested Silva would have faced stringent discipline from the council if he had been arrested for DUI.

“Close your eyes and imagine if this was Anthony Silva,” Sanchez said.

OK … I’m closing my eyes. I see a mayor that came into office with no substantial agenda, who insulted the council, who destroyed decorum at council meetings, who has been investigated (but not charged) for sex crimes, who runs with a crowd of weirdos, who bungles things, who is often absent, who is still trying to undermine incumbents, who to this day has not accomplished anything.

Now I see Tubbs, whose whose intellectual firepower and fundamental reforms I sketched in this column.

Given the radical disparity between the two I can see why the council might take a different stance toward admonishing Tubbs. I’m not saying they should not; that is the council’s call. I’m saying there is a good argument for different responses. The situation is analogous to a judge faced with a first-time offender who is an outstanding community citizen and a repeat offender who is a drag on everyone.

That is the ethical logic. But I believe such logic takes a back seat with Sanchez because — for reasons unknown to me — he has “fixed bayonets” against Tubbs.

It seems clear that he would do the same to his colleagues if elected to office. To put it another way, no jarhead gets to be a general without a streak of diplomacy.

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The San Francisco syndrome

A recent theme on this blog is the wonderful city of San Francisco’s insufferable tendency to heap costs and burdens on anybody who wants to do anything — because San Francisco is so wonderful, so they can.

In the latest wrinkle, a federal judge just struck down the city’s new ordinance requiring landlords to shell out big bucks to evicted tenants when they sell off their rentals.

The idea was to ease the blow to unhomed tenants. But the payout often topped $100,000 — a landlord paying tenants not to live in his dwelling. Amazing.

The judge said, “A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed.”

Bingo. A person who chooses to live in San Francisco chooses to pay higher rents. And to live in a volatile real estate market with a higher possibility of seeing their home sold.

But individual responsibility is secondary in the mind of the San Francisco Supervisor.  Also secondary is a person’s constitutional right to sell their property. To the Supes’ way of thinking, the state — or, in this case, the city/county — bears responsibility for mitigating the individual’s choice to live in pricey digs.

Supervisor David Campos vowed not to be deterred by the little matter of the U.S. constitution.

“This is not a permanent setback,” he said.

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“The worst place to breathe in the nation”

It’s Bakersfield, says Time magazine.

In an online article, Time ran a photo essay on the subject. The photographer is a Bakersfield native.

Lexey Swall says, “I remember my grandfather driving me home to Bakersfield from vacation when I was 15 years old. We came out of the foothills east of town and in to the valley. In the glow of the remaining light, I saw a thick brown film hanging over town. I realized this was the air I was breathing. This was my home, and it was toxic.”

Bakersfield’s proximity to L.A. and oil industry make it the rich brother in the poor family of Central Valley cities. I’d rather breathe.

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The rebirth of Stockton rock poster art

Riotgun, an L.A. punk band, is playing Rebel’s this Saturday night. I like the poster.

“They played the Central Social Mexicano Hall on Lincoln street about 12 or 13 years ago and still have a lot of friends here,” writed Edward J. Bonilla. “Great band.”



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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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    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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