Concerned citizens flooded the Candidate Forum hosted by The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County at a standing room only City Hall Wednesday night to gain information on the five candidates running for the two open Turlock City Council seats.
Forrest White, Bill DeHart, Matthew Jacob, Donald Babadalir and Sergio Alvarado all began with short introductions regarding their qualifications for candidacy and reasons for running.
Much of the forum revolved around the candidates' stances on budgetary issues related to public safety. All five candidates agreed that the funding cuts were not ideal, but offered unique perspectives for combating crime.
Incumbents, White and DeHart agreed that more funding was necessary for public safety. Jacob noted the realignment of the State prison system as a contributing factor to the issue and favored a plan that would retain the very best in terms of public safety personnel, not necessarily viewing the issue as budgetary.
Babadalir favored increased economic development to raise tax revenue and encouraged communities to be proactive in establishing neighborhood watch groups. Alvarado noted the deficit of six City police officers mentioning that he wished to see more personnel in order to reduce the levels of crime
When asked about the $500,000 Federal COPS grant Turlock was recently awarded, which requires a 25 percent contribution from the City, all were in general favor of approving spending to increase the number of public safety personnel by four.
Not surprisingly, the highly debated Measure B road tax issues came up during the forum; White and Jacob both expressed support, DeHart and Babadalir agreed that the decision should be made by voters.
Alvarado stated his opposition to Measure B — expressing concern in regard to the ethics involved when donations from developers were accepted by the Citizens for Yes on Measure B campaign committee. He was concerned with the potential long term implications of the Measure over the seven-year life of the tax.
Homelessness was also an issue recognized by candidates. They praised the work of community organizations, while noting many of the factors that contribute to homelessness. They recognized that though there may not be a definitive policy to mitigate all the nuances and complexities of the issue, as it does not operate in a vacuum, there are a wide variety of potentially workable solutions.
Audience members questioned stances on raising the retirement age for City employees. Babadalir favored the idea of a nationwide discussion on the issue while Alvarado, DeHart, and Jacob were not in favor of raising. White stated the array of policy differences among City employees; there is a correlation between the time of their hire and stipulations with their retirement.
Council candidates agreed that there were numerous ways in which community members could, and should, enhance the Turlock community; all proposed some level of grassroots volunteerism.
The candidates petitioned the audience; Babadalir said he was interested in hearing the comments, opinions and suggestions from community members. White, mentioning his retirement, told the audience he was available for “coffee hour” at the local coffee shop where he was willing to speak with anyone interested. Jacob mentioned his enjoyment of precinct walking and noted the availability of his personal phone number.
While describing himself as working on the high-tech portion of his campaign, DeHart described his understanding of public sentiment and experience as a current Councilmember as reasons why he would be fit to serve a second term. Alvarado noted his fiscal conservatism and years of involvement in attending City Council as grounds for his aptitude to serve.
The five candidates are vying for two, four year term seats on Turlock’s City Council. Voters registered in Turlock will have the opportunity to vote for up to two of these candidates during the Nov. 4 General Election.