Is Manteca losing its mojo?
Manteca has always had a homeless issue. But it wasn’t the–in-your-face-I-can-do-whatever-I-please situation that now exists in some parts of town.
But before I go on, let’s make a few things clear.
1. I don’t care if other places have challenging homeless issues. I don’t live in other places. I live in Manteca.
2. For 20 of the 25 years I’ve lived in Manteca I’ve resided in neighborhoods that have always had homeless in them albeit unseen as they were low-profile. The neighborhoods, by the way, are off East Yosemite Avenue a block between Powers and Cottage and in Powers Tract next to the two biggest magnets for the homeless — Spreckels Park and the Moffat Boulevard corridor.
3. I spent half my life working and/or living in Roseville that has a homeless population that makes Manteca’s look insignificant given it is a major marshaling yard for freight trains. That said they never were as brazen or as bold as some of the homeless in Manteca.
4. Seeing the homeless move around town doesn’t bother me one iota. Many dress and address personal hygiene much better than more than a few non-homeless people.
5. Like many I’m torn about the homeless. Many evoke empathy but admittedly a growing few by their behavior and actions are earning my scorn.
u6. Addressing homeless issues is not a law enforcement issue. It is a political issue.
7. While I believe the attack on 80-year-old Wayne Cummings by a homeless man’s Pit Bull last week along North Main could easily have been by a Pit Bull owned by a resident given many more such attacks have occurred where the owner had a home, it is a barometer of what’s to come. Make Manteca a place where the homeless can commit quality of life crimes on a wholesale basis with little or no resistance and they will come including the hard-core criminal homeless.
8. And now for the most important point: I count this community’s blessings that pedophiles, gang members, or drug dealers haven’t filed a lawsuit against the City of Manteca in federal court alleging their civil rights have been violated. I shudder to think how the city would put enforcement of any law “on pause” so as not to provoke their lawyers.
I get that the city is between a rock and a hard place. But then again I see people staying away from parks their tax dollars finance, bank customers not using an ATM after hours because a homeless individual is sleeping in front of it, a merchant losing business because a homeless individual that has become the city’s de facto mascot camped out in front of their store yells obscenities at those passing by.
I understand simply yelling obscenities at people as they walk by isn’t against the law. To elevate it to that level there needs to be an accompanying intimidating movement.
What I don’t understand is why the Manteca City Council is shirking from their responsibilities. Do they not hear the complaints about the unacceptable behavior by the homeless than can legally be made illegal? Perhaps they don’t see it.
Let me draw a picture. One homeless individual has commandeered a city sidewalk blocking a good portion of it for much of the day with his souped up version of a shopping cart. He also happens to have a dog that’s not on a leash, positions himself sometimes when he has two other homeless individuals with him in such a manner that it forces those using the 6-foot sidewalk to go around them by stepping into the lane of traffic, and even barbecues on the sidewalk.
First he needs to be given credit for being innovative in how he moves his belongings around since he didn’t resort to pilfering a shopping cart. He also keeps it fairly neat. As for his panhandling, there is nothing illegal about it nor are there likely findings the city could make that would deem begging for money at the entrance to parking lots a health and safety issue.
That said three different times his unleashed dog has become aggressive with my Dalmatians I had on leash as I walked by the section of public sidewalk that the city has conceded to be under his control. The first time it was a little hairy but his dog — snarling as it was — stopped short of biting. The next two times he immediately called out to his dog that stopped his advancement although he snarled at my dogs until after we passed.
I solved the problem by no longer taking my dogs down that stretch of sidewalk. To be honest it’s no big deal but I do worry about what could happen if someone startles or inadvertently provokes the dog as they walk by. I pray that an 80-year-old woman from El Rancho Mobile Home Park heading to Target doesn’t get attacked as Wayne Cummings did. The dog is totally cool when I jog by on my own. But the law is the law when it comes to leashes and dogs — or is it in Manteca?
As for barbecuing on the sidewalk, adopt an ordinance clearly stating what a public sidewalk can be used for and enforce the rule on everybody. Enough said.
Giving the council the benefit of the doubt, if they have some secret plan to improve the situation don’t wait until we go through the budget process to get a plan approved and funded. Take action now. Do it on Manteca’s time and not city staff’s timetable.
It’s time for the City Council to lead.
It’s time to take Manteca back.