Charlie Halford knows the consequences of city councils not making sound fiscal decisions.
Halford was a Manteca Police Department patrol officer back in 1982 when the city was down to a $1,000 general fund reserve and had to keep the recently completed Louise Avenue fire station closed because they lacked money to hire firefighters.
The city, unable to afford police cars, was also taking hand-me-down CHP patrol cars with 90,000 plus miles on them from the State of California.
Halford was making a routine traffic stop of a speeder when the torsion bar on the CHP unit repurposed as a Manteca Police vehicle that he was driving snapped causing him to crash.
Halford believes the city in the past year has strayed from the fiscal discipline that has allowed Manteca residents since the early 1990s not have to worry about whether police or fire will respond when they dial 9-1-1, their toilets will flush, water will flow from their faucets, and their garbage will be picked up.
The retired police chief who served Manteca for 32 years as a law enforcement officer is one of five candidates seeking election to two City Council seats on Nov. 3.
“The City has made some poor fiscal decisions,” Halford said.
Topping the list:
*An error city staff blames on a contracted labor attorney made during negotiations with Operating Engineers Unit 3 that triggered a “me too” clause in contracts of other city employees bargaining groups. The council on May 19 was forced to approve $954,000 in additional pay raises with groups that had already completed negotiations.
*Granting all city employees three paid floating holidays at Christmas on top of their existing paid holidays and vacation. Halford noted that while a staff memo to the council said there would be no fiscal impact, many employees were paid overtime to fill minimum staffing level requirements for police, fire, and other basic essential services such as wastewater treatment plant operations. And in instances were overtime didn’t occur, taxpayers lost three days of productivity from workers. Some have pegged the cost as being in excess of $500,000
*Two days after they declared a local pandemic emergency, the City Council moved forward with a plan to implement 16 new positions as the state shut almost all businesses down. Halford said it was done in complete disregard to looming financial losses that to date includes roughly $2 million in lost sales tax.
“The city needs to get back on track and to deal with people in a fair and respectful way,” Halford said.
Halford said “it goes without saying public safety is the top priority.”
But Halford, who served from 1997 to 2008 as the city’s police chief, cautioned the spending has to be balanced against other general fund needs such as parks & recreation as well as streets.
“They all contribute to public safety,” Halford said.
Recreation programs, as an example, have long been viewed as effective ways at combating juvenile crime and weakening the lure of gangs.
“One of the things they tell you in chiefs’ school is you can’t swing the public safety bat every time — other departments contribute to public safety as well,” Halford said.
Halford said Parks & Recreation as well as youth football teams, Manteca Area Soccer League, Give Every Child a Chance, the Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts among others engaging youth means youth are less likely to get into trouble and end up going down the wrong paths.
It is why he encourages people to support non-profit organizations with time and money.
And when it comes to such advice, Halford doesn’t just do the talk. He does the walk.
He has been active in community concerns his entire adult life.
Halford currently belongs to Manteca Rotary and is a past president. Through that organization and with the help of the Sunrise Kiwanis, Halford along with Jeff Liotard spearhead the community Thanksgiving dinner that served 2,400 meals last year.
Halford was a founding board member for Give Every Child a Chance, served on the Doctors Hospital of Manteca board, is part of the Great Valley Bookfest, is a founding member of the Manteca Hall of Fame, and former Boys & Girls Club board member among other endeavors.
After he retired as police chief he was asked to serve as the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club while they looked to fill the vacant position. Not only did that end up being a four-year stint, but after the first month when he saw how the club that serves more than 1,000 kids was struggling at the time, he cut the $65,000 pay the board budgeted for him and worked only for half that amount.
Once he stepped down he continued to not only financially support the Boys & Girls Club but he has volunteered his time for tech and building maintenance issues and is currently overseeing at effort to install solar panels to reduce the club’s PG&E bills.
Besides public safety and making sure the city is fiscally responsible, Halford said the city needs to pursue job generation and much more affordable housing so those who work here and/or grew up here can afford to live here.
To that end, he believes Manteca benefits from a regional approach working in concert with neighboring jurisdictions.
“While I’d prefer to have jobs created in Manteca, having jobs (Manteca residents) can work at in Tracy, Stockton, or Lathrop is just as good,” Halford noted.
Halford said combatting crime and homeless also benefits from a regional approach.
“Crime like water takes the path of least resistance,” Halford said. “Homelessness is the same.”
Halford said Manteca needs to address homeless issues that he concedes are challenging to tackle. But at the same time he said Manteca doesn’t want to get in a position where its effort to help the homeless and work with them to get off the street doesn’t attract homeless from nearby jurisdictions.
“It really has to be a regional approach between San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and not just Manteca with nearby cities,” Halford said.
His approach to improve public safety is not simply adding more officers.
Halford points back before the recession that started in 2008 when Manteca had more than 100 Neighborhood Watch Groups that were constantly engaged with a community services officer dedicated to that purpose.
Halford also said Manteca was able to make headway on a lot of crime issues by deploying multi-department and multi-agency task forces headed by the police joined by fire, building safety, code enforcement, the health department and others to tackle chronic crime areas in Manteca.
It is how the city loosened the chokehold gangs had on the Southside Park neighborhood and who were engaging in drive-by shootings every other night in the summer of 2003 as well as the first successful effort to put a lid on drug-related issues in downtown Manteca due to traffic that was going in and out of second floor efficiency apartments.
Halford, 65, is a native of Lathrop and a 1972 East Union High graduate. He completed his criminal justice degree at California State University at Sacramento in 3½ years.
He worked on an egg farm for six months before being hired as a Lathrop Manteca Fire District firefighter.
Halford was hired as a reserve police officer by the Manteca Police Department in 1975. A year later he was hired as a fulltime officer to start his 31-year career with Manteca Police.
As a sergeant in the early 1980s he was credited with helping save the lives of a mother and her two children from the second story of the burning Waukeen Hotel before firefighters were able to arrive. The hotel was where the parking lot is today on the northwest corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues in downtown Manteca.
Halford’s son Nathaniel is a University of California Berkeley student.
“I always want Manteca to be as good as it can be,” Halford added. “I believe if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.”
Others running for the two council seats on Nov. 3 are incumbents Gary Singh and Debby Moorhead, registered nurse Fred Cunha, and businessman David Martin.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com