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Mayoral hopeful calls for district City Council elections

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Ben Cantu outlines his campaign platform during his kickoff event Wednesday evening for the Manteca mayor’s post.

DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin/

POSTED January 25, 2018 1:20 a.m.

Ben Cantu — vowing to accept help this time around in running his campaign — kicked off his drive to win election as Manteca’s mayor by outlining five specific policy points he’ll work to implement.
uPush to implement district election of the city’s four council members with the mayor continuing to be elected citywide. He also wants to impose a limit of 12 years of serving on either the council, as mayor or a combination of the two officers.
uHire one police officer for every 1,000 residents — in Manteca’s case that would mean 78 officers. Cantu slammed the city for not just cutting 12 sworn officers to balance the budget in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession but for taking nine years to restore those 12 positions. Manteca now has 67 police officers, the same number before layoffs in 2009.
uRequire builders of new subdivisions to build 20 percent of their homes 1,200 square feet or less on smaller lots at the same quality of larger homes to develop more affordable housing.
uJumpstart downtown investment by relocating city offices and the police department in the central district to establish a customer for restaurants and stores not just with the city workers but also people who travel to the civic center for business. His proposal calls for converting the existing Civic Center into a community recreation complex including repurposing the exiting council chambers as a small theatre. It would also involve expanding the existing library on Center Street.
uDevelop a plan and implement it to catch up on the backlog of road maintenance. That would include using a financial expert to determine how much of existing road upgrades on major streets could be charged off to new growth given new residents are likely to shop at Target, Costco and other locations and therefore it may be legal to charge them for their fair share of the wear and tear.
Cantu outlined his major campaign points during a kickoff gathering Wednesday at Chez Shari on the second floor of the clubhouse at the Manteca golf course before some 30 people.
Unlike in his past four unsuccessful campaigns — two for mayor and two for council — Cantu told those gathered he was going to accept help in running his campaign. That help includes David Cushman who ran in the 2016 election for one of the two council seats along with Cantu. Cushman is serving as Cantu’s campaign manager.
Cantu did not elaborate Wednesday on other campaign changes although in previous interviews he indicated a more robust door-to-door effort could be expected.
As to how to go about addressing city issues, Cantu said, “The problem is to know what the problem is.”
“The problem is the council doesn’t (know what the problems are)” Cantu said.
District council elections
That’s why he will push for district elections. That means four districts would be created with roughly 19,500 residents apiece. The eligible voters within each district would only elect that particular council member. Meanwhile, the mayor would still be elected citywide.
Cantu said such a system would strengthen the city’s attention to all neighborhoods given a district elected council member would be more familiar with the area they reside in. They would still have to secure two other votes to get things done for their district.
Currently, three of the four council members live near Woodward Park south of the 120 Bypass and one in the Union Ranch neighborhood north of Lathrop Road. Both areas didn’t start developing with homes until 1999. The mayor resides in a semi-rural part of the city east of Highway 99.

Cantu’s vision for law
enforcement services
Cantu believes funding to put 11 additional police officers in place to bring Manteca up to one officer for every 1,000 residents can be accomplished by rethinking budget priorities. Between wages, overtime required for courts and such and pension payments it costs Manteca $160,000 plus to support a typical police officer making the cost in personnel alone an additional $1.9 million plus annually before other costs such as vehicles and equipment are factored into the equation.
Cantu would target pumping up the traffic division to address growing street safety concerns.
He also would shift code enforcement from complaint driven to being pro-active to go after property maintenance and upkeep issues.
Affordable housing
Cantu sees affordable housing as a pressing issue that isn’t being adequately addressed.
Instead of developing complicated programs or trying to secure public funding, Cantu wants to see a policy in replace that requires developers to build 20 percent of their models that are more affordable.
That doesn’t mean they are built to a lower standard with less amenities and outside architectural touches. Instead they would simply be smaller footprints with the ability to build them on smaller lots.
Currently, a typical new home being built in Manteca is 2,900 square feet on a lot between 6,500 and 8,000 square feet. A smaller footprint of 1,200 square feet or less could allow three smaller homes to be built roughly on the same space as two larger homes. That means the developer wouldn’t take a financial hit as they’d be able to make up for profitability by building more homes without sacrificing design standards.
Incumbent Steve DeBrum has already announced he is running for a second term as mayor in the Nov. 6 election.
If no one else runs, it will be a repeat of the 2014 election when DeBrum defeated Cantu a vote of 5,494 to 3,110 or a 62.08 percent to 37.4 percent margin.
There are also two council seats up for grabs. Incumbent Mike Morowit has already started campaigning for re-election while Manteca Planning Commission member Jose Nuno is also running. Richard Silverman, the other incumbent, has opted not to seek a second term.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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