The outlook for downtown Modesto continues to get brighter and brighter.
First, our landmark arch is restored and lit with those bright LED bulbs.
And then there are the new parklets or is it parklettes? created by volunteers at 10th and J streets.
And third, the civic-minded young professionals in CommonWealth Modesto have launched another project Murals in Mo'town. As the name suggests, their goal is to use public art as a vehicle to promote pride in our community.
The murals will feature seven positive themes that CommonWealth identified in a community survey a couple of years ago. They are: hometown heroes, small-town feel, agriculture & industry, community, culture, parks & outdoors and our central location.
A fun fund-raiser this week kicked off the project. Ten pairs of notable Modestans got their hands dirty or at least colored by creating on-the-spot finger paintings, which were then auctioned off at a wine and appetizers event at Camp 4. (See photos in today's Local News section.) With proceeds from the auction and other contributions, CommonWealth has raised almost $3,300 toward the $8,500 cost of the first mural, which will go on the Needham Street side of the restaurant building.
Councilman John Gunderson also is promoting more public art, suggesting even more attractive changes are in store for our downtown.
Sunday's Bee will include A Book of Dreams, The Modesto Bee's annual fund-raising effort for local helping organizations. It is a tabloid-sized special section this year, featuring photos of people who are being helped and will be helped by the charities spotlighted in the book. Please look for the special section and consider making a donation.
The University of California at Merced campus is "green" in many ways, from its energy efficient buildings to its purple piping system for recycled water. Add another notch in its eco-friendly belt: The campus is one of 18 universities in the West participating in the Environmental Protection Agency's national Food Recovery Challenge, intended to limit food waste by reducing unnecessary consumption and increasing donations to charity and composting. According to the EPA, food accounts for 25 percent of all waste sent to landfills.
So much of our economic news locally feels like one step forward, one step back, and that was true this past week. Nlue Diamond finally attached an estimated number of jobs to its new facility in Turlock about 100, mostly new hires while Memorial Medical Center notified 40 employees they will lose their jobs and an additional 125 will have hours cut or will be moving to new positions.
The good news-bad news is especially evident in real estate. Finally, home prices are going up, which of course means that the affordability rate goes down.