Modesto City Council District4 is home to the La Loma neighborhood and southeast Modesto. Concerns of residents here echo much of what is heard across the city: the encroachment of gangs, too many homeless people in parks and neighborhoods, and not enough well-paying jobs.
Four candidates are running to represent this district in the Nov.5 election: Rickey McGill, a retired school administrator; Juan Melgoza, an online business owner and former California National Guardsman; Ryan Schambers, a 21-year-old college student and security guard; and Bill Zoslocki, a longtime businessman who ran for mayor in 2011.
District4 Councilman Joe Muratore is not seeking re-election.
The winner will join a City Council facing tough decisions during a time of flat or slowly growing revenues. MeasureX – a temporary 1percent sales tax increase – also is on the ballot. If it passes, the measure is expected to bring in about $26million annually over six years. If voters reject MeasureX, city officials say Modesto faces more deep budget cuts.
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McGill and Melgoza support MeasureX; Schambers is undecided; and Zoslocki won’t say how he will vote.
McGill, 63, is a retired educator and correctional officer. He taught high school in Bakersfield before becoming a correctional officer at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.
He also taught inmates at the the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown before becoming vice principal at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla in 2002 and at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton in 2007. He retired in September.
He has lived in Modesto since 1984, when he went to work at the Sierra Conservation Center.
McGill was among several candidates who ran unsuccessfully to fill the remaining term of a Modesto councilman who resigned in 1995. He also unsuccessfully sought a spot on the Modesto City Schools board in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.
McGill’s top three concerns are:
• Having the city work closely with school districts to improve the educational attainment of young people. He envisions the city recruiting seniors, volunteers and other mentors to work with children.
“The city can be a role model and a leader,” he said.
• Having the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department work with school districts on after-school programs that help children and combat gangs and youth violence.
• Having the city work more closely with the Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations to bring in more jobs and businesses. McGill believes the city does not do enough to promote itself. He’d like the city to launch an ambassador program in which officials from the city, chamber and other organizations go to the Bay Area and other places to promote Modesto and recruit businesses to come here.
McGill has had several tax liens filed against him, according to records filed with the Stanislaus County clerk-recorder’s office. Records show that all of the liens have been released.
The IRS filed a $24,024 lien against McGill in 2006 for the years 2000 through 2005. The lien was released in 2012. The California Franchise Tax Board filed a $21,298 lien in 2012 for 2005 through 2008. The lien was released in 2012. The tax board also filed a $1,336 lien in 1992 and a $979 lien in 1987.
McGill said the two more recent liens were because of errors made by his former tax accountant. He said he can’t recall the details of the 1992 lien and said the 1987 lien was because he and his then-wife faced high medical bills because of her difficult pregnancy and did not have the money for the taxes.
The University of La Verne recorded a civil judgment against McGill for $6,244 in 1997. The judgment was satisfied the following year.
McGill said the liens and civil judgment show that he has overcome setbacks because of his faith in God and perseverance. He said he can empathize with the many residents in his district who have lost jobs and homes because of the recession.
“I represent a lot of people who have had these financial problems,” McGill said. “I know how they feel.”
Melgoza, 31, said he worked as an emergency medical technician for six years. He said he served in the California National Guard before receiving a medical discharge after about 18 months because of a bad back. He now sells skin care products on eBay. He sought a seat on the City Council in 2009, but filed his papers at the last minute and did not have enough valid signatures to qualify as a candidate.
Melgoza said he is running for a council seat because it’s time for young people with new ideas to serve the city. He said his focus is on creating jobs and reducing crime.
He said that because he’s young, he can relate to the city’s younger residents and work to create programs that keep them away from gangs and trouble. Melgoza said he would be effective in creating training programs that would attract young people and provide them with the skills for a good job.
“The times are changing,” he said. “We have to keep up to date to what is needed.”
Melgoza said he sees himself as the people’s candidate and would make himself available at any time of the day or night to hear their concerns.
Schambers, 21, admits he’s a long shot in the race. He expects to spend no more than $50 on his campaign and hopes to gain experience and name recognition.
“I’m mostly campaigning to get my name out there,” he said. “... But I may run again, and if I do, a lot more people will know more about me.”
Schambers lives at home and works as a security guard as he attends college with the goal of earning an MBA. He believes the council needs to be more fiscally responsible and held accountable for its bad decisions. He believes the council needs to do a better job allocating money so there are more police officers and firefighters and the roads, parks and other infrastructure in the worst shape get fixed first.
Zoslocki, 60, has firsthand experience with Modesto’s boom-and-bust economy based on real estate and building homes.
He’s been a homebuilder, constructing about 20 to 30 houses in the 1980s and ’90s, had a minor interest in a partnership that built fewer than 200 homes in Village I, manages investment properties, and works as a commercial Realtor-broker. He’s on leave from his job with Prudential Commercial Real Estate during the council campaign. He’s also a former president of the Building Industry Association.
But Zoslocki wants to break the mold of how Modesto grows its economy. He wants long-term planning and decisions that will bring in well-paying jobs as well as strengthening the county’s agriculture-based economy, which brings in more than $3billion annually in farm revenues.
“I don’t like the boom and bust,” he said. “I think it’s crazy. It’s not healthy for our city, but it’s the model we choose. I’d like to change that.”
That planning involves setting aside prime farmland along highways 99 and 132 for business and industrial parks.
The planning involves Stanislaus County becoming a so-called self-help county by having its residents pass a road tax. The county then could leverage its road tax money with funding from the state and federal government to fund more transportation projects.
Zoslocki said Bay Area firms are expanding east and are on the fringes of Tracy. He said Modesto can land those firms and their jobs if it makes the right decisions.
“Now is the time to ask, ‘What do we want Modesto to look like in the future?’” he said.
It probably will take more than his lifetime for Modesto to see solid, lasting progress in reshaping its economy, he said, but it’s something that must be done if the city wants to rid itself of its chronically high unemployment rate and provide opportunities for its young people who now leave for careers in the Bay Area and elsewhere.
Zoslocki’s vision mirrors a proposal being put forth by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. Zoslocki serves on the chamber committee that developed the plan, which has drawn criticism from some who believe it takes in too much prime farmland west of Highway 99. Zoslocki said he’s faced skepticism because of his background in building and real estate.
“This is not about building a thousand new homes,” he said. “No one is looking for a thousand new homes. I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on jobs.”
Zoslocki had several mechanics liens totaling about $56,000 filed against him in 1989 related to work he did in developing a business park for a cousin. He said the liens were filed because he paid a contractor who then failed to pay his suppliers. All of the liens were released within a few days except for one that was released within five weeks.