InterView – Chris Ricci

By Chris Murphy

Chris Ricci is a great example of someone that came to town for work, and decided that he would want to live here. Back in 1998, we did a fundraising concert together with B93 to raise money to rebuild the Graceada Park playground and produce Summerfest concerts. Soon after, Chris moved to Modesto and has made a huge positive impact. A brief history will tell you that Chris is an action oriented person, creating and putting on events both large and small, most notably X-fest that brought music and fun to downtown Modesto, managed the Fat Cat Music House, Taco Fest and more. Over the years, Chris became passionate about local issues, got more involved in the community, and successfully ran for Modesto City Council. Chris, his wife Kimberly and sons Connor and Henry, make their home in the College area and when he is not working on Modesto related issues, works for a national political organization on progressive and common sense causes.

Let’s catch up with Chris and see what he is working on and what issues face our community.

ModestoView: What has surprised you most since you have been on the Modesto City Council?
Chris Ricci: How well the city council works together to solve problems and how hard the staff works to execute our vision. Our city has a lot of challenges and it gives me confidence to know there are people working with me that are just as dedicated as I am to making it right.

MV: What are some of the day-to-day things you deal with that may not be obvious to the average citizen?
CR: I wish Modestans knew just how much influence over the government they can have. People don’t realize that every resident has ownership and influence on the government. Far too few make their opinions and visions known and as a result, their contributions that would make our city better never come to be.

MV: It has been a long road since you brought X-fest to downtown; how has the landscape changed for large festivals and how do you think the community has suffered since it ended?
CR: The expenses keep going up and it has become more difficult to navigate the permitting process due to staffing difficulties. On the positive side, our local government tends to be more inclusive of diverse events than was the case when X Fest ended. The community had a real regional music festival in X Fest. As we have seen, events like that are hard to replace.

MV: You and I share a love of live music and founded the MAMA Association 22 years ago, but our local music scene is in a bit of a funk with few places to perform that aren’t on the backs of our local restaurants. What do we need to do to really become a live music city?
CR: Creative pursuits are going to be a huge part of our future economy. AI is popping up everywhere, but it can’t replace human creativity and impulse. Hopefully with programs like Stanislaus 2030 we as a community start to recognize the importance of training and supporting local musicians, entertainers, writers, and poets. It wouldn’t cost a whole lot, but the impact would be substantial. An example could be a free community recording studio connected to our public access station, access to airtime on cable for comedians that can be easily translated to youtube, tiktok, and facebook. It needs start-up spend, marketing, and management, but it isn’t a massive lift.

MV: You have lived in the entertainment side for most of your life, what can Modesto do to encourage more festivals and activities to bring our people together?
CR: We need to recognize and support communities that have the ability to execute events and activities and marry them to the industries that could benefit from their success. We have groups like the shire that have been budding for years, but have never really bloomed. The community needs to find gems like that and give them what they need to make their idea happen and see if it succeeds.

MV: You have been very vocal and visible about posting new ideas and possibilities like concessions in our parks, micro housing and Pride crosswalks; what can we do to bring these to reality?
CR:The best way people can support change in our communities is to speak at council meetings, write letters to the bee, or send us an email at<>. Tell your friends to do it too. Government basically lives on a stove full of sauce pans, whichever pan gets the most heat gets the results.

MV: I am a huge supporter of the MPD Park Ranger Program, how do you think this group can succeed in creating safe places for our community to enjoy and what support is needed to expand it?
CR: Make sure to communicate with the rangers and tell them what is happening in your local park at<>. We can help them by reporting the issues that we are seeing in the parks every day like drug dealing, prostitution, drug use. On the homeless side supporting common sense solutions like safe camping will also be helpful.

MV: For people that are hesitant to get involved, what is the best “first step”?
CR: Just write a one line email to your city council (<>). It can be as simple as “Please do something about the fireworks” or “We need more housing because I can’t afford rent” or “Please do something about the homeless”. Do it every week. It takes 15 seconds and it makes a massive impact because now your representatives know how you feel.

MV: From your point of view, what areas is Modesto doing a better job than other communities and where are we behind?
CR: Our updated Police response models, whether it is CHAT (Community Health and Assistance Team) that answers homeless and non violent mental health calls, Park Rangers, or the work the community is doing on Forward Together Modesto is making strong progress in making our city safe. The statistics show it is working with crime going down.

We are behind in properly funding our city departments. Modesto has some of the lowest funding levels for Police, Fire, Parks, and Forestry of any city of our size in the state.

MV: One of my philosophies is that many of our regional valley towns suffer from the same negative issues, and that it is our job to high light what makes us different and better, do you agree with this?
CR: I agree, but I will take it a step further. To be perceived as different we need to change the fundamental similarities. Bold local initiatives like the Graffiti Museum, the Awesome Spot, the Children’s Museum, Gallo Center, Prospect Theater, and the State are the types of local institutions we need to develop, support, and most of all market to change our local brand.

We also need to go further. We need a Star Wars Museum. We have the biggest winery in the world, but we don’t have a tasting room celebrating that in Downtown Modesto. We have to continue taking advantage of our heritage because no one can take it away from us. A regional festival or two wouldn’t hurt either.

MV: If you had to rank the Top 10 issues that need our attention and where people can get involved and make a difference.
1.) Homeless Solutions – Support Safe Camping – Unhoused people need a place to go and the just shelter solution isn’t working.

2.) Parks Reboot – Launch public private partnerships to use currently abandoned public parks.

3.) Establish Local Media – We need real local media that provides news and opinions that don’t publish stories based on the need to monetize clicks or Sacramento based television stations that only come to Modesto when something big burns down. Using PEG money Modesto has the ability to create a public media center that can tell the real story of Modesto and then distribute content on cable, internet platforms like facebook, tiktok, youtube, podcasts and beyond.

4.) Rebuild American Legion Hall – Modesto needs a state of the art concert facility that is designed for acts that don’t fit in the State or Gallo Center much like a Catalyst in Santa Cruz, Slims in San Francisco, or the old SOMA in San Diego.

5.) Outdoor Roller King – Roller Skating in Modesto never really went away. Tell the council you want an outdoor roller rink that is owned by the community.

6.) LGBTQ Sidewalk – Modesto is a wonderful, loving, and kind place. People from the LGBTQ+ have earned our support.

7.) Add Residential to McHenry Ave – McHenry Avenue has so much extra space and Modesto needs infill and 10,000 more housing units. It’s a perfect match.

8.) Warehouse Market – Create a space where local vendors can rent a space monthly and house a local butcher, baker, produce suppliers, artisans, coffee and more.

9.) Rolling Bicycle Bar – They’re fun.

10.) Blighted Commercial Building Ordinance – Abandoned buildings are a magnet for crime, vandalism, and blight. Tell your city council member to approve the new blighted commercial building ordinance.

MV: As a parent of both small kids and teen-age kids, what do you think we need to do to keep these kids here in town as they grow up?
CR: The biggest thing we can do is build Modesto’s culture. In the world of remote work and competing with AI people are going to stay in communities with entertainment and amenities. Modesto has a good foundation. We just need to keep filling it out.

MV: How important is the sales tax initiative this fall?
CR: It’s critical to the future of our city. The sales tax is critical to the future of our c[]ity. This year’s city budget has an $8 million deficit. We’re filling it in with one time federal dollars. We can’t do that forever. There is a reason we have gone from 300 police officers to less than 200 over the last 10 years. There is a reason our fire department can’t respond to calls as fast as they used to. That doesn’t begin to address decimated departments like Parks and Forestry that are so hollowed out by budget cuts they barely can function at all. With current revenue things will get significantly worse in coming years. I know that is hard to believe, but the numbers are what they are.

Passing the tax will get us the peace of mind of knowing we’ve guaranteed that our community is safer. We’ll all know that the services we assume are a given will be handled like they used to. Our city trees will be cared for and our parks will be cleaner and maintained.

MV: Describe the perfect Chris Ricci day.
CR: Taking a quick walk with my family from our house to Roseburg square and maybe get a coffee at O’Briens or some tea at Dragonfly if we’re feeling fancy. If we want a beer we can grab one at Divine Swine or drop by Yogurt Mill. End up the afternoon at Graceada watching our 4 year old at the playground or the splash pad and finish things up catching Moband.

MV: Beatles or Stones?
CR: Beatles

Contact Chris Ricci at<>

Posted in: community, featured, news

About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.