More than 70 people turned out Monday night for two forums featuring Modesto candidates for mayor and three City Council seats, in which the office-seekers talked about such issues as how they would create jobs, make the city safer, help the homeless and set the stage for the downtown to thrive.
The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County held the forums in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, the city-county administration center. The first forum featured the mayoral candidates and the second the council candidates.
The forums will be rebroadcast Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on Comcast Channel 7 and Charter Channel 19 until the Nov. 3 election. Twelve of the 13 candidates attended the forums. The exception was mayoral candidate Armando Arreola, who garnered about 4.5 percent of the vote when he ran in 2011.
Here are some of the highlights from the candidates for mayor:
▪ Architect and former Planning Commissioner Ted Brandvold said because of his experience he knows what is working and not working at City Hall. He said Modesto needs to become more business-friendly and bring in jobs that will provide the city with tax revenue to hire more police officers.
▪ Councilman Dave Lopez promoted his plans to deal with panhandlers and the homeless who commit crimes and create problems. He wants a campaign to educate the public not to give to panhandlers and direct their charity to groups that help the homeless. He reiterated his plan to start a nonprofit that would send the homeless back to their hometowns. He claims that many of the homeless who get in trouble are not from Modesto, though city and Salvation Army and Gospel Mission officials say they have no evidence of that.
▪ Mayor Garrad Marsh said he wants to reduce crime by having more police officers and strengthening the city’s neighborhoods. He wants to build up and not out and to protect the region’s farmland. He said during his tenure the city has started to balance its budgets by matching ongoing revenue with ongoing expenses for the first time in 20 years and reduced pension costs by having employees pay more for them. He supports Measure G, the half-percent general sales tax increase, to pay for more public safety services and better neighborhoods.
▪ Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino challenged Marsh’s claim over balanced budgets, saying he balanced the city budget during his 2000-04 tenure. Sabatino acknowledged the tumultuous tenure of his time in office. “I have to tell you leadership sometimes draws fire, and I drew my share of fire. ... Crony capitalists are not going to have their way.” He also talked about what he claims is the corruption among local law enforcement and the prosecution of defense attorney Frank Carson, who is the suspected ringleader in a murder case. Sabatino was represented by Carson when he beat 10 felony counts in a 2006 corruption trial when jurors could not agree on a verdict.
The council candidates are Kristi Ah You, Patricia Gillum and Joe Williams for District 3 in central Modesto; Mani Grewal, incumbent John Gunderson and Ron Hurst for District 1 in northwest Modesto; and Doug Ridenour and Dave Wright for District 6 in northeast Modesto.