Modesto Mayoral candidate Bill Zoslocki came out swinging for growth at the July 20 luncheon at Modesto’s Vintage Gardens. The sparsely attended forum was advertised as a benefit for the group, “Advancing Vibrant Communities,” and offered candidates the opportunity to speak at length about their plans and vision.
Four candidates attended, including favorites Garrad Marsh and Brad Hawn. The lesser known Ken Zanolini did nothing to suggest he’ll be able to acquire name recognition before the November election. His repeated refrain of, “We’ve got to think outside the box,” was noteworthy only for the number of times he repeated it.
Those who thought Zoslocki might be a stalking horse for Brad Hawn will have to revise their theories as the Modesto developer made it clear he’s a serious contender who will get a good share the pro-growth vote. Dynamic and forthright, Zoslocki made jobs his number one priority and insisted that Modesto’s problems are due mostly to its lack of a business-friendly nvironment.
When it came time to take a position on urban boundaries, both Hawn and Marsh favored them. Not Zoslocki. He came out clearly against urban boundaries, saying, “You’ve got to be flexible.” His passion and conviction could almost make a person forget that his pro-growth position has been tested repeatedly in the San Joaquin Valley and hasn’t exactly produced lasting prosperity.
Hawn’s plea for family values, though appropriate for the audience, was almost as shopworn as Zanolini’s, “think outside the box.” He may, however, be sticking to the Dick Monteith campaign strategy, which requires a candidate remain vague but affable, and rely on party affiliation to carry the day. The county’s prominent Republicans have already rallied around Hawn, and that may be enough. Monteith is a durable example of political viability based on little more than party loyalty.
Marsh repeatedly emphasized his business success, and he does have an amazing record of small business growth, even in difficult times. He was also the only candidate who showed an appetite for battle, calling Zoslocki’s claim that Modesto is not business ready, “ludicrous.” He cited two nearby locations as examples of shovel-ready sites for business, and seemed more than prepared to engage on issues of substance.
Marsh and Hawn, however, may have trouble distinguishing themselves from one another. Though Hawn has already corralled many of the region’s pro-growth donors, his platform, at least in its early stages, sounds much like that of Marsh. Since both candidates are current members of Modesto’s City Council, they may suffer from being branded as politicians. These factors could give Zosloki an edge, and he shows every indication of being more than ready to run with it.
On the other hand, Marsh and Hawn are far better acquainted with the city’s inner workings and problems, and when they claim they’ve already cut wasteful spending, their examples of a shrinking police force and fewer firefighters are compelling.
It’s very early in the race, but already the campaign is shaping up as typical of past races with emphasis on jobs, farmland protection and government efficiency. While most candidates mentioned a need for change, only Marsh looks capable of imagining alternatives to housing tracts and strip malls. Zoslocki will be formidable if only because he’s dynamic enough to make people forget his mantra of “jobs” and his panacea of “growth” are exactly what drove us where we are today.