Though it’s too early for candidates to officially file to run, a few candidates have announced they intend to campaign for the Merced mayor’s seat.
Councilman Mike Murphy made his announcement surrounded by supporters in downtown Merced on Thursday, adding him to the list next to Mayor Pro Tem Josh Pedrozo and small-business owner Necola Adams.
The candidates basically agree that public safety and economic development are at the top of the city’s list of needs, but don’t necessarily have the same solutions.
Murphy, 36, a Merced native, has served a term on the Merced City Council. A graduate of Golden Valley High School and Georgetown University Law Center, Murphy practices business law from a Canal Street office.
During his announcement, he touted Merced’s potential, pointing to its arts community, downtown district, local parks, network of bike paths and UC Merced.
“We have a lot of good ingredients,” he said. “All we need is the right chef.”
He also noted Merced’s problems with public safety. Last year saw 15 homicides in town, nearly five times the average for a town this size, according to FBI crime statistics.
“That is unacceptable,” he said. “That is something I am and will work hard to reduce.”
The City Council needs to “make a commitment,” he said, to continue to add officers to the Police Department, which has 20 fewer officers than in 2007.
He also noted he is a small-business owner, saying he understands how the council’s decisions affect small business. He also said he has championed transparency in the city by pushing for an online city budget tool, mercedca.opengov.com.
Perhaps better known as “The Cookie Lady,” Adams made her announcement in March. She has owned Mrs. Adams’ Gourmet Cookies in Merced for about 22 years.
Making the city safer starts with keeping young people out of gangs, she said, not necessarily adding many more officers. “I don’t believe in just throwing money at a problem,” the 52-year-old said. “I want to get to the root of the problem.”
Residents could also feel safer in Merced if the city was able to nail down a daytime center for the homeless, she said. The city’s shelters only operate at night.
She pointed to the city’s slogan, “Gateway to Yosemite,” as a possible solution for better economic growth. People come from all over the world to get to Yosemite National Park, and many of them pass through Merced.
Adams said the city should organize events that would give those tourists a reason to stop here. She has floated ideas for a nut festival and a Mardi Gras-like celebration, noting they would be family-friendly and could attract UC Merced students.
“We really have not done a good job, in my opinion, of connecting the UC students with the community,” she said.
Adams has served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, downtown planning task force and charter review committee. She’s also volunteered in local schools and is a member of the NAACP, National Council of Negro Women and the Merced County League of Women Voters, where she formerly served as president.
Pedrozo, who has served two terms on the council, made his announcement in August. He said Merced would benefit from a clear vision and a new narrative, rather than dwelling only on what ails the city.
“We need to make sure we’re crafting a vision that’s going to move us forward,” he said.
The 33-year-old also graduated from Golden Valley High School. He earned his bachelor’s from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and teaches history and government at Merced High.
Improving transportation in the region could have a domino effect in Merced, he said. The city could do that by chasing grant funding to complete Campus Parkway and other regional routes. Transportation infrastructure would benefit economic development, he said.
The city and county governing bodies continue to negotiate their revenue-sharing agreement. Pedrozo said focusing on coming to an agreement would also benefit the city, because Merced can’t annex and develop land without it.
Pedrozo said he’s been a longtime supporter of Merced’s high-speed rail station and planning. Improving the economy and getting Merced off the lists for crime and poor health would go a long way, he said.
“It’s about changing the narrative of the city so that people don’t think of it as a negative place,” he said.