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Don’t mark your Measure Z ballot until Truth of Consequences airs on Oct. 20
TC sign
A town in New Mexico was named after the radio show Truth or Consequences.

Are you ready to play Truth of Consequences?

Not the NBC Radio version originally hosted by Ralph Edwards of the later TV edition featuring the likes of Bob Barker who cut his teeth as a game show host on the wildly popular weekly production that last aired in 1988

I’m talking about the Manteca version.

It’s been in the making for a good decade or so.

And its debut is set for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Comcast Channel 97 while live streaming via the City of Manteca website at

There are no tickets for a studio audience at 1001 West Center Street thanks to the pandemic.

You won’t want to miss it, though. Literally millions of dollars are riding on it.

It is also a player participation show although not by your choice.

A variety of circumstances — sloppiness, complacency, short-sightedness, misplaced trust in outside legal firms as well as hired guns known as consultants, delusions of grandeur, Machiavellian politics, and just about every vice short of the Seven Deadly Sins — may have combined to create an October surprise that may leave your head spinning.

By the time it is over you might just wonder whether the deal of the century is actually a wolf at Manteca’s door. For now some past and present players that are trying to steer the narrative in advance are thinking not in the terms of the Big Bad Wolf as opposed to city hall these days channeling Chicken Little.

Before we go much further, if you’re under 45 years of age you may not know how Truth or Consequences worked. Players would be given questions that were next to impossible to answer. If they did by some miracle get the right answer, there were follow up questions that assured they would be left with their heads spinning and their thought process befuddled.

Manteca Truth of Consequences could leave you with the same feeling.

If you opt to complete your ballot and mail it in before the Oct. 20 debut of Truth or Consequences you might seriously regret how you voted on Measure Z whether it is “yes” or no.”

That’s because what is coming may greatly change how you view city government in Manteca and whether we’ve been living in a House of Illusions for 10 years or so unless you want to trace the original sin back to the 1980s.

This might sound like a bunch of linguistic razzle-dazzle because it is to a degree.

What is coming is not quite yet settled but people on both sides that are likely to get blamed even if it isn't their fault per se have been launching “hint” balloons to try and steer the political winds that the fallout from what one might call a “come clean” moment as the City of Manteca heads into its 103rd year. Others, predictably, will label it a fairy tale.

Rest assured finger pointing will reach a crescendo that exceeds the famous district attorney investigation in 2002 when an unloaded finger pointed at a council member in a nearly empty chamber at 2 o’clock in the morning during a marathon city council meeting involving the proposed Big League Dreams sports complex led to an elected leader filing a criminal report.

If you haven’t guessed it by now it involves lots of money or, more precisely, money the city may not have or might lose.

The timing couldn’t be any more insane as it will come 14 days before a City Council election.

This will naturally generate two predictable schools of thought.

The first would logically be that city staff is doing it to help turn sentiment in favor or Measure Z the one cent sales tax increase.

The other would be that the old guard is being thrown under the proverbial bus to take the hit for the actions of the current council and top city hall leadership in advance of the election.

Tempering that are arguments outside experts brought in to assess whether every “T” and “I” has been crossed don’t know what they are talking about or that city staff is just overreacting.

But if you step back for a second you’d have to ask why anyone would want to cut off their own head by alluding to big financial issues just 14 days before an election.

Two answers for that one. Either they are committed to transparency to the point they have put the financial health of the city above political expediency or else they don’t want to be accused of holding back information that could look self-serving if the “truth” came out after the election.

Measure Z plays into this big time. That’s because depending upon how this unfolds it could very well change you from an opponent of the tax increase to a backer just as easily as it could make you vote “no” if you are leaning toward voting “yes”.

What exactly is revealed about the city finances which you can be assured is way beyond just taking a hit from COVID-19 is something everyone who votes will have to carefully weigh.

The trail leading up to Measure Z being placed on the ballot started as a way to add amenities then shifted to maintaining service levels and chipping away at a back-log of street  maintenance and pressing needs that have been relegated to mushroom priority such as aging fire engines that should have been replaced years ago.

It could actually be needed to stop services from cratering. Even so you can’t help but have a sneaking suspicion that much of it is being blown out of proportion.

The chatter is almost as confusing as it would be if one swept up all the text messages from high school aged kids’ smartphones across the United States for a year and did a gigantic data dump.

That said, too much has been let out of the bag. If the city’s financials are not discussed at the Oct. 20 City Council meeting after all of the hype or if the case is not clearly made that Manteca is on the verge of overshooting the runway, you will have good justification to vote “no.”

But if the Oct. 20 meeting offers a clear picture of where Manteca is at and that the root causes can be made or clearly pre-date the last year of shake-ups at city hall, you will have a good justification to vote “yes”.

Keep in mind if the truth is indeed laid out one way or another you and I will suffer the consequences if a tax increase isn’t justified and passes giving the city another $12 million to mess around with or if a tax increase is justified and the city indeed has to make drastic cuts to atone for what is now being framed as past sins.

Stay tuned. And try not to mark your ballots before you see how well the City of Manteca can play Truth or Consequences.