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Let people vote on downtown
Anderson: Central district belongs to all of Manteca
The future of downtown is among the issues in the Nov. 2 municipal election. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Samuel Anderson believes the future of downtown Manteca is too important to include only the “current occupants, consultants and the city” in the decision making process.

That is why the City Council hopeful in the Nov. 2 election wants to put whatever long-term plan of making downtown a “go -to place” is finally hammered out to a vote of the people. Even though under state law governing general law cities such a vote is only advisory, Anderson believes it is important that elected leaders take the results and use them as the framework to move forward with downtown improvements.

Anderson is one of four declared candidates so far seeking two council seats up for grabs in the Nov. 2 election. The others are incumbents Vince Hernandez and John Harris as well as challenger Richard Behling.

Anderson’s position reflects the same one he took two years ago when he also favored letting the voters decide the direction the city should go in addressing downtown in light of 20-plus years of struggling to determine a  plan and sticking to it.

He has based his stance on four key points he gleaned from talking with Manteca residents while canvassing the community. Those points are:

•Some parts of downtown are older and falling apart.  People are turned off by the traffic congestion. They also told Anderson some of the stores and shops downtown do not reflect what most Mantecans would want to purchase.

• Downtown has been neglected for too long.  Something needs to be done about it, but people aren’t happy that the city keeps spending funds on “high-priced consultants” to find out what can be done.  No one wants to see money spent on something going nowhere.

•Downtown has crime elements that consistently discourages people from shopping there.  Manteca, as it expands, now has other stores to shop at that have better parking, lighting, security, and variety.

•Something needs to be done that “totally” changes downtown.  That might include tearing parts of it down to make the roads wider to accommodate more traffic with the idea of designing and building a more accommodating and friendlier place to shop and eat.  The city could also encourage the building of condos and professional office spaces.

Anderson noted the current council spent money on landscaping bulb-outs that took away “much needed” parking spaces causing more traffic delays.

“This frustrated the citizens of Manteca who just couldn’t comprehend why on earth did we do this,” Anderson noted.

The council hopeful says any plan for downtown needs to address traffic and parking.

“I think the flow of traffic through this area is the most important thing,” Anderson noted. “Next would be parking.  I believe we have enough room to develop a parking structure that will allow hundreds of vehicles to park safely inside so we don’t have parking issues on the streets all the time.  Many cities have successfully done this.”

Anderson believes “we can carefully and systematically reach all our goals of having this wonderful downtown that everyone envisions.  But it’s going to take a while before we can do so. . .  Everyone must be able to participate and define downtown--not just the ones in the impacted area.  It seems like the current council can only focus on the current occupants, consultants, and the city.  But they will have to move beyond the norm and think outside of the box. “

At the end of the day, Anderson believes downtown is worth the effort.

“The downtown must have ideas that reflect what our city’s history is about,” Anderson said.  “It has to have an attraction that will make people want to visit our city downtown for numerous reasons.  I believe our citizens will be creative enough to come up with the ideas, putting them to a vote, and then placing it back again for a final decision.  It’s not going to get done overnight, or even a few years, but we can do it.”