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Lathrop hopefuls talk about issues
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It’s a peculiar election for Lathrop City Council.
Because former Councilman Omar Ornelas’ resigned at the end of last year – only one year into his four-year term – a total of three seats are up for grabs on the council on Nov. 8.
And while all of the incumbents are technically running again, since the two years remaining on Ornelas’ term was included in this cycle (Lathrop typically has two of the four council seats up every two years along with the mayor’s seat) and one of the incumbents was the only one to file for that particular slot, that leaves five other people vying for the remaining two seats.
The Bulletin sent out a questionnaire to all candidates who are seeking election to the council, and the following are the replies from those who submitted the questions by the cutoff:
Lathrop has emerged as a viable commercial and industrial option for businesses thanks to its location and the logistics it affords. What would you do to further that and bring even more business – and in turn, jobs – to Lathrop?
Mark Elliott (current appointee to Ornelas’ seat, seeking a full term): “I would work with our city staff to streamline our process to open a new business in Lathrop.  If there are some areas that can be eliminated to make the process faster, I would consider making the changes.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I would agree that Lathrop has the possibility of being a major staple in Central Valley. One area I plan on hoping to develop is Family Orientated Businesses. Lathrop is full of many families that currently have to travel outside of our great city just to have a family outing. Bringing a movie theater or even a bowling alley would be Great for our city and residents.”
Steve Dresser (incumbent, running unopposed for unexpired term): “As a council member I need to continue to meet with potential business owners and answer any questions that they may have regarding our community, our vision for the future and concerns that they have in getting there business off the ground as soon as possible. We need to maintain our participation in the San Joaquin Partnership as they work on our behalf to further interest in Lathrop. Through that level of involvement we have secured Tesla, UPS and Kraft-Heinz. All this adds to more jobs and keeps Lathrop growing.”

How important do you think the SB5 compliance work is towards achieving the city’s main goals, and how would you assist with making sure that Lathrop can continue to build homes and businesses well into the next decade?
Mark Elliott: “I believe the city’s work around SB5 is our top priority.  We must meet the requirements in order to issue future building permits.  If we do not meet the SB5 requirements, growth in Lathrop would be limited.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I believe that road improvements are always needed with a growing city like ours. But I also believe that the safety of our children is also important. I would like to see better improvements to protect our 2,000 or more students who walk this route daily to Lathrop High School. As far as continuing the development of our city I believe businesses are the key. They produce jobs which many of our residents need, as well as bringing revenue into the city.”
Steve Dresser: “Our compliance with SB5 is one of the most important issues that our city faces. While we have been successful in securing a few large businesses in the recent past we are looking at many more opportunities to come. Our city’s growth is dependent on sales tax revenues and property assessments. At this point those can be enhanced greatly with a successful resolution to SB5 with its challenges. I can continue to participate in meetings locally and advocate with developers, DWR and the Army Corps of Engineers. We need to continue our work in order to make findings of “Adequate Progress” towards a resolution each and every year to ensure growth continues. The work includes continued joint meetings with county partners, developers and staff over engineering items, and continued dialogue with state and federal agencies.”

In the last four years Measure C has paid for firefighters, police officers, park upgrades and municipal vehicles. And as the city grows, so will the amount of money received in sales tax revenue. How would you like to see that money used?
Mark Elliott: “I believe the Measure C money should be used to benefit the citizens of Lathrop.  If there are areas that would impact our safety or simply improve the community of Lathrop, I would consider using Measure C funds.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I would like to see that money used to first protect our citizens with making sure police and fire departments have everything they need to do their jobs. Second on our children – I believe we desperately need more activities for the youth in our community. And third to start programs that help our seniors, veterans, and low-income Residents. We are always stronger together.”
Steve Dresser: “I want to arrange access to the LHS swimming pool or build a new city pool. I would like to work out some transportation arrangement with Uber or Lyft so that more timely transportation alternatives are available. Maybe contract with Manteca for bus service. Additional projects could be security cameras at entry points to the city or curbs and gutters for the Acres, 5th, 6th and 7th Streets. Perhaps a fund for water efficient household upgrades. Funding activities for seniors and parents at the Generations Center. The list goes on and on but we need the citizens input to get priorities right.”

Less than a decade ago Lathrop was blindsided by the collapse of the housing market. While growth is a priority today, how would you ensure that the city doesn’t find itself in the same position again?
Mark Elliott: “Lathrop’s growth needs to be balanced.  We need to make sure we have homes, businesses, and services for our citizens.  Clearly we need more local businesses and services for our families here in Lathrop.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I believe that this was not just a City of Lathrop problem but a nationwide epidemic. Growth is very important and is something our city has done very well since the crash.  And once elected I’m hoping that my ideas and ‘new eyes’ will continue that growth.”
Steve Dresser: “Times have changed. River Islands is building and Saybrook LLC is planning. Each have participated financially in infrastructure construction and proposed expansion of wastewater treatment plants. In the past items were being built with certain city reimbursement liabilities that are no longer at risk. Both city and developers are taking prudent steps to make sure no one over reaches expectations at the expense of the city.”

How would you work to expand recreational offerings as more and more families move into Lathrop and take advantage of municipal services like Parks and Recreation programs?
Mark Elliott: “Our Recreation department has really grown since the approval of Measure C.  We have a great director and recreation team that is being built.  One of our recreation department’s goals is to expand our recreation offerings and I would support that plan.  For years Lathrop has relied on independent contractors to provide our recreation activities.  Our staff can now provide that leadership with close supervision from our Park and Recreation department head and supervisors.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “This is one of the many reasons I decided to run. I’m passionate about the youth of today and I’m currently a leader within our community. I believe that when there are things like after-school programs, sports leagues, jobs and other activities for the youth, they will be less likely to get into things that aren’t so good. Once elected I plan to work hand in hand with our Parks and Recreation to create events that will get our youth involved in our city. I would to see something like a Basketball/Baseball Tournament between our Police and Fire departments and our youth to bring the community closer together. They are the future of our great city.”
Steve Dresser: “One of my top priorities would be to work with MUSD to get the high school swimming pool open for public use. Additionally, I’d like to create a fund specifically for setting aside monies to build a community pool and develop youth and adult water programs. I would continue to support and encourage our parks and recreation staff to bring new activities that have proven to be successful in other communities. This past year they modified the city’s July 1st birthday party event, which was well received by our citizens. They established the Rain Gutter Regatta and movies in the park, which brought many neighbors out of their homes and into the park. They are looking at creating concerts in the park next year to further community involvement.”
Would you be in favor of supporting a Highway Service Zone along I-5 similar to what Ripon did with the Jack Tone Interchange area, which provides the lion’s share of the city’s sales tax revenue? What are your feelings on the recently approved Pilot/Flying J Truck Stop?
Mark Elliott: “Yes, I would be in support of a Highway Service Zone along I-5.  This zone could benefit I-5 travelers and the citizens of Lathrop.
I am in favor of Pilot/Flying J Truck stop.  Due to Lathrop’s location, we have several truck businesses and independent contractors and these trucks need a place to park, otherwise they park in our neighborhoods and industrial areas.  Pilot/Flying J will provide this needed service that would allow trucks to get off our city streets.  Travelers also need a place to rest and fuel up, and this would bring in more revenue for the city and solve some of our challenges.  Overall, the trucking industry is not going to leave Lathrop, it is probably going to expand.  We need Pilot/Flying J to meet this expansion.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I don’t believe the city needs a highway service area at this time. But I am excited about the Flying J business moving into our city though. With the revenue of $2 million a year imagine the projects we could start for our youth and other residents. “
Steve Dresser: “There are challenges that come with hotels/motels as well as truck stops. We went through this with the truck stop expansion and a new hotel in the past. These same concerns were raised but were not realized. I believe that we can work with police and ownership to remove any issues that arise. Pilot was coming. The only question was who would have jurisdiction – the county or the city. Sales tax revenues are expected to be close to a million dollars. If we will be involved in handling problems, whether in the county or city, then we should benefit from the tax revenue to offset the cost of services.”
There has been talk of Lathrop either using municipal bonds or even some Measure C money to establish its own police department at the end of the current contract with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. How would you proceed when making a decision on how to best protect the residents of the community moving forward?
Mark Elliott: “For a city to take on its own Police Department comes tremendous liability.  I do not think Lathrop is big enough or has enough tax base to support its own Police Department.  Lathrop needs to negotiate a fair contract for police services when the time comes.  Overall, I believe the SJCO Sheriff Department has provided great Police service, staff, and has responded to the cities need in the area of Law Enforcement.” 
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I would base my decision on what our Great Chief Hood and his department think on the subject. I would also see if there would be a huge financial responsibility on the city that might end up being placed on our residents.”
Steve Dresser: “It’s my opinion that now is not the time to establish our own police department. We could not duplicate the service that we get from the county sheriff’s office for the same cost. As we add new homes and businesses we will be in a position to re-look and perhaps establish our own department. Measure C has provided us with a tool to ensure that the level of public safety is one of the highest in the county. We have added four deputies in the recent past and are on schedule to add an additional deputy next year. Our police chief and his administrative staff are constantly analyzing data associated with criminal activities to optimize the use of our deputies.  We have investigated the use of specific technologies to increase the effectiveness of our force while maintaining current levels.”
Why are you running for Lathrop City Council?
Mark Elliott: “I am running for City Council because I believe I can help our current council provide the vision and leadership to our city staff.  I have been on the City Council since February 2016, I have learned a lot and there is so much more that I need to learn.  My experience as a Park and Recreation Commissioner and a Planning Commissioner for the past 6 years has really helped be in being on the City Council.  In closing I want to run for City Council in order to give back to my community and continue to make Lathrop a better place to live and work.”
Minnie Lee Jordan-Diallo: “I decided to run for Council when I noticed our youth had a role model missing. I plan on giving them and all people in Lathrop my voice to use. I’ve seen our current Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal doing such a good job that it encouraged me to join in. I want to bring jobs for the youth and bring businesses that cater to family activities. Being a youth leader this has always been my passion. Please find me on Facebook and let me hear any concern or question you may have.  I always make myself available to the People I plan to serve. Vote Minnie Jordan-Diallo!”
Steve Dresser: “The primary reason for running is to maintain continuity and momentum. Our council has been effective in working together to secure the safety, financial viability and sustained growth of our community and I would like that to continue. Secondly, SB5 needs to be reconciled and it will be difficult for a new member to get up to speed and work though issues, let alone learn the inner workings of City Hall. Lastly, I participate in multiple community activities and organizations which benefit our citizens. So when someone speaks of open communications I’m in the community and available.”
NOTE: Ruben Sandoval, Martha Salcedo and Brent Maynor – who are all running for the two available full-term seats, did not return the questionnaire.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.