Tip List: It's all about repairing sidewalks, making streets safer and a little finger painting

I think we got a lot done in 2008. I looked back through the archives and relived the weed abatement, and curb repair.

I recalled the dangerous intersections and digital transitions.

I had fun writing the Tip List. Unfortunately (or for some of you commanders ... fortunately) my time on the desk was only temporary.

Jonah Lamb (call him at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail at jlamb@mercedsun-star.com) the Sun-Star's newest reporter, will be taking your phone calls and e-mails in the new year.

In this, my last column, I wanted to look back at some of my Tip List's highlights in 2008.

The dirty field

A tipster alerted me to a field behind Joe Stefani school that was used by students as a shortcut. She said the field was littered with garbage and debris.

I checked it out, and she was right. I found beer bottles, packaging materials for an hallucinogen and mounds of garbage.

The Merced City School District said its people would clean it up, but that didn't stop commenters on our Web site from organizing their own effort.

I drove out a few weeks later, and it looked as if there had been progress.

Doing our job

I think the job of our newspaper, or any newspaper for that matter, is to be a watchdog.

And this column can be a useful tool in that duty. An ideal example of that is the dangerous crossing on Yosemite Avenue near Merced College.

In the past seven years, two deaths have been reported at the intersection. In March 2007, a Merced College student suffered major injuries after being struck crossing the street near the college.

In February, the city's principal engineer, John Ainsworth, told Tip List that the city was well aware of the need for the intersection and expected the stoplights to be installed by October.

By the end of the month nothing had been done, so I called Ainsworth. He said because of unexpected obstacles the work had been delayed.

He said the city would be taking bids by the end of 2008 and would begin work no later than February.

I am sure Jonah will be on the phone with Ainsworth again in February if nothing is done.

Budget woes

I had more than one person call me to ask what was going on at the Employment Development Department.

It looked as though the building on 18th Street was being consumed by weeds.

As it turns out, the agency wasn't paying its gardener. An employee told me that she suspected the budget stalemate in Sacramento had put their landscaping money on hold.

So the grass, shrubs and weeds grew. And grew. And grew some more.

Park and walk

Sometimes this column doesn't produce its desired result. When I got a few phone calls from people worried about the makeshift parking lot across the street from UC Merced, I felt that their concerns were valid.

Cars were parked in front of the stop sign at Lake and Bellevue roads, there was litter and no lighting for students crossing the road.

My biggest concern was the lighting. A week before I wrote the column, I was driving out there in the soupy fog and almost hit a student jetting across the road on a bike.

I was told Sid Lakireddy was the owner of the property -- and a school donor.

My thought was that if he were nice enough to open his property for parking, he might be willing to make it a little safer.

So when I called him but he said he would rather people not park there, I was a little stunned.

Many of you weren't too happy with me for messing up your free parking.

That leads me to this.

My favorite comments of the year

These two commenters sure know how to make a guy feel appreciated.

"Tom Price, or whoever is taking action on this: You think you're a hero, I think you're a COWARD!!!!" -- commenter dmntd on the UC Merced parking story

"Seriously is there not REAL news you reporters can work on? And you get paid? Wow, now I need to figure out what fingerpainting academy you went to get that job so I can work there too." -- commenter I_836_U on story about Edison trimming tree in shape of dog.

Honestly, I appreciate all of you reading the column. I hope you (dmntd and I_836_U excluced) will be as kind to Jonah as you were to me. With your help I know we can make a difference, I saw it with my own eyes this year.

Tip on, tippers.

Tip off the tip list!

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Jonah Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.