The scorching days of Manteca have arrived.
At least we hope they are.
On Tuesday, a group of Manteca residents made it clear that they expect more than just “get by” with their municipal government.
Their passion is animals.
Specifically dogs and cats abandoned, left to their own devices and abused.
They took their concerns to the city council. They shared ideas on how to improve the town’s animal shelter.
The elect listened.
They asked city staff to give them a full overview of the animal shelter.
What happens next is probably predictable.
Staff will provide options to the Board.
And after much debate, the council either orders that a study be carried out by the staff or a consultant.
Or, if they’re really serious, they’ll tell the staff to include funds in the next budget for who knows what.
Then, in about a year, they’ll be told there’s no money.
This is the Manteca method.
Of course, everyone will blame the city council for doing nothing.
Guess what, they are wrong.
People act like the four council members and the mayor are wizards of Oz.
That said, they really are.
Everyone forgets the Wizard of Oz when all was said and done had no magic power. He “delivered” because people empowered themselves
This is what the people who showed up on Tuesday to say their peace must understand.
If they want something done, that’s just the beginning of their commitment. At the beginning.
Government works better and delivers better when it works together with the community.
While those speaking do indeed have months — and in some cases decades — of good deeds on behalf of dogs and cats that don’t belong to them, this is a different animal.
There are 1,001 things vying for the attention of those handing out taxpayers’ money.
We need firm and constant political pressure.
We need to organize more people who think like you.
Perhaps an advocacy group needs to be established, like perhaps a Friends of The Manteca Animal Shelter organization.
It takes public education.
You also need to promote your case to other residents.
That’s how it worked in Manteca.
That’s how we got 120 Bypass two decades ahead of the schedule the state was working on.
That’s how we got strong youth groups that were – and hopefully still are – the gold standard.
We’re talking about Give Every Child a Chance which offers free tutoring, the Boys & Girls Club as well as the full repertoire of youth sports, scouting and skills groups such as 4-H.
People need to stand up for them and support them and not just say a few words and wish things would happen.
There will always be a core of people doing things.
Take the library and its volunteers for example.
They were right to try to find a better library for Manteca 20 years ago.
It came to nothing as they made their wishes known and then left the heavy lifting to the city, ie the staff. They faithfully attended the meetings of a committee appointed by the council to study the need. But that was it.
That’s why, after spending $80,000 on concept drawings and associated studies, the library project came to nothing.
This is not to blame for the tireless efforts of the volunteers who continue to give of their time to the library.
The same goes for service groups, youth sports organizations, and all the other efforts that have failed to do anything “big” for Manteca over the years, from pursuing a center for the arts of show at more recently promoting an aquatic center.
But to achieve great efforts at the community level, it is too important to rely on bureaucracy and elected leaders.
That’s why it took four false starts and 15 years for Manteca to go from city council saying we’d have a dog park “next year” to putting one in place.
Lobbying council members and those who want to be council members on social media and during campaigns is not enough.
You cannot build a community without a community.
And making a lot of noise is just that – making a lot of noise.
It’s not being cynical. It’s being realistic.
All of the highlights of Manteca’s past 40 years have been a direct result of people leading the community to rally behind a goal, and then not just lobbying the city government through the council to he embarks on, but also to keep up the pressure and do the hard work necessary to see an idea become reality.
In the case of animal shelters, if the city comes up with a study and even adopts a “plan” to implement it, there is no guarantee that it will happen.
If you doubt that, ask Mayor Ben Cantu to share his Manteca History Lesson 101 lecture.
It is not necessary to ask the city to form a committee.
Do it yourself.
Recruit like-minded people. Engage community leaders who don’t necessarily make the animal shelter their #1 passion, but believe it’s an important piece of the puzzle needed to ensure that the fabric that holds this community together as a good place to live can grow stronger.
Develop an action plan. Enforce.
Talk to groups that can help you. Del Webb has lots of community groups that can be of great help. Speak to service clubs, business groups, and even political and advocacy groups, even if their stated purpose is not to care for the welfare of dogs and cats.
Build a coalition that can exert effective pressure to get things done.
As things stand, most efforts get lost in the sea of “prosecution priorities” that city staff oversee.
You get the best government – and the best results – when people get involved.
And that doesn’t just mean getting on the podium at a city council meeting.
Making a call once or twice at an aquatic center board meeting and posting your wishes a few times on Facebook is not a campaign to do something.
Efforts for recreational facilities, including an aquatic center, came to naught, not because the city council didn’t support it, but because the community didn’t.
As such, he communicated to the powers that be that it was not that bad.
The secret to improving the Animal Shelter is to do an all-terrain press.
This does not include simply talking to the board for two minutes at a meeting. It takes organization, submitting a concrete list of solutions to identify the problems and how to go about securing them, organizing other support and keeping the pressure on.
If not, these Tuesdays may have had enough bark to get the council’s attention, but unless there’s some real serious follow-up and community engagement, these words spoken as they were barely registering as moans in a year.
This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]