Everyone wants a solution to the persistent homeless problem here in Lodi. But almost everyone realizes it’s not that easy. It isn’t easy for police to manage the tent dwellers. The courts have said local anti-camping ordinances cannot be enforced if there’s no place to relocate the homeless folks, such as a shelter. So they can’t be kicked off public property, in most cases.
Some people have criticized police for not doing more to rid the city’s parks and doorways of the unsightly encampments. About the only tool left in the police toolbox is the ticket book. Police have issued citations for violations of the city’s ordinances — by the hundreds. Officers have issued about 1,200 citations to homeless violators over the past three years — almost 800 of them last fiscal year alone, according to City Attorney Janice Magdich, whose office prosecutes such matters.
Those legal pursuits consume about 25% of her office’s time, she says. But the results are fairly negligible, and with the Lodi courts closed right now, people say there’s almost no point in issuing citations until they re-open next year. With the vast majority of violators not appearing in court when required, and the resulting bench warrant having little meaning these days, insiders say it seems a little like a spinning hamster wheel.
MATTER OF FACT: We’re not Mayberry anymore. Last week we wrote about a Black Lives Matter protest a couple weeks ago. We described it as being peaceful, even though some of the participants had bats. Technically, it was peaceful, although some of the marchers used their bats to beat the pavement along the way, and some of them reportedly pounded on a police patrol car with their hands.
Since then two videos have surfaced, one showing protesters on the day of the protest, speaking through a bullhorn in front of a residence on Crescent Avenue that was flying a “thin blue line” American flag. Some observers described the group’s behavior as harassment. The other video shows a woman identified as Leia Schenk, founder of Empact_org, ranting about Lodi, white supremacy and how the city “needs change.” She said Lodi “needs change, needs advocates, needs a lot by way of protesting, marching, (and) lobbying to bring about change.” Schenk refers to Lodi as being “primitive,” among other things. Watch the video for yourself at: shorturl.at/foJKX.
You might find the video unsettling. Schenk and her followers will be back in Lodi holding a “defund the police march on Sept. 5. The group’s Facebook page says, “We need all of you, from all over, to tap in and be in attendance. Lodi has a HUGE problem with white supremacy. Lodi s Black community is afraid to call it out, so they live amongst it and expect us to as well. NOT A CHANCE!! White supremacy must be dismantled on all levels! LET’S GO.“
RESPONSE: Everyone watched the violence in downtown Sacramento on television late last week, where buildings and property were defaced and vandalized, and fires set. Police did not appear to respond. Sacramento police requested and received help from LPD, who sent some officers to assist. As for the Sept. 5 protest in Lodi, Lodi Police Chief Sierra Brucia said, “We have been in contact with allied agencies in our county and will have mutual aid available to us if needed.” The chief went on to say, “Should the protest turn disruptive in any way the PD is prepared and equipped to deal with many different contingencies including an unlawful assembly,” but he declined to be specific. Unverified reports say activists from Oakland have been invited to the party. Brucia couldn’t confirm that, but said the department was aware of the “potential for people from outside the area joining the protest.”
THE GOOD NEWS: As the flood of COVID-19 patients at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital begins to recede, public expressions of gratitude have all but dried up. It’s apparently nothing like it was in the beginning, when the pandemic first erupted. People and companies were dropping off food and gifts of appreciation almost daily back then. Now, not so much. However, Charley Hauner and Bear Creek Community Church haven’t forgotten and will be pouring smoothies for the hospital staff on Sept. 3. ... This year’s Walk for the Health of It was put on virus-hold earlier this year by the Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation, which sponsors it. The annual event was originally scheduled to happen in May, but was rescheduled for this October. The fundraiser will now be held on Oct. 5 at a new venue, Woodbridge Golf and Country Club.
The theme is, “I walked the 9,” because participants will actually be walking along two of the club’s 9-hole courses. Plus, it’s a late afternoon event this year, starting at 3 p.m. As always, proceeds will benefit the hospital.
STORM CHASERS: Hurricane Laura, which ravaged parts of Texas and Louisiana last week, turned out to be one nasty lady. Someone who experienced her fury first-hand was former City Councilman Keith Land and his wife Marcia, both of whom now live in Louisiana. The eye of the storm passed over Lake Charles, which is about 75 miles from their home. Keith said wind speeds were as high as 100 mph, but he had hurricane shutters fastened and the bathtub full of water, just in case. “It was a long night,” he said, “I’ve never experienced anything like last night.” His kids live just down the street from them. “I thank God for protecting my kids,” said Keith, very relieved.
CLASS IN SESSION: Most parents we I’ve talked to hate the online Zoom sessions that constitute school these days. Most of the kids don’t like it either, we‘re told. But some of them are taking it in stride. For example, a Lodi High freshman apparently thought he’d get some yucks by showing his home computer desktop. It turned out to be a show-stopper because the kid’s desktop included a rather naughty picture on it, which the whole class saw. It happened so fast no one got the name of the offending student. Then there was a third grader who had just completed his online Zoom class. He thought everything was off and no one was watching. Wrong. For reasons known only to kids that age, the youngster “mooned” his laptop, which didn’t go un-noticed by his teacher. Or the superintendent. There were consequences. ... Elsewhere in the world of academia, the One Eighty (Teen Center) has stepped up efforts to help students in their program cope with the virus lockdown by establishing distance-learning centers at their Lockeford Street facility and elsewhere. The donor-funded organization provides help and support to students and families, mainly on the eastside.
Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.