SLY: Modesto's Jackman keeps plugging away for farms

jsly@modbee.comAugust 16, 2013 

— After Denny Jackman lost his Modesto City Council seat in 2005, he didn't evaporate from public view like so many former electeds do. He returned to the same cause that had absorbed so much of his time before he was elected — protecting farmland.

This week, Jackman scored a big win by getting the current council's agreement to put on the June ballot a residential urban limit plan. It would, in a nutshell, direct future homebuilding toward the land with the poorest soil and away from prime farmland. That has been the goal of Jackman and many others for years.

The critical word in Jackman's plan is "residential." The proposal wouldn't restrict business and industrial development in the same way, and that narrow focus is what helped turn some likely opponents into supporters.

From the start, Jackman had an ally in Mayor Garrad Marsh, also a longtime proponent of farmland protection, but none of the other votes were a sure thing. So it's a remarkable feat that the proposal is going to the ballot on a 6-1 vote, especially when the council's mantra these days is "jobs, jobs, jobs."

How did Jackman make his argument? It wasn't through yelling or pouting after the plan failed to make this fall's ballot, which was the original target. He talked with and educated the council members, one by one, and with the folks likely to oppose it. He won them over with reasonable arguments and good numbers. While a few want to label Jackman a "no-growther," the more apt description is of a farmland preservationist. Jackman attends discussions about water, groundwater and all sorts of issues related to agriculture. In other words, he has credibility through knowledge, longevity and being willing to listen and compromise. Oh, yeah, and he treats people respectfully.

Jackman spent four years on the council, from 2001 to 2005, and has been arguing for farmland protection for almost four decades. I think the latter is his greater service to our community.

• • •

Last week I listed some of the bigger and more interested donors to the candidates in the Modesto Irrigation District Division 4 race, which looks to be the most hotly contested and now has four candidates. I ran out of space to mention the money reports related to the other two MID races:

Division 2 — John Mensinger reported a $1,000 loan to himself, his only significant financial activity during the first six months of 2013. Mike Serpa has not said whether he'll make another run for this seat, but he had to file a report because he still has an open campaign committee. Serpa's report shows $25,000 in outstanding loans that he made to himself for his 2005 and 2009 campaigns.

On Thursday, former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino filed papers to run for this seat.

Division 3 — Neither Paul Campbell nor Les Johnson filed a finance report for the first half of the year. They are only required for candidates who plan to collect or spend $1,000 or more.

For those who like to follow the money around local politics, the next campaign donation/ spending statements are due Sept. 26 for the period between July 1 and Sept. 21. That deadline applies to people in contests this year.

• • •

Garrad Marsh's term as Modesto mayor isn't up until 2015, but he held a fund-raiser in April, which sends a strong signal he'll run again. His campaign finance report for the first half of 2013 shows $36,391 in contributions received, $3,680 spent and cash on hand of $32,804.

• • •

Earlier in the summer I vented about the misuse of the Central Valley label as synonymous with San Joaquin Valley, when it actually describes the combined San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters offered a few thoughts: First, he says the dividing line between the two valleys "is the line between watersheds of the two rivers that flow through them and that would place it just south of Elk Grove along the northern edge of Cosumnes River watershed because it empties into Mokelumne River, which flows into San Joaquin River." This from a delta boater and "amateur cartographer."

And more: The Central Valley includes a third valley, the Tulare Lake Basin. Although it is dry most of the time, he suggests it is a separate valley. "If you watch your GPS altimeter as you drive down 99, you can see the subtle changes in elevation that denote the dividing lines between the valleys," Walters added.

Well, our cars don't have GPS, and I'm usually sleeping in the passenger seat at that point anyway.

Sly is editor of the Opinions pages. Email: or follow on Twitter @judysly.

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