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Manteca planning to fail again

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POSTED January 5, 2017 1:05 a.m.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin — who is widely attributed with that quote — would have to rework the line after observing Manteca city politics for the past 30 plus years.
Manteca plans and then fails.
Or more precisely Manteca spends a lot of time and energy making plans they pay big bucks to consultants to cobble together and then they set them aside. The only changes in the pattern are 30 years ago they were put on a shelf and left to get caked with dust. Today they’re electronically produced as PDFs and relegated to junk file status on a server.
Manteca — for those who keep track of futile exercises — has generated no less than five downtown plans since the 1960s. Some were implemented perhaps 10 percent of the way. Others were just tossed aside and ignored after a year or two of getting people’s hopes up.
But downtown is the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to spending $57,000 a pop and more for a bunch of words on paper that eventually ends up in a blue recycling cart.
Ben Cantu — who was around city hall as a planner for most of the aborted downtown plans — likes to remind people that the grandiose master plan fashioned for the Civic Center in the 1970s included a performing arts center/auditorium that never materialized. Another focused performing arts center/auditorium study was conducted in 1998 as part of the 2020 Task Force Committee recommendations. It went nowhere as well. A few years later another conceptual Civic Center master plan was fashioned along with a plan to build police facilities that didn’t employ rag-tag housing. That too went nowhere.
Then there was the great library push of 16 years ago to address a library that everyone agreed in 2001 was outdated and too small as of 1970. A library task force was formed and $150,000 spent on a consultant to come up with a plan that went as far as a conceptual two-story layout at the existing location and how library services would be housed in temporary buildings on the tennis courts across the street during construction.
About the only plans that get any traction are those done to accommodate growth. While some make think that is because the developers somehow have the city wrapped around their little fingers, they’ve got it wrong. It’s because plans for wastewater treatment plants, solid waste, major roads, and neighborhood parks don’t take a lot of political heavy lifting. They are also the forte of the no nonsense folks with engineering degrees who deal with practical function and basic needs.
All the other plans the city has piled up and then tossed aside require a bit of political will and follow through by elected leaders. They can’t be accomplished by trying to let staff go on auto pilot.
The latest plan likely to end up proving Benjamin Franklin wrong is the Manteca Parks & Recreation Master Plan.
Yes, it identifies needs and wants. Yes, it did put a fee in place. But here’s what it did not do. It did not establish an action plan that came from an elected leader with the passion to keep it moving.
There is a $75 million list of recreation wishes. They range from an aquatics center or possibly multiple swimming pools to an expanded senior center, a teen center, community center (which was the subject of two previous plans) and other facilities.
You might say what’s the worry until more money is collected?
Does anyone remember the Woodward Park master plan and the call for a youth baseball field complex in the 10-acre storm basin, eight tennis courts, and an amphitheater?
Granted some wants change as do the needs such as the explosive growth of recreation soccer but all the things planned and promised never moved one iota forward. They got swept away mainly because there was a new need that happened to have a better organized constituency. That in itself is an argument not to plan at all but rely on things to take its course.
That said money for community park improvements that the last remaining redevelopment agency bond proceeds can be spent on is now being fretted away with the $8 million gamble on infrastructure for a resort/conference center — now minus an indoor waterpark — that seems as likely to happen as the San Francisco 49ers making it to the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
The $1 million set aside for a community park could have built tennis court or provided the foundation to start amassing money for an aquatics center.
Someone on the city council needs to step up.  The council needs to determine the top priorities in the parks and recreation master plan and then add it to the capital improvement project list.
Being on the 5-year CIP list doesn’t mean a project will be built in five years. What it does mean for sure is progress will be made toward making it a reality.
It is the advice that former City Manager Karen McLaughlin offered two years ago when the council expressed interest in moving the library forward. Yet not one council member that said the library was a priority made any effort to put the library on the CIP list that they fashion and approve for staff to work on.
The City Council has paid for the parks and recreation plan but if they follow the Manteca tradition of the last 30 plus years that plan will go nowhere.

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