Councilwoman Debby Moorhead doesn’t pull any punches in making her case for another four-year term.
“Manteca is moving in the right direction,” Moorhead asserted.
Moorhead is one of five candidates seeking two seats on the City Council in the Nov. 3 election. The others are fellow incumbent Gary Singh, businessman Dave Martin, registered nurse Fred Cunha, and retired police chief Charlie Halford. Moorhead has served on the council for nearly 12 years.
“The fact we hired a city manager that is so forward thinking . . . we will be able to work to bring Manteca up to what it needs to be as (it heads toward being a) thriving city of 100,000,” Moorhead said.
She noted in the past year a new senior management team has been put in place that is ready — and willing — to think outside the box to deliver projects and to start more effectively addressing neighborhood needs and business concerns. Moorhead noted the city is in the process of hiring a finance director and will start a search for a new police chief relying heavily on community input.
With City Manager Miranda Lutzow at the helm, Moorhead said the city is starting to move the log jam of city projects. Among them is tremoving the bulb-outs on North Main Street with work actually set to start in January. The moving forward will eliminate the bottleneck by going to four lanes, address perennial street flooding issued and beautify the four block segment with street pavers. All of it is being done for more than $1 million less than the solution that was advanced under previous City Manager Tim Ogden.
Moorhead also pointed to how the council — within a span of nine months — thanks to the management team they have put in place was able to have the worst stretch of major roadway in Manteca in the form of Lathrop Road east of Airport Way rebuilt even though it wasn’t on any previous 5- to 10-year capital improvement project list.
And while things such as road work cost money, Moorhead believes that doesn’t mean spending money with abandon.
“Our job as council persons is to work for people and to watch their money and make sure it is spent prudently,” Moorhead said.
To that end she is against moving the city hall complex to another site at any time in the future. She backs Lutzow’s solution of staying put given the city owns the land and eliminating breezeways to create more space while at the same time building a customer friendly lobby such as the City of Lathrop where citizens just has to go one grand counter area to access all city services from finance and community development to parks & recreation to public works. She believes there is adequate space on site to build a state-of-the-art police department adding there is land across the street under transmission towers that could be purchased for parking if needed.
Her desire to not spend money that doesn’t benefit the community was underlined by her successful effort after trying six budget cycles to no avail to pull the plug on the city’s $30,000 annual contribution to the San Joaquin Partnership for the expressed purpose of securing employers to create jobs in Manteca.
“They did not help create one job in Manteca although the city had spent them more than $400,000 over the years,” Moorhead said. “Everything they did went to Stockton, Tracy, and Lathrop.”
Moorhead noted since getting elected to the council in 2008, she has helped shepherd a number of projects forward including the 500-room Great Wolf Resort that at $180 million represents the largest private sector investment in Manteca history.
The proposal for the project was literally made the first month she was on the council.
Her biggest contribution in terms of that project and how it will benefit Manteca was starting the push for an increase in the hotel room tax from 9 percent to 12 percent that voters approved in the 2018 election.
“Without a TOT tax increase Manteca would not be receiving much of anything initially when Great Wolf opens,” Moorhead said.
The city, under the split with Great Wolf, in the initial full year of operation with the 9 percent tax will receive a projected $581,700. Given 100 percent of the voter approved TOT increase from Great Wolf will go to the city. That means the first year the city will receive an additional projected $2,033,700 in room tax. Now when the resort is open for a full year $2.6 million will flow into the city coffers to pay for general fund services such as police and fire services.
Moorhead was also the one who spearheaded the effort that finally built the Atherton Drive gap between Union Road and Airport Way. She also pushed for the four-sided clock tower to be added to the Manteca Transit building as it was being approved for construction so the city and downtown would have an appealing landmark instead of just another building.
Among other major city projects on her watch so far are the food waste to fuel project that is now powering municipal solid waste trucks, the animal shelter construction, Library Park expansion and renovation, the HOPE Family Shelter rehab project, and the diverging diamond interchange now under construction.
Moorhead, who led the charge pushing staff to appeal to the state to simply turn the Qualex building over to the city for $1 for the restricted purpose of being used as a homeless navigation center that received unanimous support in the California Legislature only to be vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said getting something in place to help the homeless and address the problems they create will be her top priority if she is elected.
To that end she believes the city needs to secure a smaller site now to provide services to get the homeless that needs it help to stop abusing substances. She noted it will be years before the Qualex site will be able to function as a homeless navigation center.
She is against the staff proposal to invest $172,000 for the salary and benefits to cover the hiring of a homeless program manager. Instead she’d rather see that go to hire two community service officers — non-sworn police personnel — to work fulltime with the two community resource officers that are certified as police officers. As for paperwork related issues, she believes the city can assign such tasks to an existing program analyst.
Moorhead also believes the city needs to hire a community service officer to restore the crime prevention position that was eliminated 12 years ago to work to making neighborhoods and businesses less susceptible to crime.
Moorhead believes she has a unique perspective that allows her to understand the needs and concerns of both new residents that are mostly from the Bay Area seeking a place to raise their families as well as long-time residents.
Moorhead and her husband moved to Manteca in 1981 from San Jose buying a Winchell Home north of the golf course for $102,000.
“We wanted to move to a small community where we could raise our son,” Moorhead said. “The homes in San Jose were rundown and expensive.”
Moorhead was a beautician before becoming a full-time mother. After her son got older, she became a certified nursing assistance working in several local convalescent hospitals before earning administrative credentials. She eventually worked her way up to becoming administrator of Leisure Manor on Union Road. After that she served 10 years as executive director of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.
That experience gave her a better understanding of what small business was up against.
She also had her share of frustrating dealing with the city when she went to get a permit to have a contractor install a patio at her home in 2002. It took six years before the city signed off on the work as meeting city standards. Similar frustrating stories from other people and a desire to see the community be the best it can be were among the reasons she decided to run for the council in 2008.
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