Modestans offer their ideas in community forum

kvaline@modbee.comApril 18, 2013 

— Nearly 200 people turned out at Tenth Street Plaza on Thursday afternoon to help Modesto chart its course over the next three years.

The downtown forum featured barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and soda, as well as ice cream. A disc jockey provided music and games.

But those who attended the forum could talk with key city officials and vote on what they believe should be Modesto's top goals in its strategic plan update for 2014 through 2017.

Some of the proposals that garnered strong public support included:

• Having Stanislaus County work toward becoming a self-help county for regional transportation projects. Self-help counties are those whose residents have agreed to pay more in sales tax for road projects. Those counties leverage the additional money to secure state and federal road money.

• More bike paths and other bike-friendly projects

• Free Wi-Fi in downtown

• Working with young people to keep them away from gangs

• A downtown train station by 2018, which would be served by a branch of the Altamont Commuter Express, linking Modesto with the Bay Area

• Create more "shovel-ready" land for business parks by bringing infrastructure to the land. This was one of several economic development proposals that enjoyed strong support.

Each attendee was given eight dots and placed one dot next to each of his or her top eight choices listed on several large boards at the forum.

"It's great," said Alicia Ramirez about the forum. "People can speak up, show the city what they are interested in."

Ramirez's top concern is working with at-risk children to keep them away from gangs and provide them with the support they need to become productive adults.

Mayor Garrad Marsh also was impressed with Thursday's attendance.

"I'm really pleased by the number of people who turned out," he said. "We were hoping for 100, and we've exceeded that easily."

The event cost Modesto about $1,185 because local businesses donated much of the food.

This was the only community forum Modesto is holding for its strategic plan update, though it is working with a consultant to conduct a random phone survey of at least 400 residents. The City Council also has held workshops on the strategic plan update.

The council is expected to adopt the update in late May when it holds workshops for the 2013-14 budget, which starts July 1.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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