Manteca — perennially one of California’s fastest growing cities for the past decade — has started a conversation that could eventually change what direction the city heads as it rapidly closes in on the 100,000 population mark.
The conversation entails the expectations of what Manteca should have and the level of municipal service whether it as Mayor Ben Cantu put it “roads that don’t rattle teeth”, a significant jump in police officers to clamp down on reckless driving habits, or a new aquatics center. It also involves who will pay for it and how much we are willing to pay.
And while not very many people made the inference at Tuesday’s council meeting that conversation might very well steer into how much is enough growth. With almost 85,000 residents today and more than 2,400 being added annually, Manteca is likely to reach 100,000 residents within six years. Given there are more than 7,000 housing units in various stages of approval and development there is enough planned inventory to accommodate 17,000 more residents to basically add the population of Ripon. And that doesn’t include thousands of acres earmarked for development in the municipal general plan that have yet to have projects advanced.
Mayor Ben Cantu believes the conversation needs to start with the lack of revenue to pay for services and amenities that people want and keep complaining about the lack thereof based on their perceptions. He’s right in that the money to pay for wants and needs isn’t going to be plucked from trees or even come Manteca’s way from Sacramento or Washington. That leaves only one option — people in Manteca paying more taxes.
In reality, Councilwoman Debby Moorhead hinted at the point where the conversation arguably should start.
Moorhead said when she moved to Manteca from San Jose years ago she knew she was moving to a smaller city where she could afford to live. The councilwoman said she was well aware of the amenities Manteca lacked and the need she would have from time-to-time to find goods, dining, or entertainment out of town.
Moorhead’s point was simple. Manteca needs to know not just what people want their city to provide in the way of services and amenities but also if they are willing to pay for what they say they want. A survey of 400 registered voters in the coming weeks is a prerequisite for the council trying to gauge exactly that before deciding whether to advance a tax proposal to the voters to fund the identified needs and wants.
It is clear Manteca can’t go back to the pre-Walmart era in 1985 when Manteca had 35,000 residents.
Trying to slow down growth would be extremely messy given the projects that have already been approved.
As Cantu himself made clear no one including himself wants to pay more taxes. But as the mayor pointed out, you can’t have amenities and services without paying for them.
The question again is what amenities and level of services will people actually support paying for and not simply demand.
To get there it’s a take on the “what came first — the chicken or the egg” analogy.
What Manteca leaders need to do now is not drop the egg or scramble the egg before determining what their customers — the people of Manteca — are ordering and willing to shell out money for: poached, hard-boiled, or easy over.
It’s time for all of us — elected leaders and residents alike — to stop clucking and make the hard decision instead of saying we want a world cruise while refusing to pay for more than a Greyhound bus ticket to Fresno.
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