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Mayor hopefuls share thoughts on the homeless
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Mayor Steve DeBrum is about effective leadership.

He wants to continue his efforts towards building Manteca for now and in the future.

Ben Cantu has plans for positive changes.

“I’m not a politician. I’m a businessman,” he said at Wednesday’s Candidates Forum Luncheon hosted by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.

The incumbent DeBrum and the challenger Cantu both addressed issues that concern the City of Manteca, from homelessness and revitalizing downtown to future growth and public transportation before some 130 in attendance at the Emory Hall.

“Homelessness is not a crime,” said DeBrum, who blamed Prop. 47 for contributing to the current situation.

Voters from throughout the state in 2014 approved the measure that reduced the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from felony to a misdemeanor, resulting in the resentencing to 10,000 eligible inmates at the time.

 “This let people out of the prison and on to our streets – this was not just in Manteca but all over (the state),” DeBrum added.

Cantu believes that the city “babysits” its homeless.

“They’re given a wakeup call (by police) in morning and asked to break up their tents and leave (the premises),” he said.

Cantu, instead, would like to remedy the problem with a resource center consisting of non-profits and other agencies that can provide human resources and counseling.

He would like to see a downtown similar to that of his youth.

“My brother and I would ride downtown. We’d park the bikes outside (unlocked) and they would still be there,” Cantu said.

He added: “If elected, I would keep downtown clean and make it a safe place.”

DeBrum, who, as mayor, serves on the Economic Development Committee, is working to make downtown a point of destination.

But in order to do so “everyone will have to pull in the same direction,” he said, pointing out at the business folks, property owners and community members as among those in partnership with the City of Manteca.

Besides cleaning up downtown, DeBrum said that beautification efforts would consists of sprucing up the landscape and improving the outdoor street lights.

Both agreed that City of Manteca and the Manteca Unified School District have been doing a good job working collaboratively with growth.

DeBrum sees most of the future growth in the area taking place in the south San Joaquin County, including Manteca, Tracy and Mountain House.

Cantu indicated the local roadways are in terrible condition. “Filling in potholes is not fixing up the streets,” he said.

Both are also concerned with future funding for the future.

“We need to build up the general fund,” said DeBrum, who added that 75 percent of the city’s $40 million general fund accounts for personnel.

“I want to hire more police but you have only so much funding that’s being generated,” he said.

As for public transportation, both would like to see more ridership on the buses.

“The buses are 90 percent vacant,” Cantu said.

DeBrum chimed in, saying: “We have to find a way to make it positive to ride the bus.”

He’s been mayor since 2014, was initially elected to the Manteca City Council in 2003 via special election.

Cantu is a lifelong resident of Manteca. He spent almost 35 years working in the City’s Planning Department, retiring in 2006.

Cantu challenged and lost to DeBrum for mayor in the 2014 election.