There are several things to celebrate this week. And we hope the list will grow longer tonight, with the 49ers beating the Green Bay Packers and advancing toward the Super Bowl. Regular fans will be watching, of course, and so will many others whose primary focus will be our own Colin Kaepernick, the Niners' starting quarterback.
Meanwhile, back in the valley ....
Another successful year for mentors
Some people don't like the word "sustainability," but a good effort sustained is a noteworthy achievement. Stanislaus County's mentoring program has just completed its 14th year, racking up more than 20,516 hours of time devoted to help local elementary school students improve their reading and other skills.
The mentoring project started with only county employees, but now includes those from the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Rotary Clubs and other groups. There were more than 100 active mentors this past year. One of the reasons for the success is that mentors work in teams and take turns spending their lunch hours with their assigned students. Even the busiest employees have found time to contribute and enjoyed the satisfaction.
The volunteers will be honored Monday at 5 p.m. at the Martin Petersen Event Center in Modesto.
Park project will benefit many
Kudos to the residents who are trying to revive Fairview Park in southwest Modesto. The county park, the only one serving the big Bret Harte neighborhood, has fallen into disrepair largely due to vandalism and neglect. The worthwhile project was profiled in a story in Monday's Bee. We hope businesses can assist with cash or in-kind donations.
Did you get a texting ticket? Good
The recipients of these tickets don't think so, but we're pleased that the Modesto Police Department ranked in the top five among law enforcement agencies for writing tickets during the recent 10-day crackdown on drivers who were talking on the phone or texting, citing 176 drivers. The California Highway Patrol wrote the most tickets, 404, in the eight-county region. And we know law enforcement didn't come close to catching all the law breakers. It makes our blood boil when we see other drivers too busy with their cellphones to bother looking at the road. They are a danger to themselves, to the passengers in their vehicles often little ones and to others. If you get caught in California, the ticket costs at least $159 for a first offense and $279 for a second offense. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill in September to raise the base fines by $10. It shouldn't take higher fines to remind us how dear the price could be if you get into a wreck.
One study found that sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, creating a crash risk 23 times worse than not being distracted. It's the equivalent of driving blind at 55 mph for 100 yards. Does that seem safe in any way? Of course not.
Please, just turn off your smartphone when you get behind the wheel. It should be as automatic as putting on your seat belt.
An anniversary worth highlighting
Bills are introduced in the Legislature in January and February. Sixty years ago this past week, an Assemblyman from Modesto introduced a bill that became a law that journalists and the public still depend on. We're talking about the Brown Act, California's landmark open meeting law that requires public bodies to do the public's work in public. We'll write more about the late Ralph M. Brown as the year progresses. Brown, an attorney, served in the Legislature from 1942 to 1961. In 1952, spurred by a newspaper series on secrecy in government and by his commitment to openness, he introduced a bill designed to end closed-door meetings and decision making by public bodies. Who knows what monkey business they would get into without the Brown Act. We were contacted several months ago by some Los Angelenos, asking if we were aware that the Ralph Brown was a Modestan. Yes, we are and we're proud.
$1,000 boosts business in Turlock
Turlock City Councilwoman Amy Bublak's suggestion to kick-start the economy by providing $1,000 free to start-up businesses has proved successful so far. The plan funded 10 businesses in its first and the council has approved putting more in. As noted in Friday's story by Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland, businesses owners really appreciate the flexibility of being able to use the $1,000 for any purpose. It's a low-cost idea that other cities are asking about. We urge Turlock to track those businesses for the next several years to validate the success and find other low-cost ways to encourage entrepreneurship.