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Modesto Chamber of Commerce I Progress 


1. Describe ways in which you as an elected official would encourage a collaborative and cooperative relationship with other units of government?

2. Modesto needs jobs. As an elected official, what are your plans for creating economic development and local jobs?

3. Do you support measure G?

4. Do you support measure I?

5. What is your top campaign issue?

6. What are your plans to make government more transparent and responsive?

7. How do you evaluate the impact to business when

making a voting decisions?


1: When I became Mayor, we had lawsuits (or threats thereof) with a major local manufacturer, with the Modesto School District, with the county, with Bank of America, and with MID. All have been settled except for MID and that has been moved to “hold.” We have a very positive relationship with the manufacturer (and they support my candidacy). We have removed the school issue, and I instituted a liaison committee that meets regularly with city and school staff and elected members. We settled the county lawsuit and now have monthly liaison meetings with City and county staff and elected members. B of A settled favorably for the City. B of A has become our main banking interest, supplies our credit line, and no further issues remain. And MID and the city are actively meeting to resolve a number of issues of concern for both entities.

2: A. Help resolve development issues.

  • 1. I have been regularly participating in meetings concerning new business development. Finding ways to overcome obstacles and looking for solutions is how I do business. I bring that attitude to the meetings and the result have been extremely positive.
  • 2. Just recently we helped John Gardner overcome problems with SFPUC, CalTrans and MID to open their project ahead of schedule.
  • 3. Found solutions to the “Chopra” property issues. Coming in September, an official announcement of Pediatric Hospital, continuum of care facility, and Hotel project.
  • 4. Gallo’s new building had several hurdles to overcome. Many more examples available.

B. Reduce Obstacles in Advance.

  • 1. For our city core we have instituted form based codes, removed multiple steps in the development process and brought greater certainty to developers before they even start.
  • 2. Reduced fees.
  • 3. In downtown, reduced parking requirements and offered incentives for new or expanded employment.

C. Reducing crime to make our city more attractive to business interests.

D. Currently working on the largest commercial development since the mall.

E. Starting initial plans for a new and expanded industrial area.

F. Making government more efficient. Recently started on-line permits for small projects.

3: Yes, absolutely.

4: No.

5: Continuing to seek economic development while preserving our agricultural economy and heritage. In the short term, that means finding the revenues to restore our public safety so our city is safer both for business and our neighborhoods. In the long run, it means growing our economy to provide those needed revenues with a vibrant business climate.

6: A. Since taking office, I have had Modesto publish the travel expenditures of the city’s elected and lead staff.

B. Modesto just added new public access to all city finances (OpenGov), both revenues and expenses.

C. I developed a new 10-year budget to better understand the longer-term fiscal ramifications of decisions being made, our budget information and our city’s strategic plan. This page has broader penetration than any other form of communication with our citizens.

D. Moving to a new, easier-to-use and more interactive website, which should be up in about six months.

E. Hired a public information officer to better communicate with the public, and also to help market the good parts about Modesto – telling our story better, rather than letting outsiders make up their view of our city.

F. Added a second page (at less than one cent per person) to our utility billing that is general city news. Included has been such as information upcoming events (graffiti car show, fourth of July parade, Love Modesto, etc. ) Also included, shop local (which will expand this year) at the holiday times. We sent out information about discouraging panhandling, about the Mayor’s Top Teens, budget information, and a look at the work being done by the Crows Landing business community.

7: I am the only candidate that has run a successful multimillion-dollar business (for 29 years this August). I know the problems that government places upon business. My first step in making decisions is do no harm. Too often seemly innocuous regulations become major problems to business. But there are times when some businesses are “bad actors” such as selling illegal drugs, not keeping the property in good shape, allowing illegal activity, etc. In these cases I am willing to take the actions to bring these businesses/properties up to acceptable community standards.


1: Meet regularly, with the understanding that we all work for the same citizens. Our common goal should be a good quality of life for all.

2: Clean up Modesto, rid it of panhandlers, catch and release criminals and encourage everyone to pick up one piece of trash that is not theirs every day. Modesto is centrally located in California and very attractive to new or growing businesses. Modesto also has the lowest tax rate from Sacramento to Fresno which is also enticing to potential new business. Raising taxes is the wrong thing to do now. We must go to work and attract business ,we will attract jobs.

3: No, voters are being mislead.

4: No, I will wait to hear from the voters and move forward with their decision.

5: We will eliminate panhandling in my first term as mayor. This is my commitment to all Modestans. I will start a nonprofit (Project Home Run) that will offer a bus ride home instead of a night in jail. Project Home Run will track how many bus tickets we are buying to each city. Each time we reach ten to the same city, I will get on the phone as your mayor and call the Mayor of that city and explain. “Either you stop sending your problems to Modesto, or I will be sending the next ones directly to your home.” It will stop!

6: No more late night workshops, which are difficult for many to attend. As your mayor, if I ever propose a tax, it will be a specific tax so there is no question where your hard earned tax dollars are going.

7: I voted in 2009 to implement a local 5 percent preferential bid ordinance. If a local bidder is within 5 percent of low bid, they can match the price. Buy local, buy long term.

District 1: RON HURST

1: I will create an environment that encourages cooperation between our government and community through collaborative efforts that reward community leaders and civic workers for solving community issues.

2: I believe that the city should use asset mapping as a method of fostering job growth within our community. This will help our city locate what strengths our community has and what gaps we need to invite entrepreneurs to fill. This will help create new business opportunities in our city.

3: No.

4: Yes.

5: Fostering a business-friendly environment in Modesto.

6: In business matters, I will push to speed up the permitting process for all current and potential business owners in Modesto. I will work with city staffers at all levels of government to improve the overall culture and make accountability and speed focuses of priority.

7: Having managed a successful business here in Modesto, It is my firm belief that the city should be operated as a business. I view all of Modesto’s citizens as stockholders and the city council as the board of directors. And it is in the city’s best interest to provide the best dividends for all who hold stake in our community through public safety and a rigorous pursuit to provide a better quality of life.

District 1: Mani Grewal

1: There is always a lot of polite talk about governments cooperating with one another.Indeed there are a number of formal ways that such interaction occurs, but its not getting the job done. As a Councilmember, I will take the initiative to engage other government officials informally so as to instigate the kind of collaboration that those of us in business routinely rely on when aligning our interests.

2: We aren’t going to attract any business unless our community and neighborhoods are safer, our housing affordable, our budget and spending are sound and the quality of our basic services improved. I am going to lead us in that direction.

3: No.

4: No.

5: The safety of our citizens, their family, and their homes.

6: I think we need to make better use of the internet. I believe that clear, succinct summaries of each city council meeting – in plain English – should be widely disseminated. Tens of thousands of email addresses of city residents are available and the city makes zero use of them. We should be inviting participation by our citizens with information put out in plain English.

7: I evaluate impacts on businesses by applying three criteria:

1)What is the policy going to cost?

2)What will the delay of a decision cost?

3)Would we be proud to share this decision

with a business we are attempting to locate in Modesto?


1: To encourage a collaborative and cooperative relationship with other units of government, you need to allow, and even seek, input from the different units. Do not automatically discount input. Include the government units in the overall assessment and final decision, and explain your final decision especially when the decision does not follow input from other units of government.

2: We will change the City of Modesto’s business approach to an aggressive pro-business system, from the top down. We will work with, and incentivize, existing business expansion as well as aggressively pursue new businesses to locate in Modesto. We should have it known statewide, as well as country-wide, that “Modesto is open for business.”

We must work with the local education system in making sure that we have the educated workforce required by the businesses we are recruiting. At the same time we must work at making Modesto a place where our educated graduates want to live, work and raise their family.

3: No, Measure G does not designate funds exclusive to fire and police. If Measure G was to pass and the funds were misused, there would be no chance of another measure passed for police and fire services.

4: No, The City of Modesto should always use a “Smart Growth” approach. Open and transparent intentions along with working with the adjacent communities throughout the process to help mitigate concerns. While uncontrolled sprawl should be avoided, Measure I is too restrictive and contains many mistakes.

5: My top-ranked campaign issue is the City of Modesto budget. We must meet a sustainable budget and then work toward the aggressive pro-business approach to expand existing businesses, and attract new ones

6: Truth, openness and disclosure in dealings of the Mayor’s office including employees and the public. Allow public input, advice and involvement.

Expect and allow employees to perform the duties of their position without having to check with superiors above them to confirm obvious answers. Expect employees to be accepting of new, innovative and expedited ways of doing things. Employees should not continue doing things in ways that are, “the way we have always done it.”

7: We must evaluate each voting decision in order to assure that all decisions are fair and equitable for Modesto business. We need to ask obvious questions like, “how much does it cost a business to implement?”

District 1: John Gunderson

1: I have had discussions of revenue-sharing with county and city officials. If Measure I were to pass, some development would still occur along the Hwy 132 realignment shepherded by county. Resources from Modesto would likely be desired and I would hope that a future council would not give away these resources as happened with Beard Industrial. Some have said they will go after the county’s ability to facilitate developments of commerce. This would mean drawing lines, I suppose, and more squabbling to come. Of course I believe it is much more preferable that Modesto be the facilitator for any development that would require her resources. I am watching to see how county helps/leads with the homeless concern. I know that there are county staff who are up to the task and willing to consider alternative housing methods that may seem unconventional to some. It is my belief that the homeless/vagrancy issue seriously hurts Modesto in attracting business so my efforts to work with those involved will remain steady as before. I’m hoping this time we can get it going. I have heard some skepticism and have had contact with Jeff Denham’s office on a few issues involving veterans, displaced farm labor grants and support for Stanislaus Military Academy (SMA). I have clamored for adjustment to the Negative Bailout and ERAF as those items implemented by state have hindered progress for Modesto, other cities and the county. I have been all over that topic and have been disappointed with how little effort county and city have put into trying to change it. I keep hearing “nothing can be done.” Enough revenue is at stake to try and make the effort. Organize and let ‘em know how we feel.

2: Maintain the vegetation management effort along the river. Make the river attractive for residents’ use and prospective businesses will take notice. This is a given, we have neglected our river and not sculpted it properly to show that we, as a city, care about our environment. Vegetation management and trash collection go together and I am good at both. I hope to expand the efforts at Gateway Park to the rest of TRRP. It will definitely compliment downtown and the courthouse to come. South Modesto is the main detractor in that area now that the river is getting cleaned. Invasive species including arundo are special interests of mine. We will eradicate arundo in a few years’ time, and methodology is taking shape. Tagging is another detraction and the city is dealing with it through her own staff’s efforts and those from Partners in Paint. Public art is an interest of mine, I will continue to support it as a part of Modesto’s economic development. Having an art ordnance opens the door more so in that direction. I want to see how the Community Benefit District can help downtown. I’m very intent on seeing the public safety on campus happen. There are some other ideas kicking around that I find very interesting. Could the CBD be duplicated elsewhere, such as portions of McHenry that are languishing? The west side of the Freeway is another area of interest for a CBD. Crows Landing? If business wants to thrive it must invest. We cannot depend on government to do everything. It’s impossible, and surely I have learned that. iNet, Small Cell, WiFi and the repurposing of Fiber is coming to Modesto. I will look for changes in Modesto’s data transfer infrastructure that will be very helpful in attracting business. I have always supported better data conduits.

3: Yes. Absolutely, positively. Then there’s the deferred maintenance…

4: No, What happened to RUL? Why do we have to have this? Blowback from some in Salida’s desire to incorporate and Wood Colony’s opposition to river to river development. WC may tangle with Salida later. Certainly with the county, but when $250,000 per acre is offered, heads do turn. I favor intelligent growth, not the sprawl we have seen facilitated largely by county.

5: Modesto needs to work on a makeover. There are many pieces to that makeover and it would be a councilmember’s job to try and get folks to support those pieces. I have strength in certain areas, but I need people to be willing to work with me. The Nyhoff years were not good to me, but our new administration is geared towards rejuvenation and not cuts. I enjoy support in ways that my first two years could only dream of. You know this to be true.

6: It’s one of my strengths. If you don’t know, you should. I use Facebook extensively to get the word out. And it’s not about me going to an event, eating nibbles and getting my picture taken. I would continue and expand with that. I support the effort to overhaul the city’s agenda format. I’m looking forward to the end product which should debut soon. I have always advocated for getting the good word out. With Amy Vickery as our PIO, we should see more of that. Jim Holgersson understands the value of good PR. I want a layered accounting of city’s finance for all to see. Start with the large sums and break them down as they make their way to departments. Residents definitely want to see this. More work, but less accusations of spending frivolously. I already spoke with John Dickey in IT, he is for it, as is Jim.

7: Try to look at it from their point of view. I have been business-friendly, but I have to consider many views on a single topic. Sometimes mitigation is needed. An example would be my injecting a higher fence requirement for a halfway house for women on Maze Road into the use permit. Neighbors did not want the clients of that business to see over the fence into their yards. The business was reluctant to upgrade the fence, but my addition stood. Some compromises for the subdivision on Rose Avenue were mitigations I injected in the mix and they passed. I am proud of my ability to understand others’ feelings on matters and work to find a good pathway to happiness.

District 3: Pat Gillum

1: Collaboration and cooperation among units of governments is vital, especially to avoid waste and duplication of effort which costs taxpayers and businesses more than it should. When addressing issues/concerns, it is imperative that all stakeholders are invited to the table. Leaving anyone out exacerbates the challenge rather than helps it. All areas of agreement can be assessed. Then work can begin on the disagreements, working always to a win/win, give-and-take-philosophy rather than an, “I win. You lose” situation. It takes buy-in from everyone to effectively move towards government units that are transparent, understandable and address the needs of all citizens with financially sound solutions.

2: Job creations is critical to the economic success of any area, but especially ours with its chronically high unemployment. We need to examine the current barriers to new and expansion businesses. Potential areas to look at are: Relaxing fees in infill areas and adequately addressing the viability of new business parks, expansion of farm-related industries and growth of small businesses. We need to create the proper balance between the preservation of farms while at the same time supporting efforts to revitalize downtown, expand businesses and enhance the overall image of our community without raising taxes unnecessarily.

3: No.

4: No.

5: First and foremost, I believe there is a need to make the city prosperous. The two main sources of revenue are sales tax and property tax. Sales taxes come from viable businesses. But before we move to increase sales taxes, we need to be sure that the city budget is sustainable and financially sound. We can never raise taxes enough to pay for everything – the answer could be not raising the tax rate, rather to work on job creation and prosperity. Increased prosperity would not only give us more revenue to tackle graffiti, it would work towards police and fire which would create safer community and lessen crime. It will take all parties: government, individuals, businesses, and non-profits to work out the solutions. But this I know, as a Certified Public Accountant, I can ensure city resources are properly deployed and not wasted.

6: I would thoroughly review the major budget revenue and expense items; analyze the assumptions and staff input requests. I would like to see interim financials during the year to assess the financial status so that the adjustments could be made in spending if necessary. Also, I would like to see the funding sources listed with each new request for spending during the year. This information should also be presented with the interim financials. A summary of all this should be made available in an easy understood format to our citizens.

7: Each item needs to be evaluated from multiple angles. Is it necessary? What is the justification? What are the benefits as well be as the costs? Who will be impacted by those decisions? There are mandates, good ideas and perceived goals presented to the city council. Not all of theses will really do what are intended; sometimes the implementation costs far outweigh the consequences, and certainly some suggested benefits do not in actuality achieve that benefit.

District 3: Kristi Ah you

1: I believe we as a community can partner together to improve our city. As an elected member of our city council I will work diligently to improve commerce through collaboration with city and county agencies, to ease the process of bringing business to our community. I will also continue to advocate for a safe community by inspiring our community members to work together with our local law enforcement agencies, promoting a safe community. I want to explore options to make our city more vibrant, inviting and beautiful through partnerships with public and private sectors.

2: Marketing and PR that promotes our community online in a positive way is a must. This can be done through a strong internet presence, social networking and reputation management. I also believe that a safe community will promote existing commerce, bring additional business to our community, and retain current employees, along with recruiting future employees. Then there is the component of collaboration; I believe our community must entice future and existing commerce by streamlining the process of doing business locally.

3: Yes, I believe that we pay enough taxes. I would prefer that the half cent sales tax not be a general fund tax. I would rather it be specifically for safety related functions like police and fire. With that being said, this measure is for our voters to decide. I do know this for sure, we need solutions and we must work together to find solutions that provide for a safer community for all of us. If/when Measure G fails, I will take a leadership role moving forward with a specific tax, requiring a 2/3 vote for public safety.

4: No.

5: A safe community, homelessness, downtown beautification and revitalization, business and job development, commerce, positive on-line public relations and marketing, community beautification, and promoting an ease of doing business in our community. I have met with our chief of police and all three of our local neighborhood associations. Our district is concerned about safety, neighborhood beautification, lighting, and a sense of security. Our highest crime in District 3 is currently petty crimes, car thefts, and graffiti/vandalism according to local statistics on crime reporting. As a council person, I will not only be concerned about my specific district but our community as a whole. I am keenly aware through my years of service at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department as chief deputy coroner, that other districts are working with much more serious crimes such as gang violence, homicide, domestic violence, drugs, and other more serious crimes and issues related to poverty. My goal is that the newly-elected and current council will work together for the betterment of our community as a whole.

6: Be transparent, honest, accessible, and ethical in all that I do, in service to our community.

7: By asking myself a series of questions: Is this vote good for our economy? Will it promote jobs? Is it going to detrimentally affect business in our community? Is it rational, does it make sense? Have I asked all the questions and done my research? Is this vote an informed vote?

District 3: JOE WILLIAMS

1: First of all, I would respect the fact that the people of Modesto elected me to represent their wishes and not my own. I see holding an office as a great privilege that only a few get. I would use the skills and experience I have learned for the past 35 years in business, and the past 20 years in the area of family reconciliation, to help bring understanding on issues. We must work together with one purpose and vision with a healthy outlook for the future in order to make Modesto a great city. I am currently a small business owner and co-founder of an international, nonprofit, marriage and family reconciliation organization. I also have 5 grown children, 12 grandchildren, and a wonderful wife of 35 years. I think that qualifies me as an expert collaborator.

2: My plans in helping to bring more jobs into Modesto begin with first making our city a place to come to-not leave from. This can be done by:

    • 1. Limited regulations and taxes on businesses. If we don’t have small businesses we will never have big businesses, and people will not have a place to work and support their families. Small business is the backbone of our nation and our city.
    • 2. Invite corporations, large and small, to look at Modesto with a vision of a positive prospect for the future. Give them incentives, less regulations, and more tax breaks in order for them to bring their businesses here. Talk positive about our city. We have a sign that reads: Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health. Let’s live up to it!
    • 3. We have a convention center here. Let’s get creative in ways to bring people in for conventions. We would also have a convention to help cities like Modesto grow in positive ways.
    • 4. The best way to increase jobs in Modesto is to stay focused on that goal. If two different individuals start walking from two different places, and stay focused on the same light source, sooner or later they will end up in the same place. Let’s be positive about Modesto and if we start there, we will help Modesto be a city we can be proud of. We can make Modesto a great place to live.

3: No.

4: No.

5: I believe that a business-friendly environment brings the kind of people to Modesto that will make our city a better and safer place to live. I also believe in strong families and the importance of reconciling relationships.

6: If I am elected I will listen to the people who elected me and keep my commitment to serve them. I will do my best to discuss issues with other city officials in a way that is respectful and honest.

7: When small businesses thrive, everyone is affected in a positive way. The police and fire department will be better-funded because of more people in the city, not because the business owners are taxed more. I will do whatever I can to help business owners make more profit so that they can employ more people and keep their prices reasonable. I will vote against anything that will put more strain on businessowners. I want Modesto to fill empty retail spaces.

District 6: Doug Ridenour

1: As a 25-year veteran of the Modesto Police Department, I spent decades dealing with differing personalities, agendas, and ideas. This was not only internally, but externally as well – from school districts to federal agencies to local and state officials. I will encourage not only collaboration, but will foster a better understanding of all points of view so true cooperation can exist…not just defer to the loudest argument.

2: I believe priority number one is a better and more cooperative relationship with local school districts. The chamber has done well in starting a process that keeps the districts informed of the skills and trades needed for local and future employers, and now it is time for government to step in and help develop a long range plan that puts this connection to work in promoting our city to emerging industries.

Refocus a citywide business mindset with staff, management, and the council to achieve an attitude for new small businesses to locate in

the city.

3: No.

4: No.

5: Economic growth. This is a multi-prong issue that involves better cooperation with schools, businesses (current and potential) and the agriculture industry.

6: I would like to be proactive in setting government policy. Almost three decades in law enforcement taught me that the people you serve want straightforward answers, timely responses…but most of all, results that matter. I do not shy away from research or asking tough questions.Additionally, I would like to see small business strengthen its voice at city hall through the numerous public/private partnerships already in place. Downtown businesses are on the right path and we should begin encouraging other sections of the city to align their interests to demand more of their local government.

7: I was a small-businessman before joining law enforcement. I ran two restaurants that ended up closing after Vintage Faire Mall opened, resulting in personal economic devastation. The results of my experience have stuck with me, and I have always been a strong proponent of thoroughly evaluating projects for immediate and long-term economic benefit, as well as long term social and cultural affects as well.

District 6: DAVID WRIGHT

1: We have problems in our city that will take all of us to come together to solve. The business community, city government, city workers and their unions and county government need to put their issues aside and work together to solve our pension and homeless issues. We need to work with the unions, to help them understand that the continued losses at CalPERS are hurting the city budgets which will result in fewer jobs and a continued decline in city services. CalPERS to own estimates predicted 40 percent or greater chance that within 30 years their liabilities will be only 50 percent funded. At that rate, the city will not be able to afford to fund its pension obligations.

The homeless issue is growing and the City of Modesto has not acted on the recommendation of the 2011 Blue Ribbon Report on Homelessness. The county has picked up the problem and now is working to deal with the issue in conjunction with all the non-profits. As a council person, I would work with the county and non-profits to implement the Blue Ribbon Report and to add to it as the county would see fit.

2: First of all, we have to make Modesto a place that people want to live in and feel proud of what’s happening here. We need to work on cleaning up the city landscaping along streets, eliminate the weeds growing along the sidewalks and medians, deal with the homeless and panhandlers and make Briggsmore Avenue an attractive street to travel. Once we accomplish that, businesses will have more incentive to come to Modesto because of the quality of life here. We need to open our doors to industry that compliments our farming and other agricultural industries here. The city needs to make it easy for those companies to build or expand, thereby increasing jobs.

3: No.

4: No.

5: Implementing the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness Report recommendations with the added partner, Stanislaus County, who is showing a great interest on this issue now. Educating our public on the reality of panhandlers and what really happens when we give them money. Making Modesto a great city that people want to live in. Working with city employee unions on limiting our liability on pensions.

6: I think we need better communications from our elected officials to our citizens here in Modesto. We need a council and mayor who can work together and bring together the public to make sure that our city is run efficiently. We need an to put together a finance review committee that is made up of CPAs, large business owners and city finance personnel who can review our budgets to ensure the public that our tax dollars are being spent wisely. Once our citizens feel confident in our financial spending, and if we need to ask for more tax dollars in the future, our citizens will feel confident that those dollars will be spent wisely.

7: Business is the life blood of our city and its growth. As a business owner for 30 years, as an insurance broker who works with businesses, I see the problems they and I go through. We need our local businesses to be successful and we need to make it easier for them to succeed. Cutting the red tape at city hall is necessary in today’s world if we want business to be here.

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