In the single contested race for Stanislaus County’s Board of Supervisors, one of the three candidates disagreed with the spending plan for the road-tax measure headed for the November ballot.
Eileen Wyatt Stokman of Ceres told the board Tuesday that she won’t vote for the half-cent tax, because it would not support ACE commuter rail.
Stokman said county residents, including a college student with whom she recently spoke, could use regular train service to the Bay Area. Residents have to take a bus to catch ACE trains, which carry passengers between stops in San Joaquin, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Supervisors heard a presentation Tuesday on a general framework for spending the proceeds from a half-cent sales-tax measure for transportation. The tax would require two-thirds approval from voters.
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Stokman questioned whether the Stanislaus Council of Governments’ 25-year plan accounts for the growing senior population. In 15 years, she said, county residents older than 65 will outnumber children and teenagers, and the retirees will need transportation options.
Under StanCOG’s basic framework, more than 75 percent of the tax’s total revenue would be spent on fixing deteriorated streets and on regional expressways such as the North County Corridor.
Seven percent would be allocated to buses, rail, and transportation for seniors and the disabled. Traffic signals and intersection improvements would receive 10 percent, and 5 percent would be designated for bicycles and pedestrians. The county and its nine cities will continue to discuss details of a final spending proposal.
Stokman, a retired county employee, said she won’t oppose the road tax on the campaign trail. “When you get it right, I will be so on board and will help get it passed,” she told supervisors.
On the June primary ballot, Stokman and Patterson Mayor Luis Molina are challenging three-term incumbent Jim DeMartini, who represents a district including Ceres, Patterson, Newman and part of south Modesto. The top two finishers in June will move to a runoff in November unless one receives more than half the votes.
Supervisor Vito Chiesa is running unopposed to continue representing the Turlock, Denair and Hughson area, and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen is unopposed for the seat representing Oakdale and Riverbank.
DeMartini supported the basic plan for the transportation tax and disagreed with Stokman. “What she wants for the ACE train is unrealistic,” DeMartini said after the meeting. “I don’t have a problem with ACE, but the money is going to have to come from the state.”
DeMartini also said he wished the county’s share for local roads was larger, but he would be willing to settle for the proposed formula.
Molina is another supporter of the expenditure plan. “We need to pass the measure so we can draw down state and federal money to improve our infrastructure and put more people to work,” he said.
Molina noted that more shuttles to San Joaquin County can be provided for residents wanting to use ACE.
Supervisors explained to Stokman why major support for ACE was left out. The cost of extending the rail service to Stanislaus County – about $200 million – would consume a large portion of the $975 million in total projected tax revenue. The trains also would require a $3 million annual subsidy.
Even though the local jurisdictions in StanCOG favor rail, polling showed voters would reject a tax measure with heavy spending on train service, Supervisor Terry Withrow said.
The proposed spending framework received unanimous support from advisory committees and the StanCOG board, composed of representatives from the county and its nine cities. A survey suggested that 65.4 percent of voters, slightly less than what’s needed, support a tax to improve roads if 65 percent of the dollars are under local control.
Previous transportation tax measures in Stanislaus County failed to receive two-thirds approval in 2006 and 2008. Proponents say a countywide tax would enable the county to secure major transportation funding from federal and state sources.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321
Board of Supervisors watch
The board approved the following items Tuesday:
- Housing element update for the county general plan.
- Dissolution of the Workforce Investment Board and the seeking of proposals from vendors to operate one-stop career centers.
- Purchase of a specialized response vehicle for Office of Emergency Services, using Homeland Security grant.