Bee Investigator: It’s time for a look back at 'the good, the bad and the ugly' in Stanislaus County

December 29, 2013 

    alternate textSue Nowicki
    Title: Columnist, Faith & Family reporter
    Coverage areas: Weekly consumer column, plus features and news stories
    Bio: Sue Nowicki has worked at The Bee since 1982. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from The University of Missouri, Columbia, and enjoys answering readers' questions and telling their stories.
    Recent stories written by Sue

— It’s the end of the year – time for a look back. Let’s take a page from a Clint Eastwood movie and call it “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

First, the good, and there’s been a lot of that.

I think it’s great that we’ve learned a lot this year. For instance, did you learn, as I did, that city residents without city sidewalks must pay to put them in? That the city traffic lights don’t seem to run smoothly because there are so many facets to that goal, such as the state being in charge of McHenry and Yosemite avenues because they are part of state highways?

How about this: Some grocery stores have to pay to have their shopping carts returned after they’re stolen – usually by homeless people – and later discarded. Or that not all plastic bottles carry the same refundable recycling fee. Here’s an interesting one: Some group homes for recovering addicts don’t have to notify neighbors before opening their doors.

Other good stuff: The water in the fountain at the intersection of 19th, H and Burney streets is flowing again. The fountain and landscaping were put in by the late Ryan Dickerson, with the help of his family and friends, for his Eagle Scout award. It was not running because of vandalism, a computer programming problem and a wind sensor issue. A few weeks after two readers had asked about it, those issues were resolved.

Two time-limit signs in front of Huffman’s Big & Tall store in Modesto were taken down almost before the ink was dry on the paper one week.

And a couple of days after a question from Karen Sharits appeared in that same column about a missing stop sign from the parking lot at Orangeburg and Evergreen, she sent another email. “I thought you would like to know your column worked,” she wrote. “A stop sign has been installed at the Evergreen Avenue exit. This is great! Now going up Evergreen to Orangeburg will not be like competing in a destruction derby.”

Always good to get those kind of notes.

But, of course, there’s also the bad and the ugly:

•  Save Mart closing its downtown store and leaving the seniors in nearby Ralston Towers without a market in walking distance was one. You can’t blame a business owner from closing a poorly performing store, but it’s too bad Save Mart or the Bay Area property owners couldn’t have found some way to offer at least a small store with the basics of milk, bread and other staples.

• Closing a public street. Twice I’ve taken a stand against the city allowing Stanislaus Food Products to close a public street – 11th, between B and D streets – for three months. I understand why the company wants to do it: to let its tomato trucks go freely from the parking lot to the cannery without fear of running over other cars or pedestrians. But since more than 4,000 drivers use that road daily, the closure causes traffic to back up on Ninth Street, which is already heavily used. And the city charges only one fee for closures, whether it’s for a few hours for something such as a farmers market or for the 24-hour period at the cannery. Here’s my suggestion for next year’s canning season: Let the cannery close the street for 20 hours a day, but keep it open for the two-hour busiest commute times in the morning and evening, say from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

• Those “Microsoft” people who keep calling, saying you have a computer problem and they can fix it for you – they just need your credit card or bank information. As one local reader found out, those are scams. Microsoft will not call you at home. Trust me. Bad people!

• The overabundance of feral cats. Despite the many individuals who “adopt” these wild strays and keep them fed and out of the animal shelter, where they would almost certainly be put to death, the overpopulation of stray cats in this area is still high. Do everyone a favor and spay or neuter your pets. That goes for dogs, too.

So, with the new year approaching, it’s time to get rid of all of the bad and ugly stuff clogging up your lives and emotions and get ready for a fresh new year, one “with no mistakes in it yet,” as Anne of Green Gables would say. I’ll do the same. I’m looking forward to answering more of your questions in 2014. Hopefully, we’ll learn something new and see more positive results.

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