Freedom of speech doesn’t come cheap. This past Saturday’s BLM protest at Legion Park cost taxpayers an estimated $25,000 in police overtime and other related costs, according to Police Chief Sierra Brucia. He also estimated the tab so far for all the protests to be about $80,000.

If you’re wondering, the city does not reimburse other police agencies within the county for their mutual aid — and there was a lot of it last Saturday. It’s a different story if they come from out of San Joaquin County. The city would reimburse those costs. ...

Some Downtown businesses also incurred some unexpected costs as they boarded up windows as a precaution against possible mob vandalism. ...

As part of the hype for last Saturday’s “defund the police” protest sponsored by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, there was an unfortunate Instagram post advertising the event. The promotional piece showed a picture of a Ku Klux Klansman overlaid on a picture of the late City Councilman Bob Johnson. There was text that read, “Address and change Lodi’s racist history by destroy (sic) Lodi’s racist good ole boy network it’s known for.” Fortunately, the post was deleted, but not before Bob’s widow Carolyn Johnson saw it.

A similar Instagram post calling protesters to action had a “(Expletive) Bob Johnson” tag at the bottom, but that, too, was eventually deleted. ...

Someone snapped a picture of several river rocks that had been dumped in one of the Downtown tree wells. Worry was the stones could be used as weapons or thrown through windows during the BLM protest. Police were called and the rocks were immediately removed by the Public Works department. ...

Kudos to the Lodi Police Department for keeping their cool and keeping the peace this past weekend.

The question

How do the city council candidates feel about “defunding” the local police? We asked. Here’s what they said: In District 4, incumbent JoAnne Mounce is a resounding “no,” saying, “The city should return to community-oriented policing with a Neighborhood Watch group on every block (if possible).” Natalie Bowman appears to be in favor of defunding. She supports “transitions of appropriate non-criminal matters to our local nonprofits.” Ramon Yepez is a “no,” saying, “The police department needs reforms but defunding the police department is not the solution.”

In District 5, where there is no incumbent, candidate Mikey Hothi says, “I oppose all efforts to defund/abolish police departments.” Mike McKnight says, “Maybe a review of training to see if any adjustments or modifications should be made but ‘defund,’ no.” All I heard were crickets from candidates Shak Khan (Dist. 4) and Hector Madrigal (Dist. 5).

Fire watch

Even though the fires that have kept Lodi and the Central Valley in a thick blanket of smoke are miles away, several Lodi firefighters are doing their part to battle the blazes. The Lodi Fire Department sent four personnel, along with the OES engine stationed here, to the North Complex fire in the Plumas National Forest near Quincy.

“They are working 12-hour shifts doing structure protection,” says Lodi Fire Chief Gene Stoddart.

In addition, the department deployed two fire captains as task force leaders on the SCU Lightning Complex fire, which is burning east of San Jose and west of Patterson. Both captains are also working 12-hour shifts. ...

Lodian Jeff Weber, a captain with Mokelumne Fire District, is also on the front lines of the fire in Sonoma County, somewhere between Fairfield and Clear Lake, according to his dad. His parents are Mark and Jeanette Weber, who own and operate Weber Cabinets with daughter April Morse. ...

As California burns and the rest of us endure a persistent layer of smoke hanging heavy over our neighborhoods, you may want to keep up on all the wildfire activity by checking out www.alertwildfire.org. It’s a website where visitors can access dozens of cameras throughout the state simply by clicking on a pin map. Live webcams show the viewer what’s happening in real time. It’s a virtual mountaintop experience. Slick.

Lookn’ good

The gorgeous young lady on the cover of this month’s San Joaquin Magazine is 20-year old Julyana Nunes, who is seen serving up some locally made beer. Julyana comes from a restaurant family. Her mom and step-dad own Habañero Hots Mexican restaurant on east Victor Road, where she normally works. ...

Sacramento Street remains closed between Pine and Elm in the aftermath of the fire that ripped through the old Rex Pool Hall building and the tattoo parlor next door. As a result, some of the buildings affected were showing signs of settlement and fatigue.

“That alone required keeping the public safe and away from any potential failures affecting the public right-of-way,” says city Community Development Director John Della Monica.

The street will remain blocked off until an assessment of the building’s integrity is complete.

Della Monica says, “Structural engineers (need) to determine the extent of damage and their relative structural soundness for safe inspection by insurance representatives.” ...

Residents surrounding the old Sun West Swim and Racquet Club on Cochran Road — which is now a vacant parcel of land — are wondering when construction will commence on the housing project planned for the property. Good question.

There are currently no plans in the hopper at the city, according to Della Monica. The owners have subdivided the property into about 29 or so residential lots.

Watch your wall

While practically all Lodi Unified School District students are uniformly attending online Zoom classes, it appears that each school principal can set specific ground rules. And some of them don’t sit well with many parents.

One parent was so upset that he sent a letter to district Superintendent Kathy Nichols-Washer, which he also posted on social media. Rick Weeks has three kids at Lodi High School, and he agrees with Principal Adam Auerbach’s rule “that there should be no political flags or signs behind the students that (can) be seen during class.” Weeks says the principal’s rules will only allow flags or posters that promote social movements.

However, he’s upset that Trump (and presumably other) flags are banned, but not Black Lives Matter posters or displays.

“The fact that one is liberal or conservative is irrelevant to the fact that BLM is a Marxist organization, which makes it political,” Weeks writes.

The district responded by saying, “At no time did Lodi High administration direct staff to remove a political party’s flag without cause. All regular school rules apply during distance learning; school officials have the ability to intervene if there is a disruption during a virtual classroom.”

But is it constitutional, some are asking?

Last laugh

The most popular beds for each generation, according to social media: “Silent Generation: potato sack; Boomers: Spring mattress; Gen X: Tempur-pedic; Millennials: Casper; Gen Z: mom’s couch.”

Steve Mann is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to him at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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