Wigar Shah wants to know what this year's Lodi City Council candidates will do to bring more career opportunities to Lodi's young people.
Shah is a member of the South Asian Cultural Club, one of organizations that sponsored Tuesday evening's candidate forum held specifically for Eastside residents.
It was also sponsored by the Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, MOLE and both the Hispanic and Pakistani Local Organizing Committees. Members of each group took turns asking questions.
Four of the five Lodi City Council candidates attended the two-hour forum, as did invited Lodi Unified School District candidates. There are two vacant council seats come November.
There were roughly 150 audience members at the Boys and Girls Club, and extra chairs had to be set up. Most cultural backgrounds, ages and genders were represented.
It was the fourth public forum this campaign season. Questions included hot button issues such as affordable housing, gangs and school programs.
When it comes to creating jobs, candidate JoAnne Mounce said the city must fill the economic development director position that is currently vacant to draw more opportunities here.
"(To create) not only good jobs for the Westside, but great jobs for the Eastside."
Both candidates Dixon Flynn and Bob Johnson agreed that the planning begins with finishing the city's General Plan, a long-term design document.
Some residents were concerned with the large number of liquor licenses held on the Eastside.
Lodi City Council/Measure R
Tuesday: Residents of Casa de Lodi mobile home park will hold a forum at 7 p.m.
The American Association of University Women is not holding a forum as in years past.
Galt City Council/Galt High and Elementary school
Oct. 21: Businesses United for Good Government will host a forum for Galt City Council, Galt high and Galt elementary school board candidates from 6 to 9 p.m. at Chabolla Community Center, 630 Chabolla Ave. The organization is the political action committee for the Galt District Chamber of Commerce.
Oct. 21: The League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union, and the Commission on the Status of Women will sponsor a forum on Measure Q, Stockton's urban development line measure, and for candidates in the 17th Assembly District at the University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., in Callison Hall, (behind George Wilson Hall) at 7 p.m.
Lodi Unified School District
Oct. 25: The Lodi Council PTA will host a school board candidates forum for LUSD candidates at 7 p.m. in Board Room C of the James Areida Education Support Center, 1305 E. Vine St.
Lockeford Community Services District
Oct. 28: The Lockeford Municipal Advisory Council will host a candidates forum for Lockeford Community Services District candidates at 7 p.m. at the Mokelumne fire station, 13157 E. Brandt Road.
Candidate Steve Jarrett said, if elected, he would lobby the state not to issue any more licenses, while Johnson urged residents to talk to police about the worst offenders.
But Irene Zager, of the Eastside Local Organizing Committee, said the Eastside has lost confidence in the Police Department and response times have slowed. Flynn said he was disappointed to hear this and contended that the department is "one of the finest."
When it comes to gangs, Mounce said the participants need to keep busy with their families not peer groups, while Jarrett said the "only deterrent to gang problems" is police presence.
Johnson feels kids that are active in youth sports are too tired to join a gang.
Shah's group also wanted to know why the city's skatepark couldn't have been built on the Eastside.
While most of the candidates agreed it was due to a lack of open space, Flynn pointed to the undeveloped Pixley Park and hinted it may be a place for a new skatepark.
All candidates, at one point, urged the constituents to attend public meetings to make their voices heard. Mounce went a step further and offered, if not elected, to take residents there herself.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, LUSD candidates were pressed on issues pertaining to the Eastside residents, including student safety and preserving students' multiculturalism in the classroom.
The candidates were puzzled when one presenter cited claims from parents of minority students that children often meet with verbal, physical and sexual abuse when walking home from Lodi Middle and High schools.
"I wasn't aware of the problem," said James Ganzer, suggesting parents bring any concerns involving student safety to the attention of the LUSD board in a public comment session. Ganzer, currently a school board member, is running for re-election in November.
Candidate Calvin Young said student safety should be a collaborative effort between parents and the district. The board could work with the Police Department to step up patrols and look into adding senior volunteers to monitor kids walking home from school, he said.
"If they don't feel safe, they're not going to want to go to school … and they're not going to learn," said candidate Peter Johnson, who suggested police patrols could organize their beats around school schedules.
One member of the Pakistani community, Mahboob Shah, asked what candidates would do to see that students did not lose their native tongue of Urdu while studying an English-based curriculum.
Candidate Harvey Bills Sr. said the district could look into hiring more multi-lingual staff and integrating diversity better into the curriculum, but added that he thought district officials were currently handling the situation well.
Incumbent Bob Weaver, who represents the north Stockton area, said schools do not have the resources to integrate every language into the core curriculum, and suggested more after school programs and multi-cultural clubs be started at the interest of the community.
A sixth candidate, David Schindler, did not attend.
The organizing groups held a similar forum in 2002 at the Boys and Girls Club, the first year one was held specifically for Eastside residents. More than 150 attended, according to News-Sentinel archives.
Like this year's, the topics then related to crime, alley lighting and affordable housing.
News-Sentinel staff writer Sara Cardine contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Jennifer Pearson Bonnett at email@example.com.