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Captain Jack: Keep sparkle downtown; mayor is on right track

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POSTED January 5, 2017 12:54 a.m.

Jack Snyder knows what he likes.
And he definitely likes the lights strung in the city trees along Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.
Snyder — who celebrated his 90th birthday in November and holds the record for the longest serving Manteca’s council member at 25 years —thinks the city should keep the lights put up for Christmas in place year round.
“They really look nice,” Snyder said.
He added the extra sparkle adds to downtown’s appeal at night.
It’s a strategy many other downtowns employ now that LED technology is all the rage. Among them is Ripon.
Lights strung in ornamental trees such as the ones lining Yosemite Avenue are standard fare in gathering places in beach towns, mountain resorts, and even Bay Area communities. The ambiance is especially effective on warm summer nights.
Snyder — known as “Captain Jack” by some of his friends — has spent a lot of time wrestling with downtown issues over the years.
In the 1980s he was in the thick of the battle over signs and whether a rotating chicken bucket was an appropriate sign for downtown for the Kentucky Fried Chicken that was located where Athens Burgers is today.
During his last council tour he made a prophetic statement declaring it would be a waste of money to expand and upgrade Library Park unless Manteca could get a handle on homeless and their impacts on downtown.
On Monday Library Park’s gazebo was occupied by more than a dozen homeless who had migrated over from Wilson Park that’s located just west of the Post Office.
They weren’t breaking any laws but Snyder’s observation from a few years back hit home: The city could spend $1.4 million — which they did over the course of several years — to make the park more appealing but it wouldn’t attract very many people if the homeless used it.
That said the issue with drug use, spent condoms, and needles being tossed in trash cans and on the ground have largely disappeared since former City Manager Karen McLaughlin ordered the park restrooms put in place at a cost of$125,000 in 2002 locked except for special events.

Says Mayor DeBrum
is on the right track
Jack Snyder said he believes Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum is on the right track when it comes to exploring options of partnering with Manteca Unified School District to pump new life into downtown.
He was heartened to read that DeBrum has had a broad discussion with Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer about the city partnering with the school district with a performing arts center at Manteca High. It could be utilized by the community for events to bring people downtown when not being used by the school in the evening, on weekends and the summer.
If a decision is made to reconfigure Manteca High by going up, permanently closing a section of Garfield Avenue, and reorienting the campus’ front to Moffat Boulevard, Snyder said the city should explore partnering with the district down the road with a new library.
Such a strategy would make sense as it would combine resources to create a 21st century resource center/library especially if the city ultimately pursues a decentralized library system with branches spread about the community as Manteca grows.
Snyder noted that the district and city aren’t flush with money so partnering has advantages to do things that wouldn’t be possible if the city and district went it alone.
And while Snyder didn’t bring it up, such a move could open the door for the existing library to be converted in to a community center for various recreation classes and other programs. Or it could open other venues such as partnering with the private sector to replace the existing structure with small restaurants and such that would help create synergy at Library Park further coming it as a town square.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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