Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

What you can Learn by Going to Modesto Council Committee Meetings

By Emerson Drake

Monday night 4/23 at the City’s Finance Committee meeting we learned the city had contacted 25-30 banks (their numbers not mine) to inquire which among them would be interested in renewing Modesto’s revolving letter of credit which expires September 30, 2012.

Only four banks showed any interest in doing business with us. And only one actually made an offer and it wasn’t what we were looking for.

Our current letter of credit is with Bank of America and BofA wanted to change it over to an out right loan.

Modesto is looking at a $63,000,000 letter of credit and so far there are no takers.

As it stands right now we will  have to pony up $12.5 Million to terminate the letter of credit in September if some sort of accommodations aren’t made.

Should we be concerned that only four banks would even return our calls and only one would make any kind of solid counter offer and not just a “maybe” IF they can find someone else willing to split our debt with?

And does it matter that two of those are European banks ( based in France and Belgium) we know how unstable the EU is now and the remaining bank is Bank of the West.

In times past you might have had the chance to learn about this from other sources  but we were the only ones there.

Will The War Ever End?

By EOM Staff

John McCain recently said that the war on women was “imaginary”.  I wonder if a woman in Texas who wants to have a legal abortion, but first has to have a trans-vaginal probe ultrasound (medically unnecessary and expensive) thinks it’s imaginary.  Is that an imaginary probe she’s feeling?  I wonder if women in Wisconsin, who have to have THREE visits to the same doctor prior to having an abortion, think it’s imaginary.  I wonder if this same woman in Wisconsin, who now is banned from having a pill-induced abortion and must have a surgical abortion (with its risks of infection and bleeding that do not occur with a pill-induced abortion) thinks it’s imaginary.  I wonder if physicians in Wisconsin who are now subject to criminal penalties for providing a pill-induced abortion think it’s imaginary.

And now the House of Representatives has advanced a bill keeping student loans at a low interest rate.  That’s a wonderful thing to do, but do you know what they are doing to counter the lost revenue?   They are taking away money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.  That’s right, take away the funding for low income women and families to have mammograms, pap smears and immunizations for children.  Speaker of the House John Boehner referred to this money as a “slush fund”.  That’s a pretty telling statement about how he feels about health care for low-income women and children.

If you’ve never been without health insurance, I suppose it might be hard to be sympathetic to the millions of uninsured Americans.  But consider this – someone is laid off from their job and they have the option to continue their health care coverage (the Cobra law).  Sounds good, right?  Sounds great until you get the enrollment forms in the mail and find out that your coverage may cost $1000 a month or more.   Who can afford that when they are unemployed?  So, you choose between making your mortgage payment or spending $12,000 or more a year on coverage that you may never use.  Yes, we should all make every effort to have coverage but in many cases it is simply unrealistic.

We all know it’s hard to find a job right now.  Most jobs available in the Modesto area right now pay minimum wage.  Many of the small employers don’t offer health insurance to their employees.  In these cases, it’s truly a matter of having food on the table or having health insurance.

Yes, this is a war on women, particularly low-income women.  The Republicans just want you to think it’s “imaginary”.  Talk to your mothers, your wives, your sisters and daughters.  Ask them if they think it’s imaginary.  You might be surprised at their answers.

It’s Time to Take Special Interest’s Big Money out of Local Politics

By Emerson Drake

Last night during the public comment period at the Modesto City Council meeting a man stood up and asked for the Council to take another look at Modesto’s “Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics” or TIN CUP ordinance.  This is an opportunity for EVERYONE, regardless of political bent, to help level the playing field of local politics. 

Do you believe unions hold too much sway or think developers can buy our elected officials by the handful?  Since we are in between local election cycles,  now is the time to change the rules our local politicians are required to play by.

At this point in time we have a $3,000  limit before our elected representatives are required to step back or recuse themselves from voting for a contributors project.  That, in the opinion of many Modesto Citizens, is too high.

What was proposed last night is a $1,000 limit on Council races and a $2,000  limit for Mayoral races with a 48 month floating window.

People are still allowed and encouraged to contribute to their favorite candidates as much as they choose so this doesn’t violate anyones civil liberties. The only caveat is if they go over the limit, the individuals receiving the contribution would not be allowed to speak to or vote on any measure put forth by, or that financially benefits, their contributor.

This seems very straight forward and you would think anyone  for better government would be standing in line to endorse this measure.

Very soon we’ll have  a link  to a petition for everyone who wants clean government can sign.  We hope the Modesto Chamber of Commerce will support and endorse this proposal.

Citizens of Modesto, the ball is in your court. Please help us hit a grand slam  for the home team by knocking it out of the park.

MID Pays Tim O’Laughlin $1.5 Million in the Last Two Years

By Emerson Drake

Talk about attorney’s fees…

So you wonder where your money went?  You wonder why the rates keep going ever skyward?  Thank Tom Van Groningen, Allen Short, Paul Warda, and Glen Wild for paying O’Laughlin over $100,000 for February alone. 

Where did his big jump in pay come from you ask? From accompanying Allen Short around trying to convince gullible citizens that selling our water makes sense.

To use O’Laughlin’s favorite phrase from a recent council meeting where he was faking surprise, “I’m Shocked, just Shocked!”

Do you wonder why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce fell in behind the water sale so quickly without truly giving those against the sale an equal hearing?

It’s all about money!

It’s called the Presidents Club Circle of Influence..

View of 10th street of Modesto.

View of 10th street of Modesto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GOLD LEVEL. (check out Progress News pg. 9  next to the Lovelady’s ad) http://www.modchamber.org/news/default.asp

How did they get there? 

MONEY..the $1,000.00 ad they bought was a good start. But MID, using ratepayers money, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Want to buy influence in Modesto?  Just use a couple of Million dollars worth of electric and water ratepayers money to pay a  lawyer that keeps changing what he laughingly calls facts, buy a few ads, and you’re home free.

Some of you may believe the three obstinate minds,  Tom VanGroningen,  Paul Warda, and Glen Wild, can be made to see reason.  But as sad as it makes me to say it,

You’re wrong.

Kristin Olsen, the Assemblywoman is a Detriment to the Central Valley

Seal of the California State Assembly

Seal of the California State Assembly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

Once again the grandstanding of Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen has wasted our time and money.  Her latest foray into bill writing has been pushed to the wayside. Her feeble, poorly written bill AB1861 which makes a felony for any teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student even if the student were over 18.  While this feel good measure might appeal to some, it mostly seems to be  geared to throwing meat to her base using a newly found popular cause.

She dutifully ignores any and all other occupations where a minor might fall prey to a person in power. Taking away ones retirement might seem to be just but why not apply it across the board.

We believe teachers shouldn’t be singled out when so many professions  come into contact with minors.

If  Ms. Olsen would ever truly apply herself to improving the economy, or any effective  goal other than  the pointless self-serving one she has chosen we could at least consider her for Assembly District 12, but with her track record we would be better off retiring her from public office.

How Republicans Are Redefining the Lives of American Women

By EOM Staff

As we all know, many states are attempting to restrict access to abortions.  Most people agree that a woman needs to have access to a safe and legal abortion when she is pregnant as the result of rape.  However, the far right disagrees and their efforts to ban abortion in cases of rape have led them to “redefine” rape.  Their favorite phrase is now “forcible rape”.  If a man slips a couple of roofies into a woman’s drink at a bar and she is unconscious and unable to say “no”, that is NOT a forcible rape.  If a man holds a gun to a woman’s head while raping her and she doesn’t fight back, that is NOT a forcible rape.  Forcible rape means that the woman was injured during the rape.  So, if a man is attempting to rape you, be sure to get beat up so you can prove you were raped.

And now Arizona has redefined when a woman becomes pregnant.  Typically, a doctor will find out what was the woman’s first day of her last period, then add two weeks to determine when she became pregnant.  It’s not exact, but it has worked well for many, many years.  But in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer (R) just signed a bill that states that a woman IS already pregnant on the first day of her period.  So, even though the woman may not have had sex recently, she is still considered to be pregnant.  I wonder if a virgin is considered to be pregnant on the first day of her period.  There is a reason Arizona is ignoring medical science and biology….and that is to restrict a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.  Arizona does not allow abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, except in extreme cases.  They have not defined “extreme cases”.   The vast majority of abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks.  The few that take place around the 20th week are to save the life of the mother or in cases where the fetus has severe abnormalities.  By redefining when a pregnancy begins, Arizona is now limiting abortions performed after the 18th week, instead of the 20th week.  Here’s the problem….a lot of genetic testing can’t be done until the 16th to 20th weeks of pregnancy.  Testing for conditions like Tay-Sachs.  A child born with Tay-Sachs lives only 4 to 5 years, in pain their entire lives.  They become blind, deaf, unable to swallow and paralytic.  The ONLY treatment is to “make them as comfortable as possible”.  This means to attempt to lessen their constant pain.  Now in the past in Arizona, if a woman’s fetus is tested for a genetic condition like Tay-Sachs in the actual 18th week of her pregnancy, gets the results in two weeks and finds out her fetus has Tay-Sachs, she would be able to end the pregnancy at 20 weeks.  But with the redefinition of when pregnancy begins, Arizona would consider her to be 20 weeks pregnant when she had the test, 22 weeks when she gets the results, and prohibited from ending the pregnancy.

It’s a very under-handed way of limiting a woman’s right to choose what is best for her and her family and even for the fetus inside her.  These are heart-rending decisions women in these positions make.  But no longer….Arizona has made the decision for them.  They will be forced to give birth to a child who will suffer it’s entire, short life.  Because obviously, Arizona knows what is best for women in that state.  Not the women.  Not their physicians.  Just the state.

If you don’t believe there is a war on women, you haven’t been paying attention.

Tonight on “What’s on America’s Mind”

Wednesday night at 7:00 PM Pacific

Join us won’t you.

Tonight we’ll be discussing how Arizona has redefined when a womans pregnancy begins and it’s not what you think,  Working Moms, the Republican redefination of Rape, a drive by on Modesto’s Audit Committee,  the answer to how to make money by selling water is being MID’s Lawyer, otherwise know as  the Tim O’Laughlin Chronicles, and other timely topics. 


And The War Goes On….

By EOM Staff


With all the discussion about the “war on women”, it’s very disheartening to realize that our military is waging its own war on women.  Following are the stories about Stephanie Schroeder, Anna Moore, Panayiota Bertzikis and Jenny McClendon.  Four American women who chose to serve their country and how they were treated after reporting sexual assaults against them.


Stephanie Schroeder was 21 when she joined the Marine Corp shortly after 9/11.  In April, 2002, a fellow marine followed her into a bathroom.  He then attacked and raped her.  She did the right thing….she reported it.


Anna Moore joined the Army after 9/11 and was planning to make a career of military service.  She became a patriot missile battery operator inGermany.  She was alone in her barracks when a non-commissioned officer tried to rape her.  She did the right thing…she reported it.


Jenny McClendon served as a sonar operator on a Navy destroyer.  She was working the midnight to 2:00 a.m. watch when a superior raped her.  She did the right thing….she reported it.


Panayiota Bertzikis was serving in the Coast Guard in 2006, when she was punched in the face and raped by a shipmate during an off-duty hike.  She did the right thing….she reported it.


This is what happened to these brave women who reported sexual assaults:


Stephanie Schroeder was told “don’t come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind.”


Anna Moore was told “forget about it.  It never happened.”  The reporting forms she filled out were torn up.


Panayiota Bertzikis was ordered to clean out an attic with her attacker and “work out your differences.”


And Jenny McClendon?  Well, she was diagnosed with “personality disorder” and discharged from service.  So was Stephanie Schroeder.  So was Anna Moore.  So was Panayiota Bertzikis.  Four American women who wanted nothing more than to serve their country, were thrown away and treated dishonorably after reporting a sexual assault.


These women were all strong enough physically, emotionally and mentally to make it through basic training.  They all reportedly performed their jobs well.  They were punished (as women often are) for being victims of sexual assaults.


There were 3,191 military sexual assaults reported in 2011.  But, just like in the civilian world, most attacks go unreported.  The Pentagon estimates that there were actually over 19,000 attacks against women in the military last year.


A victim of rape is often diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Now imagine being strong enough to report the attack, then being punished in the form of a psychiatric diagnosis and being discharged from service.  The feeling of betrayal by your comrades, your commanding officers and your country must be overwhelming.


Anna Moore said “it felt like a punch in the gut.  I couldn’t trust my chain of command to ever back me up.”


Jenny McClendon said “I remember thinking this is absurd, this is ridiculous.  How could I be emotionally unstable?  I’m very clear of mind, especially considering what happened.  It was a ludicrous diagnosis.  I was good enough to suit up and show up and serve, but I wasn’t good enough after the fact”.


Panatioya Bertzikis said “I am the victim of this crime, then I report it and I felt like I was the one on trial – I was the one who did something wrong.  He got a free pass and I was the one fighting to stay in.”


For civilians who are raped, there are options.  Identifying and pressing charges against your attacker.  Going to court.  Going to the media.  If you are raped in the military and your command doesn’t deal with it, there is nothing else for you to do.


Dr. Liza H Gold is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine.  She explains that it’s a rule of thumb among psychiatrists not to diagnose someone with a personality disorder in the middle of a traumatic experience like a divorce, litigation or the aftermath of a sexual assault.  The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a personality disorder as a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in early adolescence or early adulthood.  People with personality disorders tend to get fired from jobs, get in trouble with the law or at school and are unable to maintain relationships, none of which were true with these women.


Anu Bhagwati is a former company commander in the Marines and now serves as Executive Director of Service Women’s Action Network, a veterans advocacy group.  She says she sees a pattern of the military using psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of women who report sexual assaults.  She says it makes no sense medically for people to be diagnosed all of a sudden after being sexually assaulted as an adult in the military to say, for a psychiatrist to say “no, you’ve had this all along”.  She said that “these women have clearly been able to function.  They made it through basic training, through all the follow-up training, are deployed overseas in war and they’ve done fine there.  But after reporting sexual assaults, it seems very suspicious that the military would suddenly stamp them with a pre-existing condition that bars them from serving any longer”.


CNN recently interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces who tell similar stories.  After reporting sexual assaults, their commanders were dismissive of the allegations, and they were shortly thereafter diagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged from service.


Both in the military and in civilian life, rapes are seldom reported because of the way rape victims are treated.  They are greeted with suspicion, people accuse them of lying or even say “they were asking for it”.  We can’t help victims of rape until we take away the stigma attached to it.  It is not shameful to be the victim of rape.  The shame belongs on the rapist. When will the woman stopped being blamed for the man’s crime?


Many people object to women serving in the military, using the argument that if they are captured they may be raped.  It seems like our female service members have more to fear from the man serving next to them than they do from our enemies.


Yes, there is a war on women.  Even against the women who risk their lives to serve and protect.

Another Black Mark on Modesto, The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless

By Emerson Drake

It was supposed to help the chronic homeless and homeless veterans when Councilman Joe Muratore asked the Safety and Communities Committee  for permission to create what evolved into this cruel and heartless attack on Modesto’s homeless. 

Out of 32 applicants, 9 were chosen. One dropped out but the rest pushed forward with their personal agendas.  J. David Wright, the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless or (BRCH), stated it correctly when, at the April 03, 2012 City Council meeting ,said the 9 chosen were all “effected” by our homeless citizens . He failed to mention the members were either negatively effected by the homeless or stood to gain potential financial profit for themselves or the respective self identified groups they represent.  

But even that doesn’t tell the whole story of the BRCH’s members.

Mike Moradian was one of Joe Muratore’s confidants in Muratore’s council election campaign.  Moradian was the leader of a non-profit LaLoma Neighborhood Association (LLNA). The LLNA “strongly supported” Muratore’s council bid and the LLNA soon lost its non-profit status.  Muratore and Moradian were advocates of leveling the airport district (which is in Muratore’s council District) in order to help rid Modesto of its homeless population and those who Moradian perceived as “trouble makers.”  Moradian also supported Muratore’s hope the city would financially support their private security force in LaLoma’s local public parks.

Two of the chosen were former members of the Stanislaus Community Assistance Program (SCAP).  Darryl Fair who was Chairman for SCAP’s board of directors during the height of the SCAP debacle and has been hoping someone would come along and fund a daycare center said he could “manage.” And Frank Ploof who, for a period of time, was a member of SCAP’s board of directors and despite having SCAP’s irregularities exposed with Darryl Fair at the helm, continued to “hook up”  Fwith air at the  Renaissance Center. The center was originally set up as a non-profit in Fair’s sons’ name but lost its non-profit status from the IRS for non-compliance of financial regulations.

Vanessa Czopek, Stanislaus County’s head librarian was chosen because of, or in spite of, her misgivings regarding the homeless presence in and around the downtown branch in  Modesto.  She had taken active steps to disenfranchise these citizens from their right to use the library.  Since she couldn’t legally refuse them access to the inside, she attempted to “disinclined” them of using the outside.   Ms. Czopek had most of the tables and benches removed from the library portico.  Unfortunately many other citizens, yes even those with homes, used these benches as a place to rest while exploring the nearby farmers market or just enjoying the beautiful tree-lined streets adjoining the library.

Brad Wilson had been a long time employee of the Modesto’s Y0semite Gospel Mission.  During his time on the committee he was placed in charge of the Mission. He did have some difficulties with getting permission to renovate an existing structure to expand their rehabilitation abilities.  Of course an opportunity to reinforce his “way” of rehabilitating people and a chance to funnel a larger percentage of public donations to his organization couldn’t possibly hurt.

Steve Madison the former head of Modesto’s Building Industry Association and now on the Board of Directors there managed to get himself appointed to the Salvation Army Board.  A feat usually performed by aspiring political wannabees through donating a significant amount of money but requiring no expertise or experience with those in need.  Unless of course of you count a developer looking for a piece of prime farm land to plant driveways in or a politician looking for a campaign donation.

J.David Wright the Commission Chairman is a local insurance branch owner and salesman and doesn’t like anyone to eek out an existence by living behind a dumpster near his place of business.  Mr. Wright has been especially busy donating to successful Council and failed Mayoral hopefuls to the tune of $5,700 in the last year alone.  Did I mention many of these same candidates are now on the council and recently reappointed him and the other Commissioners (I guess they think it sounds better than committee members) to another yet unnamed commission task?

J. David Wright made it very clear he/they believe the homeless are molly coddled and overfed. He made the claim they homeless could get fed 10 to 15 times a day, which is something the report doesn’t document. Muratore later made the claim that the homeless could get fed up to 20 times daily.  This claim was refuted later by people and groups who fed the homeless daily on their own.

Wright also made the claim there are 10 or 12 agencies in Modesto that pass out food daily. Again their report does not substantiate this.  Point in fact, one of the agencies they reference will give 3 days of food once every 3 months!

We need to understand the BRCH had several goals. One is to create a mindset of “out of sight out of mind.”  Day centers would be helpful but not as a magic wand. Many of the homeless wouldn’t use a daycare facility except occasionally or during inclimate weather.

Another goal is to funnel donations, monetary and food, to just a few groups like the Yosemite Gospel Mission, Interfaith ministries) which didn’t participate here) and the Salvation Army.  unfortunately this limits the people who will be allowed access to the support services provided since these agencies have alienated aprox.15-20% of the homeless due to their restrictive rules and religious affiliations.

An informative pamphlet Merced uses would be of great use to homeless advocates and those wishing to truly assist the homeless in finding available resources.  It is also necessary to monitor the major groups presently assisting the homeless in order to ensure the greatest dispersion to ALL of the homeless not just those who fit the cookie cutter ideals of the few powerful organizations who presently dominate the field. Plus the homeless most often are transportation challenged.  The “fairytale style anecdotal stories”  told by the BRCH members are a prime example of how their agendas have tainted their perspectives.  Grants being written for or money handed over to “professional non-profiteers” should be avoided.

 The reading of the BRCH’s final report is recommended. BRCReport.   But continued community involvement and supervision is very important.  The Joe Muratore’s of the world can’t be trusted with those who are most vulnerable to society’s baser instincts. 

What we allow done to the least of us we allow done to all of us.

Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me...

Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Who Will Run with Mitt?

EOM Staff

Now that Mitt Romney has basically secured the GOP nomination for president, the question becomes who will run as vice-president?

As we learned from the McCain/Palin campaign, this can be a make or break issue for a nominee.  Two names that have been tossed out there already are Chris Christie, Republican Governor of New Jersey, and Mark Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida.

We need to know as much about the person running for VP as we do the presidential candidate.  After all, they are just a heartbeat away from the presidency.  Here is some interesting information about each of these gentlemen:

Governor Christie recently cancelled what would be the largest public works project in the nation.  That would be the expansion of the underground rail that transport commuters under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.  Governor Christie announced that New Jersey would have to pay for 70% of the project.  The GAO (government accountability office) has said that New Jersey would only pay 14.4% of the costs.  Governor Christie also said that New Jersey would be responsible for any cost overruns, however the federal government has made several offers to share any cost overruns.  After cancelling the project, the governor steered $4 billion from the project to the transportation trust fund.  This fund is typically financed by gasoline tax and was nearly bankrupt.  By steering the money from the public works project to the trust fund, Governor Christie was able to avoid breaking a campaign promise he made not to raise the gasoline tax.

I wonder how many jobs were lost when this project was cancelled.  How much potential income was lost by engineers and construction workers? And I think it’s inappropriate for any politician to make a “promise” that he knows he probably won’t be able to keep.

Now the thousands of commuters that travel from New Jersey to New York and back each day will continue to do so on a single track shared by Amtrak and commuter trains.  And this track is a century old.

So, Governor Christie has kept his campaign promise not to raise the gasoline tax.  But jobs were lost and the infrastructure between New Jersey and New York is crumbling.  This isn’t beneficial to anyone and amounts to simple “campaign posturing”.  Is this the type of politician you would want as vice-president?

Mark Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida, was in support of the recently shot down “Blunt Amendment”.  Remember, this amendment would have allowed any employer to refuse to provide insurance coverage for anything they had a moral objection to.  We’re not talking about religious institutions.  We’re talking about ANY employer that provides insurance benefits for its employees.  And we’re not talking about a religious objection, but a moral objection.  It’s entirely possible, that had the Blunt Amendment passed, your employer could chose not to cover contraception.  Or pre-natal care for unmarried women.  Or blood transfusions.  Or treatment for cervical cancer (because it is caused by a virus that is transmitted sexually).  Your employer would not even have to give a reason, simply say that he has a moral objection to your needed medical care.

This amendment would have allowed your employer to have complete control over what medical care you received.  Do we really need our bosses to determine our healthcare?  Isn’t that better left to our physicians?

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