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How to turn Manteca’s notorious Silly Putty political will into rock solid results
silly putty
When it comes to political will in Manteca, Silly Putty says it all.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Whoever uttered those 10 words must have had the City of Manteca in mind.

Here we are 20 years after the City of Manteca’s first big public amenity campaign was launched. A citizens committee was formed. Consultants were hired. Phone polls were conducted. The city staff rolled up their sleeves. And the City Council promised the moon and the stars.

Manteca was going to have a $32 million state-of-the-art library. Growth would pay its share and the rest of the tab would be picked up with a grant from Sacramento from a statewide library bond measure.

That library looks mighty nice, doesn’t it?

So does the $80 million aquatics center/community center/sports complex floated three years ago. There was a lot of excitement. A citizens committee was formed. Consultants were hired. Phone polls were conducted. The city staff rolled up their sleeves. And the City Council promised the moon and the stars.

Growth would pay its share and the rest of the tab would be picked up from grants or a benefactor.

We know the response this observation will trigger.

The city never has charged enough in taxes. Growth has never paid its way. Something always comes up to derail the plan — a recession, sloppy bookkeeping, lack of political will; take your pick.

This is not kicking the city when they are down. Consider it an intervention.

Councilman Gary Singh is right. Sewer, water, and solid waste fees need to reflect reality. Additional charges to maintain current service levels for things such as police and fire protection need to be put in place now and not six months from now. New annexations need to have property tax splits with the county to reflect the service burden the city is assuming. Deals like Great Wolf shouldn’t be squandered subsidizing even more new homes because policy makers have the political will that the manufacturers of Silly Putty would be envious of.

Assuming they do all of those things finally instead of simply having a governance epiphany, proclaiming they see the light,  and then when the uproar dies down go back to the same-old song and dance just how does Manteca get all of the “amenities” that people say they want or need without taxing residents from here to eternity?

The answer is simple. They need to stop operating in a vacuum.

The City of Manteca doesn’t need its own library edifice. They do not need their own aquatics center. The city doesn’t need its own performing arts center. Manteca doesn’t need its own community center.

Rest assured they will say that is what “towns” on the verge of being a “city” have.

There are only three problems with using that as the city’s guiding light when it comes to amenities.

*The city has dug itself a big hole in terms of not deciding if such things were needed let’s say 10 to 20 years ago and not putting the fees in place. In the past 20 years there have been more than 8,000 homes built. That is 8,000 homes the city not only can’t level fees on for various amenities but that have also become part of “existing” residents that he city somehow has to figure a way to come up with money to cover their legal share of whatever is built whether it is a library or an aquatics center.

*The world is changing. If being in a pandemic for almost 13 months has taught us anything it’s that we can do things differently and that community needs aren’t the same as they were when planners and their kissing cousins consultants were newly minted with college degrees.

*The third is the most obvious. The city has at least four libraries, three “community” swimming pools, and two dozen community and sports centers. They are mostly called schools although there are a few city facilities.

Cue up the Greek Chorus and return fire with rebuttals.


The city “deserves” to have its own facilities.

No, the community deserves to have its investments maximized and not massage the egos of those that want a city fiefdom.


We tried to work with the schools district but it’s too hard to work out schedules for use and figure how to split costs.

Try harder. Better yet, come clean about how less muscular city recreation programs would be without the use of school facilities.


There are too many conflicting use.

First, see the previous question and answer. Then explain where the “overlap” areas are in swimming programs between the city and school and how unavailable community gyms are to the city on weekends.


Joint libraries would never work.

If the City of Stockton is smart enough to figure how to work with Manteca Unified to make such a joint use library work at Weston Ranch High why can’t the City of Manteca do the same at three high schools placed strategically to serve the community?


Manteca needs its own performing arts center.

How about Manteca launching a community theater program through