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Cantu says ‘my mission is to tell the truth’
ben cantu.jpg

The next State of the City address may become the proverbial horse that ended up as a camel thanks to a committee approach.

Elected leaders floated the idea that all five council members may take to the podium at the 2019 State of the City to say what the city has accomplished and is working on and possibly what they as individual elected council members want to see happen next.

The state of the State of the City address that is only a two-year-old event in Manteca was discussed Tuesday by the City Council after Councilwoman Debby Moorhead had the item placed on the agenda.

Moorhead said she received a lot of negative feedback from those attending the event the city staged in partnership with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 26 at the Manteca Transit Center. She said people were expecting to hear a status report of city endeavors and what projects were in the works. Moorhead pointed out that council members distanced themselves from remarks delivered by Mayor Ben Cantu that listed problems the city had and what he — as one vote that needs two other council members to agree with him — wants to see done. Some referred to the mayor’s remarks as being more like a campaign speech.

Moorhead said she researched what other cities have done and found one jurisdiction that offers a Status of the Administration style of event where staff leadership outlines the status of city initiatives assigned to them by elected leaders and where they are  going with them.

She suggested that all five council members — including the mayor — be part of the presentation and deliver remarks.

Cantu said anyone who had been reading the Manteca Bulletin or living in Manteca for the past year knows what the city has done.  He said people want to know what the city is going to do.

The mayor acknowledged the reception for his speech at the State of the City was reserved — no clapping or smiling. But he essentially said Tuesday that the people in the room — mostly business and community leaders — were not his target audience.

“I received gazillion positive comments on (my) State of the City,” said the mayor who had Dave Cushman, who served as his campaign manager, capture it on smartphone video and upload it to Cantu’s Facebook page.

“People in the city were looking for a positive future,” Cantu said. “They wanted to know where we are going.”

Moorhead pointed out that it takes the council majority to decide the city’s course and not just one council member.

Cantu agreed noted that is why he emphasized several times during the State of the City address that goals he outlined needed to be embraced by at least two other council members.

“Previous mayors have painted a rosy and peachy picture of the city,” Cantu said.

Steve DeBrum was the only previous mayor to give a State of the City address given the inaugural event was in 2017.

“I’m on a mission,” Cantu said. “My mission is to tell the truth . . .  (and) create a future that is positive and progressive.”

Cantu at one point proposed having Moorhead deliver the speech next year. She again emphasized she believed all of the council should be involved.

Councilman Gary Singh sought out middle ground saying the State of the City to touch on what accomplishments the city had made in the previous year and where Manteca is headed for the next 12 months.

Councilman Jose Nuño made similar remarks.

When Councilman Dave Breitenbucher declined to offer input when he was asked to do so, Cantu noted that sometimes that was the smart thing to do.

Given it was listed on the agenda as only a discussion item the council did not take action.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email