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Citys goal: Shut up & listen
Effort underway to find out what residents want from city
Rex Osborn is serving as Mantecas community engagement manager to help the city better serve 12 identified neighborhoods within the Redevelopment Agency boundaries. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Manteca is going to stop assuming it knows what is best for neighborhoods.

“What we are going to do is shut up and listen,” said Rex Osborn who is serving as the community engagement manager for Manteca Neighborhood Action Planning. “We want people to tell us what we’re doing wrong, what we’re not doing, and hopefully what we are doing right.”

It is the first step in a process aimed at developing a permanent relationship between various neighborhoods and the city government to make sure the city is doing what residents expect it to do.

Ultimately, the city wants to have various “anchors” they can go to in neighborhoods to apprise them of needs and wants.

“There are five anchor families as an example around Baccilieri Park who’ve lived there more than 30 years,” Osborn said to illustrate his point. “They know more about the neighborhood than anyone in the police department, the fire department, or public works.”

 Osborn has been given until the end of December to set up two pilot programs among 12 neighborhoods indentified in various redevelopment project areas within Manteca. One will focus on a neighborhood that is among those lacking the most and the other is one that rates high on amenities and low on problems.

The criteria being used to select the neighborhoods for the pilot program includes access to resources such as schools, churches, retail, and services; circulation concerns; access to amenities such as art and recreation; the level of abandoned and vacant buildings; condition of streets, sidewalks, and other municipal facilities; and how strong the sense of community is within the neighborhood.

Osborn is enlisting various people in the community to help determine the two neighborhoods for the pilot program.

The first step once the neighborhoods are selected is to have neighborhood meetings where Osborn will listen to what people have to say.

A second meeting based on comments gathered would then be held with the neighborhood. At that meeting the city would address issues and indicate whether it is something the city can do, if it is something state law prohibits the city from doing, or if it is something the city has difficulty doing due to staffing cutbacks and the need to prioritize city functions.

A community action plan would then be developed based on the neighborhood needs and wants. The key city staff would then meet with the neighborhood to make sure that is what they want and brainstorm on how to make things happen.

After that the program will involve follow up conversations as well as providing measureable outcomes and milestones.

The effort won’t rely just on what Osborn calls “old-fashioned” chatting although that is a critical part of the process. It will also employ social media and a web-base platform that all residents in a neighborhood can access and use for input and to monitor progress.

That high-tech system would also be used to alert residents of planned municipal work in their neighborhoods whether it is road work or other activities.

 To contact Osborn, e-mail or call 456-8099.