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The 140-day challenge: Is Manteca competent enough to address truck parking concerns?
PERSPECTIVE
no parking
A truck illegally parked along Moffat Boulevard on city owned property that is already posted as a no parking zone.

Manteca doesn’t need to hire six extra police officers to conduct saturated patrols targeting those driving under the influence or distracted drivers who text.

So why are Manteca residents told the city needs to hire six or more police officers before they can do targeted enforcement against truck parking violators.

That is exactly what Mayor Ben Cantu implied Tuesday when council members made a strong case for a city with $50 million in annual resources to get serious now and not five years down the road about addressing issues such as trucks parking where they aren’t legally allowed to do so and sightline safety issues they create.

The mayor never misses an opportunity to remind everyone Manteca could always use more officers. It’s a point few would likely debate although the jury is still out if more police manpower trumps other pressing needs and whether existing resources can be deployed more effectively.

The problem with making the same point over and over again is it provides a convenient crutch not to do something about problems now by maximizing existing city resources.

If the department is indeed 10 percent below pre-pandemic manpower levels and it take six months to a year at least to fill positions that means nothing will get better.

Why? Well as Cantu has astutely pointed out over and over again since he first starting running for the council in 2008, the city never has adequate staffing or enough money to do what needs to be done.

By drawing a very public line between police staffing numbers and the inability to write an adequate number of truck parking tickets to turn the ride, Cantu is inadvertently re-enforcing the same fall back excuse the public has heard over and over again when they push for the city to address little things that could make a big difference in Manteca’s quality of life.

And to remind Cantu, in January at the start of his third year as mayor he stated that the main focus in 2021 and perhaps into 2022 was to get the city’s financial ducks and growth fees in order so Manteca can work toward making sure the city can handle and service growth as well as provide desired amenities.

Cantu at the time said the city needs to look at doing little things that it can safely do to make Manteca a better community to life, work, and play in.

An example of that is the city launching Thursday’s Market on Maple.

Fitting that mold is doing something about the rampant proliferation of truck parking issues.

Police chief Mike Aguilar confirmed a statistic Halford, his former boss in law enforcement, injected into the discussion. The actual writing of a truck parking ticket takes an officer two minutes. After that the ticket is processed by a private firm the city contracts with. It doesn’t jam up officers or the police department support staff.

Aguilar is correct that the changing face of crime issues where there is a need to have more officers on the scene of certain types of incidents to avoid things from escalating is tying up manpower.

That said it rarely prevents DUI saturation patrols or checkpoints from taking place. And why is that? The answer is simple. The city secured grants for traffic safety, just like the one the City Council recently accepted from the state.

The grant covers the cost of officer overtime.

This is not to suggest the city try to search out for some state or federal grant source, if such money exists for truck parking issues which is highly doubtful. Even if they did it would take Manteca months to apply and then, assuming it was accepted, even more months to get the actual funds.

Enforcing basic traffic safety laws and restrictions put in place to minimize pavement damage and make sure industrial uses don’t bleed into residential areas to poison the quality of life is something people have the right to expect from the taxes they pay that makes their way to the city’s coffers.

What the council needs to do is not budget for fiscal year but dip into general fund reserves now to awards a $25,000 truck parking and public safety “grant” to the Manteca Police Department.

The grant would cover overtime for periodic weeklong targeted enforcement by the department’s five officer traffic enforcement unit with help from other officers looking for OT

To be the most effective there could be one or two officers working four to six hours a day on truck parking enforcement. There could be five to seven consecutive days with different officers each time.

They would blanket the city over and over again as many times as they can during the week writing repeat tickets if needed.

Popping up such enforcement for a week-period on a random basis over a number of months would definitely get the message out.

Of course this shouldn’t take place until Aguilar, working with the city’s engineering department, gets signage up along truck routes where it is needed, address obvious safety issues and put in appropriate marking measures such as Halford pointed out where trucks routinely block crosswalks both marked and implied along Moffat Boulevard.

If city ordinance amendments are needed then he needs to work with the city attorney’s office to do so. Then those changes need to be done as an urgency ordinance to go into effect immediately.

There is no reason if the city takes a “can do” attitude instead of its fallback “can’t do” attitude that Manteca can’t start targeted enforcement by Dec. 1 at the latest.

That’s 2½ months to outline some extremely obvious issues, pound pole signs into the ground, slap red paint on select curbs, making sure needed traffic rules pertaining specifically to Manteca’s streets are on the books, and lining up the officers for the overtime assignment,

If police officers can write the ticket to a solution the community is demanding in two minutes certainly the bureaucracy can move to make it possible for law enforcement to do so in 140 days.

 

  This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com