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Get ready for Oscar-winning performances at City Council reorganization

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Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 10:00 pm

A week from today, the Lodi City Council will hold its annual reorganization during which council members will not only say "adios" to Mayor Susan Hitchcock but will also vote for her replacement.

Traditionally, these reorganizations are warm and fuzzy events during which council members and city staff extol the virtues and accomplishments of the outgoing mayor.

Some of you may remember the meeting a year ago when City Manager Dixon Flynn became emotional as he spoke of the accomplishments of then-mayor Phil Pennino.Bob Johnson

This meeting will be a different story. Flynn may yet again choke up but for a totally different reason. The past year has been marked by significant acrimony between Hitchcock, her fellow council members and city staff, especially Flynn. Some will suggest that Hitchcock has accomplished little during her term as mayor. If anything, she may be best remembered for fostering suspicion, bitterness and dissent. It will be extremely difficult for those involved to put these hard feelings aside and act as if everything has been just peachy for the past 12 months.

Most likely all concerned will rise to the occasion and make life nice. All the right things will be said. Everyone will put on a good front and anybody on the outside looking in will think that all is well with in the council chambers.

The meeting should provide some high drama. You may not see an "Oscar" performance but it will be the best acting since Hal Holbrook last appeared at the Square!

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Out with the old and in with the new - but will the new mayor be Emily Howard?

Traditionally, the mayor pro tem routinely moves up to the top seat.

Howard, however, has had a bit of a rocky road herself this past year. She had traded barbs and locked horns with every other council member and some may question if she has the experience and temperament to handle what promises to be a very difficult year. Tune in next Wednesday evening to find out!

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Probably one of the most incredible quotes of recent memory was attributed to Sandy Wichman a few days ago.

Wichman, a pivotal force in the Lodi firefighters union, is stepping down as president after six years. Before becoming president, Wichman helped make the Lodi firefighters Political Action Committee a force to be dealt with, especially around election time. Currently, four of the five seated council members owe a great deal to Wichman and the firefighters PAC.

In announcing his resignation as president and his contemplated retirement from the Fire Department, Wichman reflected on his past accomplishments and boasted that "I got Ray Davenport elected and I'm proud of that."

Many of you will remember that Davenport, a former firefighter, was council member who could best be described as a cancer during his four-year term. It is too bad that Wichman, who has accomplished a great deal for his fellow firefighters, chooses to hold up such a malcontent as Ray Davenport as one of his crowning achievements.

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If anybody wonders why we have such a distrust of our elected representatives in Sacramento, they have only to look at a recent article in the Sacramento Bee which indicates that, despite a hiring freeze, the state of California hired more than 33,000 workers in the past two years. More than 21,000 of these new hires had no previous experience working for the state.

Senior staffers of the former administration tried to put a positive spin on this mess by saying its hands were tied because of obligations to provide essential services.

There may be some validity to that statement but it is a stretch to believe it would cover the entire number.

How and why this happened is beyond Dee Dee Carpenter, the chicken fried steak maven of Cherokee Lane. Carpenter wonders how many more would have been hired if the majority of the Legislature weren't watching the store!

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We have a war in Iraq, continual threats of terrorist attacks at home, ground water contamination, immense fiscal pressure on our state, county and city governments, high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing etc. The list is endless as to the problems we face locally and nationally.

But despite all the negatives, we still live in a country that millions of others can only dream of and yearn for. Let all of us take a moment tomorrow to say thanks for the many blessings we truly enjoy.

Bob Johnson is a member of Lodi's Parks and Recreation Commission. He may be contacted by e-mail at



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