Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Where Have all the Watchdogs Gone

By Emerson Drake

Once upon a time you could expect your local newspaper to keep a close watch on things, but as we’ve all noted in recent years the Bee has vacated their responsibilities in this regard.  Now don’t get me wrong,  they were very forthcoming in the SCAP scandal but everyone had to notice when it came to the NSP2 funds all of a sudden things became quiet. 

The business community led by the Chamber of Commerce and others put pressure on the Bee to rein in their questioning of people with dirty hands like Councilman Muratore.  His taking of the $62,000 was noted, but quickly put aside when he returned the money, while failing to mention taking the money was a felony.

Just like they did with Joe Gibbs, the businessmen who stood to profit from the NSP2 funds, urged the Bee to back off.  Remember with Gibbs was guilty of hit and run in connection with a death,  but Sheriff Christianson violated his own policy and  listened to those he termed good Rotarians and allowed Gibbs to serve his time under house arrest(via an ankle bracelet). 

Now the Bee has recommended the MID proposed water transfer to go through albeit for the 2,200 acre feet.  By reading the contract, the Bee couldn’t have missed the  right of first refusal for San Francisco on any future water deals and their position of being first in line for all water rights (even before Modesto’s) and allocations during droughts.

After these unconscienable  conditions had been negotiated by MID’s General Manager Allen Short and attorney Tim O’Laughlin and approved Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, and Paul Warda, the Bee incredibly also added their stamp of approval. 

We the People have had to Become the Watchdogs

If it weren’t for Director Larry Byrd (whom the Bee refused to endorse because of his stance on this issue) and members of the public, this blatant giveaway would have been a done deal weeks ago.

The well-known adage of the Chamber of Commerce  is “if a Modesto businessman can make a buck then it works for us.”  And when their money men got on the phone after one of their backroom meeting, strings start being pulled. 

But sometimes, just sometimes, things start to go in Joe and Josephine Average’s favor.  In this case it was average citizens like John Duarte, Reed Smith, myself and a whole host of others who have been stridently against this water transfer/giveaway since June of last year.  The many people who have been speaking out at the MID meetings, County Board of Supervisor and City Council meetings were sighting statistics and gathering data and waking up the public to the injustice being done to the citizens of the central valley by this so-called water transfer.

Every thinking person has to question the integrity of any MID Board members who champions this flight of fancy of Allen Shorts. Not do so would be naive.  Now Short and Van Groningen are waffling. Their failure to safeguard citizens is obvious and  they are now saying the contract could be changed.  Why now?  Because their duplicity has been exposed?   Is it concern about the best interests of the community they serve, or because friends and neighbors are questioning their unfathomable thinking process and  motivations for endorsing the  “special arrangements” favoring San Francisco which are found in the contract?

It was gratifying to see the Modesto City Council stand up to MID and threaten a lawsuit to stop the misguided water transfer. Fortunately many had gone to  Council meetings to protest the giveaway of Modesto’s water rights. The letter to MID from Modesto can be found on this site in an earlier article and until now it was the only place it could be found. All of us thank the Modesto City Council for preventing this fiasco.

Make no mistake, we aren’t out of the woods yet.  Given a chance VanGroningen, Wild and Warda would vote for Shorts version in a heartbeat. Nick Blom seems to be sitting on the fence, but if one believes his campaign promises he’ll vote against the transfers. One thing for sure, we’ll find out if Director Blom is a man of his word or just another politician who’ll say anything to get elected and then kowtow to the local power brokers after they get in office like Councilman Dave Lopez did over the NSP2 deadwood ie:Councilman Joe Muratore.

Vigilance is the price of freedom. And vigilance is what we need to ensure the MID Board is making good decisions because for years now, by following Allen Short’s leadership, they’ve come down on the wrong side of almost every major decision. From the Geothermal project to Mountain House to the Four Cities to TANC they haven’t gotten it right yet and I see no signs, that without strident guidance from the public,  they’ll ever improve.


The Slow But Steady Erosion of Women’s Rights

By EOM Staff

We all thought this battle was over.  In 1965, women were granted the right to use birth control.  In 1973, we were granted the right to terminate a pregnancy.  In 2012, we are extremely close to losing these rights.

State by state, legislatures are taking away our rights, or making them extremely difficult to exercise.  Consider this:

Nine states (AL, GA, ID, MI, NE, OH, SC, UT, WV) mandate (that word that Republicans hate so much, except when they use it) physicians to perform ultrasound exams on women seeking an abortion and encourage them to view the images.  Alabama Senator Clay Scofield (R) said, “this bill just allows them to see the child inside of them, so it’s not just out of sight, out of mind.”  How insulting is that comment?  He believes that when a woman is agonizing over whether to end a pregnancy, that pregnancy is “out of sight, out of mind?”

Thirty-five states have mandated (there’s that word again) that a woman seeking an abortion is counseled and the counselor must try to dissuade her from ending her pregnancy.

Six states mandate (yes, once again) physicians to tell a woman that a link exists between abortions and breast cancer.  There have been many studies and none have shown such a link.  What they have shown is that a pregnancy carried to term in a woman’s younger years results in a lower risk of breast cancer.  But that does not equate to having an abortion increasing the risk of cancer.  The risk would be the same as having never been pregnant.  These states are mandating that physicians lie to their patients.

Eight states mandate physicians to tell women that having an abortion could cause psychological problems.  There is no evidence to back that up.  The vast majority of women who have an abortion, have no psychological side effects.  The ones who tend to have problems later on are those with previous mental health issues, or who abuse alcohol or drugs.

Arizona protects a physician from a lawsuit if the physician chooses NOT to tell a pregnant woman that her fetus has major fetal abnormalities (including fatal ones), because that information might cause her to have an abortion.

So, here’s what we have:  State by state laws are being passed that interfere with the private patient/doctor relationship.  Requiring physicians to lie to their patients.  Protecting physicians who don’t tell their patients the truth.

How do you think men would feel if laws were being passed that did those things concerning their health?  Do you believe they would find it acceptable for their physician to lie to them, or to withhold the truth from them?

What’s most insulting of all is that in the past few months we’ve seen “panels” formed to discuss issues that effect women:  birth control coverage and abortion rights.  These are ALL-MALE PANELS!  And they are refusing to allow testimony from WOMEN!

Is this really the kind of health-care we want in America?  Or are we now living in Ameristan…I wonder if Sears carries burkas.

Modesto’s Response to the proposed MID Water Transfer

Tonight a Special Edition of “What’s on America’s MInd” 7:00 Pacific and 9:00 Central

Tonight we have a report on Modesto’s budget workshop, a special interest group in Modesto known as the Chamber of Commerce, a discussion of the upcoming candidates workshop, and of course  issues that concern us all especially women.

So take some time and check us out.


MID is Back to its Old Tricks Obfuscating the TRUTH

By Emerson Drake

MID attorney Tim O’Laughlin manages to drum up business for himself while building walls between MID at its ratepaying owners also known as the public. The following is a copy of, what has become a typical response from O’laughlin to a Public Information Request made by Reed Smith.

Linda Fischer, Paralegal

Modesto Irrigation District
Legal Department
(209) 526-7388


I am in receipt of your e-mail dated May 11, 2012 relative the attached response from MID General Counsel Tim O’Laughlin.


Mr. O’Laughlin’s letter dated May 11, 2012, does not comply with the District’s obligations under the Public Records Act.  Specifically, the requested records must be produced within ten days.  The District “head” has not provided notice that “unusual circumstances” exist which would result in an extension of the deadline by fourteen days.  Govt. Code 6253(c).


I am writing to confirm my understanding of your statements to me when I came into MID yesterday afternoon, May 14, 2012, at 2:30 PM regarding availability of the documents I requested to INSPECT.  General Counsel, Tim O’Laughlin, has by the attached letter, refused to produce any of the documents to date.


To restate what I heard you say yesterday afternoon:


1)         There are 13 file volumes involved within my request.  [ You did not mention digital files and maps  that have been requested ]


2)         When I met with you on April 30, 2012 regarding a very similar PRR, you informed me that AGM Walt Ward was responsible for accumulating the files, and that I conclude from your narrative that the records have been aggregated in a single location at 1231 11th Street, Modesto, CA 95354.


3)         GC Tim O’Laughlin says the documents must be reviewed to identify CONFIDENTIAL material within the 13 volumes, prior to release for IMMEDIATE INSPECTION.  To date, the District has not informed me that any of the requested documents are subject to “exemption” from disclosure.  Such a determination was required within ten days from the date of my request.  Govt. Code 6253(c).


4)         GC Tim O’Laughlin, has created a scenario where he claims he is the only person that can review the documents to remove CONFIDENTIAL material within the 13 volumes, prior to release for INSPECTION. 


5)         There is no definition of CONFIDENTIAL within the PRA.  The PRA requires the District to respond to my request within ten days, May 20, 2012, with either the records or a determination that an “exemption” in the PRA applies to specific records.  


6)         You stated that GC O’Laughlin is only in Modesto three (3) days PER MONTH.  This is not an “unusual circumstance” as defined in Govt. Code 6253. 


7)         You offered no time estimate for MID’s production of the documents. 


I responded to you yesterday that, based upon my understanding of the California Public Records Act intent, this lack of a time-line for production is unacceptable and fails to comply with the PRA.


Please let me know if I have misunderstood your communication of yesterday.


Self-appointed MID Board President, Tom Van Groningen, promised on January 10, 2012, to conduct business in an open and transparent manner.


I now request that the documents be made available by Monday, May 21, at 9 AM, or I intend to seek legal relief to insure that MID complies with the Act.  As a public entity, MID has a fiduciary duty to comply with California law.



Reed Smith


From: Linda Fischer <lindaf@mid.org>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2012 16:06:38 -0700
To: Reed Smith <reedsmith@charter.net>
Cc: Tim O’Laughlin towater@olaughlinparis.com>, Allen Short <ALLENS@MID.ORG>, Linda Fischer <lindaf@mid.org>, Angela Cartisano AngelaC@mid.org>, Pat Caldwell-Mills <PATC@MID.ORG>, Colleen Rangel <COLLEENR@MID.ORG>, Walt Ward <WalterW@MID.ORG>
Subject: FW: Message from legal – Written Response to Reed Smith re: inspection on May 14, 2012
 Dear Mr. Smith,
Attached please find Modesto Irrigation District’s written response to your Public Records Act Request of May 10, 2012 regarding the inspection of the annexation files/documents.  Thank you.
Linda Fischer, Paralegal
Modesto Irrigation District
Legal Department
(209) 526-7388

From: legal-copier1@mid.local [mailto:legal-copier1@mid.local]
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2012 4:07 PM
To: Linda Fischer
Subject: Message from legal – Written Response to Reed Smith re: inspection on May 14, 2012
Now you find the pdf sent from MID’s overpaid attorney Tim O’Laughlin.

Tonight on “What’s on America’s Mind”

Wednesday night at 7:00PM pacific 9:00 Central time

MID’s Lawyer Tim O’Laughlin says NO to timely public information requests by Reed Smith. The buying of a political endorsement from the Latino Community Roundtable,  Modesto’s budget workshops and of course an update on issues that concern all of us especially women.


The Inequality of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

By EOM Staff

Marissa Alexander, the 31 year old mother of three that we previously reported on, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Trayvon Martin case brought Florida’s “stand your ground” law into the national spotlight.  This law allows someone to use deadly force when they feel they are in danger.  Ms. Alexander’s husband was in a violent rage when she fired a shot into the ceiling to warn him away.  He had previously beaten her so badly she had to be hospitalized.  She was immediately arrested and charged with felony assault with a weapon. 

George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, calling 911 to report a “suspicious male”.  He even left his vehicle and followed Trayvon on foot, although the dispatcher had instructed him to wait for the police.  He claims that Trayvon circled back behind him and attacked him.  He used his gun to kill the young, unarmed boy, claiming that Florida’s stand your ground law protected him.  He was not arrested until five weeks later after pressure from Trayvon’s parents and the media.

Marissa Alexander was seven inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than her violent husband.  She fired a warning shot.  She didn’t hurt anyone.   She will spend the next 20 years in prison.

Trayvon Martin was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of skittles when he was killed.  The only thing these two had in common is that they are both victims….and they are both black.  Trayvon is dead because George Zimmerman felt threatened.  Marissa will spend 20 years in prison because she felt threatened.

It seems that “stand your ground” just doesn’t apply to blacks in Florida.

Where Does The U.S. Rank For Maternal/Child Health?

The Save The Children Foundation has just released it’s 13th annual report on maternal/child health.  They rank 165 countries on maternal education, nutrition, mortality rates, maternity leave and other issues.  It might surprise you to find out the United States ranks just 25th in this report, and that’s actually an improvement over last year when we ranked 31st.  Our current ranking is largely due to the educational level of mothers in this country.

The child mortality rate in the U.S. before the age of five, is 8 in 1000 births.  That’s the same ranking as Bosnia.  A child in the US is four times as likely as a child in Iceland to die before age five.  Forty countries performed better than the US in this category.

The lifetime risk of dying in childbirth in the US is 1 in 2,100, the highest of any industrialized nation.

The US is the only developed country in the world that does not guarantee working mothers paid leave.

The only way to improve our rating is to provide pre-natal and well baby care for women who don’t have insurance or the ability to pay for such care.

With several states attempting to block funding of Planned Parenthood, low-income women and children will have even less care than they receive now.

Yes, Planned Parenthood does do abortions.  That’s about 1% of their services.  They offer birth control, pre-natal care, nutrition counseling, cancer screenings, vaccinations and a variety of health care services for women, men and children.

We like to think we are the best country in the world.  But by limiting accessibility to birth control, pre-natal care and other health services, our ranking for maternal/child health can only go down.  That can only harm future generations of Americans.



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