Monday night's Merced City Council meeting featured two "presentations" ("reports" carry more legal heft: from Police Chief Norm Andrade and Director of Economic Development, Frank Quintero.
Chief Andrade emphasized that although the force has lost manpower and has had to place remaining personnel primarily in enforcement rather than outreach and prevention, Merced police officers remain highly trained and professional. He and some council members agreed that the city must commit to increasing funding to increase manpower. As for all that great technology out there for sale to police forces today, Andrade expressed the opinion that "the toys" still needed officers to use them.
Mayor Stan Thurston commented that the city ought to commit to funding at least one more officer every year for awhile.
Economic Development Director Quintero presented a vision of businesses just poised on the brink of committing to locate in Merced if it weren't for just a few factors, like California's environmental law and regulation. But he foresaw pharmaceutical firms coming to Merced to capitalize on stem-cell research being done at UC Merced.
He noted that some construction fees had been cut, which was encouraging to developers. But the tour de force of economic development concepts Quintera presented had to be virtual buildings.
Instead of building an industrial space on spec, the virtual building would be an empty lot for which all utilities and ready transportation has been provided. Street done, wires and pipes installed.
Some of us wondered if the virtual building owner would pay virtual permit fees, pass virtual CEQA review and CUP's, and would pay virtual property taxes or would they be foregone by the city for a virtual decade or two in order to lure virtual business to employ virtual workers here in Merced.
How will these virtual funds flowing out of city funds will provide virtual salaries for additional virtual police officers to help virtual citizens (those are the people who actually live here as opposed to the developers' fantasy growthers) cope with the rise in the unvirtual homicide rate? Oh well, that's all part of the mystery of development. And where a UC campus is involved, don't forget that proximity to UC makes the community smarter -- they don't know how, but just ask any UC promoter (I mean administrator).
We think Frank is spending too much virtual time with consultants and developers. But that is his job and the council praised him for the fine job he is doing. And, anyway, anyone reading this knows we all spend too much time in virtual time and space.
Three UC Merced politicians spoke about the dangers to pedestrians of walking a certain section of bike path near the campus, apparently a route heavily used by students on foot. They each complained about the foilage and the railing that seemed to push pedestrians into the car traffic. They spoke chillingly of a woman driver with a cell phone but neglected to mention students under the influence.
They showed pictures and we searched the images for signs of tin foil -- having pictured the passage festooned with bright, shiny foils -- but saw only weeds.
Oh, we said, they mean foliage. Foliage, it turns out, in one of the one hundred most often mispronounced words in English.
If it's good enough for three representatives of our UC, our holy bonedoogle, it must be good enough for us. -- blj