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Mayor mans up: Main Street bulbs need to go
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There appears to be at least two votes on the Manteca City Council to rip out the remaining much maligned bulb-outs in the 100 block of North Main Street.
Mayor Steve DeBrum at Tuesday’s council meeting said “I’m man enough to say” that his vote 11 years ago to go with bulb outs along Main Street in downtown Manteca was a big mistake.
Councilman Vince Hernandez chipped in noting that since they were talking about the 100 block of North Main Street he’d like to see the median planter just south of Center Street shortened so another car can get into the left turn pocket and not block traffic trying to go north.
DeBrum said he realized to do anything will cost money. That said since the discussion came up during a debate over whether to tap into $2.5 million in the municipal Economic Revitalization Fund created with the city’s share of annual taxes it receives after the Manteca Redevelopment Agency was terminated, it seems fitting they use money from that account to tear out the bulbs. The bulbs were part of a downtown upgrade that was funded with $4 million in RDA tax dollars.
DeBrum’s declaration that voting for the bulbs was a mistake prompted a few “amens” from the audience.
The bulb-outs put in place to provide additional landscaping opportunities to enhance downtown as well as making it easier somewhat to get in and out of on-street parking spaces, were an immediate lightning rod for criticism from virtually the day they put in place.
Drivers complained they were constantly hitting them. The first bulb-out to go was along Maple Avenue near the Post Office.
The next one removed was in the 100  block of North Main Street near the alley by  Bedquaters where the concrete curbing was getting new tire marks constantly from people trying to turn out of the alley. The city had to replant the tree several times after turning vehicles kept taking the tree out.
While complaints from motorists about bulb-outs on Yosemite Avenue and even Maple Avenue are now rare, that’s not the case for Main Street where traffic back-ups are the norm.
The original decision in 2005 was a choice between two lanes of traffic in each direction in the 100 block of North Main and the southern third of the 200 block of North Main to improve traffic flow or to go for the bulb-outs and one through lane in each direction.
Then Mayor Willie Weatherford along with then councilman Jack Snyder were on the losing end of a 3-2 vote for the bulbs to go in.
In January 2009, Weatherford in responding to citizen complaints said he still didn’t like the idea of landscaping bulbs on North Main Street. And while in 2009 he said nothing would make him happier than to see the bulbs ripped out, Weatherford noted it wasn’t going to happen given that money was tight and the city was facing an $8 million budget deficit at the time. He added the city should revisit the bulbs when they were better off financially.
Weatherford pointed out it didn’t simply involve tearing out concrete. He pegged the cost for removing all of the bulbs on Main Street at some $200,000 seven years ago.
During that January 2009 meeting he did concede the landscaping in the bulbs improved the looks along Main Street. He also cautioned if the city ever did take out the bulbs on Main Street they needed to look at the entire central district traffic patterns and not take a piecemeal approach. At the time, he advocated making Yosemite Avenue a one-way street heading east and Center Street a one-way street heading west.
Suggesting one-way streets in downtown is historically an even bigger proverbial can of worms than the bulbs.
If DeBrum is serious about getting rid of the bulbs, he may want to see if the council wants to do so before the city spends $1 million plus in federal funds to upgrade traffic controllers and timing city wide as four lanes of traffic and not just two through downtown on Main Street is a game changer.

Thieves steal tents
from Give Every
Child a Chance
Eight pop-up caravan tents that Give Every Child a Chance uses for fundraising events such as the Brew Fest to help raise money for the non-profits’ free tutoring endeavors have been stolen out of storage.
While it is always an inopportune time to have things stolen, GECAC chief executive officer Carol Davis noted that replacing the tents that cost roughly $1,000 will put a strain on their budget and take from critical money generated at fund raisers to replace.
Davis is hoping anyone who sees the pop up tents with “GECAC” on the legs being sold at a yard sale or flea market to call police. If they can’t be recovered Davis is hoping that people who may have pop-ups they are no longer using might wish to donate them to GECAC. She can be contacted at 823.6222.

A new style of
fundraiser: March
into Fitness at EU
Speaking of fundraisers, the East Union High Sober Grad has one with a new twist: March into Fitness.
The event will take place Saturday, March 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Dalben Center at East Union High. It is billed as a day of beauty, fitness, health, and nutrition. Instructors will teach exercise classes for all levels of fitness for 45 to 60 minutes. The variety of classes will only cost you $10.
There will also be vendors of beauty, nutrition, and health items. Attending the vendor portion is free to the public.