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The $500,000 question Mantecans4Change can ask to see if the City Council is bluffing
homeless shelter
The emergency shelter at 555 Industrial Park Drive costs the city $777,618 a year to operate.

Manteca, it appears, is about to play chess.

The end game is what the city does about the homeless.

The pawns, depending upon your point of view, are the homeless or the sheltered.

The bottom line is driven by two issues: Quality of life concerns and tax dollars.

We all have a stake in the outcome.

However, there are only two players that count right now that are pondering their next move — the Manteca City Council as well as Mantecans4Change.

If Mantecans4Changes make the right moves, the Manteca City Council may find out the hard way how devastating and effective a grassroots movement can be.

At the same time if the council takes the doorman’s advice from Alice in Wonderland and keep their heads they can prevent the equivalent of a political civil war from breaking out.

Manteca4Change made the first move.

They want voters to weigh in on whether Manteca should allow a homeless navigation center/shelter in Manteca.

It doesn’t matter whether it is legal in California for cities to outlaw homeless navigation centers that by their very nature have a shelter component although it is not a drop-in shelter per se.

Nor does the measure ever have to qualify for the ballot.

All they need to do is circulate it and they change the narrative.

That doesn’t mean just talking the talk. It means actually collecting signatures in high profile locations around town for an extended period of time.

And to be honest, just the threat alone won’t change the dial. Past efforts by Mantecans4Change have proven that.

But if they spark a community-based dialogue that goes beyond social media, they can force the issue.

It’s happened before in Manteca,

Back in the 1980s the city was growing at double digits for several years. Manteca elected officials imposed the first ever growth cap in the Central Valley to avoid the public’s wrath.

Whether the 3.9 percent cap based on sewer allocations that can be issued in a given year that can also roll over ended up being a ruse that the council passed and adopted, it did derail a petition campaign for a ballot measure that was going to cap growth at a hard-fast 2 percent annually.

 The fact Mantecans4Change are only challenging council members that will be in office or might still be in office when 2023 rolls around to sign a petition calling for the ballot measure gives an insight to their game plan.

They want elected leaders who will face voters over the next 30 months to basically go on record as to whether they support the people of Manteca having a say on the issue.

And the way they drive that point home with voters is tax dollars.

We know now it will cost a minimum of $777,618 a year to run a homeless navigation center once it is built.

That’s the dollar amount to run the emergency homeless shelter in a tent for a year at 555 Industrial Park Drive with less robust resource services.

The likelihood a 50-bed shelter as part of a resource center along with “tiny homes” for transitional housing will bring the annual operating cost closer to $1 million is strong.

Even though city leaders have vowed to search for every available cent of state and federal homeless funds they can secure to avoid tapping into the general fund, we also know how dicey that can be.

As things stand now $663,862 will come from the city’s general fund. The rest Is primarily from federal pass through funds.

The city already has spent $953,361 since December 2019 on the emergency shelter. Roughly a third or $307,872 came from the city’s general fund. The rest was from pass-through funds or COVID money.

Let’s not forget there is rampant inflation, the prospect of a recession on the horizon, and the free money days may be on the decline in DC.

As for Sacramento, they’re riding high but little is trickling down to city’s Manteca’s size when it comes to homeless funding

And when we return to the bust side of California’s boom-bust taxing based on capital gain taxes even that trickle will evaporate,

The best case scenario going forward is Manteca’s general fund is out $663,862 a year.

The next move the Mantecans4Change should make is asking  what $660,000 to $1 million will do to the city’s $68.5 million general fund in terms of opportunity cost.

That is roughly $1 out of every $70 being spent on day-to-day services going to homeless services.

To put into into something more specific, $1 million a year comes close to covering the salaries, benefits, retirement, and workmen’s compensation for four entry level police officers.

Or it could overlay a significant of streets in Manteca.

To counter such a strategy, elected officials need to step up their game.

They need to exploit the opposition’s weakness as well.

First of all, they need to commit  — and not simply saying “perhaps” at a mid-year budget review — to actually hire three more police officers with Measure M funds as soon as possible.

One of the rationales can be the extra manpower can help somewhat to pressure the homeless to utilize beds now available at the emergency shelter to cut further into illegal encampments just as the city has led people to believe they would do with a resource center.

The 9th District Court of Appeals didn’t differentiate between a big tent or brick and mortar shelter.
In doing so, they can then throw down the gauntlet: What proposal do the Mantecans4Change have to legally address homeless issues where it just doesn’t revert to an expensive legal game of whack-a-mole?

Yes, things are better than they were two years ago in any aspects.

But Mantecans4Change would be right to feed on the distrust people might harbor of whether the City of Manteca will actually follow through with a stepped up game to get the homeless off the streets  and if they don’t go to a resource center to throw the full force of the law at them.

The real question Mantecans4Change should ask if they take three minutes at podium under citizens comments at tonight’s City Council meeting is pretty basic.

Now that the city expects $500,000 more in undistributed general fund reserves in next year’s budget starting July 1, why isn’t the council hiring two more police officers now instead of later with the expressed purpose of addressing homeless related crimes among other issues?


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at