Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Inequity of Stanislaus County's Invisible Lines

My public comments to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on July 12, 2016:

Good morning Gentlemen, 

A long time ago, Modesto's “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” arch marked the city's entrance. As we know, the city has grown way past the arch in all directions. Some of the city's limits are marked by signs, but for the most part, all the city limits really are, are lines drawn on paper indicating invisible lines on the ground. 

Salida has it's own invisible lines denoted on paper called the “Salida Community Plan”. But Salida's invisible lines are not as strong as city lines. Salida's community plan lines are consistently ignored by the City of Modesto. And while Salida's invisible lines are supposed to give credence to Salida as being a “Community of Interest”, there's no guarantee that any designation other than being a city will protect land within our lines from being taken away from us. Everything but a city's boundaries can be ignored.

I was discussing Salida with a Ripon resident last week and he said that he would've thought that Stanislaus County would care more about Salida than it appears you do because it's the first impression that people get when they cross the river into the county. If you look to the left, it's not too bad. The businesses along Pirrone are well kept, but on the right, there's a big ugly pile of dirt in the world's worst location for a drainage basin, then a nice firehouse, then an ugly patchwork painted wall (albeit a graffiti-free one) then a dilapidated fence surrounding an unsightly wrecking yard, then a bunch of billboards with trash and refuse all along the railroad tracks. That's the first impression people get as they enter the county if they look to the right.

You the County have many more big problems to tackle than the aesthetics of Salida. Spending money on the thousands of gallons of paint it would take to make our soundwalls all one color is not even on your list of things to fix in this county. But its on Salida's list. We hate that ugliness; of course we do, we see it every day of our lives. And if we were a city, we could do something about it. 

If Salida were a city, we could be like Escalon and install wayside horns to diminish the blaring train horns that pass through town around every 20 minutes. Again, not something that's even on your radar but is important to us and would improve the quality of life in Salida. 

The thing I consistently hear from You the County anytime I ask for anything to improve the quality of life in Salida is that “If we do it for you, we have to do it for everyone” or “If you want it, you have to pay for it yourselves”. If you want speedbumps, pay for it yourselves, if you want a traffic light, pay for it yourselves. After hearing those replies so many times, I feel pretty confident in saying that the majority of Salida's tax dollars are not spent in Salida. And while I won't delve into the politics behind this in the few seconds I have remaining of Public Comment, You the County and I both know that Salida is at the back of the line for any grant funding for many years to come.

The only way I can see to improve the quality of life in Salida is to incorporate as a city. The only way I know of where our tax dollars will be spent in our own community is to become a city. The only way I know of to improve the northern gateway to Stanislaus County is to become a city.

You the County can't protect our invisible lines from being taken from Salida, but you could help us change the status of our invisible lines so they can never be ignored again. Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stanislaus County could incorporate Salida into a city

My public comments to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on June 28,2016:

Good morning Gentlemen, 

I think this current Board of Supervisors has enacted some very proactive and visionary things for the future of Stanislaus County. Like Focus on Prevention, or the pay increases for a future Board that might not ever apply to any of you. 

So today, I want to share what I think is a huge problem that lies in our future and ask you to decide if you want to be proactive and visionary about it and that huge problem is the future of Salida. On Thursday, June 9th, I received a call from the Planning Department at the City of Modesto to inform me that the City plans to revert to their 1995 General Plan boundaries. While that doesn't appear to be much different than the way things are as Salida is still within the City's General Plan boundaries, I was also told that this does call for a change in their Sphere of Influence and they plan to apply to LAFCO for an SOI that includes Salida Community Plan land. The City of Modesto currently has over 11,000 acres in their sphere of influence, yet they consistently go after the land that You the County set aside for us in the Salida Community Plan. I think it goes without saying, but no one in Salida is going to be ok with this. And the worst part of it is, even if every Salida resident showed up to protest it, that may not be enough for us to stop it from happening.

Modesto tried to annex Salida in 1997 and it was voted down by one vote at LAFCO. In the meantime, they cherry-picked Salida's tax base and annexed in the land that Costco and Kaiser are on. Then Modesto planned to annex us again in 2013 and were met with a resounding “No”. And here we are only three years later and they are back to cherry-picking the open farmland which is all they really want anyway.  It's proof positive that Modesto is never going to relent until they get what they want; and all they want is Salida's tax base of undeveloped land.

The future for Salida is dismal. If allowed to, Modesto will take all the Salida Community Plan land that's north and south of Kiernan. We will be walled in by Modesto on the East, which only leaves growth to the west which is NOT what the majority of residents of Salida and our neighboring Wood Colony want. I see this future as the death of Salida. It will have no where to grow which is a requirement for incorporation as a city. Nowhere to grow was one of the reasons cited as a denial of East L.A.'s incorporation. Salida will age and stagnate; and next thing that will happen is we will end up a disadvantaged county island that Modesto will be forced to annex before they can grow further west under SB 244 requirements.

There's only one way to stop the destruction of Salida and the sprawl of Modesto westward, and that's to incorporate Salida as a city. An online poll last year showed that 70% of Salida residents supported incorporation. But incorporating Salida is easier said than done. Trying to do it ourselves has the odds stacked against us. You the County, has all the resources we don't have. You the County, has our $150,000 set aside by landowners for our incorporation studies. You the County, would be the ones to negotiate tax-sharing so Salida can have it's tax revenue go to the new city. You the County, as shocking as this might be to you, can incorporate Salida into a city. 

“After meeting the basic legal requirements for incorporation, the proposal can be initiated in one of two ways. One way is through a public agency. A resolution of application can be adopted by the legislative body of an affected agency, which is defined as any city, district or county that contains territory within the proposed incorporation boundaries.”

Salida will never be the town that David Curtis dreamed of when he founded it in 1908 calling it “A Model Town”. It will always be the poor man's Ripon of Stanislaus County unless we can incorporate. We will never get grants to build a city hall like Waterford did. We will never have the police coverage that Hughson does and they are 6,000 people smaller than Salida. Hughson City Councilwoman Jill Silva told me the best thing Hughson ever did was to incorporate. 

Incorporation would be the best thing Salida ever did too. It would have a chance to be a charming city like Ripon. It would have a chance to be a safe city like Hughson. Its borders would be set to prevent the slide into poverty. A green belt could be put between Salida and Wood Colony. Salida would have a chance to be the city David Curtis dreamed of and the present residents want. Please consider giving Salida that chance. You have the ability and the funds to make it a reality. Thank you.