Garrad Marsh made a splash last March when, at his first State of the City speech as mayor, he announced that he wanted to explore Modesto annexing Salida.
This week, Marsh's idea came back at him in the form of cold water ice cold water from dozens of Salida residents who want nothing to do with annexation.
It was the largest public meeting so far on the subject but it wasn't a particularly useful dialogue. About 200 people attended the monthly meeting of Salida's Municipal Advisory Council and a number of them vented their anger.
Marsh was not provided and didn't request in advance time to explain his idea, so the opponents started lobbing verbal bombs from the outset, led, unfortunately, by two members of the advisory council.
Will the anti-annexation sentiment be tempered by the consultant's report? Doubtful, given that the report approaches this subject from the perspective of the cost of providing government services, not from the perspective of what it would mean to the pocketbooks of individual Salida-area residents.
We think it's time to press the restart button on this conversation. The question should not be whether Salidans want to become Modestans but what Salidans want for their community in five, 10, 15 and 20 years. As county Supervisor Terry Withrow, who represents that area, points out, there are really three options:
Trying to incorporate Salida into becoming a city itself, with an elected council and responsibility for its services. Although slightly dated, a 2005 report by a Salida ad hoc committee outlines the process and the financial feasibility demands.
Annexing to Modesto.
Remaining an unincorporated town under the authority of the county.
At Tuesday's meeting, many Salidans indicated they just want their community to remain as it is. That's not a reasonable scenario.
First, the 2007 Salida Community Plan locks in the land uses for the next two decades, with little possibility of change.
Second, there is strong pressure to develop more land for business parks because the county so desperately needs jobs. City and county leaders public sector and private share that goal and Kiernan Avenue is considered perhaps the best location.
If there are landowners along Kiernan who want to sell, they might very well approach Modesto about joining the city. Under such a scenario, Modesto wouldn't annex all of Salida, only the prime real estate for business growth.
Salida residents deserve an opportunity to hear about and discuss all the options for the future of their community. Given the level of mistrust and anger directed at Marsh, we think they will be more receptive to having the discussion led by Withrow and other leaders within Salida.
Start the Salida conversation anew.