Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the day “November 14, 2011”

Monday night’s Meeting of the Modesto Economic Development Committee

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.


Banks, $100 Bills, and You

By Emerson Drake

If you’ve gone to the bank recently to transact business, you probably heard the tellers ask “will hundreds do?”, or something to that effect.

 It sounds a lot like; “do you want fries with that?”  Doesn’t it? 

 Like all businesses, banks have done time studies which showed them if you pass out hundreds instead of twenties, the line moves a little faster.

Seems innocent enough, but it also means they can employ fewer tellers.  But what are the other ramifications?

Small businesses try to hold down the amount of cash in their registers so as not to be an inviting target for thieves.  Much theft is a crime of opportunity.  Seeing lots of cash in a register invites theft.  The closer we get to Christmas time the more noticeable it will be, but it holds true year round.

Regular customers can tell you if a cashier hides $20 under the cash drawer or under the counter, and if they know, so does the thief. 

So help bank tellers keep their jobs and assist business owners from appearing as easy targets.  When they ask if hundreds will do, just say “no thanks.”

More MID Deceit…A Look at MID Rate Increases

By Dave Thomas

Good morning.

There have been 13 rate increases since 2001, or in the last 11 years, and this next one will be the 14thincrease to the rate payers in the same 11 years.


                   I have to tell you, though, John, that sometimes I fear that the true harmful economic impact of these insidiously “modest” cost increases is not appreciated.  Today’s story quoted a ratepayer as complaining that we have had rate increases of “86.25% in 10 years”.  I think I am being kind when I say, “That is not quite accurate”.


                   You can see by the attached MID rate increase summary, that the actual cost of electricity billed to ratepayers is substantially more than 86%.  We went to our tax records and pulled out every bill we paid in years 1998 through 2004, and recorded the starting rate, each rate increase, then compared those rates to our October bill.  If you look closely at the lowest rate actually charged, it is the Winter Rate of 1998, and the rate was $.0602, or 6.02 cents per Kilowatt hour.  The current rate actually charged occurred on the Summer Rate of 2011.  That rate is $.1808, or 18.08 cents per Kilowatt hour.  This 18 cents is, however, not the whole story, because MID, in its wisdom also added a flat rate of $12.50, thus increasing the costs by another $150 per year to every rate payer.  Moreover, the City of Modesto’s 6% Utility Tax was imposed on every rate increase, and last month MID sent over $1 Million dollars in Utility Tax to the City.


                   Let’s do the rest of the math.  If a ratepayer paid $100 a month electricity bill in 2001, the total COST of electricity would now be $264.54 (including the tax).  If that same ratepayer’s monthly summer cost was $200 in 2001, the rate increases published in today’s story would increase his monthly cost to $502.37.  AND the City would charge him another $30.14; the total monthly bill would be $532.51.


                   Thank you very much, Dave


                                                SUMMER RATES                              WINTER RATES

1998                1ST 500 KWH             .0727                                                   .0602

                        OVER 500 KWH        .0797                                                   .0661

1999                SAME RATES AS 1998

2000                RATES NOT DISCLOSED

2001                RATES NOT DISCLOSED

2002                FLAT RATE INTRODUCED AT $12.50

                        1ST 5OO KWH           .0784                                                   .0649

                                                            .0860                                                   .0713

2003                FLAT RATE $12.50

                        1ST 500 KWH             .0879                                                   .0728

                        OVER 500 KWH        .0964                                                   .0799

2004                FLAT RATE $12.50

                        1ST 500 KWH             .0962                                                   .0797

                        OVER 500 KWH        .1055                                                   .0874

2011                FLAT RATE $12.50

                        1ST 500 KWH             .1649                                                   .1367

                        OVER 500 KWH        .1808                                                   .1498



                        1ST 500 KWH             .0152                                                   .0126

                        OVER 599 KWH        .0237                                                   .0138


                        1ST 500 KWH             .0770                                                   .0639

                        OVER 500 KWH        .0841                                                   .0699

When I look at these numbers, I have to ask, just when did Allen Shortbecome the boss at MID?

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