Two incumbents on the City Council note progress on jobs, budgets and other issues. Three challengers say they have fresh ideas that could advance the city more.
In the Nov. 4 election, Forrest White and Bill DeHart are seeking second four-year terms against Matthew Jacob, Sergio Alvarado and Donald Babadalir.
In campaign appearances and interviews, they generally agree that Turlock is doing well compared with many cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It has reduced deficit spending on police, fire and other services and is even adding officers to the force. The city has attracted businesses to its industrial west side, while enjoying a resurgence downtown.
It is one of the most important elections in recent years for Turlock voters. They also will choose between Gary Soiseth and Mike Brem for mayor, consider a shift to district council elections, and possibly raise the sales tax to pay for street repairs.
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More on the council candidates:
Alvarado, 35, is a U.S. Postal Service employee and member of the Turlock Park, Arts and Recreation Commission. He ran for council unsuccessfully in 2012.
“I’m a fiscal conservative,” he said. “I can bring fiscal responsibility back to the council.”
Alvarado said the council needs to be careful as it negotiates new contracts with all of the employee bargaining groups over the next several months. He cited pension costs among his concerns.
The candidate supports district elections but opposes the street repair measure. It would add half a percentage point to the tax over seven years but end early if a countywide version passes. Alvarado said the latter could reduce Turlock’s control over its road money.
He supports a proposed treatment plant for Tuolumne River water that would reduce reliance on wells in Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto.
Babadalir, 28, previously worked in banking and now has his own personal training and nutrition business. He said current city leaders have accomplished some things, but new ideas are needed, too.
Babadalir said economic development would generate the tax revenue needed to boost spending on police. He also sees it as a way to stop the “intellectual leakage” that happens when residents complete their college degrees nearby but leave for jobs elsewhere.
“I think that there is the potential for this to be the powerhouse of the Central Valley,” he said.
Babadalir supports the measures on street repair and district elections, as well as the water treatment plant.
The candidate used to host a television show on KBSV, which serves the Assyrian American community, where he discussed various issues.
DeHart, 66, said the city during his first term has attracted employers, cut down on deficit spending and approved a general plan that calls for compact growth.
“I believe there is a solid momentum toward the accomplishment of some really necessary projects in Turlock,” he said. “I think we have turned the corner with respect to economic development.”
DeHart supports district elections, the street repair tax and the water treatment plant. He said the city needs to work on infrastructure, including road projects in partnership with Patterson and Merced County. He also noted the council’s good relations with city employee bargaining groups.
DeHart has a varied background – Marine Corps officer and helicopter pilot, work in a family printing business, and director of sales and marketing at the Covenant Village retirement community in Turlock. He now is an investment adviser.
Jacob, 22, who helps run Bianca’s Bridal Couture, a family business in Modesto, said the Turlock council needs people with new perspectives.
“As a longtime Turlock resident, I care about the city and I care about the direction we are heading in,” he said.
Jacob supports district elections, the street repair tax and the water treatment plant. He calls for reduced development fees and other efforts to encourage businesses of all sizes. He said police funding must increase, citing the state’s shift of many offenders to local oversight.
Jacob serves on the Turlock Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force, which is updating a 2003 plan on how the city could attract jobs. His studies in political economy at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on alleviating poverty. He also is on the Stanislaus County Equal Rights Commission.
White, 67, was the longtime manager of the San Joaquin County Fair and earlier was a recreation supervisor in Turlock.
He said the city will emerge from deficit spending in about a year, then can rebuild its reserves as it carefully plans for future revenue growth that will boost police and other services.
“At this point, it takes a council that has a little bit of historical perspective,” White said. He notes that being retired gives him plenty of time to attend to city business.
The incumbent cited the Blue Diamond Growers almond plant and the Hilmar Cheese milk powder plant as examples of Turlock’s friendly atmosphere for business.
White supports the street repair tax, district elections and the water treatment plant. He said the council has approved a general plan that will keep residential growth from interfering with industrial development west of Highway 99.