Mar 03

Modesto Civics 101: The Charter and Our Community

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 11:11 AM by Alyssa Adams

For many of us, the last time we took a civics course was in the 1900’s, and much of that course probably focused on the three branches of the federal government—not the checks and balances within local city government. The final post in this four-part series focuses on the “why” behind the organization of Modesto’s government and how it affects our communities.

In every step, the whole of Modesto’s community has been of the utmost priority to City staff and council. With every Council Meeting, election, and special event permit (pre-coronavirus, of course), the City’s goal remains to provide residents with the highest quality of civic service. 
Here’s what we have covered about Modesto’s local government so far:
  • Modesto is governed by the Charter, a legal document written by residents that serves as the City’s constitution. This allows greater flexibility in handling municipal affairs, as local representatives know their community better than the State does.
  • The Mayor and City Council make up the governing body of the City, and they set policy in the best interest of the City and its residents.
  • The four Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to maintain effective and efficient administration. These Officers are the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor.
These aspects combine to form a City government that is specifically made by and for residents. Claims to fame include a total of 76 neighborhood and community parks for our children to play in, technological advances for everyday tasks, and an economy that supports big and small businesses alike.

By having our own Charter, we have ensured that those who live and work in the area have a greater say in what happens within our City borders than those who watch from afar at the Capitol. Furthermore, residents continue to play an imperative role in revising the Charter every decade to follow the City’s direction over the years.

Residents elect Council Members from their own district to represent them on the City Council. Council Members are in a unique position to work together to benefit the entire City while knowing intricately the advantages and challenges specific to their own communities. Each Council Member is open to ideas and comments from constituents that can help make a better Modesto.

The Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to manage finances, promote fiscal responsibility, ensure adequate reporting, and maintain high ethical standards within City Hall. They engage with the community through committees, panels, and meetings and also keep City employees working effectively and efficiently.

One of Modesto’s goals has been to promote transparent government. That is only possible when we involve residents as best as we can in the decision-making process. With this introduction to the Charter, our elected officials, and the Charter Officers, we hope residents have gained a new perspective on how their local government works for them.
Feb 26

A New Place to Play at East La Loma Park

Posted on February 26, 2021 at 8:00 AM by Alyssa Adams

East La Loma Park has a new playground, thanks to the hard work of La Loma Neighborhood Association (LLNA) through the City’s Park Partners Program. The grand opening ceremony was held outdoors and online on Friday, February 19th to honor the trailblazers and donors that made this playground possible with a small, masked, and social distanced celebration.

In 2017, the aging East La Loma Park playground equipment was removed due to safety hazards. The City was not immediately able to purchase a replacement.

To aid in returning a playground to the park, LLNA joined the City’s Park Partners Program. The Park Partners Program began in 1999 to help communities feel greater ownership of public facilities and speed up their development. The program reduces the direct cost to the City and leads to more community involvement and interest, which results in an especially appreciated playground.

The new playground is now located near the parking lot to increase public safety and accessibility. It features a swing set and two structures with slides and climbing elements.

“The neighborhood really helped build this new playground, which has increased the sense of community for this area. We appreciate our continued partnership with the La Loma Neighborhood Association to make Modesto’s parks and neighborhoods more welcoming for everyone,” said Joel Bueno, Parks Project Coordinator.

LLNA raised a total of $90,000: $55,000 in cash to purchase a portion of the playground equipment and pay the contractor that installed the play equipment and another $35,000 in in-kind services from volunteers and local businesses, like the Save Mart CARES Foundation. Local contractor George Reed, Inc donated services in groundwork, concrete, and a park light, aided by donations from 7-11 Materials, Ceres Pipe & Metal, and Collins Electrical Company, Inc.

The City offered $110,000 in design services, playground equipment, construction, and final inspections. The City also will maintain the playground for years to come by replenishing the bark groundcover and making repairs as necessary. A section of the park features stone pavers engraved with the names and logos of sponsors who helped with the project.
Feb 23

Modesto Civics 101: The Charter Officers

Posted on February 23, 2021 at 11:49 AM by Timothy Viles

For many of us, the last time we took a civics course was in the 1900’s, and much of that course probably focused on the three branches of the federal government—not the checks and balances within local city government. This four-part series focuses on how Modesto’s government is organized, with this week’s focus on the Charter Officers.

Modesto runs on a Council-Manager type of government under the City Charter. The Charter has four officers that are directly appointed by the City Council: the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor. These Charter Officers report directly to the Mayor and Council and are responsible for the effective and efficient administration of their offices.

The Council adopts a written Statement of Policy for each Charter Officer. These Statements set forth the broad goals, objectives, and aspirations to be accomplished. Each Officer makes a plan to address these goals specifically during their time in the position, with a review every two years.

The City Manager is essentially the City’s CEO or Chief Executive Officer. The City Manager is responsible to the Council for administrating all City affairs properly. Two examples of that include drafting the annual budget and hiring new employees. By carrying out the Council’s guidelines and policy objectives, the City Manager ensures spending is allocated correctly and that personnel are productive and efficient.

The City Attorney provides legal services to the City by representing the City and Council in proceedings, providing legal advice, and preparing legal documents like ordinances. The City Attorney also attends Council meetings.

The City Clerk records information for the City. The City Clerk attends Council meetings and records all actions, keeps ordinances and resolutions, administers oaths of office, and is in charge of elections involving the City.

The City Auditor conducts annual audits of City fiscal transactions and accounts. Council may assign performance audits, used to determine if a department is managing its resources well and in an economic manner.

All four of these Charter Officers work together to meet the needs of our community through sound financial management, adequate reporting, and high standards of ethical conduct. The result is a local government that promotes well-being and safety by putting its residents first. See how this makes for a better Modesto in our final blog post next week.