May 25, 2014

Turlock considers street tax, district elections

The Turlock City Council on Tuesday will consider placing district elections and a street repair tax on the November ballot.

One proposal before the City Council on Tuesday, district elections, would remake the political landscape. Another, a half-percentage-point increase in the sales tax, would revamp city streets.

The council will consider initial votes to place both measures on the November ballot; final votes could come June 10.

The council has had several discussions over the past several weeks on district elections, which aim to increase Latino representation, and on funding street repairs with the tax increase.

A consultant drafted three options for dividing Turlock into four council districts; the mayor would continue to be elected citywide. Two options would create a southwest district with a large number of voting-age Latino citizens; the third would place this district in and near downtown. The council also could draw a map of its own.

Should voters approve the change, it would take effect with the 2016 and 2018 council elections. City officials have said the change could protect Turlock against expensive legal action under the California Voting Rights Act of 2002.

The sales tax increase, which needs at least two-thirds voter approval, would raise an estimated $5.6 million per year over its seven-year life. It would end earlier if the Stanislaus Council of Governments succeeds with a countywide measure, which was dropped earlier this year but now is possible for 2016.

The agenda packet includes a detailed list of the street work that could be funded, including major and minor routes all over the city.

“The city of Turlock road system consists of approximately 251 miles of streets, the majority of which were constructed to the standards and conditions of the early to mid-20th century, with many streets unable to meet today’s traffic demands,” a staff report said.

The council could put a tiny slice of the tax money into the city bus service, which is struggling to meet the farebox income required for federal funding.|

Also Tuesday, the council will consider a proposal to double the size of a Christmas-season ice rink at Daubenberger Road and Canal Drive. The attraction, which would expand to 9,600 square feet, is part of a complex that also offers a Halloween pumpkin patch and other seasonal activities.

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