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Keeping cost of government down is our responsibility

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POSTED May 18, 2010 2:59 a.m.
Why is government so out of whack? The answer is simple. We want it both ways.

We rail at government for being too costly and then we turn around and slam it when they don’t do functions that we believe somehow is their ultimate responsibility and not ours.

Several years ago the City of Manteca paved the alleys in Powers Tract where I happened to have bought my house a few months beforehand. Part of that process was covering up the “shoulders” between the pavement and fences with gravel in a bid to improve drainage, promote dust control and to ultimately make weed control easier.

The alley behind my house was overtaken with weeds when I moved in. I made it a point - long before the city had to notify me via the fire department weed inspection program - to remove the weeds. It was, after all, my responsibility. I also had put in a new fence in and smoothed out the ground.

When the city crews did the alleys in the neighborhood, they spread the gravel between fence lines and pavement where the homeowners had cleared away the weeds. Where junk and weeds had been left, they simply piled the gravel.

About a year ago, a perennial critic of city workers moved into the neighborhood. He was upset that city crews hadn’t spread the gravel behind the house that he rented and that city crews hadn’t smoothed it out in front of his gate making it difficult to open.

He has taken every opportunity to publicly slam the city for “not doing its job.”

Funny, but I had to clear some gravel away from my back gate so it would open OK. It took me all of a few minutes, if that. As for them not spreading gravel, the real question should be why someone can’t maintain their property properly whether they rent or own.

Shortly after buying my first house off Mylnar Avenue in Manteca 16 years ago a neighbor asked why I was using Round-Up to kill the grass in pavement cracks in front of the house. I was told the city does it once a year.

I thought that was fine but I was still going to kill off the weeds myself because it was looking bad.

I also can’t figure out people who wait for city crews to trim trees and even shrubs back that are partially blocking sidewalks. It irks me when I have to duck from low hanging branches or am literally forced into the street by an overgrown shrub next to the sidewalk when I’m walking. I figured I have no business griping if I’m not willing to keep the shrubs and trees in my own yard up even if they are classified as “street trees” and are technically under city control.

There are a lot of little things we can all do in our neighborhood to not just help keep the cost of government down but to prevent it from turning into a set ideal for the remake of the John Ford movie “Tobacco Road.”

 It is ironic that many who slam government for being too costly and bloated turn around in their next breath and severely criticize any efforts by the City of Manteca to involve people in helping to maintain their neighborhood. They often huff indignantly that “it’s the city’s job.”

No, it is our responsibility as citizens.

Municipal government should concentrate on core functions - police, fire, sewer, water, streets, garbage service, and planning - and then add the general amenities that we can come in agreement through via our elected leaders that citizens individually couldn’t create and maintain such as parks.

Among all of those functions are things that we can do to reduce the cost of government and to improve the quality of life. You can help the police by forming Neighborhood Watch groups, volunteering or even simply being more diligent in caring for your property by not making yourself an easy target of thieves such as keeping things in view in your locked vehicle. We can help the fire department by maintaining property and volunteering plus not creating fire hazards.

We can help the parks by picking up litter and other small chores such as the residents surrounding Greystone Park have been doing for years or volunteer to tackle such projects as individuals or groups. Better yet, we could simply not litter or abuse equipment and facilities.

The list is endless.

In a way, we have been spoiled by the City of Manteca. If you doubt that, just think back to 19 years ago when you could put your entire house and its contents at curbside and they’d pick it up for your regular monthly charge as long as you figured a way to stuff in manageable 32 gallon bags.

The culture is slowly changing at City Hall with the mantra that “things won’t be going back to what they once were” when The Great Recession is over. Now the question is are we as individuals willing to step up to maintain the quality of life and to keep the cost of government down?
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