Lathrop City Councilman Paul Akinjo wants another four years on the Lathrop City Council.
But this time around, Akinjo – who was first appointed to the council in 2012 to fill the final two years of Sonny Dhaliwal’s term when he was elected Mayor, and won a full term by a slim margin in 2014 – will have a healthy dose of competition.
Challenging Akinjo this cycle will be former City Council candidate Minnie Jordan-Diallo, and current Ripon Planning Commissioner Diane Lazard.
In order to find out where the incumbent and the candidates stand on the issues that are facing Lathrop, The Bulletin submitted a number of questions in writing. Here is the first half of their responses:
What are your feelings on growth —both commercial and residential? Do you feel the city has done a good job of managing the growth it is experiencing? What would you change if you feel something isn’t working, and would you expand on if you feel it is working?
Akinjo: “A City that does not grow will eventually die either of financial starvation or unable to produce the Quality of life for its residents. Therefore, a sensible growth is my recommended approach. Commercial or logistics Warehousing are good, but the revenue may not always be there. Residential Growth now has its benefits the more rooftops the more major Retailers will like to come to the City. The presence of Major retailers on balance can provide the tax base to provide the quality of life that residents desperately need.”
Jordan-Diallo: “I believe that growth within our city is inevitable. I believe that the city is doing a great job with bringing revenue into the City with Commercial and Industrial growth. There are many current City plans of adding more residential almost doubling our population. But with all that we are going to need more schools, retail, and things to make families want to move to Lathrop and not move out. We currently have on average 28 students per classroom within our local schools. We need to push back on the builders to support us with MUSD to make sure that overcrowding will not become an issue.”
Lazard: “Growth good as long as it’s controlled and doesn’t negatively affect the existing residents. Projects should not be approved based only on the amount revenue it could generate for the City. Commercial and residential projects continue to build and develop. Lathrop needs is more amenities, unfortunately retail everywhere is going downhill with online shopping. An economic development director would help the city bring in some of these things. We need someone to represent Lathrop and bring in some of the amenities that we need.”
The city of Lathrop is currently mulling the option to take steps towards an independent police department - a long time city goal. What do you think of the idea of Lathrop starting its own police department?
Akinjo: “As good as it sounds for political discussion, the City is not ready to embark on this important journey currently. Our Tax base is just not there to support Dispatch, Evidence, Full Detective Environment and Temporary Jail for DUI etc. Extensive Training and Insurance and retirement cost can put a huge burden on the City that has only one Anchor store. God forbid Law suits from Police handlings. Warehouse is Warehouse they pack up and move to some different locations. We do need reliability in the Coffers to maintain our men and women in the Police unit.”
Jordan-Diallo: “I believe that Lathrop should and will have its own Police Department. I fought with many local residents to make sure that we didn’t make the mistake by accepting the Tracy PD contract. I believe that Sheriff Elect Patrick Withrow, along with our County Supervisor Tom Patti, we should be able to get the new contract presented by SJSO approved. The new contract starts us on our way to developing the long-awaited and needed officers of our own Lathrop PD.”
Lazard: “I have always advocated the need for our own police department. The officers that are assigned to Lathrop are here for 2-3 years, some may be here longer but not much. With our own officers they would be here for years and with that grow with the community. That’s the kind of relationship that everyone is fighting for either way a long term solution would benefit the Citizens of Lathrop.”
Much has been made of Measure C - the one-cent sales tax increase that has funded city and police personnel and assisted the Lathrop Manteca Fire District with meeting the demands of growth. Do you agree with the way the city utilized the proceeds of Measure C? What sorts of things would you like to see considered?
Akinjo: “Measure C has been a good support source for our Safety officers and to maintain some areas in our parks and in addressing some safety issue in our streets and parks like: better lighting conditions as time changes and including solar panel lighting in some areas that are just too dark at night. We have been able to install rubberized surfaces for children areas and better shaded areas for our citizens. I which we can enlarge the scope of Measure C to cover more maintenance issues, but the scope is what it is without going fouls of the oversight committee.”
Jordan-Diallo: “I believe that measure C has been successful at helping the police and fire departments here in Lathrop. What I would like to see more Outreach with our Veterans and Disabled.”
Lazard: “Measure ‘C’ is a positive solution to ongoing need for funding of Police, Fire and Community services. I feel, with the oversight committee established, the needs of the Citizens are being represented.”
How important, to you, is the need to complete the 200-year flood plain improvements on the levee that protects Lathrop and its residents? With growth dependent on progress towards an eventual, and costly, overhaul what are your thoughts on SB5 and the role the city has played on a regional level in regard to it?
Akinjo: “Many of our citizens do not actually understand why we need to have the 200-year flood certification. They see the empty space and they want to know why we are not building. Developers do want assurances on their investment that they will at least get their returns. That is one of the reasons I was in Sacramento many times to meet with our representatives and Senators for financial assistance. Initially it was hard to get commitments from Stockton and Manteca, so Lathrop staff and council were going it alone, but the hard work paid off as a combined effort to form SJAFCA and we have two members of the City Council on that board and our City Managers and Engineers are on working hard to see that we will continue to grow gracefully. Developers are now at ease and Plans and Permits are in the process of been issued for some of the areas starting from LHS area.”
Jordan-Diallo: “The 200 year flood plan is very important to all Lathrop residents. As a 4th generation Lathropian I remember the last bad flood in 1997. With so much growth on our west side of the city we need to make sure that we stick to the plan to protect our citizens.”
Lazard: “After Hurricane Katrina then came SB5. The levees do need to be reinforced to the 200-year flood plan criteria. The City requires all new development to pay fees which will be earmarked for the levee improvements needed. The City has been proactive regarding the levee improvements. Knowing this I feel confident that our levees are safe.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.