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Fred Millner has stirred up a debate about Manteca street names.

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POSTED July 7, 2013 10:53 p.m.

In a letter to the Manteca Bulletin last week, he expressed his opinion that Moffat Boulevard should be renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. His rationale was the city has transformed Moffat from an ugly, rundown corridor with almost $12 million in improvements including the transit station, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, Tidewater Bikeway, Spreckels Park MBX course, the Industrial Park Drive extension, and repaving the roadway.  The city also aggressively cleaned up depilated buildings and chased out overnight truck parking and stopped the practice of people using city property as a makeshift dump
The “old image” of Moffat is tied in some folks’ minds to the Moffat Feedlot.
Besides the cattle operation, there was a smell that was associated with not just Moffat but the now defunct Spreckels Sugar refinery. It is why for years nothing was built downwind from the sugar plant/feed lot. Winds would shift once a month and those living north of the sugar plant got the Full Monty.
The odor was so intertwined with Manteca’s image many who did not live here referred to the city as Mantsinka based on the smell from the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass freeways. I remember 26 years ago having to go to San Jose late one winter night. It was suggested I take the 120 Bypass through Manteca. I had never been on the 120 Bypass and wasn’t sure where it was. Topping that off visibility was expected to be less than a mile. My friend told me to take the 120 West exit after Yosemite Avenue adding I couldn’t miss it because of the smell.
He was right. I couldn’t see the sugar plant because of the fog and darkness but I definitely could smell it.
Two callers plus a lady I encountered at SaveMart vehemently disagreed with Fred’s suggestion. Two pointed out they were not native Mantecans but had moved here 20 plus years ago. All three thought Moffat shouldn’t be changed because the name is tied to Manteca’s history.
Fred’s suggestion reminded me of the sisters who once oversaw St. Dominic’s Hospital and their effort to rename St. Dominic’s Drive after they sold the facility to Kaiser. They initially told their maintenance staff to take down the street sign which is essentially vandalizing property on the day the transaction of ownership with taking place.
They then tried to get the City Council to rename the street. That went nowhere fast as it was quickly pointed out St. Dominic’s was a part of the city’s history and there were other businesses with street addresses on St. Dominic’s Drive. The sisters apparently had a problem with the name St. Dominic’s being associated with a hospital owned that by a concern that allowed abortions.
Personally, I disagree with Fred — to a degree.
I live within a block of Moffat in the same neighborhood that Fred does. He’s right that the transformation has been amazing over the past 10 years. But for good or bad Moffat is part of Manteca history.
He is right that the city needs to pay more attention to street names. In the era that Moffat, Yosemite, and host of other streets were named it was those that lived here and had ties to Manteca who named them and not some developer.
There have been recent instances where local history was taken into account. They include Mayors Park where the streets are named after past Manteca mayors and Curran Grove where the streets are named after those who were involved with the Spreckels Sugar operation.
Manteca should have recommended names for subdivision streets that developers could consider. And they definitely need to have names for collector and major streets in mind instead of having developer name them by default.
Atherton Drive, as an example, almost became Williams Way. Developer J.C. Williams — who built the first homes along Airport Way south of the 120 Bypass — wanted it named after him. It almost happened until someone argued that the working name Atherton Drive placed by Atherton Homes on the segment near Woodard Park had a stronger tie to Manteca.
And it wasn’t because of Mike Atherton the developer, per se. His grandfather Warren Atherton not only was the main mover behind the GII Bill of Rights but the family has deep roots in San Joaquin County history. They are interconnected with the Benjamin Holt whose caterpillar invention revolutionized farming and helped transform the Central valley into the world’s most fertile farm region.
It’s ironic that there is no street, for example, is named after Antone Raymus.  Not only at one time were a quarter of all homes in  Manteca built by Raymus but he was the driving force behind Give Every Child a Chance, a major player in founding the Boys & Girls Club, and gave freely of his money to non-profits, churches, schools, and those down on their luck. Accounts of his generosity would fill easily this newspaper edition.
There are also countless others who should be honored and remembered with street names. Those could include non-Manteca residents such s Martin Luther King Jr. and Caesar Chavez who played big roles in n shaping our country and our lives.
It would make sense for someone to petition the council to establish a committee to recommend criteria for future street names and come up with a working list that can be available for use at city hall.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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