Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday at 7:00PM Pacific

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

On our last scheduled show for 2012 conversation drifts from the topics we covered and those still on the front burner.

Why is Modesto’s Mayor giving Beard Industrial Tract a competitive advantage over Salida in the business attracting sweepstakes, The Taj Mahal of dog pounds Stanislaus County’s own Animal Services Agency on Cornucopia Way, the local political landscape, Cat Killers Jeff Reed and Phillip Sumner, and of course much more…Wednesday night at 7:00 PM Pacific time.

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Live around the world on Blogtalk Radio and in our archives anytime

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/27/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

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Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas

What ever you’re celebrating we wish happiness and joy, and hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Emerson Drake

Follow-up to the JPA Animal Abuse Meeting

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Emerson Drake

Technically it was the conversation that wasn’t.  Modesto’s representative, MPD’s Captain Harris, didn’t understand that for something to be discussed it had to be on the agenda of the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) since it falls  under the Brown Act.  A lamentable occurence since it would have pushed this to the forefront county-wide.  As long as Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, who claims to be an animal lover through intermediaries, is in office animal abuse will NOT be punished within the County borders. This  makes it imperative for the cities concerned about animal abuse to develop an ordinance of their own.  The potential ordinance was passed out to all of the JPA members, one of whom provided me a copy. 

Modesto City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood is still refining the verbiage but since Modesto’s Safety and Communities Committee’s agenda is full it won’t be heard until sometime in February, so there isn’t a rush.  Since this committee’s meetings have been cancelled four times out of the last six it’s no surprise the agenda is full.

Some of the families including those of Hallie Sue Robinson and Heather Sisk are disappointed that the proposed ordinance won’t provide any remedy for the past.  But they do understand that if these men and any others abuse animals in the future, including cats, they will be punished. 

For those who would like to let District Attorney Birgit Fladager know how they feel about her foot-dragging, here is her office number (525-5550 ).  Please don’t hesitate to call since she likes to hear from the public how you feel about the job she’s doing for you.

We’re going to help by keeping this topic front and center to assist in helping it pass, there are also several vocal supporters in the City Council including Councilmen Joe Muratore, Dave Geer and John Gunderson, along with City Attorney Susana Acala Wood. To get a more complete background on this story we have an article from November 30,  “Modesto’s Cat Killer Phillip Sumner.”

We’ll discuss the rest of the JPA meeting in another article.  Once again there are things both good and bad happening out at the Animal Services Building you need to know but haven’t heard of.

Here is the proposed ordinance without the tweaks”

ORDINANCE NO. __________-C.S.

 

AN ORDINANCE ADDING SECTIONS 5-4.405 TO ARTICLE 4 OF CHAPTER 4 TITLE 5 OF THE MODESTO MUNICIPAL CODE RELATING TO DISPOSITION OF STRAY ANIMALS

 

The Council of the City of Modesto does ordain as follows:

 

 

SECTION 1.   AMENDMENT OF CODE.  Section 5-4.405 is hereby added to Article 4 of Chapter 4 of Title 5 of the Modesto Municipal Code to read as follows:

 

5-4.405    DISPOSITION OF STRAY ANIMALS

 

(a)                It shall be unlawful and a misdemeanor offense for any person who contains any stray animal (including cats) found at large or on their property to abandon the animal.

 

 

(b)               Within eight (8) hours after containing any such animal, the person doing so shall do one of the following:

 

(1)               Return the animal to the owner if the owner is known.

 

 

(2)               Report to City of Modesto Animal Control officials the fact that such animal is contained, a description of the animal and license number of such animal if any; or

 

 

(3)               Transport the animal to the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency facility and provide the date, time and location of when and where the animal was located when surrendering the animal to facility staff.

 

 

(c)                Animal Control Officers shall pick up and dispose of such animal in the same manner as though such animal had been found at large and impounded.

 

 

(d)               This section shall not be interpreted to apply to a person or organization registered with the Animal Services Agency as a caretaker for feral cats when that person is caring for feral cats.

Animal Abuse Ordinance to be Discussed at JPA meeting Thursday at 9:00AM

A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures ...

A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures that I took for the Infobox in the Modesto, California Article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

Thursday 12/20 at 9:00 AM an animal abuse ordinance is going to be discussed which would allow cities to prosecute abusers, since our District Attorney, Birgit Fladager refuses to .  It’s a sad situation when cat killers like Phillip Sumner and Jeff Reed are allowed to lure, trap, and abandon animals without any penalties.

The meeting is going to be held at 3647 Cornucopia Way at the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency.  The Modesto City Council has taken the lead along with Chief Balentine and Captain Harris from the Modesto Police Department,  and we hope an ordinance will be in place by early February.  I know it won’t bring  justice to those suffering from past abuse, but hopefully it will help prevent future occurrences.

And if you can find time feel free to give our District Attorney Birgit Fladager a call and ask her why she won’t protect our pets.

Her phone number is 525-5550  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised no email is listed on the County’s website. Or if you are so inclined, appear at a Board of Supervisors meeting and tell them how you feel.

I went and spoke to them last night about this and other subjects during Public Comment Period.  They appreciate all of the input the public is willing to give them.  It’s towards the beginning of their meetings so you can speak and stay and listen or leave when you’re through.

They’re a friendly Board  and it really is almost painless.

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday 12/19 7:00 PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Topics include: Money laundering by Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, and  Deceptive business practices by the MID’s Joy Warren, How the Workforce Alliance spends your money, Is Modesto’s Ruling Class Immune to scrutiny, the Salida Ad Hock Committee meeting you haven’t heard about, On line balloting, the Newton Ct. shooting, Cat Killers Reed and Sumner and the progress on the Protective Animal ordinance, all this and more Wednesday night at 7:00 PM

We can be found here live or in our archives: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/20/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake 

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Our call in number is 347-215-9414

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The Better Man

Modesto Marathon  8080

He speaks quietly and seems to always choose his words with care and caution. So when he speaks, he is respected and listened to. I know him to be a true and honest gentleman. He does have some challenging health issues, and has endured them with dignity and grace. Never once have I heard an excuse, or observed him being anything except professional. He has served our community for almost twenty years, never seeking any fanfare. The man I speak of is Mr. Paul Warda now serving on the Modesto Irrigation Board of Directors.

            Mr. Warda has made an impact in recent months serving the ratepayers of MID that will live on well past his or my lifetimes. I see Paul Wardas performance as nothing short of heroic and courageous. He has been able to see thru what was past routine practices and understood that change was necessary. I for one am truly grateful, and we all should be as well.

            I write this letter of gratitude because Paul Warda deserves to be recognized for his years of service, and the new direction for the Modesto Irrigation District that he played a huge part in.

I ran against Mr. Warda for his board seat in 2009.  I, today have no regrets. I lost that election to a great board member.

             

 Ted Donham

 

 

 

MID Board’s New Leadership Will be a Breath of Fresh Air

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

The Board meeting turned out to be as spicy as forecasted.  When the closed session was over and we were allowed in, we were met with a scowling Glen Wild.  Director Wild had his heart set on being the Board President but that didn’t come to pass.  While he had two years of experience on Nick Blom, Director Wild would have been Van Groningen’s lackey just as he has been for the last three years.   Besides we don’t need the old guard with their old obfuscating, covering-up ways continuing to run the Board.  Paul Warda nominated Nick Blom for President and Larry Byrd for Vice-President.  Both of those nominations were approved.

The Martino Graphics $49,500 bill was paid as expected but acknowledgement came from newer Board members of improprieties having been perpetrated by Management.  Joy Warren didn’t discuss the particulars, she only mentioned they were included in the handout (pages 116-130 in the pdf  from yesterday’s article.)    I pointed out that out of the seven specific areas the money was supposed to be spent, only one came close to the proscribed use and that was : Implementing a program to improve the image and credibility of the District with it’s ratepayers.  And, quite honestly, the $148,000 Allen Short spent with Martino Graphics did just the opposite.

Janice Keating, having been paid to speak on behalf of the water sale while pretending to be a private citizen (all the while being paid for her testimony)didn’t sit well with the majority of the Board or the public.  The money was actually spent on perverse lobbying efforts on the sale’s behalf.  Questions have arisen wondering if at least one of the “Community Columns” written in the Bee was bought and paid for.  Another question asked later “how many of those in the “paid employee category of Martino Graphics”  lobbied Bee Opinion Page Editor Judy Sly.”

Funnily enough, one thing that stuck in the craw of several of the Board members was the funneling of money through Martino Graphics to Carol Whiteside.  By laundering the money through Martino Graphics, Directors Byrd, Blom, and Warda weren’t aware Ms. Whiteside was “on the clock” when she invited them for breakfast.  The secret was shared by Directors Van Groningen, Wild, and General Manager Short. These three are responsible for at least $165,000 being spent on a clandestine  lobbying effort which failed.  I have little doubt this is among the many reasons Allen Short is being run out-of-town on a rail, albeit on a velveteen covered rail.  On this all we can all say is thank God he’s gone.  Now if only his two amigos would join him, but that’s just too much to ask.

An interesting revelation is how much “churning” attorney O’Laughlin has done.  He’s been requiring all Public Information Requests to go through him, and this just isn’t necessary.  At $300.00 per hour (from a prior Public Information Request) he’s been making out like a bandit with all of the time he’s claiming he spends on them, and without the overhead of a mask and gun.

I think the bottom line is the two problem children (O’Laughlin and Short) are on their way out the door and those  now in charge are determined these excesses won’t be repeated, not by their new hires or by current staff.

I was glad to see the Union receive its long-awaited raises, but someone has to explain to me how the head of Human Resources deserves a 34% raise especially when she’s getting another person added to her department.  Maybe because her department helped to take the survey?  Another interesting point is the result of a Public Information Request asking the amounts of the raises by position.  Attorney O’Laughlin said they had nothing on paper stating this information so there was nothing to turn over. Oh well, I’ve been intentionally misled by him before as have others making similar requests.  The vote was 3-2 with Van Groningen and Wild voting no.  But this was little more than political posturing since they had been unwilling to separate the union and the confidential employee  in votes.

It wasn’t easy for Larry Byrd to adjust his stance on abstaining from the union vote which he had  because of his son, and although the FPPC and a privately obtained San Francisco lawyer assured him it was perfectly legal for him to weigh in, he had resisted voting the last two times the issue came to the Board.  If he didn’t make the adjustment and vote,  the contract  would  have been held up indefinitely.

One continuing disappointment is the Board being unwilling to discuss how George Petrulakis racked up over $28,800 dollars in bills when he was facilitating only one meeting.  But I suppose that and other unexplained expenses will be swept out with the rubbish on December 31st.  We’ll give them a clean slate for the new year, but to paraphrase an old adage: Forgive those who have done the public wrong, but remember their names for future articles.

Money Laundering, payoffs, Just Another Day at the MID

English: A picture of two dual-circuit power l...

By Emerson Drake

Did you ever watch someone with a gambling disease?  They keep raising the bet hoping for the  payoff that seldom if ever comes.  The hole gets deeper and deeperand sooner or later they have to pay the piper,  and that’s what is happening at the MID. 

For years they’ve been getting away with murder by doing whatever came to their minds ( The TANC project, Geo thermal energy to name two losers) flaunting public opinion but when the proposed water sale to San Francisco came around the opposition became formidable.  First the public had been aroused last summer before and  during the MID elections.  Then the Board changed getting two new members, Larry Byrd and Nick Blom. And suddenly during January of 2012 GM Allen Short, and Directors Tom Van Groningen, and Glen Wild realized they needed additional support,  reinforcements if you will.

The reinforcements came in the disguise of Martino Graphics. Allen Short found an expired purchase order that could be twisted, at least if you squint real hard, to assist in their determination to sell MID’s water through an unfavorable contract. So the “Three Caballeros” with the assistance of a MID staff member started funneling money, laundering if you prefer, through Martino Graphics to a local lobbyist, Mike Lynch, and at least one other shill named Janice Keating.  Janice a former Modesto Councilwoman, spoke publicly to the MID Board pretending to be a private citizen concerned about the water transfers, but in reality we know she spoke as a paid shill, someone who pretends to be an innocent bystander but is paid by the house to manipulate the crowd and public opinion. Mark Looker was also a recipient of their largess.

In an enlightening flash MID finally, after more than six months and multiple requests, including Public Information Requests,  after Van Groningen publicly stating they had no contracts with anyone other than Martino, and had no idea who Martino had contracts with, they have finally admitted Martino had subcontracts with Mike Lynch, Janice Keating, and Mark Looker.

Since January of 2012 MID has spent over $99,000 with Martino Graphics under the expired purchase order #54981 and is now requesting another $49,500 all in a failed effort to change your mind about the water sale to the San Francisco Public Utilities District.  The original intent of this purchase order was to have a fund to work/lobby  legislators over water and electric issues. You remember,  like the one to allow large hydro generators to be classified as “Green”.  Yet they didn’t bother to use it for OUR benefit ( a green designation would have held down the cost of electricity) they used it to promote a failed, water wasting idea they couldn’t let go of.  We’ve seen this in the past with the likes of the TANC project where Short spent between $3.5 and $5 million dollars before  the plug was pulled, all thanks to Allen Short’s obsession with being in charge, Van Groningen’s willingness to be led around by the nose and Glen Wild’s subservient way of saying “which way should I vote?” to Van Groningen. They remind me of three elephants walking in file, the latter two holding on to the lead elephant’s tail by their trunk.

Ask them to actually quantify and break down what Martino did to earn the money instead the sweeping obfuscations of reality they provide and they can’t.  An examination of the purchase orders, which wasn’t provided but EOM  has made available in the past, reveals the same generic charges month after month while providing no real substantiation of work.

The following pdf link provides a glimpse into the twisted cover-up mentality staff uses to provide Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild a spider hole to crawl into under the glare of public examination.

121812BoardAgendawithAttachments

Pages 116 -130 are the ones discussed in this article.

If you choose to dive further into the MID cesspool we can talk about the contract the MID Board gave to George Petrulakis allegedly to facilitate in the meetings between Modesto and the MID Board. Mr. Petrulakis was paid:

$28,852.50

  But since they only held only one meeting and George  gets paid $415 per hour what else did he do for the Board to justify his 69.39 hours of work?  Can you say lobbying and influence pedaling or did he provide inducements to others to go in front of the MID Board and endorse the water sale?

Then there is MID attorney Tim O’Laughlin who as a going away present is requesting a payment of $146,250.89. These are a total of his invoices from November and December and it isn’t his last bill there is at least one more coming. MID the gift that keeps on giving.

You have to walk away shaking your heads wondering where the closest bathroom is to wash your hands. But we need to resist that impulse. We need to dig down deep to get to the bottom of the MID barrel to rid ourselves of ALL of the rotten apples.

 The next MID meeting is at 9:00 AM Tuesday Dec. 18th.   As with all parties it’s BYO Pitchforks and torches lynch ropes are optional.

You don’t want to be late, it’s the best show in town.

COMMUNITY BUDGETS

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Dave Thomas

Good morning.  I appreciate your taking the time to read this, and welcome your comments, both pro and con.

As you can see from the other attachment to my e-mail message, the City of Modesto has run deficit budgets over the most recent 7 years.  Actually, 6 years are known, and 2013 is only estimated.  But 2013 is seriously in deficit. 

There are several reasons for this, but the most easily identified factor is employee compensation.  A City job is worth at least 3.5 private sector jobs. City employee benefits are unconscionably higher than private sector benefits.  There is no reason a Modesto Citizen should be required to provide these enormous benefits, for which Employees pay virtually nothing.  Unfortunately, this situation is true for County, State and Federal employees.

The BEE repeatedly reports that City, County, MID and School employees have not received a raise in X years.  I need you to know that this is total nonsense.  Every one of those employees receives regularly scheduled “step and column” raises.  If you think I am wrong, look at the CAFR’s and see that, despite the lament that the number of employees is down, payroll is up, and it is significantly up.  The BEE recently reported that the median City Employee salary was $99,552 annually, not including overtime or bonus.  This is, as they say, unsustainable.

Despite this obvious fact, ALL our governments refuse to actually reduce salaries and benefits.  If you think this is an overstatement, just read the paper.  Every City union member has received multiple raises, and more are on the way.  Despite the fact that salaries and benefits are out of line, despite the fact that ALL of our governments are woefully underfunding pensions, despite the fact that they are ALL running deficit budgets, they continue to buy the union vote on the backs of the rest of us. 

All of us know that ALL our governments are too expensive; forget waste, fraud, corruption and stupid, payrolls are destroying every government and utility in America.  I am afraid that they are all going to fail, to one degree or another.

If we carry this discussion one step forward, I think we will agree that we are NOT spending too much money keeping our streets in perfect repair; we are NOT maintaining our City trees; we do NOT have clean, safe, needle and glass-free parks: we have NOT solved the plaque of homeless; our schools are NOT producing world-class graduates; our water, electricity, and sewer rates are NOT the lowest in the nation; and our crime rate is NOT reducing.  Friends, we have a problem, and it is NOW and it is LARGE. 

Let me make some guesses as to what will continue to happen if we do not solve this problem.

Your local and State taxes are going to rise like rockets.  Depending on your income and your wealth, the amount of extra taxes could be devastating.  Prop 30 will increase both your State income and sales tax.  Sales tax will be 7.625%.  Your income tax could increase between 21.5 and 29.13%, retroactive to 1/1/2012 .  Californians pay the highest State taxes in America.  And local governments will want even more.

Your Federal income tax could increase by as much as 14%, and most of us will see some increase.  Your Capital Gain tax might double, and your estate tax will increase by 500%. The maximum Estate and Gift tax bracket will become 60% on 1/1/2013!!  And the Feds will want even more.

Both medical care AND medical insurance costs are going to increase by large amounts every year for a decade.  It will be more and more difficult to obtain medical care from MD’s as nurses and technicians take over the majority of patient contacts.  Hospitals will close and their services will disappear from many communities.  “Discretionary procedures” like joint replacement, reconstruction cosmetic surgery will be severely rationed, medical appliances will become both rationed and expensive, and the elderly will not be well served.  Obamacare will be dominated by administrators paid enormous salaries.  And they will want even more.

Utility rates will continue to increase.  The MID debacle at the water plant will cost you dearly!  You are already paying for $187,905,000 of debt for a water plant that is half built.  You will pay at least another $50 Million or so to fix the junk MID calls “Phase 2”.  Consider the facts; divide the money spent by the annual output of this plant, and it comes to $6,264 per acre-foot just for the building.  Some may say that is an unfair way to calculate the cost.  Well, did you know that they have paid interest only on the last $93 Million they borrowed IN 2007!  AND, they are paying as much as 5.5% interest in a 1% interest environment. Your water and electricity rates will increase by at least 20% during the next 4 years.  And they will want even more.

Any product that contains or is transported by petroleum products or fuels will cost significantly more starting yesterday.  This includes virtually everything you eat, tires, many drugs, gasoline, diesel, and most of the clothing you use.  This includes the cost of airplane, bus, boat and train fuels and lubricants.  Heating your home will become very expensive.  The Feds will punish both the petroleum and coal industries with onerous taxation and costly regulation.  And they will want even more.

City debt, including the Redevelopment Agency debt is out of control.  We have upside down “interest rate swap” debt, and debt where we pay 16 years of interest with no payment toward principal.  The City has borrowed far too much.  And they will want even more.

Your property and Mello Roos tax, plus your fair share of school bonds will continue to go up.  School fiscal fiascos and mismanagement will continue to eat away your income.  These monuments to foolishness and greedy school administrators are a disgrace of waste and arrogance.  Despite the facts that enrollments are down over 12% in 4 years, some classes have 9 or fewer students, teacher and administrator pay is rocketing up, utility costs and maintenance costs are rocketing up, our elected school boards refuse to reduce teacher and administrator jobs.  They are actually proud that they have “saved jobs”.  Well, who PAYS for those unnecessary jobs???  Your Mello Roos tax increases every year.  And 71% of our Stanislaus State freshmen require remedial English, math or both.  School Boards have failed, your kids are cheated out of a quality education, and schools are out of money.  And they will want even more.

Finally, virtually every District, City, County, State and Federal entity will propose or actually impose new taxes and fees on you.  They will insist that they want to invigorate the economy, serve you better, and save jobs as well as the children.  You know that is all baloney.  The only jobs they want to save are their own, and they demand your money to do it.  The National Geographic magazine wrote a series on the fall of the Roman Empire.  A paraphrase of their conclusion would be, “The Roman government bled its Citizens white with taxes needed to support their vast, corrupt empire.”  And our greedy, ruthless and powerful governments will want even more, and more and more.

I believe the only solution to this insane fiscal situation is to starve these governments into submission.  Governmental spending is the problem, thus SPENDING must be controlled. The only way to bring employee costs into line is to force the unions to accept parity with the Citizens who pay their wages.  We must remove those elected officials who continue to stuff our hard earned money into the governmental black hole.  We must elect hard-nosed Citizens who will reduce the size of government and treat public money as sacred.  Smaller, less intrusive, less expensive, totally transparent and honest government is the only solution.  If you and I fail to achieve these goals, ALL of us will suffer and our governments will fail.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think.  Dave

ModestoDeficitBudgets

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday at 7:00PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

 

 

 

 

 

Topics include a recent conversation with Modesto’s Mayor on the Salida annexation, What the public needs to remember from the Del Rio well proposal, an up-date on Modesto’s Cat Killers (yes we have at least two), MID’s latest budget and what you don’t know about 503 (C)(6) ‘s This and a Happy Birthday salute so don’t forget to tune us in.

To listen Wednesday night at 7:00PM or in our archives anytime

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/06/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

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