Over the past few weeks, I‘ve read many letters supporting a market in downtown Turlock. I too am a supporter of a market in downtown Turlock. Unfortunately, the current management of the market (Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market or TCFM) failed to apply for a street closure permit for the 2016 season before another party (Golden State Farmers Market Association or GSFMA) applied. Based on past practices, street closure permits are processed by City staff to the first party to apply; in this case, it was GSFMA.
I think we can all agree that management of a market shouldn’t be determined by this “first come, first serve” street closure process. TCFM shouldn’t be excluded from operating the market due to an oversight by its management; at the same time, it would also be wrong to negate GSFMA’s application that was filed in accordance with the existing process.
A reformed process at City Hall needs to be created because we have an obligation to Turlock’s citizens to be impartial and fair in the use of all public spaces, including public streets. On December 8, 2015 and by a 4 - 1 vote, Turlock City Council directed staff to create a Request for Proposals (RFP) that would objectively determine the management of a Turlock market. City staff was directed to create a fair, open, and transparent process that allows any interested party—including TCFM, GSFMA, and any other interested parties—to apply for operation of the market.
The content of the RFP has been based on models from surrounding cities with input from key stakeholders and community members, including Turlock’s Planning Commission Chair, past and present members of TCFM management and board, members of GSFMA, and other interested citizens. A final review of the RFP language has been scheduled for this Saturday, February 20th at 1:00 pm at City Hall and I encourage all those with an interest to participate in the discussion.
Regardless of which party operates a market in Turlock’s downtown streets, a provision has been included within the RFP agreement to honor the history and dedication of current market farmers and vendors. This will not only protect the time and efforts invested by these farmers and vendors that have cultivated and contributed to the market’s success over the past six years, but it will give them the security to plan for this upcoming 2016 market.
I recognize there’s a fear that a different market operator will eliminate the very aspects of the Turlock market that we all love, such as the reading tent, face painting, public education about agriculture, or free space for non-profits. However, we believe these factors will be part of the evaluation criteria, and new events and attributes will be anticipated to make the market even better.
Overall, I’m encouraged to see strong support for a market in Turlock. As a farmer and a mayor, I also share this passion for a place where Turlock residents can come together to celebrate our agricultural roots.
The current policy discussion we find ourselves in isn’t about whether or not Turlock should have a market; it’s about fixing a flawed City permitting process. It’s not about erasing the hard work and dedication of the current market; it’s about creating a reasonable application process that highlights and builds upon this history. And it’s not about tearing one another down; it’s about putting Turlock residents first by strengthening the market for us all to enjoy.
While there might seem to be insurmountable differences among interested market operators, I’m convinced that their philosophies aren’t incompatible. In fact, I believe they still have time to move from their respective corners and come together for the betterment of Turlock.
— Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth