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The taxing question: Manteca council shouldn’t channel Milli Vanilli or hire the Flim-Flam Man
flim flam man
George C. Scott was the main character in the 1967 movie “The Flim-Flam Man”. Update it and make the setting Manteca City Hall instead of small Southern towns then it could be called “The Consultant”.

I am not a fiddle.

Do not play me.

Yet I suspect that is exactly what City of Manteca leaders plan to do to me.

And it’s not just me.

It’s every taxpayer who votes.

Yes, the city is seriously weighing the “big ask”.

It’s an ask for more taxes.

I view taxes like I view my money.

Because a small percentage of it is my money.

The city can — and does — provides service and amenities that I benefit from.

And even more important it provides those things for a cause I’ve bought into — the greater community.

I’m willing to bet I’m just like most people who call Manteca home.

There are a lot of reasons I like this place.

And there are things I have issues with.

I’m far from being flush with money but I’m better situated than a lot of people.

However, you won’t see me grab a sign that reads, “hell, yes, tax me more” and march on city hall.

And I would not hand anyone a blank check, especially if they are from the government.

Yet if you make a case and demonstrate how you can be trusted to deliver, you have a solid chance at convincing me to part with some more of my hard earned cash even if I believe it will hurt me a bit.

It’s the same rationale that drives delayed gratification.

You have to invest — time, money, or whatever — to reach goals.

That said, don’t play me.

I’m not a fiddle.

Yet that is exactly what the City of Manteca is posed to do.

They are likely going to hire a carpetbagger conductor.

Sorry, I forgot. If George C. Scott were starring in the 1967 movie “The Flim-Flam Man” today it would be called “The Consultant”.

The city can’t on its own pull the trigger on a ballot measure for a tax increase.

They have to acquire the services of a consultant.

The consultant for a tidy sum in the neighborhood of $100,000 will claim they will test the waters in an unbiased manner to determine if you and I have the stomach to vote for a tax increase.

And just like The Flim-Flam Man’s confidence games, the questions will be crafted so carefully and skillfully to target the mark — the chosen to be polled — so they won’t even know they are being duped.

Everyone but apparently those who occupy government positions of authority — elected or otherwise — know poll questions are rigged.

The consultants know how to get a favorable outcome by asking questions that steer respondents into the direction they preordained.

And they’re careful to never ask if one is willing to pay exact amounts or give something up to get what they respond in the affirmative to say they want.

It’s all part of the game.

With a little luck, the powers that be will hire them to advise on how to educate people if the city takes the next step after polling.

It’s not campaigning per se. That would be illegal.

But educating folks can justify another pay day for The Flim-Flam Man.

I’m sorry. I meant to say “the consultant”.

Here’s a novel idea.

We elected five individuals to lead us through the wilderness.

We are spending in excess of 45 million of our tax dollars in the general fund to support staff — wages, benefits, retirement and such — to execute the goals they set in motion.

Consultants will talk to maybe 300 of us.

If they set a foot in Manteca for a day it will be a borderline miracle.

We bend the ears of council members.

Better yet, they live here. They have family here. They have neighbors and friends here. Most of them even work or worked here.
They are the ones elected to determine the needs of Manteca in broad terms.

They are the ones that said they had some type of vision for Manteca when they ran for office.

We didn’t cast our votes for city staff.

And we certainly didn’t vote for “The Flim-Flam Man” to do the work of either staff or elected officials.

Staff — and council — have got to know trust is an issue.

Turning the reins of Manteca over to — either two or three questionable city managers and wannabes in the past seven years — didn’t exactly leave many with a warm and fuzzy feeling about money-driven hired guns.

Yet we still trust, to a degree, those we elect to tell us the truth.

If there is a need to keep Manteca above water or get us to a better place, then they need to have the courage of their convictions — unless they don’t have any — to tell us so.

More importantly if there is a real need why do you need a consultant to tell you what you already know?

Oh, I forgot. It’s because you want to be buffered from pushback.

Fortunately for us when Pearl Harbor was attacked the government didn’t see a need to do a poll or hire consultants to tell us what we needed to do.

Here’s a novel thought.

If the need exists for a tax increase then cut to the chase.

Define precisely what you need the money for and how you will use it.

Don’t be as clear as mud and simply say we don’t have enough money.

Most people never think they have enough money. If you don’t believe that is true take a look at Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or the California Legislature.

Instead come up with a plan to correct whatever inadequacy you believe must be addressed and attach a dollar amount to it. Build a case. And then ask us for the money.

Strike that. Ask us for the money but also commit yourself to convincing us you believe what you say.

Don’t just hire a consultant.

Or at the first hint of pushback don’t retreat to the line clucked by chickens in public office when they advance a tax measure.

You know it. It’s a perennial favorite on the annals of Manteca council members

It goes like this, “I’m not advocating the tax increase, I’m just saying the people should decide.”

In that case let us decide without insulting our intelligence and enriching consultants.

And if the election fails, regroup and go at it again in two years.

Because if you don’t then you are nothing but a liar.
After all, how can you say needs are pressing, propose a remedy and then through in the towel after one election of you sincerely believe the needs you say are that pressing and critical.


We are not fiddles.

Don’t play us.

But then again if your role model is Milli Vanilli then the only thing you can do is lip synch someone else’s song.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at