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Those wanting a better animal shelter can bark but will they have any real bite?
manteca animal shelter
The Manteca Animal Shelter on Wetmore Street at South Main Street.

The dog days of Manteca are here.

At least let’s hope they are.

On Tuesday a group of Manteca residents made it clear they expect more than just “getting by” out of their city government.

Their passion are animals.

More specifically dogs and cats that are abandoned, left to fend for themselves and that have been abused.

They told the City Council about their concerns. They shared ideas on how to make the city’s animal shelter better.

Elected leaders listened.

They directed the city staff to give them a full rundown of the animal shelter.

What happens next is probably predictable.

The staff will give the council options.

And after a lot of debate, the council will either order a study be done by staff or a consultant.

Or, if they are really serious, they will tell staff to include funding in the  next budget for who knows what.
Then in a year or so they will be told there is no money.

Sound familiar?

It’s the Manteca way.

Of course, everyone will blame the fact nothing getting done on the City Council.

Guess what, they’re wrong.

People act like the four council members and mayor are Wizards of Oz.

That said, they actually are.

Everyone forgets the Wizard of Oz  when all was said and done had no  magical powers. He “delivered” because people empowered themselves

That is what  the people who stepped forward Tuesday to say their peace have to understand.

If they want something done, this is just the beginning of their commitment. The very beginning.

Government works best and delivers best when it is in concert with the community.

While those speaking indeed have months — and in some cases decades — of good deeds on behalf of dogs and cats that aren’t they own, this is a different animal.

There are 1,001 things vying for the attention of those that dole out taxpayer dollars.

It takes ongoing firm and consistent political pressure.

It takes organizing more people who think like you do.

It takes perhaps establishing an advocacy group such as possibly a Friends of The Manteca Animal Shelter organization.

It takes public education.

It also takes making your case to other residents.

That’s how it used to work in Manteca.

That’s how we got the 120 Bypass two decades ahead of the schedule the state was working on.

That’s how we got solid youth groups that were — and hopefully still are — the gold standard.

We’re talking Give Every Child a  Chance that offers free tutoring, the Boys & Girls Club as well as the entire repertoire of youth sports, scouting, and and skill groups such as 4-H.

It takes people advocating for them and supporting them and not just saying a few words wishing things will happen.

There will always be a core group of people who do things.

Take the library and its volunteers for instance.

They were right in trying to pursue a better library for Manteca 20 years ago.

It went nowhere because they made their wishes known and then left the heavy lifting to the city which means the staff. They did faithfully attend meetings of  a committee appointed by the council to study the need. But that was it.

That’s why after $80,000 was spent on conceptual drawings and associated studies, the library project went nowhere.

That is not to fault the tireless efforts of  volunteers who continue to give their time to the library.

The same goes for service groups, youth sports organizations and every other effort that fell flat to do something “big” for Manteca’s over the years from pursuing a performing arts center to more recently pushing for an aquatic center.

But to accomplish big endeavors on a community level it is too important to leave it up to the bureaucracy and elected leaders.

It is why it took four false starts and 15 years for Manteca to go from the council saying we’d have a dog park “next year” to actually one being put in place.

Pressuring council members and those that want to be council members on social media and during campaigns is not enough.

You can’t build a community without a community.

And making a bunch of noise is just that — making a bunch of noise.

This is not being cynical. It is being realistic.

All of the high points in Manteca’s past 40 years have been the direct result of people getting the community to rally behind a goal and then not only pressuring city government through the council to get onboard but keeping the pressure on and doing the grunt  work needed to see an idea become reality.

In the case of the animal shelter concerns if the city comes up with a study and even adopts a “plan” to put it into motion there’s no guarantee it will happen.

If you doubt that ask Mayor Ben Cantu to share his Manteca History Lesson 101 lecture.

There’s no need to ask the city to form a committee.

Do it on your own.

Recruit likeminded people. Get community leaders onboard who don’t necessarily make the animal shelter their No. 1 passion but believe it is an important piece of the puzzle needed to make sure the fabric that ties this community together as a good place to life can get stronger.

Develop an action plan. Implement it.

Talk to groups that can help you. Del Webb has a lot of community groups that can be a great help. Talk to service clubs, trade groups, and even political and advocacy groups even if their expressed purpose isn’t to look after the welfare of dogs and cats.

Build a coalition that can effectively apply pressure to make sure things get done.

As it stands now, most efforts get lost in the sea of “pursing priorities” that city staff oversees.

You get the best government — and the best results — when people step up.

And that doesn’t mean just stepping up to the podium at a City Council meeting.

Making a one, or two time appeal at a council meeting for an aquatics center and posting your wishes a few times on Facebook is not a campaign to get something done.

The efforts for recreation facilities  including an aquatics center went nowhere not because the City Council didn’t get behind it  but because the community didn’t.

As such it communicated to the powers that be that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

The secret to making the animal shelter better is to do a full-court press.

That doesn’t include just talking to the council for two minutes at a meeting. It take organization, submitting a concrete list of solutions to identify problems  and how to go about securing them, organizing other support, and keeping the pressure on.

If not, those Tuesday may have had enough bark to get the council’s attention but unless there is real serious follow through and commitment of the community those words uttered while barely registered as  whimper a year from now.


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