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You never know when you will take a little trip when walking in Manteca
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Who ever said things are better the second time around obviously never did a repeat near face-plant on a Manteca sidewalk.

Thursday coming back from In Shape Health Club I once again turned jogging into a full impact sport. I went down on the same stretch of East Yosemite Avenue sidewalk along the sound wall east of Powers Avenue that I did almost two years ago. All it took was just a high enough uplift of the sidewalk and my foot striking it at the right angle.

This time it was a six-point landing thanks in part to being drilled into me years ago during my  less-than-stellar days of trying to race road bicycles when you start falling immediately let go of the handlebars and go into a wrestling tuck to protect your head.

I ended up with two nice abrasions above the knees, one on the right shoulder, a small spot on the  chin, a bruise on the right cheek and what feels like a bruised rib.

It took me a little bit longer to get back up than the first spill in 2017 along the same stretch but I was still able to finish my run home with pain and oozing blood as my new jogging partners.

The good news is I no longer feel the lingering pain from a fairly serious groin pull I sustained in October as it is now masked by pain of the bruised rib and the other points of contact with the concrete.

Live long enough and you’re going to kiss the pavement, sidewalk, or ground sooner than later. It was my fourth trip on a Manteca sidewalk. While the other three jutting sidewalk sections I tripped over were an inch or so in height, this one was perhaps half an inch. Given I am constantly glancing down looking for uneven sidewalk — a habit that was intensified significantly a decade or so ago when I took up hiking and started tackling rocky and uneven high Sierra trails above the tree line as well as doing a lot of cross-country hiking across rock fields and a multitude of tripping hazards making my stumble to the sidewalk all the more frustrating. Worse yet, just five days prior I got caught in the rain midway through a hike in the Diablo Range on a primitive road that doubled as a trail. I managed to not fall once despite hiking downhill a slope pushing 25 degrees where the already rain saturated earth that was made slicker by falling rain was sticking to my boots as if I were walking through fresh cement. 

Of course I had hiking poles.

This brings me to what is really on my mind. For more than 12 years three city managers — and now perhaps a fourth — along with elected officials has provided wonderful lip service to addressing the laughable state of Manteca’s city sidewalks.

I need to make it clear this is not about me tripping.

This is about the six other people who I’ve seen trip while walking — not jogging — on city sidewalks since 2008 and the numerous stories I’ve heard of others taking a stumble.

I like to think I keep my body in good enough shape that when I take a spill I can get back up on my feet and keep going. And certainly Manteca sidewalks are a heck of a lot less precarious than the 10-foot dry fall I fell down in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Death Valley a few years back.

But as Marty Harris pointed out to the City Council earlier this month, if someone in their 90s takes an unexpected trip walking on a city sidewalk they won’t just be in pain for a few hours and gingerly be back running on the streets of Manteca the next day. It could kill them.

I get that Manteca has a lot of pressing needs and that there is reluctance on the part of people who want those needs addressed to agree to tax increases.

So let’s focus on what you could argue is the hijacking of property taxes by elected officials on the advice of senior municipal staff so they can have a slush fund for “economic development.”

The city budget — which has $20 million in general fund reserves — siphons off $1.3 million a year to keep refilling an economic development reserve that is capped at $2.5 million.

This is from basic property tax assessment that was part of what was diverted more than 30 years ago to fund the redevelopment agency. When the state pulled the plug on RDAs, what property tax that had been commandeered to pay for RDA bonds and was not needed to retire those bonds was sent back to the city’s general fund.

My home — as well as that of a neighbor three blocks away who tripped three years ago on uneven sidewalk in the 100 block of West Yosemite in downtown Manteca — is in the RDA that collects taxes that retire those bonds and sends another $1.3 million back into the city’s general fund that municipal leaders want to spend on enticing more economic growth.

I get that more economic activity means more tax dollars that the city can spend to serve citizen’s needs. But after 20 years of hearing that people are wondering if it is a municipal version of a Ponzi scheme. The city keeps plowing “increased revenue” from economic development into other schemes to generate more revenue in the big scheme of things for big projects while ignoring the quality of life issues that failure to address helped council incumbents bite the dust in November.

Here’s an idea for Mayor Ben Cantu and his council colleagues. Instead of waiting for yet another consultant to do another study so the city can formulate a plan in three or so years about how they are systematically going to address sidewalk concerns, show some moxie and direct staff now — not at budget time — to dedicate 50 percent of the RDA property tax flowing into the city general fund to the street division.

Take that $650,000 and restore the five-man streets division crew that worked year-round on sidewalk and tree issues before it was eliminated in 2008 during the Great Recession.

They can start with the deplorable sidewalks and curbs in downtown as well as other commercial areas where there is the heaviest foot traffic. 

The $650,000 should cover employee costs plus leave $250,000 for materials. If that not enough tap into some of that $20 million reserve. It would be money well spent especially if it helps reduce the chances of someone suing the city for not addressing tripping hazards on municipal sidewalks that civic leaders have been aware of for decades.

Yes, I know the city is now taking care of the tripping hazards on West Yosemite Avenue sidewalks that are conveniently located near the Kaiser Medical Center emergency room as well as on a short stretch of the Atherton Drive bikeway near the city water tank.

That, however, is barely scratching the surface.

It’s laughable that elected leaders are banging the drum saying they are going to resolve the affordable housing crisis when the city has been completely inept for the last decade at simply maintaining sidewalks.

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 or 209.249.3519.