Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Manteca Council's War on Business and Citizens

Attending City Council meetings allows one to get immersed in the "culture" of city administration - before becoming inured to it and the warped vision appears to be normal.

Then an outsider appears who is able to succinctly finger the problem. A young woman from Wilton, probably of left-leaning attitudes, speaks up in a public hearing and receives the same treatment as all other loyal subjects of the fiefdom - all considerations other than those predetermined are swept aside and another motion carries 5-0. In the public comments at the end of the meeting, she returns to the podium to smack down the mayor, the councilmen, the administration, and the city attorney. Then she writes this letter to the Sun Post. (It is reprinted here because the Sun Post website is out of commission.)

Sound Off

Written by Sun Post Friday, 05 September 2008

No room for the “Good Old Boys Club”

I am writing in hopes that you will print a letter about the disappointing conduct of the Manteca City Council, mayor, city attorney and chief of police.

About two weeks ago, I initially voiced my concerns to the Manteca City Council regarding the illegalities of certain portions of the proposed pit bull spay-neuter ordinance. My hope from the outset was simply for the ordinance to be amended in order to, 1) put the city in compliance with state law, and 2) ensure the ordinance was fair.

I have had contact with and/or worked on various issues with the governor's office, the attorney general's office, state senators, assembly members, city councils, boards of supervisors, police departments, etc. Each of the aforementioned bodies of government, though I'm sure extremely busy, took the time to acknowledge, correspond and communicate in an effort to address whatever item of concern was at hand.

I cannot state the same for the City of Manteca. Just some of what I endured was: I sent letters to the entire council and mayor, and via certified mail, copies of Senator Jackie Speier's letter of intent regarding the state law, with no response. I asked each council member and the mayor via email the simple question of when the vote for this ordinance was set. No response.

After several days, I tried calling the clerk (who was very pleasant and helpful) and she gave me the date of the vote and let me speak with Police Chief Dave Bricker regarding the ordinance. I told Chief Bricker I had been trying but had been unable to find the actual ordinance language, and asked if he could email it to me. His response was to find it on their Web site. I had already checked there, but I checked again. It still wasn't on the Web site.

My friend emailed the city asking for the ordinance language. They sent her the incorrect document. I had another friend email the Manteca Bulletin writer who had quoted the ordinance in his article to ask him for a copy. Not even a response from him.

I tried to find contact information for the city attorney. He is not on the city Web site. I finally located his number and left a message asking the city attorney to call me back to discuss the ordinance language. Never a response from him either.

An attorney I know of also sent correspondence to the city letting them know that they were not in compliance with state law. They didn't even feel the need to reply to the attorney either.

I mentioned to my father one evening that dealing with Manteca reminded me of a 1950s town in the Deep South. Ironically, the very next day I was introduced to someone who had been a Manteca resident for 10 years who described the dynamics of Manteca's political scene as, quote, "Think American South circa 1950."

I fully realize that the nature of the beast is that we all do not always agree on all issues. However, in general, where governing bodies are concerned, lines of communication are opened with an eye toward coming to a resolution instead of the absolute dismissiveness exhibited by the City of Manteca officials.

I don't care how big of a city or how little of a town you live in, in the year 2008, there is no room for a “Good Old Boys Club” at the helm of any governing body. —Patty Letawsky, Wilton

Let me tell you, it was a standing ovation moment. I could have kissed her! (Patty, darling, call me?)

Two quick points:

1) I asked the city clerk about ordinance language not being on the website, when the Chief of Police said it was. I was told the "internal" system has all that stuff, but the public website does not. Get it straight, Chief, when talking to the public you are supposed to serve. (And, get IT out of the 20th century, already.)

2) The city attorney has been in his position almost as long as Jack Snyder has been in a council seat. He's a mystical, magical character, whose law firm has been sucking on Manteca's money teat for decades. There is no way any contact information about "the man behind the curtain" would ever be made available to a citizen because, you see, taxpayers buy his services to keep the city's butt out of the sling should a taxpayer ever sue the city. Brilliant!

Ten days ago the following article appeared in the local daily:

Time for a real sign from the Manteca council, published 10/11/2008 by Dennis Wyatt, Managing Editor, Manteca Bulletin

I could not pass up the opportunity to respond. It is unfortunate, perhaps cowardly, that the Manteca Bulletin chooses not to show responses publicly on the website. This is what I sent:

Dennis, I beg to differ with your view of Manteca’s anti-business stance. You use one example to illustrate your argument; I use one example to show the exact opposite.

Manteca loves one particular business which has been operating within city limits for twenty-two years, but the city has never issued permits for them to operate, nor collected a nickel in business license fees, nor exercised any oversight of its growth or expansion during that time. Neither has Manteca paid any attention to complaints from the neighbors of this business operation over the years.

In fact, quite the opposite. There is every appearance that the owners have one or more patrons within the city bureaucracy, who deflect criticism and squash every attempt to correct this situation. Whatever form this protection payoff takes, the result is that this business flourishes. The savings alone from not paying rent for commercial space has ensured its continuance and profitability.

The cost not accounted for is the heavy toll levied on the neighbors, who suffer day and night with this scabrous travesty of free enterprise – this municipal welfare of the worst kind. The owners scoff at laws and regulation; law/code enforcement officers scoff at any person with the temerity to suggest wrong is being done; enforcement action is out of the question.

Where is this business operating? On a residential property in the heart of a residential neighborhood.

Who are they and what do they do? Lynda Allen and Theresa Brassey own TLC Catering, and run “roach coaches” to Tracy. However, they also operate a full, on-site commissary, which use has never been issued permits by the city. The operation begins at midnight and includes commercial delivery trucks arriving and departing, and shuttling ice with plastic buckets and a wheelbarrow. Until recently the icemaker ran uncontrolled day and night. Abandoned or inoperable vehicles and commercial equipment litter the half-acre. Annual inspections by the county health department are not made on a surprise basis and appear to have little effect on the owners or the sanitary conditions they are supposed to maintain. Visits from Manteca code enforcement appear as a reception for high tea rather than obtaining and acting on real information.

I tell you, Manteca LOVES this business and treats T,L&C with TLC.

The Manteca Bulletin chose not to run it; I chose to post it here.

Rex Osborn, Code Enforcement Supervisor, Office of the Police Chief, treats these women with such kindness and affection, they are like his aged grandmothers. They adore him, listen to him, and do whatever he tells them. Such a sweet and cozy picture.

Sappy sweet. (Can anyone say "protection?")

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