Our View: Withrow deserves another term on Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors

May 5, 2014 

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    The Bee’s editorial board invited both candidates for District 3 supervisor to answer a selection of questions. Here are excerpts from the session:

    • Should the city of Modesto include Wood Colony in its general plan?

    Withrow – The city should not include Wood Colony. … Wood Colony should never be developed. The county is not in the business of development. … We intend to preserve Wood Colony in perpetuity … I’ve worked on an urban limit line that will put that decision back in the hands of the people.

    Calkins – The city should not include Wood Colony in its general plan or its general plan amendments. That area should remain as it is now, in agriculture. I believe that, unfortunately, depending on the infrastructure built in that area, it will be very difficult to prevent future development given what normally happens. I’m encouraged that the county Board of Supervisors seems to be onboard in protecting that area – if it remains in the county.

    • With unemployment at 13 percent, everyone wants more jobs. How do we best spur job creation?

    Withrow – First, government does not create jobs, the private sector creates jobs. Government can get out of the way by minimizing regulations. ... In our area, the No. 1 industry is agriculture … we need to recognize that. We had a $3.2 billion farm gate last year … We already have this great industry that is growing like crazy and we need to promote that industry. … We need to grow from within. That’s how we got to where we are; all our large employers are home-grown.

    Calkins – Agriculture is No. 1 and should remain No. 1. We need to take advantage of every opportunity … we need to do as much as we can in the Central Valley before it leaves – packaging, marketing. There is an opportunity to aggressively go after small- or medium-size manufacturing firms.

    • There are two farmers, a retiree and a businessman on the board. What do you add to that mix?

    Calkins – My experience as a public employee and a teacher at Modesto High School the last 18 years … I feel like that has kept me in touch with the kind of diversity we have in our community, both ethnic and economic. Modesto High School is a real cultural and, honestly, an economic melting pot. My charge as a teacher is to find a way to work with all of them.

    Withrow – I am the only accountant, CPA, on the board; I’m also a farmer. And in my practice, my business that I started from scratch, I’m very much involved in negotiations. … I have 500 families I work with and we do negotiations with family members and with businesses. … I came in with a different concept, not to fight, not to put up stances, but to find that spot where we can get something accomplished. The county is very well run and very strong financially … I’ve been able to bring to the board my accounting background … and my feelings toward farmland preservation.

Terry Withrow has been doing a good job as the District 3 representative on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. We see no reason anyone would want to make a change.

In fact, we’re not exactly sure why his opponent, Scott Calkins, is running since they appear to agree on so many of the county’s most significant issues. When they met with The Modesto Bee’s editorial board, Calkins prefaced answers to several questions with, “I’m going to sound like my opponent, but … ”

For instance:

• Both know the value of surface and groundwater to our communities and vow to protect it.

• Both are unequivocal in their support of Wood Colony and its battle to stay out of Modesto.

• Both agree Salida – the largest unincorporated population center in the county – should decide its own fate, allowing residents to choose whether they want to become part of Modesto.

• Both are likely to support a transportation sales-tax initiative, though they differed on priorities. Both agreed we need other forms of transportation to get goods and people in and out of the region; both want to ensure that jobs, not more houses, are the priority for the old Crows Landing Naval Air Station; and both feel ag will continue to be the top job-generator in the county.

• They even agree on Calkins’ overriding issue – keeping development off Highway 132.

The only significant difference is Calkins – who lives roughly a block from Highway 132 – would altogether halt the state’s highway improvement project. Still, he insists he is not a one-issue candidate. But his stances on the other issues were so similar to Withrow’s that there appears to be little to separate the two.

Calkins told The Bee he wants to provide a “fresh perspective,” but we don’t see how it will be any fresher than the perspective Withrow already provides.

On the issue of Highway 132, we prefer Withrow’s approach. He sees an improved corridor as safer, crucial to moving people and products and unlikely to be the scene of additional development since he worked to get two significant parcels perpetually preserved as ag land.

Withrow offers other positives. He is already a leader on what we consider a strong Board of Supervisors.

When board chairman Jim DeMartini expressed his disdain for the process of developing sustainable groundwater rules, Withrow stepped in to represent the board. The committee has 19 members, many with deeply opposing needs and objectives, yet it appears to be staying on task. Only the presence of consensus builders such as Withrow makes that possible.

When it comes to transportation, Withrow says Stanislaus must become a “self-help” county – meaning voters must pass a sales-tax initiative. If anyone has the ability to help the county reach consensus on the tax, it’s Withrow.

As a partner in an accounting firm, Withrow knows how to look at numbers, giving the board an incredibly important dimension.

Calkins is a teacher and a sincere candidate. His voice could be beneficial – but not at the expense of losing Withrow’s expertise, vision and ability to create partnerships across the county and throughout the state.

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