If you don’t mind lets take a short road trip. Lets get in the car at the Double Tree hotel on 9th St. in Modesto and go west on Maze Blvd also known as 132. We’re going to pass Carpenter Rd and Dakota Rd. Still heading west we pass Hart Rd and Gates Rd, past the old Yandell Ranch Airport. We’re even going to pass the large Mapes Ranch sign and go all the way to the river. Our journey was about 13 miles and took us around 23 minutes just to get here. Now lets turn right on the river and take it all the way to just past Salida to the north.
This is the area Ted Brandvold voted to give to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce complete control of for ANY kind of development they can dream up. Now you know why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, along with real estate people and developers are supporting Ted Brandvold.
So from 99 to past Mapes Ranch, to the San Joaquin river on the west, from here all the way past Salida to the North. That’s a lot of homes and farms and ranches for the Chamber to pave over.
The boundaries and votes I mentioned are all part of public record during Ted’s time on the Modesto Planning Commission. The plan was presented by Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and “Broker Bill” Zoslocki all members of the Chamber, Craig Lewis is a realtor and Bill Zoslocki is a real estate broker while Cecil Russell is a lobbyist. All of these men support Ted for Mayor. We need to hold Ted Brandvold responsible for his votes while on the Planning Commission.
Now you see why we need to vote for Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto.
A short time ago we received MID’s response to a Public Record Request. It contained the Kilowatt sales and total revenue received by rate class from 2010 through 2014. The word total is important here because some rate classes have demand charges which are difficult to explain and for most of us, including me, to fully evaluate and understand. So total means all revenue received with no exclusions. For this conversation we’ll focus on 2014.
Detail kWh Revenues in $Millions Cost per kWh
Residential 868,341 156,132 .179 Commercial 725,487 105,539 .145 Industrial 768,952 79,797 .103 Other 138,545 18,403 .132
As you can see residential is paying 20% more than commercial and over 40% more than industrial for each kWh they use. MID suggests the rate disparity is because of the cost of service. When detailing the ‘cost of service’ it all depends on what costs numbers you count and what ones you ignore. But interestingly enough most other utilities in Central California don’t have the extreme disparity. Lets look at the numbers as a whole. MID likes to say using rounded numbers that each of the three big rate classes uses about one third of the electricity MID sells. But as a total of revenue, Commercial generates about one third of the revenue that Residential uses and Industrial is little more than half.
When MID was pressed about costs back in June, by the Bee’s Garth Stapley, the response was, “The Bee asked for a demonstration showing how Netniss computed his profit estimate, using updated numbers, Van Vuren said it might not be possible, but we can get close.” A few days later, Netniss declined. He said that in November, he was trying to be helpful without considering journalistic intent.” I would suggest it’s obvious not only do they NOT want scrutiny they refuse to provide information if it will be used against their goals.
So Why are 95,819 Residents Paying So 12,693 Business Accounts can Live High on the Hog?
Traditionally MID has been run by businessmen and farmers, yes I know farmers are businessmen, but their costs have been offset by the residential customers who have been paying a premium. Recently a dairy farmer who pays the lower commercial rate commented that if people didn’t like what they were being charged “they could just shut off the switch.” Frito Lay who pays the lowest Industrial rate generates $2.2 Billion a year in profits. And yes some of these profits are because they pay a lower rate than sick senior citizens on fixed incomes (the MID CARES program).
So Lets get Back to the Cost of Doing Business Argument
Just like in Mountain House it’s all about what costs you count. In Mountain House they count basic infrastructure only. They don’t count the cost of running the transmission lines or the transformer costs among others. They only count the costs of running the lines from transformers to the street and then to the building site. For example in Beard Industrial Park they recently had to add a powerhouse and multiple transformers for the new area the City of Modesto approved and just as importantly, because of equipment failure they had to replace several very expensive transformers an older area of Beard. These don’t count against “the cost of doing business.”
What is the most expensive time to purchase electricity? In the summer, and when do you think most of the industrial power is used? You guessed it, in the summer. Does this factor into the cost of doing business? Not according to MID. So according to MID, 164 industrial users use almost 1/3 of the electricity MID sells, yet only paid $79.7 Million of the $359.8 Million of the revenue MID generated.
The public is constantly being sidetracked by a conversation regarding water subsidizes but these costs are but a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of the electric subsidies residential ratepayers are forced to endure.
They say the truth is stranger than fiction and that has never been more obvious than in this election cycle. The Modesto Chamber of Commerce, or at least three of their members, have been pulling out all stops in an attempt to steal Measure I from the public. Their two campaign flyers are filled with falsehoods, innuendos,, and blatant lies (that’s as kind as I can be at this point) and now their obfuscating the source of their money.
It’s bad enough they don’t list the FPPC number on either of their flyers. And yes it is required but they have also managed through a series of ‘mishaps’ to make it almost impossible to follow the money.
Where Did the Documentation Go?
So we contacted the County Clerk’s office to try to follow the money trail. Here is the official version: The Modesto Chamber of Commerce faxed to the County Clerk’s office their 497’s which is the document required when a contribution of $1,000 or more is received and it is supposed to be filed within 24 hours of receipt.. But since this is a city Measure it is supposed to go to the City Clerk’s office. ‘Unfortunately’ it was misfiled in the manila folder (no matter how many times people and the BoS have requested, the County Clerk’s office refuses to place these documents on line) of another Political Action Committee or PAC account of the Chambers. This is extremely strange considering 497 documents weren’t supposed to be accepted at the County Clerk’s office period.
For another unknown reason a clerk was rummaging through the outdated PAC file and discovered the document (how lucky for us was that?). It was then forwarded to the City Clerk’s office 11 days late.
Some interesting Coincidences
There is a history between someone who now works at the County Clerk’s office in the election division with access to campaign statements and the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber and the Bee’s former opinion page editor, who for the last 10 years supported three candidates to the Modesto Irrigation Board, all of whom were sponsored by Bill Lyons (who wanted to sell the free water he gets from his special arrangement with MID). The cabal of three at MID that was in place three years ago, Tom VanGronigan, Glen Wild and Paul Warda, who were supported by the Bee and the Chamber during their election campaigns) were pushing to sell our water to San Francisco. The Bee, Chamber, and Bill Lyons supported the sale which after much intense public discussion was turned down despite the Bee’s endorsement.
Now we see the most current aligning of stars with Bill Lyons pushing against Measure I (he has property in the Beckwith Dakota Triangle – read Wood Colony, that he wants to develop) along with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and (at this writing the Bee hasn’t made a public comment) with a friend possibly in position to obfuscate the public knowledge of the money trail.
While we will say without any qualms and with many thanks from us that County Clerk Lee Lundrigan looked into events and has been most helpful in explaining the much traveled documentation: an unknown someone in her office ‘accidentally’ accepted wrongly submitted faxes and misfiled these important documents and then someone in her office fortunately discovered the mistake nine days later and then forwarded the documentation the the City Clerks office where it was placed online for the public on Monday afternoon.
When checking for updates on the Campaign documents, yesterday, Oct. 22nd was a mandatory reporting day, the former online 497’s were missing. According to the city Clerk’s office the missing documents along with any updates will be online by day’s end.
Why does this matter?
There are several reasons, actually violating FPPC campaign laws would be one. But during an election season opponents and the public have a right to know how much money is involved and where it’s coming from. Since the Chamber and their three donor amigos and their friends like George Petrulakis are very familiar with election laws and rules it’s our opinion this has been willful and orchestrated.
When it comes to misleading the public, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is second to none. We’ve watched while the Chamber pulls strings behind the scenes and gets City Council members to say and do the strangest things but for today lets focus on their No on Measure I campaign.
The Campaign started out by breaking the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) rules. When the Chamber mailed their pack of lies to voters they didn’t include the FPPC number which is required. Wondering why? Well the Chamber filed their original paperwork with the City Clerk’s office without the FPPC number and without stating where their money came from. Days later the Chamber filed their required 497 forms (for donations over $1,000 dollars) with the County Clerk’s office. But that isn’t where city candidates are supposed to file. Since they advise political newcomers on procedure you’d think there had to be a reason. There was, it took eleven days for the forms to travel the two blocks between the County Clerks and the City Clerk’s office.
Maybe this was because Judy Sly, the Bee’s former Opinions Editor, was seen working behind the counter at the County Clerk’s office in the immediate area where the filed campaign forms are kept. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but it is interesting. Remember Ms. Sly and the Chamber’s lobbyist and CEO Cecil Russell were some of the few people to be in favor of selling our water to San Francisco and the result would have been Bill Lyons making even more money. You ask what does the No on I campaign have to do with selling our water? Bill Lyons is the answer. This is always an informational litmus test but I digress.
The Money Behind No on I
The money behind the No on I campaign came from Craig Lewis, ($3,000) Chamber expansion committee chairman and Board Director, David Ginelli ($1,000) Chamber Chairman of the Board), Cecil Russell head lobbyist and CEO of the Chamber, and last but not least the Chamber of Commerce themselves to the tune of $3,000. Anyone noticing a theme here? No wonder they were trying to keep this information away from the public. You just have to love lobbyists and their organizations. Well not really but you get the drift.
Ahh the Unions
The Modesto Police Officers Union (MPOA) didn’t provide funds but allows the Chamber to use their name in the flyer and yes, for a group that claims to be concerned about public safety there is an unusual history here. Now most officers are good people but their union is a lobbying organization with their prime purpose is supposed to be for the officers and the public, but is it? Back in 2008 the City opened its books for the MPOA and explained there was only so much money but the union demanded a raise. So the city offered the MPOA a choice. You can have your raises but we’ll be forced to lay-off our youngest officers with families. The Union said in no uncertain terms lay them off. They weren’t concerned about having fewer officer on the street which, according to the No on I campaign’s propagand,a will make us less safe. It was all about the money then like it is now.
Claims by Current Politicians
Mayor Marsh and Councilman Gunderson like to say the county will do something similar like they did with Beard Industrial Park back in 1963. In August of 2011 the city requested an out of boundary service application. LAFCO required the land owners to sign a waiver preventing them from protesting being annexed by the city. But Marsh, Gunderson, Zoslocki and the City of Modesto actually have petitioned Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to rescind their waiver policy and on Jan. 22, 2013 LAFCO gave Marsh, Gunderson and the rest of the City Council their wish and voted to allow the change. So it really doesn’t matter what the County did back in 1963 if Modesto is going top continue to bend over backward to SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS like the Chamber, Beard Industrial, realtors, and other developers and then mislead us. We’re just in for more of the same lies we’ve been fed for a long long time.
It isn’t About Jobs, It’s All About Developers and Their Greed
The local developers own land and want to develop it no matter what the cost. Here in Modesto we watched as the family farm across from Big Valley Grace was forced out of business because of encroaching developments. They were promised by the city the “right to farm” but when complaints started coming in the were forced to give up land they’d farmed for years. Sprawl advocates say farmers can always buy more land but that really isn’t true. Prime farmland like in Wood Colony and North of Kiernan is irreplaceable. Not only is it the best water recharge land there is, but more crops can be grown on this land than almost anywhere in the world.
Despite what candidates like Doug Ridenour say (Doug doesn’t really say it he just repeats it but the people being paid to run his facebook page do) California law pushes homes to be built near jobs not highways. So if the Chamber’s preferred candidates, Kristi Ah You, Doug Ridenour Sr. and Mani Grewal will be honest for a moment, don’t hold your breath, they’ll be forced to acknowledge if business parks are built in Wood Colony then homes and SPRAWL will soon follow.
Don’t Buy the Lies, Vote YES on Measure I
The Tuesday meeting of the Modesto Irrigation District Board was another head shaker. The topic of our interest was the 2016 rate workshop which was conducted by MID’s Planning, Pricing and Risk Manage,r Jimi Nitniss. Now Jimi, whose compensation package comes to around $195,000 a year, has questionable goals and apparently has way too much time on his hands.
How Do You Lower Rates and Remain Revenue Neutral?
If you take a look at your bill you’ll notice a fixed monthly charge of $12.50, an environmental adjustment and a capital adjustment. And of course the really bad news, your electric usage. But MID Staff has a way for you to lower your electric rates but at the same time pay the same amount for the first 500 kWh. Huh? That’s right some might call it smoke and mirrors but MID says it’s all the rage with other utilities. MID_2016_Residential_Rate_Design
That’s a direct quote from MID Director Paul Campbell at Tuesday’s workshop. See it isn’t about making things better, it’s about making them appear better. Staff wants to raise your fixed fee from $12.50 to $20.00 and charge less for the first 500 kWh. So the cost is a wash or revenue neutral. BUT MID gets to say they have the lowest residential rates around. So how does this help us? It doesn’t. It’s all public relations. The electric rate remains the same for everything more than the first 500 kWh used, .18 per kWh. Lots of fanfare with little or no effect.
The Driving Force Behind the Change
Jimi says since Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD), and Roseville all do it it must be a good idea. The idea is to have fixed cost on your bill to more accurately cover MID’s fixed cost. But it still doesn’t cover it all of the fixed costs, all it really does is pretend to lower your bill, which of course it doesn’t do. To our mind it’s like a placebo for electric ratepayers. And at the end of the day you still have the headache.
Most people don’t realize just how much the residential ratepayer subsidizes industry in Modesto. Right now you’re (residential) paying .16 per kWh in the summer and .13 per kWh in the winter. Large industrial businesses around Modesto are paying as little as .05 per kWh summer and .03 Per kWh winter rates. Do you know that .03 is cheaper than the cheapest power MID buys (Don Pedro hydro is almost .04) but hey as long as homes are paying .16 and .13 who cares? If MID wants to emulate Roseville and SMUD and virtually ALL of the utilities in the Bay area they will bring industrial and residential closer in line. For these bay area companies don’t use they residential rates to subsidize their industrial base like we do. And if you’re curious farmers and ranchers are paying .10 per Kwh summer and winter. Forget the water subsidy, open your eyes to the electric subsidy.
If you would like to watch the workshop you can see the magical effect of the rate adjustment on the MID Board. There will be a public hearing in November, so stay tuned.
At Monday’s meeting of the Stewardship Council I ended up sitting next to John Kitchell. John is a retired Physicians Assistant who has been working with the Homeless for many years. After around the room introductions John, like the rest of the public, was ignored. Fortunately for us John had a list of ideas that resonated with myself and several other members of the public in attendance. Unfortunately due to the council’s exclusionary policies these suggestions might no be heard. I wanted to share some of his ideas with you.
Here Are A Few Possible Solutions To The Homeless Problem
Recommendations for correcting the growing problem of homelessness in this nation include the following:
*Increase the range and improve the access of services available to homeless and other indigent people.
*Increase the supply of adequate, low-income housing and decent shelters.
*Develop programs for homeless alcoholic persons, drug abusers, and those at high risk of health care problems.
*Create community facilities in which homeless people can safely convalesce from diseases or temporary exacerbations of chronic illnesses.
*Encourage volunteers, especially students and professionals in medicine, nursing, allied health, social work, law and dentistry, to provide services for homeless and indigent persons.
*Mitigate the larger problems of unemployment, lack of job training, lack of education, and lack of hope that perpetuate the problems of poverty and homelessness.
In addition, the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on the Homeless Mentally Ill has recommended the following:
*Graded and supervised community housing.
*Adequate, comprehensive, and accessible psychiatric and rehabilitative services with outreach services when necessary, and
*Accessible crisis services.
The County Committee called ‘The Stewardship Council’ met this morning for about three and a half hours upstairs at Greens Market. The meeting was part infomercial, part Joel Osteen “all you need is hope” sermon, and part new wave transcendentalism. The members were told to expect a member to invest sixteen hours a month on this project.
Stan Risen Takes Exception
Mr. Risen walked into the room came directly over to me and accused me of lying in my last piece. His outrage hinged on the phrase ‘religious affiliation.’ I had checked my notes prior to writing so I wondered why his umbrage. So I asked him…didn’t he say that for a group to be considered for a grant that the groups leadership would have to be multi faceted with a segment of the leadership from the faith based/religious sector? He replied yes, but I never said religious aspect!
Now I understand, we were talking semantics
While it is necessary for a group to successfully request a grant they have to have what they now refer to as ‘all ten mountains’ which includes people from a variety of backgrounds, entertainment, business, and faith based or religious, there doesn’t have to be a religious affiliation. To most of us it sounds like we’re arguing the meaning of the word “is”. Okay, it’s a Clinton reference for those too young to remember. The bottom line is organizations requesting grants don’t have to be religiously affiliated BUT they do have to have a religious or faith based segment in their hierarchy and action plan. From my point of view he’s playing politician and parsing words and to my way of thinking in the end you get the same result. Since there wasn’t an audio recording of the meeting this will have to suffice since there are people on both sides that remember the wording differently. But you do get to decide if there is really any meaningful difference in their intent.
Three separate times during the meeting John Ott a County paid facilitator from the Center of Collective Wisdom, used the phrase “every proposal will include” then a variety of ways to say someone from faith based communities.
Delay on decision to include the public
I imagine the reason for postponing a decision on whether or not to include or exclude the public, is to hope the indignation over the Stan Risen’s and John Ott’s insistence for for secrecy subsides. They like to point out the Board of Supervisors gets the ultimate decision on who gets the money. The real truth is the Board would be hard put to deny Terry Withrow and Stan Risen their “Focus on Prevention” at that late date. In for a penny in for a pound, or should I say $1 Million Dollars.
The next meeting is July 31st. Believe it or not they went through the entire month of July, except for the Fourth, and this was the day that they fewest would be absent.