State of the City addresses traditionally provide a snapshot of a city at the time the talk is given going back a year and examining initiatives that are currently in the works.
It is akin to a doctor giving you the results of a physical and then telling you what is ahead if your health trends continue. Mayor Ben Cantu went one step further Tuesday morning in his inaugural State of the City address during the Manteca Chamber of Commerce breakfast gathering at the Manteca Transit Center. He decided to give his advice, prescription, regimen — whatever term you want to use — for the patient to give serious thought to pursuing in order to do what he believes the patient needs to do to achieve improved health. Cantu unfortunately decided not to share any current vital signs and was extremely light regarding notations about improvements.
Hindsight is 20-20, but Cantu could have accomplished his goal of pushing his vision had he delivered his speech a bit differently.
Here’s one possible way he could have done that:
“Good morning. We are all gathered her today because we love Manteca and want to make it a better place to live, raise a family, work and enjoy life. For that we need to step it up a notch as a community to focus more sharply on our future and to work even more cohesively as a team whether we are a resident, a businessperson, public servant, or elected official. We need to be honest with ourselves. There are hard decisions that must be made and much of what we want or need will cost significantly more money than the city is currently collecting.
“But before we talk about the future, let’s talk about where we are at.
“Yes, we have issues with streets. Most of us believe we need more police officers. There are long-term wants and desires such as improved library services and more recreational facilities. And we have a long list of issues ranging from deferred sidewalk maintenance to code enforcement. In short, we are just like virtually every other city in California.
“That said there is a lot that sets Manteca apart from other cities.
“Work is underway as we speak on the largest hotel the Central Valley has ever seen, the biggest private sector investment in Manteca’s 101-year history that when it opens will provide 500 jobs — half of them full-time — and what will in its initial full-year of projected revenue will increase taxes for the critical city fund that provides day-to-day municipal services by 5 percent or over $2.1 million. And in 25 years in terms of constant dollars the city will see more than $4 million in tax revenue on an annual basis. I’m talking about the end result of a diligent 10-year effort by the city to go after an employer by providing a truly shovel ready site while negotiating a deal to snare the much coveted firm by splitting taxes Manteca would not otherwise generate if they did not locate here — room taxes. The beauty of it is Manteca residents don’t have to book a room there to pay the tax unless they want to but all Mantecans will benefit from what municipal services that $2.1 million will fund each year not to mention those 500 people who will have paychecks and the businesses where they spend their money at.
“Yes, ladies and gentleman, I am talking about the 500-room Great Wolf indoor waterpark resort that will open in mid-2020.
“Speaking of 2020 that is the year 100 percent of Costco’s sales tax will flow into the general fund. That’s an increase of more than $400,000 a year. More than a decade ago Costco was going to bypass Manteca and build another store in the Modesto area after determining the Manteca market wasn’t large enough. Based on membership data Manteca residents were spending $60 million a year in taxable sales at the Costco stores in Tracy and Modesto paying for city services in those two cities.
“Manteca aggressively went after Costco but we did not give away the store. Costco wanted a sales tax split forever. They finally agreed to a split until they recouped their $3.7 million investment in building a Manteca store. It took 11 years to settle the tab. Meanwhile Manteca benefitted by more than $4.2 million in sales tax over those years and residents no longer had to drive out of town to shop at Costco.
“We’ve landed a lot of jobs in the past year — Medline, Penske operating the Northern California distribution for Lowe’s and 5.11 Tactical to name a few. More employees are on the way as business park developers are seeing the value in Manteca that we have worked hard to develop over the years to have infrastructure capacity such as water and wastewater treatment in place.
“Speaking of wastewater within the next nine months the food waste to fuel facility will be up and running at the treatment plant. It is the first of its kind in California. In one fell swoop we will reduce air pollution from both the treatment process and from our fleet of two dozen solid waste trucks and at the same time we will not be burying food waste.
“I have every confidence our staff will come up with an innovative long-term solution for our current blue cart dilemma as well.
“As for our streets, there is good news even though potholes and rough pavement continues to be a challenge. The Atherton Drive gap between Union Road and Airport Way is almost ready to open. And when it does not only will it relieve traffic on Woodward Avenue from frustrated commuters trying to bypass the Bypass, but it will open up more freeway frontage land for commercial development. In the coming months we will see a 130,000-square foot Living Spaces furniture showroom-warehouse break ground.
“Contracts have finally been awarded and work will start in the coming months to upgrade the Yosemite Avenue corridor between Main Street and Cottage Avenue, Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive and on California’s first diverging diamond interchange going in place at Union Road and the 120 Bypass.
“To make sure our progress is not squandered we need to make some critical decisions as a community that will require an honest debate that includes the cost and impacts.
“As your mayor, I am going to ask my fellow council members to consider developing three major policies so as Manteca grows we can direct it in the manner that the community wants.
“The first will be to decide whether we should grow farther to the east than Austin Road and as far north as French Camp Road and possibly beyond. I have my thoughts but first as a community we must decide if that’s what we want. And if we do want to grow in those directions we need to fashion a specific plan that spells out exactly where major street corridors as well as infrastructure trunk lines will go.
“The second is to not simply come up with an action plan for downtown that actually works but for the entire Manteca central district. There are great opportunities and challenges beyond what we have been struggling with in the downtown core for the last 50 years. ACE passenger service to Sacramento and San Jose will come to downtown by 2023. Manteca High is undertaking a major remake that will orientate it toward Moffat Boulevard opening the doors for other possibilities.
“The third is to develop an action plan for what we want and need not just as a community of 81,450 people but as a teeming city of 120,000 that we will likely be by 2040. That means everything — civic structures such as city hall and police, recreational and cultural amenities, and other community enhancements. From day one we need to keep in mind there is a bill for our wants and needs and that we must make sure that we don’t simply build things such as a new library but to find ways that will deliver better services instead of defining it as square footage. That said priorities need to be set and the framework of how it will be funded out in place.
“In short we need to work together to develop a vision for Manteca’s future and to sharpen our commitment to whatever we agree on as a team remembering the somewhat corny truism that there is no ‘I’ in the word ‘team’.
“In closing, let’s not forget the strides Manteca is making while we deal with pressing issues. This community that started out as a stop for trains to pick up milk cans is doing pretty good these days and with teamwork plus focused planning on the future we will do even better as the years unfold.”
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.