How’s this for irony.
The same elected leaders Tuesday night that appointed a 9-member Millennial Advisory Committee so Manteca can stay up with changing social and economic trends a week early instructed municipal staff to help them craft a dress code for the Manteca City Council.
Perhaps next week they’ll suggest the formation of a citizens committee to advise them on a dozen or so statutes of famous dead people they’d like to place around Manteca in a bid to bring about harmony, peace, and understanding in the public square.
The idea for the dress code was advanced by Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu. He might have been longing for the 1980s when the City Council issued themselves bright red blazers complete with the pre-neutered City of Manteca seal where the church still had the steeple and cross intact. The likes of Mayor Trena Kelly as well as council members Bill Perry and Jack Snyder wore them to official city events where they were often mistaken as being Red Carpet Real Estate agents.
Given the Manteca City Council has never had a dress code before, we can only speculate the fashion faux pas that triggered the need to implement one now when we have a pandemic, an economy that has taken a sucker punch because of COVID-19, the fact the homeless have established a beachhead downtown, and in a time when red light running is still treated as a Manteca birth right.
Not being sexist, it is also odd that the council decided a dress code was essential for the future of the city when the council’s only woman — as well as only one of five ever to serve on the council in Manteca’s 102-year history — is sidelined by needed surgery.
I’m not saying men have no fashion sense although a prosecutor could present me as Exhibit A. It is, though, a tad peculiar for four men to decide the city needs to have a dress code in the Age of Millennials without at least having the only woman on the council give her input before investing staff time in the matter.
Debby Moorhead, by choice, prefers to be addressed as “councilwoman” instead of “councilperson.”
But if the council is really trying to get in tune with the ground rules of millennials shouldn’t they clean up their own language first?
Having the city clerk call out “councilman” before each member’s name before taking a roll call vote seems a bit archaic and counter-millennial.
I digress but these are things a millennial orientated council might be pondering instead of a dress code.
But since the council brought it up, let’s look at where this can go.
Perhaps the council will decide when and how it is appropriate for elected Manteca leaders to wear white after Labor Day. They could delve into when it is OK for a council member to wear shorts to a meeting.
That “trend” was started by former Councilman Mike Morowit who astutely noted that 100-degree days in Manteca aren’t suited for suits or a shirt and tie for that matter. Even though Morowit more than once wore shorts that were as well kept as his beard, he also arguably at times was one of the more dapper dressed council members in recent years.
They council could require formal business attire, business casual, or California causal and anything in between.
To make sure Manteca makes the “right impression” they might ban cowboy boots as the U.S. Senate tried to do one time when the duly elected former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell wore them into the Senate chambers.
What if the council dress code bans flip flops? What message would that send to a brass techie creating one of those start-up firms Manteca has been coveting since before the invention of the smartphone especially if the millennial behind it wears flip flops himself and a hoodie all the time? Will the envisioned dress code send subliminal message to the next Mark Zuckerberg that they wouldn’t fit in with Manteca’s culture as dictated by the City Council’s own dress code?
Then there is the question if native ethnic formal dress is preferred by a present or future council member. Will that be banned as well?
While the devil may be in the details, it is a waste of time to devote energy to a dress code unless it is enforced and there are consequences for not following it.
With that in mind, who will monitor the council for how they are dressed when they enter the august chambers of the city hall complex Moorhead — who clearly has a higher standard of taste when it comes to architecture — once described as a 1970s era Taco Bell on steroids?
That chore may fall to the police chief who is still “acting” after the city put Police Chief Jodie Estarziau on ice eight months ago with full pay.
In the spirit of the late Joan Rivers, Manteca could pride itself on having the real fashion police.
Acting Police Chief Mike Aguilar may also find himself armed with a ruler especially if the council goes with 1970s era dress codes that routinely in business and school settings addressed whether hair on males should be allowed to touch a shirt collar.
After all, if how a fellow council member dresses is the business of the rest of the council then certainly the length of their hair has to come into play. They might event want to touch on personal hygiene habits while they are hell-bent on adding to a slew of regulations on the books that seemingly are only enforced when complaints are received or the city wants to play pile on with another offense.
Once a council member is found in violation of the “Official Dress Code of the Five Rulers of Manteca” are they barred from participating in meetings effectively disenfranchising those who elected them?
The bottom line of the talk about implementing a dress code harkens back to the days when President Richard Nixon for a brief time had military assigned for security at the White House dressed as if they were palace guards for European monarchy.
Why do we need a “certain look” to send a message to the world that council members are essentially council members?
They should reflect the people they represent. Most people — including council members — dress appropriately for the occasion given this is California and if they don’t, no one starts stoning them.
If there were something borderline risqué such as a council member showing up at a meeting without a shirt on or wearing pajamas as was all the rage just a few years back when some people ventured into public, a dress code might make sense.
That said the fact Cantu requested a dress code for the council that the three others present last week saw fit not to disagree with the notion, one must wonder what has been worn by the current council or their predecessors that prompts the council to do a very un-millennial thing such as pursue a dress code.
Who knows, it might be what they wear behind closed doors in executive sessions or when they are on Zoom meetings regarding the pandemic emergency that Gov. Newson is allowing cities to prevent the public from seeing.
If that is the case, inquiring minds want to know — which council members Zoomed in a robe with face stubble?