Editor's Note: This is a part of a series of stories on how mayor and council hopefuls would address various municipal issues.
Debby Moorhead made a down payment on less crime in Manteca on Wednesday when she stopped by Applebee’s restaurant.
She went there not to dine but to make sure she put a crisp hundred dollar bill in the Manteca firefighter’s boot used to collect donations during the annual Tip a Fireman fundraiser for Give Every Child a Chance.
“It (Give Every Child a Chance) really does give kids a chance at doing well in life,” Moorhead said.
The Manteca councilwoman who is running for mayor in the Nov. 2 election notes that kids who struggle in school, lack positive role models, and are in need of feeling as if they are part of something often end up going down the wrong path including the path that leads to Manteca’s No. 1 crime problem - gangs.
“We have to educate our children better when it comes to gangs, drugs, and violence,” Moorhead said.
The Manteca Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer pointed out that kids who are already motivated to take advantage of various programs do so. The need is to get kids who aren’t motivated and who are without direction to fall under the positive spell of youth programs.
She also said the city needs to find ways to educate more parents on what to look for as signs of gang affiliation in their children’s behavior and belongings as well as make them aware of resources out there to help provide alternatives for their children.
“Kids often know more about gangs than adults,” she said.
Moorhead noted that isn’t sidestepping current crime concerns of Manteca citizens that center primarily around gang-related violence. Instead she contends it is the only long-range solution to turning the tide back a bit on gangs in Manteca.
Moorhead is challenging incumbent Willie Weatherford as well as former mayor Carlon Perry and retired municipal planner Ben Cantu.
Moorhead said after getting elected back in 2008, among the first things she did was to go on a ride-along with a police officer and to attend a firefighter training session to see what the city’s public safety rank-and-file were up against.
“They (police and firefighters) are out there every day and night putting their lives on the line for us,” Moorhead said.
That is why she said she absolutely stands behind a decision of the council made before she was elected that provided police and firefighters with a four-year contract with annual raises and increases in retirement. Some have blamed the contract with municipal employees for creating much of the deficit since almost 80 percent of the general fund is comprised of salaries and benefits. It is that deficit and the stance of the Manteca Police Officers Association that they would not voluntarily let the city off the hook for their negotiated pay raises that led to the release of 12 police officers last fall.
She also believes that the council would be irresponsible to direct all of its resources to public safety that already constitutes 63.1 percent of the general fund budget.
“You need to generate money to pay for police,” Moorhead said as to why she believes it is more important than ever that the city concentrate on improving the business and employment climate in Manteca.
Moorhead, though vowed that once the budget outlook starts improving the first priority for her will be to push for the restoration of police officer positions.