Friday, September 30, 2011

Signs of the season

Two cues that fall really is here seen from the road this morning: Red tomatoes scattered on highway asphalt, and grey fog peeking over the Altamont Hills.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Updated: FoodMaxx first grocery big box victim?

Back when the city of Tracy was mulling whether to approve — at about the same time — a WinCo supermarket, Walmart Supercenter expansion, and a Raley's, at least one consultant's study warned that there would be casualties among the city's existing grocers.

Today, we found that FoodMaxx will close up shop in October.

It's hard to tell if FoodMaxx's closure is a direct result of WinCo and Raley's coming to town (Walmart's plans are still in process) but I wouldn't be surprised.

Of course, that's the way free markets work. If you can't hang with the competition, you're toast.

But this still presents a problem for the city as far as urban planning goes. As in, what happens when the anchor of a strip mall, which FoodMaxx was, disappears? Do the smaller ships drift into oblivion when the anchor's pulled out?

Let's hope not.

Turns out the FoodMaxx won't sit vacant for long. Word on the street is that another market will take over once FoodMaxx departs.

Good to hear the storefront won't sit empty long.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Market moves out

Work is happening today at the Westside Market, which the city of Tracy recently purchased.

Employees could be seen packing up boxes and moving out shelves at what was formerly a small grocery on the corner of Eighth Street and Central Avenue downtown.

It's not officially known what will be put in its place, but several people close to the matter have suggested the city is seeking a restaurant or some other high-traffic type establishment to further the rejuvenation of downtown as a cultural hub.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't bet on a quick turnaround

Fitting that at last night's City Council meeting, Finance Director Zane Johnston told councilmembers that the need to trim employee costs was pressing, even though the Measure E sales tax increase doesn't expire for four more years.

We haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel, he said.

Truly, he spoke.

A UCLA study, this report says, envisions San Joaquin County lingering in the economic doldrums until at least 2017. It's consistent with what the University of Pacific Economic Forecasting Center has said in its quarterly reports for nigh on a year: The state's coastal and more urban areas are starting to show signs of life, but the Central Valley will continue to lag behind.

That means cities like Tracy, which have a budget to balance, would do well to get into the black sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The end of butterfly season

Last week, anyone exiting or entering Tracy on 11th Street east of town got a little something extra for free — a new coat of yellow paint.

Well, not paint so much as the remains of hundreds of bright yellow butterflies that flitted over and across that stretch of pavement. Beautiful to watch, but sad — there's no way to avoid turning your car into a giant bug swatter. Not to mention, they're a pain to clean.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A nation of cowards?

Another poll, another set of data that suggest maybe Americans don't value their freedom as much as they say they do.

This one suggests that a majority of Americans — including, no doubt, many of the "get your government hands off my Medicare" types — are willing to trade freedoms for security.

At some level, it's common sense. We do this all the time. Think stop lights and speed limits — we give up our freedom to drive however the hell we want in the interest of public safety. Because obeying a certain set of rules makes us all less likely to end up roadkill.

But what we're talking about here is different.

We're talking in the context of national security, giving the government widespread power to search and snoop without warrants or other advance notice. The bogeyman of terrorism, since Sept. 11, 2001, has been used to justify all sorts of government overreach, and our federal government is perhaps more cloaked in secrecy than ever before.

Government secrecy — and untouchable authority — is the enemy of republicanism and democracy. And now we have proof that a majority of U.S. citizens seem willing to go along for that ride.

I'll leave today with one thought, cribbed from the mind of none other than Ben Franklin: "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

You can bet Ben wasn't talking about traffic signals.