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Shift in power?

POSTED November 27, 2012 7:39 p.m.

Some election cycles it seems that nothing changes. The incumbents are reelected, or candidates with the same ideology take their place.

On Nov. 6, Turlock voters elected to replace incumbent City Council member Mary Jackson with newcomer Steven Nascimento. What, if any, change will this bring to the City Council?

While Jackson has, in the past, supported more traditionally Democratic ideals and Nascimento is currently a district director for Republican State Senator Anthony Cannella, in the pre-election candidate debates both espoused almost the exact same positions on local issues.

Both cited the need to investigate a potential  parcel tax to pay for much-needed city road repairs. Both Jackson and Nascimento support city parks and recreation programs and the Carnegie Arts Center.

On the topic of revitalizing southeast Turlock, Jackson stated it was a priority and Nascimento supported creating policies to direct growth and private development into the area. Both see the unavoidable need to find funding for a surface water treatment plant and want to see a diverse downtown business corridor.

Pre-election debates and campaign positions, however, may not be the best indicator for future voting records. I don't know one City Council member who has ever said they were against "the arts" or city recreation programs. But when it comes to spending General Fund dollars on revitalizing the Carnegie or keeping the city pool open, that's when the ideological differences appear.

While all council members want to see a revitalized Carnegie and public pool open to local children, not all are willing to sacrifice spending on public safety or business redevelopment to make it happen.

In the "good old days" there was plenty of tax money coming into the city coffers, and council members just had to make sure it was being spent wisely. The funny thing is, when the city had plenty of money there was also plenty of strife and bitterness.

I remember a Turlock City Council so divided that accusations and lawsuits took precedence over governing — or so it seemed.

Now, council members have to figure out how to keep the city afloat amid dwindling tax revenues and a thieving state legislature, but they do so with civility and respect despite differing points of view.

Whether or not the loss of Jackson and addition of Nascimento will bring change to the City Council may come down to political savvy, which Nascimento has in spades.

His experience as a City of Modesto planner and his work with Senator Cannella will hopefully translate into more opportunities for Turlock to partner in regional projects and better navigate the political waters of state and federal grants.

Nascimento, and all the council members, will have their work cut out for them in the next two years. The modest economic recovery seen in the Valley will surely die without new industry to stoke the economic engine. Just because revenues have dried up doesn't mean the costs of running a city have diminished.

Innovation, cooperation and plain common sense will make the difference in city governance in the coming years.

This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker, Journal editor, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Turlock Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  She can be reached at khacker@turlockjournal.com.

 

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