The Years Ahead: Making a Brighter Future for Modesto
In November, Stanislaus voters hit the polls to decide on races and measures that will have long-reaching consequences for local neighborhoods, schools, utilities and cities throughout the county. While this election did not decide high-profile offices like Mayor, those newly appointed will play an essential role in shaping the future of our area.
Stanislaus County’s economy, schools, education, future work force and our ability to retain and attract more business are vital to our future. Come January, Modesto and a large proportion of the surrounding communities will have new city council members and new leaders in place on school boards and irrigation districts.
At the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, we look forward to working with leaders in each of these areas and hope that our city and county will strive to be one of the most business friendly regions in the state of California. Together with our newly elected officials, we can ensure that our area becomes a center known for fostering productive business and job growth, which are so essential to the quality of life our region enjoys. We hope that together we can continue to unite business and education and solidify the future economic vitality of our community.
MODESTO CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Four Board of Trustee Members were elected to full terms in a race for Modesto City School District including incumbents Sue Zwahlen, Ruben Villalobos and Cindy Marks. Zwahlen, Villalobos and Marks will be joined by new, full term Board Member David Allan. Jordan Dickson was elected to a two-year term as a new Board Member.
Congratulations to all five winners of this race. In the years to come, the Modesto City Schools Board will tackle issues like finances and Common Core and will address declining graduation rates. In neighboring school district, Sylvan Unified, the three incumbent Directors, Terriann Zeek, George Rawe and Cyndi Lindsey, ran unopposed.
MODESTO CITY COUNCIL
Tony Madrigal, Bill Zoslocki and Jenny Ketchum Kenoyer will join the Modesto City Council in November. Madrigal was elected to represent District 2, Zoslocki will represent District 4 and Kenoyer will represent Modesto’s District 5. These new City Councilpersons, along with incumbent members, will face distinct budgetary challenges in the near future. The city of Modesto has been relying on reserves to pass annual budgets in recent years and the newly seated council will have to contend with making severe cuts to an already trimmed budget. We congratulate each of these new City Council members on their victories and hope that they will continue to focus on fiscal responsibility and business-friendly decisions in Modesto. We encourage the Council to look to the Chamber as a resource and a true partner in navigating the challenges ahead.
MODESTO IRRIGATION DISTRICT
Modesto Irrigation District gained three new Directors in this election. John Mensinger was elected to represent Division 2, Paul Campbell was selected as the representative for Division 3 and voters chose Jake Wenger to represent District 4. The Modesto Chamber of Commerce wishes all three newly elected officials our hearty congratulations. These new Directors will help strengthen MID and bring new energy, ideas and experience to the agency.
There are many issues facing the MID board during the coming years. These new board members will navigate the relicensing of Don Pedro Dam, funding the maintenance of our aging canal system and pension and benefit changes. We hope that these new board members will continue to direct MID in making positive choices for the entire rate paying community.
Two measures appeared on the ballot for Modesto-area voters. Voters strongly supported Measure V, which was an advisory vote that proposed to extend sewer service to approximately 1,600 residents in the Airport neighborhood, while Measure X, which would have raised over $156 million over the next six years by increasing sales tax in Modesto by 1%, was narrowly defeated.
The Modesto Chamber of Commerce held a neutral position with regard to Measure X throughout the election season. While we recognize the budgetary limitations facing the city and the need for additional police and fire personnel, it was difficult for the Chamber to support such an influx of new revenue which, due to the fact that the measure was not written to support a specific issue, would have been generated with little spending accountability attached. That being said, the Modesto Chamber appreciates the tough road facing city leaders and will do everything possible to help the city through the difficult budgetary times ahead.
We also look forward to working with newly appointed Stanislaus County CEO, Stan Risen. Risen was appointed by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors after acting as the interim CEO since the departure of Monica Nino over the summer.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Starting in January, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s website and Progress Magazine will begin to publish the voting records of elected officials. Every month, the Chamber will identify the most impactful decisions that were put to a vote by either the City Council, School Boards, MID Board, Board of Supervisors and/or State legislators and report how each representative voted. Doing so will serve not only as a method for holding elected representatives accountable to making decisions in the best interest of Modesto and Stanislaus County’s future, but we hope the published voting records will serve as an important tool for the voters to better understand the point-of-view of their local officials and to support those leaders making the right decisions for our area.
Our goal is to make it easy for Chamber members and the voting public to evaluate which of our leaders are most supportive of business and our economy, and which make the most fiscally sound decisions. We further hope that this level of accountability will ensure that our elected decision makers will always keep the priorities of economic development, job creation and the success of our area – the same priorities that direct the work of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce – forefront in their minds.