What do we like, dislike about Modesto? Many opinions – and chance to let mayor know

Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold, middle, listens to public comment during the Modesto City Council meeting at Tenth Street Place in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.
Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold, middle, listens to public comment during the Modesto City Council meeting at Tenth Street Place in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

Residents can tell Mayor Ted Brandvold and other city officials what direction they want the city to go in during a Thursday meeting at Modesto Centre Plaza.

The meeting is part of Modesto’s effort to gather community input for its next strategic plan, which lays out the city’s big-picture goals over several years and the strategies to achieve them.

Thursday’s late afternoon meeting comes after similar meetings were held for each of the six City Council members in their respective districts.

But city officials have some idea about community member’s priorities based on a preliminary analysis of some high-level themes from an online community survey, which is being used to help develop the strategic plan.

City spokesman Thomas Reeves said those themes include:

Residents are most satisfied with music, art and theater in the community (No. 1), the city’s water and waste-water services (No. 2), city’s online services (No. 3), customer service from city employees (No. 4) and city parks and recreation (No. 5)

Residents are least satisfied with efforts to address homelessness (No. 1), the maintenance of city trees (No. 2), blight (No. 3), the efficiency of traffic lights (No. 4) and gang prevention efforts (No. 5)

Residents said Modesto’s strengths are its affordability, location, community engagement, weather and diversity. They said the challenges are attracting and keeping businesses, the quality of education and career access, public safety, and defining the city’s identity. Opportunities include bringing ACE commuter train service here and improving downtown.

Modesto is working with Stanislaus State University’s criminal justice department on the survey. The department is not charging the city. Reeves said 698 residents completed the online survey, and the department is finishing up its work.

The anonymous survey included questions about which council district survey takers live in, their race, and demographic information, including household income and whether they rent or own.

Reeves said for the most part the survey takers were evenly distributed among the six council districts, though Council District 3 (which includes the college area) was overrepresented and Council District 2 (which includes south and west Modesto) was underrepresented.

Reeves said 27.7 percent of survey takers live in Council District 3 and 4.2 percent live in District 2, which has a large Latino population and low-income households. He said Modesto did extensive outreach to encourage residents to take the survey, which was available in Spanish.

The survey results are expected to come before the City Council in May or June.

Reeves said the high-level themes from the survey have lined up for the most part with the public comments from the meetings held in each of the council districts. He said those meetings drew as many as about two dozen participants, but 10 to 20 was a more typical turnout.

Modesto hired the consulting firm Management Partners to put the strategic plan together. The cost was not available Monday. Management Partners interviewed council members and other top city officials and held two roundtable discussions to gather input for the strategic plan.

Reeves said one discussion was with the chair person of each of the city’s boards and commissions, such as the Culture Commission, and the other was with representatives from community groups and organizations.

Reeves said the strategic plan should come before the City Council for discussion and potential adoption by no later than June 30.

Thursday’s Modesto Centre Plaza meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Reeves said there will be signs directing the public to the location.