SATURDAY SHORTS: Reviewing the news by the numbers

August 30, 2013 

If you’re not aware there’s an election coming up, you will be soon. Signs are going up; candidates are starting to walk precincts.

Election Day is 66 days away, though we know that many people don’t wait that long. They’ll be voting by mail in October. For those who have moved or never registered to vote, there are 51 days to accomplish that task. Oct. 21 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election.

There’s always higher interest in the national elections, especially when we’re voting for president. But arguably the purely local elections, like those held in odd numbered years, are more important.

Here in Stanislaus County, there are some other numbers of note: 98 candidates will have their names on the ballot for 49 seats on 28 boards and/or councils.

Of those 98 candidates, 37 chose – and paid – to place candidate statements in the sample ballot pamphlet.

There will be three city measures on the ballot: Measure W in Waterford and Measures V and X in Modesto. Measure V is the advisory vote about the city eventually extending sewer service to and annexing the airport neighborhood. Measure X is the proposed 1 percent increase in the sales tax to pay for city services.

Another 3-2 vote on the MID board

Earlier this year, the Modesto Irrigation District board informally indicated it wait until after this fall’s election to name a permanent general manager because that election will put three new directors on the board. Instead, with just a little more than two months until the vote, the current board opted to give interim GM Roger VanHoy the permanent job. It was a 3 to 2 vote, as have been several critical MID board decisions in the last year. Directors Nick Blom, Larry Byrd and Paul Warda voted for the motion; directors Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild opposed it.

In his eight months as interim general manager, VanHoy has demonstrated a very different style than his controversial predecessor, Allen Short, who used to introduce every item and who was perceived as leading the board rather than the other way around. Van Hoy comments only minimally on most agenda items, letting other staff members do most of the explanation.

We don’t have a problem with VanHoy, although we will note that his expertise is on the electrical side of the operation while water issues loom as the most critical these days. According to the district spokeswoman, VanHoy is an at-will employee, meaning that the new board still has the control to decide whether to keep him.

Improving literacy one person at a time

Youngsters are back in school to learn to read and write, and many adults in our community want to do the same. There are 40 people on the waiting list for a tutor through LearningQuest – Stanislaus Literacy Centers. Currently, tutors are meeting weekly with 100 students. The next training sessions for those interested in becoming a volunteer will be Sept. 18 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a $10 cost for training materials. To sign up for the orientation and training session, call (209) 558-4505.

Mentors sought for Modesto students

In the last few weeks, Modesto City Schools has signed up 20 new mentors and the district welcomes many more. To become a mentor in Modesto City Schools, contact Tiffani Burns, community outreach coordinator, at (209) 550-3300 ext. 5408 or burns.ti@mcs4kids.com.

A giant fire sets records in the Sierra

The Rim fire, which started two weeks today, has exploded into the fifth largest fire ever in state history. Given California’s size and the frequency of its fires, that is a startling number. Although the blaze is not yet contained, it’s not too soon to thank the almost 5,000 firefighters and squadrons of support personnel who have been involved in fighting the fire and trying to protect people and buildings.

Some national media have been describing this as a Yosemite fire, but it has had a much wider impact, stretching across Tuolumne County and causing enough damage that a state of emergency also was declared for Mariposa County.

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