The headline in the printed edition of Wednesday’s Lodi News-Sentinel asked: “Is it time for Lodi to revisit Delta College dreams?”
The answer to the question is “yes.” But what are we dreaming about?
After all, for dreams to become real, they have to wake up to the limits of money and everyday practicalities.
That point seemed to get lost when Delta’s leaders sold the voters on Measure L back in 2004. Lodi voters approved the bond by a large margin, with promises that a north county Delta mini-campus would be built. Maybe it was poor execution by Delta’s top brass. Maybe it was political infighting. But what was promised Lodi during the Measure L campaign completely fell apart. What was to be a 100-acre campus on Kennison Road is today still vineyards, and Delta agreed in late 2012 to shell out $500,000 to Lodi Victor Ventures LLC, the would-be developers of the campus, to make a lawsuit go away.
As we see it, Delta’s board and top paid staff, lead by President Dr. Kathy Hart, are stronger than they were in 2004. That means it’s possible now to plan for a Lodi program without it getting ground up in a leadership malfunction.
The Lodi dream, at this point, is a brainstorm in the heads of Lodi City Councilman Bob Johnson and a few other local leaders. They envision courses in agricultural and ag-related manufacturing here in Lodi. Johnson has promised the others temporary anonymity. But he shared that they want a curriculum uniquely aligned to the economy of agriculture.
Ag is the backbone of Delta’s five-county community college district. A Lodi program might use local expertise and offer local internships, but it would and should create jobs in every region.
A Lodi program means reordering the priorities of Delta’s current leaders. After building a new campus near Tracy, they seem to want to use nearly all the remaining bond money to continue improving the Stockton campus.
No doubt the grandiose dream that was the Kennison Road site needs to be something quite different today. Perhaps a small set of buildings with room to grow is more practical.
But even something modest and tangible would be a start — one that is long overdue.
Delta’s leadership today has a chance to regain some credibility, to do the right thing after so many things were done poorly in the past. Moreover, the leadership has a chance build on Lodi’s ample economic base of farming, industry and tourism. That helps not just Lodi, but also the Delta student community and San Joaquin County generally.
To Johnson and his cohorts we can only say:
Thank you — please keep pushing.