In response to Lustgarten’s letter
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Jun 26, 2014 | 1631 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Few Pattersonites who daily drove past that boarded-up derelict house on Sperry Avenue were shedding a tear after a fire of undetermined origin recently destroyed the structure.

I, for one, should have saved the money I bet on California Chrome to win the Belmont Stakes and instead placed it on a fire taking out the long-unoccupied house—a much safer wager.

Mention of the eyesore had recently been made by the city’s new Tourism Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and the Patterson Fire Department.

A good guess is that it fell victim to the homeless residing on the property. I recently spotted a man coming from the rear of the house, and a shed on the back side burned several weeks ago.

Now to see that the debris is cleaned up­—promptly.


Normally Fast Talk would not reply to a reader who took exception to a past column. After all, that reader has the right to his/her opinion and certainly the right to disagree with this writer. Many have done so over the years.

But a couple of items contained in Councilmember Sheree Lustgarten’s letter in last week’s Patterson Irrigator beg a reply.

One is her dragging into the discussion the Historical Society and the Boy Scouts, two organizations that are near and dear to my heart. Her accusation was that I ignored her requests pertaining to the both of them.

Let’s take the Historical Society first. Three or four years ago (how time flies!), before I officially became curator of our downtown museum, it was about to undergo major reorganization. The society’s directors called for assistance in getting the museum reopened by Apricot Fiesta weekend. Rewiring the 100-year-old building had to first be completed.

Sheree and husband Jeff responded to the plea for help. From a long list, they chose the Patterson Room to reorganize. It undeniably contains the museum’s most historic display.

Now Councilmember Lustgarten (she was not on the council at the time) claims their offer to help was ignored. Not so. Either a faulty memory or a twist of the truth.

The couple was called during Fiesta week, but claimed to have houseguests and were unable at that time to undertake the task for which they had volunteered. Others pitched in and the job was completed.

At the time I was pleased with their offer to help. They were among only half a dozen non-members of the society to do so. (No one on the present City Council belongs to the organization.) But the Lustgartens’ offer certainly was not ignored by me or anyone undertaking the massive project.

Now to the Boy Scouts.

First, I need to note that, over a three-week period, I attempted to contact the councilmember through the city’s communication system—leaving numerous phone and e-mail messages, probably 10 or more.

I was given her personal phone number by a friend of hers, but because I was calling on what I considered to be city business, I chose not to use it. That’s her private domain.

Lustgarten finally responded, leaving me a mid-morning message on a Monday. In it she invited my Boy Scout troop to participate in a flag ceremony the following Thursday at noon at the Senior Center that would honor the American Legion.

Although I was pleased at the thought, it was impossible to do on a three-day notice. Also, it was a school day and members of our small troop attend class in Turlock and Gustine, as well as at Rising Sun and two in Patterson. Two others are home-schooled.

But her charge that I did not respond to her invitation is erroneous. She received an email reply explaining the circumstances.

Lustgarten is correct that I have enjoyed lunch only once at the Senior Center. That was three weeks ago today (a Thursday when she prepares the meals), and I’ll have to say that it was a delicious lunch. I may go again today (again a Thursday).

I did not go to lunch to chat with Lustgarten. We greeted each other cordially at the serving counter as she dished up my plate. Joining me at my table was Pat Maisetti, a member of the Senior Board, and stopping by was another board member, Marcine Reed, who I had not previously met. I sat next to her husband.

So why was I there? All three members of the board, including its chair Mary Bennett, had invited me. Mary was not present that day. I was not about to enter the kitchen and ask questions of Lustgarten. It would have been highly inappropriate. But I certainly didn’t ignore her as she claims I did.

The Hammon Senior Center is an enjoyable place for us seniors to spend some leisure time. I’ve enjoyed attending meetings and events there, as well as shooting an occasional game of pool. My only complaint is that with the passage of time the pockets have been reducing in size.

Lustgarten can, and does, have the floor at City Council meetings and has chosen that venue to bark back at her detractors. If her comments pertain to city business, then she is very much entitled to voice them. If they do not, Mayor Luis Molina should pick up his gavel and use it.

This all began with turmoil at the Senior Center. Voices were raised. Threats were made. The aggravation apparently has not ended.

Personality clashes? Possibly. Short tempers? Probably. Rudeness and bullying? Obviously. Hard feelings? They couldn’t get much harder.

A couple of Thursdays ago, one poor senior was verbally attacked at the center by Lustgarten.

The senior was accused of passing along inflammatory information to this scribe. I don’t know the accused, may never have met her, and certainly have never had personal conversations with her on any subject. But she suffered verbal abuse that was witnessed by several others.

A while back I did meet for over an hour with 10 or more seniors who have strong feelings about Lustgarten. Frankly, their horror stories were disheartening.

Perhaps my irritation is showing. I admire those in public service, but I’ve never much cared for elected officials—especially local ones—who have soaring egos. Thus I was perturbed a while back when I heard a couple of verifiable stories.

One incident occurred at Walmart. Lustgarten was in a slow-moving checkout line. And like many of us who have had this experience, she became frustrated. But instead of being patient, she demanded to see a supervisor, claiming she was a member of the Patterson City Council and deserved better treatment. Huh?

Ma’am, I truly don’t care for anyone on our council to act in such a manner. Shame on you.

Another was a “first.” Earlier this year, the council voted to select a mayor pro tem, or vice mayor. One member was nominated but didn’t receive a second. So Lustgarten nominated herself, was seconded by Molina, and elected to the position.

Has self-nominating ever occurred before on the Patterson council? I certainly don’t remember it happening. And except for recalling what I had yesterday for lunch, I consider myself to have a good memory.

And finally, Ms. Lustgarten, Mayor Molina and I share the opinion that “enough is enough” at the Senior Center. At least we’ve all publicly stated we do. Only time will tell if all three of us are in accord.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at
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