McNerney to Tesla: “bet on Stockton”

Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, has written Elon Musk a letter urging him to site the Tesla “gigaplant” in Stockton:

“Mr. Musk, you will be hard pressed to find a community with more heart than Stockton, California. There has never been a better time to bet on our city.”

Read the congressman’s letter here: RepMcNerneyLettertoElonMusk

“When the decision where to site the “gigaplant” occurs — whether we win or lose — then will be the time to credit the efforts of local officials, the congressman included. And to ask them, if need be, what more could have been done.

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A great Stockton band

The jazz genius Gil Evans played in Stockton for 10 years with a band. So no one can make sweeping statements about bands being “the best band ever” from Stockton.  

But the Stuart Little Band is on the short list.

I happend to see one of their intimate UOP gigs as a teenager.  I never forgot it, mostly because the virtuoso lead guitar player, David Kemp, played ”Aqualung”-level guitar solos. But their whole approach of poetic musicality over rock bombast was memorable.

Here’s their logo, which member Gordon “Grody” Clark appropriated from Scandanavian Christmas iconograpy.

 Here’s the post-Clark band with frequent collaborator Bernie Bang. A mime who studied pantomime in Paris with Marcel Marceau, Bang (his real name) still lives in Stockton, I’m told.


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A homeboy’s pledge to Tesla

Tim Nunes copies us a letter he sent to Elon Musk:

“Dear Mr. Musk,

“I have long admired your many accomplishments, including PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX. On a personal note, the [soon to be released]Tesla X is my dream car. Unfortunately, after a recent layoff and +eight months out-of-work, I seem further from that dream than ever.

“Still, there’s something I dream of even more than owning a Tesla, and that’s owning a Tesla at least partially built in my hometown of Stockton, California. Stockton is a beautiful California city with a rich and vibrant history that rivals any other city in the state. Stockton is also a city populated by a wealth of hard-working people who, I guarantee, would help ensure the continued success and growth of Tesla Motors.

“That said, here’s the money behind my guarantee…… Though my current circumstances aren’t what they were just a few years ago, I pledge that, should you decide to locate your newest plant in Stockton, I will buy a Tesla X. Somehow (and you have my word on this), regardless of what I have to do to finance such a purchase, I promise to walk into my local Tesla Motors showroom in Oakbrook, IL, near where I now live, and place an order the very day the doors of Tesla’s Stockton plant swing open to welcome thousands of hard working Stocktonians.

“I know it’s just one car… But it’s one car being purchased for all the right reasons… Just as it will be one new plant locating someplace special for all the right reasons.


Tim Nunes
Lisle, IL”


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When “Flubber” filmed in Stockton

OK, so Robin Williams didn’t come to Stockton. But the production company of his movie “Flubber” did. In 1996 a movie production unit came to University of the Pacific.

Among other touches, the movie-makers renamed the college.


 As you can see from this edition of UOP’s student newspaper, numerous students got jobs as extras

Here’s a quote from the movie.

“I know I love her, Weebo. Every neuron in my limbic system is saturated with phenylethylamine. That triggers euphoria, elation exhilaration. Truth is, Weebo, I’m not absent-minded because I’m selfish, crazy or inconsiderate. I’m absent-minded because I’m in love with Sara.”

—Images courtesy University of the Pacific Special Collections. 


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Score one for the new guys

Stockton’s fiscal implosion cost old bureaucrats their jobs and brought in a new management team. The new order, we were told, reflected new values: integrity, fiscal prudence, public service (as opposed to self-enrichment) and business-friendly policies.

It was going to be a whole new deal.

That sounded great. But the time inherent in effecting a major management culture shift, the bankruptcy and the recession created a lag between the proclamation of a new way of doing things and actually getting things done.

But we’re starting to see it now. Case in point:  luring new employer Diesel Direct West from Sacramento to Stockton. Diesel District West makes $65 million a year providing “on-site fueling services” for trucks.

It’ll employ 40 people in Stockton. It’ll generate an estimated $227,500 annually in new sales tax revenue for the city.

It’s safe to say the city didn’t lure this outfit with its good looks. The city once so business unfriendly that its Community Development Department generated a perennial string of complaints from the business community offered a smart suite of incentives: a $422,500 rebate, based on this formula:

“If a new business that qualifies for the incentive generates a minimum of $25 million in new sales, $250,000 of the resulting sales tax revenue will be split evenly between the business and the city. At $50 million in new sales, the business will get 65 percent of $500,000, with the city keeping the rest.”

Certain business leaders have done literally hundreds of presentations in places such as Silicon Valley, vying to lure employers here. Their efforts met with little success in part because the did not address the underlying structural problems in Stockton government. But if the city keeps dangling this sort of carrot, Diesel District West will be seen as just the beginning of real economic development: jobs, higher incomes and a better quality of municipal life.  


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The water bond: pros and fiery cons

Is the $7.5 billion water bond the legislature passed this week good for the state? And does it put the hurt on the Delta region?

Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis, who co-authored the bill, says it’s good.

“This is a very different bond than the pork-laden one currently on the ballot, which helped some regions of this state, but hurt others,” said Wolk, who sticks up for the Delta. “This bond is good for the Delta and all of California, and it’s affordable.”

The bond meets state needs, but ”it includes hard-won victories for the Delta including language to ensure this bond is BDCP neutral and includes no funding that can be used to pay for the Delta tunnels or tunnel mitigation projects,” Wolk said.

“Also included are requirements that Delta communities have a voice in decisions on projects in the Delta—as well as first-ever funding for the Delta Conservancy and the opportunity for the Conservancy to demonstrate that it can deliver on the important charge it was given in 2009,” her statement said.

“This bond is a compromise,” she concluded. “It isn’t perfect. But it is still a win for the Delta and the state, and it is a bond that voters can support in November.

No, no, no, said Bill Jenings, head of the California Sportfishing Protection A.

Jennings called the bond “a poster-child of pork barrel politics, a rejection of 21st Century solutions and a return to the failures of the Dam Building era.”

“Contrary to claims by the architects of the Water Bond, it represents an enormous underground subsidy for BDCP’s Delta tunnels,” Jenings wrote.  

How? “It provides $2.7 billion for new, marginal, river-damaging, low yield dams benefiting special interests that will provide little “new” water and would not be economically viable except for lavish public subsidies.  To persuade the dam lobby to support the Bond, the legislature increased funding for dam construction by slashing funds allocated to recycling by more than 44% from the previous version of the Bond.”

Also, “Under existing regulations, purchased water upstream becomes “abandoned” as it enters the Delta and thereby is “available” for export through the tunnels to southern California.  Public purchases of water represent an enormous subsidy for special interests and supporters of the Delta tunnels.”

Yes, the he bond provides millions of dollars for new habitat in the Delta, but “the vast majority of existing habitat restoration projects in the 223,000 acres of present conservation lands in the Delta have failed because of the massive diversion of water that is a necessary prerequisite for functional, productive aquatic habitat that benefits native species,” Jennings wrote.

So there’s a sketch of pros and cons pending further analysis. I have the greatest repect for Wolk, but off the cuff it appears the only reason the Delta is receiving environmental restoration funds is to mitigate the exports through the tunnels. Therefore — again, as a preliminary judgment — the bond is not “tunnel neutral;” it helps make the tunnels a reality.


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Robin Williams’ ‘body double’ was here (?!)

Said yesterday there appearred to be no local angle on Robin Williams, but one surfaced — sorta: Part of the the 1996 movie, “Flubber” was filmed here.

That fact is in UOP’s archives.

But Williams himself was not part of the shoot, says archivist Michael Wurtz.
“Robin Williams, like Harrison Ford before him, was in a movie that had a few shots taken on campus, but never set foot at UOP,” Wurtz writes. 
He adds:
“According to the November 7, 1996 Pacifican: “Film crews used 25 students as extras for a number of exterior shots of campus. At one point a Williams body-double was used to repeatedly crash a motor scooter into the steps of Knoles Hall for one of the scenes.”:
I’ll see if I can get a photo of the movie shoot.


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Stockton, still in running for Tesla?

Gov. Brown and state officials are moving heaven and earth to land the Tesla battery plant in California — where Stockton has been identified as the leading potential site.

Brown pledged to suspend state environmental regulations and give the plant a huge tax break, the L.A. Times reports.

Negotiations between Stockton and Tesla are being conducted in strictest confidence. The lack of encouraging news gives the impression that California may be losing out to other states. But with movement like that from our state, Stockton may be a lot closer to a deal than people think.

The 6,500-job Tesla plant would be huge for Stockton. It would not only hire that many people, but take many of them off local social service rolls. It would attract ancillary businesses. It would produce a positive counter-narrative to the city’s PR nightmare of crime and bankruptcy. It would make landing the next big fish easier. 

It’s good to know the state, for once, has the city’s back.

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Cortopassi makes his mark

The Sacramento Bee reports:

“Gerald Meral (Gov. Brown’s former top water official) sent a letter to legislators on Sunday urging that they approve ameasure but place it on the 2016 ballot.

“Meral said he anticipates that Dino Cortopassi, a wealthy Delta farmer and tomato processor, would spend heavily to defeat any such measure.”

Cortopassi has been runing a series of opinion ads in this paper.

Cortopassi ad

And it appears he’s making a dent in the debate. Or in the politics. Bravo.

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A Robin Williams review

I can find no local angle on Robin Williams — which is odd, because he lived nearby in the North Bay and frequently appeared in San Francisco comedy clubs.


Flowers, photographs and candles surround the star of actor-comedian Robin Williams forming a makeshift memorial along the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. Williams, 63, died at his San Francisco Bay Area home Monday in an apparent suicide. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)


But back in the ’80s, when this paper sent critics to review Bay Area shows, a woman named Noma Faingold caught Williams at the Warfield Theatre. Williams was 33 and at the top of his game. Here is her review.

It’s already been said hundreds of times: Robin Williams is a comedic genius.

No one is more quick. He can take any inanimate object, any word being heckled at him or any mannerism and instantly make it funny. He’s so fast audiences can’t possible catch, digest and remember all the clever references, the one liners, the mini-characterizations or the physical side of his act.

If you put Richard Pryor (in his prime), Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Jay Leno and Rodney Dangerfield — any big or small name in comedy — in a (padded) room with Williams to go head-to-head in a comedy marathon, Williams would be the winner every time.

When Williams, 33, was on stage at the Warfield, you got the feeling that eve though he exited after an 85-minute set, he could have continued for as long as he wanted.

Most of the capacity crowd wuold have stayed to watch, too.

It’s not that what Williams talks about is so earthshaking, although his topical bits are gently reflective of a destructive society. The gift of Williams with an audience is that he makes them feel as if he needs them. 

“He never once had to say, “i love you. You’re the greatest audience in the world.” People could just sense that performing is a need for him.”

The loyal hometown Bay Area crowd — Williams lives on a ranch in the Napa Valley — loves him because:

–Williams has been loyal to the area. He often pops up at small comedy clubs and does guest sets.

–Williams is likable on stage. He is a hopeful cynic. His humor may often be biting, but it is never mean-spirited.

–He’s intelligent. Though nearly half of his act relates to sex and drugs, perhaps the least challenging subject for an educated and cultured man like Williams to pursue, he is never condescending to his audience. Because he is so quick, he makes the audience feel smart when they’re able to keep up with him. People laugh even if they don’t get it.

 –Williams is a master of improvisation and spontaneity. Even if Williams is doing material, he still looks as if he’s making it up on the spot.

Williams doesn’t just tell a joke. He becomes the guy the joke is about.

One minute he was an umpire who was given acid. “I’m a turtle …Don’t steal home. Share it.”

Then he segued into a black outfielder on cocaine. “I don’t know whether to slide (into third base) or do a line.”

The outfielder told us knowingly that Babe Ruth and other players way back then must have done cocaine too. Williams imitated the speeded up movements of Ruth as seen on any reel of old baseball action footage.

Williams touched on his own abuses of  alcohol and cocaine of a few years ago. “The purpose of alcohol is to bring out the a—— in you.”

He described Ronald Reagan as a creation of Walt Disney and acted out that idea. The impression was painfully accurate.

Williams said one day Reagan will reveal his true self as Richard Nixon. Peeling of an imaginary mask, Williams says in a Nixon voice: “I’m back. Jason’s (the killer in the “Friday the 13th” movies) in the White House.”

Then he talked about Nixon. “I saw Nixon on the cover of Newsweek. That’s like putting John Hinkley on the cver of Guns & Ammo.”

A lot of Williams’ socially relevant material makes you laugh and think. He should do more of it.

Undoubtedly one of the most glowing reviews in this paper’s history.


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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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