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Council Candidates Address Citizens
About 50 citizens attended the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce's "Meet and Greet the Candidates" forum Wednesday night, Sept. 15 at the Riverbank Community Center. For those that missed it, there is a second forum on tap tonight, Sept. 22.

A half-hour prior to the 7 p.m. start for the first forum, eight of the candidates were spaced around the center, making themselves available for questions, speaking with the attendees, and some distributing campaign literature. Candidate Israel Hernandez did not attend the event.

Area resident Mary Guardiola said she attended to be more informed.

"I'm coming to see who these candidates are and put a name with the face," she said.

Guardiola said she also wants to see the council back to five regular-attending members.

"They need to be able to make things work again," she said.

Jack Faria, a 20-plus year resident of the city, said the forum was a new thing for him and an important issue he wanted to see addressed by candidates was the city's sewer system.

"Hopefully these new candidates will do something before something drastic happens to the sewer lines," he noted.

"The mess with Jesse James White also needs to be dealt with," added Jack's wife, Joni Faria. "With his arrest, non-attendance, and what the Grand Jury said, he should be man enough to step down."

Riverbank Chamber of Commerce Director Jerry Van Houten facilitated the evening and between the presentations filled the time by quizzing the audience with Riverbank historical trivia. The eight council candidates attending had three- to five-minutes for their presentation and were asked that they not criticize the other candidates during that time.

The first speaker was Jeanine Tucker who spoke about the need for adequate police coverage on patrol, the sewer infrastructure and the need for jobs in the city.

Larry King followed and described the current council as "a boat without oars." He stated he would move the city into the future restoring the city to its motto, "City of Action."

State Prosecutor Allyson Norbert made her presentation with the finesse of a criminal court closing argument. Norbert placed an easel next to her with various photos and pointed out the benefits waiting at the ammunition plant-turned-industrial complex and the problems of a distressed sewer system. She was critical of the current council, pointing out many inventory items the city had the chance to sell at auction to recoup some lost funds.

Keenon Krick wanted to avoid the duplication of city services. He too saw the benefits of the former ammunition plant and the need for more jobs in a city with a high unemployment rate.

Former council member Ric McGinnis reminded the crowd of his community service and was also critical of the current council.

"You can't avoid this city's problems by boycotting meetings," said McGinnis. "The 'City of Action' has become a city of inaction."

Nadine Salim described herself as an advocate for the people. She told the crowd she would work on stepping up a law enforcement presence for safe streets in the community but also stated she would like to see abatement and deterrent programs such as tutoring, gang prevention and other community programs to help reduce crime.

Self-described community activist Dorothy "Dotty" Nygard followed and said she was encouraged to run for council by various concerned citizens of Riverbank. She assured the audience that she would use her experience as a nurse and involved citizen for the best possible outcome for the city. Safe streets was one of her priorities and said she wanted to see Riverbank be a "healthier and greener community" with more bike paths.

Retired Naval Commander Richard O'Brien was the last speaker. He reviewed his extensive military background covering his service in the Gulf War and assisting the City of San Francisco during the Loma Prieta earthquake. O'Brien identified gangs as a big problem for the City of Riverbank.

"I regard them as a threat to our community and our national security," he said.

O'Brien also said he would like the city to review what he described as high city government worker salaries.

After the presentation, Marilyn McRitchie said she was glad she attended. She added that she would have liked to see this type of event broadcast on local cable television.

Jane Cupples said she felt she was better informed by attending the forum and was glad she received more information about the council candidates.

"You just don't want to go off a picture on a poster to cast your vote," she said.

The League of Women Voters will be hosting another forum with the candidates this evening, Wednesday Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., also at the Community Center at 3600 Santa Fe.