Saturday, August 30, 2008

Not a good sign for Delta

The problems at Delta College might be deeper than any of us imagined.

Posed with this recommendation by the civil grand jury:

"The board of trustees refocus on the needs of the students and not personal agendas and work together as a cohesive unit."

The trustees couldn't muster a majority in support during a meeting held early this week. They couldn't publicly put the students first.

Maybe the trustees need to review their job descriptions. Or just resign in shame.

The better for the students.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday random thoughts...

• Finally, incentives to stop the sprawl: If the bill in this story is passed, maybe developers and cities would finally have a reason to stick to smart growth besides mere common sense.

• As far as Plan Bs go, it's not half bad: Since people seem unwilling to pay more for fire protection, and since a higher level of "accepted risk tolerance" for disaster shouldn't really be an option, the idea of augmenting buying power and manpower by combining local fire agencies might be the best bet.

• The Delta's final defense? The final public hearing for feedback regarding a Peripheral Canal has come and gone. Bet the incessant pleas of valley farmers and Delta-dependents go unheard compared to the political muscle of Parts Previously Unwatered.

• Tall order — filled: It's hard to believe Sen. Barack Obama actually topped his 2004 convention address, but he did.

• But talk about stealing thunder: Sen. John McCain's pick of a woman, and a relative unknown to most "expert" politicos, as running mate the next morning was an unexpected master stroke.

• Back to normal: Anyone else feel like China during the Olympics was just like a kid sweeping his toys under the bed when told to clean up his room?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Teaching the journalists of the future

If the parents of Millennium High School's budding journalist students knew who was to be guest lecturer in Wednesday's afternoon class, "excused absence" notes would have flown toward the attendance office.

But as I showed up with only last-minute notice, the teens were stuck. I just hope they got something out of it and weren't wholly dissuaded because of my presentation.

I was asked by the Tracy Press former Voice editor Jack Eddy and current Editor-in-Chief Cheri Matthews to talk about the role of a copy desk at a newspaper, even though trying to make copy editing sound exciting to teenagers is like trying to make rythmic gymnastics exciting to Raider Nation.

But these young adults were good about it, actually painting eyes on their eyelids to make me feel more comfortable about their dozing. (Just joking. School rules don't allow painted eyelids.)

I explained that without a copy desk — especially like the one at the TP — there would be no newspaper. News stories would be printed with holes in the narrative, facts would go unchecked, typos would be even more common, and the layout — well, without us, there would be no layout.

It's the unheralded part of a newspaper staff. Abuse it, downsize it, and eliminate it, though, and you're left with a newsletter instead of a newspaper. (Or an ANG-owned newspaper, take your pick.)

In truth, the five students in the Millennium class were attentive and interested. And they asked some good questions during my awkward pauses.

I hope to guest lecture there again some day. If, of course, the parents don't stop me.

Summer isn't gone

If you, like me, were wondering who took the bite out of the valley summer, wonder no longer. Summer's jaws are still in perfect working order.

Today's going to be a sorcher — 100-plus degrees is likely — and tomorrow and Friday should be just as unbearable. Should have known the so-far mild weather we've enjoyed this summer couldn't last forever.

Because just like baseball and presidential elections, the valley summer isn't over 'til it's over.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tracy term limits ... yes?

The readers have spoken.

In what is admittedly a very unscientific poll, 2 of 3 Second Thoughts readers agreed (or disagreed with me, as the case may be) that term limits should be passed this fall for the Tracy City Council members and mayor.

If this is a foreshadowing of fall, whomever is the next mayor can look forward to a max of four years, and councilmembers a max of eight more.

For more info about a big organization helping push the Tracy measure, check out this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday random thoughts...

Joe Shmoe could've done better for the cost of a six-pack: The guy who brought Tracy "Think Inside the Triangle," possibly the most derivative and ill-conceived tag line we could have come up with, is trying to justify the $25,000 expense.

• Mayday! Mayday! Looks like I'm not the only one worried that the Ellis subdivision could eventually choke out the up-and-coming Tracy Municipal Airport.

• Waiting in a local ER? You're not alone: A Public Policy Institute of California report adds concern to San Joaquin General Hospital's dire straits, as it reports local ERs are some of the most crowded in the state.

• Pay more for your daily traffic jam: Highway 99 could soon be converted into Interstate 7 or 9 at a cost of about $1 billion, which is actually about $15 billion cheaper than previously estimated.

• Oakland. Case in point: Take a deep breath. Tracy's (mis)management could be much, much worse.

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "Mom and dad say I should make my life an example of the principles I believe in. But every time I do, they tell me to stop."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Let them race!

Altamont Motorsports Park has been the lone local raceway since the Stockton Speedway shut down after the 2006 season. But local racers like the Philpotts might have a chance to run the longtime track once again.

The housing development that was supposed to spring up in the oval's place never materialized (also saving, according to my friend and course superintendent Antonio Garcia, the neighboring Oakmoore Golf Course, a hidden gem in East Stockton that was essentially my second home as a teenager).

Now that the golf course — and its 400-year-young valley oak trees — will continue hosting duffers, it's time for the Speedway to get those cars back on the short track.

Thankfully, Tony and Carol Noceti of French Camp should have drivers starting their engines by March. (For more on the Nocetis, read the story here).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tracy — ware whee noe how to right

The city and the Mayor's Youth Support Network should be applauded for its unveiling of the Rollin' Rec truck, a unit that brings games and sports activities to kids at parks throughout Tracy.

However, it might have been good for someone to spell-check the truck before sending it out as a modeling tool for kids.
Guess we're good with the "community," "youth," and "network," but we'll have to wait for the "support" to get fully up to speed.
Thanks to our photographer Glenn Moore for the picture, who also posted the pic on his blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Downtown honey

A hive of bees tucked into one of Tracy's historical downtown buildings discovered today provided the newsroom a tasty treat — honey and honeycomb.

I think that instead of eradicating the huge nest hidden within the structure's walls, the owners could have stumbled upon a marketing jewel:

"Opera House Honey — homegrown in Tracy."

Monday, August 18, 2008

The troops are being marshalled

The water wars of decades past are well renewed, with plans for a Peripheral Canal moving forward.

As early as October, the governor's blue ribbon task force is supposed to issue its recommendations on how to deal with the complex issues of invasive species, vulnerable levees, pollution, wildlife demands, agricultural needs and the exportation of water to Parts Previously Unwatered.

The popular pick among many is to build the canal, ensuring a higher quality (and probably quantity) of water to places far south of the Delta.

In fact, it seems everyone has a reason to like the canal. Except, of course, the people actually living in the Delta.

And according to some reports, they're the ones being overlooked.

Toot, toot

One of the nice things about writing a column (or a blog) is that you get to brag a little. Consider it a perk of the job.

Last week I was honored when the California Newspaper Publishers Association declared me a blue ribbon finalist in its Better Newspapers Contest, declaring Second Thoughts one of the best columns in the state (for a paper of the Tracy Press' circulation).

There, I'm done tooting my own horn. Now, back to business.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday random thoughts...

• Let's not hear this idea in the comments section ever again: Annexing Mountain House into the Tracy fold would be unwieldy, impractical, controversial and ultimately a very, very bad idea.

• Mococo monkey wrench: If Union Pacific resurrects the Mococo rail line through the heart of Tracy as a major frieght line, don't just say goodbye to peace, quiet and not waiting at rail crossings. Say goodbye to using the downtown transit station for passenger transport.

• Presidential race update of the week:
Tracy's own ethics guru Mike McLellan is still running (it's a beneath-the-radar type campaign), and he'll update us on his unique platform in the coming weeks.

• 'Postal Service' no longer an oxymoron?
It's easy to vote by mail, thanks to the post office. Just fill out and send back a form that's being mailed out this week, and get your ballot in October.

• 'Tracy planning,' however, still might be: At last report, The Surland Cos. stands to gain 1,600 residential growth allotments that can be used anywhere in the city — or sold to any other developer — in addition to a couple thousand more for the Ellis project.

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "Do you think babies are born sinful? That they come into the world as sinners?" "No, I think they're just quick studies."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Heat-relief update

According to News Editor Eric Firpo, the power's back on at the senior center, and sweaty residents are welcome to come back for heat relief.

For the full story, click here.

Turns out it was a piece of faulty equipment that contributed to the power failure. In summation: Oops.

Heat-relief center closed due to extreme heat

The Lolly Hansen Senior Center — the city's designated cooling center for seniors, the disabled and anyone else without working A/C — should be open today, what with the 100-degree temperatures and all. Also, the city said in a press release earlier this week it'd be open, at least for Thursday, because of the predicted heat.

Someone forgot to tell the guys supplying the power.

The senior center closed down Thursday because of a "brownout" — electric company speak for a planned outage under peak loads or a euphemism for a power failure.

In case of the former: I guess no one thought that the city's cooling center might be a priority if thousands of homes are blasting the A/C because of a heat wave. In the case of the latter: Oops.

Either way, folks counting on the city to help them keep cool today are out of luck.

News Editor Eric Firpo is on the story and will have more as information comes in. Check for any updates.

Confused, are we?

The downtown Tracy family of businesses welcomed a new member this week, but you'd never know it by looking.

A Hawaiian-Pacific Island barbecue took over the former Gigi's Pizza building on the corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street, and from what I hear the food is pretty good (I'm planning on taking a stroll down there myself in the next couple days).

Only problem is, in what might be called a minor oversight, the owners forgot to take down the rather large Gigi's sign from both corners of the building.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is 'fair share,' anyway?

Windfall taxes? Closing loopholes? But corporations already pay more than their fair share. Right?

Not so, at least according to news out of the Government Accountability Office.

Wonder what supporters of further tax cuts have to say about this one...

Student labor, anyone?

Tracy High School's new West Building (although we've been reprimanded not to call it that) is scheduled to open tomorrow for the first day of school.

Well, the first floor, at least. The second floor is getting finishing touches and won't be ready for a few more weeks.

Some have worried that even the first floor won't be done in time, though school officials say everything's ship-shape.

Besides, if tomorrow dawns on unfinished classrooms, it won't be the biggest deal in the world.

Maybe we can even get the kids laying carpet. Folks have been clamoring for more vocational education, after all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Term limits responses

Most of the comments I've received about Saturday's column were pretty supportive.

There are, however, some who think it's a bit naive to count on "an engaged, informed citizenry." Even, perhaps, a bit dangerous.

Term limits, they say, are the only way to limit the tenure of crooked politicians -- voters are too often disengaged and discombobulated to figure it out on a consistent basis.

These folks have a point of sorts, as incumbency is as powerful a force in politics as any I've heard of. Despite that power, they're counting on widespread voter discontent with government in general, and an overall dislike of career politicians (ironic, then how they keep getting voted in, no?) to give the Tracy City Council and mayor term limits initiative to sweep by with a wide margin.

Such measures have proved popular in the past, so I won't bet against the term limits crowd. But I would hope that they'd adopt a more hopeful picture of the average voter.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Please, give us a name

The city of Tracy is asking folks to help name the to-be-built downtown transit station.

After seeing the results of hiring a consultant to give the city a tag line, it's no surprise that officials are turning to the volunteer method for this project.

If you have a suggestion that's better than "Think Inside the Triangle" -- and really, what wouldn't be? -- leave it here as a comment or send it along to I'll make sure it gets passed on to the city.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday random thoughts...

• Let the Games begin! The Olympics are upon us, and I'm thankful. No, seriously.

• USA! USA! USA! Just as usual, but especially because of the home country's civil rights record, I'll be rooting for the red white and blue to top the medal charts. But it's a little harder to cheer when you suspect even your own stars are doing more than just eating their Wheaties.

• A Grand struggle begins? A recent City Council meeting showed there might be more going on at the Grand Theatre than you can see from Central Avenue.

• Something for our city planners to consider: Stockton, also trying to revitalize its downtown, is struggling with parking problems.

• One more downtown thought to think about: All successful downtowns share one common feature -- they have a mix of retail, restaraunts and businesses. (Which makes earlier suggestions of an all-retail downtown Tracy seem kinda silly.)

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "That's the problem with life. It rolls along with speed you can't control. You can't go faster or slower. Fun experiences always go roaring by, while bad experiences never pass quickly enough." ... "It's not the pace of life I mind, it's the sudden stop at the end."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This doesn't bode well...

School hasn't started yet, and already we hear of gang fights at school.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the police scanner rang with calls that there were possible gang-related altercations at West High School during freshmen orientation and registration events.

This, as they say, is probably not a good omen.

Overcrowding no doubt is playing its part, as 900 freshmen at West and 850 at Tracy High are set to move into their new scholastic roles this year. John C. Kimball High, when it's opened in 2009, will take some of that pressure off.

In the meantime, parents and police might want to brace themselves for an *ahem* interesting school year.

Tops of the town

Check out today's printed edition of the Tracy Press. Within its folds is the annual Best of Tracy edition, which features the businesses and people readers selected as their local favorites.

I don't know if there's a better referral service in town if you're looking for a good dentist, or just a place to eat.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An elitist tirade

Maybe it doesn't carry much weight with many, seeing as how Mr. Garrison Keillor's radio program (a Midwestern product that features heavy portions of sound effects and Gospel choirs) runs on the "elitist bastion" of National Public Radio. But his take on a recent development in the current presidential campaign is, to say the least, interesting:

"'s an amazing country where an Arizona multimillionaire can attack a Chicago South Sider as an elitist and hope to make it stick. The Chicagoan was brought up by a single mom who had big ambitions for him, and he got scholarshipped into Harvard Law and was made president of the law review, all of it on his own hook, whereas the Arizonan is the son of an admiral and was ushered into Annapolis though an indifferent student, much like the Current Occupant, both of them men who are very lucky that their fathers were born before they were. The Chicagoan, who grew up without a father, wrote a book on his own, using a computer. The Arizonan hired people to write his for him. But because the Chicagoan can say what he thinks and make sense and the Arizonan cannot do that for more than 30 seconds at a time, the old guy is hoping to portray the skinny guy as arrogant.

"Good luck with that, sir."

Monday, August 4, 2008

We miss this copy editor

Last week was the first in nearly three years that the Tracy Press has been without the services of copy editor Melanie Smith.

She bid adeiu Tank Town, where the Tracy High grad of '01 lived except four years of college in San Diego since she was born in 1983. She's taken off to the Big Apple, where she's interning at an artisan bakery before taking a two-month-long odyssey of Europe.

While here, she was one of the biggest barriers separating the grace of clear copy from the doom of grammatical incorrectness.

We at the Press wish her well, but suffice to say, we miss her already.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mass media thought of the week

"(To the TV). Oh, greatest of the mass media, thank you for elevating emotion, reducing thought, and stifling imagination. Thank you for the artificiality of quick solutions and for the insidious manipulation of human desires for commercial purposes. This bowl of lukewarm tapioca represents my brain. I offer it in humble sacrifice. Bestow thy flickering light forever."

~ Calvin and Hobbes (by Bill Watterson)

Friday random thoughts...

• It's about time: Kudos to the Delta College teachers trying to rally challengers to boot the ineffective (and, according to the grand jury, incompetent) board of trustees.

• Shouldn't the city be in charge of growth decisions? Giving The Surland Cos. an extra 1,600 building permits for any unspecified future project cedes power from the city to one private developer.

• I'm not one for putting a lot of stock in someone's appearance, but...: I never would have thought this guy was a criminal, would you?

• Mabye this will light a fire, but it sure won't ease the wait at DMV: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to cut the pay for state workers and lay off temporary state employees might feel good to those frustrated by bureaucrats, but it sure won't solve any problems.

• Guess we can kiss goodbye McCain's promise of an honorable campaign: And say hello to Britney Hilton Obama.

• He ate cigarette butts? Our weekly reminder to take our prescription medication.