Turlock community members gathered together on Wednesday night from 6pm-8pm at Medeiros Elementary School for the Second Annual Turlock Government Night, hosted by Stanislaus County Supervisor of District 2, Vito Chiesa.
Nearly 100 people attended the meeting, far less than the approximate 300 that attended in 2011 at the War Memorial building.
Some notable audience members included Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, City of Hughson Mayor Ramon Bawanan, City of Patterson Mayor Luis Molina, City of Newman Mayor Ed Katen, and City of Riverbank Mayor Virginia Medueño.
City Council Members Forrest White, Mary Jackson, Bill DeHart, and Amy Bublak were also present, along with other City of Turlock staff members. Members of the Turlock School Board, Planning Commission, and TID Board attended the town hall meeting as well. Additionally, former Turlock Mayor Curt Andre was acknowledged.
The meeting was conducted in a town-hall fashion, with speakers Congressman Jeff Denham of the 19th U.S. Congressional District, Senator Anthony Cannella of the 12th California Senate District, Supervisor Vito Chiesa of Stanislaus County District 2, and City of Turlock Mayor John Lazar.
“Everyone up here represents you at the federal government, the state government, the city, or the county,” said Supervisor Chiesa, who hosted the meeting.
“This is a great opportunity for us to really get federal, state, and local electives all together to answer a variety of different questions,” stated Congressman Jeff Denham. “The purpose of this is to obviously hear from you.”
Congressman Denham went on to briefly discuss various issues happening at the nations capitol in Congress including the introduction of the budget within the next few weeks, the importance of saving Medicare, national debt, taking up the Highway Bill, water policy, current gas prices, and helping veterans back into the workforce.
Senator Anthony Cannella then took the podium to briefly present important issues in the California State Senate, including the budget reduction by the Governor, spending cuts, taxes, job creation, a proposed bill to speed up the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process for building projects at the county level, and Renewable Energy.
City of Turlock Mayor John Lazar then addressed the audience regarding the economy of the City, the reduction in crime rate, and new developments and businesses that are underway.
After each speaker was given the opportunity to briefly share these various topics, the Q&A session was opened to the members of the audience.
The first question presented to the panel of speakers was in regards to the California High-speed Rail Project, concerning what each elective thought of the project.
Congressman Jeff Denham answered that although he was not opposed to the project originally, when it was a $33 billion project, he no longer supports the project due to timing and the current economy of the state.
“It is now a 98 billion dollar project, and my question is ‘At what cost?’ At what cost do we finally say that this is not our top priority and we cannot afford it,” answered Congressman Jeff Denham.
Other speakers shared the same concern regarding the increasing cost of the project, and mentioned focusing money towards infrastructure projects and repairs, such as on Highway 99.
Community members listened intently to the speakers’ answers to the various questions asked by the audience, which included inquiries on topics such as education, immigration the Dream Act, the housing market, crime rates, and development opportunities and projects. Many took the opportunity to ask the elected representatives their opinions concerning various laws and bills that had been passed on the federal and state level. Some community members also took this opportunity to thank the speakers for the hard work they have done, the stances they have took on specific issues, and for serving the local community.
The public meeting closed with Supervisor Vito Chiesa thanking Congressman Jeff Denham, Senator Anthony Cannella, and Mayor John Lazar, which was followed by a large round of applause from the audience members.
“I also want to say that I don’t have all the answers,” stated Supervisor Chiesa. “I have an opinion on things, but I don’t have all the answers. And I think we would all agree that we have learned as much tonight as you have learned.”
Supervisor Chiesa also announced that he planned on having a third annual Turlock Government Night next year.
“It is important that you stay engaged in your government,” encouraged Supervisor Chiesa to the audience. “It will make a better place and we appreciate you showing up here tonight.”