Over these last few years it seems that we have been at many crossroads. This year is another year where we need to decide what direction we want to go as a city. There are many concerns for our community that will be addressed in the next 12 to 18 months.
We have elections that are right around the corner. Let’s start with the mayor’s race. We have four main contenders: Mayor Garrad Marsh, ex-mayor Carmen Sabatino, current City Councilman Dave Lopez and experienced. Planning Commission Director Ted Branvold. If you want to stay on the same course that we have been on, then vote for either our existing mayor or Dave Lopez. If you want to go back to the previous ways, then vote for ex-mayor Sabatino. And if you want progressive change, then vote for Ted Branvold. The same type of thinking applies to the City Council races except in the case of Dave Lopez’s seat and Dave Cogdill Jr.’s chair. Dave Lopez is not able to run again and Dave Cogdill has decided to not run again. So we have the city council in flux once again.
Our City Council has put a general sales tax on the ballot for an additional half- cent sales tax. It is a general sales tax and ultimately the City Council can spend the money wherever they feel the most need.
On this same ballot will be questions posed for the citizens of Modesto to determine whether or not we want to have job expansion capability or not along our major freeways. Personally, I can’t quite figure out why anybody would want to not have more jobs in our city (a city that has had double digit unemployment for the past 10 years), especially along our major freeways where we can attract the most jobs. Turlock has designated land for jobs along major freeways—why can’t Modesto? I know there is a concern about the location of these designated areas, and yet with all of us agreeing not to have jobs go into the designated historic Wood Colony, why are there still concerns?
Next comes the discussion relative to ag land mitigation for any new development at LAFCO. What I have never been able to understand is why we don’t have job land mitigation. If we examine what has happened in our county relative to ag land development (and water absorption), which we seem to welcome, why can’t we try to do the same with jobs? Again, something doesn’t quite make sense. We allow unlimited ag land development and yet we are putting on the ballot measures to stop the development of non-ag jobs in the places that could have the most impact (and this is coming from a person who grew up on a farm). Remember, this is all happening when ag properties are increasing production and efficiency per acre on an annual basis, all the while ag jobs per acre are decreasing because of automation. Are we making things better or making them worse? I am for job land mitigation measures in order to create more jobs!! How about for every new acre that is set aside for ag trees, there is a new acre set aside for non-ag jobs? It is going to take this kind of change if we are ever going to consistently reduce our double digit unemployment.
Our local elected officials have been able to attract and hire very good executives in Stan Risen, Jim Holgersson, and David White to lead us through these challenges. I am sure part of the reason they were selected was because of their ability and knowledge of how to create more economic development and jobs for our area. Why don’t we listen to them ask their advice, and let them share with us their vision of how we can get out of the morass we find ourselves in year after year? If we want more police boots on the street to better protect us, more firefighters on the trucks to save more lives, less homelessness, and more economic prosperity, then we need more jobs. That is the ultimate solution. Not more taxes! Remember that when one new dollar of income is generated, it actually becomes two and a half dollars generated as it is spent in the community. The reverse could be said when you add additional taxes. That new tax dollar doesn’t just mean one dollar missing, it means that two and a half dollars have been taken out of our local economy.
My great hope for our community is that we will be able to come together at this crossroad, and spend whatever resources or votes that we have available toward the creation of jobs and less on taxes. This will create economic prosperity not regression. There is no status quo. Either we are progressing, or we are losing ground. I am tired of losing ground and being on the all “worst” lists. Let’s try progressing and creating economic prosperity.