Field for Turlock council narrowed

The 2006 City Council race had enough candidates to field a football team. This year, it's a starting basketball lineup.

Four of the five candidates on November's ballot ran unsuccessfully for mayor or council in 2006; one candidate called that group the "Foolish 15."

Modesto police officer Amy Bublak, 43, came closest two years ago, missing a council seat by 183 votes.

This fall, she earned an endorsement from the Turlock firefighters union, which arguably did more footwork than any other group in helping Ted Howze and Kurt Spycher win their council seats in 2006. Bublak also touted an endorsement from Monte Vista Crossings developer Hall Equities, which she said also has contributed to her campaign.

Bublak hasn't offered a specific plan for growth but said she foresees residential development west of Highway 99 to support the 2,600-acre industrial tract there.

"I'm not for saying Amy Bublak wants growth in one specific area," she said. "I (go on) a project-by-project basis."

Incumbent Kurt Vander Weide, who is endorsed by the firefighters union and Chamber of Commerce, which also is endorsing Bublak, lost to then Vice Mayor John Lazar in the 2006 mayoral race.

Vander Weide is often the swing vote on a sharply divided council, siding with Spycher and Howze on controversial issues such as deciding to sell the city's temporary homeless shelter and demolishing a historic fire station. Vander Weide said he is proud of helping to bring new leadership to the Police Department, which is undergoing a three-year overhaul.

Vander Weide said his first priority for a second term would be to fully account for every dollar in the city budget, making sure nothing is allocated to an outdated purpose.

"We've got gold dust floating down through our budget floorboards," Vander Weide said.

David Fransen, 32, makes a living "studying Turlock." He is a city maintenance worker and the news team behind turlockcitynews.com, which combines local headlines, columns and live videos of city events and meetings. Fransen said the site attracts 300,000 unique visitors each year.

He criticized council members for failing to see the big picture.

"We don't have any vision on our council," Fransen said.

Fransen wants more money put into improving city streets and a Turlock where growth moves up -- not out -- to protect agricultural land.

Mary Jackson, 40, is a journalism instructor at Merced College and city arts commissioner who is concerned Turlock's graffiti and gang problem has "exploded" in the past year. She said bringing in more businesses to downtown and the city's west-side industrial tract will help finance crime fighting and prevention strategies.

"We need good paying jobs so we can help to continue to pay for our public safety," Jackson said.

Jackson said every dollar invested in the arts, such as the rebuilding of the Carnegie Arts Center on Broadway Avenue, brings $7 back to the community as residents spend more money at nearby businesses.

Evangelical minister Jim Sarnowsky, 65, said he had a 30-year criminal history fueled by drugs and alcohol before he became an evangelical minister.

Sarnowsky said he gave up substance abuse for good in the mid-1980s.

In his late 40s, Sarnowsky said he served three years for attempted murder for threatening to kill two Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputies with a pair of scissors. Months earlier, he said, he served time for brandishing weapons in the Turlock Police Department. Sarnowsky said he has racked up more driving under the influence incidents than he can count; he estimates about 40 in cities throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Sarnowsky said he mainlined methamphetamine and had three stints in a state mental hospital in the 1960s.

A Web search found no civil or criminal actions against Sarnowsky since 1990.

The minister said he sees a single answer to fill the city's coffers. Sarnowsky wants to bring entertainers -- from country music stars to Christian rock acts -- into Turlock football stadiums and churches and use the ticket proceeds to fund everything from roads to homeless programs.

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