I reside south of Yosemite Avenue, the line the power brokers in county politics decided to use a decade ago to split Manteca in half.
As a result I reside in the forgotten portion of District 5 of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
This is not a slap at the current incumbent Bob Elliott who —along with Tom Patti who represents the community north of Yosemite Avenue along with Lathrop and parts of Stockton — has done an admirable job of addressing county-related concerns from the perspective of realities Manteca is dealing with.
It is an indictment of the field running to replace Elliott. All four candidates are from Tracy with three of the four serving currently on the Tracy City Council.
I don’t exactly keep a low profile yet sightings of any of the four hopefuls in Manteca have been about as rare as a week without an accident on the 120 Bypass. That said before the campaign started I crossed paths with Rhodesia Ransom several times in her endeavors to tackle regional issues such as the homeless and keeping kids away from the lure of gangs.
Even though Manteca’s population is within 10,000 of Tracy’s, the fact that city has never been divvied between two county districts means the bulk of District 5 votes are in Tracy and Mountain House. It makes sense in the first go around of voting March 5 where it is extremely unlikely that someone will get 50 percent plus one of the votes cast to avoid a runoff in November to concentrate where the majority of the voters can be found.
On the surface given Manteca is right behind Tracy in terms of being a commute heavy community and that we share common issues and concerns such as dealing with the impacts of growth, affordable housing issues, trying to get more robust rail service to Bay Area job centers, the need to lure good paying local jobs, pushing for better freeway systems, and making sure the water barons don’t siphon off our water supplies, you would think how we cast our votes in this part of District 5 wouldn’t matter too much. After all, it should be a safe assumption that all of the candidates want to tackle the same issues.
Given that who one should vote for as a Manteca resident of District 5 would seem to be a rough call to make in terms of it being either a toss-up or a crapshoot.
Thanks to Tracy Mayor Robert Rickman that is no longer the case.
I now know who not to vote for.
It has a lot to do with his declaration that the solution to Tracy’s homeless woes is for that city to invest in $50,000 worth of bus tickets so they can access services available in Stockton.
It also stems from the fact that after Manteca opened the homeless warming center and several residents suggested their city bus the Tracy homeless to Manteca that Ransom stridently spoke out against such buck passing and not Rickman.
But the bottom line is either Rickman’s shallow understanding as an elected official of a complex problem that is definitely near or at the top of the concerns of many District 5 voters he professes to want to represent in Manteca or his playing to the lowest common denominator with spiffy sound bites.
Rickman’s logic is the county provides a lot of services that could help the homeless in Stockton so therefore it makes sense to provide the means for them to commute there as is they were Delta College living in Tracy taking RT to and from classes.
If they were that motivated and given the fact many of the homeless either have disability payments, general support, and even Social Security many of them would already be doing that.
The reality is the Rickman approach banks heavily on the assumption the homeless — once they’ve sampled the offerings of Stockton that has overflowing homeless shelters, an overtaxed non-profit dining room, mental health services and such — that they will pull up stakes and move there.
Of course, that is not how he sells it. He creates an illusion the homeless will become commuters like 70 to 80 percent of the sheltered population of Manteca and Tracy. In Rickman’s world the homeless will leave their makeshift homeless encampments up against the Interstate 205 sound walls or in nook and crannies on the edge of downtown Tracy in the morning and come home each night just like commuters.
Anyone who thinks that is going to happen might want to take advantage of the offerings of the San Joaquin County Public Health Department’s mental health services.
It also speaks volumes of his grasp of homeless issues — and by extension anything else that is a countywide problem.
Among the 155 homeless in Tracy counted during the last point in time census of the unsheltered 13 months ago, rest assured they are not simply Bay Area homeless that decided to trek across the Altamont Pass in search of more affordable housing or a community that would welcome the homeless with open arms. The majority of homeless have ties to a community they are in whether they were raised there, have relatives there, or became homeless there do to addictions or purely financial reasons.
It also shows Rickman’s willingness to make decisions as an elected leader that simply dumps a problem on another community.
Stockton has a median household income $23,000 lower than Tracy’s at $84,162. Yet that city’s taxpayers get into their own pockets in a fashion that is much more expensive than a bus ticket to try and resolve their problems as opposed to shipping them off to San Francisco where the services for the homeless are more robust.
While the county provides remedies once the homeless commit themselves to work to get off the street, they don’t pick up the tab for a lot of the effort aimed at addressing the homeless problem.
I get Rickman’s sentiments. But deciding a city in excess of 90,000 can make a dent in its homeless problems by investing $50,000 a year in bus tickets is not a solution.
This county faces some heavy challenges that arguably pale next to the homeless problem. We need innovative and effective solutions to secure our water, protect agricultural so it can survive and thrive even more, ease traffic congestion, lure higher paying jobs, and to make sure the quality of life not only doesn’t deteriorate but improves.
It requires everyone working together to find solutions that are lasting and not fleeting.
Rickman has made it clear his approach to vexing problems is to essentially smile, dole out bus tickets, and then dump them on someone else.
We don’t need someone who essentially seeks solutions anchored firmly in passing the buck when all is said and done as opposed to someone willing to invest the time and money to make San Joaquin County a better play to live, work, and play.