Manteca needs a lot of things.
It needs better streets.
It needs a homeless navigation center.
It needs a secure police department.
It needs more space at city hall.
What it doesn’t need is a wishy washy City Council.
It doesn’t need another consultant study for something the council hasn’t bought into.
It doesn’t need twice a month lectures recapping city hall past sins, perceived and otherwise, for the past 30 years.
It needs a little less talk and a lot more action.
It is why Councilman Charlie Halford is right.
The council needs to convert the broad, lofty sounding goals that they adopt each year that will require significant tax dollars to achieve and provide more precise marching orders for what they — as elected officials — want staff to work toward with what limited time and resources are at their disposal.
On Tuesday, Halford was able to gain council consensus for staff to place on a future agenda sometime within the next 2½ months whether a new police station or subsidized affordable housing should eventually be built on the front half of the 8 acres along South Main Street the city is purchasing for $1.76 million.
This comes after nearly a five-year struggle to lock in a decision to build and site a homeless navigation center instead of doing what elected leaders have a nasty tendency to do — talk, spend money to hire consultants, talk, spend money to hire consultants, and then do nothing.
There was push back to Halford’s idea. Mayor Ben Cantu framed it as being somehow undermining efforts to move things forward.
Quite the contrary. Political will — that we are told every first and third Wednesday has been lacking for years among elected officials — only can happen if the majority of the council reach consensus and buy into oan objective and have their handprints all over it before consultants are brought into fashion the game pan to execute a goal.
Halford doesn’t believe the exercise will be by fiat. He made it clear such a decision regarding whether 682 South Main Street will have a homerless navigation and a police station can’t be made in a vacuum. He also doesn’t want it studied to death for a year.
Ten weeks should be enough time for the municipal staff without help of a hired gun to share what they believe the needs are and make a case why the council should or should not give them precise marching orders regarding a new police station as the most pressing government facilities need.
In another attempt to derail the council from dialing in a more precise course of action that likely will have greater buy in, the money card was played.
Manteca, Mayor Ben Cantu argued, doesn’t have the money to build a police station.
News flash. Manteca doesn’t have the money to build a homeless navigation center either.
That is why the city has staff. They have been given direction to secure funding.
With $20 million and counting in government facilities fees collected from growth, the city certainly has a large chunk of change to get the ball rolling. They could take part of the money in hand and borrow against the growth fee revenue stream. Unless someone has been asleep at the wheel for the last 30 years, growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon in Manteca.
Perhaps more disheartening, though, is the outright dismal of the concept that not only is a police station a more pressing priority than a Taj Mahal super city hall either built at the current location, by obliterating Library Park or on prime transit village land the city doesn’t own across from the transit center that a police station at 682 South Main won’t improve the community’s comfort level with the homeless navigation center.
Unless council members live in neighborhoods that are a stone’s throw away from homeless encampments and the daily antics of the more challenged homeless they shouldn’t be so dismissive of residents’ concerns.
The residents west of South Main Street will disagree but the South Main site is — as Halford and several other council members said — is likely the best possible site. That, however, doesn’t mean it is ideal.
So why not work to allay those concerns with a course of action that has the police station next door to the navigation center?
We have been told the way to best address homeless issues is combining law enforcement efforts with social services outreach. What better way than to wed the two in one location?
There are, of course, a number of solid reasons why the police station makes sense being built first ahead of city hall upgrades and on South Main Street.
The site is more central and has better access to major arterials. It has quick access to the freeway which is critical in deploying resources if train traffic shuts down grade crossings. These are all points made what the city considered the site for a police station 20 years ago.
And not wanting to sound dismissive, the odds are the community would place a secure and adequate police facility ahead of having modern offices with adequate space for other city hall staff.
A move to another site opens up 30,000 square feet of former police department space for other uses. That — along with remodeling — should be able to address whatever city hall space needs are on the 10 to 20 year horizon.
Yes, that is partial conjecture.
But here’s the rub.
Until the council commits to an exact direction it is all conjecture whether it is staff posturing, general plan adoptions, or consultant work.
And more important, the people of this city elected five council, members to come to a majority consensus of what major undertakings will be undertaken on behalf of the community. That council answers to the people every two years. Staff and consultants do not answer to the people. They answer to the council who should given them more precise marching orders.
For years the complaint has been councils have been wishy washy in their direction to staff.
The second a council member suggests as Halford has that the council stop talking and reach a consensus such a course of action somehow becomes bad government.
One thing that might help the council to be better armed to reach a consensus of whether the police station needs are so great they should be separate and happen ahead of a gleaming new city hall, is for the council to go on a little fact finding tour.
The week before the question of whether to build a police station on South Main Street comes before the council, they should all tour the city hall complex and police department.
They can determine what the bigger need is without having to rely on a consultant to tell them or a staff that instead of biting off what the city can chew seems at times to want to try to swallow everything at once with the end result of minimal progress.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org