Hopefuls for Turlock council tackle tough queries at forum

TURLOCK -- From bickering over the budget to sparring over a homeless shelter, it's clear the sitting City Council is no Brady Bunch.

And at a Tuesday night election forum, the question was asked of candidates vying for two council seats: How would you deal with disagreements and hostility among your colleagues?

"It would depend on how hostile it was," said David Fransen, laughing nervously while the audience roared. "If I'm going to deal with a fist coming at me ... ."

Evangelical minister Jim Sarnowsky, after complimenting council members, offered a more concrete strategy.

"If I ever see them get hostile, I'll just wait outside and knock 'em out," Sarnowsky said.

General plan revise coming

But candidates talked about more than potential dais warfare at the forum, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County.

About 35 people heard from four of the five council candidates at City Hall; incumbent Kurt Vander Weide did not attend the forum because of an illness, organizers said.

The council members elected in November will be charged with revising the city's general plan, so candidates offered their visions of how they want Turlock to grow.

Fransen said he was "one of the biggest proponents of limited growth," and he and Jackson called for a focus on developing empty lots and building up, in the form of multistory buildings that combine business and residential uses.

"I don't want to go paving over any more ag land," Fransen said.

Bublak said she would consider development on a "project by project" basis, based on whether it fits the needs of people in the specific area. She also emphasized creating a more "walkable" city.

"I see people will start to interact with their neighborhoods again," Bublak said.

Jackson said there are fewer ways for children and teenagers in Turlock to entertain themselves now than when she was in school. And a lack of recreation only feeds into the problem of crime -- from graffiti to gangs, she said.

"We (used to have) a bowling alley, a roller rink and a little putt-putt course," Jackson said. "Now we have none of those."

While disagreements over a city-funded temporary homeless shelter have stymied city officials for months, none of the candidates said the city should foot the bill to house the homeless.

But Fransen, Jackson and Bublak said city government must help nonprofits get the grant money they need to serve Turlock's homeless.

The forum will be rebroadcast on Turlock Charter Cable Channel 2 at 9:30 a.m. today and Saturday at 7 p.m.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.