Our View: City of Modesto could use little bit more TLC

February 27, 2014 

Blight cleanup

This photo was taken before the Modesto Police and California Department of Transportation teamed up to eliminate blight along Highway 99 at Briggsmore Avenue in November.

MODESTO POLICE DEPARTMENT

Mayor Garrad Marsh concluded his State of the City address with a simple call to action that could give the city a small breather as it deals with budget shortfalls.

While not as eloquent as JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech, Marsh’s plea was sincere, succinct and achievable.

“With the impacts and reductions to services, your city needs you more than ever,” Marsh told about 50 people Wednesday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, the city-county government administration building.

Among the challenges facing Modesto is cutting the $113 million general fund budget to bring expenses in line with revenues. Those cuts include parks, tree upkeep and further reduction of police and fire services.

Modestans can do their part to make their community better and stronger by getting involved, he said.

Marsh said he’ll be boosting graffiti-abatement efforts through a smartphone app, paint-out strategies and a volunteer coordinator.

“But more important,” he said, “we need hundreds of volunteers ...”

To encourage the formation of more neighborhood associations, the City Council is being asked to consider opening city facilities for use by organized neighborhood groups free of charge.

He urged residents to get to know their neighbors, keep an eye out for suspicious activity and clean up graffiti and litter.

There’s no question that volunteer efforts help. Witness Love Modesto, which saw 4,000 volunteers last year tackle neglected neighborhoods. It’s set for April 5 this year. Other cities have had success or have flirted with similar movements.

“Nola for Life Day” in New Orleans saw 270 turn out in 2013, its fourth year, to trim trees, clean community gardens, clean and mark storm drains and do energy audits of homes.

In Rancho Cordova, volunteers clean up neighborhoods as part of its Growing Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. Baton Rouge inaugurated its Geaux BIG Baton Rouge Service project last year in hopes of bringing together 1,000 volunteers to complete projects requested by residents, from cleaning homes to visiting the elderly.

Volunteer efforts won’t make up for cuts of $8 million to $9 million to the general fund budget over the next 28 months projected by city officials, but every bit helps. Modesto has a proud tradition of service, and Marsh pointed out some partnerships that benefit the city and residents:

• The Modesto Youth Soccer Association provides grounds maintenance of Mary Grogan Community Park, which opened in June with seven soccer fields.

• The Modesto Garden Club commits hours and dollars to making Modesto beautiful.

• Volunteers and docents keep McHenry Mansion and Museum operating.

If everyone pitches in, we can continue to make Modesto a community of which we can be proud.

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