Here’s what frustrates the typical Manteca resident: The City of Manteca spends an inordinate amount of time and money — usually by hiring consultants — to come up with rules and regulations designed to make the community more livable and then they proceed not to enforce them.
As ironic as it may sound, we are told it’s because they lack “the time and money.”
It is against that backdrop that elected council members become verbal punching bags for irate and/or frustrated citizens.
Take trucks as an example. Just like with a lot of other issues, this city has a rich history of saying one thing and doing nothing. That’s not exactly fair. They will do something but it is usually in reaction to people becoming so frustrated that they have started to grab the proverbial pitchforks and tar.
We now have the classic case of the city investing $140,000 to do a truck route study with the end result likely to be some elected official several years from now repeating the frustrated words of Mayor Ben Cantu made last week at the City Council meeting: “I think we need to take the roads back. It’s basically a free for all out there. I’ve seen trucks on residential streets, taking out signal lights and stop signs.”
Cantu and his elected colleagues have the right answer, simply do intense targeted ticketing. That’s because unlike most other traffic violations the same truck drivers will take the same illegal route and park illegally time and time again. A few tickets and they will get the message loud and clear.
Of course we are told this won’t work as there are higher priorities plus there isn’t the staff time or money to do it.
Fair enough. All of us would like to have the city police go after red light and stop sign runners as well as those that drive like they’re auditioning for a stunt driver in the Fast & Furious 24 movie than worrying about whether a truck is too heavy, too long to legally and safely maneuver down streets, and if it is parked legally.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the city can’t do anything about it.
There are at least three viable options the city council could consider implementing to improve the situation.
The first is to dip into reserves for targeted enforcement by the city’s existing police traffic unit. If the city did a once a week targeted enforcement for several months by paying overtime for the specific purpose of citing STAA trucks — the longer trucks allowed under federal law on freeways and such but must go down specifically designated city routes that have had improvements to allow for their safe movements — that are using roads they can’t legally travel.
Given that most truckers run the same route and that they talk to each other word will get out pretty quick.
This way the police don’t take away resources from pressing concerns such as going after speeders and red light runners during the course of their regular work routine. It works because the violations are being committed by a specific group that can easily be focused on and aren’t too difficult to detect given their high profile and size. The council could justify taking $10,000 or so from the economic development reserves since it is targeting making sure economic activity — in this case trucking — doesn’t inadvertently deteriorate safety or the quality of life in Manteca.
The second option is a variation of the first. For truck parking violations, fund overtime from reserves but instead of paying for sworn police officers to do the work train the community service officers that already handle crime reports in addition to support services to do so. There is no need to pull over a moving vehicle as the trucks are already pulled over.
There are already no parking zones in Manteca as well as no parking zones that prohibit vehicles over six feet that are a sight line hazard in many spots of Manteca. And if trucks that aren’t making a delivery or pickup on streets that aren’t legal truck routes park on the same streets it is obviously illegal for them to do so. If not the city needs to list the most egregious areas.
Using the CSO staff for this purpose by funding overtime from reserves would be less expensive and more cost effective than police paid OT to go after illegal truck movements. That’s because those parking illegally do so on a repeat basis.
The council — if they deploy this option — needs to spend money posting no parking zones in areas that need it.
It goes without saying if the city is worried about 6-foot and higher vehicles creating sight line hazards along established truck routes such as Moffat in places by the transit center that ban the parking of vehicles that are six feet or higher through the appropriate posting of signs, the city can do the same at other intersections where they are also crosswalks. Allowing truck parking on Moffat to impede safe traffic and pedestrian movement from Manteca High at Garfield Avenue as well as Sherman Avenue is completely unacceptable.
On either option the targeted enforcement could take place once or twice a year and may not need to be repeated for several years as a similar effort involving illegal truck park on city property along Moffat allowed the city to go almost a decade without repeat problems.
The third option is more expensive than the other two but would require less funding than hiring an additional police officer. The city in the upcoming budget could fund an additional community service officer with half to two thirds of the person’s time devoted to non-moving traffic enforcement.
This includes but is not limited to illegal truck parking, illegal vehicle parking, handicapped zone violators, parking too close to corners and fire hydrants, impeding driveways, expired tags on parked vehicles, and even RV parking in violation of city ordinances.
Manteca 26 years ago used to have a non-sworn parking enforcement officer.
A dedicated CSO can bring order back to the streets in terms of non-moving vehicles. The rest of the CSO’s duties can be assigned as needed. There is a need for an additional CSO based on budget requests by the police chief.
Why should the hands of the police chief be tied to a degree in terms of how additional manpower is deployed?
There are two obvious answers. The first is there will always be more pressing needs for police personnel than the aforementioned that are considered either quality of life concerns or less important.
The second is a dedicated commitment of personnel to a specific task — such as the homeless effort using sworn police as community resource officers — produces significant and measurable results.
The city council needs to give staff the direction and resources they need to make improvements in efforts to get truckers and others to comply with the rules without imperiling the bank.
If they don’t then they need to ask themselves why they bothered to run for office if they are going to sit by and accept what has been the status quo for enforcing city rules for going on nearly three decades.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.