Stockton’s contributions to a better world

Two Stockton angles on historic social change:

The first is the historic gay marriage decision handed down today by the U.S. Supreme Court. The key justice in that ruling, Anthony Kennedy, was recruited to teach at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento by its influential dean, Gordon Schraber.

UOP President Pamela A. Eibeck and Justice Anthony Kennedy during 2009 visit to McGeorge School of Law.

 

Schraber was likely a closeted gay. He and Kennedy formed a close relationship. Schraber mentored Kennedy and advanced his career. His influence on Kennedy’s vote is not to be dismissed.

The New York Times wrote about it here.

The second is Delores Huerta.

Delores Huerta leads a march through downtown Stockton to kick off Cesar Chavez Day.

The co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union is being honored by The Smithsonian Institution with a special exhibit opening next week.

 

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What the crystal skull said

Guru Israel Hurtado reports his pilgrimage to Mt Shasta went well.

There, Hurtado and a contingent of Stocktonians communed with Compassion, a crystal skull.

What did Compassion say? I inquired.

Compassion spoke of “the importance of the energies that are carried on the skull,” Hurtado replied. “They are bringing balance and alignment and helping with transition of the mind thinking to the heart thinking.”

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The Gray Lady does the Delta

The New York Times published a big piece on the Delta today. The Gray Lady got it right.

Much of the regional profile will be familiar to Delta residents. However, though too polite to say so explicitly, the Times put the lie to the whole “fish-vs. farms” drum the south-Valley exporters beat.

“Some farmers who want exports to be increased, for example, have complained that water allowed to flow to the ocean is “wasted.”

“But an analysis of ocean outflow in 2014, the third year of the drought, found that 71 percent went to preserve water quality for drinking water and irrigation. Only 18 percent was specifically for fish habitat, according to the analysis by Dr. Mount, who used data assembled by the water board.”

This casts more light on the pie chart in the Delta Doozy item, below. It shows 58.1% of Delta water flowing on to the ocean, implying the overwhelming a majority of Delta water goes to those water-hogging fish while farmers crawl on their knees through the desert. But that water is buttressing clean water standards without which we’d be drinking poison and killing crops.

The Times also sees the folly of Gov. Brown’s tunnel plan. It sees a future for California of scaled-back expectations and doing with less. That’s a reality check to a state — profoundly shaped by the first Gov. Brown — that once believed perpetual growth was possible.

“Is the solution to a problem caused by human engineering more engineering?”  The Times asks. You already know the answer.

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Drought shaming in Brookside

Late at night, when automatic sprinklers come on, busted sprinklers gush water.

Like these guys outside Brookside Business Park.

Or this one outside the Subway on Feather River Drive.

I’m not big on drought-shaming. But seeing these on a recent late-evening walk made me wonder how much of this goes on throughout the city and in cities throughout the state.

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Delta Doozies and other spin

I thought it would be interesting to run a “Delta Doozy” past Restore the Delta.

“Delta Doozy” is the product of a Southern California PR firm hired by water exporters “to distinguish fact from fiction and promote constructive dialogue.”

The latest Delta Doozy — meaning alleged falsehood — supposedly comes form Restore the Delta’s chief, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.

She wrote, “We are perilously close to losing Delta smelt, and our iconic salmon fisheries, and despite Delta family farms already taking a voluntary 25 percent reduction in water use, the State Water Contractors believe the Delta should be made into a complete sacrifice zone for their water exports.”

In rebuttal, the PR firm, Fiona Hutton & Associates of Studio City, issued their Delta Doozy. They wrote,

…”The chart below provides a breakdown of where water has gone after entering the Delta since May 1. ”

Probably it’s hard to make out. The little blue and orange slices at noon and 1 o’clock are the state and federal exports. The second larges piece, the blue piece from 2 to 5 o’clock is in-Delta Diversions.

The biggest piece is outflow to the ocean.

“The State Water Project exported just 5% … landowners in the delta take more water — by far — than the state ad federal water projects combined,” the flaks write.

Responds Barrigan-Parilla:

“There is very little water flowing through the system, and what this graph doesn’t tell you is that Delta outflow is required to keep the exports pumps at Tracy from salting up.  The entire system is being managed for exports, so I stand by our statement.

” Our lawsuit and TUCP protests filed with the State Water Resources Control Board argue that too much water is being held upstream for exports and that too much water is still being taken at the pumps for the fisheries and in-Delta communities to make it.  Salinity measures are showing us that they are getting close to losing control of the system — meaning keeping the Delta fresh.

“There are also real disputes between DWR’s calculations for the charts above and real world measures, so at this time I would not say that we can rely on their graphs. Remember, at the last State Water Resources Control Board meeting in May, it was revealed that only 2% of the flows were allocated for saving the fisheries this year.  So, as everything else that comes out of FionaHutton for CA Water Fix and Californians for Water Security, this is nothing more than spin.”

Well, the exporters wanted to promote constructive dialogue. Happy to oblige.

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Dissent of the day

Ned Leiba writes:

“Very funny, true and sad column (6/13) today about Hogzilla

“The City kicked out to the Council (and to you I suspect) a fuzzy graph of the so-called Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP).

“I think you and others believed that the numbers under this LRFP fuzzy graph were vetted and approved by the Bankruptcy Court.  In fact the numbers (undisclosed) that must underlie that fuzzy graph are dramatically different than the numbers disclosed in the bankruptcy Court LFRP.  The city was way off on its predictions of general fund balances…like it has been in the last 4 years in its general fund actual expenditures vs. the City Council approved budgets …

“When the 6/30/2014 audited financial reports were released and discussed at the City Council meeting of 2/3/2015, I spoke to the Council … I recited alarm about noncurrent, non-general fund expenses, i.e., the $159m increase, in one year (!), in the unfunded pension liability.  This was after the largest cash contribution ever made for our pensions; after layoffs; after a supposed end to pension spiking.

“The Mayor, I think, asked me if the City’s LRFP has sufficient provision to pay off the liability.  I suggested folks look at line 50 of the LRFP (enclosed): the Calpers pension.

“This is from the LRFP filed with the Bankruptcy Court.”

“I answered: NO; the funds per the LRFP could never pay off the exploding liability at $159m increase per year with payments of $14m to $36m per year.  Impossible.”

I apologize that the blog can’t run the city’s long range fiscal projections larger. Here they are in PDF. Decide for yourself.

LRFP report pdf

Wading through city fiscals is a civic duty analogous to jury duty: annoying but crucial if the city is to stay on the right track. City Hall should be asked about Leiba’s analysis.

 

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A Sherman without a Peabody

The Sherman, the big old ferry towed into Stockton last year, was a good test of Mayor Anthony Silva’s ability to make things happen.

The vessel was a pet project of the mayor’s. He had a vision for it.

“I can’t wait to see The Sherman lit up at night, and I think the residents will be excited to have a glass of wine and a plate of oysters while taking in the great view,” Silva said.

What he didn’t say is that some of the potential investors envisioned The Sherman as a floating casino. Cash-strapped and fiscally under-literate Stocktonians need a floating money hole like the Delta needs more hyacinth.

Still, it would have been better to for us have argued that out than what happened: nothing. Now the Sherman is to be towed away.

Silva gets “E” for effort with The Sherman. Still, three years into his four-year term, the mayor still has no substantial accomplishments to his credit.

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A public employee “billie club”

The Boston Globe reports on a new eco-friendly way to trim urban greenery: “goatscaping.”

"Will work for food"

Boston tried it on a vegetation-choked park area last year, turning loose  herd of goats.  “It was a dreary-looking space filled with poison ivy,” a parks official said. “Six weeks later it was an opened-up field.”

Goatscaping.

The technique also eliminates machine noise; and need for herbicides; introducing natural fertilization.

The closest Stockton comes to goatscaping, as far as I know, is a Hammer Lane woman who uses sheepscaping. Or she did in 2007, the last time I checked. The Fire Department told her her tall grass was a fire hazard. She couldn’t get a rider mower between her trees. Her property was just across the city limits in the county, which allows sheep. So she shopped for sheep.

“You know, it was the best thing I ever did, ” she said at the time. “They’re like eating machines.

“Smells a little like a barnyard back there, ” the woman added. “But I don’t care.”

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Land mines in Manteca?

Besides the M-16s listed in today’s column, the Department of Defense gave San Joaquin County law enforcement other military property.

Manteca PD got an “MRAP” vehicle which, considering MRAP stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected, seems over the top. Land mines in Manteca?

Schools even got military property, though the materiel is “non-tactical.”

According to this story, Stockton unified police got “… five TV monitors worth nearly $9,900; a $1,253.12 cardiopulmonary mask package; 10 field packs valued at $5,485.90; a $500 exercise bike; three drug cases worth $2,402.58; a $350 podium, two communications receivers worth $600; an overhead projector worth $3,099; and another projector and teleconference system with no value …”

A teleconference system with “no value?’ Sounds like Uncle Sam does some creative bookkeeping.

As for the M-16s assigned to Stockton patrol officers, they seem a reasonable response to the guns on the street. When the SPD busts a drug lab or gang house, officers often find military-grade weapons. They felt outgunned.

This escalation of weaponry augurs cops-and-robbers gunfights involving many more rounds fired (M-16s are “rapid fire). But cops didn’t invent this gun-crazy city. They just have to police it.

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Bond houses still gouging at CalPERS

CalPERS, the state pension Hogzilla, once maintained that pension payments could not be cut by law. This self-serving claim of royal immunity was obliterated in Stockton’s bankruptcy case.

But Stockton chose not to go there. It left pensions intact and skinned other creditors instead. As a result, dogged Franklin Templeton Investments is appealing Stockton’s bankruptcy ruling.

Now two other bond houses are joining the battle — not over Stockton’s ruling but over San Bernardino’s. A Luxembourg bank and Ambac Assurance Co. (the latter a bond insurer in Stockton’s case, too) are appealing San Berdoo’s decision to leave pensions untouched while giving them a penny on the dollar.

It may be that Franklin’s appeal means the last word has not been spoken on the pension-cutting issue. So the bank and Ambac want to join the fray and attempt to force pension cuts as a part of municipal Chapter 9s. The issue is not whether CalPERS is above the law — it’s not, thank you Stockton — but whether it’s legal under the Uniform Bankruptcy Code to take so much from one creditor while leaving another untouched.

Stockton prevailed with its “municipal chaos” argument: a city in the distress of insolvency has no real alternative to CalPERS. If the city cuts pensions its employees vamoose. The governing organization will break down. As we saw from “The Exodus,” the mass out-migration of disgruntled police officers, that argument appears to be true.

Though legally irrelevant, my own sense of fairness says pensioners should share in the sacrifices of a city’s chapter 9. A city’s main General Fund costs are employee compensation, after all. Employee over-compensation can lead to bankruptcy; employees should be part of the solution. But we’ll see what the judges rule.

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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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