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RHS Students Learn About City Government
Fifteen Riverbank High students visited Riverbank City Hall on Wednesday to learn about municipal government, shadow department heads and conduct a mock council meeting in an annual exercise called Youth in Government.

"I was amazed by all their toys, the taser guns, the lights and radar in their cars, the suit-cooling equipment," student Amanda Lopez said of her tour of the Sheriff's Department with Police Chief Bill Pooley.

She was interested to find the officers did not all have the same duties but were assigned widely different specialties ranging from narcotics investigation to patrol and detective work.

Her father graduated from a police academy but did not become an officer, she said, adding she's interested in following either a law enforcement or medical career.

With Parks & Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick and Recreation Manager Kerrie Webb, Joaquin Felix and other students visited the Teen Center for the first time and found it interesting.

"It seems a good place to hang out and relax with friends," Felix said. "There are lots of games there, everything from a pool table and an X-box to ping-pong and computers."

"It wasn't as bad as I expected," admitted Toni Adams of her visit to the wastewater treatment plant that she was expecting to be smelly and unpleasant. "They keep it clean and in good shape. I'm surprised it's located right next door to a park. It's smaller than I expected considering the number of people in town. I was interested in the wildlife there and Carl's (Petersen) explanation of how they control the rodents that burrow through the pond banks."

Eight of the students took a seat on the dais to hold a mock city council meeting for which Deputy City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar had prepared a written script and trained them in the execution.

Freddie (Alfredo) Capas volunteered to be mayor and Margarita "Maggie" Manriquez vice mayor. Tristin Rodgers was chosen city manager and Jonathen Beliera city attorney. Lopez played the part of city clerk and Erika Cisneros, Mark Palomino and Marlene Belmonte were council members.

Others students in the audience included Jessica Calderon, Dominique Jennings, Gabriela Macedo, Ricardo Hernandez, Andrea Harvey and Adams.

The main agenda subject was the need to build a skate park since youths on skateboards were terrorizing elderly people on the sidewalks and had even knocked one down.

Council members had no doubt the city needed a skate park and the plan was approved with little discussion.

Before the mock council members, Fitzpatrick explained the hierarchy of the city's administration that is headed by the council, city manager and city attorney who are set over half a dozen department heads and the rank and file workers within those departments.

Webb offered a short quiz with the grand prize being a $25 year's membership of the Teen Center. It was won by Capas. Some of her questions were: - Distance from Riverbank to Washington, D.C.? 2,495 miles. Date of Riverbank's incorporation? - 1922. City's previous name? - Burneyville. Length of a council member's term? - four years. Name of the current governor of California? - Jerry (not John, nor Joe nor James - there was vast confusion) Brown. Number of city parks? - 16. Next park to be built once there is money available? - a dog park.

Mayor Virginia Madueno sent regrets she could not be present due to a prior appointment in Sacramento, but furnished a written message that Webb read.

"As you can see," it read in part, "local government has a tremendous impact on local residents from public safety and streets to sewers, parking, housing and so much more. We affect your life directly and indirectly every single day. While the city continues to face tough economic challenges with the downturn in the economy, we maintain the highest level of commitment to serve our residents. ... Continue to learn and grow with each experience. But more importantly, continue on the path of higher education ..."

Fitzpatrick noted Cardozo Middle School students were not included this time as in past years and the program was shorter because city staff members have been reduced in numbers and were concerned they could not spare the time from regular duties. But the program may be expanded again next year.