Editor’s note: First in a series of stories looking at the candidates for Lathrop City Council and mayor in the Nov. 6 election.
LATHROP – Sonny Dhaliwal has a vision.
It’s not overly complicated and it doesn’t have too many moving parts. It’s just not the style of the mayoral candidate that threw his hat in the ring to challenge incumbent Joseph “Chaka” Santos for the city’s top elected post in November.
Create a business-friendly environment. Foster a relationship with his fellow elected officials that allows for productivity to once again be the order of the day. Let the “highly talented” staffers at city hall do what they do best. And most of all, work closely with neighboring cities and government entities whose legislative agenda directly impacts Lathrop and the 18,000-plus that call it home.
There’s more, of course, that the two-term councilman – who started his stint in Lathrop politics as a planning commissioner – wants to focus on and achieve if the voters give him the nod in November. He’s got a laundry list of achievements to his credit that he believes will help him win over those that aren’t familiar with his reserved but informed approach to governing.
He currently serves on the Local Agency Formation Commission and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. He has served as an alternative on the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin Partnership and been on the San Joaquin County Advisory Water Commission. And he has spent the last six years – that’s three mayoral terms – doing what he felt was best for the residents of Lathrop.
“Since 2003 over 166 businesses have moved to Lathrop and created over 1,600 jobs. That’s a team effort and I’m proud to have been a part of that team,” Dhaliwal said. “It’s going to take intelligent direction and skillful execution to move Lathrop forward – not hollow promises.”
One of the biggest feathers Dhaliwal has in his cap is the economic turnaround that he helped facilitate starting in 2008 when the council was facing a $15 million deficit. By “making some tough choices” the group was able to transform that into a $6 million surplus within five years.
Just that once scenario, he said, shows that he work with those he shares the dais with and proves he has an understanding of the city business model.
“Just like any business we had to tighten our belt but we were able to make a $21 million turnaround because of that,” Dhaliwal said. “The economic sustainability of the city is one of my top goals. We have to be able to meet our financial obligations and I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to do that.”
Other important projects are also on the horizon, Dhaliwal says, like the kick-off of home construction at River Islands. The first 200 homes are slated to break ground next year and should, for all intents and purposes, add a huge shot in the arm for the local housing market and add construction jobs that have been all but MIA since the housing bubble burst.
Improvements at I-5 and Lathrop Road for students crossing on their way to Lathrop High School are also in the works. The need for an overpass at Seventh Street and Lathrop Road to alleviate the traffic caused by trains switching tracks – and blowing their horns in the front yards of nearby residents – is something he also plans to bring to the table.
All of that, he says, he will tackle if elected.
“I don’t have any personal problems with the mayor – our differences are purely ideological,” he said. “But Lathrop needs a mayor with a plan – a vision – that respects the staff and listens to the people he represents.
“In November the citizens of Lathrop will have a clear choice on who they want to lead Lathrop for the next two years.”