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Morowit: Jobs, tackling homeless issues among priorities

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Mike Morowit is shown inside Miner Mart, the West Yosemite Avenue store he has owned and operated since 1995.


POSTED July 30, 2014 1:33 a.m.

Mike Morowit’s financial savvy has managed to keep Miner Mart a viable business through two economic downturns and a tectonic shift in Manteca retailing during the past 20 years.

Now he wants to apply his business acumen to the public’s business. Morowit is seeking election to one of two Manteca City Council seats available in the Nov. 4 election.

Even so, you won’t hear Morowit overusing the phrase “runs the city like a business.”

“The city is a business to some degree but what it does is provide a lot of essential services that you are not going to make a profit on (or cover costs with fees),” Morowit said.

That runs the gamut from public safety and libraries to providing services for the youth and elderly.

Instead, Morowit is a firm believer that business principles such as maximizing the money spent and getting the most effective return for dollars invested is what he can bring to the table.

 He points to the need to add staffing as the demand for city services picks up and the recession recedes.

Morowit said it makes sense wherever possible to restore municipal employee hours from the 37.5 hours they have been reduced to over the past five years to a full 40 hours to meet growing workloads.

He noted it is more cost effective adding 2.5 hours of pay as it is less expensive that adding more positions unless, of course, certain skill sets are needed.

“I would do the same for my business,” Morowit said. “If I had people I reduced to working less than 40 hours through the recession and things picked up it would make more sense to restore hours for them. Not only is it less expensive but they have been loyal and doing their jobs.”

The hours of some employees being restored to 40 hours may be in the hand of labor negotiators and city leaders, but Morowit believes the council should make it clear where the first place the city should look for more help to handle more work — its existing staff that bit the bullet and doubled up on their work effort to keep the city afloat will providing services during the Great Recession.

Finding a workable solution to the homeless problem and not just reacting as issues flare up is high on Morowit’s list of priorities.

He stressed that the homeless problem is not just in downtown and Library Park but throughout the city. At the same time he noted that the early release of low-level criminals from jail and prison coupled with homeless who often may resort to petty crimes is increasing quality of life crimes in Manteca.

Morowit would like to see the city take the lead and bring together non-profits and other community resources to devise a homeless strategy the city can implement that takes into account the fact while many homeless are in that situation temporarily and need a helping hand up others chose that lifestyle.

Morowit noted police “have been doing a pretty good job” on crime given their resources and challenges. It’s something he knows of firsthand as he serves on the Public Safety Sales tax Oversight Committee. The citizens group is charged with making sure the half cent sales tax collected for public safety is spent as voters authorized.

Bringing more jobs to Manteca is also a key issue for Morowit.

He is concerned that Manteca is starting to return to a pre-recession trend where the only people who can afford to buy homes in Manteca work in the Bay Area.

To counter that, he embraces the bid to develop jobs at the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park as well as the CenterPoint Business Park where Crothall just hired 85 people for an industrial laundry operation.

“We need all jobs including minimum wage jobs but we need a concerted effort to secure sustainable jobs for Manteca residents,” Morowit said pointing to examples such as those offered by Ford at their parts distribution center in Spreckels Park.

He believes Austin Road Business Park has the potential to become a major regional employment center. And because of that, the city should do what it can to help the private sector expedite the development of the business park.

As for downtown, he believes the best solution is for those with “skin in the game” — property owners and merchants — to band together, decide what they need to become a viable and unique economic center and then sit down with the city to devise rules and strategies to make it happen.

He is encouraged by reports that local investors may be looking to purchase property in downtown currently owned by absentee landlords.

“To make it work you need people, who have a stake (in the outcome),” Morowit said of downtown.

He points to examples of sound downtowns as being in Alameda, Livermore and Pleasanton.

Morowit said running for the City Council is a natural progression from his current service on the Manteca Planning Commission. His time, so far, serving on the planning body have helped him get a better understanding of how the city works.

Morowit is a University of California at Berkeley graduate with a degree in sociology.

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