By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
City diverts RAD Card funds to new venture
Longtime council critic gets $100K to oversee program
RAD app
The City Council voted last week to take $425,000 of the unspent $1 million allocated for the RAD Card program and instead create a new business development program to be run by David Fransen of Pressert Marketing.

One hundred thousand dollars that had been earmarked for the popular downtown RAD Card program will instead go to one of the city’s loudest and most frequent critics.

The city of Turlock entered into a contract last week that will pay David Fransen, owner of Pressert Marketing, $20,000 per month for the next five months to provide a “business development and assistance program” for the city.

“He’s a well-known figure downtown, and he has good working relationships with downtown businesses,” said Anthony Sims, the city’s economic development director. “He proposed a program and it seemed to check all the boxes that we were looking for.”

Fransen, 47, also operates a website called, on which he shares information about public-safety incidents. Fransen has used his platforms as a community blogger to frequently criticize the city on issues ranging from homelessness to spending.

Fransen unsuccessfully ran for a city council seat in 2008. 

In addition to $100,000 for Fransen’s Pressert Marketing, $325,000 will go toward the program for business development matching funds, according to city staff.

The $425,000 is the unspent total of $1 million that the city council allocated for the RAD Card program in December 2021. The $1 million was part of the nearly $16 million Turlock received from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to stimulate a struggling economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purchase of a RAD Card for $50 would fetch the consumer $100 in goods at locally owned downtown businesses. However, the city stopped seeding the program with ARPA funds in February 2023.

“As we brought these funds in as ARPA money, we have to be able to tell the federal government how we spend it,” councilmember Pam Franco said at the time. “The ($425,000) has got to go to the small businesses and directly to the public. How we do that needs to be a discussion with the public.”

Jenny Roots Sousa, owner of Rustic Roots, 231 E. Main St., was a fan of the RAD Card program.

“It brought in new faces and put money in our pockets,” said Roots Sousa. “They just need to release the RAD Card funds and help out the small business. Especially when HomeGoods opens (July 11). It’s going to crush us even more.”

Roots Sousa wasn’t the only one who spoke out in favor of the RAD Card. The Journal surveyed 10 downtown business owners Monday and Tuesday. Of them, only one business did not participate in the RAD Card program. All of the other nine thought the RAD Card program was positive,  seven favored using ARPA funds for reviving the RAD Card program over the new BDAP program. And several said they were hearing about the new program for the first time, and were not asked by the city for their input.

“The RAD Card just brought people in,” said Teresa Soderquist-Benedict, owner of Vintage Market, 210 E. Main St. “It helped everybody. It helped the consumer. It helped us. It helped the sales tax. It was a win-win-win, really. I don’t know why it’s been so difficult to get them to understand how badly we want the RAD Card.”

Lisa Espinola, owner of Glitz Fine Clothing, 306 E. Main, echoed those sentiments.

“It helped us because more people were willing to spend money if it was matched,” said Espinola. “Honestly, I didn’t have any problems with it.”

Lori Smith, owner of Main Street Antiques, 208 E. Main St., is another RAD Card supporter.

“I fought for it,” said Smith, who’s owned her business for nearly 28 years. “I could see the writing on the wall, so I fought for them not to stop it.”

Former city councilmember Becky Arellano, who owns Little Red Door, 340 E. Main St., is skeptical of the new program.

“I’m not comfortable with that at all … and I haven’t heard one thing from the city about it,” said Arellano. “I don’t think it will help facilitate business. I am a fan of the RAD Card because it gave local control to local people.”

According to Fransen’s proposal, Pressert will offer “confidential, no-cost consulting and coaching services to assist business of all sizes” in the city.  Fransen proposed to accomplish this by opening a business assistance satellite office; launching an outreach campaign to bring awareness to the services; launching an economic development matching-funds grant program; and offering monthly workshops and one-on-one coaching.

Efforts by the Journal to reach Fransen for comment were unsuccessful.