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City Manager's Blog

Mar 24

Modesto Students, Make an App for That!

Posted on March 24, 2021 at 9:18 AM by Alyssa Adams

Modesto students have an opportunity to represent their city and compete in the 2021 Congressional App Challenge (CAC), hosted by the US House of Representatives.

As a City, we are excited to help promote the CAC and encourage the next generation of computer science developers and STEM students, many of whom live in Modesto.

To participate, individuals (or teams of up to four) create an app with a proposed solution to a problem. Previous CAC winners in our district created apps that helped solve issues they saw in their community. Last year’s winners made an app that helped combat household food waste. 2017’s winners connected the homeless to a variety of services.

This year, we want to encourage our students to do the same and submit their ideas on how to improve our community.

Come up with inventive solutions to stop illegal dumping, to track the health of trees in your neighborhood, to help solve homelessness, to slow the spread of coronavirus, to bolster economic growth—all common issues for cities around the nation that could be solved with your app!

The challenge officially launches in June, but students may work on their apps now in order to submit them by November.

The Congressional App Challenge is hosted by each participating district’s representative. Our district is represented by Josh Harder, who said, “You don’t have to move to the Bay to make it in tech. We’ve got so much young talent right here in the Central Valley, and I’m excited to see the opportunities they’ll create for the next generation of folks in Stanislaus and San Joaquin.”

Rep. Harder continued, “The Congressional App Challenge means that anyone, anywhere, can showcase their talent and creativity online. If you’re a middle or high schooler ready to prove that you’ve got the app of the future, I hope you sign up for the competition.”

The app can be on any topic or theme and written for any platform (phone, tablet, computer, or even a robot) through any programming language. The individual or team then submits a demonstration video detailing the app’s purpose.

District judges review the submissions in November and announce the winners in December. The app and creator(s) are publicly recognized on the Congressional App Challenge and House of Representatives websites and may also be on display in the US Capitol Building.

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that our Modesto students are inventive and creative both inside and outside of the classroom. We are excited to see the apps our Modesto students develop and are cheering them on every step of the way.
Mar 18

Bus Services Merging to Provide a Better Rider Experience

Posted on March 18, 2021 at 12:05 PM by Alyssa Adams

Public transit users in Modesto and throughout Stanislaus County will soon notice a simplified rider experience. Modesto Area Express (MAX) and Stanislaus Regional Transit (StaRT) will merge into one seamless system called the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority (StanRTA).

The consolidation will plan more effective routes, reduce duplicated services, and give riders an improved travel experience throughout much of the county.

The new transit system is expected to be simpler and easier to use, which will enhance mobility options and should attract more users. Currently, some riders have to purchase multiple tickets and use multiple services for longer rides. The new system will allow riders to use just one ticket and one service for most area bus services.

StanRTA will officially take over operations beginning July 1, 2021. Riders will not be affected by any immediate operational changes but can expect to see gradual improvements start in early 2022.

The Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) worked with the City Modesto, the City of Turlock, and Stanislaus County to perform a county-wide Transit Efficiency and Innovations Study in late 2019, which recommended the merger.

The City of Modesto and Stanislaus County unanimously agreed to move forward with a joint powers agency on January 26. The joint powers agency allows MAX (which includes Modesto Dial-a-Ride) and StaRT to combine into a new, independent organization, StanRTA.

“Transit riders having the ability to use one ticket and pay one fee to move around the majority of the county is really important,” said Modesto Council Member Jenny Kenoyer, who is also a StanCOG Policy Board member and on the board for StanRTA.

The City will be contracted to perform routine maintenance on all buses and will continue to own and operate the Amtrak Station and the Transit Center after the consolidation. Transit operations—including scheduling, planning, and running the bus services—will be the responsibility of the new StanRTA organization.

The community will be included in the rebranding process and in scheduling and planning bus routes. Riders can stay up to date on any changes by checking the StanRTA website.
Mar 03

Modesto Civics 101: The Charter and Our Community

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 11:11 AM by Alyssa Adams

For many of us, the last time we took a civics course was in the 1900’s, and much of that course probably focused on the three branches of the federal government—not the checks and balances within local city government. The final post in this four-part series focuses on the “why” behind the organization of Modesto’s government and how it affects our communities.

In every step, the whole of Modesto’s community has been of the utmost priority to City staff and council. With every Council Meeting, election, and special event permit (pre-coronavirus, of course), the City’s goal remains to provide residents with the highest quality of civic service. 
Here’s what we have covered about Modesto’s local government so far:
  • Modesto is governed by the Charter, a legal document written by residents that serves as the City’s constitution. This allows greater flexibility in handling municipal affairs, as local representatives know their community better than the State does.
  • The Mayor and City Council make up the governing body of the City, and they set policy in the best interest of the City and its residents.
  • The four Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to maintain effective and efficient administration. These Officers are the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor.
These aspects combine to form a City government that is specifically made by and for residents. Claims to fame include a total of 76 neighborhood and community parks for our children to play in, technological advances for everyday tasks, and an economy that supports big and small businesses alike.

By having our own Charter, we have ensured that those who live and work in the area have a greater say in what happens within our City borders than those who watch from afar at the Capitol. Furthermore, residents continue to play an imperative role in revising the Charter every decade to follow the City’s direction over the years.

Residents elect Council Members from their own district to represent them on the City Council. Council Members are in a unique position to work together to benefit the entire City while knowing intricately the advantages and challenges specific to their own communities. Each Council Member is open to ideas and comments from constituents that can help make a better Modesto.

The Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to manage finances, promote fiscal responsibility, ensure adequate reporting, and maintain high ethical standards within City Hall. They engage with the community through committees, panels, and meetings and also keep City employees working effectively and efficiently.

One of Modesto’s goals has been to promote transparent government. That is only possible when we involve residents as best as we can in the decision-making process. With this introduction to the Charter, our elected officials, and the Charter Officers, we hope residents have gained a new perspective on how their local government works for them.