Incumbent Jenny Kenoyer and challenger Joe Day are running against each other to represent Modesto City Council District 5 in the November election.
Kenoyer, 82, is a retired registered nurse, has lived in Modesto for nearly her entire life, and is seeking her second and final four-year term to represent a district that covers north-central Modesto. Day, 58, has a doctorate in biophysics, has lived in several states, and his current job is getting his web and internet services company, which is called KNXU Communications, up and running.
Both have faced controversy, with Kenoyer being accused of breaking a 2013 campaign promise to protect farmland and Day serving as an elected official in Tuolumne County while living in Modesto.
Kenoyer proud of her record as passionate advocate
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Kenoyer was among the council majority that voted in early 2014 to keep Wood Colony – the farming community west of Highway 99 – in the city’s general plan as part of a proposed amendment to the plan. The document serves as a blueprint for how Modesto will grow and develop.
The general plan and Wood Colony is among the most contentious issues the council has faced in recent years, with hundreds of colony residents and their supporters packing council meetings and asking that the colony be removed from the plan. Opponents tried to recall Kenoyer from office but failed to gather enough signatures on petitions to put a recall election on the ballot.
Kenoyer said she did not go back on her word. She said the proposed amendment reduces the amount of land designated for development in Wood Colony by several hundred acres and returned roughly 1,800 acres elsewhere to farmland so she said she voted to increase the amount of farmland. But changing the land-use designation of those roughly 1,800 acres was not controversial.
Kenoyer has been a tireless worker and passionate advocate for Modesto. She also has been a champion for the homeless and finding solutions to homelessness.
She said she is proud to have been part of the efforts to improve the community. “As a council, we have made a serious effort to deal with homelessness through a permanent access center,” Kenoyer wrote in her campaign questionnaire. “We also have maintained and increased police patrols in our neighborhoods. In addition, we have made progress to get the funding needed to fix our transportation needs.”
Stanislaus County voters last November approved Measure L, a half-cent sales tax increase for roads and other transportation needs throughout the county, including Modesto. Kenoyer said if re-elected she wants to see several projects come to fruition, including replacing the Seventh Street Bridge and the opening of a full-service day center for the homeless.
Day hopes to help Modesto avoid Bay Area mistakes
Day was elected to the Tuolumne Utilities District board in 2006 and 2010. The district provides water and sewer services to most of Tuolumne County’s homes and businesses.
As a board member, Day was required to live in the district but moved from Sonora to Modesto in October 2010 and continued to serve as a TUD board member for about a year. Day resigned Nov. 8, 2011, the same day that The (Sonora) Union Democrat published a story in which Day confirmed he had moved. Day said he moved because he had lost his home to foreclosure and could not find work but had intended to return to Sonora.
The paper reported Day was vague on when he had moved, saying he did not “know exactly when the clock start was.” The paper reported that based on state law Day’s seat would become vacant if he lived outside of the district for more than 180 days. Day has confirmed that with The Bee but said at the time he thought he may have had as long as a year. The Tuolumne Utilities District has refused to say how long a director can live outside of the district.
The Union Democrat reported Day had told other TUD officials about his residency issues, and Day reiterated that with The Bee. But Pete Kampa — who was the TUD general manager then — told The Bee that he remembers someone making an issue of Day’s residency, but Kampa said he “had no knowledge of him moving his primary residence.”
The board members who served with Day told The Bee that they did not know Day had moved, though one said he thought the issue came up about a week or two before Day resigned. “The board was taken aback,” said former TUD Director Bob Behee. “It was a surprise when we learned his place of residence wasn’t right.”
Still, Behee said Day had served well as a board member, and Kampa said he thought Day would make a great councilman.
Day said Modesto needs to balance protecting agriculture while providing for economic development. He said he grew up in the Bay Area and wants Modesto to avoid the mistakes it made. He also is concerned about crime, calling it one of the city’s more pressing problems.
He describes himself as a constitutional libertarian, and a post on his Facebook page compares progressives with Hitler’s Nazi party. He said he considers not only House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a progressive but both President Bushes. He defines progressivism as a reliance on big government.
“I’m going to fight very hard for a better future for my children and other families,” Day said. “I saw what happens when we lose the things (we value). Where I grew up we had orchards, dairies and farms. The same pattern is happening in Modesto. (The city) has a special quality that California had, and I don’t want to see that lost.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316