City management had 17 signs erected at the Manteca Civic Center that ended up conveying a message they were not expecting.
The intent was to reserve parking spaces for the mayor, vice mayor, three council members as well as top management including department heads.
The message that it sent to some people was the city’s top tier management was out of touch with community sentiment on how tax dollars should best be spent especially after the interim finance director a month ago warned the pandemic may mean the city will receive $6.5 million less in revenue this year than had been projected.
And to top it off three council members — David Breitenbucher, Gary Singh, and Charlie Halford who takes the oath of office next week — said they would not park in the spaces. A fourth council member, Jose Nuño, indicated he may not park in a reserved space as well but didn’t rule it out if the parking lot was filled.
Mayor Ben Cantu dismissed what he called “squabbling over a few signs” when people were ignoring the bigger picture such as pressing city needs from growth impacts to street conditions.
“The Debbie Downers need to start focusing on bigger issues, not signs,” Cantu said.
Cantu’s predecessor Steve DeBrum sees the tiff over the signs differently.
“The fact the city says they are going to be losing $6.5 million I think when people look at the signs they’re probably thinking we should take every action we can to make sure we save money,” noted DeBrum who also pointed out the voters just rejected a one cent sales tax the city said they needed to maintain and expand service levels.
Reserved parking for
seen as separate issue
DeBrum said reserved parking for department heads is a separate issue and that it could be justified based on safety concerns given they often work late at night. But he believes the issue is entirely different for elected officials and as such the signs are not justified. He added that it essentially takes five parking spaces out of play 24/7 when council members are at city hall maybe just several times a week.
“I never had a problem finding a space to park in during the 16 years I was on the council,” DeBrum said.
Nuño said he wasn’t aware that signs were going in to reserve parking spaces for council members until after the fact and council members were told about them.
Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon confirmed the idea originated with staff and not the council.
She noted a lot of other cities do it for the same reason that prompted Manteca’s city hall leadership to put reserved parking in place — security concerns and making sure parking isn’t an issue for key employees.
Often times department heads and top management work into the night. And after council meetings, they often stay on site for 30 minutes or monger wrapping things up.
By having those staying late parking together and in well lighted areas, it enhances their safety. She noted late at night there are people that often wonder through — and by — the city hall complex which is an open campus and not fenced off.
Blackmon noted parking is at a premium when cutoff time for water due to late bills comes each month and people flood the city’s finance department to make payments. That hasn’t been an issue since the pandemic started as the city has suspended water cutoffs for nonpayment.
Halford dislikes effective
removal of 9 spaces for
events at senior center
Halford, who said he will not use the parking spaces, questions how effective the reserved parking spaces are as a move to enhance security. By putting the title — although not the name of the driver who is authorized to park their vehicle in the space – it lets the public know who is parking there. Some cities simply make stalls “reserved parking” and require a sticker to park there.
Halford also doesn’t like the idea that effectively eliminated nine parking spaces that can be used when there are gatherings at the senior center at night which often involve elderly people.
But perhaps most bothersome from his perspective is the message the signs send after the city a month ago issued a dire warning that the municipal budget could be taking a $6.5 million hit and that passage of Measure Z — the one cent sales tax voters rejected — was needed to keep municipal services intact over the next few years.
Halford ventured the signs once the post, the actual sign and costs of city labor to install them easily cost well over $1,000
“I won’t be using them,” Breitenbucher said of one of the three spaces reserved for council members.
Breitenbucher: Why is reserved
parking higher spaces higher city
priority than fire hydrant access?
Breitenbucher was concerned about what it says about city priorities. Several months ago at the end of a council meeting he pointed out to management staff that made the decision to place the reserved parking signs at city hall that semi-trucks were — and still are — parking illegally in front of a fire hydrant on a daily basis on Moffat Boulevard impeding access for firefighters in the event of a fire.
He asked that city management have public works crews paint the curb red so make truckers aware that there is a fire hydrant. Nothing has happened.
Singh, who also noted staff installed the signs and then told the council about them, said when he was first made aware of them he didn’t give any thought to how they may be perceived in light of the city’s projected $6.5 million revenue shortfall.
Singh added that he won’t be using them as if he has a meeting he walks from his office just across Cherry Lane form the Civic Center.
Nuño indicated the “timing was bad” in relation to financial issues.
A quick check of area cities showed Tracy has reserved parking using a sticker system and Lathrop has no reserve parking.
Manteca Unified does not have reserved parking for its superintendent, top management and board members. They do, however, reserve spaces for such individuals if they are participating in a graduation ceremony or other such big event as they typically will travel to multiple schools during the same evening.
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