Jeff Jardine

Quiet council disquieting in bias settlement

News items and comment:

News item: Modesto City Council goes into closed session March 13 and votes to settle a gender bias lawsuit by three women employees for $3.25 million.

Comment: Closed sessions are generally used to discuss personnel issues, protecting the privacy of those involved. This personnel issue was a lawsuit that had been in open court, had been aired publicly and many documents have been available for public viewing. Whose privacy are they really protecting? The plaintiffs' or their own?

And stories, columns (including this one) or editorials about the case have appeared two dozen times in The Bee since the lawsuit was filed in February 2005.

The case certainly doesn't qualify as the city's best-kept secret.

News item: The city claims no liability in settling the suit.

Comment: $3.25 million is liable to make the three plaintiffs — Jocelyn Reed, Karin Rodriguez and Debra Eggerman — pretty darned ecstatic. They plan to create a foundation that will watchdog gender issues at the city and other agencies.

News item: Some council members refused to say, immediately after the closed-session vote, how they voted individually.

Comment: Let me get this straight — members of the United States Supreme Court, upon issuing their rulings, tell the people how each justice voted and the Modesto City Council won't?

News item: State Supreme court tells Modesto to negotiate for district elections. The city's hired-gun attorney recommends taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Comment: Two, actually. If the city can pay $3.25 million for gender bias, how much will it pay a lawyer to take a case to the highest court in the land?

But at least we'd know, immediately, how each Supreme Court justice ruled.

Other stuff:

STREAK INTACT — In March 2006, I wrote about Connie Brown, a Modesto woman who has kept a diary since New Year's Day 1935. She's recorded over 26,000 entries in more than 70 volumes.

Brown, now 82, recently had cancer surgery and spent five days in the hospital.

Her husband, David Brown, kept notes of her stay, including the names of visitors and the doctors, nurses and technicians who treated her.

"The day she got home, out came the diary," David Brown said. "She didn't want to leave any blank pages."

She's receiving chemotherapy and will begin radiation treatments this week as well.

LIGHT READING — Every Christmastime, the mountain town of Twain Harte is lit up by Christmas Tree Lane — an illuminated Twain Harte Drive on the western approach from Sonora. It's long been a favorite of families who take in the magical holiday season lights.

Now, the townsfolk want to create that aura year-round, lighting the streets and businesses with clear lights until the winter, then deferring to the traditional multicolored lights during the holidays. Business owners, with help from the Twain Harte Rotary Club, will soon light buildings along Twain Harte Drive, Joaquin Gully and Fuller Road.

The town's economy once relied on summer tourists and summer home owners until winter kicked in and the ski season began at Dodge Ridge up Highway 108. The summer Concert in the Pines series at Eproson Park, the Rotary Club's annual deep-pit barbecue and other events still draw nice crowds, as do the softball-baseball games and golf course.

But it's nothing like it was in decades past, when the town came alive in the evenings as a summertime hangout for families and teens, me included. I learned how to crash-land when my rental skates flew out from under me at the roller rink. My tongue turned blue from a bubble gum-flavored treat at the Twain Harte SnoCone. It's where I played my first game of miniature golf.

Little kids, meanwhile, caught their first trout at Tom Sawyer's Fishing Hole.

For adults, the Twain Harte Lodge once was a popular eating and drinking establishment. The lodge burned to the ground 2002 and hasn't been rebuilt. Meanwhile, SnoCone, the roller rink and fishing hole are long gone, and the town has lost some of its summer tourist destination luster.

The year-round lights, community leaders hope, will be a start in restoring the atmosphere on which Twain Harte once thrived.

To comment, click on the link with this column at www.modbee.com. Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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