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Election 2012: Turlock City Council

Candidates talk roads, economic development

Election 2012: Turlock City Council

Turlock City Council candidates answer questions from the League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County at Wednesday’s debate. Pictured left to right are: Incumbent Councilwoman Mary Jackson, challen...

POSTED October 5, 2012 2:56 p.m.

The four candidates for two Turlock City Council seats faced off for the second – and possibly final – time on Wednesday.

But another debate was evidently more popular – that of President Barack Obama (D) and challenger Mitt Romney (R) – as the crowd was sparse at Turlock City Hall.

“I appreciate the people who are here,” said incumbent councilwoman Mary Jackson. “You all know how to record on your VCRs.”

Only about 30 people attended the debate, organized by the League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County. Currently, no further debates have been scheduled in advance of the Nov. 6 Election Day.

Those who did attend were treated to an hour-long discussion of the candidates' positions and platforms. Questions and response alike were very similar to those offered at a Sept. 12 candidate forum, held at Covenant Village.

Incumbents Amy Bublak and Jackson, sitting at the dais alongside challengers Steven Nascimento and Sergio Alvarado, looked to emphasize experience, while the newcomers touted their new ideas.

Bublak, a Modesto Police officer first elected to council in 2008, stayed closer to her platform in this debate than she did in September; at most opportunities, Bublak sought to remind voters of the “dedication and innovation” she has brought to the Turlock City Council.

As an example of that innovation, Bublak cited the Turlock Partnership Incentives Program, which she spearheaded. That program offers a $1,000 check to small businesses which open in vacant Turlock storefronts, and has helped 10 businesses create more than 33 jobs in its first year.

“These are the things I said I would do, and I have done,” Bublak said.

As for dedication, Bublak cited her decision to remain in Turlock as a City Council member, even after her husband, former California State University, Stanislaus athletics director Milt Richards, accepted a job in Canada a year ago. Now, she is running for a second term, even though the decision could mean more time away from her husband.

“Turlock needs me,” Bublak said.

Fellow incumbent Jackson focused on economic issues, reiterating her policy of economic development, smart planned growth, and providing public service with the tools they need to be successful. Those were the same three platform points Jackson ran on in 2008.

“I stand by those three key issues today,” Jackson said.

But with the challenging economy, addressing the recession – which Jackson terms a depression – and restoring the city budget is now priority number one for Jackson. She hopes to return Turlock to profitability, to begin to refill the city's reserve funds, and to attract numerous large businesses to the Turlock Regional Industrial Park in a second term.

Turlock native Nascimento emphasized his links to the community, growing up on a small family dairy before attending Turlock High and CSU Stanislaus. He also emphasized his wealth of governmental experience, as a previous a City of Modesto planner, and today a district director for State Sen. Anthony Cannella and a Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Community commissioner.

That experience has given Nascimento a wealth of ideas, from code changes to benefit downtown to policies encouraging southeastern redevelopment. But addressing those issues and others, like the challenges presented by water, roads, and budget, will take a unified council, Nascimento said, noting his goal to be productive in office.

“I think these are all things that are very important to our community, and they're things that we should fight for, not about,” Nascimento said.

Alvarado, who has lived in Turlock for four years since relocating from Dinuba, continued to hit on his platform of public safety, infrastructure, and most of all, roads.

“For far too long, they have gone without attention,” Alvarado said. “We are a world-class city, marred by bad roads.”

Alvarado renewed his pledge to devote General Fund dollars to road repair, without raising taxes. Alvarado says he would find the money, but it remains unclear what he would cut in a General Fund budget where more than 80 percent of spending goes toward public safety.

Roads were a major issue from every candidate, though others noted the challenge of locating funding. Jackson, Turlock's representative on the regional road planning board, spoke on the utter lack of state and federal funding needed for major improvements. Nascimento and Jackson alike discussed a potential tax, which voters may need to endorse to make significant headway in road repair.

Candidates discussed myriad other issues during the forum, ranging from downtown to the city budget, a needed surface water treatment plant, growth, ethics, and campaign finance.

And while those issues may seem less pertinent to some voters than national issues like healthcare reform, ultimately, it's these local concerns that will have more effect on the majority of Turlockers, Bublak said, thanking those who attended.

“This is more important,” Bublak said.

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