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Raya wants to build strong city-community partnership

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POSTED October 22, 2012 12:01 a.m.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, Sheila Raya is asking not what your city can do for you but what you can do for your city.

Raya - the novice among the four hopefuls seeking two Manteca City Council seats on Nov. 6 - believes community-based efforts  wedded with municipal endeavors is the formula that can successfully stem the rising tide of gangs and crime in the long run as well as enhance the existing quality of life.

“We have a good city but I think it is time for new ideas,” Raya said.

One of those new ideas is for the city to work in concert with community groups - such as churches - to partner on long term solutions to city concerns whether it is crime or neighborhood park maintenance.

“Can you imagine the amount of good we could do if we brought all of the churches in Manteca together?” Raya asked.

She pointed to the successful effort five years ago when Manteca Police called on the Manteca Ministerial Association to help turn back the tide of violence from gang-related problems that were plaguing the Southside neighborhood. The city had just finished major upgrades to playground equipment at the neighborhood park but violence in and around the park made parents fearful of allowing their kids to use it.

Neighborhood programs launched by churches - including the nearby Friday Unity in the Neighborhood at the Southside Christian Church that is designed as a safe haven complete with nutritious food, games, and life lessons for at youth regardless of their church affiliation - helped counter gang recruiting.

“There are a lot of other neighborhoods in need in Manteca besides Southside,” Raya noted.

She pointed out expectimg paid city staff to do everything isn’t as effective and drives up the cost of government.

As part of her community-based strategy she wants to see the city put in place an “adopt a block” effort to keep blight in check when homes become vacant due to foreclosure.

“I’m not talking about turning on the water but volunteers can help keep yards mowed and weeds down,” Raya said.

Raya also wants to see the city establish firm boundaries where growth won’t go beyond in a bid to protect agriculture. In doing so, she believes it will encourage re-investment in established neighborhoods and avoid diluting the value of older homes in the future.

She views the 120 Bypass corridors as a key calling card for economic growth. Raya pointed to the success stories with Bass Pro Shops, Big League Dreams, Woodward Park, and Costco that have turned Manteca into a regional magnet for consumer dollars and recreation. She wants to build upon that noting she supports the Great Wolf Resort and indoor water park project if it brings jobs and tax revenue to the city’s stressed general fund.

Raya disagrees with those who believe Manteca has been roughed up as severely as many other cities from the Great Recession and foreclosure crisis.

“Manteca doesn’t have nearly the problems that other cities have,” Raya said.

That prompted her to underscore her belief that “if it it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to city functions that are effective.

Raya worked for 24 years with San Joaquin County including stints at the county hospital and the Superior Court Superior Court system before she was laid off recently due to budget constraints. She now works as a substitute for various classified tasks such as yard supervisors for the Manteca Unified School District.

She spent 10 years as the non-paid volunteer director for the Pregnancy Help Center providing cribs, formula, diapers, clothing and other items struggling mothers need for baby’s first year.

Raya has been involved with the Christian Worship Center for 13 years. The East Union High graduate is married with two sons and two daughters.

She believes people need to support local business when possible, especially in downtown.

Raya has employed a grassroots campaign relying on social media, talking to people at events much as the Pumpkin Fair, and one-on-one encounters.

“I want to win, but no matter what the journey has been great and positive experience for me,” Raya said.

Voters will elect two council members in just over two weeks.

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