Quote of the day

“You don’t just get to go take your neighbors’ water.”

—Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, commenting on the Delta water grab House Republicans just authorized.

According to this Fresno Bee story, “Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California opposes the House bill, saying it would ‘dictate specific pumping levels, regardless of the opinions of scientists, which could jeopardize our state’s salmon fishing industry.’”

Translation: It’ll die in the Senate. Or Obama will veto it.

“Regardless of the opinion of scientists.” That, in a nutshell, sums up south-Valley Republicans on water issues. They represent the interests of unreconstructed water users who have not been chastened by the near-death of the Delta into adopting modern, sustainable policies. It takes somebody special to see they are destroying an estuary and not change practices. But ideology and parochial interests prevail, so they double down.

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Pipe dreams

Forgive my unskilled photography, but here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the pipe organ featured in today’s Fitz’s Stockton.

Behind the loft — out of sight behind an ornate gold-leaf screen — an area called the chambers is crowded with tiers of pipes, as well as the electrical board that relays signals from the organ to the pipes.

The pipe organ turns part of the building itself into an impressive musical instrument. It’s a civic treasure, and so are musicians such as Richard Merrittstein-Timmins (above) who can play it.

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A load of bullhooks

Crime is high, unemployment is high, downtown is a scabrous sore on the body politic — so the council is taking on the issue of bullhooks and elephants.

Thanks heavens.

Free this poor creature, too!

I freely admit I don’t have a well-researched position on bullhooks and elephants. Off the cuff, I imagine bullhooks are not intrinsically inhumane; they can be used humanely or inhumanely, depending on the handler.

If Dyane Burgos-Medina, who brought this issue to the council, has evidence of bullhook abuse, I suppose she should present it. Or we could dive down to the real issue, removing elephants from their native habitat and spiriting them away to a lifetime of servitude to the circus. That is wrong, in my opinion; but the right to disagree with me includes the right to see elephants at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. A right that would be taken away if the council bans bullhooks.

If a legislative committee is to ponder this issue, it should be one located in India, Vietnam or Borneo, where the Asian elephant lives. If those committees decide to ban elephant export to circuses I won’t lose any sleep.

Could we move on, please?

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A waterfront half-revived

No, not Stockton’s — San Diego’s, where the city replaced railroad tracks and oceans of asphalt with “a wide esplanade” that connects people to the waterfront.

“But though phase one is finally the gateway city that port leaders envisioned all those years ago, the project faces financial uncertainty going forward,” reports Next City. Redevelopment funds are responsible for around half of that $31 million, and when California Gov. Brown dissolved city redevelopment agencies to balance the Golden State budget in 2012, phases two through 10 (slated to cost around $200 million) began to look less like a reality and more like another ’98 wish list.”

Interestingly, “San Diego’s various agencies active in the field merged to form Civic San Diego … a kind of successor agency responsible for continuing several of the projects put into motion before 2012 — including the north embarcadero. But,” the story says, “no redevelopment funds are available beyond phase one.”

It would be interesting to follow Civic San Diego as it attempts to fill the void left by RDAs. Granted, San Diego is moneyed. Stockton is not. Still, the state has left cities to their own devices. Who will write a playbook that Stockton could use?

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What schoolbooks are good for

From today’s Lincoln high School student bulletin:

“TEXTBOOKS:  It looks like winter — feels like winter — and it is raining like winter!  Please, please, please do not use your textbook as an umbrella!  Using your textbook to shield yourself from the rain will cause irreparable damage and you will incur a fine. Please consider too that your backpack may not be waterproof and the rain will cause damage to all of your school materials.  Protect your textbooks from the rain! Use an umbrella or plastic bag!”


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The gravy train

The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed four years of data about public employee executive compensation from California’s 482 incorporated cities and 58 counties.  What it found: since there are no set rules statewide, compensation varies widely, the public is clueless and there are some jaw-dropping over-compensations.

My favorite factoid in this story involves Stockton’s brother in bankruptcy, San Bernardino. Police compensation there was not set by collective bargaining, as it is everywhere else; San Berdoo uses a “salary survey,” a list of compensation in other cities to which compensation must hew.

But the rules for chosen cities — by comparable population only — ensured the city would have to keep up with much richer Jonses. ” … police pay this fiscal year is pegged to cities whose median rent is 14 to 102 percent higher than San Bernardino’s,” the Center reports.

Again: San Berdoo locked itself into paying public safety compensation up to twice as high as fiscally prudent.

The punch line: after the bankruptcy, of course, a measure went on the November ballot to replace this fiscally loony process with standard collective bargaining. Voters rejected it!

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Because Stockton never builds bike lanes …

This gizmo is just what the doctor ordered: The Xfire Bike Lane Safety Light.

It’s super-bright LED lights attach to the bike frame. They project two impossible-not-to-see red lasers onto the road. — voila, a “bike lane” visible a mile away.

What will they think of next?

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In wholehearted support of Stockton State

Here’s the timeline for CSU, Channel Islands. I would add only that landing a Stockton State University need not take 40 years.

Here’s a report on the economic impact of UC Merced to its region ($11 billion).

Here’s a UC Merced press release about a professor’s findings.

Here for that matter — or, rather, here and here – are two studies of the money UOP brings into Stockton and environs.

The benefits of a state university, however, can not be measured solely in dollars. To quote myself from 2007:

“State universities do more than boost incomes. … They strengthen the top ranks of a community’s intellectual leadership. They groom entrepreneurs. They enhance the city cultural scene.

“Perhaps most importantly, a university infuses existing industry — here, agriculture — with professionals skilled in engineering and business, necessary to keep competitive.

“And it incubates new businesses and technologies that create jobs and diversify a region’s economy. It allows a region to re-invent itself.

“CSU graduates played key roles in the creation and growth of Silicon Valley. They could play an identical role in a Stockton-based green energy industry envisioned at the recent economic summit. Or other new ventures.”
Incidentally, I called the Legislative Analyst’s Office and asked them what sort of things the would be looking at in their feasibility study. They didn’t know. They’ve never done one before. Until several years ago university feasibility studies were done by an obscure state bureaucracy that acted as an advisory agency to the legislature. But that outfit was closed down.

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The Republican water grabs begin

Now that Republicans have the upper hand in both houses, look for a barrage of regionally parochial, environmentally destructive water bills aimed at grabbing more Delta water for Republican desert farmers.

First up, Congressman David Valadao (R, Hanford) has introduced the ‘‘California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014.’’

His bill would guarantee that even in a drought year water agencies would get 100 percent of water they purchase, even if others have senior water rights. 

According to KPCC 89.3, “Patricia Schifferle of Pacific Advocates says the bill makes Central Valley corporate farmers the winners and endangered species the losers.

“It is no surprise the winners were the ones at the table,” says Schifferle.”

She means the table at which Dianne Feinstein conducted secret negotiations over a water bill. The talks broke down. They may have constructively framed Republican legislation to some degree, though. For instance, Valadao’s bill would not undo the San Joaquin River restoration — clearly showing the hand of DiFi.

Democratic control of the Senate used to screen out such bad legislation. Republican control will multiply it.


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Quote of the Day (a day or two late)

“The city needs smart growth. And Stockton hasn’t always been smart.”

—Councilman Paul Canepa, speaking about the Climate Action Plan, approved at Tuesday night’s meeting.

No, it hasn’t. The culture in City Hall was to please developers. The costs included the permanent expenses of extending services to sprawl subdivisions, allowing too many single-family homes, and allowing what should be a vibrant, historic, waterfront downtown to mummify.

Not to mention running afoul of a Sierra Club lawsuit and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown, who rapped the city on its knuckles for a General Plan 2035 that would have made sprawl twice as bad.

Stockton’s bankruptcy dispelled the illusion that infinite sprawl was affordable. City Manager Bob Deis informed business elites that he, not they, were appointed to run the city.  Community Development Director Steve Chase lobbied the Planning Commission to stop okaying sprawl.

The Climate Action Plan is a step in the right direction. But big parts of it may never be funded. Developers and speculators own a lot of land on Stockton’s fringes; they’ll be lobbying to build on it. Chase is retiring. The promising reforms and new policies that followed Stockton’s bankruptcy are far from set in stone. Stockton simply needs leaders who know what is best for the city, not political careerists looking to trade entitlements for political support, if this new beginning is to lead to a better city.


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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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