By Emerson Drake
These meetings would surprise the vast majority of Modesto voters if they knew how they were conducted.
The Modesto Development Committee or the (MDC) consists of Council persons
Joe Muratore , Chairman
Brad Hawn, Vice-Chair
Stephanie Burnside, Member
Councilman Hawn was forced to start the meeting since Joe Muratore forgot all about it. Fortunately Alternate Dave Geer was present to sit in until the absent Muratore could find time to attend.
There were four vacancies on two separate committees which needed to be filled. The Council members gave their usual concerned decisions. That was tongue in cheek since neither of the two council persons present had seen the applications until just before the meeting started when City Clerk Stephanie Lopez passed them out. Just like the last time we brought one of these meetings to you, the Council members just mulled the decision around not knowing the applicants or caring much about who they chose.
Just when they were getting ready to randomly pick the second future committee member, Councilman Muratore came strolling in. He had neither seen the applications nor was familiar with the applicants, so he went along with those already chosen. Not surprisingly, two of the three chosen were members of the real estate community.
We finally came to the meat of the meeting which was a discussion of updating the status of the State Route 132 West Freeway/Expressway Project.
There were 8 maps on the wall which, it was explained to us, were not available to the public on line because of Cal Trans policy. Not to go with stereotypes but the total build out which will cost taxpayers somewhere between $160-170 Million looked like it was designed by a drunken sailor.
Immediately after the meeting the maps were taken off the wall despite the fact we were told they could be viewed the next day.
Several of those attending the meeting including Denny Jackman, had questions about the design. For good or bad these maps haven’t been approved by Cal Trans and are preliminary and subject to revision.
When concerns were raised regarding potential conflicts of interest, Stephanie Burnside spoke up and said “I’m willing to recuse myself to avoid unnecessary criticisms”, but City Attorney Susan Acala Woods supposedly said her voting was alright.
Considering Ms. Woods recent record of being wrong when it comes to the need for Council members to recuse themselves, maybe Ms. Burnside should have remained silent and let Dave Geer cast a vote in her stead.
Well we won’t know for sure until after the FPPC rules on the complaint to be filed tomorrow. Ms. Burnsides business, Burnside Auto Body is going to be displaced by the Route 132/Needham connection, so one would have hoped for extra caution to have been taken.
This was anything but an earthshaking meeting but it saddens citizens to know the haphazard way some of the City Council members go about the City’s business.
We thank Dave Geer for his extra diligence and willingness to step into the breach left by Councilman Muratore.