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Riverbank Candidate Forum Draws Interested Voters
It wasn't exactly a full house, but those that turned out for the Thursday evening, Oct. 11 Candidates Forum in Riverbank got to learn more about the local residents seeking election to the Riverbank City Council.

The panel included those running for the term of Mayor - incumbent Virginia Madueno and current councilman Richard O'Brien - as well as those seeking election to a term on the council. There are six people running for two available council seats, incumbent Jeanine D. Tucker, Darlene Barber-Martinez, Cal Campbell, Leanne Jones Cruz, Anthony D. McKinney, and Kathy Salvatore.

The forum was hosted at the Riverbank Community Center by the Stanislaus County League of Women Voters, which also provided the moderator for the evening.

In terms of city issues, incumbent Madueno and councilmember O'Brien have different views on several issues. Both candidates have grown up in this area. The two mayoral candidates started off the forum, with time limits set for giving opening remarks and answering questions taken from the audience.

Madueno stressed the need to get people back to work and said, since her tenure, she feels she has moved Riverbank forward. Riverbank has a stable credit rating, Madueno said, there are 23 new businesses, and the unemployment rate has dropped. O'Brien, who served in the Navy, said that he managed several projects for them successfully and feels he can translate that into managing city business. He also grew up in this area and said he understands the needs in the community.

The topic of jobs was a priority on the agenda and bringing in new business is something both candidates said would be a key focus.

O'Brien classified himself as someone that is able to think "on his feet" and feels he can bring some much needed leadership to the council dais.

"We need to accept and embrace our common goals," he said.

For Madueno, continued attraction of new businesses to the converted Army Ammunition Plant, now an industrial park, will be key to securing job opportunities.

She said she "wants to reduce the red tape" and "create better jobs for the community."

Both candidates were also questioned about the Del Rio Theatre, at the corner of Atchison and Third, a building that the city purchased with an eye toward possible renovation. But the dilapidated state of the building, in addition to asbestos and structural issues, have made that impossible.

"The fate of the Del Rio Theatre is unknown," said Madueno.

O'Brien, meanwhile, said the city shouldn't be involved in the project, believing whatever will be done should be done through the private sector. He stated that "1.7 million has already been wasted on it."

When questioned what makes one candidate better than the other, O'Brien said he is up front and pulls no punches.

"I do what I say and I say what I do," O'Brien said.

Madueno stated that she likes bringing other people to the table, admitting that she "doesn't have all the answers" and that she is an optimist, but also a realist.

The six candidates running for the two available council seats also answered several questions from the audience, with creating jobs and securing better wages for city residents among the main concerns handled by the panel.

According to information provided about the candidates, Cal Campbell is a retired teacher and Leanne Jones Cruz is a special education teacher at Beyer High School. Kathy Salvatore is a communications consultant for Comcast, Anthony D. McKinney is a California State Realtor and served in the Navy and Darlene Barber-Martinez is a small business owner of TSW Financial Tax.

Incumbent Jeanine D. Tucker is a court operations manager.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.