October 19, 2013

Economic development focus in Ceres council race

Economic development is a primary issue for two candidates and one incumbent vying for seats on the Ceres City Council, but all have different ideas of how to achieve this goal. Vice Mayor Ken Lane is hoping to safeguard the seat he has held on the council since 2005 but there are two seats available for him to compete with candidates Hugo Molina and Linda Ryno since Councilman Eric Ingwerson is not running for re-election.

Economic development is the motivator for two candidates and one incumbent vying for two seats on the Ceres City Council, but all have different ideas of how to achieve this goal.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane is hoping to safeguard the seat he has held on the council since 2005. Challenging him and vying for the seat vacated by Eric Ingwerson, who is not seeking re-election, are Hugo Molina and Linda Ryno.

Lane, 53, is a lifetime resident of Ceres. He works as a sales manager for an office supply company in Modesto.

Before being elected to the council, Lane served eight years on the Planning Commission. He said his experience and record on the council set him apart from the other candidates.

He is proud of being on the council through the completion of the Ceres Community Center, the Whitmore Avenue Interchange, Fire Station No. 4 and three parks.

“My experience and the stability I bring to the role of council member is unmatched,” Lane said.

The city’s revenue increased this year. To maintain the upward momentum, Lane says he wants to attract new businesses and revisit areas once slated for development but abandoned in the recession.

“We need to get that land ready for business. We were in that process all around the Mitchell Road corridor,” Lane said, pointing to now-defunct development projects that once were slated to add 1,600 homes south of Service Road.

He had hoped to get new ideas from Urban Futures Inc., a company hired to create an economic development strategic plan.

Lane and other council members, though, said the plan should have been more specific about what types of businesses would be best for certain areas of the city and how to recruit those businesses.

Ryno, 59, said the city should not have spent $121,100 to hire Urban Futures. Instead, the money should have gone to hiring a marketing firm that would bring business to what she called the “jewel” of Ceres, its downtown.

The downtown area, despite its convenient access to Highway 99, has a business vacancy rate of about 50 percent.

Ryno said it isn’t an ideal location for large corporations. She would like to see coffee shops, antique stores and restaurants move in.

“The money could have been better spent on downtown, which has been ignored for so many years,” she said.

Ryno said that in order to attract businesses, Ceres must first focus on blight. She wants to reopen the second code enforcement officer position that was eliminated last year.

“They got rid of all the abandoned shopping carts, now it feels like we are taking two steps back,” she said.

Ryno worked for the city for nearly 30 years as an administrative secretary in the Planning Department. Her husband, Sam Ryno, is medically retired from the Ceres Police Department. He was shot by the same man who killed Sgt. Howard Stevenson in 2005.

She said her work in planning, which includes a position as the recording secretary for the Planning Commission and downtown revitalization board, left her poised to make informed decisions about land use. Ryno said she also assisted her department head each year with the budget.

Molina, 35, cited his experience on the Planning Commission and as a business owner.

He said he’s noticed that it can take months for a prospective business owner to reach the Planning Commission. If elected, Molina said, he wants to study whether there is a way to streamline the process.

Molina said he would like to see more large sit-down restaurants in Ceres such as an Applebee’s or BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery.

“It takes going to businesses and seeing what they need, like more parking, and creating that,” he said.

Molina also wants the city to work with the Ceres Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a member, and the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance to brainstorm ideas for attracting businesses to Ceres.

Molina owns Palmwest Insurance Services in Los Banos. He was an office manager at the business before purchasing it in 2010. Most of his clientele is outside of Ceres. He said he would like to expand to Ceres but that isn’t feasible given the number of insurance agents in the area.

If he is elected, Molina said, he would be a hands-on councilman and would spend his first day on the job meeting with the city manager and other department heads.

He, like Ryno, plans to spend a few thousand dollars on campaigning.

Ryno said she is mostly going door to door.

“I am hearing that they are ready for change, and a lot of people think it is time for a woman on the council again,” she said.

A woman last held a seat on the council in 2005.

Lane is spending substantially more on his campaign, as much as $23,000. He’s sent mailers and met with groups to get endorsements.

He said voters have told him they are happy with the work and accomplishments of the council.

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