MERCED — The Merced Organizing Project, a nonprofit group, will provide the public an opportunity to meet candidates running for seats on the Merced City Council in November's election.
The group will hold an educational forum Friday, giving Merced residents the chance to meet the election hopefuls, hear their visions for the city and ask them questions. The event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Mount Pisgah AME Zion Church, 742 N St. in Merced.
"We feel it's important for the public to know where the candidates stand on certain issues," said Jeannette Partida, Merced Organizing Project secretary. "That way, they know who they are voting for.
"We want them to be well informed, so they can make a good decision and know who they have in office," she said.
The organization will ask the candidates questions related to the economy, education, immigration reform and youth services.
"What will they do to better the economy?" Partida said as an example of the questions. "How much money are they willing to spend on youth and other social projects?"
After tackling the tough questions, the candidates will have a 30-minute meet-and-greet period.
Four candidates have confirmed their attendance Friday: council hopefuls Kevin Blake, Jana Mowrer and Christopher Ramirez, and incumbent Councilman Josh Pedrozo.
Pedrozo's four-year term ends in November, but he confirmed his plan to run for re-election. Councilman Noah Lor's four-year term also ends in November, but he's served his maximum two terms.
Lor, who plans to run for mayor, told the Sun-Star that he will attend Friday's forum.
"I think it's important for me to know the candidates and their perspectives, since I'll be working closely with them in the future," Lor said. "It's also very important for me to hear concerns from the community."
Mayor Stan Thurston, whose term ends in November, confirmed that he's running for re-election against Lor and Josh Franco, a UC Merced graduate student.
Not running for re-election are Councilman Bill Blake and Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling, whose terms end in November. Blake said he'll attend Friday's event to support his son Kevin Blake's bid for the council.
The official filing period runs July 15 to Aug. 9.
The November election will give voters the option to change the city's elections from odd-numbered years to even years.
Thurston said the switch would save the city money, as it could share election costs with county, school district and congressional elections. He estimated the move could reduce election costs $30,000 to $100,000.
It also would significantly improve voter participation, Thurston said. "The turnout at general elections is much higher, and we want more participation," he said.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.