There are at least a handful of Manteca merchants that want Mayor Ben Cantu removed from the two-member council appointed committee charged with coming up with a way to change downtown.
Merchants that were in attendance at the kickoff committee meeting on Jan. 8 told the council in person and by letter that the mayor:
*Doesn’t want to listen to their views, was condescending at times and cut off speakers.
*Was “laughing in their faces” when they make a suggestion.
*Wasn’t interested in hearing a survey they had done of downtown merchants regarding homeless and safety issues.
*Essentially has a pre-ordained plan for downtown.
Even Councilwoman Debby Moorhead — who also serves on the committee — said Tuesday the mayor acted as if she wasn’t even there.
Cantu Tuesday stressed that the purpose of the meeting Jan. 8 was to provide an overview of what he believes is needed. The mayor stressed that he wasn’t trying to be argumentative and when attendees said they were being cut off that they had repeatedly brought up the same issue.
Cantu said why he favors the two council member committee approach instead of a large committee with downtown/community appointments that he “didn’t want to go down the same path as we’ve done” in reference to plans that were devised and then basically dropped.
Cantu Tuesday said the approach he is taking will come up with a downtown plan that will work based on a “community standpoint” and not one where the downtown businesses carry more weight.
“Frankly if you’re unhappy with me, I’ll resign,” Cantu said. “But I guarantee you whoever you replace me with will have a difficult time assembling a plan.”
The council, by consensus, directed Interim City Manager Miranda Ludlow to place the downtown council subcommittee on the Feb. 4 council agenda for discussion and possible action.
Moorhead, for her part, said she wants to listen to people to hear their concerns and suggestions.
The councilwoman after the last meeting said she was not aware of the outline that Cantu drafted until he presented it at the Jan. 8 subcommittee meeting.
Inda Janus — who has operated Janis Music with her husband George in downtown for 57 years — said she felt Cantu at the Jan. 8 meeting was being dismissive of women who were speaking.
Cantu on Tuesday said that was not the case adding that if anyone felt they were disrespected that he apologized.
She added that one of the mayor’s big points — rerouting through traffic from Yosemite Avenue to Center Street — was not playing well with her existing customers who said it would make it more difficult for them to get to her store.
Janus basically said if the city ultimately adopts Cantu’s traffic plan that it would kill her business that has weathered and thrived more than three economic downturns over the past six decades.
In a letter from a fellow merchant read by Brenda Franklin of Tipton’s it was noted traffic wasn’t the biggest need and “certainly not the first priority.”
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