Richard Nixon and Jerry Brown have shown that while politicians don’t have nine lives, they often have at least more than one. The thought must be comforting to Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh, because since taking office he’s seemed intent on political suicide.
Almost simultaneously with being sworn in, he announced he was going annex Salida. There were only two things wrong with the proposal, both of which were toxic: (1) He never offered a good explanation of his reasoning and (2) he didn’t bother to poll the people of Salida, who seemed almost to the person vehemently against the idea.
Marsh’s next move was brave, much needed, and had little chance for success. The proposal for a one percent sales tax was one of the best ideas anyone’s had in years to remedy our problems with public safety and maintenance. Unfortunately, Modesto and Stanislaus County are hot zones of anti-tax hysteria.
It didn’t help when the Modesto Bee, which prefers a growth-inducing road tax, pumped the mistrust for government meme into what amounted to character assassination of a mayor and city council the Bee had endorsed almost all across the board. Even so, the tax proposal lost by only a narrow margin. Credit Marsh for almost pulling it off.
Nonetheless, the loss made Marsh 0 for two. It also made many of his supporters wonder what had happened to the man who had campaigned on smart growth and farmland preservation.
Marsh’s supporters have been even more puzzled by his behavior during the Wood Colony controversy. Instead of taking a strong stand in opposition to including Wood Colony in Modesto’s general plan, Marsh has at times seemed to support the idea.
He’s shown little sympathy for Wood Colony landowners and their way of life, and seems not to recognize the value of the soil under the feet of the people who farm the land their forefathers found and helped turn into one of the best agricultural regions in the world.
During his campaign against Brad Hawn and Bill Zoslocki, Marsh said he believed in “building up, not out.” When Zoslocki, now a member of the City Council, said our greatest need was for “shovel-ready” land, Marsh replied that we already had plenty of “shovel-ready land.”
Based on his campaign promises, Marsh’s supporters had every reason to believe he would be at the forefront of efforts to preserve prime farmland. Wood Colony is a watershed issue and comes at a point in Marsh’s term in office when he urgently needs to rally his base.
Garrad Marsh still has time to take a strong stand in favor of leaving Wood Colony alone. Inclusion of Wood Colony in Modesto’s General Plan is such a bad idea even the Modesto Bee, which ordinarily favors any Chamber of Commerce proposal, has come out against it.
If Mayor Marsh doesn’t take the lead in protecting Wood Colony, he can count on losing a large portion of his political base. He will also increase the likelihood that Modesto’s next mayor will be yet another in a long line of candidates dedicated to growth at any cost.
It’s time for Modesto’s Mayor to make good on his campaign promises and stand up for Wood Colony.