This promises to go over like a shoe in the punch bowl. The police department will no longer boot the homeless from city parks just for camping there. A recent 9th Circuit Court ruling against Boise, Idaho says, essentially, that anti-camping ordinances are illegal and unenforceable unless there’s somewhere else for the displaced to go (there’s usually not).

This means homeless campers can move in, stretch out, and stay indefinitely, even though the city has an ordinance against it. City Park Director Jeff Hood was shocked, surprised and almost speechless to learn this. “Many cities are choosing not to enforce these types of ordinances (Lodi included) until the Supreme Court makes a final ruling on the issue,” says LPD Cpt. Sierra Brucia. “Boise has requested Supreme Court review and hopefully they accept the case, otherwise the 9th circuit ruling will stand,” he says. The City of Lodi has joined Boise and other cities across the nation seeking relief from this recent ruling. This news is sure to stoke the active volcano of emotions surrounding the issue.

THAR SHE BLOWS: It would be hard to overstate the angst and frustration most Lodians feel about the growing homeless crisis in town. The guttural growls were certainly heard loud and clear last Monday night as an anxious, seething crowd descended on Carnegie Forum for a town hall meeting on homelessness. Each had a story to tell and a desire to lambast city officials for their seeming inaction. People were there to unleash their pent-up anger, and a few of them did. One agitated attendee got 86’d by police right off the bat for violating the rules of decorum. People are genuinely riled-up over this. Folks were told that as bad as things are here in Lodi, they are worse in virtually every other city in the county, according to the San Joaquin Continuum of Care, a “program developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1994 to promote community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness.” That was small comfort to almost everyone. Many of the tools cities used to have are gone, they were told. Such information was seen as trivia and didn’t assuage the crowd’s anger. One attendee said he only had to step over two homeless types getting into the meeting, “but they passed the pipe to me as I walked by.” Perhaps he was joking, but a photo taken a day before the meeting and circulated over the Internet shows a woman lying on a blanket behind city hall with her bare heinie hanging out. No joke. Just the latest entry in the city’s homeless family photo album.

YOU ASKED FOR IT: John Campbell wrote to ask how much employee turnover there’s been among the city’s public safety ranks. The Lodi Police Department has experienced a nearly 68% turnover in police officers over the past five years, according to city Human Resources Manager Adele Post. The department lost almost 18% of their sworn officers in 2017 alone, she says. This year-to-date, LPD has said goodbye to over 8% of their officers. Difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates (and ones who can pass a background check) and a comparatively low pay scale has led to a chronic shortage of officers, police officials say. A new contract and pay package was recently passed by the city council, which city officials hope will stem the tide of departures. Police Chief Tod Patterson says he has 10 candidates in the pipeline, but it is unlikely all of them will make it through, if history is a guide. The county Sheriff recently said that he’s having the same problem, only worse.

THIS ‘N THAT: Peggy Nunes tipped us off, and Broman Development confirmed it, that the Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant in the Sunwest Plaza Shopping Center (couple doors down from Strings) is closing and a new Mongolian BBQ will take its place. If the new restaurant is anything like other Mongolian BBQs in the area, you grab a bowl and fill it with a variety of meats and vegetables, then they cook it for you on a huge flatiron grill. Kinda fun. And very tasty. The new eatery should be open within a few months, a Browman spokesman says. … If you want to help homeless women and children in Lodi, Lodi House will be holding a fundraiser called “Pouring for a Purpose” at Oak Farm Vineyards on Sept. 26. The event is limited to 200 and will feature an evening of hors d'oeuvres, sweets, craft beers, live music, and lotsa wine. … Next time you see retired teacher and local vineyardist Fred Donald, congratulate him on being named Mason of the Year for the Masonic lodge in Ione. … That vacant field on Ham near Tokay, next to the Church of Christ, has remained fallow for decades, but the owners are now proposing to create four single-family home parcels and a slice in front probably for apartments. … Since 2010 the City has had an average growth rate of slightly less than 1%. The city’s population is estimated to grow to 68,272 this year, according to the California Department of Finance. … The school district is apparently not going to sell the building currently occupied by the Joe Serna charter school on the corner of Pine and Central, after all. This comes as a shock to One-Eighty Youth Programs executive director Alison McGregor, who was hoping to arrange a purchase of the building and start a community center program there. The district, however, has offered to rent a small portion of the facilities to One-Eighty for a year once the charter school vacates, according to McGregor. … Pastor Larry Beck has retired after three decades at Lodi’s Bethel Open Bible Church.

REMEMBRANCE: He was brilliant. You may not have known Lodi resident Paul Underhill, who passed away recently, but his work has probably affected your life in one way or another. He was an engineer, and for years his own children didn’t know exactly what he did for a living because his work was highly classified. Some of his work was only recently declassified, according to son Larry Underhill. Early in his career, he was part of a team that came up with the means to accurately monitor the stages of development of countries doing above-ground nuclear testing. Paul also worked on developing underwater listening devices that were placed on the sea floor to monitor Russian submarines, but they are presently being used to track whales. He later worked for Aerojet General Nucleonics in San Ramon where he helped develop the Triton missile, among other projects that remain classified. “My dad was the most humble, self-effacing guy in the world,” recalls Larry. Not to mention brilliant.

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

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