Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva Strives for Change, Draws Criticism

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STOCKTON --

Usually when someone gives you a tour of their home, it has walls and rooms.

But to Jesse Jackson a camp under Highway 4 in Stockton is home just the same.

"I been out here off and on for nine years ... by choice," he said.

Having served time for kidnapping and rape, it's the life he says he wants.

Others in the tent city say no one truly desires a life like this.

After serving time himself, no one will hire former McDonald's Manager Anthony Renteria so he can't get back on his feet.

"It's a hard struggle being on the streets," he said.

Monday night at a town hall meeting, the mayor unveiled plans to help all of Stockton's homeless using donated private warehouse space.

Business owner Dean Fitzgerald initiated the concept at his own warehouse Thanksgiving night.

"Those shelters would be pet friendly. The goal is to open two of these shelters in the next 30 days," said Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva.

When asked about any health or building code concerns, Silva said that's not his focus.

"What I think is that it's more sanitary to have the homeless using bathrooms with running warm water and showers than defecating outside and eating next to where they're using the bathroom," Silva said.

The mayor's also taking on violence, planning for satellite pseudo-police centers in hot spots for crime.

"Portables, something cheap with private security or Sentinel volunteers in those centers just to be a deterrent center," Silva said.

Also part of the crime fighting mission, Silva introduced his city to the Tipster, a superhero to teach kids the difference between "snitching" and giving police credible information to help solve cases.

As he strives for a better Stockton, Silva is still being attacked for the place he's chosen to announce that message.

Atheists and Freethinkers who recently opposed his use of city hall steps for a prayer rally asked Silva to move this town hall meeting out of Christian Life Center Church.

They even offered  to pay for a different venue, but he refused.

"I don't want to sue the city and neither does our group, but if it comes to that to make sure this never happens again, then that may be the case," said David Diskin, leader of the Stockton Atheists and Freethinkers group.

"In the future I will look to find neutral sites, possibly the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. Their point is well taken, and I respect it.  Let's move on from there," Silva said.

When it comes to moving on, Diskin and others say it matters what the mayor does, not just what he says.

They'll be watching closely to see where he chooses to conduct other business on behalf of the city.

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