There are two types of cultures that permeate municipal governments.
The first features lifelong bureaucrats who backslap one another whenever a project gets completed on paper – the signatory lines all filled out and presented to the public so they can move it to the out basket and just move on to the next.
And then there are the municipalities that just get it.
Places like Lathrop.
For years the city that for the small exception of those that lived there was known as Manteca’s westerly neighbor was mired down in dirty personal politics that cost a developing community with prime resources both time and money.
Lawsuits. Backroom deals. Corruption allegations. Resignations. Grand jury reports. Firings.
Things were ugly, and it’s safe to say that for the better part of a decade things at Lathrop City Hall were far from “stable.”
But today whenever a staff report comes up before the council, its consideration for which of the city council’s overall goals are factored in before a decision is ever made – right there at the end where people are most likely to look. Which core tenets are factored in are right there in black and white.
“At the start of the year the council sits down with staff and has a goal-setting session and we come up with what we think the best direction is for the city, and those are the things that are considered when items come before the council, be it a simple request or something pertaining to development,” Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said. “We have to stop and look at whether what we’re considering is in line with the goals that we’ve set for ourselves, and those are always in the best interests of the residents of Lathrop.”
Dhaliwal, who was just reelected to a second Mayoral term, may be presiding over one of the most peaceful councils of the last decade. All four of the members that currently serve with him have been reelected at least once in some fashion, and the verbal sparring and petty personal politics seem to be a thing of the past.
And progress is the result.
While other cities are happy humming along with a few dozen rooftops a year, Lathrop is finally seeing River Islands – the massive residential community that will drastically transform the makeup of the city once completed – moving forward with massive sections of its development. The developer, UK-based Cambay Group, sat on the land for nearly 20 years before deciding when the market was ready, and took phenomenal measures to clear environmental hurdles by reinforcing levees to epic proportions and building a bridge across the San Joaquin River to provide access to all points of the land – requiring the signoff of nearly a dozen different federal agencies before it could be completed.
The result? A boom to the economy that has brought other developers to the table.
The landing of a high-profile industrial client like Tesla – which is using the abandoned Mopar Parts Facility – earlier this year only helps solidify the city’s standing and provide a bargaining chip that’s much more playable now that the happenings at city hall are stable and structured.
“I think that looking forward every year is important to make sure we’re doing what we we’ve said we were going to do for our constitutions,” Dhaliwal said. “It’s important to keep focus on things like that, and I think that our staff does a wonderful job of factoring those in when making decisions.”