I have been following with interest the ongoing farmer’s market controversy. As a former Member of the Turlock City Council (1988-96) one of the most important lessons that I learned was to firmly say no when necessary. Unfortunately, three members of our current council have not learned that lesson. There was never a valid reason to even entertain the street closure permit filed by the Golden State Farmers Market Association. Turlock has a successful non-profit organization to operate a Certified Farmer’s Market. Indeed the city has been obligated to contribute $3,000.00 to the current market as the result of a prior legal settlement. The street closure permit for the Turlock Certified Farmer’s Market should have been renewed as in prior years.
I don’t question the motives of the new applicants in trying to replace the current market, but for the majority of the Council to throw out the six years of volunteer efforts by the Turlock Certified Farmer’s Market was a damaging precedent that will inhibit future volunteer efforts. Turlock has an incredible history of volunteerism that is now at risk.
Throughout this process our Mayor tried to force the two sides to work together. As an IRS approved public charity, there are very strict and complex rules that the Turlock Certified Farmer’s Market must comply with in order to avoid IRS sanctions to work with a for-profit entity. As an attorney who has assisted many non-profit organizations, I could not recommend the non-profit enter into such a joint arrangement. It would need prior IRS approval that would involve many thousands of dollars and up to two years of waiting to safely be associated with a for profit business. The Mayor’s work-together option was never a realistic approach in this matter.
Finally, I believe the majority of the Council still has the ability to repair the damage they have created in the community so that the downtown merchants will not be injured by the high emotions that this issue has generated. Please contact Mayor Soiseth and the Council Members Bublak and Jacob. Urge them to reconsider their action at their next meeting and restore the Turlock Certified Farmer’s Market by granting its street closure permit as in past years.
— Ron Hillberg