Voters in central Modesto will have three choices to represent them on the City Council: Kristi Ah You, Patricia Gillum and Joe Williams.
They are running in the Nov. 3 election for the District 3 council seat and offer voters a range of experience. Ah You is managing partner for Franklin & Downs Funeral Home and a former chief deputy coroner for Stanislaus County. Gillum served on the city’s Planning Commission and is a longtime certified public accountant. Williams and his wife own Genesis One Hair Salon, and the two have spent about 20 years running a Christian ministry called Marriage 911 God’s Way.
District 3 Councilman Dave Lopez cannot run for re-election because of term limits. He is one of five candidates running for mayor.
Ah You, Gillum and Williams do not support Measure I, which would put an urban growth boundary around much of Modesto and require a citywide vote before development could occur beyond the boundary. Ah You and Gillum said protecting prime farmland is important but believe there is a better way while balancing the need for economic development. Williams said the measure infringes upon property owners’ rights to do as they see fit with their land.
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Gillum and Williams do not support Measure G, the one-half percent general sales tax increase the city has placed on the ballot. Ah You supports it.
Because it is a general tax, Modesto could spend Measure G on practically anything, but city officials say they will spend the tax primarily on increasing public safety, such as hiring more police officers and keeping all fire stations open, and the balance on efforts to strengthen neighborhoods. As a general tax, Measure G requires a simple majority to pass.
Ah You said she wished Measure G were a special public safety tax. A special tax requires two-thirds voter approval and proceeds can be spent only on its special purpose. Mayor Garrad Marsh has said he does not believe a special tax could get enough votes to pass.
Ah You said she supports the measure because the city needs to do something to make Modesto safer and improve its quality of life. She said such a step will spur economic development. Cleaning up the city (with more efforts to remove litter, for example) and improving its reputation, especially on social media, also will yield economic development dividends, Ah You said.
She also wants a moratorium on complaining about the city. She said the focus needs to be on finding solutions and not griping for the sake of griping. “No more negativity,” she said. “We need to bring unity among residents and work toward the common good for all of us.”
But she added that District 3 voters don’t have a lot of faith in city leadership. Ah You declined to share voters’ reasons for their mistrust. But the city has been criticized for making decisions without doing enough listening or reaching consensus. For instance, Measure I is in part a backlash against the council’s decision to keep Wood Colony – the close-knit farming community west of Highway 99 – in its growth plans, despite vehement opposition from many colony residents.
“I’m going to be transparent and going to listen,” Ah You said when asked how she would restore trust. She added that she would not make a decision until she had heard from everyone and fully investigated the issue.
Gillum said voters also are telling her they don’t trust City Hall.
She said city officials are well-intentioned but can stumble because they reach a decision without exploring all of their options and talking with everyone affected by the decision. She added the city needs to do a better job explaining what it’s doing. That discussion needs to include the potential downsides and not be focused solely on the benefits so the public is not surprised if a project does not go as planned.
Gillum said that as a former planning commissioner and longtime CPA, she has the expertise to dive into the city’s budget and to explain it in terms the public will understand. She said that before the city asks voters to pay more in taxes, it needs to undertake a thorough review to ensure it has “rooted out any waste, abuse and illogic in the current city budget so we can maximize the money we have to combat criminals and then decide if we need more.”
She said she would consider supporting a specific public safety tax. Gillum said because Measure G is a general tax there is no guarantee the city will spend it on public safety and neighborhoods, especially if more pressing needs arise.
Gillum said the city needs to focus its spending on cleaning up blight, trash and graffiti and on public safety. She said a cleaner and safer Modesto will improve the city’s image and lay the foundation for economic development.
She said that economic development should build on Modesto’s strengths in agriculture and food processing and include attracting ag-related high technology firms. Gillum also advocates more infill development, including offering incentives to make that happen.
Williams said he wants Modesto to become more business-friendly by reducing fees, taxes, assessments and regulations. He said attracting and keeping businesses and jobs is the key to turning the city around. He also wants the city to work more closely with businesses, helping them navigate bureaucracy and red tape.
He said prosperity and more jobs will lead to a safer and better city. He said much of the crime and gang activity is rooted in a lack of economic opportunity. “If we take care of the crime problem (through more jobs),” he said, “people don’t need to steal to survive. Crime drives the need for more police and more taxes for more police.”
He added that creating jobs is important because it “brings back self-respect and dignity, especially for a man. One of the first things that breaks down is the financial. The man should be the provider and protector of the home. My faith tells me this.”
Williams added that city officials have gotten off track by listening to people who are giving them “big-city” advice. He said Modesto needs to stay true to its roots in agriculture and as a small city and not think of itself as being on the cusp of becoming a big city. “Modesto is Modesto,” he said. “It’s not San Francisco. City officials are always looking for revenue, always wanting to tax and spend.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316
NAME: Kristi Ah You
EDUCATION: Associate’s degree from San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, bachelor’s in business management from the University of Phoenix, and completing a master’s degree in forensics.
OCCUPATION: Managing partner, Franklin & Downs Funeral Home
FAMILY: Husband, Bart, and six adult children
NAME: Patricia Gillum
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s and MBA from California State University, Stanislaus
OCCUPATION: owner of Patricia Gillum CPA
FAMILY: Husband, Frank, and four adult children
NAME: Joe Williams
EDUCATION: Studied business and music at Modesto Junior College
OCCUPATION: Owns Genesis One Hair Salon with wife, former owner of Just for Kids hair salon; marriage reconciliation pastor; wrote “Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved” with his wife. The two operate Marriage 911, God’s Way.
FAMILY: Wife, Michelle, five adult children and 12 grandchildren
LEGAL ISSUES: Lost a rental home in Magalia, Butte County, to foreclosure a couple of years ago; owes two tax liens of less than $200 each on the property. Williams said he is making payments on the liens.