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Going to the dogs in more ways than one

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Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 10:00 pm

Many of those who watched last week's meeting figured that the Lodi City Council had finally gone to the dogs. After reading the News-Sentinel earlier this week, that idea may not be too far-fetched.

The front page photo of City Councilman Larry Hansen puckering up to his poodle was a sight I've not seen in all my years of watching council actions and antics.

It would be hard to imagine Jim Pinkerton in a similar pose.Bob Johnson

Hansen isn't the only dog lover on the council.

Mayor Susan Hitchcock has been seen around town with a small dog clutched to her chest.

Councilman Keith Land was noted for having his dog prominently in his campaign literature right along with the photos of his children.

While perhaps not a dog lover, Vice Mayor Emily Howard has appeared at numerous official functions with her young toddler in tow.

John Beckman appears to be the only one out of step. He does, however, have a permit allowing him to carry a gun. Wanna bet that if he ever does get into the doggy mode it will be a rottweiler named Brutus?

City Manager Dixon Flynn really earned a big chunk of his salary last week when he suggested at the 11th hour that an outside facilitator be brought in to sow the seeds of peace among the council.

This suggestion was sufficient to stave off a certain vote to censure the mayor for defying a council resolution.

There have been several expressions of a willingness to put the entire sorry mess behind them. But don't kid yourself.

Egos were severely bruised last week.

Hitchcock survived a public rebuke by the skin of her teeth.

Land, who precipitated the whole affair, has alienated Hitchcock's supporters, who appear to be significant in number.

Howard tried several times to convince Hitchcock of the error of her ways only to be repeatedly rejected by the mayor.

Hansen and Beckman both appeared deeply disturbed by the mayor's stance.

Beckman seconded the motion for censure and Hansen begged off on a vote rather than set a precedent.

What happens next?

The city most likely will spend several thousand dollars on a facilitator who will try to teach the council several verses of "If You're Happy and You Know It - Clap Your Hands."

For a couple of hundred bucks and a 12 pack, I'm certain there is a Hell's Angel out there who would be willing to knock some sense into their collective heads.

Perhaps the better suggestion would be to bring some of our retired council members back for a little guidance counseling.

People like Evie Olson, Fred Reid, Bo Katzakian, Dave Hinchman, Wally Katnich et al. served the council and the community with dignity and respect. They had their differences but always finished their meetings on a cordial - if not friendly - note.

Maybe they would be willing to adopt a current council member for a week or two.

They are far enough removed from the current council and its problems. They know the community. They know the issues. They know the council members.

Who better to lead us out of this mess than somebody who has been down the same road? Why not give it a try, boys and girls?

One of the more entertaining moments in the tumultuous meeting last week was the reappearance of Lori Gualco, an opposing attorney in the long-running and increasingly expensive groundwater contamination suit the city is mired in. This is the second time that Gualco has appeared before the council.

On this occasion, she pointed out that Michael Donovan, lead attorney representing Lodi, apparently tried to "pack the house" with members of his staff who applauded just about every time a point was scored against Hitchcock and who shook their heads in feigned disbelief when someone had the temerity to question the city's strategy.

I would have expected that Donovan would bring one or two of his attorneys with him, but when Gualco noted that the office receptionist was in the audience, it seemed a little much.

As if that weren't bad enough, Donovan lost his cool when a citizen systematically poked holes in the legal strategy created by Donovan. He had to be repeatedly called to order by the mayor who used the gavel to attract his attention.

We are paying Donovan damn near $500 per hour. For that kind of money, we should be getting an attorney who can exercise greater restraint and common sense.

Bob Johnson, an avid observer of Lodi's political scene, is a former Lodi City Councilman and a long-time member of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. He may be contacted by e-mail at



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