Modesto voters will not lack for choices when they elect three council members in November. The field includes the three incumbents, a 24-year-old Realtor, a longtime community activist, a bioinformatics scientist who describes himself as a constitutional libertarian, and a Yosemite Community College District trustee who also wants to serve on the council.
But voters may ask why anyone would want to serve. The seven-member council has been divided at times, and council members on occasion make sharp comments or accusations against one another. The meetings can be long and confusing, causing audience members to snigger.
Council members serve four-year terms, earn $24,000 a year, and are elected by district. Seats on districts 2, 4 and 5 are up for election. For the most part, the candidates cite the same concerns, including creating jobs, reducing crime and tackling homelessness. Here are the candidates by district:
District 5 encompasses north-central Modesto. Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer is being challenged by Joe Day. Kenoyer — an 82-year-old retired registered nurse — has been a cheerleader for the city and its employees. She has advocated for the homeless and finding solutions to homelessness even before she was elected to the council in 2013.
She is not reluctant to disagree with her colleagues. For instance, she was the only council member to vote against adopting the city budget in June because it included Mayor Ted Brandvold’s proposal to replace the consulting firm that had served as the city auditor with an in-house auditor at twice the cost. “Nobody could give me an explanation that satisfied me,” she said, adding no one could point to problems with the consultant’s work or say how an in-house auditor would find more inefficiencies.
Day, 58, is a bioinformatics scientist with a Bay Area company. He has lived in Modesto for seven years, and before that served on the Tuolumne Utilities District board. The TUD provides water and wastewater service.
Day said the city needs to balance protecting agriculture while providing for growth, particularly more housing. He describes himself as a constitutional libertarian, and a post on his Facebook page compares progressives with Hitler’s Nazi party. He includes the two President Bushes in his definition of progressivism, which he defines as a reliance on big government.
“When individuals are allowed to make their own decisions the outcome generally is far, far better than when any small group tries to make decisions for us,” he said.
District 4 encompasses east Modesto. Councilman Bill Zoslocki is being challenged by Tyler Ray. Zoslocki, 64, is a businessman involved in real estate. He said he wants to continue to work on economic development and said he likes helping constituents “get through that confusing thing called government and get their problems solved.”
Zoslocki is willing to ask questions when a proposal does not add up. For instance, he was the only council member in 2014 to vote against hiring Siemens Industry for a project that included replacing thousands of streetlights. Zoslocki said the cost seemed excessive. One of Siemens’ competitors also questioned the deal. The council eventually did not hire Siemens and hired the competitor at significantly less money.
Ray, 24, is a political science graduate of California State University, Stanislaus, and is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. He said he also plans on working as a substitute teacher and coaches Enochs High School’s academic decathlon team. He recently got married and wants to raise a family in Modesto. But he said the city has gotten worse since he was young and wants to turn that around.
He said his issues include looking at what to do about homelessness and bringing more shopping to east Modesto. When asked whether it was daunting to run against a seasoned incumbent, Tyler said: “No. The worse case scenario is if I didn’t run, he’d be the only candidate. I think in every election, people should have a choice.”
District 2 encompasses south and west Modesto and downtown. Councilman Tony Madrigal is being challenged by farmer and Yosemite Community College District Trustee Jon Rodriguez and Homero Mejia, chapter director of Faith in the Valley Stanislaus, which formerly was known as Congregations Building Community.
Madrigal, 43, said he just started working for his cousin who is a farm labor contractor and plans on working as a substitute teacher. Madgrial — who has an economics degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz — was a substitute teacher when elected to the council in 2013. He said his others jobs while on the council include legislative aide for an assemblyman in Sacramento and a field representative for a union representing Kaiser Permanente workers in Modesto and Tracy.
Madgrial said he wants to build on what he and the council have achieved during his first term, including approving Mayor Brandvold’s proposal to hire 22 more police officers.
Rodriguez, 30, was elected to the YCCD board last November. He also ran against Madrigal for council in 2013. Rodriguez said it may be possible to hold both offices. He pointed to Luis Molina who was Patterson’s mayor and a Stanislaus County Office of Education trustee at the same time.
Rodriquez said he would resign from the community college board if he is elected to the council and cannot hold both offices. He said the council needs more focus on economic development and would like to see a closer relationship between Modesto and the Chamber of Commerce.
When asked why he is running again against Madrigal, Rodriguez said: “In all honesty, I think he’s going to win. But I want him to at least work at it. I want voters to have choices. A lot of people in his district are angry with him because he made promises he did not fulfill.” He said those promises include creating jobs and making the district safer, which Madrigal said was not true.
Mejia could not be reached for comment. But Faith in the Valley’s website said it it dedicated to such issues as helping all immigrants, building safe and healthy communities in disadvantaged neighborhoods and finding alternatives to the incarceration, racial profiling and criminalization of young brown and black people.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316