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Two cities skipping Voice One DC lobbying trip
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LATHROP – Scores of Lathrop residents recently launched an unsuccessful petition to stop Mayor Kristy Sayles and interim City Manager Cary Keaten from joining the annual One Voice lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., in April.

The citizens do not think now is the time to be spending taxpayers’ money for such a trip, especially when that decision was okayed by the City Council – with the exception of Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo – the same evening they voted to raise the residents’ monthly water and sewer rates up to twice the current amount in three years.

Had the council voted otherwise, Lathrop would not be the only one skipping, at least this year, the trip organized by the San Joaquin Council of Governments, a joint powers agency representing the county and the seven incorporated cities within San Joaquin. Ripon and Escalon are not sending any delegates this time, but not because of opposition from residents.

“We don’t have any major Tier One projects this year,” said Escalon Council member and former two-time mayor Gary Haskins.

The Tier One projects he is referring to are those that are considered top regional priorities culled from a targeted list of projects submitted by the COG group. This strategy is to strengthen the group’s One Voice to secure federal support from Congressional representatives and Washington, D.C. administrative staff by explaining to them the regional impacts of these projects. These have included transportation, water, economic development and habitat conservation. This year, for example, Lathrop will be asking $9.6 million toward Interstate 5 improvements at the Louise Avenue and Lathrop Road interchanges. Part of the funds used in the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad easterly overpass on Lathrop Road was directly attributed to the One Voice lobbying effort.

Escalon has sent at least one representative to the One Voice trip since its inception in 2001, Haskins said.

“A lot of times, when you go there as a group, you can bring a chunk of change back and talk not only to our representatives but representatives who are committee chairs and department heads,” added Haskins who has served as chairman of the One Voice delegation when he represented his city that year.

Ripon city clerk and Finance Director Lynnette Van Laar said that as far as she knows, they are not sending anybody to D.C. this year. She said the council has not discussed this item at any of their recent meetings. However, in the past, the city has sent City Manager Leon Compton, former mayor Don Moyer and Councilman Mike Restucia, she said.