Thursday, January 28, 2010

A bridge to a better future

Looking for hope that a few individuals can make a difference without turning their lives upside-down?

Check out what a pair of artists in New York has done.

Faced with a perpetual scummy stream plaguing a local walkway, instead of griping, complaining and basically raising a stink, they did something about it. They built a bridge over it, declaring it the "Astoria Scum River Bridge."

And wouldn't you know — not only did people start using it, local officials finally took notice and began to fix the leak that caused the Scum River in the first place.

Now that's community involvement.

More on the swim center

My column last weekend simply wasn't long enough to include all I wanted to, especially a discussion on the need of another competition-sized pool in the city.

Though the 52-meter, year-round, competition pool is at the top of the list for local swim clubs and parents with aquatically minded youngsters, it doesn't necessarily make sense to put in first in the city's eye.

For one, it's hard to justify the cost of a facility that caters to a relatively small portion of Tracy residents as opposed to the cost of a facility that presumably caters to the entire community (the lazy river, activity pool, etc.) Especially when that cost is outsized.

According to sources with the city of Tracy, maintaining a competition-sized pool takes more maintenance than some of the other features planned for the water park. Add to that its year-round nature (as opposed to the warm-weather schedule planned for the rest of the aquatics center) and you've got a facility that could be a financial drag on the entire operation.

Since it's so vital this water park doesn't become a white elephant that drains Tracy's general fund, it's no wonder the competition pool isn't at the top of the list.

Furthermore, there might not be a pressing need for it.

The city already has a contract with Tracy Unified School District to share the Pinkie Phillips Aquatics Center at West High.

And, though parks and rec director Rod Buchanan told me there are no plans in the works to enter a similar agreement regarding the pool at Kimball High, it's a possibility that might be cheaper and make more logistical sense than the city building its own expensive competition pool.

Maybe Tracy needs its very own 52-meter pool. But the city should look at all its other options before the City Council caves to what could be a vocal minority of Tracy citizens.

Of course, this conversation leaves aside other factors surrounding the swim center — its location, its connection to a developer deal with The Surland Cos. that will contribute to the suburban sprawl of Tracy, etc.

But when it strictly comes to the dollars-and-common-sense priority list trotted in front of the City Council, the city looks like it's on the right track.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's good to be spoiled

This weekend offered the perfect storm for a skier — a week of fresh powder followed by two days of relatively clear skies before the next storm was expected to ride in.

So I grabbed my planks and headed up.

What I didn't expect is that the place I was staying in would be without electricity (or heat, or hot water) for the duration of the weekend. It was, shall we say, cold.

Huddling around a fireplace while you can see your breath inside a cabin surrounded by a couple feet of snow is a great reminder of — by and large — how spoiled our society is. Heat on demand, light on demand, a way to cook without an open fire on demand.

It's nice to learn that lesson every once in a while. And, as a plus, it's made this weather in the valley feel downright balmy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama's one-year anniversary

One year after being sworn into office — and even that was an adventure — President Obama is struggling to enact his agenda.

It's been a disappointing first year.

Obama's health care reform plan is on the ropes — and even if it's passed, it's been so watered-down and changed by Congress to appease the major players in the game that it's uncertain how much it will actually help.

Many Bush-era policies remain in place regarding executive power. And we're still embroiled in a pair of costly overseas military operations that the nation couldn't afford in the first place and certainly can't now.

Any Wall Street and banking reform has yet to be delivered, and if it ever is there's no guarantee that it won't be merely window dressing, allowing the Captains of Industry to continue rigging the system in their favor while typical taxpayers get the shaft.

The domestic economy continues to be sour, with many Americans unable to find meaningful employment.

And Obama's ambitious promises to run a transparent administration seem to be largely forgotten.

But the disappointment is tempered, at least for this writer, by the sheer magnitude of the mess Obama inherited:

Huge deficits amassed largely through unecessary military action and irresponsible tax cuts. Two wars with no clear end in sight. A decimated domestic economy.

It hasn't been a transformative year for America by any means. But that might have been too ambitious a goal. As I noted more than a year ago, it could take years — if not decades — to dig out of the mess we made for ourselves in the first several years of the decade that was.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Obligatory weather blog

If you haven't looked outside today, Mother Nature is not in a charitable mood. There's cold, biting wind, smattering rain, grey skies ...

OK, so check that. From California's standpoint, this is Mother Nature at her most giving.

So far, we've only got 4.2-inches and change of recorded rain in Tracy, which leaves us about 5 inches short of our annual request. And this year, our water need is especially dire.

So pile it on, Mama. We need all the wet you've got.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tracy police do the right thing

When Tracy police officers voted via their union to forego a scheduled pay raise in 2011 — a raise that they had every legal right to — so that police layoffs would be less likely, they did something very wise.

At a time when the public is increasingly worried about gang violence, the department could ill afford to lose the six officers, two sergeants and one captain that the city estimated would have to be cut if the 2011 raise was still a go. Voting to eschew the raise means that locals don't have to worry about losing police protection, or sacrificing some other service in exchange.

It's also good for other officers. Giving up a pay raise to ensure the job for your coworkers has to go a long way for camaraderie.

But it's not just about doing the right thing by citizens and their fellows in the line of fire. This is a political move.

In a time of big budget deficits, when taxpaying citizens are increasingly fed up with public employees with plusher deals than many of their private-sector counterparts, this vote by the police union was the only smart move on the table.

Public blowback would have been fairly intense had Tracy's cops not put the city they serve first.

But — huzzah! — Tracy's men and women in blue did put the city and its residents first. Let's see if that sentiment holds during the next round of collective bargaining.

A friendly reminder from your crumbling infrastructure

According to the city of Tracy in this story, unusually cold water caused several pipes around town to burst this past weekend. The result, as you can see by Glenn Moore's pictures, are flooded streets and some soggy lawns.

But it's also a reminder that what lurks beneath the streets of many cities in this country is aging, and some of it not well. Infrastructure — such as water pipes, sewer mains, even bridges and dams — has a life expectancy.

Patterson, the small city to our south, is starting to tear up and replace the 100-year-old pipes and mains that were installed when the city was young.

This past weekend's breakages in Tracy are just another hint that what we've built isn't going to last forever.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Candidate forum reactions

Sitting in the back of the room for Monday's GOP forum (more on that here, here and in this week's column) it was easy to see the trends of the evening's discussion.

The candidates harped on smaller government, less spending, lower taxes, sticking by the Constitution as the founding fathers intended and needling "free-spending," "liberal" Democrats.

None of this comes as a surprise. It was a GOP forum mostly geared to GOP primary voters -- of course there would be lots of red meat for the base, and it was pretty standard red meat, at that.

However, it was also very general. At times painfully so. The candidates focused mainly on philosophy rather than delving into specific policy.

Again, this is early-season campaigning, so no real surprise that vagueness was in vogue, especially the pledges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did. I mean, did the framers intend to set it in stone? Was it meant to evolve along with the country? Are any of these folks constitutional scholars or lawyers?

(Also, as a somewhat-related aside, it's hard to take seriously those who argue for strict constitutional interpretation -- which classically means granting as much personal liberty and as little government power as possible -- and who also support constitutional amendments to limit marriage to heterosexual couples and prohibit flag-burning, amendments several of the candidates said they'd support.)

Furthermore, many answers seemed to be based on presuppositions rather than keen policy observation. Again, this is no surprise in the world of modern politics, and it plays in Peoria, but it means many answers should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially those heaping blame for the recession on the current crop of Democrats. The causes of the Great Recession are pretty complicated, and Republicans and their policies deserve at least as much, perhaps more, of the blame as the Democrats. (In fact, both parties have been complicit in the fleecing of America's middle class.)

One other thing that was notable -- candidates were most effective when they tapped into the populist discontent that many Americans, including yours truly, are feeling at the moment.

Many people are angry with bankers and Captains of Industry who, right after plunging the country into financial chaos and getting the taxpayers to get their companies off the hook, proceeded to pretend they weren't responsible and reward themselves with more lavish bonuses. The politicians who approved those bailouts -- rightly or wrongly -- are also taking a lot of heat for "rewarding" financial irresponsibility, letting the Captains take the profits and letting the taxpayers take the losses.

This is a sentiment that reaches across party lines. In fact, I'd bet that assertions against private and government entanglement would draw cheers from a progressive audience just as easily as it did from the mostly conservative one Monday night.

If the Republicans are to make significant gains in this midterm election -- and swing the dead-neutral 11th Congressional District back into GOP hands -- they'll have to tap into this sentiment and let it carry them through the fall.

Meet the GOP candidates

While at the Monday Republican candidates forum in Manteca, I jotted down a few notes. By a few, I mean I wrote down (in paraphrase form) each answer to each question asked of each candidate.

The following is a paraphrased, highly condensed and admittedly abridged version of the forum, with the intent of revealing more about a relatively unknown group of candidates. I have followed my notes and have sincerely tried to remain as true to the original phrasing of the candidates as possible, and all actual direct quotes appear in quotation marks.

Question: What do you say to those who say there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats?
David Harmer: Those who say that are "considerably accurate." I am a conservative first and a Republican second. Big government conservatism is a mistake.
Tony Amador: There is a difference. Democratic policies have the country headed toward a "socialistic state," and encourage a "dependent mindset."
Elizabeth Emken: I as a Republican am nothing like Rep. Jerry McNerney. It's difficult to understand how Democrats are "so far off where the country began."
Brad Goehring: I'd like to "put parties aside." "I'd like to have a fashionable thing where everyone focuses on the Constitution" instead of political party.
Robert Beadles: Republicans somehow lost their way. We need to ask, before enacting a policy, if the Constitution allows it. We need to ask, "What would (Thomas) Jefferson do?"
Jeff Takada: One is a left party, and one is a right party. There's also an up and down spectrum when it comes to judging politics, and both parties have sunk down toward authoritarianism. What we need is small government

Q: What is one issue you would make as part of a new "Contract with America"?
Emken: "No new taxes." I've signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Goehring: Bring us back to constitutional principles. All our problems, or a majority of our problems, come from not following the Constitution. "I will not stray from the Constitution." I will even stand up to those in my own party.
Beadles: Stick to the Constitution. There's "no need to reinterpret" the document written in "1776."
Takada: The framers "in 1776" had the right idea. We have a Constitution, and we must abide by it, because it is there to properly "bind the hands of government."
Harmer: ILock Congress in a room and have them only fund what programs they can remember. Short of that, members of Congress should read bills before they vote.
Amador: Make America fiscally responsible, with no "funny money" practices.

Q: Do you believe that America is still a "Shining city on a hill"? And what do you think threatens that?
Beadles: "Liberals in Congress," are a threat. America is still the best country on the planet.
Takada: America is "definitely still that shining city." Our monetary and fiscal policies are our biggest threat, including piling up debt.
Harmer: Yes it is. But President Obama's "serial apologizing" is a threat to that. American exceptionalism needs to be earned, and it is not earned by apologizing.
Amador: Yes it is. But we have this "perfect storm" of a president and Congress, and we must make sure we "don't go over the edge."
Emken: Yes. The biggest threat is the "moral decline and lack of personal responsibility" in this country. A moral foundation is critical — all else flows from it.
Goehring: Yes it is. The green movement is "like a cancer that's been stripping us of property rights." I'm an envrionmental steward, as a farmer with 100-plus-year-old grape vines, as good as you'll find. But personal property is equal to freedom and liberty.

Q, from Harmer: What do you attribute the federal government's spending explosion?
Amador: Partly the dependent mentality fostered by big government. There's a myth that government can do it all for everyone.
Emken: It's the Democrats' unsound economic policy. They think that they can spend to prosperity.
Goehring: It's been out of control for several administrations. It's because there's irresponsibility and no accountability. We have to conserve our way out of the problem.
Beadles: The people in Congress have no idea how to run a business. If I ran a business like Congress, "I'd probably be in jail."
Takada: The spending explosion goes back to Woodrow Wilson. Recently it's been evident in things like the Bush bailouts, some of our recent wars and our entitlement programs.
Harmer: Asked the question because we've been robbing Peter to pay Paul and, we're becoming a "nation of Pauls." We need a three-part test before passing a bill: Do we need it? Can we afford it? Does the Constitution authorize it?

Q from Emken: If elected, what committee in the House of Representatives would you like to sit on?
Goehring: The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (as there's been a vast misuse of the Constitution's Commerce Clause) and the Agricultural Committee, as both are vital to this region.
Beadles: The Finanance Committee. With business experience, could look out for us and make sure we're not spending away the future.
Takada: There's a subcommitte that deals with water resources so I could cut red tape and give power to locals in water matters, to make sure we "don't trample senior water rights."
Harmer: Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure because it's important to the district, the Financial Services Committee that others in D.C. have asked me about, and the Ways and Means Committee, which has national importance, and, perhaps the smallest and most influential one, the Rules Committee.
Amador: Committee appointment goes by a seniority system, but I am qualified for work on matters of national security because of a law enforcement background as a police officer and U.S. marshal. I am the only candidate with Top Secret security clearance.
Emken: Asked this question knowing that we're all assigned to a committee. Even though this is my "first time running for anything," I have worked for years with the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Q, from Goehring: What would be your top funding priority for the 11th District?
Beadles: We would have to see how we're spending before we commit to spend more. We need to cut, not raise spending.
Takada: Oppose the stimulus spending. If we have a surplus or are going to spend any more money, it should be on paying down the debt.
Harmer: The talk of earmarks "turns my stomach." It's money that we've "borrowed from my children." Earmarks are the "gateway drug" to irresponsible Congressional spending and corruption.
Amador: It's pork, and it's mostly for frivolous projects. But if anything, the priority would be on hospitals, like the Veterans Administration hospital that's slated for San Joaquin County — which was in the works long before McNerney got into office.
Emken: Rescind the stimulus. What we haven't spent, we shoud not spend.
Goehring: No to the stimulus, that we should repeal it. We need to base recovery on free market enterprise. Recovery is like taking off a Band-Aid — it can either be slow and drawn-out, or fast and decisive. Better to be fast and decisive.

Q from Takada: How will you lead for the 11th District and the country?
Harmer: "I've already done this (and) have influenced public policy." "I can hit the ground running," if elected into office.
Amador: Been appointed by two presidents and six governors, and would be glad to be back serving the poeple. The "service model of Rotary" is a good example to follow when taking on leadership.
Emken: Would take a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. I'm actually "more prepared to serve than to campaign." I've had 13 years of federal advocacy for autistic children and policymaking experience.
Goehring: It would be humbling to represent you. I'd be immersed in the issues and be accountable to the district and voters. I will admit if I don't have the answers, and I'll look for them.
Beadles: Would let your voices be heard, and would always have an open door.
Takada: Would get to work on the committees and subcommittees, and would like to form caucuses to represent local interests. One would be the "Congressional Delta Caucus" to make sure the feds and state don't destroy the region. The other would be the "Congressional Japan Caucus," as I think I would be the only representative fluent in Japanese, and Japan is a huge trading and economic partner for California.

- - - - - - -
There was more than that, to be sure, but I hope this at least opens a small window onto the 2½ hour-long forum.

Expect more on the campaign as the year moves along, including reports on incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney and whoever ultimately faces him in the November general election.

NUMMI dominoes start falling

Stockton's Kyoho Manufacturing, which opened a 260,000-square-foot facility to much local fanfare in 2008, announced that it will lay off all 154 of its workers beginning in April, according to this report.

This blow to the local jobs market is but one of the ripples created by the pending closure of NUMMI, the auto manufacturing plant that's closing up shop after first GM and now Toyota are pulling out.

It's economics from the companies' standpoint, and the workers I've talked to understand that perspective. But many workers also feel like legislators did less-than-exemplary jobs of trying to change those companies' minds. (To me, "betrayed" is not a mild word).

And this is going to get worse before it gets better — the Kyoho announcement won't be the last round of job losses spurred by the NUMMI closure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting after the gangs

If you're as much of an avid reader of the Police Log as we at the Press are, you've probably noticed a change over the past week or so. Namely, cops are stopping a lot of folks with suspected gang ties.

It's no coincidence that these entries started being reported by dispatchers in the daily blotter just as gang violence became Issue No. 1 among Tracy residents.

Just as promised by Police Chief Janet Theissen, police are starting to hassle gang members in the hopes that they'll figure out Tracy isn't a hospitible place for them to do their thing.

Will it actaully pay off? Who knows. But the Police Log is at least proof that police policy is changing with public involvement.

The next generation of online news

Big news from the colliding worlds of newspapers and the Internet. Starting today, the Stockton Record's online news service is no longer free.

This qualifies as "big news," because this decision goes straight to the heart of a significant question for the future of our democracy: what is happening to newspapers, and what will their future be?

For years, newspapers have often been the victims of the Internet age. It takes significant time and resources (read: money) for newspapers to produce high-quality journalism. Yet for years, papers have put that content online, and usually for free — often with added perks, such as this blog, to electron-savvy readers.

While ad revenue from online sources trickled in, content was pouring out, with bloggers, news aggregate sites like Drudge, and anyone with a wireless card to spread someone else's product without restriction.

Furthermore, readers expect that kind of free access. The only way to turn Web surfers off faster than pop-up ads is to charge for online content. And newspapers need readers. But to stay in the business of breaking news, they also need paying readers.

This presents an obvious dilemma — how do you get people to pay for something they expect to get for free?

Some news organizations have features on their Web sites asking readers for donations. Not very successful, that one. Others have switched to the idea of charging a subscription fee — just like for a print newspaper. (Note: The Tracy Press does not charge those living within its delivery area a subscription fee for its print edition.)

The Record has tried the latter, and it's an avenue many more newspapers might take in an effort to control their content and remain competitive. While it might irk those who expect the content for free, producing that content is decidedly not free.

So readers shouldn't be surprised if their favorite news sites start charging. It's the next generation of online news.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fireworks at candidates forum

Earlier this evening, I went to Manteca for a forum of six GOP congressional hopefuls aiming to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney. I expected the traditional red-meat politics, a few clever turns of phrase and shots at the party in power. I had expected to follow the debate and introduce the candidates in my weekly column.

I didn't expect a face-to-face accusation of political malfeasance.

Candidate Robert Beadles, who recently had his home and business searched by the California Highway Patrol and San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies, told the nearly 250 people in attendance that the search was part of a malicious and "politically motivated" effort to muscle him out of the 11th District race. And he publicly called out frontrunning candidate Brad Goehring as having some connection to the matter.

The background is that, on Jan. 4, Beadles had his home and business, a construction outfit called RBI (for Robert Beadles Inc.), raided by authorities looking for stolen construction signs. From this news report, it appears the signs supposedly belonged to a competitor, Farwest Safety Inc., owned by Gary Anderson.

The business and homes were searched at about 7 a.m. that day. "Just as sheriff's deputies arrived" at Beadles' business, Beadles wrote in a statement, someone from Anderson's office called one of Beadles' employees warning of the search. This timing, Beadles wrote, made him suspect skullduggery.

At 10:27 a.m. that same day, an e-mail was sent by a Farwest Safety employee to members of the media -- including the Tracy Press -- stating that the sheriff and the CHP "...raided the office of RBI Inc. today..."

In addition to the release being e-mailed to Anderson, the Contractors State License Board, American Civil Contractors and Ghilotti Bros. Contractors, it was also sent to the offices of McNerney and Goehring. That was the apparent connection that prompted Beadles, in his closing statement of the forum, to ask Goehring to help clear his name -- fireworks that ended what was, until then, a fairly standard political forum.

When I asked him about the one-sided exchange, Goehring said that he feels he has run a clean campaign. Goehring said that he has a deep reputation in the area as a moral and upstanding citizen, and that he was not about to change the way he conducts himself or jeopardize that hard-earned reputation.

Goehring, appearing to want to remain above the fray, added that he remains focused on mounting a successful challenge to McNerney.

Tony Amador, another competitor in the crowded 11th District GOP field, said after Monday's forum that it would be wise for the state attorney general's office to look into any possible impropriety. A former police officer and U.S. marshal, Amador said: "I'm appaled if the comments (Beadles) made are true."

It should be noted that Goehring's receipt of the e-mail appears so far to be the only link between Goehring and the search of Beadles' property that the Beadles campaign could provide after the forum.

Hector Barajas, communications director for the Beadles campaign, added that Beadles had filed a lawsuit against his business competitor for slander and other offenses.

A helluva way to kick off the campaign season, if you ask me. (We'll have more on the forum and what the candidates actually debated about in the coming days.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Three sides to every story

One of the paramount rules in journalism is to tell the whole story. When it came to a column published in the Jan. 2 Tracy Press, I didn't get that right.

That story relied on a source who, from what I can gather, was mostly truthful. But the source definitely came from a certain perspective, and the story ran without countervailing perspective.

Balance of opinion is not always desirable or necessary in a report. However, in this case, the father of my column's subject, the recently killed Spencer Sampson, had a lot to add. (See what he added to the story in my most recent column, which should be the first story on this page.)

He gave me a raw, emotional look into a family dealing with the death of its strength — as Spencer's father had a few run-ins with the law and his mother had a past problem with methamphetamines, Spencer was the foundation of the clan.

Spencer's death ripped gaping holes in the hearts of his family members and friends, and only someone like Ronnie, Spencer's father, could have revealed that. I could hear it in his voice and see it in his face. I saw a man that, while he had definitely made mistakes in his past, was trying to be better for his family and dearly loved his son.

Ronnie filled in the missing pieces of Spencer's story.

He was also a face-to-face reminder that these stories deal with real people and powerful emotions, and they can sometimes have deep and painful impacts.

Both are lessons that shouldn't be forgotten by a storyteller.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Delta's health not improving

According to this report in the CoCo Times, the Delta's health is only worsening.

The quick recap is that fish population in the Delta — including striped bass, shad and, of course, the often-reviled Delta smelt — is at all-time low levels. This indicates that there's something, possibly many things, not right in our local waterways. (Not that that's a newsflash or anything.)

The guessed culprits are familiar: Fresh water being sucked out or dammed out of the Delta; salt and other contaminants being dumped in the Delta; invasive species taking food and habitat from native species.

And the Sacramento-supported solution for this collapsing ecosystem is to export fresh, life-giving water around it? Sigh.

No, no ... you're still unplugged

Seems we got a little excited about a few calls that somehow managed to reach us yesterday. Phoning the newsroom, pressroom, or any other room at the Tracy Press is an impossible task at the moment, as our phone troubles persist.

Visit so you know when you can call us again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Press, plugged in again

The phone snafu from earlier today has apparently been solved, and all you alert readers trying to get in touch with the Tracy Press newsroom can resume calling 830-4280.

(And thus enduth the quietest day in the office that I can remember.)

We're getting mixed messages

Love Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's optimisim in today's State of the State address. Even in desperate times for California (see here, here and here), the governator's hope is a chocolate cookie for the soul.

Of course, you gotta wash that cookie down with a glass full of gravel.

According to a report from the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific (access the report from this page), San Joaquin County and the Central Valley will lag behind even the state's "sluggish" economic recovery.

The main culprits, according to the center: the absolute implosion of the construction industry; state, county, city and school budget cuts; and the pending closure of Toyota's NUMMI plant.

When NUMMI is combined with foreclosures, the construction depression, and a new round of state budget cuts, the recession will continue through the first half of 2010 for the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento, and portions of the East Bay. While the entire state faces housing and state and local budget challenges, the impacts are most severe in these regions.

In other words, the Central Valley still occupies its traditional role as the state's economic struggler.

Cut off from the world

If you've been trying to call the Tracy Press today, chances are you haven't been successful.

That's because the phone system gave up the ghost some time this morning. Which means incoming calls are vanishing into the great digital beyond. We can call you, but you can't call us.

We're working to get the phones up and running as quickly as possible. Until then, try reaching us via the Web site.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Starting 2010 with big news

I disconnected for the entire New Year's weekend, and man, did I miss a lot.

Richard Pombo wants to be in Congress again, the Tracy City Council takes up the issue of crime and punishment, and our city's first recreation director passes away.

When it comes to Pombo's announcement, I suspected he wouldn't be out of politics for long, though I really expected him to be lobbying instead of running for a new Congressional district. However, he's a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, and he's running in a pretty conservative district — no surprises, you go where you can win. Although, I still wonder why he's thrown his hat into the ring again. Hopefully, we'll be able to answer that question in the next few months.

As for tonight's (probably still ongoing) council meeting, Police Chief Janet Thiessen said the department wants to reduce crime by 10 percent and make Tracy the statistiaclly safest city in Northern California. Key word there is statistically. When it comes to numbers, Tank Town is still a pretty safe place to live. But as I've said before, there's more to numbers than safety. It's a feeling. And it's that feeling of security that we really must recapture.

And I didn't know Joe Wilson, but I know that he meant a lot to this community. If you're like me and you know Joe Wilson more for the pool named after him than the man himself, this obituary should give you a pretty good picture of his life's accomplishments.