Second Thoughts: Bright side, though small, still exists
by Jon Mendelson
Jul 13, 2012 | 5558 views | 2 2 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The week of a homicide and a triple-digit heat wave might seem a strange time to celebrate where we live, but I think it’s time to shake off some of the doom and gloom that’s sucking the lifeblood of the region like a snaggletooth vampire.

First, catharsis.

We know about Tracy’s third killing of the year, in which a 62-year-old woman was attacked July 7. We know about Stockton’s bankruptcy. We know about the county seat’s homicide count — now up to 35, on pace to set a record for a second-straight year. We know about the 14.5 percent county unemployment rate. We know about the heat, the hazy air, the looming dog days.

In light of all that, the silver lining might look small. But there is one. And it’s not just that the Pacific Ocean and Sierra crest are less than two hours away — though those certainly count as benefits.

It might have disappeared for a day or two, but the Delta breeze usually keeps summer nights in Tracy tolerable, even enjoyable. Compare that to our counterparts back east, who swelter all night after hot, humid days.

A couple who visited town from Washington, D.C., stopped by for a drink Tuesday. Annie (Rappaport) Hunt, who used to be a Tracy Press intern, called our 100-degree day a relief. Score one for the Central Valley — even little victories count.

Score number two, at least for Tracy residents, is safety.

This is not to brush aside this week’s homicide. Each is a brutal blow to families and rips a hole in our community.

But it’s worth noting Tracy has had but three killings the past 18 months. And despite occasional outbursts of serious gang violence, burglaries and vandalism, our town remains fairly safe, overall.

Maybe we can credit city leaders and taxpayers a touch of credit for not decimating the police force.

And if you need a third score, you can find a bright spot at 26 W. Emerson Ave., where a group of residents has tried to set up a house where homeless people can get off the streets and up on their feet.

It’s riled a hornets nest of neighbors who worry about possible ne’er-do-wells next door, and it appears house management itself is in turmoil.

While there’s no telling if the house will stick around, at the very least the Emerson Project is the result of people who care about the less fortunate and are willing to use their time and talent to help.

That’s no mere lining — that’s a whole jacket’s worth of silver.

20-20 foresight

When Stockton became the biggest city in the nation to seek bankruptcy protection, I made a bet it wouldn’t be the last. I sure didn’t wait long for the payoff.

Days after our county seat’s June 28 filing, the city of 290,000 people was joined by Mammoth Lakes — a picturesque ski town on the eastern slopes of the Sierra that’s served as my base for several fishing and hiking trips.

And this week, San Bernardino welcomed itself to the dubious party, with the city of 211,000 people citing a $45.8 million deficit.

While the cities faced different stressors — Mammoth Lakes, for instance, couldn’t handle a $43 million lawsuit ruling against it — Stockton and San Bernardino certainly shared something: They rode the housing boom, and they sunk with the bust.

Stockton, in particular, hitched its wagon to unchecked residential development. The city swelled, and leaders there seized the chance to build wonderful public amenities but didn’t worry about them paying for themselves — or even getting close.

Sure, unsustainable benefits to employees hurt. And the economic collapse of 2006-2008 took a sledgehammer to even stable cities and businesses.

But riding residential housing and skyrocketing property values burned Stockton badly.

There’s a lesson there for Tracy when the next housing boom hits. Let’s hope we learn it.

Talk about poverty

Late Wednesday, a rouge tweet appeared on the Tracy Press Twitter page. (Yes, we’re part of the Twitterverse — check us out @TracyPress.)

It read: “#beingpoor is having a mysterious lump and not being able to have it checked out because you can’t afford medical care.”

The re-tweet was taken down, but that doesn’t mean I don’t personally agree.

Discussion of poverty and wealth seems taboo in “polite” conversation. So is talk of the growing gap between the haves and have nots in America, and the trend that more and more people seem to be sliding into the have not category.

Why it’s verboten, I have no idea. Societies with huge rich-poor gaps tend to be more oppressive, less productive and more unstable. This is, as they say, a big deal.

For our country to offer citizens a better future, how we talk about wealth has to change. Because if we’re afraid to even discuss it, there’s even less hope for finding solutions.

• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by Editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 16, 2012
Response Tweet 1.

Doesn't the gap have more to do with jobs / no jobs? I'm sure glad your priorty is waxing a car that has a flat tire?

I wonder. Are you aware the unemployment rate is approximating Europe's? I wonder, do you even know what that means? Have you been to Espania?

Response Tweet 2.

How will we keep pace with the rising cost of healthcare? I would logically think we are creating a bigger gap between the have's and the have nots? I had a dream where you either go to a state clinic and tell your symptoms to Siri (a recently popular phone algorithm) and she tells you what pill to take, either that or you pay for a real doctor assuming you can afford it. Know what I mean?

Ever been to Beijing and ask for more than a band aid?

July 15, 2012
You mean the TracyPress finally fired tommybahama?

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