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Lathrop council hopefuls offer different visons
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With the November midterm elections less than three weeks away, The Bulletin is running a series of stories outlining how local candidates feel about the issues facing their communities. 

Below is the second half of the questions that were submitted to the four candidates running for the two four-year terms available on the Lathrop City Council (Note: Resident Debbie Rock is also running for the council, but was unable to receive the questions and will provide them for publication at a later date). 

Here are the responses of incumbent Paul Akinjo and challengers Diane Lazard and Minnie Cotton-Diallo:

While the Lathrop Road widening project has always been a city priority, the completion of the project upset homeowners in the area and created a political firestorm. Do you think the project was justified to meet the needs of a growing community? Why or why not?

Akinjo: “This is not only a City Priority there is also that Regional Aspect of the project. We might still be in litigation. So, I will not be able to comment beyond the fact that the project gets positive feedback from many People.”

Lazard: “Widening Lathrop Road has nothing to do with the needs of our community.  It’s a regional road that is a straight line from I-5 to Highway 99 for trucks.  I feel the citizens living on Lathrop Road have been thrown under those trucks.  It’s now dangerous for most just to back out of their driveway.  I do think the finished project looks nice but at what cost to the residents living there.”

Cotton-Diallo: “When it comes to the Lathrop Road Widening/Beautification Project, I believe our city went about it all wrong. A growing city does need its roadways to mere it’s growth. Though it looks very nice, it has made life for many longtime Lathropians feel it’s impossible to live safely. With the cost of just over 7 million, it was completed without a bike lane for residents to travel safely leaving shared sidewalks with pedestrians. Also many residents have found themselves in a traffic jam after going over the newly built bridge that takes you into Manteca.”

With Lathrop’s role as an economic force in the South County changing as the city grows and attracts more businesses, how important is the city’s role as a regional player and how would you approach that subject?

Akinjo: “The role of an established City is to maintain stability and Fiscal Responsibility. Businesses that wants to come to Lathrop wants to see a stable and Knowledgeable Council that can interact with Staff and Developers and Financial Institutions. Becoming a Powerhouse means you are visible both the Council and Staff must map their goals, work together to attract and maintain relationship with Local, County, State and Federal Representatives to bring favorable attention to their City. As a council Member there are Training, Conventions, Committee and Various Boards Authority that we are fortunate and with permission can participate in them.  These are not easy because it does ask for serious commitment and one can also incur substantial financial loss to be able to participate effectively. I continue to attend many of these training by taking the unpaid time off work or vacation time to be up to date in Local Govt assignments.”

Lazard: “On a regional level, Lathrop is still growing, we’re in infant stages but with thought out planning we will have a very strong impact in the region.”

Cotton-Diallo: “I believe Lathrop plays a great role within the county. We have no problem getting industrial businesses to want to come to Lathrop. But what I think we need to do is get businesses here that the Lathrop residents need. That being retail, sit down restaurants, and most importantly family activities. We should want our Lathrop residents to have options to enjoy  their weekend and family time  right here in our great City.”

How would you rate the progress of the current city council and recent councils in regard to ushering the community into a new era? What do you think they did well, and what would you change?

Akinjo: “Overall this Council has done an excellent job in Fiscal Responsibilities, fostering co-operation, Staff relationship, Business relationship and Community Engagement. Not too long ago there are bickering and open conflicts within the Council and a lot of uneasiness in the community and surrounding areas. That has changed a lot since I have been on the council, Intelligent discussion are taking place and City Agenda and Projects are now linked to City Goals. By working with staff and the Business communities we are seeing and uptick in Major Businesses Establishing in our City and many are leaving pre-arrangements with other Cities to come to Lathrop. The Major reasons they have stated so far are easy ways to navigate the requirements, Staff Knowledge and Stability on the Council.

The Council should continue Lathrop Growth Process but should not lose sight of the economy, Prudent investment and vetting prospective developers will continue to secure a better future and Jobs for its residents without compromising their quality of life.”

Lazard: Candidate did not provide answer. 

Cotton-Diallo: “I believe our current City Council is doing an okay job. But I believe there is a need for a newer, fresher and modern voice. It has been said at Council meetings that social media is a waste of time. I could not disagree more!! Most residents commute daily to work making it nearly impossible to get back before the now once a month Council meetings. Most cities use some form of social media to get the information to their residents and Lathrop needs to follow suit. Putting important information in the water bill IS not nor HAS been acceptable for a long time. If you want the people to be involved you have to get the information to them. I’m hoping the Council to come will move forward to provide Transparency to all Lathropians.”

What do you feel the city’s biggest strength is? Its biggest weakness? How do you plan on addressing both of those if elected to represent the citizens of Lathrop?

Akinjo: “Then City’s Biggest Strength is its Diversity. Lathrop make-ups demographically are people from Multiple Ethnicity from many parts of the World. We are from all over and have decided to reflect the face of America. In a way that is a good thing that everyone can succeed in our City. This is reflected in the makeup of the Council for a while now. But behind all that is the melting Pot.  Now there are non-official names for different parts of the City some are as old as the City itself; Historical Lathrop, Lathrop Acres, Woodfield, Stonebridge, River Islands and Mossdale Landings. The Pot is not boiling over yet but community leaders have to be aware that agitation is to be expected in the future and that now is the time to start preparing, by putting some backbone efforts to assure the residents that the Governing Bodies are here to listen and that no attempt to neglect certain areas at the expense of others are acceptable. Running an effective Local Govt is not easy and could be frustrating at times but it must be done together in other to succeed.”

Lazard: Candidate did not provide answer. 

Cotton-Diallo: “The biggest strength of our city is our LOVE for our City. We are truly a city of love and residents here have such Giving Big Hearts. For me the weakness would have to be the divide that has just recently developed. No matter if you’re in the Acres, Stonebridge, Central, Historic, Mossdale, River Islands, or the future Stanford Crossing – we Are ALL Lathrop!!! I plan on being the voice for ALL Lathrop residents. I want all communities to get involved, get to know your neighbors, and continue to work together to grow the city we love Lathrop, California.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.