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‘Where’s the study?’ City Hall has gotten so bad they paid for a downtown study & forget about it
As Clara Peller of the 1980s Wendy’s “where’s the beef?” commercial might ask of the City of Manteca, “where’s the study?”

Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu with his endless history lessons pointing to municipal missteps perceived and otherwise through the decades certainly buys into the aforementioned 11 words.

Perhaps he might want to focus on another 15 words.

Those that can’t remember what they did since getting elected look like the Keystone Cops.

A few weeks ago the mayor led the charge at the last minute to stop the North Main Street traffic flow improvement project from going forward.

The reason? Staff suggested they might want to hire yet another consultant to come up with a downtown plan that would likely tell them keeping one of Manteca’s only three north-south arterials— and the most congested by far — with a two-lane tourniquet through downtown will lead to the central district channeling Pleasanton or take us back to the days of Leave It to Beaver.

Thus the City Council’s infamous “pause” on deciding the fate of the North Main Street project until June while staff addresses its “pained” feelings to see if they can kill the project three consecutive councils have made a top priority to improve traffic flow on a critical arterial.

This, of course, is all about saving downtown. Sorry folks, but the real people saving downtown are the banks, the ethnic businesses, the furniture stores, the handful of thriving specialty shops and an investor that is spending a small fortune turning the original El Rey Theater into the grandest event center in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

But let’s give the devil his due. The “virgin eyes” at city hall — there’s not many eyes older than 11 months now that the leadership purge has been completed — are saying let’s hire a consultant who can tell us what we really should do with downtown and they’ll show you how wrong it is to place critical traffic flow on North Main Street ahead of jamming up motorists day in and day out.

Apparently staff believes if you keep frustrating drivers for 20 plus years they will finally crack and pull over and buy a latte at the non-existent coffee shops.

But there are two bigger questions here that should worry Manteca residents. The first is city hall’s growing short-term memory loss. The other is the unhealthy addiction staff has with consultants when it comes to downtown.

Not that the new wave of know-it-alls at city hall really care, but somebody might want to look up the phantom downtown fix-it plan that the city encumbered taxpayers for before the pandemic hit.

The had a downtown specialty consultant fly in from the South, spend a few days poking around downtown, and analyzing what needed to be done to get what we have moving forward.

She then returned for a community outreach meeting conducted at the transit center in the pre-mask days of 2019.

The consultant talked about how the city had a lot of good things in place but just needed to take it to the next level with some tweaking.

There was a strong smattering of people at the meeting including city brass, several council members, downtown merchants, and others in the community.

Of course, the staff did not like what they heard. More than a few people harped on the homeless problem as being the biggest roadblock to downtown Manteca moving forward. At least two business people who rely strongly on a female clientele shared how many women customers expressed how uneasy and even unsafe they felt coming downtown even in broad daylight due to the homeless hanging out.

So what does this have to do with staff’s short-term memory loss and their unhealthy crack-like addiction to downtown consultants?

To paraphrase the late Clara Peller of Wendy’s fame, “Where’s the study?”

The city paid for a downtown study and if they actually did receive it, not a single copy was made public or even distributed to a council member.

You heard that right. Not only has this city since the 1960s invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into five or seven downtown plans fashioned by carpetbagger consultants, but they actually paid for a plan they either didn’t get or completely ignored without sharing it with the public that bankrolled it.

So why should this council think it is OK to spend who knows how much more money on a downtown consultant when two years ago they hired one and the city essentially ignored them?

Perhaps if they get enough downtown consultant plans they can shred them and mix them with asphalt and fill in the cracks in Powers Tract and those in Shasta Park neighborhood streets.

The mirage that dances in the minds of those that believe Manteca has a horrible downtown — it does not — clouds their judgment just like someone strung out on meth.

What downtown needs is a lot of fine-tuning and not a grandiose plan to purge banks, furniture stores, and successful ethnic businesses.

And the way the mayor thought that could be done two years ago was pushing the consultants aside for a moment and having a two-person council subcommittee first work on issues, rolling out obvious programs, and build consensus before creating another big payday for a consultant.

The mayor, however, was removed by his fellow council members from the committee he created for two reasons.

One, his fellow committee member who was Debby Moorhead at the time, was irked that he presented a multiple point plan for downtown to the council that she had neither input on or saw beforehand. The other reason was at least six key downtown merchants refused to work with the committee with Cantu on it as they contended he wasn’t interested in their input and ideas but just to push his preconceived ideas about downtown.

The committee, that is advancing what seem to be workable solutions to move downtown forward, now consists of council members Gary Singh and Jose Nuño.

There is little doubt Cantu has a deep love for downtown and wants what is best for Manteca.

But progress isn’t made by zipping from one thing to another or holding everything hostage to downtown — including correcting a significant traffic flow issue.


 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