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The best is yet to come

POSTED June 8, 2010 9:28 p.m.

There’s no reason to be concerned about Turlock’s lack of a July 4 fireworks celebration this year.

Sure, like everyone else I’ll miss sitting under a starry sky watching bombs bursting in air. But I’m willing to wager we’re still going to have plenty of fireworks this July – and I’ll bet they’ll continue on through ‘till Nov. 2.

And these are my kind of fireworks. If my prediction is right, we’re in for one of the more spectacular electoral seasons in Turlock’s history now that this ho-hum primary election is in the books.

On Nov. 2, Turlockers will be asked to elect two new City Council members and a Mayor. I’ve already heard of at least seven possible candidates, and I’m sure more will spring up in the weeks to come.

This race will be bloody. It will be painful. It will, ultimately, change the balance of power on the Turlock City Council and, potentially, change the future of our fair city.

Just think back to our last City Council election just two years ago. Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson joined the council in that election, unseating incumbent Vice Mayor Kurt Vander Weide and replacing the retiring Beverly Hatcher.

There were illegal robocalls, the source of which has yet to be determined despite an ongoing lawsuit. There were fundraisers, endorsements, and campaign contributions of questionable natures, at best. There were even billboards proclaiming candidates’ virtues.

But robocalls and high falootin’ “affair” fundraisers likely won’t compare to whatever improprieties candidates dream up this year.

I’m certain that the politics will be even dirtier – and more costly – in 2010. But it seems this is the sort of thing required to win these days.

I’m not quite sure how we’ve come to this point. A successful campaign for a seat on the Turlock City Council now seems to require a $30,000 investment – a ludicrous investment of nearly 50 cents per resident and tens of dollars per vote.

Perhaps this year we’ll see a candidate sponsor an actual three-ring circus. Who knows? We did have a candidate hold a fundraising fair in 2008.

If I recall correctly, things weren’t always this way. Elections used to be, if not serene, at least civil.

Nowadays we have members of council sniping at one another during meetings. I’ve heard stories that some refuse to speak to one another outside of City Hall, preferring to discuss policy in the pages of the newspaper.

These deep-seated animosities set the stage for a brutal November.

What happened to shaking hands and kissing babies? What happened to the best man or woman – not the richest, most politically savvy person – winning?

Playing an expensive, cutthroat game of politics doesn’t benefit Turlockers. It obscures the issues that matter. Spending and wrongdoings dominate media coverage instead of the candidates’ qualifications and goals.

I can’t pledge to ignore the seedy sort of scuttlebutt in my coverage of the upcoming election simply because voters ought to know if a candidate might be up to no good. But I can pledge to do my best to bring readers the sort of information that truly matters in choosing a candidate.

Turlock – like many Valley cities – faces high unemployment. Our citizens need jobs.

We face a crime problem that, while declining, still threatens citizens every day.

We live in a city that offers limited entertainment options for residents.

We suffer from declining tax revenues and cuts in city services.

We have good people living on the streets due to foreclosures.

We don’t even have real fireworks this year, for goodness’ sake.

How will candidates look to solve these issues? There are no easy answers, but I’m hoping that some candidates will offer up solutions. And I hope those candidates will follow through on their ideas once elected.

Robocalls, outrageous soundbites, and campaign promises may seem important now, but in four years’ time they simply aren’t going to matter. Bickering isn’t going to solve the problems facing Turlock.

Fireworks are impressive, but once the sound and fury pass we’re just left nothing. It’s ideas and solutions that will change the landscape.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com, call 634-9141 ext. 2005, or fill out nomination papers to run in the Nov. 2 election.

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