Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I’m writing in response to the letter by Richard and Linda Silverman about Landscape Maintenance Districts. The Silvermans live in a LMD, are satisfied with city service crews and happy with their LMD payments. That isn’t the focus here. The Silvermans ridiculed other letter writers who previously raised concerns about how the process of LMDs was handled in their particular circumstance (the Union Ranch subdivision). The Silvermans emphasized that these “letter writers are not lawyers and have become obsessed with LMDS.” They later characterize these men as “obsessively convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong.” Everyone? That implies that no one else has a problem with the current LMD process. But other Union Ranch residents expressed their frustration with the LMD situation, at the meeting the Silvermans attended. Why weren’t they mentioned?
Even though I don’t live in that area, I, too, have concerns and questions regarding this issue. I don’t personally know either of the gentlemen targeted for the Silvermans’ incivility, but assert that to demean them as “obsessive” is really just the Silvermans’ negative perception. What they condescendingly label “obsessive”, someone else could interpret as “committed to following through on a significant community issue”.
Several parts of the Silvermans’ letter gave me pause. For instance, after stressing that the previous letter writers weren’t lawyers (implicitly suggesting they lack the expertise of the city’s lawyer), the Silvermans state that they “looked up all the so-called legal issues cited by the letter writers and did our own fact checking.” This begs the question, “Are the Silvermans lawyers?” If they imply that the other letter writers might lack competence or reliability, simply because they aren’t attorneys, then what makes the Silvermans’ “fact-checking” any more convincing or valid? If they arbitrarily set up standards, they must hold themselves accountable to the same rules.
One section of the Silvermans’ letter did provide enjoyment. When they wrote, “Our proud mayor took the extraordinary step of asking the council individually if they would ever violate the Constitution and they all replied solidly that they would not,” I laughed aloud. Extraordinary step? Talk about grandstanding! Does anyone seriously believe that any city council member would answer differently?
Past Bulletin articles on the LMD subject show the issue isn’t LMDs themselves, but how they are put into place, if they are cost effective, and is the assessment fee fair to the development’s residents. With Union Ranch, even if the law was followed technically the process itself is unethical, in my opinion. For a developer to sell a certain amount of homes to buyers with the understanding that there will be a vote on whether to enter a LMD, all the while retaining the majority of empty lots and thus having more votes than all the current residents combined, seems like stacking the deck and a violation of the spirit of the law or intent to give residents a fair say in the process. Charging Union Ranch residents fees for a non-existent or incomplete park is inexcusable. The city is now offering a “partial refund,” keeping “administration” fees in place. The residents should only be paying fees for completed landscape that requires maintenance. The Tidewater bike path, much like Woodward Park which isn’t part of a LMD, is used by the entire Manteca community. As such, parts of it should not be sectioned off as the financial responsibility of new or future development, but absorbed by the general fund. Fortunately, the city is currently reviewing the LMD policy, a move that comes none too soon.
July 22, 2012