Your Voice: Shame on the Tracy Press
Jan 03, 2014 | 7825 views | 16 16 comments | 205 205 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EDITOR,

Kudos to the Tracy Press for publishing, back to back on Dec. 19, two of the most blatantly biased ‘news’ articles that one could ever hope to find: “City report on Surland memo finds no wrongdoing” and “Council stands pat on antenna farm.”

In the first, the Press happily reports that the very people accused of wrongdoing have, after extensive review, fully exonerated themselves. There is no mention of the numerous citizens who came forward presenting documentary evidence that — despite the city’s denials — the majority of the key points in the Surland memo were in fact acted upon. Likewise, no mention is made of the inconsistencies in the timeline associated with the city’s alleged verbal rejection of the proposals and the city’s subsequent actions. Lastly, Assistant City Manager Maria Hurtado is quoted extensively, but not a single syllable is dedicated to dissenting voices. Of course, this would have cut into the space reserved for the City Council’s self-congratulatory remarks on their own transparency.

In the second, the city did anything but “stand pat” — they reversed and contradicted themselves repeatedly. Of course, this would not be apparent to the casual reader, since the more recent history of this sordid saga was not reported:

• There was no mention of the city’s recent attempt to sell the antenna farm to the Surland Cos. for precisely the same cost ($1.6 million) the city would incur to lift the use restrictions. In essence, the city attempted to give our interest in the property to Surland. In the process, on Sept. 3, the city determined that a competitive bid sale was not in the best interest of the city due to federal General Services Administration-imposed time restrictions — which Mayor Brent Ives emphatically claimed to be inflexible. Yet the GSA has repeatedly granted the city extensions, including the most recent one granted this November. Moreover, the council voted on Dec. 19 to negotiate still more time from the GSA.

• No mention was made of the purported public-private partnership with Surland used to justify the attempted sale. When pressed for details, Ives claimed the concept was public ownership coupled with private development. Incredibly, Ives seems to have forgotten that this was a straight land sale to Surland and the city would retain no ownership or other interest in the property.

• No mention was made of the proposals for the property which the city has in hand, already declared viable by a $40,000 consultant. These proposals, summaries of which were included in the agenda packet, promised up to $33.7 million in revenue/savings to the city over 20 years. Yet Ives is quoted as saying the city has no plan or prospective partner to develop the land and “I would not mind going ahead and acquiring the property if I saw some glimmer of hope for (a return on investment) out there.” Really?

With reporting like this, the Tracy Press has abandoned its Fourth Estate responsibilities. How can we ever hope to maintain responsible local government when the local media serves up this pablum?

Paul Miles, Tracy

 
Comments
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Bashfull
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January 21, 2014
The letter writer assumes that by the conditions in the agreement coming true there was a wrongdoing. Nothing could be more perplexing use of logic.

Fact, the runway was shortened years ago by the Feds, which was a fact raised at the city council meeting. The letter writer may have missed it.

There are several other points as well, not the least of which is the city didn't contradict themselves. The airport runway length was actually explained several times you would have had to been deaf to miss it.

The part about TSA getting money for fuel was also explained by some lawyer who worked for TSA who admitted he had requested separate meetings with the developer. If I recall the TSA lawyer said he broke bread with the developer and the city was not involved in this breaking of bread.

Might I suggest the writer use QTips to clean behind the ears?
Bashfull
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January 21, 2014
If a developer wanted to develop a hotel on the north side of the freeway would the city be in cahoots with the devil? Of course not. Same think applies here I think.

We can't run and grab our pitchforks every time someone comes up with an idea. Let them hash it out and see what floats before we get all hoochy koochy.

We're really putting the cart before the horse. The way things work is like such and such. The developer solar company or whoever comes up with a proposal. Then that goes before the city and the planning commission and council etc.

After that it goes to city council. That's why people always like to say BAVKROOM DEALS and all that jazz. But the reality is nothing here is illegal. It's just a city trying to drum up business.

I really think the guy who wrote this piece is putting the cart before the horse. That's my two cents and if I had a few more pennies I would put them in there too.

Use QTips. There on sale at SaveMart.
MisUnderstoood
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January 21, 2014
Looks like the entire letter is a moot point, because the sale of the Shulte property did not go through.

The other allegation about the city being a bunch of felons, appears to be additional nonsense, because the solar company dropped out.

That means the Shulte property is only worth $1.6 million dollars.

It appears this entire article is a mountain out of a dung hill and more importantly a moot point, because it is based on several false assumptions.

Seems to me like liberals wanting our city to spend 30 million dollars or falsely accuse them of being felons? A wee bit confusing, to say the least, but bottom line, I believe it's best to let the newspaper print every dropping they want and let the reader use jurisprudence.

In this day and age even the high school principal can be accused of being a felon by public citizens and get away with it.

While it may be good for watchdog groups to be allowed to make baseless accusations, it sure makes it harder for the average citizen to believe the real problems, if/when they exist.

THINKING PERSONS CONCLUSIONS:

One thumb up for Democracy (we the people)

Two thumbs down for garbage of the press. Room for improvement in logic, here.
MisterDarci
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January 20, 2014
Paul pcmiles whoever,

It appears that the Chief was correct in saying that he didn't know it hadn't been investigated? After all, it went to court and the judge made a decision not to override the DA? Is that correct? If so, the Chief is not a criminal?

And. Regarding the antenna farm. It's not criminal immoral not to be a liberal. Just because the city doesn't spend our tax money developing solar energy farm out there - does not a criminal immoral make?

Excuse me. I'm sick and tired of greenery weeneries calling crybaby names just because government doesn't spend money on liberal agendas. I saw the same thing in the City/Pensinula. People want government to spend money for Liberals agendas and if government wides up to the liberal activists - they create a website alleging illegal criminal and all sorts of immoral impropriety.

Honestly, the fact that the city prevented the antenna farm from becoming a prison was a blessing enough. And the Chief kept a high profile murderer from being released to Tracy. Blessing. Not criminal. Hope that helps.
HarryPoter
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January 13, 2014
Hi Paul,

Instead of posting the url for your website, would you mind explaining the whatnot of what you feel the city did that was illegal?

Many of us are probably confused, because when I read your website I don't see anything illegal to get upset about. If you want others to follow you why not just give the facts and stick to the facts?

I think your website appears to be a lot of what appears to be opinions or maybe just your own *questions*, where you must have made the assumption that because you cannot get the information you are looking for (or read the city manager's mind) about the sale of the Shulte property (or Ellis, airport, etc) you automatically assume he is corrupt? I can only guess but honestly your website is confusing, so I'm not really sure.

Stay with the facts.

Also, I noticed that at one meeting the city manager shook his head no when you were up there talking. So that was confusing too. Instead of making accusations at city council, why don't you ask them instead? The fellow who spoke before you about the same topic, solar was a lot more well received, and I noticed he didn't make accusations.

Again, maybe stay with the facts, so you don't lose us.
pcmiles
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January 18, 2014
Harry – thanks for the constructive comments

While I believe that the website contains mostly facts, law, and conclusions reasonably drawn from the facts, there is a great deal of information that is not easy to follow. Here are the basic facts relating to criminal violations of law (additional ethics violations and dishonesty we can leave for another day). Documentation supporting these facts is on the website:

• Supervising traffic Sgt. Vieira – upon reviewing a complaint of a biased, inaccurate report – made it worse. He inserted a completely false & fictional statement regarding vision obstruction and refused to correct material errors related to a school zone speed limit even when called they were to his attention twice. He also failed to interview witnesses and parties and correct an inaccurate rendition of their testimony.

• Professional Standards Officer Sheneman clearly established that statements in Vieira’s report were false but omitted this from his report. Sheneman misrepresented witness testimony, falsely claimed independent review by the CHP, recorded witnesses without their knowledge, and failed to correct the speed limit error.

• Police Chief Thiessen refused to respond to formal, written complaints and failed to take action when presented with evidence of a crime chargeable as a felony.

• City Manager Churchill and City Attorney Sodergren, on separate occasions, overtly refused to comply with the law regarding police complaints. Both men later produced official false writings stating that the complaints were ‘unfounded.’ This means the events did not occur, including potential felonies.

• Current Police Chief Hampton produced a false writing failing to sustain the allegations above. “Not sustained” means there is not sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. The evidence is conclusive and is posted on the website. Mr. Hampton also did not respond to criminal allegations against Chief Thiessen, and told me “I didn’t even know the complaint had not been investigated.”

pcmiles
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January 18, 2014
Mr. Churchill shook his head because the Antenna farm sale did not go through, a fact that was not public knowledge at that time. It had no bearing on the validity of my comments.

I spent 2 years ‘asking’ the City Council to no avail. At some point, vitriol is the only option left.

jtashjian
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January 09, 2014
Get a life Paul!
pcmiles
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January 12, 2014
Yes, I could watch TV, drink beer, play video games and do nothing to try to fix the problems with this City’s governance.

Regarding BuzzLiteyear’s comments: I have made no criminal allegations regarding the “airport agreement.” My criminal allegations, and documentary proof of these allegations, relates to police misconduct. You can find these at:

http://www.tracy-ca.us/churchill.htm

http://www.tracy-ca.us/sodergren.htm

http://www.tracy-ca.us/hampton.htm

Likewise, I have made no allegations of criminality with regard to the antenna farm debacle — just moral and ethical bankruptcy. You can find additional details at:

http://www.tracy-ca.us/Looting_the_Treasury.pdf

LeviStrous
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January 13, 2014
From the Dec 3 city meeting something interesting was raised by the police chief. Did you ask the police chief to arrest the city manager for public corruption, Paul?

At the Dec 3 meeting, didn't the police chief call it 27 months of character assassination and say you said in email that you owe him "heartfelt thanks" and then later told the police chief that he is "corrupt"?

LeviStrous
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January 13, 2014
From the Nov 5 city meeting, Paul, did you say (regarding the antenna farm) that it was "stolen" from the people of Tracy? And that it smells of "corruption"? And claim "fraud" because of something about "deceiving the federal governments appraiser?
pcmiles
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January 18, 2014
LeviStraus makes the error of assuming that many of the police Chief’s comments were not half-truths or completely false. I have filed formal complaints for public dishonesty with the City.

Regarding the antenna farm, I again refer you to http://www.tracy-ca.us/Looting_the_Treasury.pdf
behonestguys
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January 03, 2014
Although I take issue with Mr. Miles' attacks on Chief Hampton, I have to agree with him as to the point he makes that no dissenting opinions were reported by the TP concerning the Surland matter. At least under the prior ownership and during Mr. Mendelson's tenure on the paper, such dissenting voices were duly noted. That is the hallmark of fair and impartial journalism - presenting both sides of an argument on a particular issue, and let the reader make his or her own informed conclusion. Seems like the new ownership wants to be in the City's good graces - they should probably re-name the Tracy Press the Tracy Pravda.
pcmiles
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January 03, 2014
Although Mr. Hampton’s actions are not relevant to this particular topic, I would like to point out that my ‘attacks’ on Mr. Hampton amount to nothing more than reporting the facts and drawing reasonable conclusions based on these facts. If you have any exculpatory information I would be delighted to hear it.
BuzzLiteyear
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January 08, 2014
I would like to understand what facts pcmiles is presenting.

First. The city was accused of "criminal" allegations.

Second. The Tracy Press letter was in regards to the investigation which Rickman requested, in response to the "criminal" allegations.

Third. Just because a developer wants to do business with the city does not make them a "criminal".

Fourth. All we read, or hear from about twenty people in town is re-hashing details in the developer agreement and constantly hoping that something "criminal" is discovered.

Sixth. These allegations of "criminal" activity has been hashed and hashed and hashed for years with no judicial proof of "criminal" activity.

If pcmiles is going to a city meeting looking for "criminal" activity and unable to unearth "criminal" activity then I can only hope Rickman will think twice the next time they scream "criminal" activity and want Rickman to launch an investigation?

To set the record straight, the Tracy Press was the one who reported the facts. If pcmiles wants to report the facts then let's start with the facts. Where are the "criminal" allegations, pcmiles?

If you have proof of the "criminal" allegations then by all means please share
BuzzLiteyear
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January 08, 2014
Behonestguy,

I found an article by Mendelson on the Tracy Press website.

http://www.tracypress.com/view/full_story/20373373/article-Second-Thoughts--Lone-man’s-long-City-Hall-tango-ends-in-court?instance=home_opinion_lead_story

STOCKTON — On Sept. 26 in the superior courtroom of Judge Michael D. Coughlan, one Tracy man’s long slog against City Hall apparently came to a close, the anticlimactic end of a four-year showdown.

Coughlan dismissed a lawsuit Paul Miles brought against the city, saying Miles’ numerous complaints — including violations of the Public Records Act and Brown Act, an open-meeting law — were improper and unfounded.

Miles has publicly sought investigations into the behavior of police officers, two police chiefs and the city manager. He fought a one-man battle to, in his words, “see that the law is obeyed and our public officials are held accountable.”

He has repeatedly taken to the podium at City Council meetings to excoriate the highest levels of city management and elected leaders for their alleged complicity in what Miles called a “classic cover-up attempt.”

Miles was one voice speaking for openness at City Hall — the type of stirring underdog story that rouses those who demand good government.

But according to the district attorney’s office and Coughlan, Miles’ crusade never had much cause in the first place.

It all began in June 2008, when Miles’ son was in a bicycle accident. Miles found fault with a Tracy police officer’s representation of facts regarding the incident.

He was then dissatisfied with an investigation he requested into the officer who oversaw the report — Miles says there is proof the police department’s internal investigator misrepresented facts about the review and left out evidence relative to Miles’ complaint.

That led to at least two internal investigations, as Miles alleges former police Chief Janet Theissen and her replacement, Chief Gary Hampton, helped protect the internal investigator and ignored department policy.

Neither investigation concluded in Miles’ favor. Miles claimed a conflict of interest and a failure by the city to respond in a timely fashion.

The district attorney’s office then refused his request for an outside inquest, Miles said, and the attorney general’s office apparently passed, as well.

So Miles turned to the civil justice system, which is how he found himself last week before Coughlan and across from Richard Osman, an attorney from Bertrand, Fox & Elliot representing the city.

Not a lawyer by training, Miles presented court filings that were eloquent and extensive.

But they didn’t persuade Coughlan. He said that by asking him to act where the district attorney had not and to mandate new investigation guidelines for Tracy, Miles was asking the court to usurp the power of the government’s executive branch.

“I’ve never seen this happen before,” Coughlan said. “I do not believe I have the authority to override the D.A.”

He added later, “I just don’t legally see a basis for the petition.”

In court, Coughlan upheld the city’s version of the story — that the police agreed there were inaccuracies in the original report, but that there was no intent on the part of the city to deceive.

The judge dismissed Miles’ complaint that the city withheld public records rather than redacting and releasing the documents.

Coughlan also ruled that the city didn’t violate the state open-meeting law, though Miles alleged the city took action in closed session that wasn’t accurately described on the closed-session agenda.

City Manager Leon Churchill said the week after Coughlan’s ruling that the city did all it could to try and satisfy Miles.

Churchill said the city spent somewhere around $50,000 on investigations at Miles’ request. Churchill called it “a great expense to the Tracy taxpayer.”

Coughlan’s ruling appears to be the final step of Miles’ tango with Tracy, and the city must be relieved to be off its feet.

For Miles, the decision was having the last open door replaced by a brick wall.

Outside the courtroom, a stunned Miles said he was “just trying to hold people accountable.”

“My concern is that nothing is going to change,” he said.

It’s difficult to find a more noble cause than good government. Without accountability, government ceases to function for the public, instead enriching its own members and those in their favor.

Those like Miles who pursue accountability deserve applause. I’d even call such people patriots — government at all levels needs people who will rattle the cage and remind officials that it’s citizens who are supposed to run the show.

But sometimes even an effort based on best intentions can become a tilt at windmills.

Coughlan and the district attorney’s office are hardly the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong. However, if you take them at face value, the city has been vindicated.

I have a great deal of respect for what Mr. Miles tried to do.

But in light of last week’s ruling, it would be hard to consider further action on his part as anything other than an obsession.

• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by Editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at jmendelson@tracypress.com.

Read more: Tracy Press - Second Thoughts Lone man’s long City Hall tango ends in court



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