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Citys downtown investment was an appeasement
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

Your editorial regarding the unification of downtown into a single voice highlighted once again the adversity of Downtown Manteca, and also raised a number of questions, in particular my motives for undertaking such an arduous task. During the second downtown organizational meeting I was asked the same question, why am I undertaking the task if I do not own property or a business in downtown.

While I could have included my political aspirations with my response, that would not have been the reason; I have purposely avoided such a connection because that is not the objective for having taken on the task of bringing together deep-seated varying opinions and perspectives on the matter of downtown. As I noted at the meeting, the true reason is that this is my community, downtown is under distress, city hall is ignoring the problems, and no one is stepping up to help. In this regard, I have the history and the technical knowledge and expertise in those areas needed to bring the property and business owners together and to facilitate a step-by-step and focused approach to developing a downtown business association, the single voice that city hall has demanded.

I and the community have a lot riding on this. If I succeed, downtown and, more importantly, the community will reap the benefits. If I fail, then nothing will change, and sadly, downtown will remain suspended in time while the rest of the community moves on. In either case, I will continue to make my presence known, but I will be able to note that I at least stepped up to help.

The matter of downtown and its depressed state is not due to the current economy, nor should it be compared to the new major commercial centers in the community; except of course to highlight the fact that millions upon millions of community dollars have been invested in their development while Downtown Manteca has received no economic development assistance. At the next meeting I will ask the downtown property and business owners if they wish to settle for “OK”, or would they like to be competitive, including for municipal attention and investment. Current economic conditions aside, there is one reason why the Mission Ridge Center (an older commercial center) is a virtual ghost town, because it has now been pigeon-holed by city hall to the same level of economic development assistance that downtown receives, none.

Frankly, the money that city hall has spent over the decades (and in recent times) to improve the physical image and appeal of downtown amounts to unconnected appeasements, not “real” economic development efforts. The token handouts to downtown do not compare to the multi-million dollars invested in new development during the same time period. I also question the wisdom today of spending $6 million on a transit station in downtown for a train that may never come, for the city transit buses that are 95% unoccupied 95% of the time, for inter-state buses that do not stop in Manteca anymore, and commuters that leave their cars on their way out of town for the day.

As for bringing together the various property owners in order to finally repair the parking lot behind the 100 block of West Yosemite, a friendlier city hall might help.

Benjamin Cantu
June 27, 2011