BY ANGELINA MARTIN
For the first time since his election three years ago, Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold gave a State of the City address that highlighted both the city’s challenges and success.
“It’s only a matter of time before the world knows how great this city is,” Brandvold told a packed audience of nearly 400 during a luncheon at the DoubleTree May 8.
Brandvold touted a long list of Modesto’s accomplishments, like increasing the city’s police force from 168 sworn officers to 230 and bringing its reserve fund from $3 million to over $18 million in just two years. More money is on the way, he noted, as Modesto also welcomed seven recreational marijuana dispensaries this year.
It was thanks to a citizen-led budget review committee, Brandvold said, that new revenue-generating recommendations were received by the City. The committee consisted of CPAs, CFOs and CEOs from some of Modesto’s most respected businesses and organizations who developed a list of recommendations for saving costs and jumpstarting the local economy.
“If you follow my campaign, you may recall that one of my goals was to bring back a citizen trust in their local government and develop more citizen involvement,” Brandvold said. “As a result of these recommendations, we accomplished some really great things in our city with many more still in the works.”
While Modesto has thrived recently, there has also been the city’s fair share of struggles. Homelessness, for example, continues to be a problem, Brandvold said.
“Homelessness continues to be one of the most difficult issues in our city, just like many other cities in the state and across the nation,” he said. “The difficulty with homelessness stems from the fact that there are so many different causes and reasons that people are homeless, and there aren’t nearly as many solutions.”
The mayor said that while there is no “silver bullet” that will solve the homelessness issue in Modesto, the City has taken a number of steps to address the problem. Modesto’s first attempt came with the creation of an emergency tent shelter which started in Beardbrook Park, but has since been moved to a location under the 9th Street bridge. By 2020, the camp will be moved to the Salvation Army site nearby.
“We must continue to address our homeless population with compassion, and we should always be ready to lend a helping hand, but we must come up with another solution when it comes to giving handouts,” Brandvold said.
Other challenges Modesto faces, the mayor said, include ongoing struggles with pension liabilities and low sales tax revenue. Cannabis sales could help the latter, he added.
“While some are predicting very lucrative revenues, we are approaching this source with guarded expectations. We are hopeful that the revenue received will not have to be completely allocated to control and enforce its needs,” Brandvold said.
Brandvold told Modesto residents that although the city may end up on a few “worst in the country lists,” it’s up to its community to spread the word about Modesto’s accomplishments.
“To counter the negative comments, we all must be advocates and advertise all of the great things about our city. If nothing else could be said about Modesto, we must agree that we are a strong and resilient community of citizens that love Modesto,” he said.