The debate was multi-faceted but the promise was clear — Manteca leaders, both elected and in municipal senior management, are vowing to do better.
And doing better means going beyond meeting state mandated minimums regarding a repertoire of issues whether it is air quality, wise water use, affordable housing, or green energy initiatives.
City leaders on Tuesday after hearing Mayor Ben Cantu double down on his assertion council members in the past lacked the political will and Community Services Director Chris Erias noting the city has to work hard to earn the public’s trust based on municipal missteps in the past, rejected a request for an environment commission.
Instead they essentially said it’s time the city did its job. And adding another layer of government at this time — an environment commission on the same footing as the planning commission — could slow down efforts to address issues and as such unnecessarily add to the cost of living in Manteca.
They, however, did not completely close the door on an environment commission in Manteca’s future.
And at the urging of Councilman Jose Nuño every effort will be made to make sure the community — whether it is those championing planning decisions to reduce greenhouse gases, truck movements or a whole laundry list of environmental issues that are basically quality of life concerns — has input as policies and action plans are being shaped instead of after they are ready for vetting at the planning commission and council levels.
One way that will be accomplished is to create a citizens committee to have input in shaping an anticipated update of Manteca’s climate action plan adopted in 2013.
It answers a repeated theme in Cantu’s term as mayor that started in 2018 as well as in the five election cycles he ran in before finally getting elected: Manteca needs to stop having developers shape the community.
That perception — whether it will change — ultimately will have to do with how aggressively elected leaders search out community members representing a diversity of takes on how Manteca is growing and then who they appoint to such ad hoc advisory committees and how much pressure is applied in the process to keep appointees within perceived lines.
And ultimately it will require whether elected council members have the stomach for what might be recommended.
Erias, who suggested the concept of a robust citizens’ advisory committee in regards to the climate change update, said he got the message from a number of citizens speaking Tuesday in favor of an environmental commission that they “want more than the bare minimum.”
The pledge to do better comes after a complete house cleaning of upper management at city hall during the past 18 months and with a new city manager – Toby Wells — on the job for less than a week.
It has created the ability to somewhat start from scratch.
But as Cantu repeatedly reminded the council and the general public the lack of follow through on the highest level is needed to pull off a shift in the city’s direction regardless of what that might be.
“The real problem in the city is the lack of political will to make it right,” Cantu said.
And that, according to Cantu, requires having residents shape “the destiny of the community instead of leaving it to developers.”
No one on the council disputed Cantu’s assertion about the lack of political backbone in the past or that developers essentially mold Manteca’s growth on Tuesday or at previous council meetings.
The push for an environmental commission in Manteca started with a letter the Democratic Central Committee of San Joaquin County sent to the council urging more municipal attention, follow through, and accountability to take place in terms of community quality of life issues.
A resident that spoke earlier this year before the council on behalf of the Democratic Central Committee specifically referenced water supply and the drought asking the city to take steps like Tracy has.
The earliest funding might be considered for updating the city’s climate action plan is during the budget process for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2022.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com