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Cantu inquires about possible Singh ‘conflict’ in downtown
Downtowns boundaries as established by the Manteca Downtown Business Association. - photo by Rendering contributed

Mayor Ben Cantu was concerned simply because Gary Singh has interest in a liquor store that he might have a financial conflict in voting on a zoning measure to ban such retailers in Manteca’s downtown.

It is why he stopped discussion on the issue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to ask City Attorney David Nefouse if that constituted a conflict.

Singh’s liquor store is over a mile away near Highway 99.

The attorney replied that it was not.

The implication was Singh would somehow benefit if the city action helped limit competition and send him more business.

Forget the fact there are no less than three stores that sell liquor between downtown and Singh’s business not to mention another six stores that sell beer only.

It is an interesting question given Cantu was worried about a council member having either past, current or a potential future financial benefit from a council action. You’d think if that was the case why he didn’t ask the attorney to make sure that he might not have a conflict because at one time he had a client in the downtown area he worked with to handle  their land use issues and secure entitlements from the City of Manteca through his firm BC Planning.

Clearly the optics look as if Cantu ever continues his private land use firm that he operated for a period after being elected he could one day benefit in an indirect manner as he was worried that Singh would somehow benefit.

Nothing  nefarious for sure but it one wants to make sure merely being involved with a business that could be peripherally connected with a possibility of even a peep of conflict you’d think one would want to cover all the bases.

Unless it was an opening volley in the upcoming mayor’s race where a Cantu verses Singh match might get top billing.

It could, of course be nothing more than Cantu being Cantu, whatever that may be. It wasn’t just thinking out loud as the mayor made sure the city attorney weighted in.

Or it could simply being the case of the mayor delivering on his promise to be as transparent as possible.

If that case, the next time the council needs to take action on something that impacts what the city is on the hook for in terms of California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) obligations Cantu might want to ask the city attorney at a public meeting whether council members Charlie Halford, Dave Breitenbucher, and himself have a conflict as three former city employees who rely on CalPERS and the city doing its part to keep it solvent to secure their retirement checks.

Farfetched? Not nearly as much as inferring Singh was killing off the potential for more liquor stores in Manteca in an effort to somehow benefit which was not the case but simply for one opening up in a 12-block downtown area the city basically wants turned into a “theme” commercial zone.



It’s about Manteca,

not Livermore, et al

Speaking of downtowns, new City Manager Toby Wells gets high marks for giving a pragmatic assessment out of the gate in terms of where he thinks the city should head with downtown.

Wells, who was a key player in Ceres’ downtown transformation and had roles in the Turlock and Livermore downtown makeovers, said he was looking forward to working on improving downtown.

That drew some upbeat remarks from council members and others.

Wells responded by not lowering expectations, but by tempering them.

His assessment: “We don’t want to look like Livermore. We want to make it the look the best Manteca can be.”

It is a philosophy that doesn’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

It doesn’t ignore the fact Manteca even without a comprehensive plan for downtown in place has a few things that “dying downtowns” don’t have — seven financial institutions, four furniture stores, four major event halls with a fifth on the way via the multi-million dollar remake of Kelly Brothers Brewery into The Veranda Events Center, thriving ethnic businesses, and a slew of other concerns.

Manteca can’t ever be even a wannabe version of other downtown transformations due to the dynamics of the community and the physical location being much different than Livermore or just about any other “revitalized” downtown you can name.



Wells won’t need to

move to Manteca

from his Turlock home

And while we’re on the subject of city managers, Toby Wells won’t have to worry about moving anytime soon

The City Council Tuesday conducted its second reading of an amendment to an ordinance reading residency requirements for city managers. The action stretched the distance a city manager can live from 30 to 40 miles.

That brings Turlock where Wells resides that is just over 30 miles from Manteca into an acceptable “employment distance.”

The residency requirement was initially developed decades ago to make sure city managers lived in the community that they essentially run day-to-day.

The city had an unbroken string of city managers residing in Manteca through the retirement of Bob Adams in 2008. After that, Steve Pinkerton — hired as the Great Recession triggered by the mortgage crisis that sunk housing values hit — never got around to moving to Manteca from Stockton before accepting a city manager job in Davis following three years in Manteca.

The council at the time — in order to promote Karen McLaughlin who resided in Modesto to the city manager’s post — relaxed the requirement to 30 miles.

That was enough to accommodate her replacement Elena Reyes who lasted all of three months before being put on ice. Reyes resided in Lathrop.

Next was Tim Ogden who resided in Hughson and ended up moving his family to Manteca so they he could be part of the community. Following him was Miranda Lutzow who also moved to Manteca.



At least Breitenbucher

isn’t forgetting . . .

Dave Breitenbucher dug into the not-too-distant past to ask for the status of crumbling pavement, more specifically the deteriorating parking lot that serves the library as well as Library Park plus the worst for the wear streets in the Shasta Park neighborhood.

It’s not that there isn’t a truckload of other pavement quality issues in Manteca but they are two that city staff made a big deal out of needing work and at least spent some fine pondering what to do with them.

The parking lot is perhaps the most grating for several reasons.

First, when Mayor Ben Cantu referenced it more than a year ago its deplorable shape that he had noticed repeatedly on his drives around the city, the architects of the “The City Hall Purge” — former City Manager Miranda Lutzow and formed Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon — quickly responded at a council meeting staff was on top of it. They added they were having crews temporarily Band-Aid the biggest potholes in the meanwhile, which they did.

Second, with all the energy the city keeps putting forth and talking big about downtown you’d think there’s be a bigger effort to make it doesn’t look like the city has abandoned downtown.

In case anyone has forgotten the city spent $1.3 million a decade ago expanding and upgrading Library Park in a bid to create a gathering place that would serve as a low-key downtown plaza for events and such.

You can see how well they have taken care of the parking lot if you drop by the Sunrise Kiwanis Pumpkin Fair Oct. 2-3.

At least thanks to the drought the city won’t have to answer embarrassing questions why the $450,000 interactive water play feature — the focus of the remake — is rarely on.

Manteca — unlike nearby Ripon, Lathrop, and Stockton — opted to save a few dollars by not putting in a system that would allow for the recycling of the water.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, email