David Breitenbucher driving down Airport Way can see what he says are a lot of good things that have happened in Manteca in recent years — the Big League Dreams sports complex, new retail, and work starting on Great Wolf’s 500-room hotel and indoor waterpark resort.
But he can also literally feel something is not right.
“Improving Airport Way needs to be a priority,” noted Breitenbucher who is running for one of two council seats in the Nov. 6 election.
While he lauds the city for addressing some road needs, he said Manteca has to do better addressing street upkeep by finding new solutions and rearranging priorities when the community’s needs shift.
The retired Manteca Fire captain noted 12 years ago Airport Way was used primarily as a country road. Today it is one of the busiest corridors thanks to Costco and the Stadium Retail Center. In addition major distribution centers are going up along the corridor yet the only project on the horizon to address Airport Way issues is to add a continuous turning lane from Daniels Street to Yosemite Avenue and that’s several years in the future.
“Drive down (Airport Way) and you know it is in bad shape,” Breitenbucher, 56, said.
He said there are other streets — many in older neighborhoods — that are in the same shape as Airport Way that need to be addressed.
Breitenbucher, who spent nearly 30 years protecting Manteca citizens and property as a firefighter, said public safety will always be his top priority. He has secured the endorsement of both the Manteca Police Officers Association and the Manteca Firefighters Association.
“You can count on me to work hard to preserve our quality of life,” Breitenbucher said. “I will fight against new taxes and ensure we spend our tax dollars wisely, investing in public safety and infrastructure as we continue to go.”
One way to do that, he said, is being more aggressive in making sure growth fees are kept current so new development pays its fair share.
It pointed to the fire facilities fee that for years was $350 per home before being increased in the late 1990s. He said since then mandated standards for fire stations have changed such as increased earthquake safety. Not only do fees need to reflect the cost of changing requirements but simply indexing fees for inflation based on the consumer price index is not enough.
He pointed out that construction inflation — the cost escalator that really counts — has far outpaced standard inflation in recent years. That has swelled the price of the fifth fire station the city is now taking steps to build at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue by more than $1 million during the past three to four years to put the price tag at $4.5 million.
Breitenbucher said all fees — including those needed to help build police facilities impacted by growth and to make sure the city has adequate major street arterials — need to be monitored closely and increased as justified beyond just basic inflation.
With more than a dozen years serving on the Manteca Parks & Recreation Commission — he is the current chairman — Breitenbucher said the city needs to dedicate the same energy to put things in place that families are looking for in a vibrant community as effectively as they are to secure community additions such as Great Wolf.
In doing so he believes the city will attract even more families whose income earners have the skills and track record needed to develop the labor pool on this side of the Altamont Pass to start luring firms beyond distribution centers to business parks such as the one being developed at neighboring River Islands that are designed to serve such concerns.
In doing so, Breitenbucher it will expand employment opportunities for other workers as well as even allow those enduring long commutes to the Bay Area to work closer to home
To that end he is highly supportive of efforts to build additional recreational facilities such as an Olympic-sized swimming pool or an aquatics center, a community gym complex and additional ball fields as identified in the city’s first ever parks and recreation program that he helped work on.
He noted when he started swimming with the Manteca Dolphins — the Parks & Rec swim team — as a youngster, they used Lincoln Pool. Manteca has 12,000 residents at the time. Now that the city has a population of 81,450 it is still the only municipal swimming pool.
“As a youth sports coach, I believe it is important to invest in our kids and families,” Breitenbucher said. “I will always pursue ideas that enrich Manteca’s quality of life.”
Breitenbucher has staked out a middle position based on what good moves he has seen Manteca make while noting there are other needs not adequately being addressed.
He said that’s because during his lifetime in Manteca — he was the fifth baby to be born at Manteca Hospital that is now Doctors Hospital of Manteca — he has seen a lot of positive changes.
But at the same time he said Manteca has issues that need to be addressed while making sure it can retain its community feeling as it grows.
“Let’s work together to make Manteca a better place,” Breitenbucher added.