A rather superstitious proposal

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I’m afraid of it anyway. Particularly when giving thought to the city of Stockton’s bad luck.

As reported in this story, the city plugged its drains for one day during the Asparagus Festival — and Mother Nature chose that one day to break a historic drought and rain.

Just that day.

It pooped the Asparagus Festival party, tipping the event into insolvency and killing it.

It flooded the basement of City Hall.

There’s a context for lamenting Stockton’s bad luck. Remember the city was Ground Zero of the foreclosure crisis. Of all the cities in all the land, this city had the misfortune to be the hardest hit. So in addition to bankruptcy, the city generated tons of bad press.

This city has bad mojo. Not the sort of issue the International City Manager’s Association routinely handles.

I’m too rational to believe in curses. But let’s bring in a multi-faith squad of priests, pastors and shamans so that prayer and incantation — sacrifices, whatever — can lift the curse off Stockton. Just to cover all the bases.



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A genuine feel-good story

If ever a heartening story can make you feel good about your city’s future, it is this one.

It has it all: phenomenal leadership by Councilman Michael Tubbs, the prescription and treatment of Stockton’s substandard civic culture and young people who believe they can make a difference.

Stockton tried civic betterment through capital improvement projects. Ones such as Paragary’s didn’t work, in part because we neglected the human capital. A whole swath of the population felt left out by government they saw as elitist and unresponsive to their priorities. Connecting to them — connecting them to a healthy civic culture — is the groundwork for civic success, not only in capital improvement projects, but the quality of city life and the realization of this city’s awesome potential.


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Google’s Valley experiment

The search engine giant lofted huge balloons from a Merced airfield the other day. Google guys envision the balloons forming a wireless network in the stratosphere so residents of rural Merced County can have WiFi.

I have a million questions. Only a few of which are answered by this article.

Meanwhile, big buzz around the Google barge has died down. What’s new on that front? “Nothing,” says Port Director Rick Aschieris. “They pay their dockage fees on time, and nothing else is happening.”

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Painting in public

Stockton painter Jun Jamosmos does “live painting” Saturday at the Barrio Fiesta Filipina at Elk Grove Regional Park.

Jamosmos, 51,  is a self taught artist from the Philippines who has become a full-time painter after working as an accountant in the last 30 years in the Philippines and in Stockton.

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Letter of the Day

John Kindseth writes:

I noticed the Stockton teachers are whining, moaning and complaining again about their situation. Here is “Jake’s Guide to Teachers Complaints:”

1. “Its for the children”…….Its the money

2. “Support Education” …. Pay the union goons, pay more money.

3. “Schools need your support” … Give more money till it hurts.

4. “California doesn’t support its children”….We demand more money

5. “Its not about money”…..Its about money.

6. “I have a 5 year degree”……[so do many working in fast food.]

7. “California doesn’t do enough for its children.” ….We want more money.


6. “Evaluation standards are not fair”…..I am an awful teacher, but I still want full tenure protection.

7. “Administrators want to get rid of high priced teachers”…. Administrators want to get rid of perverts, molesters, and scum.

8. “How can my skills be evaluated”….I am above the law.

In one of California’s all-too-seldom acts of genuine progressivism, Jerry Brown kicked down millions of dollars to poor school districts. The money is supposed to help poor kids to learn through after school programs and the like. The Stockton Teacher’s Association wants that money for its members. I’ll probably write abut the issue this week.

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A Fresnan champions high-speed rail

I have always argued that high-speed rail will be a boon to Stockton and the Valley. But sometimes it seems the Valley fights those who would lift it out of its low-wage agrarian economy.

Fresno’s city council is the latest in a long list of blinkered politicians and south-Valley residents to come out against the bullet train. Thankfully, a PoliSci professor from Fresno State has called them on it.

“Many of these elected officials tout jobs as their No. 1 priority in office, but they also reject the biggest jobs program that this local region will see in the next 50 years,” writes Jeff Cummins.


“Make no mistake,” Cummins writes. “high-speed rail is a game-changer for the Valley and here’s why.”

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Quote of the day

“Elbert Holman has been on the City Council for six years, and I think four more years is absurd and he should retire.”

—Mayor Anthony Silva, displaying his political skill in today’s story about one Council candidate who embraced his endorsement and one who flatly rejected it.

That any candidate would reject a mayor’s endorsement speaks volumes about what Silva has done to his image. He now symbolizes the cohort of permanently disaffected Stockton voters, mostly economically disadvantaged and poor in civic literacy.

Though it cost him all council support, Silva still plays to the resentments of this group. He still dreams of a populist surge sweeping away his mistakes and electing a slate of council members he has not alienated.

How’s that going? Well, here’s candidate Christine Fugazi, whom he endorsed, saying thanks, Mayor, but no thanks. “I want people to judge me on me.”

And this: “Even if I was Bugs Bunny, I probably would get the support of the mayor because right now, he’s got nothing. That’s the reality of it.”

That’s all, folks.

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Grist for a cool museum

Mentioned in Wednesday’s column that a group of WWII aviation buffs out at Stockton Metropolitan Airport (“Stockton Field” during WW II) have their eye on a 1940s hangar for their proposed Stockton Field Aviation Museum.

Here’s a photo of the old Stockton Field.

I know a couple things about this base — some of Dolittle’s Raiders trained there, Bob Hope and other top entertainers played there for the troops — but I had no idea how extensive the complex was. It’s huge (the airstrips are upper left).

Its rich history, coupled with the collection of planes and artifacts, would make for a terrific museum.



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A Bunya-bunya cone

Proving that no subject is too obscure, I wrote a Fitz’s Stockton about the weirdest denizen on the urban forest, the Monkey Puzzle tree — and wrote again when it emerged that most of the trees people think are Monkey Puzzle trees are really Bunya-bunya trees.

One way you can tell the difference: the Bunya bunya drops a fearsome cone. It is the size of an obese pineapple, only twice as heavy.

Reader Mildred Orimo had one delivered to me at The Record.

Words fail to express my gratitude, Mildred.



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A model for a Stockton diversity museum

There are times when news overtakes opinion. When preparing today’s column, I intended to envision a Museum of Stockton Diversity. But all the real museums birthing in the city took precedence.

But think about it. According to French historian Fernand Braudel, successful cities integrate the strengths of their location into their economy. According to traditional thinking, Stockton’s assets are the Delta and agriculture. During its most prosperous era, the city capitalized on both.

But must all assets be geographical? Might there be others Braudel did not envision? What about diversity? Stockton is America’s 3rd most diverse city (New Orleans is No. 1). Imagine a museum along the lines of the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. A place where all Stockton’s immigrant groups, including Europeans, tell their story without competing.

This is not some P.C. fluff. Immigrant stories are among the most powerful. The European pioneers, the Chinese argonauts, the Vietnamese boat people, all involve high drama. As do  stories of first-generation Stocktonians, such as the Nisei and the Japanese internment.

I can imagine a museum with a storefront from Stockton’s Chinatown, ostensibly a cigar store, but with a secret door to a Pai Gow parlor. A scale model of the Japanese fishing village on Mormon Sough. Stories of Braceros. Etcetera, in a building located on Stockton’s waterfront or in the downtown.

Plus, such a museum, featuring Stockton’s ethinic foods, would have the best cafe in California.

Just doing the vision thing. But done right it would be unique and compelling.

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