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Reforms needed to prevent lasting divisions from forming in Turlock

POSTED March 18, 2016 10:43 p.m.

A city is made up of roads, sidewalks, parks, schools, and stores. Most importantly, a city is a community of various individuals living their lives. Different cities have different characteristics and atmospheres. They carry in them different experiences and histories. They mean different things to different people. However, in what seems to be this simple question, one finds that the complexities of life are demonstrated in the social fabric of modern civilization, the city.

How might this question be asked about our city, Turlock? From humble beginnings, it is amazing to see how much we have grown. Those who blazed the trail before us with adventure, hope, and prosperity in their hearts have given us a solid foundation to continue to build on. We have great parks, schools and opportunities for individual growth, though we do need to work on our roads. With all of this, it is the people that make our city, much like we all make up California and the United States of America. The definition of our city begins with us not losing ourselves as we grow.

We must not forget to remain connected to one another, to be respectful and understanding, and to keep the tradition of civility alive while always seeking what is true. And however relative one might find that last statement, it is the role that leadership plays in the definition of our city that will see Turlock remaining the great city it is meant to be. Leadership means to see to it that voices from all parts of our city, all walks of life are heard and recognized as a need to continue to maintain and strengthen that very foundation. Leadership is seeing that those who seek involvement are welcomed and all are sought to make positive contributions.

So, what will be the definition of our city growing forward? Over the past several months a few issues have risen as to the current state of city leadership. Perhaps, we should think about what reforms might be necessary to prevent lasting divisions from forming. The issues center around three areas: residency of the elected, campaign finance, and inclusiveness. It will be important for the future that we maintain and set standards now.

With regards to the first, to make sure that someone is not just seeking opportunity to get elected to public office and is actually invested in the future of our city and to prevent the moving around to different districts perhaps there should residency requirements. It is reasonable to suggest in other for one to be elected he or she must have been a resident since the last election for the office in which is sought. This would effectively mean that a person would had to have lived in the city for at least four years and specifically within a district for a district council seat. This would be one way to help prevent games from being played.

Next, campaign finance is becoming more of an issue now that the city is getting larger and it requires more resources to run for local office. One way to go is the Tin Cup Ordinance which would require recusal of a councilmember from an issue that he or she received a certain level of campaign contributions from one of the parties involved. We could limit the dollar amount of contributions that campaigns could receive from individuals and businesses. We might also consider some sort of public financing which would include spending limits. There are multiple ways to improve the situation before it gets out of hand. We owe it to the future residents of Turlock to tackle this problem now.

Last but not least, inclusiveness is an important aspect of a representative democracy. To include more voices on the council we should add two more districts to our city, bringing council membership to seven. Yes, at first, the districts will be small with a total of six. However, it will provide the opportunity for more individuals to get involved. The democratic process will be strengthened. Finally, with the addition of two new districts, the commissions should be divided up with one member from each district and one at large. These proposals are about opening up city hall and adhering to government being by, of and for the people.  

Thank you for your time.  I hope that this letter can be a point of discussion as our city moves forward.

 

— Jeremy Rocha M.P.A.

Former PARC Commissioner

 

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