Mr. Scott Calkins is running for Supervisor of District 3 in Stanislaus County, serving the northwest part of the county, including Salida, West Modesto, and the Wood Colony community. He is an instructor in Economics, Government, and United States History at Modesto High School. During an afternoon interview, Mr. Calkins gave a detailed outline of policies and improvements he will pursue upon assuming office. Regardless of who wins the District 3 seat, the ideas he has put forth during the campaign should be followed up.
Motivation for Running for Office
Mr. Calkins believes that the quality of life can be improved in the community without making wholesale changes to the community infrastructure. What caught his attention was the decision to build the 132 Freeway with little regard to the impact the project will have along the path of the proposed route. He wants to be County Supervisor so that he can help mold the project into the optimal configuration with minimal adverse impact.
Scott Calkins does not believe future economic prosperity is tied to the construction of the 132 freeway. He said that if faster access to the San Francisco Bay Area is desired, the best alternative is to widen the Freeway 99/120 Manteca Bypass/205 Freeway Corridor and institute passenger train service from Modesto. The cost of a 132 Freeway is too much of a disruption to the neighborhoods of West Modesto and the farms of Wood Colony. He also believes that the construction of the 132 Freeway will result in urban development along the route.
Mr. Calkins proposes that the 132 roadway alignment be moved back to the original Maze Boulevard, keep it mostly two lanes with a 55 MPH speed limit, add a few passing lanes, and install a concrete center divider for safety. If interregional traffic stays on the 99/120/205 corridor, the 132 Freeway can be dispensed with altogether. The entire project can be wrapped up by removing the contaminated soil from the existing right of way and selling the land back to the farmers who reside along the proposed freeway route. The money already designated for the 132 Freeway should be reallocated to other worthy projects.
Scott Calkins said that he favors a one half cent sales tax to fund transportation provided that the funds are sensibly allocated. He said that one-third of any new revenue raised by the tax should be for pavement overlays, widening of roadways, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian corridors. The second one-third of the tax revenue should go for public transit projects including bus and rail. The final third of the new tax revenue should go for improving existing regional corridor routes, including the South County corridor, on existing road alignments, with speed limits of 55 MPH or less. Freeway construction is too disruptive, taking too much land without substantially improving the quality of life. He said that the money could also be used to build new bridges over the railroad tracks running through the County. He cited the need for a bridge on route 132 over the Santa Fe Railroad east of Modesto.
Scott Calkins provided a number of ideas as to how government and civic leaders can better promote economic development. He was highly critical of the Workforce Alliance. He stated from firsthand experience that the program is ineffective and a waste of money. He said he witnessed kids being taught how to stack boxes. He asked rhetorically how such training could possibly improve job skills. He said that the administrators of the Workforce Alliance need to either prove the effectiveness and value of the program or it should be defunded.
Mr. Calkins said the County Government website is unsatisfactory. Obsolete information remains on the web site. The site has dead links. Information about public meetings is inadequate. The poor management of the site reflects negatively on the entire County. Outsiders who try to use the site may be discouraged from relocating business here because of the site’s inadequacy.
Mr. Calkins is concerned that public facility fees are being used to subsidize infrastructure that should be paid by Capital Facilities Fees. He wants to do a comprehensive review of the fee structure. Some counties have a Regional Transportation Impact Fee; Stanislaus County does not. He wants to explore the issue.
The candidate thinks the focus of county government and civic leaders in trying to attract large corporations to Stanislaus County is wrong headed and a waste of effort. He thinks small Bay Area businesses that want to lower overhead would be an excellent job source to explore. Stanislaus County’s low labor costs and low rents should make it easy to recruit small businesses looking to stay in California. Big corporations have too much competition for their attention. The cities and county should be partnering in a unified effort. Rather than take farm land for more business parks, existing business parks such as Beard Industrial Park should be filled.
Agriculture needs to be strengthened by preserving the pool of land, keeping urban development out of it. All urban growth should be channeled to the cities. Build up or rebuild, but don’t build outward onto prime farm land.
Passenger rail will spur economic development. Support it.
Sheriff’s Office and Juvenile Issues
The Sheriff needs more deputies on patrol. Salida deserves a substation. If economic development does not generate enough new tax revenue, then a parcel tax or sales tax measure may be considered to raise the money to fund what is needed.
Scott Calkins believes that the Stanislaus County Office of Education needs to strengthen local education via the creation of more vocational programs. Stanislaus County government can help by creating apprenticeship programs that will help children get practical work experience.
Classroom teachers should be brought into the process of juvenile rehabilitation. Teachers know how to reach children and can provide the guidance children need to turn their lives around. Teachers aren’t always told when one of their students has been in trouble—teachers should be notified.
A Rich Man’s Hobby?
Mr. Calkins said that some County Supervisor officeholders treat their responsibilities as “a rich man’s hobby” rather than as a full time responsibility. When elected, Scott Calkins will assume the responsibility and give the job the attention it needs. The job will be his most important responsibility.