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Editorial: In praise of ‘Coffee With a Cop’ and ‘The Gift’

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Posted: Friday, April 3, 2015 8:32 pm

We’re quite impressed by the “Coffee With a Cop” gathering this week at the McDonald’s on Lodi Avenue.

(We are also fond of the headline dreamed up by copy editor Joe Benapfl: “Morning brew with those in blue.”)

The idea isn’t necessarily original: Have local cops greet and meet local citizens over coffee.

It may not be original, but it is welcome and well-timed.

Lodi’s event drew a healthy-sized group who got to talk about whatever was on their minds — the homeless and park safety were two items of discussion.

Too often the role of police officers is predictably reactive. Show up at a location where there is a problem and try to solve it.

Coffee with cops strikes us as refreshingly proactive. Seeking out ideas and opinions is constructive. The community perception is important, too.

With all the news about officer-involved shootings over the months, some officers may feel disrespected. It might be tempting for officers, and some entire departments, to retreat from their communities, to slip into an us-versus-them mentality.

Coffee With a Cop is the opposite, a reaching out, not a shrinking in.

That’s healthy — and in keeping with the spirit of Community Oriented Policing that’s been the Lodi department’s premise for a good 20 years.

Also this week, at a goal-setting session for the community, the top priority for audience members was increasing the number of police officers.

The department hopes to add eight sworn officers and five civilian positions, allowing more flexibility in dealing with crime trends, renewing the bike patrol and adding a crime prevention officer, among other goals.

It’s hard not to support those plans, as a community’s quality of life is directly linked to the sense of safety residents and visitors experience.

Even so, leaders here, as in cities across California, must be keenly aware of the costs of adding police officers.

In fact, even as the number of officers has dropped, costs continue to rise, reflecting rising pay and pension levels. In 2005-2006, the police budget was at $13 million with 117 authorized personnel. The 2014-15 police budget stands at $17.4 million, with only 102 authorized personnel.

Officers are essential, and they deserve our respect. In today’s marketplace, they come at a premium.

‘The Gift’ is a lesson

The story at the top of the front page last Saturday was headlined simply, “The Gift.”

The nicely written piece by editor Rich Hanner told the story of Ted and Natalie Stotz, a Bay Area couple who surprised the Hutchins Street Square Foundation with a posthumous gift of nearly $1.5 million.

The story was sort of a mystery: Why would this Bay Area couple give so much to a Lodi organization? The answer provides a lesson for many people, especially those who have lived prosperous lives and are beginning to plan their estates.

Ted and Natalie Stotz didn’t have children, but they provided for other relatives in their estate documents. And wisely, they had a purposeful discussion about charities. Natalie directed part of their estate be given to her beloved San Francisco Ballet. Ted, a 1933 Lodi High graduate, provided for Hutchins Street Square, the community center that once housed his alma mater.

As can happen, they outlived their relatives and their entire estate went to charity instead of taxes and a government receiver.

Many Lodians are lucky enough to have more money than they can spend in a lifetime and are thinking, or should be thinking, of an estate plan.

Providing for family members is a natural.

But what about charity? How do you pick an agency or two to carry on helping others when you’re gone?

We would suggest to anyone contemplating a large charitable gift to make a careful inquiry about the organization they want to support. That inquiry shouldn’t be left to an accountant, a lawyer — or to the last minute.

Visiting an agency’s service center, sitting in on a board meeting and talking with clients receiving help will reveal a great deal. And it will leave a donor with a very personal and confident connection to their decision.

Here is a small list of local agencies making a big difference in Lodi:

  • Lodi House
  • Lodi Boys and Girls Club
  • Salvation Army
  • LOEL Center
  • Hutchins Street Square
  • United Way spreads its wings throughout the county.
  • Lodi Memorial Hospital is transitioning ownership to Adventist Health. But we are confident the Adventist group will continue to steward our local hospital in a responsible and giving manner.
  • Lodi Community Foundation is shaping up as a catch-all group that can give advice as well as act as a steward of gifts large and small. (Call 366-1222 or go to lodicommunityfoundation.org.)

This is not meant to be a complete list, only a call to thoughtful action.

And even if you don’t own a multi-million-dollar business when you retire, everyone can give something.

Be generous, but be wise.

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