Leiba: City money hijinks may hinder public safety

Ned Leiba makes a point during a meeting of the Measure A comittee as Gary Ingraham and Rev. Dwight Williams look on.

Ned Leiba, a CPA and fiscal watchdog, writes:

“When you speak of Measure A, do not forget Measure W.  100% of the tax has been raised and remitted to the City, but the City has not been able to meet its police and fire hiring goals, e.g., 25 added police slots were funded while 45 were promised.  The status of Measure W  should be considered whenever Measure A funding is discussed.

“My second recommendation is to follow up on the Annual Reports of the Measure A Committee.  The Committee fought hard against the strong opposition of staff to issue two independent, critical reports.  The Record has not run one story on either of the annual reports.  The reports called for full audits of Measure A, consistent with the May 2015 motion that was passed by the Measure A Committee.  The reports also called for proper metrics to demonstrate funds are effectively and properly used.

“We suffer from a very serious crime problem in Stockton, and your article talks of several factors relevant to crime trends and the City’s attempts to suppress criminal activity.  I urge the Record to consider that the City’s failure to spend the majority of the $110,000,000 Measure A funds probably is a big factor that limits an effective response to crime.

“We have Measure A financial reports that clearly show (1) the City has not spent a majority of the funds raised on police, and (2) even substantial amounts reflected on the Measure A financial statements as actually spent, were not “actually spent.”  There was an obvious $2.26 million math error on the Measure A financial report filed with government authorities.  Without proper audits, who knows how much sloppiness, misstatements, internal control and compliance reside beneath the surface?  Who knows what benefits in lower crime we would enjoy if funds were efficiently spent?

“The failure to properly utilize Measure A funds and the failure to conduct required audits, points to serious administrative problems with the City that hampers the ability of law enforcement to address our crime problem.”

If I understand Leiba’s objection, the city of Stockton used Measure A money for “mission critical” needs outside the police department during the period when the tax revenue was coming in but budgeted police positions could not be filled. But then if Leiba is right and proper audits of Measure A expenditures have not been done, the city could have spent that money on anything. If the city has not been transparent about those expenditures, that must change.

I take Leiba’s point about Measure W, too. It promised 45 cops but never delivered. Leiba is saying the city may be concealing a pattern of misappropriation and fiscal sloppiness when every dollar put towards public safety should count. Worth looking into in the New Year.

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What police accomplished in 2017

A Stockton Police officer examines the scene of a double homicide outside of Lupita's Sports Bar on Charter Way in west Stockton. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

To complement today’s column on crime in Stockton this year, here are some of the Stockton Police Department’s 2017 accomplishments. I bolded some of the most notable.

* Chief Jones was named Chair of Cal Chiefs evidence based policing subcommittee.

* Was a platinum ASTORS award winner for Best Crime Prevention Program – “Project Forbode”. This applies cutting edge predictive analytics in an effort to both forecast and prevent gun violence incidents.

* Met hiring goals third year in a row (hire 80+ per year).

* Enhanced capacity for our Ceasefire group violence intervention strategy through increased staffing/resources and close coordination with OVP.

* Seized over 745 firearms so far (through November), which is up 17% from last year

* Completed CAD (computer aided dispatch) upgrade; received the 2017 Best in California award for Demonstrated Excellence in Project Management from the Center for Digital Government

* Per last UCR report the YTD numbers for Calls for Service and Dispatched calls through November 2016/2017 are:
Calls for Service 2016 – 373,015 calls received; 126,268 dispatched calls
Calls for Service 2017 – 382,833 calls received; 162,123 dispatched calls
Calls for Service increased by 2.6%
Dispatched calls increased by 28.3%

* Per last UCR report the YTD numbers for Felony Arrests through November 2016/2017 are:

* Felony Arrests 2016 – 3,491

* Felony Arrests 2017 – 3,784

* Felony Arrests increased by 8.3%

* Per last UCR report the YTD numbers for Homicide, Robbery and Agg. Assault through November are:

* Homicide: 40.4% which shows a 13.9% clearance increase from 2016

* Robbery: 22.8% which shows a 2.8% clearance increase from 2016

* Agg. Assault: 33.7 % which shows a 1% clearance increase from 2016

* Wellness unit recognized by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund as part of the Destination Zero Program as the national winner for the category of Officer Wellness.

* Ranked 9th in the nation for a city of 300,000+ in National Night Out Participation – up from 13th in 2016.

* Deployment of over 350 upgraded body-worn cameras

Notable Grants received in 2017:

* Micro-Grant for Building Officer Wellness and Resiliency from the Department of Justice COPS Office in partnership with University of the Pacific Athletics. ($75,000)

* Office of Traffic Safety DUI Selective Traffic Enforcement Program grant ($555,000), which includes funding for two new motorcycles to expand the Traffic Unit.

* Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) grant ($100,000) for training, education and enforcement efforts.

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A sign of respect

Signs of the Times trade magazine eulogizes Stockton electric sign wizard Chuck Barnard:


Former Ad Art artist Chuck Barnard with Vegas Vickie. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

“Barnard had a vision as unique as Las Vegas itself, and he brought it to life. He “painted” the entire city using lights in a way and a scale that hadn’t been seen before. … With each successive design, Barnard broke new ground, pushed boundaries and raised the bar for all the incredible signs to come.”

Here’s the column I did.By the way, the Sign of the Times article misidentifies Vegas Vickie, calling her Sassy Sally. It’s a common mistake because Sassy Sally’s casino was right next door. Barnard designed that sign, too.


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Tubbs makes Forbes’ 30 Under 30

Mayor Michael Tubbs appears in Forbes magazine’s December “30 Under 30″ issue of up-and-coming leaders and innovators — dressed in $13,283 worth of designer clothes.

“Few American cities have the same notoriety as Stockton, California,” begins Forbes, which did much to enhance that notoriety by twice declaring Stockton America’s Most Miserable City. “Native son Michael Tubbs, the city’s youngest-ever mayor and the first African-American to hold that office, would very much like to change that.”

A postcript details Tubbs’ clothing.

The optics of this — well, they play into the meme that Tubbs has forsaken his roots for the elite.

“11k suit but has yet to do jack in this city but lie and try to sell off land to his buddies,” says Anthony Mignone II on Facebook

Tubbs spokesperson Daniel Lopez said, “When they called him up and said he was going to be selected, was honored. They set up a photo shoot for him. They provide the wardrobe. They took the picture, he got out of the suit and left. They kept the suit.”

Lopez thinks the honor is a good thing. “Before they called us America’s Most Miserable City. Now at least they’re saying we’re moving in the right direction.”

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Supervisor Miller on county homelesness efforts

Ready to roll: Supervisor Kathy Miller and the county's plan to reduce homelessness.

Supervisor Kathy Miller writes:

“The County did move forward with a position for a Coordinator of Homeless Services (the co-called “homeless czar”–MF).  We have secured funding for the first year of the position through a one-time grant from the Community Corrections Partnership (AB109), since 15% of the homeless population are either from their recently incarcerated or probation population.  We’ll be working to secure additional grant funding to ensure we have the first 3 years of the position funded.

“The County is also in the process of requesting that the 4 cities with homeless populations, as reported in the most recent Point In Time Count, provide a modest financial commitment to backfill any shortfall in grant funding for the position.  The requests are based on their % of homeless population, i.e. Stockton’s range was approximately 64% or $33,000 – $100,000/year and Lodi’s was 14% or $7,500 – $24,000/year.

“To date, the City Managers of Stockton and Lodi have received the request. We’ll be making similar asks of Tracy and Manteca.  Obtaining their financial “buy in” is important for future grant requests, as it demonstrates a county-wide commitment and tangible evidence of a collaborative approach.  Recruitment for the position is either just underway, or will be very shortly.

“The County also secured an additional 200 hours of technical assistance from HUD to help us make the transition from a task force to an expanded and reinvigorated Continuum of Care.*  Working with HUD is important, especially in the rapidly shifting political climate in D.C., to ensure we’re positioned to receive as much federal funding as possible.  Having them advise us on how best to structure the CoC, so that we conform to the new federal priorities, is raising our profile within HUD and might make a big difference in the near future.

Stockton firefighters prepare to put out fire at homeless campsite underneath the crosstown freeway at Aurora and Lafayette Streets in Stockton.

“We now have 3 cities in SJC – Tracy, Manteca and Lodi – who have invested in Community Liaison Officer(s) to specifically outreach and divert homeless individuals within their cities.  All are reporting significant success.  I would follow-up with the various departments to get some of their stats…very impressive.

“Ready To Work, a new non-profit representing a public-private partnership, has secured a lease for 3 of the vacant barracks at the Honor Farm ($1/year rent to SJC), pledges of significant financial support from private community members/foundations, several grants for operations, formalized an arrangement with Probation and the Courts to serve as a re-entry program for AB109 folks and chronically homeless men who are referred from Homeless Court.

“The program includes residential treatment and job training to prevent their target population from falling into or returning to homelessness.  I believe they’re hoping to begin accepting clients by the end of this year …”

*So after much policy development and beaureaucratic work, the county’s effort to reduce homelesness will come off the drawing board in 2018. Somethign to look forward to.

Back to my kvetch: I assume Stockton’s share of homelesness is biggest not only because the city is San Joaquin’s largest and because its economy is weak but because other cities don’t offer much. So the homeless come here. To gel the indifference of other cities into Stockton’s permanent responsibility could be seen as unfair. But let’s no be parochial. This appears to be real progress toward substantial solutions.

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Mendelson: Reducing homelessness takes years

Jon Mendelson ducks beneath Interstate 5 in north Stockton during January's count of the Stockton's unsheltered homeless population.

Jon Mendelson, executive director of Ready to Work, writes:

“Thanks for sharing the thoughts of Councilwoman Fugazi on your blog. After reading it, I felt compelled to respond, as I believe we are heading in the right direction regarding homelessness. Forward, not backward.

“First, I give the councilwoman credit for going to the encampments and helping out firsthand with the never-ending cleanup efforts. As someone who has spent significant time walking through the encampments and speaking with those who live in them, I can confirm it’s not a comfortable or easy experience, so she deserves kudos. I share her frustration that homelessness seems more intractable than it ever has .

“Unfortunately, the councilwoman has heard one of the most pernicious myths regarding homelessness in San Joaquin County. This myth is that we have homeless people in our county because we offer so many services. In reality, our services pale in comparison to those offered in the Bay Area. One only need to look at the $275 million spent in the past year in San Francisco on homelessness to realize this.

“While there is a concentration of encampments around the nexus of St. Mary’s Dining Room and Stockton Shelter, this concentration is partly explained because these stalwart organizations are two of the few places in the county that offer comprehensive services, shelter, and meals. Maybe the encamped people wouldn’t be on that particular block if those organizations didn’t exist, but they would be here somewhere. People live in Stockton and San Joaquin County for a variety of reasons, but it is simply not accurate to say that our County offers so many services that it is a beacon attracting homeless individuals from far and wide.

“The reason this myth is dangerous is it might encourage some people to say we should offer fewer services, not more, in the hopes that homeless people will simply go away. That approach would backfire and would lead to a worse problem than the one that already exists.

“That said, there are many local programs here doing hard work each day. But the resources available don’t allow them the capacity to serve the need. More resources to shelters would allow them to serve more of the people in encampments; more resources for rent support would allow the placement of more homeless into permanent housing; more development of housing would provide more opportunity for people to be housed with existing rent support money; more resources to transitional programs would provide more homeless with the skills for self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, our nonprofits can only do so many repairs with their limited toolbox.

“One of the reasons homelessness is so visible in San Joaquin County is because it has been overlooked for a long time. For many years, both the county and its cities (with the exception of some notable individuals) have been content to let local nonprofits rely on private fundraising and federal funds to address homelessness.

“Meanwhile, the places in the nation that have demonstrated the most success addressing homelessness have had a tremendous amount of local resources put toward the problem, including city and county money for shelter, permanent housing, and rent support. That has not happened in San Joaquin County until recently, with Tracy, Manteca, and Lodi dedicating police officers to the issue; the County deciding to hire a homeless coordinator; the County, sheriff, and District Attorney partnering to get Ready to Work off the ground; and Mayor Michael Tubbs proposing a Homeless Housing Mitigation Fund that the City Council approved.

“These are groundbreaking steps! Seriously — a huge round of applause for the officials who made these decisions, including Councilwoman Fugazi! They are small compared to the complex problem we face, and  they represent only the first steps in changing how our community addresses homelessness, but it takes a long time to turn a supertanker steaming in the open ocean. This problem didn’t spring up overnight. It took years of neglect, and it will take years for the trend to visibly reverse.

“Thanks to the leadership of Supervisors Miller and Winn, the Homelessness Task Force has put together policies and strategies for reducing and ending local homelessness — but without additional money to implement these plans, the status quo will remain. That status quo is emergency shelters that operate at or above capacity, emergency shelters that cannot accommodate the types of households we see in encampments, encampments that are a hazard to human health and safety, a lack of permanent housing for those who are homeless and/or very low income, and a lack of support to help the homeless obtain the long-term income necessary to keep them housed.

“Progress will be slow, but there is real energy to change things in San Joaquin County. People are working together. New partnerships have increased the resources we can bring to bear on the issue including millions of dollars for new projects, and new nonprofits are stepping up to fill gaps in our response to homelessness, most notably Ready to Work. Health Services, the Human Services Agency (both county departments), and the Housing Authority are expanding their roles. The various shelters, St. Mary’s, and Central Valley Housing continue to do daily yeoman’s work helping people on the streets while receiving little to no credit. We’re headed in the right direction.

“This progress is real. It will take time for it to be seen by the typical Stocktonian, but we have the opportunity to make a dramatic change for our community and those who live in it. What we need most is patience from the public and elected officials, and the resources to do the work.”

Thanks to Mendelson. At the end of the year, when reviewing how Stockton fared, I’ll assess progress reducing homelesness as a matter of course. I expect to see progress, though I don’t know how much of it has progressed form the halls of county government to the streets.

Until then, I do wonder at Mendelson attributing “a concentration of encampments” to the presence in Stockton of St. Mary’s Dining Room and Stockton Shelter “because these stalwart organizations are two of the few places in the county that offer comprehensive services, shelter, and meals.” Doesn’t this confirm what Fugazi said? Not her implication that the county is doing nothing effective — I believe the county has done solid work over the last two years — but her concern that Stockton is a magnet because other communities in San Joaquin County are not taking responsibility for their homeless.

If that’s so, the response should not, as Mendelson says, be slashing resources. But maybe the response should be should the broader distribution of resources countywide, the decentralization of services, allowing the homeless to access resources in cities of origin.


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Fugazi: We’re going backwards on homelessness

A giveawa;y of coats, gloves and blankets at Stockton Homeless Shelter Dec. 1.

Council member Christina Fugazi participated in a clean-up over the weekend and posted this:

“This post shows how the homeless issue does not appear to be lessening, but in fact growing.

“… The lines keep getting longer and longer and the number of homeless throughout Stockton has never been more prevalent. I have no idea where all of these people are coming from, but I am told that the Stockton area offers more assistance than other places in California.

“If programs are in place helping people, maybe they need to be better advertised or the public needs to be informed of the progress. After what I witnessed firsthand last weekend with the cleanup and the subsequent mass exodus around 8am, the work of the county taskforce on homelessness wasn’t very clear.

“I am not discounting their work, I am just saying it is difficult to see amongst the tents, tarps, buckets of human excrement, and piles up piles of used furniture, household items, and trash. I looked for county employees, but I mainly saw city workers with the exception of those wearing AWP vests. I didn’t even see Dennis Buettner in the group, but maybe I missed him and others from the taskforce on Saturday. I was only at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless from 8am-3pm.

“Again, I offer my assistance wherever I can to help our community and that includes those who are living on the streets as well as those who are not.”

Kudos to Fugazi for volunteering and for calling out the county — though the city deferred to the county on homelessness, reasoning that the county is the conduit for state and federal funds to address the problem. Fugazi is clearly saying two years of work by the county has not dented the situation on the ground.

Then there’s this: “I have no idea where all of these people are coming from, but I am told that the Stockton area offers more assistance than other places in California.” Both of those — where the homeless are coming from and whether Stockton offers more assistance — is something she should know, as homelesness is one of the bigger issues facing the city. So should we, if we ever want to address the root causes of Stockton’s worsening homeless problem.


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McNerney introduces “geoengineering” bill


"Let's save the earth."

Stockton Congressman Jerry McNerney has introduced legislation to explore combating climate change through “geoenginering.”

Geoengineering is “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change.”

“Today, the Congressman has introduced H.R. 4586, the Geoengineering Research Evaluation Act,” his office announced. “This legislation would provide for a federal commitment to the creation of a geoengineering research agenda and an assessment of the potential risks of geoengineering practices.

The idea is for a the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology (SST) to collect information from experts in the field of geoengineering.

“We’ve reached a moment of clarity in the fight against climate change where we are experiencing the repercussions of the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gasses,” said McNerney. “Even if human beings were to cease all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, significant atmospheric change has already been set in motion and will continue to occur for generations to come.”

“The legislation, cosponsored by SST Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson, would commission the National Academies of Science (NAS) to produce two reports recommending a geoengineering research strategy and oversight principles for such research. These reports would build on two previously published NAS reports, which concluded that there is currently insufficient information to effectively deploy large-scale climate interventions,” the announcement continues.

“As with any scientific deployment, preliminary research that evaluates the potential opportunities and risks of implementation is necessary to ensure we are effectively combatting the targeted problem without risking the threat of another,” said Congressman McNerney. “This bill would authorize a rigorous review process to determine where we should make federal investments in this emerging research field, and how we should set up oversight of this research.”

Interesting, groundbreaking and perhaps also a cause for modest optimism that science has not been banished from the Capitol.


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No, we do have bananas

Back in August, when a Sacramento nonprofit brought its Banana Festival to Stockton, we looked in vain for any banana-growing farmer in San Joaquin County.

But they don”t grow here. Too cold, said the county Agricultural Commissioner.

That brought an e-mail from Margatita Diaz. Diaz said bananas grow nicely in her yard.

Now Diaz writes back with a “crop report:” “Just wanted to update on my Stockton grown bananas. I cut 1 of 2 bundles down this morning.  Now just waiting for them to ripen.”

Looking good. Diaz, however, didn’t say what she does with her bananas. Eat them? Smoothies? Daquiries?

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Anniversary of the Ghost Ship fire

Ghost Ship fire survivor Sam "Peaches" Maxwell and mother Wendi Maxwell in his Oakland home in 2016. Photo courtesy Bill and Wendi Maxwell

Tomorrow it will be one year since a swift and horrible fire raced through an underground Oakland warehouse colony called the Ghost Ship, killing 36 mostly young people.

And injuring one Stockton man. Sam “Peaches” Maxwell was the last person to make it out.

Injuries from the fire took a terrible toll on Maxwell, who was then 32. The scalding smoke seared his lungs. “He has fought off pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, a cardiac episode, blood pressure fluctuations, fevers, a swollen liver and spleen,” his father, Bill Maxwell said in this column.

Sam remains an invalid at his parents’ Stockton home in painfully gradual recovery.

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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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