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Memo to four SJ supervisors: Eight is enough

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POSTED August 15, 2012 7:50 p.m.

Odds are you don’t know who Steve Bestolarides, Larry Rushstaller, Carlos Villapudua, and Ken Vogel are.

It’s a reflection on just how important they really are to the future of San Joaquin County, despite their collective ego telling them they are the only people who can lead us.

The four are elected county supervisors who are a few years away from being termed out of office.

They can’t afford to let that happen. After all, where else can you get a $132,000 a year part-time job in San Joaquin County in this economy?

The four want you to make sure they don’t have to fall back on living on one full-time income. That’s why they voted to place a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to tinker with the existing term limits adopted by voters in 1998.

Did I mention that this measure will cost $100,000 in scarce tax dollars this November?

In their defense, it’s not that San Joaquin County needs $100,000. We’re doing just fine with the cutbacks and layoffs the supervisors have instituted. They have cut criminal prosecutors, county law, health care services, and county road maintenance down to the bone. While dynamics beyond their control may have forced such cuts, they certainly have no issue with spending $100,000 in tax dollars for a ballot measure. The money could have restored at least one or two essential county employees that protect us.

The one supervisor who did not go along - Leroy Ornellas - is leaving office this December after serving the voter mandated maximum of two four-year terms.

The Tracy dairy farmer, whose last campaign was based around the promise to do away with the bull, is at least one elected official who does what he says he’s going to do. He supported term limits publicly in the past just like his brethren on the board. And he isn’t about to change his position in order to benefit himself at the expense of the voters.

One argument the Gang of Four, from high atop the county building on Weber Street in downtown Stockton, has made is that there is a big learning curve to get a handle on the job of supervisor. They have pitched the argument that it takes one term to get going and by the second term a supervisor starts to hum so therefore it makes no sense not to take full benefit of a third term.

Perhaps that explains why government is in such a mess in California. Maybe eight years is only a lifetime in the real world. Facebook, as an example, didn’t exist until February 2004. By 2009, it was the undisputed king of social media.

We are also told that it is critical at this juncture to have supervisors well-versed in water issues.

Really. Given the fact 70 percent of the state’s water flows through this county, it has always been critical that supervisors are up to snuff.

But ask yourself just how well-versed and effective are they in water issues.

Mike Machado - a Linden farmer and former state legislator who spent 16 years in the trenches in Sacramento fighting to update California’s water plan and policies - more than once expressed frustration that the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors was ineffective at uniting the county to become a force against statewide interests that have the ability to cripple our economy by seizing water.

It’s one thing to be well-versed in an issue. It’s something entirely different to be a leader on an issue. Sorry, guys, but the only elected leader that has made headway of late on uniting the county into a cohesive front to protect our water and related interests is Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston.

Seat time doesn’t make you a leader.

Of course, entrenched incumbents benefit from political machines.

It might be added that it is these entrenched incumbents who got to design tailor-made districts this past redistricting go around to best serve their personal re-election interests, largely at the expense of the South County.

Remember the South County? That’s where all of the growth has been in the past decade.

The Gang of Four sliced and diced Manteca and diluted Ripon’s pull by tossing it in with Lodi by using some nice high-tech gerrymandering that ignored physical concerns to keep constituencies  friendly to the current supervisors.

They’re not stupid men. They know there is a huge disconnect between the South County and the Stockton-Lodi power axis. They can ill-afford to have their apple cart upset.

And one way to keep the gravy train rolling to the tune of $132,000 per year is to change term limits.

The perfect bumper sticker for Nov. 6 consists of three words: Eight is enough.


This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.

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