“This is an era of accountability,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth as he opened his first State of the City address to a packed hall full of City of Turlock staff.
During his two months as Mayor of Turlock, and even during his campaign, Soiseth has echoed that accountability and transparency are key parts to his vision for the City of Turlock.
Since the beginning of his 100-day vision, which began in January, Soiseth and the Turlock City Council have been working hard to make Turlock as efficient and transparent as possible. Through special meetings held during Council’s off weeks and controversial agendas, Council is making big changes to how the City has ran for decades.
One such change that Soiseth referenced in his State of the City address on Tuesday was the Council’s decision on Tuesday to put the City of Turlock’s marketing and branding out to a bid. Prior to Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce managed the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for more than two decades before deciding to terminate their contract with the City on Tuesday.
“Whether we are scrutinizing $1,000 or a quarter of a million dollars, we owe it to Turlock’s citizens to bring forward a clear cost-benefit analysis of every fiscal decision we make,” Soiseth said in his address. “We owe it to Turlock’s citizens to be fair in our decisions across every department. And we owe it to Turlock’s citizens to not be protective of the status-quo, but to always look for better opportunities to serve them.
“While Turlock has done much right, we can always do better.”
The City of Turlock is currently in negotiations to help give Turlock reliable municipal water for decades to come, beyond simply through conservation efforts.
“While we need to continue to find aggressive ways to save water, I truly believe we cannot conserve our way out of a drought of this severity,” said Soiseth.
On the table are two projects, the North Valley Regional Recycling Project and construction of a Surface Treatment Facility with the Turlock Irrigation District, but to date have been in conflict with each other.
The City of Turlock wants to sell tertiary water to the Del Puerto Water District, a drought-stricken water district located in the westside of Stanislaus County. However, the City of Turlock would be required to “offset” water in a deal with TID using recycled water if they were to strike a deal that would deliver surface water to Turlock residents. Despite the two plans that have the potential to be in conflict with each other, Soiseth and City staff hope a “win-win” solution can be found, even if it means sending less water to Del Puerto than originally planned.
“I believe in win-win solutions,” said Soiseth. “I believe that the Del Puerto Water District, the Turlock Irrigation District, and the City of Turlock can arrive at a win-win solution to our respective water needs, but we need to come to the table with a spirit of compromise and common-sense.”
Soiseth added that he is committed to finalizing negotiations for projects with both Del Puerto and TID by the end of the year.
Much like water, roads continue to be a major priority for the Mayor. While he didn’t support Measure B, the half-cent sales tax dedicated to roads, Soiseth hopes to find a solution to roads at a regional level, in the way of corridors and interchanges, as well as local roads.
Soiseth has appointed himself to the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) to ensure that Turlock has a voice in talks for a countywide sales tax and other key regional issues.
Moving forward, Soiseth also hopes for collaboration across the community to bridge the gap between the City and young people. The mayor’s office will be re-committing itself to the Teen Advisory Council, a program Soiseth helped create in high school, as well as holding a forum with CSU Stanislaus President Joseph Sheley and students to better address the divide between the City of Turlock and the university.
“Put bluntly, we should not want a future Council, a future resident, or a future farmer to look back on these years as a time in which we let opportunities slip by,” said Soiseth.
However, Soiseth didn’t only focus on the change and future during his State of the City address, he made sure to spotlight the great work that City staff has done and continues to do.
The Turlock Police and Fire departments were described as the “pride of the city,” detailing several personal accounts of how fire has worked to save lives in Turlock through their exemplary work.
While the Turlock Fire Department has seen a 16 percent increase in calls over the last four years, as well as fully absorbing the Neighborhood Services Unit, they continue to manage the work through collaborating with surrounding fire departments and other organizations.
Turlock police were praised for their modernization in using digital media, such as Nixle, Nextdoor, Facebook, and Twitter, to connect with the community. Despite some ongoing tough negotiations with Turlock police officers, Soiseth said City Hall would always support and deliver the necessary resources to the department.
Soiseth also praised the rest of the City of Turlock’s 321 full-time, 180 part-time, and 52 volunteers for all of the work they do toward the “vital” success of the Turlock.
“Each and every one of you are the pride of our city,” said Soiseth. “Whether you are a police officer or firefighter, accepting a bill payment at our front counter, or working as a life-guard at our pools; any time you interact with a Turlock resident, you become a reflection of what this City Hall is focused on: efficiency, transparency, and accountability.”
Mayor Gary Soiseth delivered his first State of the City address to a hall packed with City of Turlock staff. 2-12-15