Candidates in the upcoming city municipal election for seats on the Riverbank City Council met in a public forum last week, sponsored by the local branch of the League of Women Voters. The group traditionally hosts similar events all over Stanislaus County prior to contested elections.
The Wednesday, Oct. 17 event featured all five of the candidates for the two seats up for election on the November ballot.
Vying for the District 1 seat are Vernon ‘Jack’ Whorton, Jr., Luis Uribe and Eva Nash. Contesting the District 3 seat are sitting council members Calvin ‘Cal’ Campbell and Leanne Jones-Cruz.
The latter two are forced to run against each other this year by virtue of the city’s phasing in of District representation on the council. The first phase, Districts 2 and 4 elections, were held in 2016. Those seats are now held by Darlene Barber-Martinez and Cindy Fosi, respectively. The mayor’s seat remains an at large ballot choice, selected by all eligible voters every four years. The next election for mayor will be in 2020.
The event was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. that evening, but was delayed because the sound system was not set up. Eventually, the LWV began without the microphones.
There was a relatively small turnout, with less than two dozen members of the public in attendance that evening, and many of them were family members of the candidates. Including the five candidates and about as many LWV members, the total attendance reached just past 30.
After the introductions and part of the way through the first question and its answers, the sound system came to life, unlocked by a city employee who was called in to rescue the event.
The League of Women Voters members had planned to keep the event to about an hour, but still, they got nine questions and answers from all five candidates in during that time. Those questions were submitted by members of the audience, handwritten on cards, with specific time allowances for each candidate to respond.
The first asked about the challenges Riverbank faces, and received rather succinct answers:
From Nash, it was about Public Safety, from Uribe, it was water and sewer rate increases. For Whorton, it was finances, revenue and continuing in the right direction, along with public safety. For Campbell, financial stability was tops, including maintaining the progress the city has a made since the recession, and, again, public safety, mentioning the first new police officers hired in 11 years. Jones-Cruz mentioned crucial Measure L funding, which will help maintain the infrastructure, along with the Ammo Plant transfer and the upcoming Crossroads West annexation/development.
The other topics discussed were about how Measure L funds should be prioritized, the Housing Crisis, if the candidate had any experience with business or governmental budgeting and if they would support forming a Historical District in downtown Riverbank.
They were also asked their position on Cannabis Dispensaries, what they’re most proud of about Riverbank, about their plan to combat use of illegal drugs in town, and a recent court ruling that prevents cities from moving homeless people out of public parks if they have nowhere else to go.
To end the evening, each candidate was allowed to summarize and offer their appeal to voters.
Campbell said he is working on “installing sidewalks and crosswalks on Patterson Road, between the stoplight at Callander and First Street, and getting ordinances passed to deal with the illegal fireworks.”
Jones-Cruz offered, “If reelected, I will continue to focus on achieving and maintaining financial stability and sustainability. I will focus on attracting, developing and retaining quality city staff. I will continue to focus on improving the city’s infrastructure and service delivery systems.”
Nash said she is interested in strengthening relationships with other organizations in the city.
“There are a lot of strong organizations that I don’t believe are being tapped into,” Nash said.
Whorton said he is “Thoroughly committed to public safety, quality of life issues, work on the budget process, but one area I’d like to work on is downtown.”
For Uribe, he has some goals in mind as well.
“If elected, during my four-year term, I will listen to the people, I’ll maintain a 10-percent General Fund reserve, I’ll focus on safety, help with the homeless, and improve our infrastructure, and support our small businesses,” Uribe said.
The General Municipal Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Sample ballots and voter information should have been received in homes last week.