Lathrop’s first mayor is adamant about a lot of things.
But if you ask Bennie Gatto what he thinks about the fact that the city he has called home for decades still elects its mayor for a two-year term, he won’t waste any time in telling you how he really feels.
“I would absolutely be in favor of making it a four-year term,” Gatto said. “It takes the first year just to get the hang of doing things, and that’s why at first we made it two years because it gave whoever was appointed to the post the chance to get something done in their next year.
“But the way that things are now, I think that it should definitely be a four-year term.”
If that were in fact the case, the two terms that were recently served by Sonny Dhaliwal – he was just sworn into his third consecutive term – would have been a single term. Taken at face value, Dhalwial’s list of accomplishments when compared to those of neighboring communities that he works closely with like Manteca could be more accurately compared.
Ultimately, however, Dhaliwal said that he leaves that decision up to the voters.
“I would be in favor of that and I think there are a lot of benefits, but that’s something for the voters of Lathrop to decide,” Dhaliwal said. “I don’t want it to seem like I’m not happy with the way that things are, and it’s the people that would have the say in a situation like that.”
According to Lathrop City Clerk Teresa Vargas, there are two possible ways in which the ordinance that details the length of the term for mayor could be amended and both end with a vote of the people of the community.
In the first, citizens themselves could initiate the vote by going through the steps outlined in the elections code – similar to the attempt that was made by a group of concerned residents and regional business owners who tried unsuccessfully to gather the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in Lathrop’s last election to force the council to either rescind its vote on the Pilot/Flying J truck stop or force the matter onto the ballot for voters to decide.
In the second, the council itself could draft up a proposed ordinance that would change the length of the term much the same way they drafted the language of the one-cent sales tax increase proposal that became Measure C. Whatever they decided would eventually make it onto the ballot – whether it was held until the next general election so it could be run in conjunction with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters or voted on as part of a special election. Because of the cost associated with a special election, the City of Lathrop has never had a special election.
At the end of the day, Gatto said, it’s all about what’s best for the fast-growing city – which has been a major contributor into helping earn San Joaquin County the designation of being the second fastest growing county in the State of California.
“It has to be something that the people want, but I think that it makes a lot of sense,” Gatto said. “Two years just isn’t enough time to serve in that position when everybody else who is elected gets to serve four years. And I think it would really cut down on the number of appointments that the council would have to make when a councilman runs halfway through their term every two years.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.