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What is needed: ‘Making Sure Manteca Bureaucracy Does its Job Commission’
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The request for an environmental commission wasn’t about a missing bureaucratic checklist as much as making sure Manteca stayed on top of a whole list of environmental issues from drinking water, flood protection, air quality and such.

The reason why have 18-year-olds such as Greta Thunberg lecturing the world and pushing doomsday scenarios is because the bureaucrats rarely listen to the Leonard Smiths.

Leonard Smith is a Manteca Planning Commission member.

He is passionate about being green which, based on cutting edge things Manteca has done over the years, tends to have long-term benefit of being easy on the taxpayers’ pocketbook if done right.

Smith is passionate about one other thing. Making sure the general plan adopted every 10 years or so to guide growth and build a better community does more than line the pockets of consultants and is not treated like a doormat by bureaucrats as they lead elected leaders around by the nose.

Why this matter is the fact the city staff tonight is recommending the City Council torpedo a request by the Democratic Central Committee of San Joaquin County for the City of Manteca to have some follow through and accountability of city bureaucrats in making sure the Climate  Action Plan elected leaders adopted in 2013 is actually followed. They want the council to establish an environmental commission to address the situation.

The city staff believes they can remedy this oversight by simply making sure that they formally check boxes on what the city has done over the past eight years and going forward. Besides, they say, another commission will be costly and delay the development process.

This isn’t what is being asked of the city by the local Democratic organization or a number of people in Manteca. They want better and smarter growth. And quite frankly, having those hired to guard the hen house against wolves to determine whether they are indeed protecting the current “hens” that are present and future Manteca residents isn’t a good idea. The guards — read that bureaucrats that do the heavy lifting in shaping growth — haven’t been doing such a banged up job in Manteca.

The city acts as if the general plan and the climate action plan are mutually exclusive. It’s a myth that allows them to skate by with meeting the same old, same-old minimums to get state mandated plans from the general plan to the housing element that includes pursuing affordable housing blessed by the state clearinghouse in Sacramento;

There’s plenty of evidence the city’s adopted housing element with its goal of affordable housing isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on let alone the $80,000 it cost nearly a decade ago.

Of course, the answer city staff will give you is what Manteca needs is a new plan that is updated.

Let’s hope city staff doesn’t manage to put a muzzle on Mayor Ben Cantu on this one.

Say what you want about the mayor but he is absolutely 100 percent on target that this city has a track record of adopting goals in planning documents mandated by the state and then not following through.

If city bureaucrats respond that is not true, they are right but only marginally so. The checklist the city can come up with to show they are in compliance with the climate action plan is the bare minimum of the lowest hanging fruit that implements everything from low flush toilets to reduce the use of vehicles that spew greenhouse gases that are already a requirement of state law.

This is where the lone wolf of environmental conscience in Manteca officialdom comes into play.

Smith as a planning commissioner constantly brings up clean energy, air quality, and water issues that the general plan has lofty goals listed to address but there is nothing beyond  the basics of what the California Legislature dictates ever implemented in Manteca.

Staff politely listens, confirms a project meets the bare minimum or — if Manteca is lucky — a bit more than, and gives a project their official blessing before reminding the commission if it meets all mandated requirements they have a legal obligation to approve it.

Smith’s point is the city has never dipped its toes into water that is any deeper than what the legislature requires. Yet every decade or so they do an expensive exercise in futility called updating the general plan that now is costing close to $500,000 that offers the promise of something beyond the bare minimum.

The city has conflicting goals in its general plan. How they settle such conflicts is going with the tried and true.

An example is reducing air pollution from vehicles. It has been noted more than once in planning documents that idling vehicles generate more pollutants than moving vehicles.

So what gets priority in Manteca? Taking more than $1.5 million in federal grants awarded five years ago for updating controllers and putting traffic signals in synch and Manteca and actually doing the work plus not addressing persistent bottlenecks such as Main Street through the central district or gearing up for either the sixth or seventh run at a downtown masterplan?

The dozen or so blocks that constitute downtown is important but are dreams to transform it which requires killing off or chasing out a lot of businesses more important if they come at the expense of traffic flow that is key to achieving better air quality? And understand this is not a one dimensional goal. Moving traffic more freely is a huge quality of life issue. It avoids the number of people who are taking shortcuts through neighborhood streets to get around the mess. It also means Manteca residents might actually spend less time getting around town which should account for something.

There is no reason not to believe staff is sincere in saying they will do a better job than their predecessors except for one not very small detail — that’s been said so many times over the last   three decades that it defines what is meant by a broken record. The staff is doing no one any favors by channeling Joe Isuzu.

But have no fear, the staff has the answer. An updated climate action plan for $150,000 to $200,000 will do the trick and put Manteca in compliance with state law.

That sounds good until you realize it is a broad document like the general plan. It does little to change the course of what unfolds in Manteca outside of the bare minimum.

Then there is the zinger — an environmental commission would require ongoing funding for dedicated staff, operations, and maintenance.

Funny but money is never a consideration when executing purges with all the surgical delicacy of using a crowbar and sledgehammer to do open heart surgery that ends up costing taxpayers north of $1.5 million in what are essentially malpractice settlements. You can also point out cheaper tidbits such as how giving all city employees extra “unpaid” days during the 2019 holiday season was supposed to be free but managed to cost taxpayers more than $200,000 in extra overtime.

Spending some money on things that might improve the quality of life of residents, however, is a waste of funds.

What makes this all maddening is when a speaker made the request at a council meeting requesting the city form an environmental commission, they specifically referenced water supply and the drought asking the city to take steps like Tracy has.

Yet the city’s response makes no reference to the need for implementing strategies that aren’t business as usual to deal with persistent droughts

It is clear from how much progress Smith and his fellow planning commissioners haven’t made in getting Manteca to live up to various goals in the general plan that accountability is severely lacking.

The Democratic Central Committee should have been blunter. What they are requesting wasn’t an Environmental Commission as much as it is a “Making Sure Manteca Bureaucracy Does its Job Commission”.


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