Friday, July 20, 2012

More no-tax talk

While we're on the topic of no-tax pledges (as the second section of this week's column is) I think Congressional candidate Ricky Gill is making the same mistake Leroy Ornellas did in jumping aboard the no-tax pledge.
There’s a lot to like about Gill, a young and promising Republican looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in a district that will include Mountain House and Tracy north of Interstate 205. But signing onto the no new tax pledge seems sadly run-of-the-mill.
Governing is about the art of the possible, and sometimes securing the general welfare means compromise — possibly even accepting that raising revenue is equally as valid a solution to budget problems as cutting costs.
But insisting everything must either reduce revenue or be revenue neutral seems to cut out a wide swath of middle ground.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts from this week's paper

• Thank the rain gods for the wet stuff that started falling Thursday — but we could have done without the wind that's turned Eleventh Street east of town into a scene from the Wild West. The tumbleweeds are out in force, and at one point in the early afternoon were completely blocking the No. 2 westbound lane just off the Interstate 5 off-ramp. Dodgy stuff.

• Rep. Jeff Denham has serious credentials in the 10th Congressional District race and widespread appeal in the Central Valley. But he might find himself out of step with his flat-tax proposal, which would shift the income tax burden down the country's pay scale. Note his answer to a question about that downside paid no mention of the average worker or taxpayer. (Yes, close to 50 percent of American's don't pay income tax under the current system — but they still pay plenty in payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc., so please don't call those folks freeloaders.)

• It'll be interesting to see how Denham and his Democratic opponents, so far Mike Barkley and Jose Hernendez, approach the water issue in this district. Tracy and its environs south draw water from the Delta-Mendota Canal, and the quality and quantity of that water would in theory be increased if a Peripheral Canal is built around the lower reaches of the Delta. But that samesaid canal would decimate the water supply for San Joaquin County's top industry — agriculture — an industry that Denham, at least, has sworn to protect. With water in these parts a zero-sum game, it looks like folks running in the 10th District race will have to choose between safeguarding agriculture in San Joaquin or Stanislaus counties.

• Police are making more contact with gang members, and the number of documented gang members in Tracy has gone up. It's disconcerting to think that gangs' precence in Tracy is increasing. But these numbers could also be comforting — as long as the rise is reflective of a police force that's getting a more accurate picture of the reality on the ground.

• Spoiler alert: Evidently, West High School's boys basketball team is the younger, updated version of Phil Slama Jama. Look for some coverage of their high-flying attack in future issues of the Press.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Special meeting sparsely attended

One more point worth making about the City Council's special meeting decision to green-light a business incentive program: lack of public involvement.

As noted in today's Tracy Press story, only four people attended the meeting, which was called Monday, publicized Tuesday and held Wednesday, at a time two hours earlier than normal because of the normally scheduled Planning Commission meeting. Also, three of the four people in the audience were members of the Press.

The city manager suggested that the special meeting was necessary because the opportunity presented to the city might slip away if the council waited until the regularly scheduled Jan. 1 meeting.

Still, the timing of the meeting -- one day after the canceled regularly scheduled council meeting - was curious, and its last-minute nature contributed to the lack of public scrutiny on what could prove to be a huge deal for the city of Tracy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Local newspapers still have special place

Reports of the demise of the printed word might be greatly exaggerated, at least when it comes to community newspapers.

A recent industry survey found what some local newshounds already suspected: When it comes to tight-knit communities, readers prefer a local newspaper when it comes to getting their information about their town as well as advertising specials.

Just one more reason I'm thankful to be part of the Press.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A timely downtown cleanup

Leaving the Press on Thursday, the leaves downtown had been piled into huge drifts by the winds blowing through the previous two days. Fun for shuffling feet through fall foliage, but rather unsightly.

On Friday morning, they were gone, collected by city crews.

Seems that somebody knows small, daily maintenance is as critical to a welcoming business district as is million-dollar makeovers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Downtown problems, case in point

I've put this opinion in print before: If everyone doesn't get on the same side — that means the city, business owners and property owners — downtown Tracy will languish, redevelopment effort or no.

A case in point happened this week, when structural problems left unaddressed by a property owner forced the closure of Helm's Ale House. This is a blow to downtown, as the ale house was exactly the type of outfit a bustling center needs — a restraurant anchoring a busy streetcorner that caters to a wide variety of customers, but that also fosters nightlife and gives people a reason to visit the area.

(Plus, the beer selection was superb.)

The problems to the building were known by the property owner for some time, but according to business owner Dave Helm, they either went wholly unaddressed or the landlord tried to fix the issues with substandard Band Aids.

Don't maintain the building that houses an up-and-coming business that pays you rent — it's the perfect way to kill downtown growth.

It's a story that will repeat unless everyone with a stake in downtown gets on the same page and realizes all players benefit from prudent cooperation and investment.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Proceed with your campaigns

Looks like the many folks who have flocked to the redrawn districts around Tracy and San Joaquin County seeking political opportunity (it's like the Sooners, but for cash and power as opposed to land) can continue their campaigns.

The state's supreme court dismissed a challenge by California Republicans that said some of the boundaries were drawn in an underhanded manner.

Sorry GOP, the underhanded stuff happened when lawmakers of both parties were allowed to draw their own districts, which is what happened in 2000. That's why we had citizens do it this time.