The decision to include Wood Colony in Modesto’s General Plan haunted Mayor Garrad Marsh the full four years of his first term in office. Marsh’s critics insisted he’d sold out to developers and cried for his scalp.
Today, with the defeat of Measures I and G and the rise of Ted Brandvold as the developers’ choice for mayor, Marsh looks like a prophet. He’s said all along that those who think he’s the developers’ pawn should look at the alternatives.
In fact, Marsh’s long record as a firm defender of farmland and wise land use should have insulated him from his critics’ claims. Unfortunately, some of the loudest voices in Modesto belong to a core of attention-hungry scandal-mongers who have never met a leader they trust.
While there’s no question Marsh hasn’t been the purist his supporters wanted, there’s also no question he is indeed the best candidate for mayor. First and foremost, despite all the talk about selling out, Marsh has never been the developers’ choice. That much should be clear by the presence of Brandvold, who was hand-picked by realtors and developers when they stacked the mayor’s race with pro-growth candidates.
Voters now have a simple choice: Return to the boom and bust pro-growth policies of the past which feature sprawl, developer subsidies, and even more stress on infrastructure and public services, or continue to build on a gradually improving economy with re-investment in our downtown core and smart growth.
Marsh’s critics have also claimed he was in the pockets of the police and firefighters’ unions. It was thus a surprise to many when those same unions endorsed Mr. Brandvold. The reason? Marsh knows the city can’t afford to maintain public safety services on current revenue flows, which is why he tried twice to pass a public safety sales tax increase.
Naturally, police and firefighters don’t want cutbacks. In fact, the police department is asking for an expensive plane because it claims it would improve surveillance. Marsh, however, is a fiscal realist. He won’t spend money the city doesn’t have.
It is precisely because he won’t accept short-term fixes for long-term problems that Marsh has alienated some former supporters. However, his fiscal intelligence and courage are exactly what Modesto needs as it continues its slow emergence from the Great Recession.
Developers and members of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce have been salivating at the thought of another sprawling growth boom, visions of Village I dancing in their heads. They know the only thing in their way is a mayor with record for supporting smart growth.
Garrad Marsh has both the academic training and hands-on business success to guide Modesto through our ongoing financial straits. He is far more familiar with how the city works than Mr. Brandvold is, and far less indebted to special interests. He’s still the best choice for mayor.