The Turlock City Council faces a full agenda on Tuesday, taking up three major issues concerning a possible tax increase for Turlock road repairs, the development of new housing near Monte Vista Crossings, and the imminent change to district elections.
With the Stanislaus Council of Governments Policy Board voting against placing a countywide transportation tax measure on the November ballot, Turlock Council members and Mayor John Lazar quickly began discussing the possibility of a similar citywide tax to generate funds for critical infrastructure improvements and repairs to Turlock roadways.
During the meeting, Council members will decide whether or not to direct staff to begin exploring the possible implementation of a special or general tax increase through the use of sales tax monies as a funding source for critical infrastructure and service related issues, particularly for the repair of city roads. In November, a report on the condition of Turlock's roads cited the city's roadway system as the "second-worst in the county" - prompting Mayor Lazar and other Council members to quickly try to find solutions.
If not properly maintained, Turlock's "at-risk" roadways will continue to deteriorate, possibly reaching a "failed" condition that would cost nearly $62 per square yard to fix, according to Margot Yapp of Nichols Consulting Engineers. Currently, nearly a quarter of Turlock's roadways are in a "poor or failed" condition, marking what Yapp deemed as a "significant red flag."
During the November meeting, Yapp warned that by 2032, half of Turlock's roads will be in the failed condition unless a half-cent sales tax was implemented to be dedicated toward roadway repairs and improvements. Although a half-cent sales tax would essentially flat-line Turlock's Pavement Condition Index score of 67, or "at-risk," the estimated extra $5 million for road repairs would prevent road conditions from plummeting.
If the City wished to improve to a PCI of 80, putting the roadway system into the "good or excellent" category, the report indicated that nearly $11.4 million would be required in road maintenance per year over the span of 20 years.
In recent City Council meetings, Mayor Lazar and other Turlock officials have called on the need for a citywide tax increase to meet the needs of Turlock's roadway improvements in response to the countywide transportation tax initiative being abandoned by County transportation officials who felt there was not enough public support to have the tax increase approved during the November election.
On Tuesday, the Council will also direct staff to begin moving forward with forming draft plans and the formation of boundaries as part of the plans to switch to district-based elections instead of the current at-large election system. According to City staff, the city will soon begin gathering input from Turlock residents regarding how the district boundaries should be determined, and how many districts should be formed. With a district-system in place, Council members will be selected by voters from within their individual districts, in an effort to gain more equal representation on the City Council of certain areas and ethnicities in Turlock.
Cities across the state have increasingly felt pressure from minority based groups and organizations to switch to district-based election systems, often having expensive lawsuits placed before them for a failure to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. In February, the City of Turlock received a letter from the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County calling for the Council to adopt district elections, saying that Turlock's current at-large system of voting is an "ongoing violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965."
"Turlock has an increasingly diverse population," wrote President Maggie Mejia to the City of Turlock. "Many of the Asian, Latino, and African American residents are concentrated in specific neighborhoods and communities of interest who are not equally represented...[the at-large election system] impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election."
In addition to requesting that the City Council immediately replace the at-large system with a new system in which City Council members are elected solely by the voters within geographically defined districts, the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County members threatened the City of Turlock with a lawsuit to "seek judicial relief on behalf of Turlock residents," while also asking the court to impose district elections immediately, for failure to do sure.
Should the Council provide City staff with direction to move forward with formulating draft boundary plans and gathering community input, City staff will then request the Council to adopt criteria for the proposed boundaries.
On Tuesday, the City Council is also expected to:
• Consider approving a new housing subdivision, Monte Verde by Florsheim Homes, which would consume 17.84 acres within the city's North West Triangle Specific Plan area near Monte Vista Crossings. The subdivision, which was previously approved by the Planning Commission, would include 107 single family residential lots, with approximately 6 units per acre;
• Receive a report regarding the City's landscaped water conservation efforts;
• Review a community update presented by Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, in addition to a Countywide Public Safety Facility update presented by County Sheriff Adam Christianson.
The Turlock City Council will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, located at 156 S. Broadway Ave.