It’s time for a lot more action and a lot less talk.
That should be the City of Manteca’s mantra for 2022 – and beyond.
And they can start at the City Council’s mid-year budget review and goal setting sessions.
Instead of hiring an outside consultant for the 10th or 11th time in the past 25 years to sit down with elected officials and the senior city management to do exercises so they can learn to play better together, the five people who were elected to represent the citizens of this community might want to recall why they ran in the first place.
The council — as a whole and certainly not as individuals — should never assume they somehow have the power and authority to run the city’s day-to-day business.
But they’d better have the moxie to put their foot down.
The goal setting process by its very nature is broad. However the expectations they create are not. Toss in the fact council members live on Earth and the senior management at times seem like they’re more attuned to the issues on Uranus and you have the ingredients for less than stellar results.
Keep in mind there is no reason to believe if the senior management team has clear and fairly concise goals handed to them by the council acting as a whole that they can’t deliver.
Solid examples of late — whether you agree with the outcome or not — were the new ordinances adopted for Airbnb style rentals and storefront marijuana sales.
For the past year or so senior management led by City Attorney David Nefouse — and now also by City Manager Toby Wells — has made a concerted effort to nail down the council’s intent and ultimately the direction they want the city to take on issues.
They make sure there is a consensus on the council to explore an issue, they bring back alternatives, and then they have the council explore them and fine tune what the majority wants before a final vote is taken.
It might seem to drag out the process over more council meetings but it avoids issues slipping into the black hole created by uncertainty and confusion over the intent of the council.
Keep this in mind as the city approaches its annual exercise in warm fuzziness better known as setting city goals that help shape the upcoming budget.
This is the time when hardcore specifics are a must when it comes to council directives. The reason is simple. Besides enlightening the staff exactly what is expected tempered with the ability to deliver, this is when the work starts on making things happen. That is it addresses the thing that makes city government work — money.
Goals that simply say “improve public safety” or “address the homeless issues” are fuzzy and safe. They give staff a lot of wiggle room and provide cover for elected officials.
But outside of that goal setting meeting, the five council members mingle in the real world telling constituents they are working on hiring more police officers above and beyond just getting by or that they are pursuing a specific course of action in regards to the homeless.
Yet that is not what the council — acting as a whole — directed staff to do.
They may have said “improve public safety” but there is a multitude of ways to do that without hiring more than the predictable number of officers needed to try and keep the status quo.
And if the city did indeed improve public safety somehow by upgrading woefully dated communications equipment it isn’t something the public can see.
An example of how the council could start moving the dial are sidewalks, curbs, and gutters or more precisely the deplorable shape of — and lack of said improvements — in critical areas in the city.
First there needs to be no more studies. There have been two consultant reports assessing sidewalk conditions in Manteca in the past decade. Three if you count the active transportation plan that addresses walking and bicycling around Manteca.
If between those three studies, input provided by elected leaders, and what senior management can see with their own eyes municipal leadership can’t come up with a game plan and execute it they are complete dolts.
The game plan, by the way, may require some political backbone by the council given it is clear the city’s existing resources can make only a small dent in the problem.
They could start with downtown — a highly trafficked area for pedestrians.
Before the council entertains spending $800,000 for yet another downtown study they need to address sidewalk related hazards in the central district. This runs the gamut from uneven sidewalks, missing chunks of curbs, and foot-size holes in the pavement next to crosswalks.
This might require the council to revisit the subject they ran from faster than a speeding bullet a year ago to require property owners to make repairs to sidewalks and curbs in the public right-of-way. It is not a foreign concept. Other cities including Ripon do it as it is arguably the only way to address safety issues in a timely manner.
This time around perhaps the council can suggest a policy where property owners can pay for the work upfront or, if they prefer, the city do the work and a no-interest lien is placed against the property that is paid to the city when the property is sold.
That addresses the issue of putting the financial squeeze on residents that aren’t able to afford it.
The city could also restore the streets maintenance crew that was more than halved in 2008 when the ranks of 15 workers were thinned during the recession.
The additional workers could make the repairs on walking surfaces directly under the city’s control such as bike paths and even the sidewalk and curb surrounding places like Library Park. They could also do other work that the city would then bill property owners.
While there are a lot of sidewalk issues that could keep additional streets crew busy for several years at least, there are tons of other street related needs that would address quality of life issues in Manteca. The list runs the gamut from more frequent re-striping of traffic lines before they fade into oblivion, pre-emotive tumbleweed and weed control, to more aggressive pothole and rise crack management.
One thing is for sure. Despite money being placed periodically in budgets since 2000 to address missing and unsafe sidewalks as well as three studies that demonstrate the need, Manteca has made almost no progress on making the city more walkable.
Clear precise direction that comes with the tools to accomplish goals which includes establishing a revenue source is needed from the council whether it is for safer sidewalks or more police officers dedicated to taming the streets of Manteca.
Things are not fine. Unless, that is, your idea of fine is annually establishing warm fuzzy goals, studying issues to death, and then doing nothing.
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 email@example.com