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So you say you want a Manteca aquatics center

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POSTED August 4, 2017 1:52 a.m.

Everybody wants something.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Things don’t happen by osmosis.
If you are one of the people in Manteca that wants an aquatics center that is probably the best three lines of advice anyone can give you if you want to see it actually happen.
There is an erroneous assumption that if you want to see something built or provided in Manteca — or any community for that matter — you simply get it to be identified  by the city powers that be as a needed or a desired want, have the city put some fees in place, and simply speak up that you want it. You might even join a city appointed committee to advise the council.
All of that looks good. But things don’t get done that way. You don’t sit back and wait for things to move along. If you do, two things will happen — either another “pressing” want comes up and the project du jour will fall to the wayside or the city will give it a half-hearted effort and then put it on the back burner until the gas runs out and it’s as cold as ice.
This is not a slam at staff. There are only so many balls — or knives depending upon the political reprucussions associated with the endeavor — you can juggle. If the five ring masters take the foot off the gas, which they do with an unnerving frequency, staff will concentrate on other “pressing” issues.
It is what happened to the “new” library. It is what happened to the performing arts center. It is what is happening again to completing the missing kink of Atherton Drive. The list goes on and on.
There’s nothing sinister or misleading about it.  Take the pressure off a project and it will fade away.
Getting back to the aquatics center, here is what needs to be done.
A citizens-based group — not a council-appointed committee — needs to be formed. The goal is one thing and one thing only: To keep pressure on elected leaders to move an aquatics center forward.
This means actively enlisting support and not just doing it on social media. Lobby council members individually. Work on other community leaders to embrace your goal and have them lobby council members as well. Have a presence at events like street fairs. Convince your neighbors and friends to provide some form of visible support. Attend every council meeting with fresh faces each time. Use the three minute comment period to re-emphasize what you are after and even bring a kid or two with you.
Make the aquatics center an issue in the next election and every election after that until the ground is actually broken to build it.
Let a parks and recreation project move through the city process on its own and you might get it after 15 years after it was promised to be built. The dog park is one example. The only reason Manteca has a skate park is because backers refused to turn its fate over to the city budget process.
And here’s what you don’t do. Don’t expect a council member or members to carry the ball once they say they agree with you. They literally need the support of the team you’ve assembled to make sure the aquatics center doesn’t slip down the proverbial rabbit’s hole.
Don’t allow a cop out to derail it such as staff or council proclaiming “they don’t know where they are going to find the money to pay for it.” There are a ton of things the city has accomplished that the initial reaction were those same 15 words.
Don’t let the city study it to death. The master plan for parks the council accepted last year states it will cost $2 million to bring the 60-year-old plus Lincoln Pool up to date or $4.5 million to replace it. At the same time an aquatics center would cost $11.6 million.
As for where it will go, remind the City Council they have already made that decision. They’ve dumped a lot of money into the envisioned family entertainment zone southwest of Big League Dreams that is designed for a recreational improvement like an aquatics center. The city already has over $8.5 million in “unseen costs” in place including the basic framework of infrastructure buried below ground or in the pockets of consultants that cobbled together general family entertainment zone plans. 
Don’t assume your involvement will require just some of your time over a couple of months. Get ready for several years at least until a contract is awarded to start construction. Then have the committee morph into Friends of the Manteca Aquatics Center. The goal would not only be to provide assistance and promote the facility but to make sure the city follows through on maintenance and such.
Don’t be one of those people who believe their level of civic participation starts and stops at just talking about something. Talk is cheap and without an action plan that you stick to talk will amount to nothing but more background noise.
If anyone in Manteca wants an aquatics center start the steady push now. And keep in mind wishing, hoping, and praying isn’t what will get Manteca an aquatics center.
Or you can rely on the process to make sure the aquatic center suffers the same fate as the new library, the performing arts center, downtown alleys, and a host of other things in the Manteca political graveyard of good intentions.
     


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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