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Bublak and Jackson look back on their first year in office
After being sworn-in, new City Council member Amy Bublak takes her seat at the dais in December 2008. - photo by Journal file photo
2009 may have been the last year of the decade, but it was the first year in office for new Turlock City Councilwomen Mary Jackson and Amy Bublak. Despite a number of challenges, ranging from the economy to controversial local issues, both councilwomen look back on the year as a successful one.
“I've enjoyed it, I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” Bublak said. “We’ve all learned a lot.”
While Bublak noted that the incoming councilmembers hadn’t expected the economic downturn that dominated decision making throughout the year, she felt fortunate to have approached the council with an open mind.
“The good news is that I didn’t have any agenda, so it’s been good just to play with what is given to us,” Bublak said.
Bublak cast herself as a clear, even-tempered representative of the people of Turlock throughout the election cycle. In debates Bublak frequently declined to name goals, stating simply that all of her decisions would be based on constituents’ input.
While Bublak’s lack of set goals has made her a flexible member of the council, sometimes the overwhelming number of varying opinions has made the task of condensing public sentiment into policy decisions quite difficult, she says.
“Many people call and give me different views, but that’s the beauty of it,” Bublak said. “I’m here to make the decisions based on the majority view.”
So far, Bublak says she’s enjoyed making those decisions. She casts the experience as a “night and day” contrast to her stint on the Turlock Planning Commission, where her role was simply to interpret whether certain narrowly defined findings could be made.
As a councilmember, Bublak says she’s brought a reasoned, centrist view to the proceedings. While navigating council disputes can be a bit difficult, finding consensus is something Bublak — a Modesto police officer — has much experience in.
“I think I sit in the middle of the group and try to pull everyone together,” she said.
Jackson has seen the effects of council infighting first hand during her first year in office, having been accused of voting on a project where she had a conflict of interest. Jackson was later cleared by the Stanislaus Civil Grand Jury of any conflict, but the issue was just a part of the learning experience the councilwoman went through in her first year.
“I think it was interesting, I think it was a good year,” Jackson said. “I would have liked it to have been a bit more productive, but I think it was a good growing year.”
Jackson, like Bublak, said that her first year was really about learning as much as she could. Jackson spent time with employees, retired employees, and retired elected officials to learn as much as she could about all the inner workings of the City of Turlock and the budget.
Jackson, who referred to herself as “action” Jackson throughout the campaign season and ran on a ticket that hinged upon clearing gridlock and making changes for the better in Turlock, admits she had some of her efforts stymied by the economic downturn, but looks forward to the rest of her term.
“I hope that we can actually get a little more accomplished next year, especially with economic development,” Jackson said.
Job creation and attracting new businesses were also hallmarks of Jackson’s electoral campaign. While she didn’t meet her first year goal of bringing in 200 new jobs to Turlock’s Westside Industrial Specific Plan industrial park, again due to the economy, she wants to make economic development a continued priority going forward.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to bring more businesses and more jobs to Turlock,” she said.
Jackson advocates setting goals and benchmarks for such economic development so successes can be measured.
Given the economy, however, Jackson says there’s also a need to look for help from the state and federal governments. She suggests a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. to fight for funding to aid in job creation, and also to aid businesses through infrastructure grants to improve Highway 99 interchanges and possibly build a proposed surface water treatment plant.
“These are not wants, these are needs,” Jackson said. “There are needs in our community that are going unmet.”
Jackson strongly supports the idea of hiring a new city employee — a full-time grant writer on a performance-based contract — to ensure Turlock receives its fair share of grant dollars.
“If they’re not going to go to our community, they’re going to go to somewhere else,” Jackson said.
If Turlock is able to secure more grants it would help to alleviate city budget issues, Jackson said. New projects would likely lead to increased development and generate more tax dollars.
Jackson does cite a few successes from her first year. She thought the final meeting of the calendar year was a good portent of things to come, highlighted by the city’s profit sharing agreement with the Turlock Poker Room and the decision to send the Carnegie Arts Center — a project Jackson has supported since her days on the Turlock City Arts Commission — back out to bid. Jackson also speaks proudly of the progress that has been made in returning a weekly farmers market to the City of Turlock, a project that is rapidly nearing fruition.
Jackson thinks there are lots of opportunities for new recreation projects in the City of Turlock, and advocates for an expansion of the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission and the creation of a PRCC foundation to help fund large projects. While she hopes a recreation center might one-day grace Turlock — featuring an indoor swimming pool — in the short term, she has her sights set on a new northside dog park and a westside BMX Bike Park.
She also recognizes that the issue of a Turlock homeless shelter still isn’t settled, and suggests the city “beg, borrow, and steal” successful programs from other cities. One idea she floats is a “homeless parking lot,” a well-received idea in Santa Barbara that calls for a place for homeless to park their vehicles or camp with showers provided.
The issue of a homeless solution should be addressed, at least in part, when the council adopts their General Plan Update next year — one which Jackson hopes will focus on the principles of smart growth she campaigned on and has heard echoed throughout the community. In considering all of the issues that have come before her during her first year on the council, Jackson says she has kept her constituents in mind.
“I think that I have tried my best to represent the people that elected me,” Jackson said. “I’ve always tried to make the best choices that would benefit the majority of our community.”
However, Jackson notes that she is just one vote out of five.
Looking forward, Jackson says she will continue to make things happen, and to get things accomplished.
“I’m optimistic, I’m really optimistic,” Jackson said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.