The giving river

A national river group has named the San Joaquin River the most endangered river in America.

What leaps out of this article is one farmer’s response. “What about all the communities that are supported by the river?” he asked. “What about all the people who work at providing food for the country?”

I don’t dispute his valid interests. But his comment shows the need for leadership and regulations that balances water interests. Because some guys are never satisfied. Even as the San Joaquin struggles for life in the Intensive Care Unit, the people that put it there bellyache they are being denied. 


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Thoughts and ideas on homelessness

Retired police officer Mike Belcher writes:

“It was interesting to see your article today as we have experienced a growth in homeless near the university and I was talking to my officers last week wondering how Anaheim handles these things as you see little of it when visiting Disneyland. A little research and we found (this) article which is a better way of assisting these individuals.

“Back in 1998 the City of Fontana had a similar problem and developed a similar program that was so successful, they had to shut down some of the shelters and feeding stations as they had no clients. They found many of the homeless were from other areas where they had resources and family looking for them. They developed a way to get them back to those resources.

“Didn’t require a task force or a Marshall plan.”

Belcher’s contribution is outstanding. Check out those links. The PD may argue it doesn’t have even two police to devote to homelessness because it is waging a pitched battle against violent crime. But surely this sort of solution deserves consideration.

Mental Health Outreach Worker Dennis Buettner writes:

 ”You also hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the closure of the hotels. We have lost in excess of seven hundred hotel rooms since 2001. The closure of those hotels by the city (some were in very horrific shape), the closure of some by being closed by the owners who plan to redevelop, and the remodeling of some and then not accepting General Assistance. This has created some real problems that compound the issues of the homeless. The lack of development of affordable (in terms of very low to almost no income) is a huge problem.

While those that are on General Assistance (GA) are not counted, what is amazing is the number of people who are on GA but unable to find suitable places to live either due to the poor quality, safety, or just plain availability. Please consider this also, in the old days, the shelters used to be able to say that the stay is 30 days because usually a person could get thing turned around quite quickly and get going again. Those days are long gone. The number of people that call the shelter “Home” versus a stopover is growing.

Among those people that have housing issues (I get tired of hearing we have a “homeless problem” as they are people first) you also have people that have a wide variety of other issues. The number of people who are older than 65 the numbers are growing. You have people with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, substance abuse issues, and mental health issues that are part of that population. It is also correct to say that the Social Security system is a difficult system for many people to navigate.

“Whatever solutions are offered it will take a collaboration many agencies and businesses both private and public to come up with truly viable solutions.”

And it will take a leader capable of bringing those groups together. The mayor deserves credit for taking the first step, but his paranoid distrust of the established system probably means he’s not the guy to get it done.

An anonynous correspondent writes:

“Today Stockton makes the Wall Street Journal, page 2, for the 2006 killing of innocent bystander, Sergio Garibay.
Stockton oughta stop the Ceasefire, touchy-feely encounter group crappolla and initiate a stop and frisk/jail the SOBs program, like the one that NYC initiated under Giuliani. ”

Right. Just hang ‘em higher.

Operation Ceasefire is not some “touchie feelie” encounter group,. Empirical evidence from cities such as Boston shows it works. Criminal justice professionals throughout Stockton and San Joaquin County support it for that reason

I have mixed feelings about stop and frisk. It has made a difference in New York. But it has been ruled unconstitutional, though NYC is appealing the ruling. New Mayor Bill De Blasio has vowed to reform the policy.

Read this and you’ll see some of the concerns with stop and frisk. Essentially it could enhance law and order in Stockton, but at the cost of making racial tensions worse, and of getting the city entangled in costly litigation.

We’re going beyond homelessness here. Stop and frisk (or some constitutional variation) remains a valid option. What is not, however, is the notion that we only have to be tougher: tougher laws, tougher sentences, etc. That has been tried. It failed in Stockton, where law enforcement officials now see the need to complement hook-em-and-book-em policies with programs that treat the social disease and not just its symptoms. It failed in California, where an ever-expanding prison system became so unmanageable its dysfunctions brought federal intervention, AB 109 (realignment), the release of state prisoners to counties, which, paradoxically has put more criminals on our streets.

Affordable housing administrator Bill Mendelson writes:

“Below are some thoughts of how the issue could be addressed without involving the large resources necessary to build more affordable units or to underwrite people’s rent.”

—Create multi-disciplinary (mental health, substance abuse, health care) Support & Intervention Teams – funded through Medi-Cal – to provide support for permanent supportive housing programs

—Develop written policies to prevent discharge to homelessness by foster care, mental health, health care (public & private hospitals), prisons & jails

 —Public schools – develop uniform closets, extend after school programs (parents with limited transportation); work with identified homeless families to find child care; work with transitional housing programs

 —Faith community could institute adopt a family/household to provide basic furnishings for homeless households; contribute to a transportation fund to underwrite the cost of returning people to families; contribute to a deposit assistance program?

—BHS and related agencies work with shelters to identify persons with disabilities and then use the SOAR strategy to help identified people get SSI, etc. (which would provide income for housing, etc.).

—Use a single form for food stamps and other benefits.

—Shelters can institute diversion and prevention efforts through staff training so that only those with no other options end up in shelters.

 —Encourage local businesses to consider hiring qualified people who are homeless.

—Have job training programs provide priority to homeless households

—Housing Authority provides increased priority to homeless individuals and families.


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Speaking of Muir …

… which we were on Monday, when I scratched the surface of Muir’s Stockton ties, preservationists are fighting to save a beautiful hill Muir owned around his Martinez home.

The hill was zoned residential years ago before anyone knew Muir had owned it. A (gasp) developer bought the land, planning to build homes on it.

That story here.

I continue to research John Muir’s ties to Stockton. I have found one strong link, and discovered letters unknown to scholars as well as photographs of Muir with a Stockton friend. Unfortunately, actually getting at them is problematic. I hope to get access and get something in the paper by Muir’s birthday April 21.

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Free murals “selling” like hotcakes

Check out the early repsonse to the column about free muralist Raul Camacho:

—Hi Mr. Fitzgerald, saw the story re:  Rudy Camacho and his big murals.  I would like to get a hold of him to do a mural at the Mexican Heritage Center on Sutter Street.  Can you give me his contact information, or give him mine if you prefer.  Gracie Madrid, President, Mexican Heritage Center & Gallery

—”I have a business in Stockton and would love his number to call and discuss painting.  Thanks
Marc Garcia

Harding Way Launderland
1405 E.  Harding way.

—How would I contact Raul? Stockton Art League is seeking a muralist for their wall facing Maple St.  Miracle Mile.  You may give him my info, if that works best.
Maria Flumiani, Board Member 

So Camacho won’t even have to search for graffiti-marked walls. They’re coming to him. A graffiti artist who has chosen to do things legally will bring art (and blight abatement) to more places in town. This sort of thing is what I love about my job.

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Letter of the day

 Victor Rosasco, a Roberts Island farmer writes:
“As this is being written the San Joaquin River is flowing backwards. The river is not rain-swollen nor muddy or discolered from storm run-off – normal green. The tide changed from high to out-going 45 minutes ago and you can see that the water level is dropping, but the current is going upriver. A stick thrown in the water floats lazily up stream, drawn by the pumps of the State Water Project. A salmon or steelhead smolt trying to find the ocean would probably take the path of the stick.
“Under pressure from water user groups and central valley politicians the state and federal agencies have eased pumping restrictions designed to protect wildlife and prevent saltwater intrusion in the Delta, in order to ship water south for corporate farms under the guise of helping out families and farms hard hit by the drought.
“Even though anyone in California can turn on a tap and get all the water they want.
“Even though municipal supply reservoirs in souther ca  are for the most part full  and ours are for the most part empty.
“Even though this water was hard fought for to flow through and maintain the Delta and its fisheries.
“Even though Kern county has planted over 60,000 acres of permanent crops sinse 2010.
“Even though where this water is going it probably wil be used for export crops.
“Even though these central valley water agencies corporate farms, and water exchanges have drained every drop of surface water in their area and depleted the aquafier to the point where the ground is sinking.
“All it took was letters from the water agencies and their political allies to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to get the pumps going and the protections for the Delta thrown out. Just think how easy this will be if the BDCP twin tunnels project goes through, since the central and southern ca. water user groups are paying for the tunnels, to get whatever they want  they wont even have to write letters, just flip a switch. “ 

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Report: sprawl is not sprawl

I didn’t have time last week to rebut the delusional report that put Stockton on the list of Top 10 most compact mid-sized cities.  

Anyone with a pair of eyeballs can plainly see the ranking of Stockton as a moderately sprawling city is completely bogus. Stockton’s growth during the boom made San Joaquin County one of the fastest growing in the nation. And that growth was enirely at the four corners. Outward, outward! If that isn’t sprawl, what is?

“In the Central Valley, we are absolutely not sprawling,” John Beckman, the head of the local building industry, said in the Record story, enhancing the surrealism. “When folks talk about sprawl, they’re not talking about us.”

R-i-i-ight. If Beckman can say that about Stockton’s recent history, he’ll be saying it when Stockton sprawls to Lodi.

Stockton City Limits pinpointed the flaw in the study’s methodology: It examined metro areas, not cities. You look outside other cites you see suburbs. Which got cities ranked higher on the sprawl-o-meter. You look outside Stockton you see farmland preserved by codes prohibiting ranchettes and by farmland preservation laws such as the Williamson Act and by natural barriers to sprawl such as the Delta.

But of course that doesn’t mean Stockton has not sprawled. Take it away, Stockton City Limits.

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Rolling over the Valley is how California rolls

“Professing that you are progressive can be wise California politics. It means you sound too caring ever to do bad things, while the costly consequences of your ideology usually fall on someone else. And that someone is usually less hip, less wealthy and less powerful.”

—Victor Davis Hanson of the the Hoover Institution and Stanford University.

Example: “California’s reserves of natural gas exceed those of nearly every other state. And in California, electricity prices are the highest in the nation. The cost falls on those in the interior and Sierra who suffer either from scorching summertime temperatures or bitterly cold winters. Those who set energy policies mostly live in the balmy coastal corridor where there is no need for expensive air conditioning or constant home heating.”

This is an amazing insight: in California the veil of progressivism conceals antipathy towards the poor. I have tried to expose some contours of this over the years as it plays out as indifference and even repugnance towards the Central Valley. But Hanson goes further, saying deep hypocrisy here is cultural. Progressivism is nothing without social equity. Nothing.

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Arena column postscript

A poor town with big ambitions built a waterfront arena.

Leaders compromised the city fiscally to pay for it (and the ballpark, and the rest of the Events Center). They were reaching for the stars. But they didn’t understand the facility would occupy a problematic position in the regional concert market.

Some call it a classic case of government proving its ineptitude outside of its ken. They say government should provide drinking water and public safety and a short list of other basic services and leave it at that.

But the arena is also a failure of government inside its ken. On top of the foolish fiscals, leaders ignored the Urban Land Institute’s warning not to build the thing with 100% public money. The whole point was to spark private investment downtown. But Stockton’s leaders knew better. 

I expect SMG will improve the arena’s performance incrementally over the years. But even SMG can’t change the market. From here it’s impossible to see that venue getting enough entertainers and events to jusifty its $69 million cost. It’s like paying $180,000 for a Ferarri and never getting to drive it over 45 mph.

One can go places at 45 mph. Good places. Still, after observing the arena for years, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Stockton simply should not have built it.

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$15 million a day?!

Gov. Jerry Brown gets a lot of credit for balancing California’s budget. But in reality California is still crazy deep in the red.

The biggest problem is CalSTRS, the teacher’s pension system. CalSTRS reported Thursday that its funding gap is $73.7 billion.

The shortfall is growing at a rate of $15 million a day.

Just two days’ worth of this debt would fund 120 Stockton police for a year, restore public safety and obviate the need for the Measure A sales tax.

Five and a half days would pay the entire police department’s budget for a year.

Ten days would pay for city city’s entire General Fund, funding most all departments and city services.

Just 1/74th of CalSTRS immense shortfall would entirely pay Stockton’s $1 billion long-term debt.

CalSTRS isn’t a pension system. It’s a fiscal black hole.

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Our Man in the Arabian Sea

The U.S. Navy sends occasional photos of local folks, often serving in farflung parts of the world. Here’s the latest.


ARABIAN SEA (April 2, 2014) Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Zachary Deg, from Lodi, Calif., assigned to the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, cleans a MH-60S Seahawk aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

The George H.W. Bush is in the U.S. 5th Fleet. The 5th Fleet patrols the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.

—Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew Johnson courtesy of U.S. Navy.

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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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