GCSP (Galt Citizens For Senseless Poverty)
GCSP is actually an acronym for an organization in Galt that calls itself Galt Citizens For Sensible Planning. After reading the headline of the article by Rachael Ackerman in the Galt Herald, our weekly newspaper, I had to give them a new name: Galt Citizens For Senseless Poverty.
The GCSP was taking legal action yet again to block the coming of Walmart to our little berg in spite of the fact that the city council recently spent $60,000 dollars on a study that revealed that Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, Pet Smart, etc. is exactly what the sputtering economy of Galt, California needs to give it a shot in the arm.
I am certain that the GCSP is really the flea market mafia. For those who don’t know, our town hosts a weekly flea market every Tuesday and Wednesday. It is what passes for retail shopping here. Fact is, it’s a carnival full of non-resident vendors, cheap, crummy goods, counterfeit products, and very few local consumers. The traffic is so bad in the downtown area that they had to build a new Central Galt exit. Not that we don’t need one anyway, but let’s do all of them and add some “runway” to the freeway entrances too; ten feet of merge lane might have worked in the 50’s, but gee-whiz it’s dangerous. Oh, the Liberty Ranch High School football field needs some bleachers and a bathroom; a concession stand would be nice too. Can’t? Why not? No revenue is my guess. Why is that? No retail commercial businesses to speak of. At least, not the kind that generate real tax revenue.
Here is a million dollar question: Does the GCSP actually consist of Galt citizens? I wonder? To the city’s credit, they had the good sense to have approved the building of a Walmart. The main complaint from opponents is the traffic that will accompany the store. Unfortunately, the some of the previous city councils got greedy for permits and property taxes and allowed houses to be built almost right up to Twin Cities Road, the proposed site of the new Walmart, without a buffer zone. Ironically, the Raley’s shopping center and it’s accompanying problems, which are the same as the Walmart’s would be, garner no protests. If the GCSP is composed of members who live elsewhere, then it’s time for the people who actually live here, and can’t buy socks and underwear or a freaking football anywhere, to speak up loud and clear: “Stop interfering in Galt’s prosperity!”
Wasting money seems to be a pastime for the city council here in Galt. The most recent examples, according to foxnews40.com, are two studies costing $60,000 each. The first is a study of what Galt needs to improve its lackluster economy. No brainer there, but it apparently takes a PhD. in economics to realize that what Galt needs is more retail stores, hotels, and pizza parlors. The second is a study of train noise in Galt. the result of that expensive joke is that trains are noisy. No kidding, that was the actual determination. I’m pretty sure I did not vote for any of these…city council members. If so, I apologize.
This situation is beyond ridiculous. In fact, it should be grounds for recall elections of every one of them that approved the two studies. Anyone with a frontal lobe could figure out in about a nanosecond after visiting our town that what it needs is more retail stores. We’ve been trying to get a Wal-Mart for about half a decade or more, but some shortsighted folks think they know what’s best for a struggling town with an almost non-existent economy, too many foreclosures, and very little tax base. They seem to prefer having to fire teachers; cut school sports, music, and elective classes- which we now have to pay for, by the way. No, let’s keep driving to Elk Grove, Lodi, and Stockton for a pair of socks or a baseball glove. Hotels? What reason would someone have to stay in a hotel in Galt unless they were passing through and worn out from driving “historic Highway 99” or on their way out-of-town; heading for a much more business friendly state like Texas? Until we are able to provide top-notch tourist draws, which we can’t do without a tax base, and I’m not talking about property taxes Greedy Ones, I mean a retail tax base, we will have no reason to build more hotels than the ones that already exist. As for pizza parlors, I think we have enough of them for now. The last thing Galt needs is another fast food joint. I think they outnumber the citizens by about two to one.
Dont’ misunderstand me, I like small towns, even though Galt is more of a South, South Sacramento without shopping than the quaint little agricultural town it tries to come off as. I don’t think rampant overdevelopment is a good thing either. However, a town can’t build thousands of new houses, greedily devouring the property taxes, permit fees, and development charges that come with them, and not allow commercial businesses to supply those new residents with goods and services. Otherwise, those people will be forced to spend their money in another town or city, which does nothing for Galt. It’s time for Galt to stop the flea market mafia mentality, and open up Galt for business: real, competitive business. As for the trains? Put some concrete masonry blocks on them, drop them here, and build that Wal-Mart, we’ll endure the noise. While you’re at it, put in a low-cost, high-speed, Japanese-like efficiency passenger train between Sacramento and L.A.
What happened to our neighborhood? I have to ask this question every time I take a walk in the area in which I live. It’s not dead, but there seems to be some signs of dying. I decided to look into the process that causes a nice neighborhood to decay into a crime ridden, garbage strewn, gang related mess. The kind of place the police tell jokes about.
I remember this same type of thing happened to my grandfather’s neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. He built the house mainly with his own two hands. At the time he built it, just after WWII, people were optimistic about America. We had just stomped the Axis of Evil, industry was rolling, and the Great Depression was becoming a bad memory. It was a nice place: two-story with a basement, beautiful yard, roses, birds, big trees. I loved going to visit. But, by the time I was a teenager, things had begun to change.
It begins small: a little graffiti, a stolen bike, petty vandalism, people not taking care of their property. “They’re just kids”, or “It’s only a few weeds”, are often the first responses. But, like cancer, the tumor begins small. In our neighborhood, there is a nice park. Not long ago it was rare that anything truly criminal happened there. Recently, I’ve begun to see more and more graffiti on the benches, tables, light posts, and walls. To the Parks And Rec Department’s credit, they try to erase it as soon as possible, but it’s becoming more and more frequent, and harder to keep up with. There seems to be an element that wasn’t there before, an element that is using and probably selling drugs. They aren’t doing what the other park patrons are doing: jogging, walking, using the playground equipment. Mostly you just see them sitting on the tables attempting to look inconspicuous. It has changed. While I was jogging some bike riding thugs shot some sort of weapon at me. There was an unsolved murder there, and another not far from there.
In the way that cancer spreads, the petty crimes become larger and, typically, more violent. A few months ago, there was a home invasion in this area in which three armed criminals forced their way into a home, shoved the terrified occupants on the floor, and pistol whipped them. If you don’t know what that is, take a gun and bash yourself in the head as hard as you can. It hurts to say the least, and could be fatal. The homeowner fought back, and one of the guns discharged. Fortunately, none of the victims were injured. The police caught one suspect, a 17-year-old. The other two are still at large. But, hey, they’re just kids. Right? Wrong.
One of the causes of this decay is financial. In this neighborhood, there are more than a few foreclosures. Sadly, the banks got theirs and screwed everyone else. Now all of those properties sit vacant and deteriorating. I think the neighborhood should organize a class action lawsuit against the title holders, and force them to maintain the vacant properties to the same standard as the homes surrounding them. Once the neighborhood begins to look decrepit, it begins to feel decrepit. that’s when the undesirable element moves in like jackals on a dying gazelle. They seem to sense the receding level of vigilance.
Apathy is another nail in the coffin. “Let the police handle it”, is often the attitude. In short, the police can’t. It’s that simple. They couldn’t even if they wanted too. Most of them do. They often claim to have a handle on the situation, especially when the community voted to increase sales tax specifically to stop this type of problem, but they don’t. They are just outnumbered. The police are rarely able to deter a crime from happening. They usually arrive at the scene after something has already happened. They fill out reports, clean up the mess, and begin an investigation. Sometimes that investigation leads to an arrest, and sometimes it never does. Idiotic California gun laws aside, what it takes to stop the death of neighborhood is community involvement. It takes everyday folks keeping a close eye on what happens in their neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors; get to know them. Climb over the cultural fence. Start a neighborhood watch program. Organize a network of citizens patrols. Watch what’s going on in your area. Send a message to criminals and potential criminals that they won’t be tolerated.
The Galt city council is at it again, or should I say into it again- business that is. The Galt Festival has been canceled for 2011 because the Galt City Council has decided it wants a piece of the pie that the festival brings. More accurately, they want ALL of the pie. One of the things I can’t stand about living in Galt, CA is the fact that you have to go to another town to get just about anything other than beer or cigarettes. Okay, I guess the Tractor Supply Co. sells boots, and Rite Aid carries batteries, but we just got those two stores a couple of years ago. Other than the Galt Flea Market, every Tuesday and Wednesday, and which the City controls, Galt residents are without shopping options. Why should the City of Galt be allowed to be in business? Who the heck can compete with the government in business? That smacks of China and Russia.
One of the most hotly contested issues in Galt has been the approval for the building of a Wal-Mart. I do not know why our town doesn’t have the foresight to realize that businesses need a hub to be centered around. This is one of the reasons so many businesses in Galt are “here today, gone tomorrow”. Wal-Mart, love it or hate it, is exactly that: a hub that attracts plenty of business, and helps the other businesses around it to thrive. The stand alone, boutique model that might work in Aspen or Tahoe simply does not work here. There aren’t enough attractions in Galt to maintain the level of sales that a small store requires to meet the bottom line. Now the non-profits that benefit from the Galt Festival, like 4-H and the Boy Scouts, have to give up the money that they bring in there because the City wants it.
I suspect that the Flea Market has a lot to do with the reason that Wal-Mart isn’t built yet. According to Maggie Creamer’s Lodinews.com article, Tuesday , Apr. 26, 2011, it seems that the City is now putting a regulatory choke hold on the non-profit that operates the festival, which will result in not enough money to support the non-profits. Another reason cited for the cancellation is the City’s delay in issuing a permit to use the Galt Market’s west parking lot in time. These are perfect examples of why California is losing businesses in droves: over regulation and governmental strangulation. In the Sacramento Bee’s Sunday, April 24, 2011 edition of its “Forum” section, Andrew F. Pudzer, CEO of CKE Restaurants, rates California as THE most business unfriendly state his company does business in. He lists excessive government involvement as the main reason.
The residents of Galt have to go to another town to be born. They can die here, but only with the proper permit. For just about everything in between , a person has to go north or south on the 99. Here’s one more thing we’ll have to do somewhere else: a Fourth of July parade. Elk Grove and Lodi receive the benefits of our having to do business in their cities in the form of revenue. This year, Galtonians will have to chose one of them for Fourth of July festivities. Too bad the Boy Scouts of America and other positive, non-profit organizations will lose out because the city council wants to control something else.
Galt, CA has had levels of arsenic above the level allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency for several years. According to the City of Galt Public Works Department, Galt’s water has tested between 4.1 and 12 ppb (parts per billion), Running Annual Average; depending on the source of the water tested.
The City of Galt is required by law to send out a notice of non-compliance with the EPA’s standards. They, of course, claim that there is no emergency, and no need to use alternative sources of water. They do note however, that prolonged drinking of arsenic contaminated water in excess of MCL (maximum contaminant level) leads to potential skin damage, circulatory problems, and a possible increased risk of cancer. The EPA, though, changed the MCL to 10 ppb in January of 1996, a full fifteen years ago ( http//water,epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#list). I’d call that prolonged. Wouldn’t you?
In the mandatory letter of notification sent to students, parents, and buisiness and property owners, the question of “What Happened?” appears as one heading. Rather than address the true causes of the problem, the City instead chooses to stick to the story that the only real problem is the EPA lowering the acceptable safe level of arsenic in potable (i.e., drinking, cooking, and washing) water! According to the EPA website, arsenic contamination can result from: natural erosion, runoff from agriculture, and from glass and electronics production wastes. To my knowledge, there are no manufacturing plants in Galt producing glass or electronics. There are, however, large areas of agriculture., and apparently, according to California Regulatory Water Quality Control Board: Order No. R5-2008-0142, section 15, they are exempt from any responsibility.
The City claims that they “have brought four of the required five of the city’s wells into compliance…with the last well expected to be compliant by fall 2011.” Two things: 1. The EPA’s MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) for arsenic in drinking water is 0. That’s right, ZERO. 2. We’ve been receiving the same “almost in compliance” notice for at least three years. Maybe it’s time for another solution. Changing the way agriculture uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides would be a start. Also, the design and implementation of water filtration systems either at the industrial level or at the individual user level would good thinking. Finally, storm water runoff filtration could be an effective means of reducing not only arsenic, but many types of water pollution.