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Concerned citizens ask for transparent Lathrop government
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LATHROP – The housing market may be down, but the developers who were at the Lathrop City Council special meeting Tuesday night were upbeat.

The reason: the city has once again resumed holding study sessions which came to a halt after former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes retired in 2005.

Among those who openly lauded this move by the city was Susan Dell’Osso, project manager of River Islands, Lathrop’s gargantuan master-planned community at Stewart Tract west of Interstate 5.

“We really appreciate your putting this back together,” Dell’Osso told city staff and four of the council members present. Mayor Kristy Sayles was absent.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of study sessions,” she said.

Several concerned citizens who spoke concurred with the resurrection of the study sessions which are always open to members of the community who want to provide input on issues that are under discussion at these meetings.

“No more closed sessions. We need transparency in government from now on. We need to have an open government,” said businessman and entrepreneur J. “Chaka’ Santos.

He went as far as to say, “We need to do this more frequently,” referring to the proposal from city staff to have the study sessions once every two months.

Having these open discussions on a regular basis, he added, is “the start in the right direction. I’m really glad this council and the developers are meeting.”

Former mayor Rhodes, who arrived in the middle of Tuesday night’s meeting, told the council members present and staff, “I’m so happy that you started the study session again. They were very successful in the past and I hope they’re going to be successful in the future.”

The newest member of the council, Christopher Mateo, who dashed the re-election hopes of veteran Lathrop councilman Steve Dresser in November, was quickly convinced about the value of the open meetings.

“I like these sessions,” he commented. And to former mayor Rhodes, he said, “I like your ideas.”

While City Manager Cary Keaten and his staff proposed holding the study sessions once every two months, Dell’Osso’s counter-proposals was to hold these meeting on as-needed basis, or when there are issues to discuss.
“I don’t want staff to waste time if there’s nothing to discuss,” she explained.

However, Keaten said that while the level of work dealing with developers’ issues has dropped significantly, there are “things on the horizon” which may justify the schedule proposed by staff such as the Community Facilities Fee update which was finished a year and a half ago, and transportation projects.
Since the first-term election of Mayor Kristy Sayles, members of the development community and other concerned citizens have consistently clamored for the return of the study sessions to promote better understanding of various projects being proposed thereby giving concerned individuals an opportunity to make comments and provide input into those proposed projects.

Several concerned individuals in the community have also pointed out that study sessions foster better working relationships between the city and the development community.

“It’s apparent, by the show of people (at Tuesday night’s meeting) that this is essential. We need to do more of this. The city needs to work with developers,” said Santos who applauded River Islands and TCN Properties for “sticking in Lathrop” despite the severe economic downturn.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal agreed with Santos and the other speakers, saying, “Our goal here is, we’re building our city and no one person can do it. It has to be a combined effort. We want a more cordial and friendly atmosphere” between the city and the developers.