As we enter into the last weeks of this election season, I wanted to take a few moments to refocus the citizens of Turlock on the truth rather than some of the misperceptions and half-truths that have been put out in campaign materials and editorial comments.
In a recent article in the Turlock Journal, a story on local job creation noted that Turlock's unemployment rate is three percentage points lower than the rest of Stanislaus County and about one percent higher than the California statewide average. In short, Turlock stands apart from most other communities up and down the San Joaquin Valley in its economic recovery. That recovery effort did not happen overnight or by some magical fluke. The stabilized economy, job creation, vibrant downtown and most importantly the quality of life has come from the Mayor and Council holding a long-term vision for the community over this last eight years. In short, our community is neither broken nor headed in the wrong direction. Our city government reputation speaks for itself and I want to take a few minutes to disseminate the truth.
During my tenure as Mayor and as a member of the City Council, we have been committed to good planning and civic engagement. To that point, after numerous community meetings and public hearings the Council adopted a new General Plan, local government's constitution for land use planning which balances future economic growth with ag land preservation. The Mayor and Council have developed two-year strategic plans to give staff direction in terms of focus and priorities so that there was no guess work as to the vision. Staff has been able to take that vision and seize funding opportunities for such projects as the new Transit Center, beautification projects on Golden State Boulevard, completion of the Christoffersen Parkway and its medians as well as grant funds to provide business assistance to startup companies and those that needed to redefine themselves during the last economic downturn.
The City Council has emphasized transparency and providing high levels of customer service to the community. While state law provides minimum requirements for such things as public noticing, and how the Council and all of the committees and commissions carry out the public business, our standard has consistently been significantly beyond the minimum required. Whether is it district elections, televised council meetings or a public hearing on water rates, public noticing and civic engagement is always at the forefront of every process and decision. To say that a candidate is going to "bring back transparency to City Hall" suggests that transparency doesn't exist, and that is simply not true.
While news headlines announce new employers such as Blue Diamond and Hilmar Cheese or retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods, the Council has joined me in emphasizing changes in our development services to better serve the development community that brings jobs and sales tax dollars to our local economy. During the last eight years, we formed the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee to hear complaints and collaborate on solutions for the development community to navigate an often times difficult state regulations and building code. We have changed our procedures and established a streamlined permit process to help get projects through the regulatory maze that has received commendation from major site selectors, developers and the Governor's Office of Economic Development while not lowering our standards or regulatory requirements. Again, the addition of base sector employers and expansion of other large employers is not an effort that teeters on the brink of dysfunction or disaster.
Turlock's community vision is bigger than any one individual. Over my tenure as Mayor and service on the City Council, that vision has been established through community consensus and having everyone at the table. We have built upon that vision to develop and implement a strategic plan and tasked our very experienced staff to implement those policy priorities. While our goal has never been perfection, it has been excellence with integrity.
Leading this community effectively over the next four years takes more than some platitudes about vision, or insinuations that what we have been able to achieve over the last eight years requires saving our City from some state of brokenness is ill informed or disingenuous at best.
As I conclude my eight years as Mayor and public service to this city, I do so leaving our city government healthier and more vibrant. I am proud of what has been accomplished by our City Council, staff and the community to further Turlock's image and reputation as the Jewel of California's Central Valley. It is my sincere hope that Turlock's newly elected Mayor and Council Members will continue to build upon our record of success.