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What will happen to downtown now?
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I read with great interest your article regarding the downtown revitalization project getting a thumbs down once again.  Several efforts have been made over the decades to move the downtown project forward without much success or cooperation.  Manteca had a program wherein the merchants paid into a fund for the improvement of parking areas. I do not know if that program vanished, but I do recall that the meager fee paid by the merchants caused great consternation amongst and between the merchants and city hall; so much so, that the fee was maintained short of the amount really needed to provide any appreciable improvements to Manteca’s downtown.  The merchants felt that it was the city’s responsibility to make improvements, and city hall felt that the merchants should contribute to the effort.  As a result, all efforts failed to develop and to implement a viable program for improvement of our downtown.  To the city’s credit, however, a few hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested over the decades in superficial improvements that fell considerably short of a comprehensive downtown revitalization program.  

It is, in my opinion, a sad state of affairs when over decades; both sides of the issue cannot come together for the benefit of each other and the community at large.  In that regard, I propose that the city council, the mayor in particular, deal with the problem directly and manage the development and implementation of a concerted effort to resuscitate our downtown district.  I further propose that such a program include a funding source from several revenue streams, and include a graduated contribution from the downtown merchants based on the economic resurgence of downtown.  Without a strong and willful manager at the helm and without a majority contribution of expertise and resources on the part of the city, it is simply unrealistic to expect either side to make any headway and to reverse the slow and steady demise of our downtown district.  The effort will need a participatory committee consisting of city staff and downtown merchants without the historic mindset of cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Funding resources to consider for such a comprehensive program include redirected redevelopment funds, CFD revenue bond financing, capital improvement budgeting, state and federal grants, general fund reserves, bonus bucks, business improvement district, property and business improvement district, lighting and landscape improvement district, maintenance district, and parking district, to name a few.  At this point, naysayers on both sides probably have their hackles up and are pacing about shouting “NO WAY”.  My response to them is simply that you have tried it the other way for decades without success, why not be part of a true team effort instead of the roadblock.  

Some will profess, why save downtown when we have plenty of commercial centers that service our needs.  It should not be just a matter of saving downtown, it should be done now in order to avoid the eventual creation of a blighted district in the community that consumes public safety services and siphons municipal revenue; and to bring to an end the relocation of downtown’s major businesses to the new commercial centers.  As history has proven many times over, as a community continues to grow outward the central core becomes less important but begins to consume more city resources until it is time to come back and clean up the results of neglect.  
Benjamin Cantu
Nov. 4, 2009