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City Manager's Blog

Jan 22

Closure of the Muni Golf Course

Posted on January 22, 2020 at 10:37 AM by Thomas Reeves

Discussion has been stirring in regards to the closure of one of Modesto’s three golf courses. The city currently has two eighteen-hole golf courses (Creekside and Dryden Park) and one nine-hole golf course (Modesto Municipal, or "Muni"). Since 2009, our golf rounds and revenues have been drastically decreasing. To put it in perspective, our courses have the capacity for about 300,000 rounds of golf, total, per year, yet over the last three years we’ve been averaging about 97,500. This is not unique to Modesto. In our region alone, several private and public golf courses ranging from areas like Stockton, Stevinson, Diablo Grande and Phoenix Lake, have already closed. 

While there are many factors that contribute to this nationwide down fall, our supply is simply much larger than our demand, and the City has been losing between $700,000 and $1 Million on its golf courses since 2016/2017. In addition to the loss of revenue from the decrease in rounds played, there are also fewer golfers to purchase merchandise, food, and rent a cart. These transactions make up a large portion of the park’s revenues.

Golf, in and of itself, is predominantly a leisure sport. It is also a relatively expensive sport, and for that reason, golfers who play expect the courses and operations to be held to a higher standard. The City shares this standard as well. However, with the declining revenue, the City has not been able to keep up with the maintenance at the courses. We currently estimate about $1.4 million worth of capital improvements that need to be made to these parks such as restoring parking lots, club houses, bunkers, sprinklers and other ongoing issues in order to bring the courses to a reasonable standard. 

The City retained a consultant to perform a golf assessment for our city. It was recommended that the nine-hole Modesto Municipal Golf Course be closed down. Compared to the other courses, Muni was chosen due to it being the best piece of land for re-purposing to a different use. In contrast, The Dryden Park Golf course is located in a flood plain and is bound to a family deed restriction, which constitutes the land not suitable for any other use other than open space. 

A critical aspect of this closure is the relocation of The First Tee of Central Valley. First Tee is an important youth program that teaches life skills through golf. The program’s headquarters has been located at the Municipal Golf Course since its inception. With the closure of Muni, The First Tee of Central Valley will be moved to Dryden Park Golf Course. 

Despite the evidence in favor of closing Muni, we understand and sympathize with the concerns of the golf community. Our objective is to make the best use of our resources and General Fund expenditures. By closing one of our golf courses, our deficit is reduced and we are now able to use that land to resolve other major concerns such as affordable housing. It will also allow us to make much needed improvements at the two remaining course. 

At this point, the city can no longer afford to operate three golf courses, and this this determination has not taken lightly. Your City leadership must be conscientious of our tight budget and prioritize the needs of all our residents.

The closure of Muni will not happen overnight, and although an official timeline has not been finalized, golfers still have time to get in their games. Rest assured that while we review the options for development at the site of Muni, we will continue to provide an open and transparent process of involving our community in the decision-making process.
Jan 08

Modesto Launches Charter Review Committee

Posted on January 8, 2020 at 3:21 PM by Thomas Reeves

The following is a guest post by Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold

On behalf of the Modesto City Council and the citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers of the City of Modesto, I am pleased to announce the formation of the City’s Charter Review Committee. 

A Brief History
Over 50 years ago, the citizens of Modesto adopted a new city charter that provided for the Council-Manager form of government. The final adoption and approval of that charter was preceded by the election of a Board of Freeholders which, in 1949, drafted a proposed charter that was subsequently submitted to the voters. 

Because of some technical difficulties, it was invalidated by the courts prior to its approval. Thereafter, the City Council appointed a citizens committee to complete the job of drafting a city charter, which was eventually approved by the voters and later ratified by the California State Legislature.

In 1961, after the City had approximately 10 years of experience in operating under the new charter, the City Council felt that it was time to review the charter, evaluate its effectiveness, and make recommendations for amendments where appropriate. The Council appointed a Citizens Review Committee to make such an evaluation. That committee made a complete and thorough review of the charter, line by line, and proposed a number of revisions. The State Legislature subsequently ratified these proposals (Charter amendments are no longer required to be ratified by the State Legislature). 

Similar review occurred in 1971, 1980, 1989, and 1999. 

Now, many decades after its initial adoption, the City Council has appointed this new committee to take a fresh look at the City Charter and determine whether or not additional revisions should be made.

What’s Next
A city charter, like the state and federal constitutions, is a statement of basic principles, outlining powers, relationships and responsibilities. It should be reasonably short, a concise and readable instrument establishing an outline of the organizational framework of our city government. It should not be encumbered with the kind of policy detail that is more properly set forth in the City Code.

The function of this committee is to review Modesto’s current Charter, and ensure it provides the best organization, powers, and functions and essential procedures for the best possible City government.

Each member of the City Council believes this committee is vital to the future of Modesto.  We expect this committee to do more than a caretaker's job in reviewing our local constitution, and we fully anticipate committee members will be thorough in their ideas to improve our local government and governance.

One of the major themes I see for this work is the need for more accountability in City Hall. Committee members will spend time considering ways we can improve accountability to our citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers.  Despite the difficulty of the task, this City Council continues to believe that we must better meet the expectations of our citizens.

This committee will have a wide charge to review the entire City Charter and make recommendations as members see appropriate for our City. 

The committee will also have access to expertise and specialties inside and outside the City of Modesto, and we will provide you all the necessary resources to do a thorough review of the Charter.


Supporting this committee will be our Charter Officers, who are integral to running our great City.  City Clerk Stephanie Lopez will coordinate the necessary agenda, minutes, and documentation work; City Attorney Adam Lindgren will provide legal resources to the effort; and City Manager Joe Lopez will provide support staff. 

Thanks for your consideration,
Ted

If you are interested in serving on this valuable committee, please submit an application.  The deadline to apply is noon on January 22, 2020.
Dec 31

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary!

Posted on December 31, 2019 at 9:57 AM by Thomas Reeves

1870 was the year Modesto was founded – 150 years ago!

As your City Manager, I’m thrilled to share with you the city’s “Modesto150” Program and our planning efforts underway to celebrate the major anniversary in 2020.  I’m excited to announce we will be celebrating throughout the year with a few “Signature Events,” “Community Activities,” and with regular media stories through print and online channels.  

150 Website

The community’s online home for the 150th Anniversary is www.modesto150.com!  Although hosted by the City, it is meant to be a collaborative effort where we post news about upcoming Signature Events and Community Activities.  Any community organization that desires to co-brand their activities for the anniversary year can submit their event through the site, and then have promotional opportunities through the calendar and social media.  A unique historical perspective and an activity Resource Guide (PDF) is also available on the site.  

Several events are already posted, and our committee is constantly reaching out to organizations throughout the City to make them aware of this opportunity.  If you want to join in on the festivities this year, tell us about your event.

Signature Event – Official Celebration

Tentatively scheduled for September 26, this will be the capstone event for the year.  We have heard loud and clear from the community that an event celebrating Modesto’s “homemade and homegrown” would be the most appropriate way of bringing the community together.  We’ve invented this anniversary event as a way to celebrate everything that is truly Modesto, everything that is grown here and built here, and everyone that calls Modesto home.  This event will feature curated homemade crafts, homegrown food and drink, and downhome entertainment.  

Signature Event – Citywide Open House

On May 16, the City will open its doors to City Hall and many of our public facilities for the public to take tours and learn more about our resources, budgets, and services.  This will be an all-hands-on-deck activity for staff, and we will offer a day full of learning and fun for the community.  The public will have an opportunity to take a tour of a water facility, a fire station, a community center, or City Hall.  

Community Activities

Modesto’s diverse businesses and non-profits are active partners in this 150 program, and we’ve developed a way for everyone to have a part in the celebration.  Any organization that has a new or existing event planned for 2020 has the opportunity to co-brand their activities with the City, thus adding to the number of ways the community can support the yearlong party!  By submitting their activities through the Modesto150 website and utilizing the Resource Guide in their planning, community groups can use the new 150 Stamp in their marketing efforts.  

Many organizations go a step further by incorporating the anniversary in their actual event by singing Happy Birthday or offering 150 birthday candles on their cake!  

I’m grateful for the work of our stellar Modesto150 Steering Committee members, who have met monthly since January 2019 to craft this tremendous program.  This effort is gaining a lot of momentum, and the community seems to be rallying around this concept of coming together to celebrate our history, our culture, and our future!