Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the day “June 7, 2012”

Reed Smith’s Response to Tom Van Groningen and MID

When the FACTS fail MID Director Tom Van Groningen, all he has left is opinion.


Let me start by commenting that Tom Van Groningen (TVG) is only President of the MID Board, because heappointed himself President.  There was no vote for him to dominate the conversation at MID.  He claims to be the only one in the room in command of the “FAQ’s” (made-up false statements).  That is distinctly different than “FACTS.”

TVG states “the dialogue has generated some misinformation and I’d like to set the record straight.  The water transfer under discussion doesn’t include the sale of water rights”.  I guess TVG’s FAQs do not match up with the FACTS presented by the Chief of Water Rights for the CA State Water Board, who told us a 50-year water sale contract is absolutely a waiver of water rights.  MID will never get the water back.

TVG has been staging this SCAM since at least 2008, yet his ploy of the week is to scare you into the FAQ that the deal is NOW “urgent”.  The only thing that is urgent is the cash that will be skimmed off this deal.

TVG states: “The necessary infrastructure improvements are many, . . . These improvements will enhancewater use efficiency, increase the system’s flexibility and ensure reliablewater for our customers.”  This statement baffles me, as his staff and consultants were asked for the specific assessment reporting on the flume.  There are none.  No analysis has been done.  How can he state it is crumbling when he has not even looked?  Where is the X-Ray analysis of the structure?  His senior water engineer said in a MID Board meeting this year that if the flume started to leak because of an earthquake, it could be repaired within 5 days for approximately $55,000.  That made TVG furious (great video), and in the name of “civility” he called his own senior water engineer, with 35 years of MID experience, a LIAR during a MID Board meeting.  Wow.  I guess I missed the engineering degree on TVG’s resume.

I would like to point out that the Roman Empire’s first aqueduct was constructed in 312 BC, and much of these were constructed with concrete, the same as the Geer Road flume.  Many are still in use today.  Pretty scary being just 95 years old, when heritage aqueducts are over 2,000 years old.  Yes, certainly urgent, yup, yup, yup.

If the funds from the water sale are for infrastructure, why did MID General Manager, Allen Short, tell MID water users in October, no less than eight (8) times that the income from water sales would ONLY GO TO “CURRENT OBLIGATIONS, not infrastructure”. Why? Please read MID’s Proposed contract for this sale on their website foryourself.  That would be a FACT TVG.  Exhibit D says: “POTENTIAL USES OF REVENUE – Water sales revenue will be used for water related costs including BUT NOT LIMITED TO: • Debt retirement, • Rate stabilization, • Improvement district repairs/updates, • Enhanced canal security, • Pressurized systems, • Infrastructure improvements, • FERC relicensing and related obligations, • Water conservation programs.”  I do not read any commitment to infrastructure here.

The only honorable and truthful MID Director, Larry Byrd, set the stage to document what the otherfour have been up to: they already voted for this water sale once on January 10, 2012.

This only reminds me of the semantic concept of “to rationalize” when broken down onto its component parts is a “rational lie”.  When FAQS from the MID GM, MID Gen. Counsel, and the other four Directors are demonstrably all “rational lies”, who can doubt they WILL VOTE FOR THE SALE on June 26.


A Message To All of Modesto From Dave Thomas

Good afternoon, I hope you have time to read the attached.  It pretty clearly outlines my personal thinking and is generally supported by the STA.  Some of you might find some of my comments controversial.  Well, that is me, I am willing to step up and say what I believe is the truth.  I am far more interested in saying and writing what I believe is the truth, than sparing someone discomfort over their own actual public actions. 

        If you think something I say in the attached .pdf is wrong, please message or phone me and I will provide you the document(s) or other material that will tell you why I said it.  You might not want to believe some things that governments do to you, but there is plenty of documentation that is readily available in the BEE and on line.

        If you just do not like what I say, tell me why.

        If you think this information is worth sharing, please send it on to your friends.

        Thank you very much, Dave

My dear friends:

After reading this morning’s BEE, I am disheartened. Our

governments are no longer even remotely responsive nor responsible

to you and me. What is it that makes good friends and neighbors

mindless rubber stampers who grovel in front of a government staff.

Why do most elected officials become zombies after being elected?

Their peers vilify the ones who continue to think after being elected

when they try to inject common sense into an issue.

Today’s BEE challenges even the most cynical amounst us with

3 stories. The first page tells us that now, the City government is

going to regulate camping out. That is not restricted to illegal

camping out, or squatting, but even your children’s back yard fun. I

can understand vagrants who invade and ruin public property. But,

no, the City “leaders” had to make your children felons if they leave a

tent up in your back yard for more than 5 days. Apparently, your

kids cannot camp in your backyard unless the property owner goes to

the cops and gets a permit to erect a tent for no more than 5 days.

Councilman Dave Lopez told us that we desperately need a law

to “safeguard the public” against “illegal camping”. Well, Dave, if it is

already illegal, did what you voted for last night make it even MORE


Councilman Joe Muratore told us, “We are not creating a police

state.” Really? When you support a new law that allows the cops to

come into your backyard and arrest your children for having a family

Tee-Pee in it?

Councilman Dave Geer promised us that he “…trusted police

officers to enforce the ordinance with common sense…” Really.

REALLY? If illegal camping is already illegal, and the cops are not

enforcing those laws, why would he trust the cops to enforce this law

with common sense? The BEE says, “These campsites are often

strewn with trash, are a health and safety nuisance, and are occupied

by parole violators and others with criminal records..” Well, do the

cops not have a reason to arrest parole violators, other criminals, and

address health and safety violations ALREADY??

You know, it just occurred to me; this deal may be just like

Kristin Olsen’s sophomoric demand for a dumpster diving law – which

I understand has never been charged against anyone. Could it be

just another payoff to some complaining friend of a Councilperson?

Could it be a way for a Council crony to get even with a neighbor for

noisy kids in a nearby back yard? Hummmmmmm.

Well then, if that does not make your day, read the story on

the first page of Section B, “Council votes to raise rates.” Now HERE

is a remarkable story about your neighbors spending $400,000 on

something that may never happen. The deal is to double or triple

your water rates so the City can fix the MID’s water treatment plant.

You read that right, the MID build a water treatment plant, owns the

water treatment plant and screwed up the water treatment plant. It

does not work; it is a pile of useless concrete and steel junk. It must

be torn down. The City has no rights to that plant, and absolutely no

authority to trespass on it or fix it. The City has no rights to do

invasive testing of materials, or any other diagnostic work.

Does it matter that no one alive today knows how much it will

cost to fix? Several people have told me that it will cost more than

$40 MILLION dollars and as much as $65 MILLION. It is not a

remodel; it is not wallboard and bathroom fixtures. It is CONCRETE

and STEEL that does not work!! MID engineers have already found

over 100 “deficiencies” in this plant, and they are not known for

being thorough. There could well be 300 deficiencies that will be

found only after the fix gets started. MID General Manager Allen

Short promised me with his very own lips that this plant would come

in for less than $30 MILLION dollars. It has cost us about $85

MILLION to build so far, and no one knows HOW to fix it, let alone

how much it will COST to fix it.

The final act of insanity is that the CITY has sent MID a

demand letter to give the City permission to fix the plant, take over

all the legal battles that will go on for 3 to 5 years, and when the

plant is fixed – at an unknown date or cost – they want MID to simply

“hand over” the property ownership to the City…for free. And this

Council (except for Council Woman Burnside, who actually gets the

insanity of this all) is charging over the cliff as if MID has already

agreed to the Mayor’s demand.

The catch is, MID has not even read the demand. The City told

me it is not a public document, and refuses to release it to the

Taxpayers Association. The MID will not even begin to discuss this

ridiculous demand for 2 weeks, if then. Please tell me, what would

make the MID want to give away profit-making assets for nothing?

They make a huge profit (relatively speaking – ask me for details)

selling water to the City. They support plant employees with HUGE

salaries and benefits. They control the water and they control the

price of water. MID is broke, wallowing in debt and it NEEDS those

profits. What are the odds that they are going to bend over and give

away these assets?

Finally, read the Op/Ed piece by Tom VanGronigan on page A-

13. Full disclosure requires me to tell you that Tom and I have

served on several Boards and committees since the early 1990’s. We

know each other. I rarely agree with Tom. His politics and ideas are

not similar to mine. Nonetheless, we have remained cordial if not

friendly for a long time.

The comments contained in Tom’s piece simply are not

germane to the discussion of selling our precious water. Remember,

there are reasons to do things, and there are ways to do things.

Tom, in my opinion, confuses the two issues. Tom’s comments all

relate to the fact that MID is broke. It needs money, and it needs it

ASAP. OK, MID really IS broke, and that is a REASON to fix the being

broke part. But the WAY to fix the broke part is NOT to sell the most

important, precious asset we have, our water and attendant rights.

The WAY to fix the being broke problem is to get real with the

unions. MID cannot continue to pay average employees $140,000,

with bloated benefits. MID overhead consumes most of its massive

profits from electricity, and its enormous debt service eats the rest.

MID must renegotiate with the unions, get salaries in line with

reality, get its huge law suit problem solved, raise irrigation rates

from $10 per Acre Foot to at least $25 per Acre Foot, fix the water

plant and sell the water it has already contracted with the City to the

City. Selling the water will not fix the real problem, which is very bad


Thank you for your attention. If you think this is worthwhile

information, let me know, and send it on to your friends.

Dave Thomas

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