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Economy, smart growth top priorities for council candidates

Economy, smart growth top priorities for council candidates

All four of the candidates competing for two Turlock City Council seats — incumbents Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson, as well as newcomers Steven Nascimento and Sergio Nascimento — answered questions o...

POSTED September 13, 2012 6:23 p.m.


With Election Day less than two months away, the four candidates for Turlock City Council engaged in their first debate Wednesday.

The debate, hosted by Covenant Village and organized by the Turlock Action for Business Political Action Committee, affiliated with the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, drew all four candidates competing for two council seats: Incumbents Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson, as well as newcomers Steven Nascimento and Sergio Alvarado.

Though the debate featured focused questions on a wide range of topics, from outsourcing city jobs to Turlock’s growth plan, this first debate centered on giving candidates a chance to outline their histories and platforms for potential voters.

Bublak, a Modesto Police officer first elected to council in 2008, acknowledged her first term was challenging. But Bublak, a Turlock resident since 1983, noted many highlights in addition to her campaign focus of public safety and fiscal responsibility.

“We faced some hard economic times, but we did some great things,” Bublak said.

Bublak touted the adoption of an ethics oath for council members, which she spearheaded. Bublak pointed to the NCAA Track and Field Championships held at California State University, Stanislaus, which she lobbied for. And Bublak spent extra time speaking about the Business Partnership Incentives Program she created, which offers new businesses $1,000 to open up shop in Turlock.

“People are scared to start a business on debt,” Bublak said. “To give them $1,000 and get them started is huge.”

Fellow incumbent Jackson, also elected in 2008, spoke about successes during her first term. Jackson cited the recovery of downtown, the return of the farmers market, and the approval of a smaller general plan growth boundary as key moments, tied in to her campaign priorities: economic development, public safety, and smart growth. But many challenges remain, Jackson said.

“I’m asking you to give me four more years to finish what I started,” Jackson said.

Jackson thanked previous councils for the healthy reserve funds which allowed Turlock to weather the poor economy. And Jackson said she believes recovery is around the corner, especially with new businesses like Blue Diamond coming to Turlock; in the next four years, Jackson hopes to attract more significant manufacturers to Turlock, while balancing the budget.

Jackson spoke kindly about the hard work of Turlock employees, even as fewer employees take on more tasks given the down budget. It’s their hard work, especially in areas like park maintenance and graffiti abatement, that make Turlock attractive to new business, Jackson said.

“We're not going to bring companies like Blue Diamond to Turlock if we do not have a clean city,” Jackson said.

Turlock native Nascimento highlighted his political savvy in the debate; the first-time candidate previously worked as a City of Modesto planner, and today works as a district director for State Sen. Anthony Cannella. Nascimento said he respects the way Turlock is planned and has grown over the years, and supports the smaller growth plan endorsed by council on Tuesday.

“I think part of the appeal of our community is that we have managed growth in a responsible way, and we have taken care of the community we built before expanding into new areas,” Nascimento said.

Nascimento spoke frankly and factually about budget challenges facing Turlock, and the need to attract new businesses to increase tax revenue. Those jobs will have a secondary effect too, he said: Reducing crime.

“I'm of the mindset that the best crime prevention program for adults is a job,” Nascimento said.

As the budget does begin to recover, Nascimento advocated care to keep spending in check, for fear of an unanticipated further downturn. That fiscal responsibility is a cornerstone of Nascimento’s campaign, alongside maintaining Turlock’s quality of life, sustainable growth, economic development, and transparency and accountability.

Alvarado, a Turlock resident who works for the U.S. Postal Service in Livingston, said he would work for residents and small businesses alike while focusing on three main priorities: police, fire, and roads. Turlock’s poor roads have been a particular point of contention for Alvarado, who has lived in Turlock for four years since relocating from Dinuba.

“For too long, they have gone without attention,” Alvarado said. “Turlock is a world-class city that is marred by bad roads.”

Alvarado said he would add funding for road repairs to the city’s annual budget, but would not raise taxes.

“I do not believe in tax increases,” Alvarado said. “I believe we'll need to find that money from other departments.”

Alvarado also stated that he supports Turlock’s ban on big box stores, and appreciates the charm of downtown.

Ultimately, it will be up to voters to select two of the four candidates in the Nov. 6 election, determining the makeup of the Turlock City Council – and the future of Turlock – for the next four years.

“Come Election Day, two of these people are going to be very happy, and two are going to be very disappointed,” said Mike Lynch, past chair of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and debate emcee.

This article has been corrected. Originally, Sergio Alvarado was mistakenly identified as Sergio Nascimento in the second paragraph.

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