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Measure W, redevelopment — and the power of perception

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Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 10:00 pm

Now what? Voters on Tuesday stomped Measure W, the redevelopment measure.

Some advocates of redevelopment said voters just didn't understand it.

We aren't so sure.

We think it is a matter of trust - and a matter of perception.

Citizens don't trust government generally. Lodians are no different. In fact, they may trust their city government even less than most.

That's where the perception comes in.

In the last decade, the city has spent and spent. And spent some more.

On Hutchins Street Square and a new public safety center. On richer pensions for employees. On a high-risk legal gambit. On a utility bond meltdown. On a water deal.

They struck deals with Enron and Lehman Brothers, once-mighty corporate titans now lying in the grave of financial ruin.

RIP, by the way.

Lodians we talk with see a disconnect.

The community is frugal. People here have always been quick to save, slow to spend. They run their households and their businesses carefully and efficiently.

They don't see that at city hall. Not with the gobs of debt, the Wall Street schemes, the forays that, for whatever reason, end up as fiascoes.

What did the city pay Michael Donovan, the supposed uber-lawyer, just to go away and leave us alone?

$1.2 million?


Of course, all of this can be justified. The payment to Donovan may have saved more money long-term. The water deal with Woodbridge Irrigation rebuilt that district's dam and protected a local water right. It may yet turn out to be a very wise investment.

Hutchins Street Square is a beautiful venue of which we can all be proud.

And let's be clear: Those who supported all of the above did so, we believe, with the best of intentions.

But let's shift from intentions back to perceptions.

Many taxpayers see a city that has not been operated on the principles of frugality they demand in their own lives and businesses.

Right or wrong, fair or unfair.

That is the perception.

That is the root of distrust that vaporized Measure W and the promise of redevelopment.

So now what?

How do you change perception?

Some good steps have been taken. The nightmarish Donovan-led legal expedition into the wild has ended. The electric utility is recovering from its dance with financial death. Credit ratings are being righted.

Kudos to the council and administration for all of this.

What's needed?

More of the same.

Keep a fiendish grip on spending. Cut what can be cut. Be firm with unions. Build up reserves. Search out and destroy waste. Invite citizens to help.

Or put another way:

Be rabidly, creatively, desperately cheap.

It isn't about intentions. It is about building a track record now.

That record can be built with a mentality of unrelenting thrift.

That mentality will help the city endure these difficult, difficult times.

And that mentality, over months or maybe years, can rebuild our citizens' trust in their city hall.

Lodi News-Sentinel

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  • posted at 3:45 pm on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    wtf, t'was not your joke.. but it made me laugh and made me think.

  • posted at 3:43 pm on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    wtf, I loved it and have passed it on. Thanks for the chuckle.

  • posted at 2:10 pm on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    Thanks sam; but, I must confess....twas not my joke; found it on another site and it just seemed to fit so well here. LOL!

  • posted at 12:13 pm on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    wtf, you are too funny. !!!

  • posted at 10:09 am on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    A variation on this theme could be how our CC works, too. LOL!

  • posted at 10:08 am on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700."The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence.""Done!" replies the government official.And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan will work.

  • posted at 10:07 am on Tue, Mar 10, 2009.


    Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from Minnesota.All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

  • posted at 7:03 am on Mon, Mar 9, 2009.


    wtf The powers that be at that time wanted to play with the big boys, Lehman Bros. and Enron. They were like country bumpkins who went to their first fair and had their pockets picked. There were citizens of Lodi who were against the lawsuit but as with the RDA what do they know? They don't understand. Not once and I know it's too much to hope for have anyone of them said we goofed. It's not in their vocabularies. Sadly they still haven't learned anything. As long as taxpaying citizens continue to elect and re-elect them nothing will change.

  • posted at 2:59 pm on Sun, Mar 8, 2009.


    Then I came across this article and thought of our CC. (Yes, this scandal reached across the pond.)http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/07/juvenille-judges-cash-detention-centreI was wondering if certain elements in our local government weren't getting some kickbacks themselves working with Enron....big fish, small pond, all that.But the way I see it, they got scammed. Some petty greed, maybe lots to them but chump change to the really big players who scammed 'em and we, the citizens, are still paying.Lack of trust you say?As Caribou Barbie would say, "You betcha!"

  • posted at 2:55 pm on Sun, Mar 8, 2009.


    Overall, this was a very timely article by the LNS; however, tell me again how it's "just my perception" that my electric bill was ridiculously high?It's much more than just perception; yet you're right on the money when you mention a lack of trust...and not just in our CC.I was aware of Lehman Bros. and the contamination fiasco; I didn't know about Enron and Lodi....what an obscene picture!But looking around the internet, surprise! Surprise! Surprise! As Gomer Pyle USMC would say.NCPA and Enron form major strategic energy alliancehttp://www.allbusiness.com/energy-utilities/utilities-industry-electric-powerity/6974761-1.htmlCalifornia electricity crisishttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_electricity_crisishttp://www.lodi.gov/city-council/html/body_2000-11-28.htmTransactions Announced or Consummated Subsequent to December 31, 2000http://secfilings.nyse.com/filing.php?doc=1&attach=ON&ipage=1493894&rid=12Sure wish loadeye were around to give more info on this stuff.

  • posted at 2:37 pm on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    NellieI don't remember the animous in past CC's, except for maybe the Davenport years, that we have now and in just the past 15 years or so. For a town the size of Lodi do politics have to be brutal? Where did the trolley go off the tracks for us to get where we are today?

  • posted at 2:29 pm on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    ObserverThank you. I stand corrected.

  • posted at 1:45 pm on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    This city is STILL in MUCH better shape financially than Stockton or Sacramento! I don`t know how most of you people don`t see it. Stockton is considering bankruptcy for pete`s sake! Hell, maybe Lodi should just go bankrupt and make everybody here happy!

  • posted at 11:19 am on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    Guys, thanks for the support.And think back to the CC's of past and the character of the people who sat in those seats. People of principle and honesty. And you knew where they stood on an issue. Rarely did you have a CC'r run for a higher office. The CC was THE office they wanted because they wanted to serve Lodi. The list is long now of those who panted to "move up" the political ladder.Where are these honest & principled people now? My opinion is that the people in the mid "boomer" range are not sure if they want to place themselves and their families into the brutal world of local politics, let alone these blogs.

  • posted at 9:56 am on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    Small correction OTH....Glaves and Peterson were City Managers. And I agree, they were both first class gentlemen.

  • posted at 7:01 am on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    NellieI wish we had Glaves and Tom Peterson back. Can't help feeling things would be a lot different. I would like to believe that in the future we will have CC members like these two gentlmen and some others but I don't foresee a lot of changes. Sad.

  • posted at 4:52 am on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    good letter.

  • posted at 4:00 am on Sat, Mar 7, 2009.


    I think alot of the cities past and current problems can be found in CC's failure to hire a solid City Manager.Rarely do you see the CC oppose city staff recommendations. And the trouble started with Dixon Flynn and continues today with Blair King.The LNS opinion on spending is right on target. While times have changed philosophies and strategies have not in regards to financial management.The City of Lodi needs to ask itself, "What Would Hank Glaves Do?" and "What Would Tom Peterson Do?"


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