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FBI steps in when others can't

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Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002 10:00 pm

The rumor mill is working overtime on this FBI investigation at the San Joaquin County Courthouse. We urge readers not to jump to conclusions about what agents might someday discover once they've turned over the political rocks in Stockton and Tracy. It might be nothing at all. However, this is a good moment to reflect on the vital work the FBI performs occasionally in state and local politics.

Bashing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and second-guessing the espionage bureaucrats about how they should have handled the 9/11 disaster is popular sport right at the moment.

The press has noted other complaints about the bureau's effectiveness in recent years. But we can recall little praise for the FBI's work uncovering political corruption.

The most famous case in California started in 1985. FBI agents set up an elaborate sting operation, pretending to be principals in a shrimp farm that needed political favors at the state Capitol.

Nine years later, they had convicted four senators, an assemblyman, a former county sheriff and a prominent lobbyist.

Sometimes such politically explosive cases can be handled locally, as in the case of Manteca City Councilman David Macedo, who was convicted of attempting to extort a bribe from City Attorney John Brinton.

But it appears this new case (or these cases) may involve many players, including some in county law enforcement. In such cases, the FBI is authorized to step in and keep the investigation moving despite local political pressures.

The bureau may have its problems, but investigations like the one now underway are an incalculable service to democracy.

While Lodi's downtown rejuvenation is reaching new heights, second-story space remains a huge and somewhat forgotten asset in the district.

Chuck Easterling is among the first to seize the potential in the downtown's collective upstairs. He and some Lodi partners have completely refurbished a building on Pine Street and they have taken special care to make the second story appealing as office space.

On the upper levels, there is roughly 41,000 square feet in downtown that is vacant. With Lodi suffering a continuing housing crunch, city officials are open to the idea of upstairs residential development as well.

Clearly, that elusive force known as the market will likely dictate when - and whether - Lodi's second floors continue to gather dust or attract new occupants.

We hope it's the latter, and that many more will follow where Easterling is leading.

- Lodi News-Sentinel.

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