LATHROP – Despite tight fiscal times over the course of the last year, Lathrop has been working to move forward even in the face of dire adversity.
And the city itself has overcome some big hurdles in 2011.
From successfully walking away from a complex lawsuit without having to pay anything out of pocket to saving jobs at the 11th hour by dipping into reserves so that an already barebones staff didn’t see even further reductions, 2011 has shown the strength of the city staff and, at times, the infighting among the council members elected to lead the city through the dark period.
Here are a few of the big Lathrop happenings in 2011:
• Omar Ornelas gets appointed to vacant seat – While he actually took the post last December, the then 19-year-old Ornelas had to settle into what was an uncomfortable situation from the start. Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely technically won the seat but announced he wouldn’t be taking it because of a potential conflict of interest, and Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos seemed to have his own idea on how to fill the position. But the remaining members of the council decided to appoint the next leading vote-getter on the list, and Ornelas was called up and sworn in by former Mayor Kristy Sayles – who lost her bid for reelection in a mud-filled race against Santos.
The mayor went so far as to hire a parliamentarian to have on hand at the meeting where Ornelas was eventually appointed – hoping that he could argue his point based on Robert’s Rules of Order and Parliamentary procedure.
And the tension surrounding his inclusion on the council doesn’t appear to have subsided overnight. Occasional verbal sparring between Santos and Ornelas isn’t out of the norm, and when there is a fractured vote the two normally come down on opposite sides.
• Taco trucks generate political heat – The Lathrop City Council spent four months figuring out the best way to wrangle with taco trucks and the negative impacts that they have on brick-and-mortar restaurants, and in the end they left things exactly the same way they were when they first began.
Initially approached by mobile food operators asking to have more time in given areas, the matter quickly caught fire with residents who swear by the food served and restaurateurs that claim that they’re unfairly cutting in on their business without offering anything to the city in the way of taxes.
But taco truck owners in Lathrop didn’t necessarily get a raw deal.
When compared with other neighboring communities, Lathrop’s ordinance is relatively lenient – giving vendors up the three hours in commercial zones compared to the 10 minutes they’re granted in Manteca and Ripon. They can park in industrial zones for up to 23 hours.
Even after the decision was rendered, regular meeting attendee Georgianna Reichelt would regularly defend the truck owners and continue to swear by the tacos that they serve.