Nothing would make Richard Silverman happier than the City of Manteca being able to add six police officers in the upcoming budget.
Actually he’d be ecstatic with four.
Silverman is a City Council man who decided four years is enough meaning. He hasn’t spent the past 3½ years blaming those who preceded him with why Manteca doesn’t have this or why Manteca did that.
Instead he set about trying to do right by the city’s 81,450 residents. You may not see eye to eye with Silverman but at the end of the day he tries to take a holistic, pragmatic approach meaning he gets the pressing needs, the wants, the desires, and the importance of being fiscally conservative. The latter doesn’t mean squirreling away money for the sake of doing so nor does it mean the cheapest way is the least expensive in the long run.
He gets there are a lot of pressing needs.
That said he makes it abundantly clear that he sees two issues that stand out more than any other today in Manteca — the shortage of patrol officers and what he calls “the homeless crisis.”
He makes no apologies for calling the homeless situation a “crisis” and the need for the city and community to treat it as such. Whether you view it from a humanitarian, crime, blight, health and safety, image, or economic perspective it is tough to disagree with Silverman.
At the same time he is hesitant to commit significant municipal funds to the endeavor. Right now just about 0.6 percent of the city’s general fund — roughly $200,000 — goes to cover the costs and support for two Manteca Police community resource officers to serve essentially as quasi-social workers/law officers in trying to address homeless issues.
If there are as any as 200 homeless in Manteca that translates into a $1,000 annual per homeless expenditure by the city compared to $490 when you divide a general fund budget closing in on $40 million by 81,450 residents.
Municipal budgeting is more than just doling out money per capita but it does put it in perspective.
As for more officers, a new position is a reoccurring annual hit of $150,000 when wages, benefits, retirement, and related costs are taken into account.
With 81,450 residents and 67 sworn police officers, an argument can safely be made Manteca is short 14 officers that would cost $2.1 million a year to staff.
At the same time Manteca needs at least eight more workers in the street division just to return to pre-2008 manpower levels. Very few people would argue the street and sidewalk maintenance is where it should be. That’s just one example of non-law enforcement needs.
Manteca has a lot of pressing needs. And given it would take a wild eyed optimist jacked up on three cases of Red Bull after popping 36 sugar cubes to say Manteca can afford to catch up with all of its needs anytime soon, city leaders must be prudent and creative.
There have been some rumblings by challengers in the upcoming election that spending $500,000 or so on portable surveillance video cameras to help law enforcement would be a colossal waste of money and that it would be better spent on more officers.
Given it is not a reoccurring cost and surveillance videos are a proven as a way to track down criminals and even deter criminal acts in some case, such a system is an enhancement that will make existing and future police staffing more effective.
The mantra has got to be working smarter as the city will never be in a position of funding all the bodies conventional wisdom deems necessary to address perceived service shortfalls.
Actually that is already the city mantra to a large degree. It is why things still manage to function fairly well.
Back when Charlie Halford was police chief he earned the nickname “Inspector Gadget” from some of the rank and file. That’s because he knew what budget realities were so he went looking for equipment and such that would help increase the effectiveness of police officers as well as enhancing their safety.
If this is the year that police get a large increase in staffing they still need to work smarter. At the same time so do other city functions that may or may not get staffing increases.
It is against that backdrop the city needs to step up its effort in addressing the homeless situation.
While spending significant amounts of money may be out of the question, it goes without saying additional police officers should step up enforcement of homeless related crime along with all crime.
And in order to give the non-profits critical to helping the city address homeless concerns more resources the city will need to think out of the box.
Exploring options such as making the former vehicle maintenance building on Wetmore Street next to the water tower a day center for the homeless by leasing the structure for a $1 a year to a non-profit could be an effective way to reduce homeless issues.
Manteca can improve city services and enhance the quality of life by exploring slightly out-of-the-box solutions in an endeavor to continue squeezing more bang for the buck out of available dollars.
It fits right in with Silverman’s call for government to take a balanced, prudent and fiscally responsible approach to addressing needs.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.