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2006 State of the City Speech

State of the City 2006 State of the City Speech
City of Modesto
Given by Mayor Jim Ridenour
January 9, 2006

Mayor Jim Ridenour


Good morning! What a wonderful opportunity to be gathered together with family, friends, members of the community, and most of all the students of Beyer High School.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. First, I want to recognize my wonderful wife Renee. She is a great companion, friend, and source of strength for me. I appreciate her willingness to allow me to serve you as Mayor of the City of Modesto.

I would also like to recognize the Vice Mayor for 2006, Will O’Bryant and my fellow Council Members who have joined us today. Councilmembers, please stand. Please join me in thanking them for the hard work and service they render to the citizens of Modesto.

Also, please help me in recognizing our city department leaders and key employees. These are the folks who keep the city running and provide the services that you have come to expect from the City of Modesto.


I enjoy presenting State of the City remarks at local high schools because it allows me to involve you in the civic affairs of our city. More importantly, I hope that these brief remarks will in some way serve to recruit you as a stakeholder in the community and inspire you to contribute in a meaningful way to our wonderful city.

I value each and every one of you, and appreciate the work of the teachers and administrators here at Beyer and other schools. It takes many moving parts to make our community vibrant and prosperous, but there is nothing more important than the foundation achieved through a quality education.

When we refer to youth, we often talk about the future accomplishments. I have even done so in this speech. Although, I know that many great things will be accomplished by the youth in the future, please let me tell you about some of the successes Modesto youth have already experienced:

  • Back in May, members of the Youth Commission held a Safe Routes to School assembly for the students at Garrison Elementary. Commission members organized the assembly and provided instruction to educate the students of Garrison Elementary on how to be safe as they walk to school and how to utilize the newly installed lighted crosswalk. This not only gave the Youth Commission the opportunity to serve but it also gave them the opportunity to develop improved communication skills and confidence.
  • Another success was the Commission’s involvement in the Teen Alcohol Prevention Program (TAPP). Members of the Youth Commission provided advice and encouragement to students who by avoiding alcohol abuse are improving their chances of a positive future. These students planned and carried out a poster contest for the youth attending seven afterschool programs. They also wrote and directed a play that was performed at Bret Harte Elementary School’s afterschool program.
  • It is my goal to continue encouraging the young people of our community. With that in mind, the City of Modesto will continue to sponsor Youth in Government Day which has had tremendous success. In 2005, over 180 student representatives from local high schools met with the Modesto City Council, Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, and City and County department leaders and employees to gain an up-close look at local government in action. I will continue this program to allow students to learn how to give back to their community.
  • I am pleased to announce that the remodel/expansion of the Maddux Youth Center is almost complete! When finished, the Center will nearly double in size and will contain a computer room, multi-purpose room, offices, Police Athletic League boxing arena, restrooms and a kitchenette. The remodel includes a refurbished gymnasium with a new hardwood floor, a workout room, reading room and game room. The Maddux Youth Center is expected to open by May of this year. It will be a beautiful asset for the community and will serve the youth of Modesto for many years to come.


When I first sought to become the Mayor of Modesto, I set some pretty ambitious goals. I even put those goals together in a book. You may not be keeping track of the goals I outlined in the book, but I am. I plan to see these goals pursued, if not fulfilled outright. I cannot do it alone; it will require the help of my fellow council members, city staff, and community members.

One of the goals was to increase the construction and repair of roads. Although, there is still much to be done, a tremendous amount of work has already been completed. We are moving forward and making progress! In fact, between 2005 and 2007 over $29 million has been or will be spent on major road construction projects. While much of the work is funded through developer impact fees, thankfully State transportation money has been reinstated for use. We will make use of state and federal grants and gas tax dollars to augment other funding for road projects in the years ahead. Here are some examples of the improvements:

  • Last summer Coffee Road between Sylvan and Mable was reconstructed and resurfaced
  • The widening of Briggsmore Avenue from Oakdale to Claus Road from two-lanes to four-lanes is well underway and should be completed soon.
  • This spring Floyd Avenue will be widened between Oakdale Road and Roselle Avenue
  • This summer you will see construction begin on Pelandale Avenue to widen it from two lanes to six lanes from Dale Road to McHenry Avenue. This construction will also include the installation of signal lights at Prescott Road, Carver Road, and Tully Road and will help to alleviate the traffic congestion that occurs along that roadway on a daily basis
  • This year the intersection of Prescott Road and Snyder Avenue will be widened and will also include a signal light

I am excited to see the amount of work that is being done. We are making significant progress in correcting the traffic congestion in Modesto. However, despite this progress, our streets and roadways will still be lacking.

Consequently, this year you will see a push to place a one-half cent Transportation Sales Tax Measure on the November 2006 Ballot.

Before I was elected, I stated that I would only support such a tax if it were absolutely necessary. I believe that it is necessary. Historically, there has been inadequate investment in roads and streets. Compounding the problem, was the State’s withholding of transportation funds from our city and developer fees did not keep pace with increased costs of roads and bridges. The one thing we have direct control over, developer fees, have been regularly increased which offset the cost of making the needed roadway improvements.

Some may say that before we try to proceed with the transportation sales tax measure we need to first work more diligently to receive help from the State and Federal Government. This approach seems intuitive to most people, but the reality for transportation funding is that the state and federal governments are more prone to approve projects that have local matching dollars. Projects demonstrating full funding take precedence over partially funded projects simply because the work gets done now providing taxpayers with immediate benefit at the best price.


Working with State and Federal elected officials has been my goal from day one. I have made great strides in meeting with our elected officials to let them know about the needs of the City of Modesto. While this effort is worthwhile and has paid dividends, it alone is not adequate.

Last year, in federal funds alone the City of Modesto received $400,000 for law enforcement technology improvements, $500,000 for our bus maintenance facility, $14.4 million for State Route 132 improvements, and $3 million for the Virginia Corridor. Additionally, $5.6 million was received for State Route 219 improvements. I would like to thank Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, Congressman Cardoza, and Congressman Radanovich for their tremendous support in helping bring funds to our region.

I would also like to thank State Senator Denham, State Senator Poochigian, Assembly member Aghazarian, and Assembly member Cogdill for their support in having Proposition 42 transportation funds restored.


During the last budget cycle, the City Council was forced to make difficult budget decisions. These decisions were not easy and we did not enjoy making them, but the decisions have resulted in helping the City conserve financial reserves for true emergencies and holding spending to that which we could afford. As a result of these fiscally prudent decisions and improved revenues through increased property tax assessments and early return of tax dollars from the State of California, the City’s financial situation has improved. Because of this, we are able to add back resources for public safety and our urban forestry unit. In fact, the City is in the process of hiring 12 firefighters and 11 police officers.

While we set the goal of a balanced budget by fiscal year 2006/2007, we were able to balance our budget one year earlier. I am proud to report that for the first time in five years on-going revenues cover on-going expenses. Council has adopted a policy to only use one-time revenues on one-time expenses such as road repairs and vehicle purchases.

Last year, the City Council approved contracting out for parks maintenance services. This will result in more frequent care of our parks at a reduced cost to taxpayers. It also allowed the city to consolidate parks maintenance services under a single provider for more efficient administration of park maintenance. We will continue to explore opportunities to provide enhanced levels of service at the best possible cost to our taxpayers.


Tremendous improvements have been made to our transit system. In 2005, the City added three new buses to the Modesto Area Express and expanded the bus routes and schedules. Last year the transit system covered 2 million street miles and served 3.7 million riders.

This year we will be adding service to the Village One area and will enhance service in northwest Modesto to the new Kaiser medical facility.


The City is working to improve the availability of air travel to the citizens of Modesto. The City was awarded a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that will be used to attract new air service to the Modesto area, the goal of establishing direct air service to Los Angeles by the end of this year.


    Last year, the Modesto Police Department became only the 14th Law Enforcement Agency in California to achieve accreditation. It also became the largest California police department to be accredited.

    Accreditation strengthens crime prevention and enforcement capabilities, formalizes essential management procedures, establishes fair personnel practices, improves service delivery, solidifies inter-agency cooperation and boosts citizen and staff confidence in our police department.

    Coming from a public safety background, I know that a safe community depends on a partnership between neighborhoods and law enforcement.

    In 2005, the community’s involvement in National Night Out was outstanding. In fact, Modesto placed 1st in California and 2nd in the nation for National Night Out participation. This year’s festivities marked the 22nd annual participation of Modesto in this important neighborhood based crime prevention activity.

    In January, 2005, the City of Modesto opened its 11th fire station at the corner of Pelandale Avenue and Carver Road. In addition, a new ladder truck was purchased and 12 positions were approved in the supplemental budget process for staffing of the station by mid 2006.


    Plans are completed for the construction of the Neighborhood Center at Marshall Park. The new neighborhood center will serve as a joint Fire, Police, Parks and Recreation and Neighborhoods facility and will replace the existing fire station #2 on G Street with a modern, functional station. The Center will also house the southwest area office of the Police department, and a Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood office, greatly enhancing services to the southwest area of Modesto. Marshall Park improvements were funded through a combination of State and Federal money, as well as developer fees and city general funds.

    After three years of planning community workshops and environmental studies, the Gateway Precise Plan for the Tuolumne River Regional Park (TRRP) has been completed. Construction documents are being prepared for the construction of the Gateway project on the river’s edge and the shaping of the major public gathering areas. Construction will start in July of this year with completion anticipated by May 2007.

    The Roseburg Square portion of the Virginia Corridor is nearing the mid-point. This section of the trail is a collaborative effort among the City of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department and the five Rotary Clubs of Modesto. This quarter-mile section of the Virginia Corridor Trail will feature a trail with lighting, landscaping, benches, tables and seat walls. After completion of the Rotary project, the next phase of the Trail will commence, including the installation of trail improvements between College Avenue and Granger Avenue. By October of 2006, one and three-fourths miles of completed trail will be ready for public use.

    In 2006, four new parks will be built with construction on Marshal Park and Freedom Park scheduled to begin in the spring and the construction of Monterosso Park and Sanders Park to begin in the summer. These park improvements are funded through developer fees and federal loan and grants. These parks will be tremendous assets to our community.


    In February, the refurbished State Theater will reopen for business. The work that has been done to this building is impressive to say the least. I congratulate and thank Mike Zagaris for his efforts to have this wonderful building renovated through community donations and at no expense to taxpayers. Mike works with a great board of directors comprised of community leaders. I look forward to honoring them all at the grand opening of the theater.

    It is exciting to see the progress that is being made on the Gallo Center for the Arts. In the not to distant future we will be able to enjoy a wonderful variety of performances. More importantly, it will provide educational opportunities for young people. This Center will allow the children of this community to experience performing arts and music not currently available.

    Our downtown continues to be a vibrant destination for fun, feasting and all of the amenities that a downtown can offer. The improvements to building facades improves the area’s appearance. The addition of new business, new buildings and the opening of the Gallo Center for the Arts and re-emergence of the State Theatre will only enhance economic growth in the downtown and throughout Modesto.

    The Action Center continues to be utilized to enhance communication and make city service providers more directly accessible to the public. If you have a concern or if you just have a question about city services, our new web-based Action Center will help you find the answers. You can find a button to the action center at


    The Enterprise Zone Program targets economically distressed areas throughout California. Special state and local incentives encourage business investment and promote the creation of new jobs. The purpose of the Zone program is to provide tax incentives to businesses and allow private sector market forces to grow the local economy.

    Water supply is a very important commodity to our community and efforts have been made to ensure that our domestic water system is adequately funded and well maintained.

    Following water rate increases in 2004, we pledged to make sure that growth pays for its way as it relates to water system infrastructure. In 2005 water connection fees were increased dramatically to make sure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place to serve growth as it occurs, without burdening the existing ratepayers. Within the resolution, there is a process to increase the amount of the fees annually and to review the connection fees every three years.

    The City has partnered with the Modesto Irrigation District to build Phase 2 of the Surface Water Treatment plant that doubles the amount of high quality drinking water the City can receive from that source. In addition, new water mains and storage facilities will be built to assure safe and secure water service in Modesto.

    I believe that we have our water system on the right track. We are now analyzing the sewer system. A process similar to the water planning will take place with increasing rates for users of the system and significantly increased connection fees for new development.

    Because of state regulations regarding the discharge of treated sewer products, the city may need to modify the way sewage is treated prior to discharge. These new regulations would likely have occurred even if we never add another business or house to Modesto. New treatment options will be expensive and the burden to pay for the treatment options will fall on all users of this essential utility. There will be plenty of opportunity for public comment, including a vote of the ratepayers.


Modesto is a great place to live and a city of wonderful people.

In an unfortunate event in a neighboring community, Sgt. Howard Stevenson and Officer Sam Ryno of the Ceres Police Department were shot last January on this very day. Sgt. Stevenson died in this tragic incident and Officer Ryno continues to recover. In the hours, weeks and days that passed, our community pitched in and helped out in any way that they could. Donations of time, money, food and flowers were generous and showed the heart and soul of the people of Modesto. I thank you, as have, the families of the officers and the City of Ceres.

The community also pulled a team together to participate in the All-America City contest that was held in Atlanta. We were fortunate to be named in the top 30 but we didn’t reach our goal to receive official All-America city status. While we were disappointed that we came a little bit short of our goal, we learned some valuable lessons that will help us apply again this year. Community members and businesses donated $29,000 for the expense of the team to travel to Atlanta. This year’s event will be held in Anaheim and I am confident that we can put together another great team that will represent the City of Modesto well and that we can earn All-America City status for Modesto.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, Modesto stepped forward. I was amazed and proud of the community groups, churches, youth groups and others that conducted car washes, bake sales and sponsored other events to aid Katrina victims.

Last year, over 623 people received housing at the Salvation Army, and 273 received housing through housing vouchers. The Salvation Army Winter Emergency Shelter provides nightly shelter to homeless individuals during the cold winter months. The shelter houses single, homeless individuals who have no other shelter options

Habitat for Humanity, a local non-profit home builder that gives first time home buyers a hand-up and not a hand-out has experienced generosity from the community as they built more homes for low income families last year than in any other year.

Your generosity could not have been more evident than at the November 2005 Salvation Army’s Kettle Kick-Off. Generous businesses and members of the community really stepped up to the plate by donating $200,000 to the Army in just one afternoon, shattering the previous record!


The legendary American Humorist Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Modesto is on the right track and the accomplishments that I have mentioned today are evidence of our progressive philosophy and financial discipline. But, as Will Rogers’ quote indicates, we cannot rest on our many accomplishments to date. We simply cannot settle for being “run over”. We must continue to move forward and remain competitive in business, education and government.

I will continue to work closely with our colleagues from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and the Mayors of all 9 of the cities in our county. As I have pledged in each of my State of the City addresses, while it is important to do what is right for Modesto, it is equally as important to think and plan regionally on transportation, land use, economic development, education and law enforcement.

Along with other regional leaders, I will continue to pursue state and federal funding for transportation, law enforcement, homeland security and other important issues in our community. As I said in my 2004 address, “It is no longer appropriate for the most powerful private parties to stand on the sidelines”. I again challenge you to join in this and other important efforts to improve our community.

As a city, we will continue to ensure the firm financial integrity of our water, sewer and storm drain systems. Last year, we focused on water. This year, we will complete the sewer system and begin to analyze our storm drain system. As promised, we are addressing the issue of growth paying its own way and have adjusted and will continue to review developer fees.

As we begin to prepare the next budget, I can assure you that we will balance the budget and we will maintain adequate financial reserves for a rainy day. As we continue to monitor our municipal services, we will continue to look for opportunities to be more efficient at the lowest cost to taxpayers, including continuing to explore competitively bidding city services.

As we close, let me just say that it is an honor and a privilege to work with you and to serve you. I appreciate the level of trust that has been given to me and the confidence that you have in me. However, I must share with you that the true joy in this position is making steady progress in improving the quality of life for Modesto’s residents through the many activities and services we provide as a city.

Thank you for coming. God Bless you, God Bless the City of Modesto and God Bless the United States of America.

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