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Manteca City Council hopeful vows to hire back Jodie Estarziau as police chief
In this 2017 photo, Norman Moore is flanked by two volunteers — Rebecca Goodrich and Judy Sinclair — during a Christmas luncheon for Manteca homeless conducted at the Manteca Gospel Rescue Mission.

“Bring Jodie Back”

That message is being incorporated into the political campaign of a Johnny Come Lately candidate for the Manteca City Council.

Jodie is former Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau who was recently dismissed by City Manager Miranda Lutzow after being on paid administrative leave for nine months.

The Johnny Come Lately is Norman John Moore who announced this week he will submit the appropriate paperwork when the filing period opens to qualify as a write-in candidate for the Nov. 3 election.

Moore was arrested earlier this month for threatening to “kill” the City Council in an Aug. 4 letter penned for public comment to be read during a scheduled Zoom meeting. Needless to say, the letter was read by the Manteca Police Department prompting Moore’s arrest.

Moore — who has been a registered voter and a resident of the city for years — is domicile challenged. In other words, he is one of at least 218 people living in Manteca who are homeless at any given time. His backstory regarding about how he ended up on the streets in a nutshell: He was living essentially as a roommate in a house that got sold. His Social Security check from the years that he worked was not enough to rent a room in another home given housing costs were escalating and continue to do so plus he needed to be able to feed himself.

Moore tried to get into subsidized senior housing that he qualified for where rent is capped out at 30 to 40 percent of a person’s income but waiting lists had hundreds of people over 65 years of age on them already.

So he rented mini-storage space to stash most of his belongings four or so years ago and started living on the streets of Manteca.

Moore is not just a one dimensional candidate. He gets how devastating taxes can be on a businessman — he owned several — blue collar workers that in his young days he was part of, and those on limited incomes who have to often decide whether to pay the rent or make sure they can eat every day of the month.

“If I should be elected,” Moore writes, “I promise there will be a much tightening of the budgetary belt.”

Ironically it was his passionate opposition to the Manteca City Council placing a one cent sales tax increase on the ballot that prompted him to write the council should be shot — possibly with an elephant gun — if they moved forward with the ballot measure.

And while he insists it was rhetorical and that the council and police should be smart enough to have figured that out, he did not help his own cause by suggesting whoever shoots them should aim low so they could “squirm” and slowly die in “agony.”

The law is fairly clear. One cannot threaten public officials, period. At the same time the criminal code section takes into account differing degrees of threats including one that turns out to be rhetorical in nature. That is why PC 71 is known as a “wobbler” offense as it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A misdemeanor conviction can land one in county jail for up to a year as well as a fine up to $10,000 and a ban on owning guns for 10 years. The maximum as a felony is three years in state prison, a possible fine up to $10,000, and a lifetime ban on possessing firearms.

Given he was just another catch and release it is clear Moore was not considered a viable threat although a temporary restraining order has been placed against him to stay away from Mayor Ben Cantu and the rest of the City Council. It is clear that District Attorney Tori Verber-Salazar is leaning toward the misdemeanor. Given Moore has no guns as Manteca Police should have made sure of that and he is in no position to pay a fine as the courts made clear when they opted not to impose one for his arrest on Sept. 29, 2017 for illegal camping on private property in the 100 block of Pacific Avenue off West Yosemite Avenue, he is facing either jail time or a bid by the DA’s office to employ restorative justice. What form that would take for a 74-year-old homeless man is anyone’s guess.

One thing you can’t argue is Moore — and his fellow homeless — are among Manteca residents that are not simply on fixed incomes but “low” fixed income where a penny increase in sales tax could be considered a relatively hard financial hit.

But it is clear the issue he could help keep alive with his candidacy is the dismissal of Estarziau and by extension the clearing out of the top management team at city hall that with the departure of City Attorney John Brinton via retirement in Sept. 30 has replaced or demoted everyone within a year’s time with the exception of Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd. As such his long shot candidacy would be built in making the election a referendum of sorts on the direction the city is being steered.

How will Moore try to accomplish that?

In his own words, “When I’m sitting in that council seat one of the first things I’m going to discover is who was the inspiration behind the dirty little secret dossier against Police Chief Jodie Estarziau. That has always stuck in my craw. Jodie wasn’t a friend of the homeless, it’s just that she wasn’t foaming at the mouth with hatred for the homeless . . . In fact it is going to be part of my political campaign — ‘Bring Jodie Back’. I’m going to have bumper stickers made with that slogan and sell them in the park.”

Norman said he plans to meet with people and talk politics in “that little grassy park area” known as Wilson Peak behind the Post Office every Saturday from now through Election Day.

Moore signs himself of as “Voice of the People” and being part of the “Manteca Homeless Coalition.

If nothing else Moore’s running as a write-in candidate might make more people aware of what might be called an inconvenient truth — almost all homeless are American citizens.

To underscore that, four days after his appointment in Stockton on Aug. 27 with a public defender to discuss his case, he has been called to San Joaquin County Superior Court for jury duty.

If you take nothing else away from this column but the fact even being homeless you can’t escape jury summons you will understand no matter how unwieldy politics get, at the most basic level the system is designed to allow making the playing field even when it comes to fundamental rights.

Which, by the way, everyone gets try to do from their own perspective every election.