Modesto council candidates to speak at forum

kvaline@modbee.comSeptember 29, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
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Voters can ask Modesto City Council candidates questions about gangs, taxes and other concerns tonight at a forum.

The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County is sponsoring the forum, which is from 6 to 8 p.m. in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. The event will be broadcast on Comcast’s Channel 7 in Modesto.

Candidates will be given the opportunity to make opening and closing statements and will answer questions from audience members.

Nine candidates are running for three council seats in the Nov. 5 election. Modesto elects its six council members by district. Districts 2, 4 and 5 are up for election this year. The mayor is elected by a citywide vote.

District 2

Tony Madrigal, Jon Rodriguez and Juan Telles are vying to represent this district, which covers south and west Modesto and well as downtown. District 2 Councilman Dave Geer is not running for re-election.

Madrigal, 39, grew up in Turlock and Denair in a family of farmworkers. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He served on the Santa Cruz City Council for two terms, from 2006 through 2012. He now lives in west Modesto. He works as a substitute teacher and as an interpreter, translating English into Spanish at public forums and other events where not all of the attendees speak English.

His focus as a Santa Cruz council member included gang prevention and economic development. But Madrigal had some problems during his tenure there.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that he issued a public apology in May 2007 after a police officer reported that Madrigal had commented about a woman’s breasts and buttocks during a ride-along.

The Sentinel reported in November 2010 that Madrigal had pleaded no contest in Santa Cruz Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. The judge sentenced him to three days in jail. The newspaper said a CHP officer had cited Madrigal three months earlier because he was weaving and driving at an unsafe speed on Highway 1. He was texting while driving.

The Sentinel also reported in November 2010 that Madrigal had missed 23 percent of the council meetings over the previous two years. Madrigal cited his work as a field representative for the California United Homecare Workers as the reason for missing meetings.

Madrigal said he has learned from his mistakes and that his experience as an elected official makes him the best candidate.

He has raised $16,513 for his campaign, the second-highest sum among the nine candidates. His contributions include $100 each from Modesto City Schools Trustee Steven Grenbeaux and Prudential California Realty President Craig Lewis, as well as $1,000 from businessman Pedro Marquez.

Rodriguez farms 110 acres of almonds with his grandfather. He was raised in District 2 and is a graduate of Central Catholic High School and Modesto Junior College.

Though he is a farmer, Rodriguez, 26, said he understands the need to set aside prime farmland for jobs. He said he can accept that as long as jobs are created and a balance is struck between job growth and preserving farmland. He has raised $7,719 for his campaign, including $100 from insurance broker David Wright and $500 from Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini.

Telles, 23, is a seasonal worker at a winery. He is a Modesto High School graduate and longtime resident of District 2. He has spent much of the past two years as a community volunteer. He said his focus if elected would be to improve the streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure in his district.

He has raised $2,110, including $100 each from attorney and Modesto City Schools Trustee Ruben Villalobos and Sandy Lucas, a Stanislaus Superior Court manager.

District 4

Rickey McGill, Juan Melgoza, Ryan Schambers and Bill Zoslocki are running in this district, on the east side of the city. District 4 Councilman Joe Muratore is not running for re-election.

McGill, 63, is a retired assistant principal at a California Youth Authority school. He has run unsuccessfully several times for the Modesto City Schools board. Information about McGill’s campaign finances was not available.

Melgoza, 31, ran for council in 2009 but was not elected. His occupation is selling skin care products on eBay. He has raised $2,268 for his campaign, with all of the contributions coming from family members.

Schambers, 21, is a security guard and college student and lives with his family. He expects to spend about $50 on his campaign. He acknowledges he is a long shot but hopes to gain experience and name recognition for future elections.

Zoslocki, 60, ran for mayor in 2011. He’s a former president of the Building Industry Association of Central California, a longtime builder and a real estate broker. He’s on a leave of absence from his job with Prudential Commercial Real Estate as he campaigns for the council.

He is a member of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce committee that has developed a proposal for land use and transportation that chamber officials say will bring jobs and prosperity. Some have applauded the effort while others have said it sets aside too many acres of prime farmland for business parks that may not materialize.

Zoslocki has raised $20,084, including $200 he lent his campaign as well as $2,636 in nonmonetary contributions. His biggest contributions include $1,000 each from American Chevrolet, Prudential California Realty’s Lewis, JKB Energy and the civil engineering firm of Newman Romano. He has received $750 from Modesto attorney George Petrulakis and $500 from DeMartini, the county supervisor.

District 5

Council member Stephanie Burnside faces challenger Jenny Ketchum Kenoyer in a repeat of the 2011 race, in which Burnside received nearly 60 percent of the vote compared with Kenoyer’s nearly 30 percent. The rest of the vote went to a third candidate. The district is in north central Modesto.

Burnside, 41, is the chief financial officer of Burnside Body Shop. Ketchum Kenoyer, 78, is a retired registered nurse.

Burnside has raised $9,915 for her campaign, including $100 from Sheriff Adam Christianson, $250 from DeMartini, $1,000 from Petrulakis and $500 from Modesto businessman Dan Costa. Ketchum Kenoyer has lent her campaign $3,994 and raised $2,579.

For more information on the candidates’ campaign finances, go to www.modestogov.com/ccl/campaign_statements/2013%20Election.asp.

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

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