While opponents of Measure X continue to gloat about their narrow victory as though it were a landslide, another narrow victory may in the end prove as significant as the defeat of Measure X.
Jenny Kenoyer’s upset of Stephanie Burnside helped bring about a gravitational change in the Modesto City Council, and may well stymie the Chamber of Commerce’s plans for another growth boom in Stanislaus County.
Given her trouncing of Kenoyer in 2011, Burnside was the odds-on favorite this election. She had even been mentioned as a potential candidate in the next mayor’s race.
Among insiders, the story was that Burnside and incoming councilmember Bill Zoslocki would form an irresissitable tag team, thwarting Mayor Garrad Marsh at every opportunity and setting the stage for a road tax and subsequent growth boom. Then one or the other, or perhaps even both, would run against Marsh for the mayor’s seat.
But Kenoyer’s win, coupled with Tony Madrigal’s victory in District 2, means Mayor Marsh will have a lot more support than he would have had in the event of a Burnside victory. It also means Zoslocki will be less effective in pushing the Chamber of Commerce’s and Building Industry Association’s agendas, at least in his first term.
Kenoyer has been an enthusiastic supporter of farmland preservation, and can be expected to favor Denny Jackman’s Rural Urban Limit (RUL) proposal. She was also a supporter of Measure X, and thus recognizes Modesto’s dire need for improved public safety.
Some of those trying to explain Burnside’s loss think she may have fallen victim to the anti-government frenzy stoked by the Modesto Bee during its campaign against Measure X. The theory is that even though the Bee’s laundry list of government malfeasance occurred during the Ridenour administration, the constant mantra of “Don’t trust government” created an anti-incumbent fever. If that’s the case, it’s a major irony, because Burnside was a Bee favorite who would have been a strong supporter of the road tax the Bee is pushing in preference to a tax for public safety.
Whatever the explanation for Burnside’s loss, the fact is that Kenoyer campaigned much harder, took clearer stands on the issues, and impressed even those who voted against her with her grit and tenacity. She will represent a much broader constituency than Burnside did, and will think much harder about the negative consequences of growth. In those respects, she is a welcome addition to a City Council that has too often in past years chosen growth as the remedy for all that ails our region.