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City Manager's Blog

Jan 08

Modesto Launches Charter Review Committee

Posted on January 8, 2020 at 3:21 PM by Thomas Reeves

The following is a guest post by Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold

On behalf of the Modesto City Council and the citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers of the City of Modesto, I am pleased to announce the formation of the City’s Charter Review Committee. 

A Brief History
Over 50 years ago, the citizens of Modesto adopted a new city charter that provided for the Council-Manager form of government. The final adoption and approval of that charter was preceded by the election of a Board of Freeholders which, in 1949, drafted a proposed charter that was subsequently submitted to the voters. 

Because of some technical difficulties, it was invalidated by the courts prior to its approval. Thereafter, the City Council appointed a citizens committee to complete the job of drafting a city charter, which was eventually approved by the voters and later ratified by the California State Legislature.

In 1961, after the City had approximately 10 years of experience in operating under the new charter, the City Council felt that it was time to review the charter, evaluate its effectiveness, and make recommendations for amendments where appropriate. The Council appointed a Citizens Review Committee to make such an evaluation. That committee made a complete and thorough review of the charter, line by line, and proposed a number of revisions. The State Legislature subsequently ratified these proposals (Charter amendments are no longer required to be ratified by the State Legislature). 

Similar review occurred in 1971, 1980, 1989, and 1999. 

Now, many decades after its initial adoption, the City Council has appointed this new committee to take a fresh look at the City Charter and determine whether or not additional revisions should be made.

What’s Next
A city charter, like the state and federal constitutions, is a statement of basic principles, outlining powers, relationships and responsibilities. It should be reasonably short, a concise and readable instrument establishing an outline of the organizational framework of our city government. It should not be encumbered with the kind of policy detail that is more properly set forth in the City Code.

The function of this committee is to review Modesto’s current Charter, and ensure it provides the best organization, powers, and functions and essential procedures for the best possible City government.

Each member of the City Council believes this committee is vital to the future of Modesto.  We expect this committee to do more than a caretaker's job in reviewing our local constitution, and we fully anticipate committee members will be thorough in their ideas to improve our local government and governance.

One of the major themes I see for this work is the need for more accountability in City Hall. Committee members will spend time considering ways we can improve accountability to our citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers.  Despite the difficulty of the task, this City Council continues to believe that we must better meet the expectations of our citizens.

This committee will have a wide charge to review the entire City Charter and make recommendations as members see appropriate for our City. 

The committee will also have access to expertise and specialties inside and outside the City of Modesto, and we will provide you all the necessary resources to do a thorough review of the Charter.

Supporting this committee will be our Charter Officers, who are integral to running our great City.  City Clerk Stephanie Lopez will coordinate the necessary agenda, minutes, and documentation work; City Attorney Adam Lindgren will provide legal resources to the effort; and City Manager Joe Lopez will provide support staff. 

Thanks for your consideration,

If you are interested in serving on this valuable committee, please submit an application.  The deadline to apply is noon on January 22, 2020.
Dec 31

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary!

Posted on December 31, 2019 at 9:57 AM by Thomas Reeves

1870 was the year Modesto was founded – 150 years ago!

As your City Manager, I’m thrilled to share with you the city’s “Modesto150” Program and our planning efforts underway to celebrate the major anniversary in 2020.  I’m excited to announce we will be celebrating throughout the year with a few “Signature Events,” “Community Activities,” and with regular media stories through print and online channels.  

150 Website

The community’s online home for the 150th Anniversary is!  Although hosted by the City, it is meant to be a collaborative effort where we post news about upcoming Signature Events and Community Activities.  Any community organization that desires to co-brand their activities for the anniversary year can submit their event through the site, and then have promotional opportunities through the calendar and social media.  A unique historical perspective and an activity Resource Guide (PDF) is also available on the site.  

Several events are already posted, and our committee is constantly reaching out to organizations throughout the City to make them aware of this opportunity.  If you want to join in on the festivities this year, tell us about your event.

Signature Event – Official Celebration

Tentatively scheduled for September 26, this will be the capstone event for the year.  We have heard loud and clear from the community that an event celebrating Modesto’s “homemade and homegrown” would be the most appropriate way of bringing the community together.  We’ve invented this anniversary event as a way to celebrate everything that is truly Modesto, everything that is grown here and built here, and everyone that calls Modesto home.  This event will feature curated homemade crafts, homegrown food and drink, and downhome entertainment.  

Signature Event – Citywide Open House

On May 16, the City will open its doors to City Hall and many of our public facilities for the public to take tours and learn more about our resources, budgets, and services.  This will be an all-hands-on-deck activity for staff, and we will offer a day full of learning and fun for the community.  The public will have an opportunity to take a tour of a water facility, a fire station, a community center, or City Hall.  

Community Activities

Modesto’s diverse businesses and non-profits are active partners in this 150 program, and we’ve developed a way for everyone to have a part in the celebration.  Any organization that has a new or existing event planned for 2020 has the opportunity to co-brand their activities with the City, thus adding to the number of ways the community can support the yearlong party!  By submitting their activities through the Modesto150 website and utilizing the Resource Guide in their planning, community groups can use the new 150 Stamp in their marketing efforts.  

Many organizations go a step further by incorporating the anniversary in their actual event by singing Happy Birthday or offering 150 birthday candles on their cake!  

I’m grateful for the work of our stellar Modesto150 Steering Committee members, who have met monthly since January 2019 to craft this tremendous program.  This effort is gaining a lot of momentum, and the community seems to be rallying around this concept of coming together to celebrate our history, our culture, and our future!

Dec 12

Our Strategy to Address Blight

Posted on December 12, 2019 at 4:28 PM by Thomas Reeves

The Blight Abatement Strategy is a major component of Modesto's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, and never before has our City been more focused on beautification and overall quality of life. 

Cases of abandoned vehicles have increased by 43% in 2 years, while cases of illegal dumping have averaged over 2,500 across the last 4 years. Not only does illegal dumping decrease property value, it also increases the likelihood of individuals continuing this behavior and contributing to blight throughout the city.

That is why we have assembled a robust campaign to effectively enforce abatement codes in priority areas. The strategy will be targeting three leading objectives:
  1. The creation of a blight abatement advisory committee comprised of public and private stakeholders that will make recommendation to the city regarding program improvements, potential funding opportunities, and support with increasing volunteerism.
  2. Quarterly updates to the City Council regarding the progress that has been made on the Blight Abatement Strategy.
  3. The development of a consistent promotional and educational campaign that includes strategic communication with residents and business owners. 
Our strategy includes the implementation of a new solid waste plan, and increased enforcement through new video surveillance cameras.

Initiatives like these could not be made possible without the help of our supporters, including you, our residents and stakeholders. The community has an opportunity to be part of the solution by donating funds toward the installment of cameras.  Cameras are proving to deter illegal dumpers, and the more money we raise, the more cameras we place - even in your neighborhood!  Click here for more information about this fundraising effort, or email below.   

Aside from illegal dumping, the Blight Abatement Strategy also encompasses any and all nuisances that need to be maintained such as overgrown weeds, horticultural maintenance, and the removal of tagging.  The city currently provides a number of blight abatement services, including weekly garbage and green waste pick-up, street sweeping, graffiti removal, shopping cart removal, and programs for tire disposal and bulky item pick-up.

I would also like to highlight our new partnership with non-profit organization, “Keep America Beautiful” (KAB). This partnership is essential to establishing and sustaining blight abatement opportunities in our community. Affiliation with KAB includes national credibility, training opportunities, resources, programs, and community impacts grants.

Our goal is to increase pride in Modesto’s diverse neighborhoods and business districts through beautification efforts and by investing in community assets and amenities.  With the help of residents who report violations on the GoModesto! Mobile App, we have been able to target priority areas.

The responsibility of cleaning up our city is far too large for any one single team to handle alone, which is why we value our public-private partnerships and aim to cultivate these initiatives to better serve our city as a whole. We encourage residents to continue to help us report trash in streets or alleys by calling (209) 577-5494, emailing us, or creating a request on the GoModesto! Mobile App.

I would like to thank our partners who have already contributed to blight abatement and are working tirelessly to make Modesto a beautiful place to live.