Manteca is losing the war when it comes to sweating the small details that make a city hospitable.
Grand initiatives flourish: Great Wolf Resort, Big League Dreams, the state’s first diverging diamond interchange, pursuing fiber optic communication, food waste to fuel and other endeavors that are progressive and relatively cutting edge.
But when it comes to the little things that people — Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials —would all likely agree should be addressed by the city Manteca is performing below par and that’s being generous.
It is clear what ails Manteca. There are too many generals and not enough foot soldiers. The long-range staffing initiative cobbled together last month that was lauded by the council added almost as many generals as it did foot soldiers as well as calling for the expansion of the command ranks.
That is not to debate the need perhaps for a general or two more for “new departments” to provide more services or even more officers in the command ranks.
But the need for more people to do the little tasks that make a city safe and pleasant — street crew workers, parks maintenance, and even police and community service officers — was basically dismissed.
Yes the plan calls for adding six or so officers, community service officers and dispatchers but will the city ever address the ever growing rampant parking of semi-trucks where drivers park where they please to the point that the message gets out don’t even try it in Manteca?
Police staffing levels have just recently been restored to what they were in 2008. Manteca has added 18,000 residents in the past 12 years. Before we start writing six figure checks using tax dollars for all sorts of new initiatives, maybe the absolute top goal is to staff the police department from patrol officers to code enforcement personal to give citizens the Manteca that the council keeps promising.
Instead of making it a priority to return maintenance work staffing to at least the 2008 levels, the city’s solution is to create a department that brings them all under one umbrella and cross training them so they could tackle issues such as potholes in platoon fashion.
Funny, but the city’s answer to white collar tasks to improve the delivery of services is to do the opposite by unraveling task mergers and making departments more robust.
If anyone at 1001 West Center Street hasn’t noticed a city of 85,000 zooming toward 100,000 needs more rank and file workers hitting the streets than a city smaller than 67,000 when staffing in parks and street maintenance was higher than it is now.
There is a clearly concerned and frustrated lady that has now made three appearances before the City Council in recent months imploring them to have lane striping that has long faded and raised reflective pavement markers that lost their reflective coatings years ago along major arterials with four lanes or more upgraded. It’s not a big safety issue in the daytime but at night it is a hideously dangerous situation.
Generals don’t do such tasks as stripe lanes. Foot soldiers do.
Sidewalks are clearly an area that highlights the ineffectiveness of this council as well as previous councils for the past 12 years. They have conducted inventories of deficiencies citywide twice and are now trying to come up with a game plan as the number of issues with raised concrete and gap issues grow. Instead of pushing paper around on the justification the city needs to know what sidewalks are the worst so they can be tackled first, why not restore the four man crew that was responsible primarily for sidewalk repairs and replacement that was eliminated 12 years ago. That way the city can actually repair sidewalks instead of taking about doing so.
This council, in a way, is worse than their predecessors. That’s because they have unleashed a 21st century initiative to bring fiber optic for high end users to Manteca that has further trashed sidewalks along the key east-west corridor of Yosemite Avenue.
After tearing up sidewalks to lay cable, the firm doing the work simply asphalted the hole they created over instead of pouring cement. The asphalt work in many cases redefines shoddy. The city’s fiber optic initiative has created more serious tripping hazards.
It’s funny but purely private initiatives that have had to tear up sidewalks in recent months were able to do cement pours to replace the sidewalk they removed so we know it isn’t a cold weather problem.
It’s just another case of not sweating the details because city leaders are obsessed with chasing baubles.
Anyone want to take a guess at how effective the city’s weed abatement on municipal property will be this year? Rest assured you’ll get your citation if you don’t comply by April 1.
And don’t say it is because streets and parks crews are lazy. They’ve had so much work piled on them while top brass are busy working toward creating positions such as deputy city manager and assistant city manager as well as striving to create whole new departments such as splitting parks and recreation and pulling city engineering functions into one department that it is amazing they can still tread water.
They are caring for more parks with less staff proportionately while at the same time their clean-up duties of homeless created messes has easily gone up six-fold in the past five years.
We can’t keep up with basic street maintenance such as lane striping, enforcing parking rules on trucks that are creating visual safety hazards while at the same time accelerating pavement deterioration, repair sidewalks, and stay on top of weeds so the answer is not to add more manpower but to combine what we have as strike teams of sorts when pressing issues arise.
In case someone at city hall hasn’t noticed they’ve been taking that approach for years without creating a new department and more bureaucracy. When street crews are literally inundated during the rainy season, the city has shifted wastewater treatment system maintenance workers to help unclog gutters to combat flooding.
The list of little things not being done is endless. Downtown sidewalk and crosswalk pavers that were justified as an expense as it would make the central district more appealing haven’t been power washed since they were installed 18 years ago. The city puts expensive water features in at Library Park and the Stadium Retail Center but they get limited or no use because it costs too much to meet new state standards yet we can keep adding more initiatives that require ongoing maintenance that the city can never seem to keep up with.
It is true that most of the issues save for the wanton destruction of sidewalks for installing fiber optic can be traced to previous councils. By virtue of being elected the current council now owns those issues
And their embracing of what was pitched as the city staffing plan for the next 5 to 15 years is any indication getting more manpower on board to address the day-to-day issues that create safety concerns, blight and such is an even lower municipal priority than ever before.