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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Official: City headed in right direction




This has got to be because of the newly active citizens, whom I am provoking to stand up for their rights. This Story is trying real hard to keep the wool over our eyes. Doesn't She know that not reporting $46,000+ to your employer as the amount that was overpaid, would be viewed as embezzlement?

By Scott Smith
Record Staff Writer
May 02, 2012 12:00 AM

STOCKTON - Despite a barrage of bad news, Stockton has jump-started the revitalization of its downtown, begun a road project that will open up south Stockton commerce and formed a committee set on curbing the city's violence.

The city's long-inert Community Development Department is in the midst of a cultural overhaul, and vacant department head positions will be filled within weeks.

So City Manager Bob Deis told the City Council on Tuesday, ticking off a long list of steps Stockton is taking forward.

Deis said the city is having to overcome years of mismanagement and apathy at City Hall. He predicted that in another year, the foundation the city is laying now will begin to pay off.

"Stay the course," he told the City Council in a study session, outlining the successes and ongoing challenges. "The city of Stockton is doing some things right, making headway."

A year ago, the City Council set four goals: straightening its finances; increasing public safety; stimulating Stockton's economy; and making City Hall efficient.

Under those interlocking goals, city leaders pinpointed a list of 38 specific items that needed fixing.

Deis and other city staffers reported item by item a description of each specific area, who in City Hall is leading the effort and a status check - what's on schedule, behind or complete.

As glowing examples, Deis said the city invited a strike team from the Urban Land Institute for a week in February that will soon send recommendations for revitalizing Stockton's troubled core. In April, a committee formed under the Marshall Plan on crime met for the first time. After the meeting, Deis said members said they were impressed with the outlook.




All of this progress came even with significant distractions, like tense labor negotiations with the city's represented employees and Stockton having gone into confidential mediation with creditors in a pre-bankruptcy stage.

City Hall also experienced an exodus of key city staff within the past year, said Deis, who has worked at six different local governments in his career. He complimented the council for taking aggressive actions.

"Everywhere, councils develop goals, and that's it," he said. "Very few translate those into action."

Mayor Ann Johnston passed the compliment back to city staff for their work.

"I, too, am frankly amazed at the progress we've made despite all the challenges," she said.



Vice Mayor Kathy Miller also pointed out that the city has kept open community pools, started a youth tennis program and found a partner to keep the inner-city Merlo gym open with activities.

Too often, the headlines splash with the challenges, she said. "It's important to let the public know that we are busy and we are delivering critical services," she said.

Resident Gary Malloy pressed the council and city leaders for tangible results coming from the plans on paper. He asked when more police will be on the streets and why monthly financial reports weren't available.

"The citizens want to see action on crime and action on the finances," he said. Two people were found slain earlier in the day.

Police Chief Eric Jones responded to his staffing levels, saying that he has 344 budgeted positions and 326 officers now on the job. His office is actively recruiting, and soon, a federal grant will allow his office to hire 17 more officers, he said.

Stockton police are constantly working with the FBI, federal marshals and the California Highway Patrol, he added.

Deis said the downside is a federal grant giving Stockton 20 police officers soon expires, and the city's general fund will have to absorb their pay. "Come hell or high water," he said, "we're not going to cut those positions."

Contact reporter Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or ssmith@recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/smithblog.

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