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Why Manteca council was shortsighted by pulling plug on millennial advisory committee
PERSPECTIVE
millenial commiteee
San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti and Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu are shown in February 2022 with the since disbanded Manteca Millennial Advisory Committee.

It was — in the words of a “cutting edge generation” from decades ago — the  cat’s meow.

Manteca was taking a pro-active approach.

Or more precisely, the City of Manteca was.

Mayor Ben Cantu and Councilman Gary Singh convinced their colleagues to form a Millennial Advisory Committee.

If you have a bad case of Rip Van Winkle-it is, millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 26 to 41 today).

Such committees and commission were being formed across the United States in places like Houston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee among others.

They were all driven by one unifying goal — to snag millennials who are expected to fuel the economic engines of tomorrow.

Millennials, they assumed, had significantly different values that older generations running cities had no clue to understanding. So, what better way to keep a city vibrant and economically strong than to reach out to understand what millennials need and desire.

Once you’ve done that you put in motion policies and push for amenities that can lure millennials to your city and give you a leg up on other jurisdictions.

A funny thing happened in Manteca.

Once generational nuances are stripped away, the Millennials basically want what, the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and one must assume the New Silent Generation or Generation which are those born in 2000 or after want.

In a nutshell that is a safe community, with good roads, places to secure goods and dine, entertainment venues, reliable sewer-water and garbage service they can take for granted, housing they can afford, employment, good schools if they have kids, and recreational opportunities.

That is what you can read between the lines in what was the Manteca Millennial Advisory Committee’s final report in June before the City Council unceremoniously disbanded the group.

Yes, there are differences in values. But they are more along shifts in the way of delivering those basic wants and needs as having generational tastes that are not Caruso, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presly, or the Beatles but more along the lines  of Beyonce. Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga.

Take entertainment for example.

At the end of the day social media powered by smartphones at its core for most people is a way of delivering entertainment.

It’s part of a progression that is much kike those charts of the evolution of man that starts with homo-sapiens walking on all fours to walking briskly erect.

For entertainment for the masses, we’ve gone from books to radio to movies to TV to computers to smartphones as being the main avenue.

All of the forms exist today but the most prevalent are smartphones.

If Manteca’s leaders were honest with themselves, Manteca has done a great job attracting millennials who weren’t born and raised here. Its because when most of the millennials that power Silicon Valley want to start a family they can not do so in the pricey Bay Area.

An annual $150,000 paycheck goes a lot farther in Manteca than it does San Jose.

The city, of course, wants the higher paying jobs to be here.

Considering most pure tech jobs don’t directly  increase a city’s sales tax base, it is a questionable goal.

Take a step back a decade or so when Manteca wasn’t a player in the big distribution center game.

Manteca residents that were employed in such jobs had to drive to Tracy, Lathrop, and Stockton. Those three cities got to deal with not just the truck traffic those distribution centers generate but also the fact workforces are rarely close to even being 40 percent local. That means more traffic. More road wear. More congestion. More quality of life issues.

Manteca is hellbent on playing the “Me Too” catch up games. Witness the groundwork being laid for even more truck traffic from distribution centers along the Airport Way corridor.

The best economic strategy Manteca can pursue is making sure when the $600,000 to $1.2 million tract homes on the resale and new home markets are bought in the city by millennials with good paychecks that local shopping, service and entertainment entities get the bulk of those dollars. In turn, Manteca’s general fund coffers will benefit by more incoming cash.

All of that aide, Manteca’s leaders blew an opportunity to make the burden they are carrying easier by dropping the Millennial Advisory Committee.

The council decision rejected a plan to continue with the committee and to even possibly make it permanent.

In pulling the plug, the council noted not even one member had showed up to make a least a  case for its continuance. But they failed to read the report that makes it clear that millennials were facing the same problem as other age groups of commuters moving to Manteca since the 1970s — lack of time.

They made recommendations to expand the committee’s membership noting there were pressing time issues for 100 percent commitments. And, without realizing it, they outlined a framework where the city could communicate much more effectively with commuters while at the same time getting them more plugged into the community.

The committee had organized various low key community events just as plant exchanges. They also had a solid, although somewhat small, social media presence in the high hundreds.

They used their social media platform and events to communicate with others in a similar situation of raising a family in Manteca who also happened to be in their age group.

They used information gleaned from group sit downs with city and county elected officials to various municipal department heads to respond to questions from their peers about nuances regarding how the city operates.

More often than not, their engagements with others on social media were tutorials with how local government work. They used the knowledge they gained from interactions with local officials to educate others.

The bottom line is the council viewed the millennial committee — and any citizens committee they form whether it was on water conservation during the last drought or numerous requests to form a homeless committee — in the wrong light.
Such committees might be dismissed as time consuming regarding staff time but they can be more than worth it in terms of communicating how cities are required  under state law to work, municipal polices, and to secure potential buy-in for initiatives the city may undertake.

It is why pumping up the youth and senior commissions beyond their narrow focus of youth activities and senior center operations to a broad-based input on city issues from their area of focus which are youth and seniors, also makes sense.

Not only will the city find that specific groupings of people have different takes on what the city “exactly needs” but they can also create a network of committees that help people in the community understand that we have more in common when it comes to what we want and need from city government than what we think we do.

That can be a powerful tool for people we entrust to lead the city and shape Manteca’s future.

It beats hiring a consultant to take a pulse of the community. That’s because it puts in place a permanent sounding board where the city can monitor the pulse of the people they serve as well as work with to get solutions in place to improve the quality of life in Manteca.

 

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 dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com