The composition of the new Manteca City Council was not lost on Joanne Jamerson who was part of the standing room only crowd that saw the changing of the guard on the City Council at the Civic Center Tuesday as Manteca started its second century as an incorporated city. Manteca now has its most diverse council in its 100-year history.
It includes Ben Cantu whose ethnic background is Hispanic; Jose Nuno who is an immigrant and also Hispanic; Gary Singh who is a Punjabi American, Debby Moorhead who is a Caucasian woman, and David Breitenbucher who is Caucasian.
It should be made clear none of those elected — or who ran in the election — made an issue of or even referenced their ethnicity. Everyone stressed their love and concern for Manteca and identified as Americans because that is what we all are.
At the same time two are Manteca natives — Breitenbucher and Singh. On recent councils only one member has been a Manteca native. Since the 1970s the number of native council members has never topped two reflecting the city’s growth. Manteca had 13,845 residents in 1970 compared to 81,450 today.
Singh is the first Punjabi American and first Sierra High graduate to serve.
Moorhead is only the fifth woman to serve.
Cantu is the first non-Caucasian mayor — elected or otherwise — to serve.
Perhaps even more key is this is the first council in over 30 years where two members have young children — Nuno and Singh — with the oldest in elementary school. That reflects the fact families moving here keep bringing the median age down even with several age-restricted neighborhoods popping up in recent years.
Besides being kind of a cotton candy fact, the composition of the council could have an impact on what the city may do regarding a proposal the council asked to be examined last year which was whether there was a need to switch to district elections where the four council members have to each live in specific districts where those residents would only vote for their council member while the mayor was elected at large.
The look into demographics was seen as a pre-emptive move to a possible challenge that city-wide elections precluded minorities from being elected proportional to population. If a case can be made jurisdictions can be challenged like Modesto was to move to district elections under state law or else end up with hefty legal bills.
The biggest issue would be whether the largest minority group had representation. Based on the 2010 census, 49.6 percent of Manteca is Caucasian while 43.7 percent are Latino or Hispanic. Given the new council composition it is a virtually perfect make-up as there are two Hispanics and two Caucasians and reflecting 93.3 percent of the population and one from the remaining ethnic groups.
Cantu during his campaign spoke out in favor of district elections not based on an ethnic balance but more broad representation of neighborhoods. The previous council had four members that resided south of the 120 Bypass near Woodward Park and one on the eastern edge of the city.
The current council has two members that live south of the 120 Bypass, one north of Lathrop Road, one in the southern part of the city’s core and one in the northern part of the city’s core. Going back at least 30 years, this is the most widespread council in terms of place of residence.
As a side note, Lathrop is still the most diverse council in the South County and also is tops in the gender split department.
They also have an immigrant — Paul Akinjo from Africa — as well as a Hispanic, two Caucasians and a Punjabi America n with Sonny Dhaliwal as mayor. Three of the members are women.
More women on the Manteca Council is what Jameson would like to see. That said Jamerson noted she has tried to convince additional women to run but none showed any interest.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org