May 28, 2014

Modesto City Council foes gathering signatures to put recall on ballot

The clock has started ticking for two Modesto residents in their attempt to remove City Council members Dave Cogdill and Jenny Kenoyer from office over their votes on how Modesto should grow and develop.

The clock has started ticking for two residents trying to remove City Council members Dave Cogdill and Jenny Kenoyer from office over their votes on Modesto’s future.

The City Clerk’s Office on Friday approved the recall petitions the men and their supporters must use to gather the signatures required to put the recall elections on the ballot. They have 120 days from Friday to gather the signatures of 20 percent of the registered voters in each council district to qualify the recalls for the ballot.

Recall proponents will need at least 3,363 signatures in Kenoyer’s 5th City Council District, which encompasses north-central Modesto, and 3,184 signatures in Cogdill’s 6th District, which encompasses northeast Modesto.

Fifth District resident John Holsinger is leading the effort against Kenoyer, and 6th District resident John Walker is leading the effort against Cogdill.

“I’m going to work my backside off,” Walker said, adding that he has asked shopping centers for permission to set up tables to gather signatures, will be walking neighborhoods to gather signatures and will be recruiting volunteers.

Walker and Holsinger are upset over the City Council’s recent votes on a proposed amendment to Modesto’s general plan, which serves as a blueprint for the city’s growth and development in the coming decades. Cogdill and Kenoyer were among the council members who voted 5-2 in January to include Wood Colony – a close-knit, more-than-century-old farming community west of Highway 99 – in the general plan.

That decision is among the most contentious Modesto has faced in recent years. Hundreds of Wood Colony residents and their supporters have attended council and other public meetings to voice their opposition to the city’s plans.

Walker said he also is upset with other votes by Cogdill, including voting 7-0 with other council members in January to approve The Marketplace, an 18-acre shopping center proposed for Oakdale Road and Sylvan Avenue. Supporters say the project will bring shopping and jobs to northeast Modesto; opponents say the center is not needed because of the numerous empty storefronts throughout the city.

No fresh perspective?

Holsinger said Kenoyer – who was elected in November – campaigned as offering a fresh perspective to the council and as a farmland advocate. He said she has done neither and has proved to be arrogant. “The impression she gave when she went door to door (during the campaign) is that she was feisty,” he said. “None of us expected to what extent she would be lecturing people. (Her attitude is:) ‘I’m the boss and you ain’t squat.’ ”

Walker added that Kenoyer “is fundamentally over her head” as a councilwoman.

Kenoyer denied those claims. She said she spent two years before her election attending council and other city meetings to learn more about the city. She invited anyone to review the videotapes of council meetings for evidence of her not behaving appropriately. The tapes are on the city’s website.

She said she has not broken her campaign promises. Kenoyer was among the council members who voted 4-3 in January to include a farmland mitigation policy in the proposed general plan amendment. The proposal states that when land is annexed into the city and developed, the same amount of land must be preserved as farmland.

She said the proposed general plan amendment reduces the amount of land designated in Wood Colony for development. The amendment sets aside about 800 acres for commercial development and business parks in the colony, compared with the roughly 1,000 acres now in the general plan. (The amendment is undergoing an environmental review and is expected to come back to the council for adoption in 2015.)

But colony residents have said none of their community belongs in Modesto’s growth plans. Modesto set aside the roughly 1,000 acres in its 1995 update to its general plan, but none of it has been developed. That’s because the Local Agency Formation Commission – which sets city boundaries – denied Modesto’s request to include that land in its sphere of influence. A city cannot annex and develop land outside of its sphere.

Cogdill defends votes

Cogdill said his votes are consistent with his 2011 council campaign and the priorities of his district. He said those priorities include jobs and providing more shopping. He was elected in November 2011 with nearly 77 percent of the vote.

He said Modesto needs to set aside land for business parks and similar development along Highway 99 and other major transportation routes if it wants to diversify its economy and lessen its reliance on agriculture and building homes for Bay Area commuters. “No one has talked about abandoning ag,” he said. “It’s our heart and soul. This is about providing other options.”

Cogdill questioned whether trying to recall him is appropriate because he has not being accused of ethical lapses or corruption. He said the dispute between him and his opponents centers on “differing views on how we want to shape Modesto’s future.” He said the venue to settle a policy dispute is the November 2015 election, when he will be up for re-election. He added that would save Modesto the cost of a recall election.

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