Monday, September 29, 2008

Manteca Bulletin prints fictional speech

In a short piece, the Manteca Bulletin (McNerney honors Flags Over Manetca effort, 27 Sep 08) tells us how the congressman made a speech "on the floor of the House of Representatives." It begins "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the dedication of ..."

It's a heartwarming tale of the flag raisers in Manteca and volunteer Les Thomas who organizes the effort. The congressmen called it a "stunning display of patriotism" that continues to "memorialize the sacrifices of all our nation's heroes."

Fantastic stuff! Except for one small detail: Such a speech never actually occurred.

(I hope I'm not bursting anyone's bubble here, and no disrespect to the actual flag volunteers. Maybe the kids should leave the room while you read the rest of this.)

As the Bulletin should know, such tributes are entered into the Congressional Record as part of the "revise and extend" comments. These are written comments simply added to the record by the congressman and then printed. ABC news guy John Stossel wrote about this in his book Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. In other words there was no speech "on the floor of the House of Representatives" as reported by the Bulletin.

Although as Stossel points out this wastes a few million dollars a year, I'm not that concerned about it at this point. I figure so long as they are busy printing tributes they aren't messing up the lives of the rest of us with things like "Give us $700 billion or else terrible bad things might happen!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Eductaors support Wendy King

Evidently, Wendy King the current president of the Manteca Unified School District has, according to the Manteca Bulletin, secured the coveted endorsement of "The Eductaors." The Eductaors, formed in 2004 from former scrabble playing champions replaced the acorn league and are currently responsible for sending students to the annual spelling bee. I think.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Exclusive to Manteca Live! Mayor Sayles responds to accusations

On September 24, Mayor Kristy Sayles of Lathrop issued a statement to Manteca Live! in answer to some of the accusations being spread on the "opposition website" devoted to destroying her and her candidacy.

Manteca Live: Mayor Sayles opens her statement by addressing the use of the name Edwards.

Mayor Sayles: I first would like to start with the issue of the use of Kristy Edwards as my name. This name was given to me by my mother upon entering kindergarten. My biological father left when I was 3 years old and my mom remarried Ron Edwards. She wanted to be certain that I felt as though I belonged to Ron, and gave me his name. This is the father who raised me, the one that I still call dad to this day. Although he never adopted me, my divorce attorney informed me that if I went by Edwards before I was married, I could return to Edwards (as my maiden name) after the divorce, and that is what I chose to do. My birth certificate says Rees, but I do not have a familial relationship with Gary Rees.

Manteca Live: There are accusations that Mayor Sayles lied when she said she was born in Lathrop, pointing to her birth certificate that states otherwise. Mayor Sayles responds:

Mayor Sayles: I was born in Oakdale, as that is where my mother's doctor was. There are no hospitals in Lathrop. My mother's address prior to my birth and the address that I was brought home to was 410 W. Louise Avenue, Lathrop. The words "born and raised" to me means "where I lived since birth and was raised." I was in no way trying to mislead anyone.

(Editor's note: Oakdale is 25 miles east of Lathrop.)

Manteca Live: In response to accusations that she lied when she was campaigning for mayor in 2006 and claimed to be a life-long resident of Lathrop and claimed to have the endorsement of her uncle, Steve McKee, a former mayor of Lathrop, Mayor Sayles says:

Mayor Sayles: I have never said that I was a lifelong resident. I speak openly of not being able to afford a house in Lathrop in my younger days, purchasing my first home (with my husband) in Stockton. I have also never said that my Uncle Steve endorsed my campaign. I have all of my prior campaign pieces if you are interested in seeing them.

Manteca Live: There are accusations on the "opposition website" that claim the mayor bounced 40 checks in 1993 and was subsequently arrested in Alpine County. This what the mayor says:

Mayor Sayles: I have no knowledge of 40 bounced checks. I would love to see the so called proof on that one! In 1993, at 20 years old, I bounced one check in Alpine County. I was divorcing and moved without forwarding my mail...I didn't learn about mail forwarding until I was 23! I was told about the check when I ran a stop sign in Lathrop in 1995 (I did not learn how to drive well until about 24) and took care of it immediately. I have always been embarrassed and ashamed of the misdemeanor on my record.

(Editor's note: In documents dated 1993 there is a bank statement showing some returned checks but on the same statement it shows that sufficient funds were deposited to cover those checks. Bank of America failed to honor the last check and instead closed the account.)

Manteca Live: It was brought up on the "opposition website" that Mayor Sayles runs a day care business but didn't file for a fictitious business name statement until recently. Here is the mayor's response to those wondering why she waited so long:

Mayor Sayles: As a sole proprietor, I am not required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement if I do business under my name. I chose to go by a business name this year (Early Start Child Development Center) and filed the Fictitious Business Name Statement. I have called my child care center by that name for quite some time, but never needed to make it official until I changed it on my bank accounts and other legal documents. I am trying to insure that I actually have a business when this is all said and done. Those who are operating the website are also calling the State Licensing Board making all sorts of accusations to try to shut me down. I found this out when State Licensing came to visit yesterday!

Manteca Live: Critic and former city employee Laura Thimler, posted a statement on Manteca Live!: "(what about) Taking a trip to Washington on the city's dime only to report back that 'There's an awful lot of alcohol in Washington!'" Mayor Sayles responds:

Mayor Sayles: I did go to Washington, but cannot recall a conversation in which I said anything about alcohol, especially considering that I rarely drink due to the fact that I am a workaholic, and do not need to be impaired while I am working. Oh yes, and that other little thing of being a mother of 6 children and trying desperately to set the right example.

Manteca Live: One of the more dastardly things the "opposition website" has done is to target the mayor's husband Tom and his brother and Sayles Construction in an attempt to destroy the business. To those who are asking questions, Mayor Sayles responds:

Mayor Sayles: I cannot and will not speak to the facts of Sayles Construction. My husband and his brother were working together long before I came into the picture. I have been assured by their attorney that what they do is legal. That is all that I need.

Manteca Live: Our thanks to Mayor Kristy Sayles for allowing us to publish her statements. We'll be doing a second follow-up interview with the mayor to get her statements on some of the actual issues in the city of Lathrop, including the Lathrop High School sewer issue. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lathrop Mayoral Candidate John Rock says Dan MacNeilage should be mayor

In an odd turn of events, today John T. Rock, candidate for mayor of Lathrop, stated that Dan MacNeilage would make a better mayor for Lathrop than he would. Rock went on to say if he is elected to office, should any council member have to leave due to age or illness, that he would appoint MacNeilage to the open seat.

Another poster using the pseudonym "Justice League" agreed with Rock but suggested that everyone get behind Robert Oliver and elect him mayor so that he could appoint MacNeilage and/or Rock to a government position.

MacNeilage ran for city council in the last election and lost. He is not running for any elected office at this time. He currently holds a seat on the Lathrop Planning Commission.

For the record, these "endorsements" came after MacNeilage posted a long, rambling, almost incoherent message about Mayor Sayles and her husband Tom on the opposition website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mob with torches includes candidates

Seems like Manteca Live! is ruffling some feathers among those participating in the defamation website devoted to destroying Mayor Kristy Sayles and her family. I'd like to thank "John Doe," whoever he is, for giving some intelligent and educated information about what constitutes libel and defamation under the law. Somehow, I don't think the "ignorant villagers" believe it.

We've got anonymous posters calling child protective services, the grand jury, the DA's office and the contractors state license board to make complaints based on gossip and hearsay on the internet. For all the big talk about "documents" and "I have proof!" what we really have is a small group of people trading 4th and 5th hand stories. Most of those posting use pseudonyms so no one really knows who they are; for all we know they could be the same few people using different aliases. Makes it look like "everyone in town" is in on it.

What about the mayor's "conviction" you say? Well, first of all I'd say that unless you know first hand what happened with the bounced check and the circumstances (which none of them do if they're honest about it), then you don't know the whole story. Secondly, it looks like the check was written in 1993. Kristy Sayles would have been, what? about 20 years old? In any case, it was 15 years ago, she didn't make any attempt to hide it and it doesn't prevent her from getting a day care license or running for office.

Because of the seriousness of the accusations and defamatory statements made on the viral website, I think it becomes more important every day that the people of Lathrop know where the candidates stand. So far, those on the ballot who have posted on the site are: John Rock and Robert Oliver, candidates for mayor (Oliver is also a current city councilman); and Rosalinda Valencia, city council candidate. Current incumbent councilman Steve Dresser who is up for re-election, hasn't posted under his name but his wife Joyce has.

As for the candidates posting under their real names, at least Valencia is honest about it and isn't saying anything on the website that she hasn't voiced in public (not that that excuses her). John Rock originally claimed to feel sympathy for the mayor and suggested she take time off from politics and encourage her supporters to vote for him. This week he's become the site's welcome wagon, addressing posters individually by name and saying things like "To ALL of you posting on this web site I say: Good Job" and "this webmaster is quite an honorable person." That made me raise my eyebrows a bit. Does he know the "webmaster" personally? Are they friends?

John Rock also posted this, "Because I am a retired Law Enforcement Officer you can be 100% guaranteed that I shall support an investigation into any illegal Civil or Criminal action conducted by any accused City Staff Member or past current City Council Member." Does that mean if you elect him mayor, that he'll make sure Mayor Sayles is thrown in jail where she obviously belongs?

The chief villager calling on everyone to burn the witch is still Laura Thimler. Though not currently running for any office, she claims to be good friends with some of the developers (like the Dell'Osso family) and defends them fiercely when anyone suggests that developers perhaps had a part in Lathrop's problems, whatever those problems are.

Lots to think about, Lathrop. Good luck!

Brother, can you spare $700,000,000,000?

Time frame: Late 1990's
Problem: Poor people can't afford big expensive houses. Greedy bankers are mean and won't lend money to people who have no income. They might even be racist!
Government fix: Tell mean greedy bankers to stop being so stingy. Everyone deserves a house to live in. Everyone ought to have a house. And not some cheap house 'neither.

Read this press report from 30 Sep 99. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy knowing the government helped us all buy homes. The future was bright!

What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, September 19, 2008

When does gossip become libel?

Today the local "viral website" launched a missile at Mayor Sayles' husband, Tom. Based on rumors, speculation, lack of knowledge and misinterpretation of state laws, the ignorant villagers are declaring him to be a criminal who is working as a contractor without a license and hiring workers without having worker's compensation insurance. They point to the registered owner of record of Sayles Construction on the Contractors State License Board website and the fact that it's a sole ownership with no employees, exempt from having to buy workers comp insurance.

A small general contractor often has no employees, instead using skilled contract work, usually another small contractor who becomes the subcontractor. If the subcontractor has employees, then he is responsible for the workers compensation insurance on any job he sends them, not the general contractor. If the subcontractor does the work himself, then he's still responsible for his own insurance, not the general contractor. Not having employees and not having workers compensation insurance doesn't mean a contractor is doing anything illegal.

Chief gossip Laura Thimler claims to have some kind of personal knowledge about Sayles Construction and the Sayles' intimate family dynamics but that's unlikely. Maybe she trades gossip with a bitter ex-family member of the Sayles' and we know they wouldn't lie. We're just so sure that the mayor and her husband are crooks. They must be! Just listen to what everyone is saying!

It's questionable how far gossip can go before it turns into malicious slander or libel. Today the vicious stories have crossed a line. The new accusations call into question not only Thomas Sayles' character but that of his brother, a small business owner. Since when is it okay to try to ruin someone's business and livelihood? Does freedom of speech regarding a public figure apply to members of the public figure's extended family?

For a fascinating short read on the social dynamics of gossip, see Gossiping to get ahead by Ryan Cureatz.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economist suggests Mantecans perhaps crack open a book now and then.

This week's (15 Sep 08) Manteca City Council highlights:
  • Manteca economist determined the city is populated by primitive ignorant villagers.
  • Whole Foods market and Trader Joe's not interested in locating in Manteca because we are too uneducated.
  • The Council approves of study and calls it much better than any other they've seen. Mayor Weatherford praises study.

Shown above (click to enlarge) pages from the study. The chart at right lists the requirements for various stores including Whole Foods Inc. and Trader Joe's Inc.

In response, Councilman Snyder regaled the meeting participants with a fascinating story of how he went to a restaurant in Toledo and even though they served hot dogs on paper plates it was a great success because Jamie Farr mentioned it on a TV show. He suggested, "that's what Manteca needs."

Lathrop's high tech witch hunt

The rumor mill is still in full force on the website devoted to destroying Lathrop's mayor, Kristy Sayles. The personal attacks and pure vitriol from those posting on the message boards there is pretty frightening. It's especially chilling to see the posts from so-called Christians condemning her morals and telling her to repent and ask God for forgiveness for her sins. They even quote scripture. I guess they've forgotten the part of the Bible that says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." One particularly nasty poster, who claims to go to the same church as the mayor, called her a filthy name in Spanish in one of his posts.

She's been accused of bigamy, of having children fathered by men she wasn't married to at the time, of taking thousands of dollars from somewhere and doing something with it (doing what is not exactly clear...but who cares about facts when we have so many good rumors). She's accused of using aliases for criminal purposes, and of lying about her age and education and income. We see documents and bits of documents taken out of context, mixed in with accusations and speculations. The condemnation is fueled by the self-righteousness of the "webmaster" and others in the holier-than-thou atmosphere that pervades the site, whipping themselves into a frenzy over the "immoralities" of the mayor.

I'm not here to defend Mayor Sayles. I don't live in Lathrop and can't vote in their elections. What bothers me is the trend throughout our country towards dirty, nasty politics in name of "truth" when often what is put out there is a vile perversion of someone's idea of the truth. Intelligent, thinking citizens will look past the mud and arrows and discern for themselves what to accept and what to reject and take into account where the information is coming from. The ignorant villagers will light their torches and call for burning the witch based on rumors and innuendo spread on a viral website.

I've suggested that the candidates on the Lathrop ballot come out and disassociate themselves from the opposition website. Only one candidate actually said she had nothing to do with it and that's Rosalinda Valencia, candidate for city council. However, though she claimed she's not involved with it, she regularly posts and contributes to the website. According to a trusted source who attended Tuesday's Lathrop city council meeting, Mrs. Valencia "disgraced" herself by making public comments at the meeting about the "blog" and calling for Mayor Sayles to step down.

Who else is posting on the opposition website? John Rock, candidate for mayor, has made several posts under his real name. Laura Thimler posts under her own name and some of the nastiest and juiciest gossip has come directly from her. I think Thimler is a former Lathrop city clerk (but don't hold me to that) and was a candidate in 2002 for MUSD trustee. "Dan," another regular poster to the website, doesn't give his last name but appears to be former Lathrop city council candidate and current Planning Commissioner Dan MacNeilage.

In the end, the smear campaign being waged by Mayor Sayles' enemies may backfire. Word on the street is that even people who don't particularly like her or support her, feel sorry for her because of the website. I think most people can relate to their personal lives being turned inside out and published on the Internet and their disgust with the website is stronger than their feelings about the mayor. Not everyone is an "ignorant villager" and many will see the website, and those participating in it, for what it is.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Planning Commission drinking game

Edited 18 Sep 08: New additions!

It occurred to me at the last Planning Commission meeting that it would make a great "drinking game.*"

The rules are pretty simple.

Take a drink (or get a point) every time someone uses the following words:

  • upscale
  • pedestrian friendly
  • walking trail
  • visual impact
  • orderly growth
  • entitlements
  • great project
  • environmental impact
  • Any reference to trees, shading, planters, landscaping or color schemes
  • signage
  • build-out

Double points for:

  • negative declaration, (quadruple if it's pronounced "neg dec")
  • staff recommends
  • Sphere of Influence
  • consistent with (general plan or adjacent uses)
  • Any reference to "growth paying its own way."
  • vibrant
  • amenities

* If you review the audio tape of the meeting and end up with alcohol poisoning, don't blame me. I don't recommend trying it unless you have a designated doctor and a gastric lavage apparatus standing by.

Photo: actually a city council meeting but at this point it shouldn't matter.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Manteca's daily newspaper and ethics (or lack of)

I picked up a copy of Friday's Manteca Bulletin that happened to be sitting on my dining room table and saw the headline "Manteca burglars barely out of puberty" and under the headline a picture of an unnamed scantily-clad 15-year-old girl with a policeman (her supposed 16-year-old male accomplice is blurry in the background). I opened the paper and on page 3 is a second picture of the same 15-year-old girl from a different angle, being handcuffed by a policeman with her hands behind her back.

I gotta ask: What the hell is wrong with the Manteca Bulletin?

First of all, isn't there some kind of thing in our constitution about being presumed innocent until proven guilty? Why is the Bulletin publishing pictures of a young teenaged girl wearing a skimpy camisole type top with lots of cleavage? not just once on the front page, but again on the inside page with the caption "Officer ... adjusts handcuffs..." sort of giving it a perverse bondage aspect which I don't think was altogether coincidental. It made me ill.

I'm a grandmother and have granddaughters, two of them are 15 years old. If that was my granddaughter's photo in the Bulletin, I don't care what she did, I'd be spitting nails. Not only are the photographs vaguely perverted but in the second photo, you can clearly see her face and I'm sure everyone who knows her, like her neighbors, schoolmates and teachers, recognizes her. So much for protecting minors and people who haven't been convicted of a crime. Another disturbing aspect of the photos is that I'm pretty sure the girl wasn't asked if she minded having her picture taken, she didn't have much choice being in handcuffs and all.

I guess the Bulletin's editor, Dennis Wyatt, liked the pictures so much that he had photographer Glenn Kahl write a second article about it just so he'd have an excuse to use the photo of her in handcuffs because otherwise two photos would probably seem a little much. By the way, isn't it funny how the Bulletin's main photographer always just happens to show up when someone is being arrested? Like he's got some kind of police radio or something that the rest of us ordinary citizens (and The Sun Post) aren't allowed to have since the Manteca Police Department changed to scrambled/encrypted radio transmissions earlier this year. Another layer of secrecy in goverment...but I digress.

Back in 2006, the Manteca Bulletin reported on a Manteca police officer who was arrested for "domestic violence." The policeman was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. In the article, the Bulletin declined to name the officer citing their policy of not naming anyone, police or regular citizens, who haven't been convicted of a crime. The article also said the alleged violence "didn't result in a serious injury" or require a trip to the hospital (kind of downplaying the violence aspect) so they felt they shouldn't print any names, and pointed out "As always, the individuals arrested are innocent until proven otherwise."

Nice policy. However, the Bulletin routinely prints photos of people being arrested including their names and the alleged crimes. How Dennis Wyatt could say with a straight face that they don't is just astounding. And, here he is putting a picture of a 15-year-old girl in handcuffs on the front page. It's not even clear that she was accused of anything except being in the vicinity when a crime occurred, but hey, they didn't give her name so it's cool.

And while I'm on a rant, what about the way the Manteca Police have a habit of hand-cuffing people they're going to arrest then letting them stand or sit outside so everyone gets a good look instead of putting them directly in the squad car? I know from first hand observation, that sometimes arrestees are hand-cuffed and made to sit on the ground for half an hour or more in full view of everyone on the street. Even international accords on handling prisoners of war prohibits the parading and photographing of prisoners, citing humiliation among other reasons.

The neighborhood I live in has deteriorated over the years and I've had police outside in my front yard with guns drawn (at 8:30 in the morning when I was leaving to take my grandchildren to school!) and suspects handcuffed and sitting on my lawn for 30 minutes. It was quite unnerving to say the least. I think their excuse was that they were waiting for room at the county jail. But waving guns around and putting handcuffed prisoners on my lawn and frightening my grandchildren?! In this particular instance, I think the arrests were for parole violations at a neighbor's house and not for any crime currently in progress. You'd think the police department would have a contingency plan for handling arrests when the jail is full instead of using my yard for a holding cell. But enough about the police for now.

I'm not a fan of the Manteca Bulletin and in the past I've questioned their journalistic ethics and integrity. Time to question it again. Dennis Wyatt...what the hell were you thinking?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Take this plot and shove it!

Video of the raucous meeting yesterday at the Union Cemetery.

Note the cast of colorful characters. Also, the citizens showed their appreciation to Mayor Kristy Sayles (Lathrop, Calif.) for being there and lending her support. There were no officials from the City of Manteca present.

I can't decide if this should be classified under political meetings or ethnographic studies.

Union Cemetery photographs

In case anyone is interested I did photo-document the cemetery in Oct 2003 and the photo album is on line. I thought it was one of the more interesting places in town. Look at the grave markers. Some of them say the person buried there was born in 1804. There may be earlier ones I didn't see.

Think about that. When this person was born, George Washington had just died five years earlier. Thomas Jefferson and many of the "founding fathers" were still living when this person was a teenager. Notice how many list the place of birth as England and some list when they came to the California Territory. Other boast of being a "California Native."

My favorite is the guy who I thought at first glance was buried with his cat. I think I'd like to be buried with a cat.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Opposition Researchers," Headlines and Truth

I was in line in the grocery store a couple days ago and at least 4 weekly magazines had big pictures of a smiling Sarah Palin holding her baby on their covers with various headlines that used words like embarrassing, scandals, lies, secrets, attack, investigation and other key words that make you think, boy there must be a lot of dirt on this woman...otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to print it, right? Wrong.

In an interview with's Megyn Kelly, US Weekly admits that the lies referred to under the headline "Babies, Lies & Scandals" are the lies being spread by the "liberal bloggers" about Palin and not lies told by Palin. I heard on the radio Tuesday that about 40 "lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers" were landing in Wasilla, AK this week to dig up anything they can on the GOP's vice presidential candidate. I guess the theory is if you sling enough mud, some of it's bound to stick.

Kristy Sayles, Lathrop's beleaguered mayor, has her own personal "opposition researcher" who is digging up anything and everything he can find on her, slinging mud and hoping that something sticks. The latest "news" on Sayles reports that there was an incident of domestic violence in front of children in her daycare. Nevermind that there was no finding of any such thing by investigators, but putting it out there in big bold statements means it must be true, right?

How low can we go? Another attack is made on Sayles' spending habits, accusing her of blowing over $1,000 on eBay purchases while claiming indigency and inability to pay a $750 filing fee to run for mayor. She's accused of making lots of money from her daycare business and from selling on eBay. Does anyone really believe that? I did a little investigating myself and my conclusion is that this is a hard-working woman trying to make ends meet in a tough economy. The purchases on eBay appear to be related to her day care business and/or her store on eBay and buying clothes for her kids.

Let's clothes for the kids or run for mayor?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red light cameras : the truly lawless are exempt

Count me as one of the "not fans" of the cameras the city is planning to install at six intersections.

But apart from that, let me correct some of the errors in the editorial about the cameras. ("Red light cameras ultimately will stop the truly lawless" Manteca Bulletin, 6 Sep 08)

If the system is really "not costing anything," why did the chief of police ask for $189,000 to be transferred to a fund? We don't know, the chief didn't address the issue in any comprehensible way. His only comment in response to my question was "it was to make it... uh.. revenue neutral."

Next, no one is complaining about the $189,000. All I asked was what was it for? And furthermore, this is not the cost of the system. The editor is confusing this amount with the separate cost of installation. The "cost of installation" could be anything, we don't even have an estimate yet. And yes, this is the thing that we don't have to pay back so long as we keep the contract for three years.

(Three year contract? What could go wrong? Ever sign up for a contract for a cell phone? No chance of any regret there!)

Another mistake the editor makes is assuming that the council would have to cancel the contract to be responsible for the money (and they wouldn't be "that boneheaded"). Well, not so. Nestor can also cancel the contract at any time and demand immediate payment.

If you look on page two of that fine print, it lists a bunch of things that will permit Nestor to consider the city to be in breach of contract. I won't list them all, but one example: If someone contests a traffic ticket issued by the red light system and the City of Manteca doesn't present a "good enough case" in court or "do enough to prosecute" the case, then Nestor can cancel the contract and demand full payment immediately. In other words (if they want to be strict), if the police officer is 15 minutes late to court (or doesn't show up) just once then Nestor can demand immediate payment of perhaps millions of dollars! The contract has other provisions that make it possible for Nestor to cancel any time (and demand that huge payment immediately).

Although I never made the "Big Brother" argument, others have. But far from poo-pooing it with "get real," the editor should consider that the argument is much more than simple "invasion of privacy" or simply taking pictures of people who might be camera shy.

No, the real problem (we're getting real) is that now law enforcement will be taken from the public street, from public view and instead done in a Star Chamber, perhaps a single man reviewing evidence in secret.

The camera company doesn't actually issue any "citations." They refer all the pictures of the red light violations to the police department. Where the police then do ... something. That's where the big brother aspect comes in. What if the picture shows one of their friends? Another "police officer?" What if the picture is just a little blurry. Is it a nice car? Does it look like the person has money? What about the race of the driver? How about a driver that's on the list of known "problem people" that the Manteca Police admits keeping? (the one with 300 or 200 or 1000 names on it depending on who you ask).

You can use your own imagination. But there was a reason why this country was founded on the notion that laws are executed in the open in a process that's open to scrutiny by any person. The red light camera citation decisions will be made in the proverbial darkened room by some unknown guy in some unknown place for secret reasons. That is, unless they agree to oversight but I'm not holding my breath on that.

The editor then claims that it's not a cash cow because the city only gets 20 percent of the fines. That's only $80. Can someone explain to me the logic of that? Like, does it become a "cash cow" if it's $90? $150? $174.50? Is there some line somewhere above $80 called the "cash cow" line?

There's some nonsense about some extraordinary costs of writing traffic tickets, so it's not profitable. Let's not even discuss that because the editor is mixing two different accounting schemes, one for a human writing the tickets and another for the automated system. But he does let it slip out that a Manteca "police officer" makes about $110,000 per year. No, that's not "equipment" or "fuel costs" that's the Measure M sales tax increase being funneled into the lavish pay raises. For some reason, I've noticed the city never wants to say how much their policemen are being paid -- I think wisely because the average resident would probably be appalled at the greed of their public servants' union bosses. (No disrespect to the public servants) But I digress.

The most deceptive part of the editorial is at the end, where he asserts that the law will eventually "catch up" to all those who are exempt from the red light enforcement.

Let me go back a minute 'cause you're probably asking yourself, "there's people exempt from getting traffic tickets for running red lights?" The answer is yes. Because of recent court rulings, the picture of the driver taken by the red light camera must match the DMV records for the vehicle. Notice I didn't say match that person's drivers license. In other words the vehicle is registered to someone. That someone has a picture on file with the DMV. That file photo must match the driver that the red light camera photographs. Now, I don't know how much they have to match, but they have to somehow resemble each other.

The practical upshot of this is that only people driving a car registered themselves can be cited by the red light camera system. And only those where you can get a clear picture of the driver. Notice who this leaves out. Anyone driving a motorcycle with a helmet that covers their face. Anyone driving the company car or truck. If you want to get clever, a husband and wife can register each other's cars then they can run red lights all day long and be immune from the cameras. Also exempted is any of the many people who don't bother to get drivers licenses.

Now this is where the Manteca Bulletin editor is completely wrong. There will be no "eventual catching up with" those people who are exempt. There will be no "bench warrants" issued for failing to pay traffic tickets. There will be no eventual confiscation of vehicles! The reason is simple: There will be no tickets issued! No tickets, no court records, no bench warrants, no confiscations -- no penalties whatsoever for those in the "exempted class" which includes criminals or illegal aliens driving without licenses.

And by the way, the editor misstates how the "collision avoidance system" works. It doesn't hold the green light -- it holds the red light on the cross street. If it held the green light, then all you'd have to do is to gun the engine and the Nestor system would hold the green light for you. No one would ever get a traffic ticket! Because if the system held the green light they'd never get the red light and they can't get a ticket for "red light running" can they?

Sure, we each have our own opinions as to what "sounds like an effective system" but here's where science gets in the way. It doesn't matter what I think, it doesn't matter what you think or what the councilman thinks or what the newspaperman thinks. What matters is what the science actually tells us -- what there is actual evidence for. And so far, neither the company, nor the council nor the police nor the newspaper has provided one tiny scrap of evidence that the system is effective in any way in actually preventing accidents or improving safety. In fact, they haven't even shown by any study or evidence that their system of fiddling with the lights doesn't cause other hidden dangers or more accidents than it's supposed to prevent.

Maybe asking for scientific evidence is asking too much.