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Singh sets office hours

Manteca Mayor-elect Ben Cantu pulled the plug on his plan to try and livestream a town hall style meeting with municipal Solid Waste Division Manager Rexie LeStrange over changes in the city’s recycling protocols.

Cantu said he agreed with City Manager Tim Ogden’s decision to block it as being inappropriate given that he as the mayor-elect wanted to do it via his campaign Facebook page.

“After thinking about what Tim said, it made sense that it may (not have been appropriate),” Cantu said of doing the livestream via a campaign site.

That said he intends to facilitate live streaming town hall style events after he is sworn in as mayor to help “educate people” on issues as much as to get an exchange between citizens and key municipal personal who oversee a wide array of city services.

Cantu vowed that he will conduct such live streaming events in a manner that it doesn’t create any issues with public transparency or access laws. There have been dozens of cases nationally where local officials using Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to communicate officially with the public that were found to be in violation of laws by blocking access to such accounts from people highly critical of their positions or who may have been less than civil in their comments.

Cantu said he would adhere to any guidelines that the city attorney may offer.

It is part of Cantu’s promise to enhance access and communication for the public.

Ogden, for his part, has been much more careful to draw the line between city business and local politics than his predecessors.

City managers in the past — Dave Jinkens, Bob Adams, Steve Pinkerton, and Karen McLaughlin — would show up at announcements of incumbents and sometimes challengers running for council with some even mingling at election night events. While they never said or did anything that could be construed as campaigning for anyone, their presence at such events could have been misconstrued.

Ogden, by the way, is the first city manager in more than 20 years eligible to vote in a Manteca municipal election since the days that Jinkens held the job. That’s because the four city managers between Jinkens and Ogden — Adams, Pinkerton, McLaughlin, and Elena Reyes — did not reside in Manteca.

It should be noted that the city management staff has taken steps to put a greater distance between the city and local politics.

For more than 30 years organizations such as the League of Women voters and Manteca Chamber of Commerce were allowed to have council and mayoral candidate forums inside the council chambers at the Civic Center that were broadcast live over the city’s public access channel 97 on Comcast.

City Clerk Lisa Blackmon saw the practice as allowing political activity in the council chambers. Eventually the city did allow the San Joaquin County League of Women Voters to stage the forum at the Manteca Transit Center.


Singh scores another

first for a Manteca

council member

Manteca Councilman Gary Singh can be credited with another first for a Manteca council member — established office hours at the Civic Center administration offices at 1001 W. Center St. where the public can drop in to talk with him about any issues they wish.

The set hours are the first Tuesday of each month from 3 to 6 p.m.

“It was a promise I made when I ran for office,” Singh said.

Singh said he was just recently able to get his schedule to work for the set office hours between family, working as a real estate agent, managing businesses amd property as well as community service endeavors.

Singh — who is in his 30s as is part of the Millennial demographic raised on social media — was the first Manteca council member to make extensive use of Facebook and other platforms to communicate with citizens. He has added that to a wide repertoire of other ways of engaging constituents whether it is in person, via phone, or email.



When is it OK to

use the word ‘Christmas’

at the City of Manteca?

You can’t say that outgoing Mayor Steve DeBrum doesn’t have a quick wit.

At one point during Tuesday’s council meeting, when a speaker stepped up to the podium and said “happy holidays” to the mayor and council.

The mayor came back with “Merry Christmas — let me go out on a limb.”

The City Council a few years back was slammed for using city funds to offset the cost of street closures, providing police for traffic control, and litter cleanup for the annual Manteca Chamber of Commerce twilight Christmas parade in downtown. The council received a legal opinion saying spending money on supporting any event tied into Christmas could be construed as favoring one religion over another.

To get around it, the chamber — unless they paid for the city costs associated with staging the event — had to refer to it as a “holiday parade.” The Manteca Ministerial Association stepped up and wrote a check to cover the costs so the chamber could call it the “Christmas parade.”

The ministers group did that for two years. The chamber, to avoid being saddled with the costs, switched to calling it a holiday parade when the ministerial association dropped funding.

The chamber has continued to refer to it as the holiday parade. The city has noted it as such in the Manteca Parks & Recreation Department Activity Guide.

As irony would have it, the city via the recreation department has been a joint sponsor with the chamber for the past three years with “Christmas in the Park” that takes place at Library Park.

At the same time the city advertised its Christmas activities for the community at the Manteca Senior Center as “Christmas at the Center.”

It kind of begs the question about the difference between a parade being staged by an outside organization that gets financial assistance to cover city costs and a 100 percent city event?

The chamber being banned from attaching the word “Christmas” to the parade unless the business organization picked up 100 percent of the cost can’t be that much different than the city bankrolling the cost of an event on their own and tying the word “Christmas” into its official name.

So what is it — did the city over react with the parade or are they applying different rules to themselves when it comes to spending tax dollars?


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email