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Dhaliwal: Its about jobs, budget & safety
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LATHROP – The city’s budget, jobs and public safety issues facing Lathrop today will continue to be his main concern, says Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal who is running for re-election on November 2.

“I have been a major advocate for business attraction and retention in Lathrop,” said Dhaliwal, while proudly enumerating the economic advances that have taken place in the city despite a sluggish economy.

“We’ve added 21 new businesses (to our existing 213 existing businesses) in Lathrop since Jan. 1, 2010, and these 21 businesses translate to 350 new job.,” he said, using the figures that were put together in a report presented to the council recently by Steve Carrigan, the city’s economic and community development director.

“We still have a long way to go to get out of this economic slide, but I believe that we’ve positioned Lathrop so that when the economy does swing upward, then we will be in a favorable position to add jobs quickly. In Lathrop, we have location and we have a solid General Plan which will translate into jobs, and we will continue to pursue businesses that recruit head-of-household employees,” he added.

Dhaliwal’s own family has not been immune to the toll exacted by the Great Recession. His wife, Ruby, who works in the transportation department of Santa Clara County where the councilman also has been working for many years, was at one time laid off from her job. While she was out of a job, she found employment in Lodi which paid much less than what she was receiving in the Silicon Valley. Later, when the county was in a better fiscal position, she was rehired.

As a councilman, Dhaliwal’s dedication to his elected position was put to test when he was offered a promotion on the job which came along with a pay raise. However, that bit of good news was tempered by the realization that the promotion and pay raise would also mean giving up his council seat due to the added job duties. A lot of people in his situation – the family’s bread winner who was also taking care of his parents in addition to having a wife and four young children – would have jumped at these great opportunities. But Dhaliwal did not even think twice about what decision to make. His duty to the people of Lathrop who elected him to represent them on the council came first. His wife and kids fully supported his decision.

Like many concerned city officials, the Great Recession remains a major concern for him.

“The lagging economy has continued to plague all of the cities in San Joaquin County and Lathrop is not immune. I have been part of a council that has made the difficult budget decisions, and because we made the difficult decisions we’ve managed to avoid catastrophic layoffs or major decreases in city services,” he said.

Dhaliwal showed his deep concern for public safety when he recently voted along with the majority of the council to loan the cash-strapped Lathrop-Manteca Fire District $395,000 to avert any firefighter layoffs and keep the two stations in the city – the J Street Station and the new Mossdale Station – open 24/7 and staff with adequate personnel.

The fire district’s two other stations – at Austin Road near New Haven School and the South Union Road Station near Nile Garden School - serve the outlying unincorporated county areas of Lathrop and Manteca.
Dhaliwal said he would “support starting a joint powers agreement with our fire district so that the city can help the district financially and become part of the decision-making process.”

He added, “the fire board and the city council have a very good relationship, and we have a common goal – to make sure that our citizens have the fire protection that they need and deserve.”

When it comes to the establishment of a fire and police department for the city as opposed to contracting those services, Dhaliwal is of the same mind with many Lathropians who think this is not the time for such a move because it is cost prohibitive.

Besides, Dhaliwal pointed out, “An overwhelming majority of our citizens are in favor of keeping a contract with San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. They are providing an excellent service and protection for our citizens,” although, he said, “there is always room for improvement.”

As for the long-drawn Matt Browne wrongful termination case which drained the city more than a million dollars after the hearings dragged on for about two years, Dhaliwal said, “I cannot go into the details of this case. However, for the record, I would like to mention that I was against the terminationof Matt Browne.”

Browne, who was fired without any oral or written official explanation by former city manager Yvonne Quiring, eventually won the case with the administrative judge ordering the city to restore him to his old position as chief building official with all salaries and benefits restored. The city was also ordered to pay all attorneys fees incurred in the case. Quiring was later asked by the council to resign and left the city with $330,000 in separation pay based on her contract with the city.