Growing up in Turlock in the 80s was “totally gnarly.” As good as the decade was, there were still many bad decisions made. The era of mullets and acid washed jeans was also a time of poor planning and rapid residential growth for Turlock, the consequences of which we are still struggling with today.
Under then Mayor Bates’ leadership, Turlock’s population grew by 87 percent and the City performed a whopping 60 annexations. Unfortunately, time has proven what many in the planning community had been warning, that this rapid, sprawling residential growth pattern is not financially self-sustaining. The long-term result of badly planned sprawl for cities is poorly maintained roads, concerns over water and strained city finances.
This issue of growth and how the City manages it is a timely one given the need to expand City revenues and address the issue of affordable housing in a viable, fiscally responsible way. Cities can’t simply encourage residential construction to solve their financial woes. What concerns me in this Mayoral election is that candidates Bates and Bublak appear to have not learned from the mistakes made in the 1980s and are unable to comprehend the full financial ramifications of poor planning. They also lack the political courage to offer any comprehensive solutions to address the problems caused to our general fund, shrinking water supply and neglected roads caused by the sprawl.
Bates has refused to submit any actionable policy ideas at all. Instead, he has said in debates that he will do what he has done in the past. One can only assume he is planning to dust off his old play book and look to annexations and development as the great “antidote” to all our problems putting further strain on our resources. It is unfortunate given his extensive experience as a planning commissioner and Mayor that he would politicize issues like water and roads and just cast aspersions rather than present specifics and possible solutions.
It should also concern Turlock residents that Bublak did not vote for our current general plan because of its limited size. She is on the record stating her willingness to jump Highway 99 and develop housing on the west side of the freeway. These unfortunate examples of a lack of commitment to sound planning principles and fiscal responsibility are out of step with the vast majority of Turlock residents. On the issue of water, she stated in the first debate her willingness to lower water rates; a laudable goal, but a mathematical impossibility. Her solution for fixing our roads is raising the Transit Occupancy Tax and using other general fund revenue; another mathematical impossibility because those two funding sources would be woefully inadequate. After a decade on the City Council, she should have more comprehensive solutions than these to work from.
It is critical that the next Mayor think long term, strategically and be able to present detailed policy solutions. Mayor Soiseth is the only candidate with the track record of successfully dealing with the tough issues of our deteriorating roads and declining water supply. He is also the only candidate that has addressed the link between fiscal responsibility and land use by advocating for infill development and smart growth patterns. Considering what Turlock needs from our next Mayor to address current and future challenges, there is only one candidate that has the capacity and track record to supply the solutions. To elect anyone but Mayor Soiseth would be a major step backwards to the time of bad hair and bad planning.
— Matt Beekman