2013 State of the City Speech
City of Modesto
Given by Mayor Garrad Marsh
Feburary 6, 2013
and thank you for joining me at the Two Thousand and Thirteen State of the City
In the past,
the State of the City has been a recital of the last year’s events and
achievements along with a list of future plans and objectives.
This year, I
will be departing from that to some degree to focus on our economic future and
making Modesto better. So often we all just continue doing what has been the
norm. I AM willing to do things differently. I AM willing to take on projects
that are not always easy or guaranteed to be successful. What I am NOT willing
to do is just accept the status quo, especially when we could do so much
this afternoon, I will focus on our economy and our economic future. To
continue as we have, Modesto won’t be really successful at expanding our
fortune. We have just been getting along.
requires strategic advantages. Where do we find strategic advantages and what
are our disadvantages or shortcomings? First, we are superbly located to be a
major agricultural processing center. And because of this, Modesto has been
working to secure our infrastructure and expanding our ability to attract new
has a superior sense of community, our citizens, non-profits, religious
organizations, and neighborhoods make this city so much better than Forbes or
others can ever measure. Finally, we are a relatively affordable place to live
and do business.
But we also
have distinct disadvantages to other locales, especially in regards to our
crime rates, our educational achievement, and the lack of business ready land.
We must do better on all three of these fronts for our area to thrive. I think
it is important here to address these problems.
Before I speak
on the issue of crime, I would like to recognize our former Chief Mike Harden
who was unable to join us today, and Captain Gene Ballantine, who has been our
interim chief. I thank you both for your work, and for making due with too few
Now, I would
like to recognize our new Chief - Galen Carroll, Chief, please stand. We have
hired him to lead our police force. I have confidence he is the right person
for us. But I must tell you it is time to give him enough tools to make our
city safer. Thank you Chief.
public safety, I have been fixated on just needing more cops and firefighters,
but I also realized there may be more, and better, ideas on improving our
public safety and reducing crime. Toward that end, in December I convened a
citizen’s forum on public safety. A group of nearly 100 business and community
leaders, citizens, and neighborhood organizers gathered and generated over 200
ideas. 15 of the attendees agreed to analyze the different concepts and develop
a report. Then last Friday, over 60 of the original group plus some new faces
evaluated the different proposals. We will be posting the ideas and results on
our website if you are interested.
has caused me to expand my scope. To realize that community involvement
through non-profits, religious organizations, neighborhood watches and
neighborhood organizations must be included as a cost effective way to improve
our city. Hiring of private security and investment in technology must also be
part of the solution. But all of the ideas take more dollars than we have.
most recent reductions in force, we eliminated 14 Community Service Officers.
These positions, which provided support in crime prevention, investigation,
response to citizens, and development of neighborhood groups, are desperately
night I did something I hope I never have to do again.
I attended a
candlelight vigil for an innocent young man who was senselessly murdered last
week in a park. Two years ago this week, I attended the candlelight vigil for
a mom, dad, and their mentally disabled child who were murdered in their business.
And two years before that, we had a two year old shot in his front yard while
playing. What do all of these have in common? They were all committed by gang
members. We can no longer do business as usual. We can no longer move cops
from the one hot topic crime of the month to the next. From gangs to drugs to
graffiti to auto theft and back to gangs. Our police officers have done so
well with so little.
I also desire
to have every area of Modesto organized with an active neighborhood group, to
watch out for ourselves. They are the eyes to aid our safety officers. Such
associations will improve our quality of life.
There is more,
we also have issues to address in our fire service. Over the last 5 years,
with the cuts made to balance our budget, our response times have deteriorated
from over 90% down to the 60 percentile range of being on time.
This has not
resulted in a lost building or a death, YET. But I think it is only because of
the grace of God that is true. We are truly on the edge. No longer having the
equipment and staff to handle two simultaneous working fires. The odds are not
WE MUST HAVE
MORE RESPONDERS. We must! And to do that we must have more revenues.
anyone to find a solution otherwise. We can continue to do the same, just
making mi-nute incremental improvements, OR you can join me in shaping and
passing a public safety tax proposal to make Modesto better, to make Modesto
safer, to make Modesto attractive to businesses.
It is your
choice. Keep doing what we have been doing, or work with me to make our city
better and safer.
At a recent
conference LA Mayor Villaraigosa said, “When streets are safe, neighborhoods
blossom; when streets are safe, companies and businesses thrive and invest in
our city; when streets are safe, jobs come to our City.”
As a community,
wouldn’t you like our neighborhoods to blossom? Or our local companies and
business to thrive and further invest in our town? Wouldn’t you like more jobs
and safer streets in Modesto? Well - I…. do….too! I want neighborhoods to
blossom, I want business to thrive, I want safer streets, I want more jobs.
and especially Sacramento are not going to rescue us. They can’t even take
care of themselves. We must take it upon ourselves to help ourselves. I will
be actively seeking input, commitment, and help to make this happen. I think it
is of the utmost importance to our community. It will not be easy, but I AM
willing to try.
structural disadvantage is our education attainment level.
education is an interesting topic for a mayor. But without an educated
workforce, we will have difficulty attracting the businesses we need to
diversify our economy.
First, I have
chosen to continue Former Mayor Ridenour’s Top Teens program. To that end, we
have named 27 to this year’s list. These are youth that have overcome
hardships or been outstanding examples of community servants. They are
special, and I am so pleased to have written letters of recommendation and
acknowledgement for them to file with their college applications. I have
invited them to join us today and would like to ask those who were able to
attend to please stand.
We need to
bring good jobs to Modesto for these young people. They should have a secure
future here, in Modesto, not being forced out of our area to find quality
employment. These and many more children are why economic expansion is so
system essentially excludes city government from being a part of the educating
our youth, I think all of us must be willing to help our schools to succeed.
It cannot be
just the teachers and the school system’s job to help our youth be successful
students. Mentoring, tutoring, after-school activities, literacy, and summer
learning programs are just some of the areas where we each can help. Citywide
grade level reading initiatives are springing up around the country. Children
who are not at grade level by third grade usually fall further and further
behind. Truancy and behavioral problems become greater. We must join in a
partnership with our schools to help them be successful.
the failing student, the neglected, the dropouts are also sweet targets for
gangs. It’s not just policing, but also preventing that we should be
and the School District have had a contentious issue on the table for a while
now, but we must set it aside to work together for the good of our youth and
our community. All of us, together, can do more. This is a challenge that we
as a community will need to undertake.
not been especially successful at diversifying its economic base. Not just
because of the topics I have already covered, but also because we have, too
often, just been reactive. We need to stop hoping that someone will knock on
our door, that someone will decide to select Modesto to do business. Toward
that end I plan on including a $500,000 economic development commitment to our
upcoming budget. Together with my Council, we will look toward marketing
Modesto initiatives, incentive programs for vibrant and targeted firms, and
other programs to bring new types of employers to our area. Much like I
convened our citizen forum for public safety, I would like to propose a similar
effort for expansion of our economic base. I have asked Dave Cogdill to join
me in this effort.
We have to
plan for the next thirty years, not just for tomorrow. Modesto does not have
adequate business land. Toward that end, I looked towards addressing the
problem. The Salida Now plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors over 5
years ago. Because of the economic changes we have endured, that plan cannot
be built as sold. The Salida Now developers will never be able to provide the
infrastructure for the business park areas. Modesto can.
annexation of Salida is workable. I believe it is in the best interest of
Stanislaus County and Modesto. But most of all, MOST of all, I believe it is
in the best interest of the people of Salida.
was sold to developers, and there is nothing Salidans, nor Modesto, nor Stanislaus
County can do for 20 more years if things stay as they are. Only by entering
Modesto can the people of Salida have a say in what their future will look
like. If they choose not to join us I see triple the homes, triple the
population, and triple the traffic with little chance of bringing the business
parks to fruition. I know it will be difficult to convince the people of
Salida, but it is another challenge I AM willing to undertake.
quickly look at some recent accomplishments in Modesto. We have scored a few
wins on the transportation front, another important aspect of economic
to the Kiernan interchange, plus the expansion of Kiernan to four lanes all the
way to McHenry are underway. I have advocated, and the North County Corridor
committee has accepted, the “make Keirnan work” plan for the Corridor.
Burnside OR I have made ourselves regular attendees at the California
Transportation Commission hearings. We have been fighting for funding of the
Pelandale overpass project and if successful, the outreach work of Councilwoman
Burnside will be a major factor. I thank her for her efforts.
By the way,
the CTC is tentatively planning for their October meeting in Modesto. They
have never met in the San Joaquin Valley before. Maybe we are finally
regaining a voice we lost with Kirk Lindsey’s passing.
I formed a
bicycle advisory group last year, and Modesto was awarded an Honorable Mention
by the League of American Bicyclists. We are far from Davis’ platinum level,
but we will keep moving forward. Our city’s work on bicycle infrastructure is
just a small step in making our community more desirable.
more desirable, have you seen our “parklets” at 10th and J. In thinking of
these new parklets an old proverb comes to mind, “Those who say it cannot be
done should not interrupt the person doing it.” When I think of that person,
the person doing things right in our downtown, I think of Josh Bridegroom.
Josh had a vision and took a proactive step in the beautification of downtown
Modesto. Initially donating nearly $1,000 of his own money, and with the help
of fellow community members and businesses, Josh took the initiative to get the
parklets project started.
small change made those corners friendlier. I will push to continue with a
redesign of all of J Street and more of 10th street. More steps toward
improving the image of Modesto.
downtown partners, over the last few months, committees have been actively
working to identify existing unfavorable conditions, from physical to
regulatory and developing ideas for improvement. In order to involve the
larger community in the process of developing the Downtown Hospitality Program,
a summit meeting is being planned for February 28. We would welcome your
some other advances locally. The Modesto arch was restored, my thanks to the
Chamber and all of the volunteers and donors who made that happen. The long
awaited Archway Commons, an affordable housing project at 9th and Carver, is
nearing completion, as is Mary Grogan Park and its 7 soccer fields.
science building at the West Campus will also open soon. This is a state of
the art building, and is LEED certified. A truly fine sustainable green
While I am on
the topic of green and sustainability, I want all of you to know that Modesto
will be rolling out a Property Assessed Clean Energy program, commonly known as
PACE, later this year. This will provide financing for energy efficiency
improvements to your business properties and homes. Whether this is in the
form of better insulation, dual pane windows, high efficiency air conditioning
units, or solar, these are projects that will provide positive cash flow to the
property owner while improving our environment. I expect 25 to 100 projects
the first year with multiples of that in the following years. What ELSE does
this do? It provides hundreds of jobs for our local contracting industry, one
of the most devastated segments of our economy. Modesto is ready to be one of
the leaders in this field.
I continue my
commitment to building up, not out.
building up front, I view the court house renewal as vital. But it has been a
roller-coaster year for this project: on and off three times. Today it is
tenuously on. Construction of this project will be a major step not just
toward a better Modesto, but to a better economy, and a more successful city
center. I believe it will also generate infill and market rate housing
projects in our downtown. Market rate housing is an essential component of a
vibrant city core.
the importance of having strategic advantages and our ability to be leaders in
segments of the economy.
end and my “not out” commitment, I believe it is paramount to also protect and
secure our largest strategic advantage, agriculture. Therefore, we will soon
be considering farmland mitigation proposals similar to those already adopted
by the County and LAFCO. Additionally, I plan to place Denny Jackman’s
residential urban boundary proposal on our agenda for the Council to hopefully
move it to a citizen’s vote this November. We need to be proactive in this
Over the past
year, I have held Town Hall Meetings and Public Safety Forums which have been
designed to blend the needs and desires of the community with the vision of the
City. I will continue to hold Town Hall meetings this year with the next
meeting scheduled for 1 pm May 4th at Gregori High School. Prior to
that, there should be public forums on the Salida question taking place.
As I said in
the beginning, it is easy to just take things day by day. But I AM willing to
lead us into a better tomorrow.
It is time we
as a community stopped being spectators and become active participants in
making a better Modesto.
On the brink
of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln had this to say about change: “The
dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present and future. As
our circumstances are new, we must think anew and act anew.” Modesto, so
Join me in no
longer sitting on the sidelines and doing what has always been the norm. Join
me in no longer accepting the status quo. Join me in thinking and acting
anew. Join me for the challenges we face.
boundaries, it’s time to think up, not out. For our economy, think big, not
small. For our streets and parks, think safe, not scared. It’s time to think
about the youth and their future here in Modesto. It’s time to provide more
responders. It’s time to join me in focusing our goals on a stronger economic
future and a better Modesto.
Thank you and
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