When December rolls around, there will be one — and possibly two — less “minority” community members on the Manteca City Council.
Why it matters is simple.
The City of Manteca — just like more than 120 cities up and down the state — switched to district elections this year to avoid the potential for costly lawsuits that can be filed to force compliance to the 2002 California Voting Act.
The goal of district council and school board seats — by those that pushed the issue in the California Legislature — is to increase minority representations on local governing boards.
The legislation was based on the fact citywide or at-large elections tend to produce councils that fail to represent all neighborhoods.
And while the Voting Rights Act focuses on disadvantaged neighborhoods where minorities tend to be concentrated, there are numerous cities where two or more city council members come from the same part of a city that tends to be more affluent.
That was the case prior to 2018 when three Manteca council members — Richard Silverman, Gary Singh and Debby Moorhead — literally lived within a matter of blocks fo each om areas near Woodward Park.
Ironically, the current council composition elected at-large is about as spot on as you can get to reflect the ethnic diversity of Manteca.
Overall 41 percent of Manteca’s population is Hispanic, 35 percent non-Hispanic white, 15 percent Asian-American and 5 percent Black. That’s according to the 2020 census.
Based on that the current council essentially reflects the ethnicity makeup with Ben Cantu and Jose Nuño being Hispanic accounting for 40 percent of the council composition and 41 percent of the population, Charlie Halford and Dave Breitenbucher being white account for 40 percent of the council composition, and 35 percent of the population, and Gary Singh being Indian that is lumped with Asian American accounting for 20 percent of the council composition and 15 percent of the pollution.
It is irrelevant that the council is fairly balanced now given that likely wasn’t the case In the past and there is no assurance at-large elections going forward would keep the council as balanced.
That said, the decision by Nuno not to run and the potential for Singh or Lei Ann Larson to be elected mayor, would create a council with three non-Hispanic whites, and one Asian-American (Indians being lumped in with that category) and one vacancy.
That would leave the largest population in Manteca — Hispanics that reflect 41 percent of all residents without an ethnic member on the council.
Such a shortcoming could be addressed with the appointment of a Hispanic in the event Singh wins and his seat is vacated. It wouldn’t be possible if Larson prevails as there would be no option to add a Hispanic. Cantu’s re-election would assure there would be one Hispanic.
If Singh should win, his replacement given he was elected at large would not need to come from District 2 that was recently created and where he resides.
It could be open to anyone in the city to apply.
While Steve DeBrum, who happens to also reside in District 4, and is a former mayor has been mentioned there are two others with council experience who would qualify as Singh’s replacement to be at-large just as he was elected.
The two are Cantu, should he be defeated in his bid for reelection, and Nuno who opted not to run for the District 4 seat that is being contested by Mike Morowit and Nancy Watson.
Nuno’s employment situation has changed since the start of the year when he opted not to seek re-election. He now has his own business in Manteca. Whether he’d be open to being appointed to fill out Singh’s remaining two years should Singh be elected mayor is an open question.
Appointing Cantu or Nuno in such a situation would not create an appointee with a built-in incumbency when the 2024 election rolls around for the District 2 seat such as appointing DeBrum would.
The threat of lawsuits have driven cities — including Manteca — to switch to district elections.
Since lawsuits are driving a lot of the change, the cost is largely dependent on how the governing body chooses to respond.
Modesto was out $3 million to settle a lawsuit over district elections after they declined to institute them on a voluntary basis but ended up with them anyway when voters passed a measure implementing them.
Palmdale in 2015 paid $4.5 million to attorneys and three minority residents who sued the city.
Not one city in California that has fought lawsuits filled against them to go to district elections has ever prevailed in court.
MEA backs Howe for
school board re-election
The Manteca Educators Association Political Action Committee has endorsed Kathy Howe for re-election as the District trustee for Manteca Unified School District.
Running against Howe is Brandy Perkins who is listed as a mother/engineer..
Howe was a primary teacher for over 35 years She was appointed to the board in 2015.
The MEA, in their endorsement, noted Howe “is a proactive board member who goes out of her way to help not only those in her district, but everyone. Her most recent accomplishments include working with fellow board members to provide transportation to students during COVID so they could be bused during the modified school schedules. She instituted a tutoring program at the Migrant Camps in French Camp and recruited volunteers to tutor students four days a week. She herself tutors students two days each week.
“She has been an exemplary board member whose commitment to the students goes beyond the board room. She has a passion for education and over the years has fostered a trust between the MEA teachers union.”
Cantu plans meet &
Mayor Ben Cantu will be hosting his final Meet and Greet before Election Day on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
he event will be a pizza party held at Round Table Pizza, located at 2120 Daniels St. in Manteca. Complimentary pizza and wings will be provided for all attendees. All those wishing to meet Mayor Cantu and have their questions and concerns addressed regarding local issues are encouraged to attend. The Meet & Greet is free and open to the public.
For any questions, contact Cantu at (209) 679-5204 or email@example.com.
In 2018, Cantu was elected Manteca Mayor with more votes than any candidate for mayor had received in city history. During his term, Cantu has overseen the addition of several new police officers to our force, initiated an affordable housing ordinance for working families, and oversaw a wide-ranging review of city finances to ensure that Mantecans’ tax dollars would be spent wisely.
Cantu and his wife Mary have lived in Manteca for more than 50 years. Follow the campaign online at www.cantu4mayor.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the username @mayorbencantu.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e mail firstname.lastname@example.org