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Students Try Governing City
The two Riverbank High girls chuckled while describing their ride along in a police patrol car on Youth in Government Day, when local students get to job shadow city employees and hold a mock city council meeting.

"She acted suspiciously. She looked over her shoulder to see if we were getting behind her," Alisha Borges said of the woman driver that Sheriff's Deputy Josh Humble pulled over. "We found her registration was out of date. But she got off with a warning."

Patrolling with an officer was "real cool," her companion Maria Lopez added. From the computer screen in the vehicle, they could quickly check the license plate of a vehicle they were following, establish the owner, address, all sorts of information, "even find out she'd been married three times," she said in jest.

Both the students are interested in a law enforcement career.

"My dad is a homicide detective in New York," said Borges.

"I want to be a probation officer," added Lopez. "I became interested through my coach Emily Herrera (a probation officer who coaches cheerleading at RHS). But you need at least a BA degree."

Twenty-six students, about half from Riverbank High and half from Cardozo Middle School were paired off with various city department workers on Wednesday, May 12. They spent the morning seeing what city jobs entail and then chose some of the students to take the dais in a mock city council meeting.

For the morning, for instance, Riverbank High's Amanda Lopez joined Domestic Water Supervisor Eric Tackett in touring the wells in town, examining water meters and seeing the different ways in which they are read. This varies from the old-fashioned method of visual inspection to the new drive-by system of waving an electronic wand from a vehicle. They then got with another RHS student Margarita Manriquez at City Hall to discuss the billing system with accounting supervisor Dawndi Hatton.

Caroline Duarte of Cardozo Middle School and Carlye Avey of Riverbank High accompanied Human Resources Manager Al Zamora as he showed them around various city buildings and sites ranging from the Community Center to the Scout Hall and the wastewater treatment plant.

Zamora explained the various facets of his job from recruitment to workers compensation and risk management. The girls questioned him about the intricacies of screening job applicants, checking their qualifications and interviewing.

Alfredo Reyes and Michael Rodriguez, both of Cardozo School, spent the morning with Building Inspector Miguel Alaniz. He took them to see a small subdivision that Florsheim Homes is finishing on Pocket Avenue, the large apartment complex opposite Riverbank High and the wastewater treatment plant which Reyes found "the most interesting" and dubbed "the poop farm."

After students and city employees returned from the field trips and lunched on pizza in city council chambers, Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick and City Manager Rich Holmer questioned them, Mayor Virginia Madueno made a speech and ran a video of her State of the City address, and the event concluded with the mock council meeting.

"I grew up here, went all the way through the school system and know it's the department heads and city officials who really make Riverbank the very best it can be," Madueno said. " ... When I was a kid, the only shops were Landon's and Ron's Pharmacy. Now we have a big shopping center, a movie theatre, all kinds of things. The people of Oakdale now want to shop in Riverbank. Give us your ideas. Who better than youth know how to improve the city? The teen center will be another great addition ..."

Selected students then took their places on the dais as a city council. Eddie Guardado of Cardozo Middle School was mayor, Ricardo Hernandez of Riverbank High vice mayor and Alejandra Leal, Gerrick Figueroa and Amy Macdonald, all of RHS, served as council members. Joining them on the dais were RHS students Erika Cisneros as city clerk, Linda Frazo as city attorney and Andrea Arauza as city manager.

In an often amusing exchange, 'council members' took questions from members of the city staff masquerading as members of the public who, in the outspoken even belligerent manner of a typical Riverbank council meeting, voiced their complaints from the podium.

One speaker identifying himself as Mr. Flintstone wanted to know what the council intended to do about a neighbor who had set up a basketball hoop in the street so he ran the risk of backing his car into it and the garbage disposal worker could not get at his can.

Another said the guy next door had a trailer, apparently stuffed with toys, and parked on his property. Was this legal, he asked. Anyway, he wanted it moved.

"My neighbor has tall weeds in his yard and rubbish all over it. It's a fire hazard and dangerous," said a student speaker identified as Susie Q. "What are you going to do?"

Stung into a reply, council discussed and 'Mayor' Guardado said the city would send over a police officer over to review the situation.

"Sitting up there on the council is pretty scary," Guardado remarked at the session's close. "Somebody's going to be mad at you whatever you do."