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Why a Manteca, Stockton county supervisor district makes sense

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POSTED June 16, 2011 11:59 p.m.

Airport Way hurries past farm fields slowly giving way to urbanization in the southern part of Manteca.

It passes cookie cutter McMansions that once sold for $700,000 and a grape vineyard that sets the stage for nearby Big League Dreams. Just a mile away it takes traffic past one of the state’s most successful school farms and the three-story headquarters of the Manteca Unified School District.

As it heads north it is within a stone’s throw of the Union Pacific’s truck-to-train facility where a massive expansion is expected to give birth to a Mother Lode of distribution center and trucking jobs as well as running by the disposable income rich neighborhood of Del Webb at Woodbridge.

Still heading on a perfectly straight course northward, it barely bypasses the cradle of San Joaquin County civilization - French Camp - before taking a slight turn and expanding into four lanes that flow past the vast potential of Stockton Metro Airport and surrounding industrial developments.

As it enters Stockton it flows through once proud neighborhoods that serve as a reminder of why economic development, education, and home ownership are not simply admirable goals but essential to preserve and grow the economic vitality of San Joaquin County.

It continues past the fairgrounds and ultimately skirts the edge of the urban center of San Joaquin County where decay and renewal clash until ultimately turning into West Lane.

Jack Tone Road is the longest road in the county stretching from just a few hundred yards north of the Stanislaus River that serves as the county’s southern boundary north to Sacramento County. It is without a doubt the main artery when it comes to county agriculture.

While Jack Tone Road is the face of farming in San Joaquin County, Airport Way is the pavement that defines the past, present and future of urbanization in a land that literally was built by taming the waters of its namesake river.

It is what you can take in along a nearly 30-minute drive on Airport Way that Manteca civic leaders want to bring together under the auspices of the First Supervisor District of San Joaquin County currently represented by the capable Carlos Villapudua.

They are driven by a desire to have Manteca included in just one district instead of being split between two as it has been for the past 20 years. Actually the proposed redistricting being advanced by the county would split Manteca into three districts with the portion of the recently annexed 1,080-acre Austin Road Business Park east of Austin Road as part of the proposed new boundaries for the district that includes Lodi at the other end of the county.

The proposed district may also improve the tug of Stockton and its various diverse cultural, retail, and educational opportunities on the Manteca psyche.

For years there has been talk of the split between north and south in the county getting wider as growth occurs with a Lodi-Stockton political and economic axis competing with a Tracy-Lathrop-Manteca-Ripon area of high growth.

But much like those who err by defining California solely by north-south splits dating back 162 years instead of the real social-economic split of inland versus interior California, the north-south mentality ignores an important region - the heart of San Joaquin County.

The creation of a Manteca-Stockton district on the Board of Supervisors could lead to a stronger collaboration on developing the job rich potential of the Airport Way corridor. It could also make people in the two communities aware that the success of one helps the other. Tracy’s tug is definitely the Bay Area but Manteca is literally at the crossroads of South San Joaquin County with a pull on it by the Bay Area, agriculture, and one of the Central Valley’s most significant urban centers.

The odds are economic growth within what is currently the unincorporated portion of proposed District I that encompasses the airport will benefit Stockton and Manteca equally in terms of where future employees will live, raise their families, and spend their paychecks.

It is time to pay attention to San Joaquin County’s heart. And what better way than creating a district that reminds the closest community in the growing South County to Stockton that a good deal of its future success lies in collaboration with the home of the Sunrise Seaport and one of the finest private universities in the country.

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