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Mayor Cantu is right. Code enforcement is a sham, so is effort to battle illegal truck parking

With all due respect, why should the Manteca City Council go through the charade of amending the city ordinance regarding the parking of oversized vehicles when they meet Tuesday night?

First it’s a half-hearted attempt at correcting a problem. True, the staff is proposing the rules apply to all city streets and not just those in neighborhoods. True, the hours allowed oversized vehicle parking are being slashed from 72 hours to 24 hours. True, unhitched trailers will be limited to being allowed for no more than two hour on any city street. And true, it appeared to be taking aim at the unsafe and unsightly practice of allowing semi-trucks to park wherever they want including on top of interchanges where the same City Council will consider spending $6,125 to install welcome to Manteca signs.

But the ordinance as presented is a big mistake and that gives beyond item No. 2 under 10.46.030 regarding definitions that writes out the word “eight” followed by the numeral “7” in parenthesis to make it as clear as mud the height at which a vehicle is considered oversized.

That’s nothing compared to the hole left in the ordinance that is big enough to drive a truck through and then park it anywhere they want over the weekend.

The ordinance will continue to state the rules only apply Monday through Friday inclusive of holidays. In other words truck drivers are free to park their rigs wherever they want on city streets weekends and holidays based on section 10.46.070.

This makes no sense given the premise for the ordinance as noted in findings clearly states the entire reason for the rules regulating the parking of oversized trailers that includes semi-trucks by definition and recreation vehicles is because they effect the “safety of drivers using such streets, and creates obstacles for motorists and pedestrians.”

Are we to assume the city believes it is OK to have driving obstacles and allow the proliferation of safety hazards for pedestrians and motorists alike on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Then there is the issue of actually enforcing the ordinance whether it is amended or not. If the last three decades are any indication this is nothing but an exercise in futility with the council in the end being nothing more than paper tigers.

You’ve heard the line. The city only enforces ordinances via rat finks requiring neighbors to be the de facto bad guy. If the city — after being pushed by irate residents for years took up a proactive enforcement of the annual re-enactment aerial attack on Kabul better known as the week of illegal fireworks leading up to the Fourth of July realizing most people are not going to risk the wrath of neighbors that take the world be damned approaching in the wholesale ignoring of city rules — then someone should realize that extends to people turning their yards into de facto auto junkyards, leaving vehicles jacked up tires for a year and counting in their driveways, and an assortment of other things that make Manteca look like a candidate for the set for the next Tobacco Road remake.

Several years ago when asked about why the city didn’t actually engage in pro-active enforcement, the Bulletin was given a glib answer by a municipal employee involved in the code enforcement process. That answer was “people get the neighborhood they are willing to tolerate.”

In other words the city puts the blame for trashy property squarely on the shoulders of neighbors that don’t communicate their dissatisfaction with neighbors or who fail to use the city’s rat fink app.  City employees in position of authority must be fortunate to be able to afford to reside in neighborhoods where there are no renters from hell who are vindictive living in houses owned by landlords who care less what is done on their property as long as the rent checks keep rolling in.

Imagine how things would work if we approached enforcement of laws  on such as those against drug use, speeding, running red lights, and such the same way prohibiting enforced by those hired by the city to serve and protect that see such infractions unless someone complains.

Say what you want about Mayor Ben Cantu but he clearly gets it and isn’t afraid to keep pointing out that code enforcement in Manteca is about as close as you can come to being a complete failure.

The see no evil approach unless someone points out the fact people are making a mockery out of city rules vetted at public meetings and adopted by elected officials is wearing thin.

No one wants to see code enforcement go wild. Besides the fact it would be hard to do with the anemic staffing, the rules should be enforced as the police enforce laws. That means besides responding to calls or complaints there needs to be a priority for the most pressing code enforcement issues as well as enforcing the spirit of the law as opposed to simply the letter of the law.

Tape measures to argue over inches make no sense to hammer a property owner if the offense in question such as a fence that may be too high such as possibly the new wrought iron fence at the corner of Louise Avenue and Union Road at the East Union Cemetery might be for setbacks if it doesn’t create a visual hazard which is the reason in the first place for the code section.

Mayor Cantu and the council’s directive to have code enforcement shifted back to the community development to the police department is the first step. 

Coming up with a strategy using existing staff and what manpower can afford to add in new positions or contract with retired law enforcement officers as Lathrop did to successfully step up code enforcement and attack the most egregious code enforcement issues is next.

Let’s say the council adopts the amended ordinance regarding the parking of oversized vehicles on Tuesday correcting conflicting language about vehicle height and hopefully make changes that make it clear that the city is worried about driving and pedestrian safety seven days a week including holidays and not just Monday through Friday. If they do that they should direct staff to deploy community service officers four to eight hours a week to enforce the ordinance as amended until such time the message is received loud and clear by truckers and RV owners and others that have turned city streets into parking spaces for large trucks or de facto RV storage. If they can’t spare the time, direct the City Manager to find funds for overtime work specifically for that purpose.

Years ago when many people were leaving solid waste carts in front of their homes for two to four days or 24/7 in clear violation of city ordinances, it was a major bone of contention with many people that correctly noted it cluttered neighborhoods. That’s why the city made it a rule in the first place.

It was a never ending “little problem” that gave the city a black eye. Then a man by the name of Jack Snyder came up with a plan to use Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) to work neighborhoods two days after solid waste collection was done to place notices on carts that were still out explaining city policy and warning of the financial consequences. It was followed up the following week by code enforcement and community service officers issuing tickets to those who still violated the rules.

Within a month citywide compliance was almost 100 percent, the dozens of weekly complaints dropped to zero, and the city was no longer appearing in court prosecuting people for leaving carts out. That’s because those who fought the tickets prior to the blitz did so because they were irked that countless others around town were leaving carts out but they were the only ones targeted because someone complained.

That glib city employee was wrong. We actually get the type of community the City Council is willing to tolerate.

Can we expect more of the same or will there be a new era dawning in Manteca?