Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

The Rubber Stamp Council Wants a Rubber Stamp,Too

By Emerson Drake   

On Tuesday night 9/4 the Modesto City Council is suspending the Citizens Oversight Committee created to persuade Modesto’s residents to vote for a half-cent sales tax back in November of 2016.  The Committee which is officially referred to as the  ‘Citizens’ Transportation Sales Tax Commission’  was supposed to ensure that the money would be spent as promised.  But since the money has been flowing in special interest groups have been claiming the money for themselves.

From Jaylen French, Director of Community & Economic Development Department

Measure L creates an “Oversight Committee to review
and monitor use of all tax revenue and to insure that all funds are spent in accordance
with the Expenditure Plan.” The ballot materials that were before the voters stated that
the functions of the Oversight Committee were to “review and monitor use of all tax
revenue and to insure that all funds are spent in accordance with [StanCOG’s]
Expenditure Plan.”

But according to the Council instead of an oversight committee what they really want is someone to come along after the money has been spent and rubber-stamp their decisions.  Not surprising is that the same night they plan on pulling the Committee’s teeth they plan on officially setting aside $1,658,925 for a future downtown Measure ‘L’ eligible project that will be spent as Cecil Russell and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce sees fit.

The crux of the problem lies in where the money is going to be spent.  Citizen Committee members we’ve talked with are saying special interest groups behind the scene are insisting that a large chunk of the money be spent providing Beard Industrial Park with direct access to 132.  For those unaware, Beard Industrial Park lies in the County not the City.  Modesto City Council has already made special arrangements to keep the Park in the County despite LAFCO’s rules.  They receive city services but don’t pay the user tax Modesto residents do.  As a matter of fact, for the majority of the businesses in the Beard Park their electricity is subsidized by the residential ratepayer.

I should also mention that this same night the City Council is going forward with the acquisition of real property directing the commencement of eminent domain proceedings for the State Route 132 West Freeway/Expressway Phase 1

Back to the neutering of promises made by the City Council.  At the Council meeting of 8/14, Bill Zoslocki regaled the attendees of how Measure L passed by more than 70%.  But he skimmed over what helped to induce the voters to support adding to their already overburdened load of taxes.  Yes the much ballyhooed Citizens Oversight Committee.  But now the majority are determined to reduce it to a  a rubber-stamp functionary.  How can they effectively act as an oversight protecting the public’s best interests when the Council wants them to sit down and shut up until AFTER the money has been long spent.  Watching the last meeting it was clear the only people on the Council worrying about the voters were Mayor Ted Brandvold and somewhat surprisingly, Tony Madrigal.

At this point we’re stuck paying that half-percent for the next 25 years and it’s become extremely obvious we won’t have any input as to what its to be spent on.  It’s the classic bait and switch.  No one ever said this Council was original in their thinking.  But they follow their master’s orders very well.

Congratulations Cecil, on a job well done.  Once again you and the Chamber have managed to get the residents of Modesto to pay for your special interest group’s projects and facilitated transferring money out of our pockets and into theirs..

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Last Chance to Be Heard About Rental Inspections

By Emerson Drake   

You could say it started last August when the remaining tenants at 624 9th street were given 72 hours to vacate the 27 apartments that were water damaged ceilings, rat and cockroach infestations, holes in walls and floors, faulty plumbing and electrical, mold and mildew. Some landlords in Modesto are just in it for every penny they can squeeze out of their tenants that often have few if any other options.

The City had offered up enough money to easy their conscience but not enough to get the tenants into better housing.  During a City Council meeting Councilman Bill Zoslocki said most of these people couldn’t qualify for the 240 plus rentals  where  he’s a partner/owner.

At the Council meeting last year They called for City Staff to formulate a plan that would include cost effective inspections to help maintain  health and living standards. But when staff laid out a quality proposal at the City Council Safety and Communities Committee meeting in May to inspect the rentals suddenly there were a couple of dozen of property owners and managers protesting that it wasn’t necessary.  Apparently they didn’t look at the pictures from 624 9th or just want to encourage a caveat emptor or buyer be ware marketplace.  You have to wonder if Bill Zoslocki’s apartment managers were present.

The outcome was almost preordained  when you consider the clout of the rental insiders.  The City Council decided to ask Modesto residents if they wanted to BUT they only allowed two meeting both on Monday afternoons at 5:00 PM.  Now it’s hard to understand the timing if you really want community input.  We wondered why email comments were not allowed or some variance of timing.  After all if you aren’t available to attend on one Monday night at 5 is it very likely you’d be able to attend the following Monday?

We tried to contact Tom Trimberger with the city for comment and to update us regarding the amount of comments but we we haven’t heard back yet.

We understand why people who are renting, which in many neighborhoods are 60% and higher,  would be reluctant to come forward fearing retaliation but many of us that are homeowners should be stepping forward to speak out in favor of inspections.  We residents need to look out for each other in Modesto because you can bet your bottom dollar the rental owners and managers will be looking out for themselves.

The last meeting starts at 5 p.m. in room B300 in the basement of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. Monday, July 16.

Duplicitousness of Modesto Politics

By Emerson Drake

Duplicitousness-Given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech.

Mayor Brandvold speaks out of both sides of his mouth and the uninformed Modesto electorate doesn’t know the difference.  In today’s paper (Monday 5/28)  Modesto’s Mayor Ted Brandvold endorses Janice Keating for the Board of Supervisors for District 5.  He talks about Janice’s top priority being the homeless and specifically about her ‘mobilizing the community’ to establish a homeless shelter.

Now the funniest thing about this is Brandvold is the Chamber of Commerce’s/DoMo’s (downtown Modesto organization) mouthpiece in stopping the shelter from being placed on Stanislaus Foods property.  He constantly suggests that Stan Foods is the wrong place for a shelter.  He suggests that somewhere out on Hackett Road, presumably around the Sheriff’s office  would be better.  But why spend the money for a shelter no one will use?  There isn’t ready transportation to and from Hackett Rd.  There are no facilities, no anything, but that is exactly why the Mayor and Chamber want to ship these people out of town.  Out of sight out of mind.

The sad part is the 60 bed low barrier shelter was to be for families, people with pets and people needing a place to temporarily store their belongings while they have the opportunity to shower.  It wasn’t meant for the mentally ill or addicts but the elitist segments of our business community don’t care about anything except getting rid of what they see as disposable people.

It comes as no surprise that Brandvold would support Keating since both politicians have the same political strategist/money man – George Petrulakis.  The spokesman for the Chamber/DoMo could just as easily been Councilmen Bill Zoslocki, Doug Ridenour, or Mani Grewal.  But none of these except for Mani have the strong George Petrulakis connection.  But Mani is busy masquerading as a Democrat so he stepped aside.  Bill is maneuvering for his next position with the County and Doug wants to be Mayor like his brother was but George is intent on making sure Ted gets another election cycle.

But back to the beginning.  Brandvold is allegedly supporting Keating, because of her accomplishments with the homeless community but she has  has accomplished nothing because of his attacking the homeless shelter over and over. But hey, that’s the duplicitousness of Modesto politics.

Janice isn’t saving our city.  She’s just an empty hollow promise from another Modesto politician designed to make you think something is being accomplished when in actuality it’s nothing more than a mirage designed to make us take another bite of sand. 

The House Breaks Covenant Again

By Emerson Drake  

When you decide to start a church you have many choices.  You don’t have to do anything.  You don’t have to involve anyone or any entity, you can go about your own business preaching and praying anyway you choose.  When starting a church many people choose to enter into a covenant with the government to gain a special status.  The status of being a non-profit, which in this case a 501(c)3, means you can raise money and not pay taxes on it and you can give your donors a tax break on their donations which allows them to deduct the donations from their taxable income.  It also means you can start profitable businesses and not pay taxes (like we said a special status.)  But if you choose to enter into this covenant with the government there are rules you must abide by.  These rules allow churches to promote issues BUT these same rules forbid these nonprofits from championing candidates for political office.

It’s really very simple to follow the rules, and the overwhelming majority of churches across the country do it all the time, but The House has repeatedly and deliberately violated the rules of the very covenant they sought out.  Yes churches can allow candidates to speak with the congregation but the operative word here is candidates with an “s.”  The House was aware they broke the rules when they allowed Stu Gilman, a church board member to speak and have tables at the back of the sanctuary for people to sign up to help with his campaign. They made a point of excluding Jake Wenger.  And now they’ve done it again with the two Sheriff’s candidates.

When Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation it was obvious he was the, if you’ll pardon the expression, chosen candidate.  Here is Pastor Glen’s opening comment for a man he admits to just meeting.

Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: “Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him.”  The entire transcript will be posted towards the end of the article.

What’s most important here is that according to Juan Alanis, well lets hear it in his own words…From the Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 facebook page answering if he had been asked to speak,  Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 responding to Gaetana Rohrer-Drake, “I have reached out to Glen Berteau months ago when I first started campaigning and never received a call back.”

So after watching the video and reading the transcript we decided to go and try to meet with Pastor Glen Berteau in person to ask him a few simple questions regarding his and by extension his church’s actions.

We arrived at 10:30 between 9 and 11 o’clock services.  As we entered the Church we couldn’t help but notice the large ‘We Love Our Pastors’ signs being passed out to all church members.   We had arranged to meet with someone from The House to assist with meeting with Pastor Glen but unfortunately that didn’t happen so instead we worked our way over to the information desk only to be turned back around and go back past their version of ‘Starbucks’  to go to ‘the room’ where you meet with Pastors.  There we met with ‘Pastor Mike’ and his wife.  After explaining the reason for our visit he didn’t know if we would be able to meet with Pastor Glen but would do his best to check.  We went back out to see if we could see anyone one we knew. That is where the picture was taken.  

Fortunately MID Board member and a member of The House’s Board,  Stu Gilman, came to meet with us.  I had met Stu before at an MID meeting.  Stu pointed out that this was a 25th anniversary and Love Our Pastor’s Day.  Pastor Glen leaves the Briggsmore and Coffee address to go to The Church Downtown after the 9 AM service and is back before he takes the stage during the 11 AM service (he isn’t present at the start of the services or necessarily at their ends).  Stu was kind enough to inform us the Pastor was also leaving for Sweden on Tuesday and wouldn’t be back until June, so there probably wouldn’t be time for a conversation before then.

When I walked through the reasons for my trying to get a visit with the Pastor and my concerns about Juan Alanis trying to speak to the congregation Stu said while he couldn’t speak for Pastor Glen, but he himself wasn’t aware of any attempts by Juan or his campaign to contact Pastor Glen or The House in general.  He suggested that if the Alanis campaign had called that maybe the message was lost between the church secretary and the Pastor. “You know how messages can get lost” was his follow-up response.  One thing I can say for sure is that we’ve been trying to contact Pastor Glen since the MID campaign and he has yet to return our calls. It isn’t a requirement that he respond to our call, not by a long shot, but ours aren’t the only calls he’s been dodging.  The multiple complaints against The House by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and private citizens to the I.R.S., hopefully will eventually take their toll.  The list of people calling and getting no response from Pastor Glen and or The House keeps getting longer and longer.

We can’t prove that the Alanis campaign did or didn’t contact The House, but after seeing the effect of Pastor Glen’s support of Stu Gilman (a candidate with no knowledge or expertise in electrical or water issues), in the MID race, it’s hard to believe that the Alanis campaign didn’t reach out to them. One thing for sure is that after the controversy over Stu Gilman’s MID race, The House and Pastor Glen didn’t make his actions (recommending political candidates) blindly and without forethought.

It’s obvious that The House broke its Covenant with its church members and with the People of the United States.  The only way to get them to stop is to repudiate their actions and vote against any candidate they illegally  promote.

The following is a complete transcript of one of the three services at The House where Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation:

Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him. This man here, he graduated from West Point. We don’t have many people from our area from West Point. And got out of West Point. You’ve got to be pretty sharp to even get in, plus graduate, and you come out an officer. Then he went to Iraq, fought in Iraq for us and probably had near-death ex – let me just introduce him. Welcome Jeff, right here. Come on. Give him a big hand. Let’s honor one of our former – one of our soldiers here.

Bertreau to Dirske: Hi, Jeff. God bless you, buddy. Good to have you here. Sandy’s in the back – his wife is back there – they’ve been here all three services. All three services they’ve been here and this is the first time they’ve been over here. Aren’t you glad you came? Wasn’t it fun?

Jeff Dirske: Very much so, thank you.

Bertreau to congregation: And Jeff is – as you know, Adam Christianson, we we know, is retiring, he’s just gonna retire. And so they’re gonna have a new race here, new sheriff’s race and Jeff – I’m gonna let him tell it. I could tell it, but Jeff why don’t you greet our people here, there’s a lot of people that are here at our service. He was here at our 9:00, he went over with me to the Downtown, and now he’s here at this. I said these are all different people here, you don’t know who they are, and so I want you to greet all our people.

Bertreau to Dirske: They all love you.

Dirske to congregation: Well good morning, everyone and thanks for having me – I appreciate the opportunity to be here. And before I talk a little bit I actually want to say thank you – I want to say thank you to the House and this congregation and the church. You have been very supporting of law enforcement over the years and and unfortunately before even the 9:00 service this is not the first time I’ve had to stand in front of you. I’ve had to speak at the death of one of our employees, and on behalf of law enforcement, thank you for that. (applause) So – yeah, please give yourself a hand. So I grew up here in Stanislaus County. My family is in farming, and quite frankly, I thought that that’s what I would do when I grew up. And then in high school I kind of felt a different pull, and I fell the pull towards the military, and I ended up at West Point, as Pastor Glen has already talked about. Graduated from there in 1994 and served 5 ½ years in the U.S. Army the first time. And then some things changed, some family dynamics, my father had cancer, and we felt the pull to come home. And there was kind of a circuitous route, I’m not going to go into the details of that, but we made a couple of stops along the way and we ended up back here farming, all of which we thought is exactly what God wanted us to do, and then September 11th happened. And by 9:00 that morning I knew that I would be back in service somehow. And so then that circuitous route that God took us on became apparent, and the why became apparent, and I ended up commanding a company in Iraq in 2005. (applause) And that was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life.

Bertreau to Dirske: And you’ve had – was it four near – didn’t you have four almost near death – you could have died about four times in Iraq, right?

Dirske to Bertreau: Yes, my vehicle was hit four times by IEDs. The closest one was about 65 pounds going off from me to you. And 65 pounds of explosives is an awful lot. And other than a concussion, I came out unscathed (applause). Thank you.

Bertreau: It’s really a miracle.

Dirske: Thank you. But I bring up Iraq because it was definitely a call, it was God’s call that took us there. I did not have to do that. I had a wife and three kids at home and I was really completely out of the military. And before I went my dad said do you really want to go to war? And I said no, I don’t, but I have to. And that – it was a rough year. But it was also the most rewarding year that I think I’ve ever experienced, because I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Now I’m back here, obviously I’ve been in law enforcement now for several years since then, and looking to take this next step. And this, again, is I think exactly where God wants me. And public safety, protecting people is just a calling that I have. It defines who I am. And I know that even though politics is not always the most fun, but my family knows that this is exactly what God wants us to do. So thank you.

Bertreau: So you feel a call. There is a calling. As I would have a calling or you (gesturing to audience) have a calling to do what God wants you to do. There is a calling that is there. There’s really a closeness with law enforcement, that’s just what I feel, because we’re both in an area of helping people, we just help in two different ways. And it is a calling to do what you want to do, to even lay your life on the line every day. But I thank God we have people – and you know what, we talk about this that we need Christian people in areas of influence in our city, right? (applause) So would you just thank Jeff for hearing from God, running for Sheriff, God’s will will be done. Amen. Thanks Jeff, for being here. Appreciate you. Sandy, God bless you.

 

 

 

Borges’ Supervisor Campaign Loses Credibility

By Emerson Drake   

Taking a page out of Georgethe developer’s land use attorneyPetrulakis that says if you don’t have an issue manufacture or invent  one, Ms. Borges is using the 132 bypass issue with mixed results.  It didn’t matter to her that the issue has been settled for years or that the County has held multiple workshops over years (that Ms. Borges failed to attend) or that the State has much more influence in the final outcome than the County.   She’s been waving it like a flag with limited results.  But on this topic  what we question is highlighted by her map of alleged cancer clusters.

At the Bee forum during her introductory two minutes, instead of introducing herself she took the opportunity to throw down her display cards in dramatic fashion.  Between that and the Bee’s video issues it was somewhat hard to pick out.  But later in a conversation with a friend it was pointed out to me her map was either incomplete or was skewed for effect.  Well there is another option and that is no one gets cancer on the other side of Highway 99.  Upon further review her map looked like someone had taken a glass, turned it upside down and drawn a circle around it with a pencil creating the area in question, recorded the cancer cases, and then stopped marking the cancer cases on the rest of the map.

Maybe they thought it to be unimportant.  Maybe they thought no one would notice.  But her campaign would be wrong on both counts.  Changing the route at this late date would be impossible and hauling the contaminated soil away has been discussed and scientifically researched and set aside mostly because of the research and partially because of the exorbitant cost.

As for the alleged clusters, if you take a map of part of Modesto, including the rural western area that Modesto’s developers have their eyes on, draw a circle around the area (in a moderately populated area) in question then compare it to the lightly populated rest of Wood Colony you can’t help but get certain areas to stand out. If her campaign would have bothered to include more of Modesto then maybe the area in question would not have stood out.  But anything to win an election I guess.

During her performance in front of the Bee’s Editorial Board Ms. Borges repeatedly says she isn’t a politician and to check her 460’s.   When people run for office they are required to list the donations they’ve taken in and the expenditures they have made.  Candidate Borges was very aware it would be several days before she would file her 460’s let alone for them to be made available to the public.

But since she so enthusiastically invited us lets take a minute to consider what we discovered with a trip online.   From 1/1/18 to 4/21/18 her campaign has raised $22,589 in cash.  But apparently Stanislaus County voters haven’t been readily opening their wallets. Of the $22,589 only $3,589 came from Stanislaus County.  The remaining $19,000 came from two benefactors living in Texas.  $9,500 came from a man in Houston and $9,500 came from a woman in Bellaire.  For a Board of Supervisors race it’s strange to see so much out of state money.

Creating issues out of thin air, at best a dubious map, and out of state money, her future as a serious political candidate is being called into question.

 

Creating the Perfect Storm, Developer Style

By Emerson Drake  

It’s getting close to that time again when we get to vote for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.  But how do we separate the wheat from the chaff,  the good from the bad,  the place holders from the players.  We could do a breakdown of the political parties they represent. Or we could try to decide by their opinions on topics of importance.  But as most of us are aware, with a few of the candidates,  their opinions are like underwear that’s to say they get changed daily depending on the nature of their audience.

Unfortunately in local politics the latter is mostly true, unless, or maybe especially if their opinions are manufactured by those power brokers behind the scenes.  We have some that believe in paving paradise and putting up parking lots.  And some who don’t know what to believe and are just being used as pawns in a larger game.  Lets back up a few years for a moment and remember when Bill Zoslocki, Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and yes George Petrulakis  were attending every meeting imaginable saying they needed to extend Modesto’s sphere of influence to the river on Modesto’s north and west sides.  That would have doubled the size of Modesto’s footprint.  And it was to be done in their words.. to protect our farmland.  And that of course was just a lie.

But many people stepped up to the plate among them were Terry Withrow and Jake Wenger, two of the higher profile politicians willing to take a stand against the Chamber’s Transportation Committee which at the time included Zoslocki, Lewis, Russell, and Petrulakis along with the then Mayor of Modesto, Garrad Marsh.  When the massive land grab was temporarily defeated, well at least a stand-off, the Chamber, led by Cecil Russell, George Petrulakis and others let it be know they were coming after Withrow and Wenger.  Let us not forget that soon after the upcoming election in June, Modesto will be taking another look at the General Plan Amendment that will put expansionism back in play again.  Refer  back to the article’s title.

A few short years later (last fall) George Petrulakis masterminded an ambush of Jake Wenger by Stu Gilman for MID  Director Division 4.  They used Janice Keating, the congregation of The House, a church in Modesto, a pocket full of money and a naive dilettante (or maybe I should say cunning) named  Katherine Borges to do their dirty work.  Keating probably made out the best since Gilman actually paid the political consulting  company she runs from her home, Fundamental,  $1,500.  Petrulakis is still owed $17,000 by Gilman for his expertise or was it actually a loan in disguise used for advertising?   Borges swallowed a completely improbable story, or at least did publicly, about Salida getting water from MID, which is contractually impossible, and let Gilman/Petrulakis use her endorsement (she eventually endorsed both candidates).  Now Borges is being encouraged by George Petrulakis (was this part of an earlier promise to get her to support Gilman?) and is running against Terry Withrow for Board of Supervisors District 3.   Could things get any curiouser?  Ahh, yes we can’t forget the chameleon  Tony Madrigal.

One interesting thing to know about George Petrulakis is that he’s an equal opportunity employer.  We learned out in Patterson when land use issues weren’t going his way he’d just as soon buy a Democrat as a Republican. In the past George swayed Modesto City Councilman Tony Madrigal several times… first he’s for saving Wood Colony from developers, then against, and now for again.  With Borges, he managed to find a reason that would allow her to support Gilman (imaginary available water) against Wenger. That along with playing to her desire for the attention.  So now he has two candidates running against Withrow.

In the other race Tom Berryhill a termed out retread who seems to be relying on name recognition, (after all it worked for Dick Monteith,)  Janice Keating who has lost her last two political races and was supported by George Petrulakis and Zagaris,  and Frank Damrell who has been an assistant for a Congressman working on Social Security issues.  Berryhill doesn’t even bother to campaign.  He expects people to remember his family name and vote for him.  He has no viable ideas just the desire for another paycheck from taxpayer’s money.  With Keating it’s pretty simple.  She took $28,000 from a MID slush fund and spoke publicly for the sale of our water to San Francisco.   Imagine if MID had had less water during the recent drought for both Modesto and the farmers to share all so a local businessman (can you say Bill Lyons) could make a windfall profit on selling water to the state.

Watching a recent Modesto Bee forum a few observations jumped out.  Tony Madrigal reminded us of Armando Arreola, a perennial Mayoral candidate in Modesto, who applies one of the three answers he has in his repertoire to every question he’s asked whether they address the question or not.  Katherine Borges the… I was a Democrat, then I turned Republican, now I’m pretending to be nonpartisan, now that even though I keep going to their meetings, the Republican Party chose not to back me… used former candidate for Supervisor Scott Calkins’  ideas from four years ago, which she loudly disdained then as she was actively campaigning for Withrow.   I know it’s hard to follow the changes ( remember the underwear analogy) but you can’t, and don’t have to,  make these things up.   Terry Withrow has stayed the course amid the stormy seas.  He defended Wood Colony and Salida from the aggressive aspirations of the Chamber of Commerce’s land grab developers.  He’s been a consistent voice for promoting our homeless issues despite the Modesto Mayor’s along with the Modesto’s business community’s (DoMo) foot dragging.  And he was one of the prominent voices on County water issues during the drought. The fact that land use attorney George Petrulakis has two candidates in the District 3 race, Madrigal and Borges, brings super clarity to the issue. Terry Withrow is the only real choice if we want insure the public has an independent voice on the Board of Supervisors in District 3.

District 4 is even less complicated.  Tom Berryhill has no vision, no ideas, and like Keating is running from political decisions made in the past. Berryhill and his ‘funneling money’ questions that he seems to be dodging every step of the way.  And Keating with her close ties to the paving paradise development community including selling her “opinions ” to the highest bidder.  Of the three running Frank Damrell  stands out compared to  the two tired political hacks he’s facing.

 

 

Is the City Planning an End Run Around Measure M

By Emerson Drake   

Tonight the City Council will decide if they should move a step forward toward annexing up to 300 acres along North McHenry.  On the surface it sounds almost viable but lets take a closer look at the entire picture.  If the financial analysis from the Mayor’s 100 Day Committee can be trusted Modesto would net around $500,000 a year in taxes.  But as usual the devil is in the details and not everything has been brought out for consideration.

During phase one Modesto would be required to extend the sewer trunk line from Pelendale and Carver where it currently ends, over to McHenry and Pelendale.  Not a long distance but the budget number (placeholder) is $2 Million dollars.  This estimate has been brought forward from 2007.  A time when numbers supplied were very inaccurate where possible development was concerned.  Phases two and three (each budgeted for an additional $2 Million and $2.5 Million dollars) would be needed to actually cover the area west of McHenry, and the area to the East would require even more money to be thrown at it.  So the actual number we should be talking about is at a minimum of $6.5 Million dollars.  And that, using 2007 cost figures, which are notoriously low ball numbers,  would make it 10 plus years before any kind of payback would be seen.  None of the suggested costs address development to  the east of McHenry.

Measure M enacted in 1997 was supposed to protect the residents of Modesto from runaway home development by requiring voter approval for residential sewer extensions.  The City Staff is proposing that since the area currently being looked at for annexation doesn’t have a residential element they don’t have to get voter approval.  Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that the voters turned down a 2009 ballot annexation for part of the proposed area.  But as the City likes to mention, unlike the sewer trunk vote the annexation question was an advisory vote and can be ignored by the Council.  We have land use attorney George Petrulakis to thank for that since he wrote most of the City Charter.

So the City believes it can avoid sewer extension vote BUT it can still use the sewer extension for residential development in the future.  The sad news is they probably can if we let them  It’s just another underhanded backdoor move by home developer’s friends on the City Council.

 

 

The Modesto City Council Is At It Again

By Emerson Drake   

The City Council has a special meeting planned for Friday Feb. 2nd at 3 PM. They are going so far that they are hiding upstairs on the second floor in room 2005.  Well at least they aren’t going to taint the downstairs Chamber with their subterfuge. It’s a closed session and the topic is the City Manager position. Our ‘friends’ downtown at City Hall like to sneak in news items on late Friday afternoons so they won’t have to answer questions until Monday. It’s an old trick they’ve taken from national politics. Politicians and their advisers refer to it as the Friday News Dump.  It’s still despicable and reprehensible but just the underhanded kind of move we’ve come to expect, especially from Modesto’s politicians.

I don’t blame them for being embarrassed if they hire Joe Lopez as City Manager. I do hold them accountable for the wishful thinking that somehow Joe Lopez, who most thought of as a terrible Human Resources Manager, would be a quality hire as City Manager that would change the direction the City has been going in for the better.  After all, in Bob Deis report he says most of the Purchase Order irregularities came during  February of 2013 until now,  the time when Joe Lopez was directly responsible for the Finance Dept.

Now on the other hand if they fire him the residents of Modesto would be cheering.

 

Lazy? Inept? Corrupt? and that’s Just the Investigation

By Emerson Drake  

To bring everyone up to speed Modesto Staff spent more than was authorized on City contracts 45 times and counting.  One contract alone was over spent by $2.5 Million Dollars.   Interim City Manager Joe Lopez says don’t worry because he found no evidence of fraud and that the city received the services they paid for.  It’s like you or me authorizing  up to $670 dollars for an auto repair and then without contacting you they find ‘other things wrong” and spent $930 dollars of your money and of course charged you for it except for the fact we’re talking $6.7 Million vs $9.3 Million  If that happened to you you’d feel like you’d been low balled and lied to wouldn’t you?

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and the third time is enemy action. But we’re talking 45 times..!  To be fair we borrowed the once is happenstance line from author Ian Fleming but we think it puts the issue/excuses into perspective.  And if you ask any investigator or detective they’ll say they don’t believe in coincidences.

On 12/13/17, Joe Lopez made a presentation to the Finance Committee.  He lists five initial findings.   Here they are in order: 1. Historical and cultural practices which created inconsistencies.  2. Lack of clarity relating to contract administration/procurement process. 3. Lack of communication between Purchasing and managing Departments. 4. Loss of key positions vs. workload. 5. Inappropriate actions taken by staff who increased contract amounts, created contracts, and modified termination dates of contracts without Council approval.

They kind of buried the lead and saved the best/worst for last.  City Staff are very aware that any contracts over $50,000 have to be approved by the City Council. One of their favorite ways to get around this was to let out a contract for less than the $50,000 limit then increase it later.  Some were let out without competitive bidding.  Many were increased with out the bidding process.  And on others they just changed the dates when the contracts expired.

If you’re asking why staff would take inappropriate actions, you’re asking the right question.  Are favors  being exchanged?  Free tickets to the Gallo,  free restaurant gift certificates, golf passes to Pebble Beach, or maybe just some gratis backyard improvements?  Too much business is being conducted outside of 1010 10th Street and in downtown cafes and restaurants(on the cuff of course).

So far the City has refused to name all but a few of the businesses involved and even fewer names of city employees.  Joe Lopez says the City is still reviewing the accounts and amounts.  He does suggest he’ll be more forthcoming at the Jan. 23rd Council meeting.

But can we trust his supposed candor?  Probably not since he’s desperate to keep the stench of impropriety off of him.  And since he was in charge, or at the very least the deputy in charge, and most believe promises were made to him by the Bill Zoslocki trio, it’s important to name no one until the damn breaks and then throw anyone under the bus as long as Joe stays squeaky clean.  Does he care to explain his belonging to the ‘new expensive car of the month club’?

After all, when the fox is guarding the hen house no one has anything to worry about, right?

 

 

S.N.A.F.U. The Modesto City Council

By Emerson Drake  

Situation Normal All Fouled Up otherwise known as SNAFU,  okay I admit one of the words usually used is harsher, those having served in the military understand, but this version will do for our conversation.  The Modesto City Council sometimes reminds me of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  Tuesday’s early meeting started out at 3:00 PM for a workshop on choosing what options to offer the Citizens of Modesto to move to even year elections because of low voter turnout during the odd years.

We couldn’t attend the early meeting so we watched it live online.  The first thing that jumped off the screen at you was that the people that work in the little room behind the screen, yes there are literally one or two people working behind the screen you see when looking at the dais to make the video possible,  thought the date was June, 3 2014, because that was on the screen the entire time during the meeting.

What many people are unaware of is the Mayor and Council have an agendized meeting on the day before the regular Tuesday night meetings.  These meetings are open to the public and any and all questions the Council, Mayor, or public have are answered.  So when the Council started asking questions in a befuddled manner I was taken back to the John Gunderson days when coming prepared for a meeting was a waste of time because John wouldn’t have a clue what the meeting was going to be about.  And many of the Council members, Doug Ridenour and Bill Zoslocki especially, couldn’t seem to understand the choices being offered.  Mani Grewal was more concerned that they choose an option that would allow him to serve as many years as the ones elected this year.  Strange for a man that was seeking and accepting donations to run for the California Legislature this year and will most likely do so at the next opportunity.

To make a long story short they voted 4 to 3 for ◦ Option 2: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to consider one-time extension
of four-year Council terms to five years for Council terms beginning in 2015 and 2017 .  So yes, just like MID, they are awarding themselves 5 year terms, subject to the public’s approval, to allow the public to vote as required by the Modesto Charter to make the necessary changes.

But why didn’t they offer us more options than to approve or disapprove of just one idea?  They had four to choose from so why not allow Modesto’s voters a real choice?  Why not include Option 3: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to approve one-time reduction of
four-year terms to three years for Council terms beginning in 2019 and 2021 would seem like a choice people might make, but maybe that is an answer in itself.

They also suggested they could let voters choose to not change the charter and wait to be sued.  Funny that they didn’t mention that when Modesto choose to ignore the law regarding district elections versus at large elections and it cost taxpayers $3 Million in legal fees to defend at large elections.  And yes, we the  taxpayers,  were finally allowed to capitulate and move to district voting.  Interestingly enough the same people that fought changing to districts were the same ones behind allowing only one option (can you hear me George Petrulakis)?  Those who follow politics know Modesto’s politicians rely on the voters notoriously short memories.  Even the vaunted Modesto Bee with their limited institutional memory has overlooked this.

And during the early session the Council voted to appoint Acting City Manager Joe Lopez to act as their property negotiator for two properties.  The problem was that they hadn’t agendized this.  Later when challenged the City Attorney claimed it wasn’t necessary to have it on the agenda since it was such a small item.  We keep looking through the Brown Act to find this exemption but haven’t been able to find it.

When the City Council, with the help of the City Attorney start playing fast and loose with the rules and the law it’s Modesto’s voters and taxpayers that pay the price.

 

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