As we start a new 2011, we look forward to a new year and opportunities in Modesto. ModestoView took some time to catch up with Mayor Jim Ridenour as he prepared for his State of the City address and shared a great conversation about where we can go as a community. Let’s meet the mayor.
ModestoView: What do you see as the biggest challenge for Modesto in 2011?
Mayor Ridenour: I would say that our finances will be the biggest challenge in 2011. We are not getting good news from the state and Modesto has to think smarter. When people are losing their jobs, their homes, etc. those are bad enough in their own right, but it creates a ripple effect in our community and services. Modesto needs to act quickly and do the things that create new jobs and opportunity. More jobs helps fund public safety and community services. Keeping our citizens safe is our number one priority. Our communities and cities need to work together.
MV: If you had unlimited funds and community support, what would you want to do for Modesto?
MR: If I had unlimited funds and community support I would start fixing our roads and our infrastructure. Better roads and infrastructure make Modesto a better community for business which in turn makes Modesto more financially stable.
MV: Are you excited to see Modesto grow Graffiti Summer and increase our American Graffiti heritage?
MR: Yes – I love Graffiti Summer and our American Graffiti heritage. It’s what I have the fondest memories of in Modesto. It’s so unique to our community and it has such a huge following, it’s really amazing to see all the people that come from lots of different places, not just Modesto, for our Graffiti Summer events. They love the cars, thenostalgia, and simpler times.
MV: How do you think the StateTheatre and the Gallo Center make Modesto different than other central valley cities?
MR: Having the State Theatre, Gallo Center for the Arts, all the art galleries and home-grown arts groups make Modesto the cultural hub of the Central Valley. It’s what sets us apart from any other city in Stanislaus County and the entire Central Valley for that matter. Where else in this area can you live in an affordable home in any number of unique neighborhoods; eat in your choice of a national-type restaurant or a locally owned, unique restaurant and also take in a Broadway show? Nowhere except Modesto. That’s why so many people live here – they want a place where they can raise a family, have a job and enjoy the finer things in life.
MV: What do you think the missing link is to job creation in Modesto?
MR: I think it’s acombination of available land, ready infrastructure and not having a trained workforce. For economic development, you need places for businesses to build and/or expand, you need to have the infrastructure in place to provide adequate water and sewer services and you need to have a skilled workforce for these businesses to hire from. I think we’re on the right path to put all of these things in place, but it takes time and we didn’t do it back when things were good and that is what’s hurting us right now.
MV: What makes Modesto unique?
MR: Modesto is unique because of the people. We truly are a community – it doesn’t matter what happens, people are there. If it’s a community event, people come out and support it – especially our local businesses, if there is someone in our community in need, people do whatever needs to be done in order to help them. We have a very caring community and that’s what makes Modesto special.
MV: Are you excited to see thereturn of the Amgen Tour of California?
MR: Oh yes, I love the Amgen Tour of California. I never really was much of a cycling fan until that race came to Modesto for the first time in 2008. You really get into it! Especially now that we are a finish city, the past two years I’ve been right at the finish line cheering and yelling right along with everyone else. You can’t help it! It’s also invigorating to see how much our community loves this event. They come out in the thousands, line the entire race route, ring their cowbells and truly enjoy the day; it’s just great to see it and experience it.
MV: Describe your perfect evening in Modesto.
MR: My perfect evening would be going to a really nice restaurant downtown and then heading over to the Gallo Center for the Arts or the State Theatre for a good show. We have some really great restaurants downtown, they are all so unique, so it doesn’t matter what you are craving, you can get it and the food is local, fresh and delicious.
MV: What was your favorite thing to do in Modesto when you were a kid?
MR: I loved to cruise. We used to cruise 10th and 11th Streets.
MV: Which drive-in did you hang out at during the cruise years?
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About the Author: Chris's bio information.