Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Thursday’s Salida Ad Hoc Committee Meeting

By Emerson Drake

We had a room full of City of Modesto Staff and of course Mayor Marsh and Councilman Codgill. The County was out in

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)

force With Supervisors Terry Withrow and Board Chairman Supervisor Vito Chiesa along with CEO Monica Nino and staff.  The Ad Hoc Committee is led by Thomas Reeves but the meeting was dominated by Katherine Borges.  Because of the research she has done she challenged the Goodwin Report’s numbers and quite honestly the report was found lacking in accuracy.  Despite being paid $60,000 by the city and county the Goodwin representative was forced to admit the “costing figures”  were estimates not grounded in fact but estimates created by using fuzzy numbers.  Ms. Borges rightly pointed on the vast difference between the amounts charges to contract cities and those “allotted” to Salida for the Sheriff’s Department.

Mayor Marsh admitted he might have jumped the gun by talking about the possible annexation of Salida last year by not quietly consulting with Salida first and Ms. Borges underlined his comment and placed an exclamation point after it. She repeatedly said Salida does NOT want to be annexed by Modesto.  She set off the short fused Modesto Councilman Dave Cogdill.  How a man with such a short temper ever made it into politics is a wonder.  Of course it might have something to do with riding his daddy’s coattails and the silver spoon of entitlement he was born with.

He basically said “why should Modesto be at these meetings since you aren’t going to believe a word we say.”   Here is where I believe an opportunity was lost.  If someone would have taken him up on his offer to walk away I really think he would have left just as he started to  at a Salida MAC meeting.  Supervisor Chiesa talked him down from the ledge that night but since the Supervisor was under the weather today maybe he would have let Cogdill walk.  Believe me it would have been no loss because of his my way or the highway attitude.

They Mayor offered to help  by using Modesto staff and his experience to assist Salida in exploring incorporation.  My real thoughts are,  if Salida has difficulty early on in the conversation in securing the financial wherewithal to stand alone the County will  try to push the Salida MAC into a shotgun wedding with Modesto.

As usual the topic came around to jobs and shovel ready land.  It appeared both the County and Modesto’s  leaders thought the EIR or environmental impact reports had been done on the 1,000 of business park in the Salida plan. But Matt Machado threw ice water on their warm and fuzzy moment.  NO EIR has been completed according to Mr. Machado.  So what no one said until AFTER the meeting, because the public wasn’t allowed to speak was the question, “Who controls the county’s largest business Park?”  The County does…its name is WestPark.

So now we know the Salida business park ISN’T shovel ready.  Will Modesto still thirst for the annexation?

You better believe it. There are too many on the Council who see that land as being good for THEIR own pocketbooks. And for my two cents that starts with Councilmen  Dave Cogdill and Joe Muratore.

The Ad Hoc meetings will continue in the future but sadly no one on the Ad Hoc Committee suggested the public be allowed to contribute in the future.  If we go the taxpaying public be forced to sit quietly and watch.


Help Save YOUR Water…Deadline Friday at 12:00 Noon


Comments due tomorrow – 3/29/13 @ 12:00 NOON!

State Water Resources Control Board

The department logo.

The department logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unimpaired Flows Proposal

Merced, Stanislaus & Tuolumne Rivers


If you reside within the basins of the Merced, Stanislaus or Tuolumne Rivers, or receive irrigation water from the Merced Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District, Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District or Turlock Irrigation District – this information may affect your future water supply.

Please fax or email your letter to the State Water Resources Control Board using the contact information below to let them know of your disapproval of its plan. Public comments must be submitted before THIS Friday, March 29. Please act before it is too late.


State Water Resources Control Board

Fax: (916) 341-5620

Email: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov


Attn: Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
Executive Office
State Water Resources Control Board
Cal/EPA Headquarters
1001 “I” Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814


What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Topics include Salida Annexation, Salida Ad Hoc Committee, the Salida MAC meeting, the General Plan Amendment for


Radio RED 104.9 FM

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


Modesto, Modesto’s Ag mitigation policy decision, Campaign Donation limits, Safety worker overtime, Golfing locally, these and more so tune in at 6:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.


104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station


The call in number in (347)215-9414


To listen live or at your leisure from our archives:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/03/28/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake


The Letter from Modesto Protesting SB-7 Inclusion of Maintenance In Prevailing Wage Programs

March 13,2013

English: Flag of Sacramento, California
The Honorable Darrell Steinberg
Senate President Pro Tem
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Cannella
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 3048
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:   Opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg) Charter Cities: Unlawful Conditions on State Funding

Dear Senators Steinberg and Cannella,

The City of Modesto (Modesto) regrets to inform you of our opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg), which
would prohibit a charter city from receiving or using state funding or financial assistance for a
construction project if the city has a charter provision or ordinance that authorizes a contractor to
not comply with state prevailing wage requirements on local construction projects funded by (nonstate)
city funds.

We are very concerned that as drafted, the legislation will jeopardize the City’s ability to contract out
basic maintenance services of its parks, municipal buildings and municipal facilities. These
contracts include a multi-year maintenance agreement with a local non-profit organization that
employs developmentally disabled workers.

Modesto, like many other cities, has been forced to utilize competitively bid contracts for
maintenance of a number of city owned facilities for fiscal survival. Modesto currently has at least
14 competitively bid contracts worth over $4.7 million annually for maintenance of city owned
facilities. These include but are not limited to contracts for maintenance of parks, janitorial services
and golf course operations. The requirement to pay prevailing wages on these contracts will impact
Modesto’s general fund and thus affect the level of service Modesto is able to provide to its citizens.
This new requirement will also impact a number of maintenance contracts in our utility funds,
increasing costs for our rate payers.

This measure violates the fundamental principle of local control and the constitutional limits of state
authority over charter cities, as recently held by the Court in the Vista decision.1 This measure
conflicts with Vista by attempting, via the Legislature, to leverage a different outcome than the
Court’s ruling by withholding vital state construction funds, derived from all of the state’s taxpayers,
from charter cities that fail to adopt prevailing wage requirements for projects built with local funds.
Such a condition is unlawful because the state is seeking to leverage outcomes it lacks the legal
authority to compel.

Modesto is a charter city that has opted to not impose state prevailing wage requirements under our
charter for projects that are considered to be strictly of municipal concern. Modesto does require
the payment of prevailing wages on all projects that are not considered to be a municipal concern in
strict accordance with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ interpretation. Modesto
has grave concerns that this legislative tactic will be used in the future to erode other local flexibility
that is important to our community. Thus, we oppose this measure due to its undercutting of local
charter authority. The state should respect the Court decision in Vista and stay out of the matter.
This measure would establish a disturbing framework for future state micromanaging of charter city
laws and policies by the tactic of withholding state funds as political leverage to attempt to force
changes to city charters and ordinances.

At a minimum the proposed legislation should be amended to eliminate its application to
maintenance contracts. While Modesto believes this bill is inherently flawed from a legal
perspective, excluding maintenance contracts would at least help avoid forcing affected cities to
choose between closing parks and keeping police officers on the street.
For these reasons, the City of Modesto opposes this legislation.

cc: Senator Ted Lieu, Chair, Senate Committee on Labor and lndustrial Relations
(Attn. Alma Perez @ Fax No. (9161-327-5703)
Gareth Elliott, Legislative Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Jerry Brown

Groundwater Problems In The Foothills of Stanislaus County

come on in, the water's bad

come on in, the water’s bad (Photo credit: scpgt)

By Vance Kennedy

There has been a large increase in planting of trees in the foothills of this county, especially almonds.  There is no flood irrigation to replenish groundwater, which is being pumped by increasingly deep wells.  Rainfall in the area ranges between 12 and about 16 inches per year on average, of which perhaps half recharges groundwater.

Almond trees need about 30 inches of water per year to do well.  Hence, there is on the order of two feet of water deficiency from rainfall alone.  The rest of the needed water must come from pumped groundwater.  That seems fine if you have a ready and easily available groundwater supply.  But therein lies the problem.

In the foothills the rocks are tight and much of the water must come from fractures.  Overall, an estimate of 10 percent porosity is possibly a generous estimate.  So, when one pumps out a foot of water, the water table drops 10 feet.  Since perhaps 2 feet of water must be pumped a year, that means that the water table may drop 20 feet per year or more.  Initially, the trees may do fine and the orchard can be sold to an unsophisticated buyer at a very large profit.  However, in 10 years, the water table will be down about 200 feet, or much more if the porosity is less than 10 percent.  I have heard that some very large pumps are getting water at 300 to 400 feet.  That is very expensive and cannot be justified if prices go down.  One might say that the buyer will lose and that is his problem.  There is a Latin phrase to describe the situation – Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.  It is not that simple.

When a well begins removing water from an aquifer, that is a water-bearing rock, there is a “cone of depression” that forms around the well, so that there is a sloping water table toward the well.  As the well goes deeper that cone of depression extends further and further from the well and ultimately will start drawing water from neighboring properties, causing their water table to drop.  California law provides no protection for that adjacent property owner.  He can be ruined, and he has no legal recourse.

There is another problem, for society as a whole.  When the tree grower has removed the groundwater to 400 feet or so and lets his trees die, that property is useless for many decades.  The water table will only be recharged by rainfall and that can raise the water table perhaps 5 feet per year.  That almond grower has literally mined a valuable resources and harmed future generations.  He has actually caused an environmental disaster, and as matters stand, there is no way of stopping him.

Mr. Kennedy is a citrus grower and a retired Hydrologist with the U.S.G.S.


What Government Doesn’t Tell You

By Donna Minighini

City/County government still has yet to really solve Modesto and Stan County’s extremely high unemployment rate.

Luke on Modesto, Tatooine

Luke on Modesto, Tatooine (Photo credit: Rubink1)

Enticing mid-large size employers to relocate here -bringing JOBS to local residents, is the most important goal and achievement that government could do (besides protecting our individual safety from a rising crime rate  from the forced “re-alignment program”).  However, instead of building a strong economic foundation for both the city, county, and residents of Modesto to flourish from – government has not disclosed to residents the fact that some of their city and county “building” and “revenue” strategies  have been channeled into applying for millions of dollars in state grant monies for MORE transportation improvements, and a goal of developing 25, 608 low income high-density housing units to be forced upon 25,608 neighborhood streets:  the impact of such a large amount of additional government subsidized housing (to the existing section 8 housing that the city and county has long participated in providing for needy residents) will turn our area into a Bay Area “subsidization designation” magnet.  Major decisions made for our city and county should benefit all residents.


STANCOG’s “Valley Vision” public “workshop” seminars talk exclusively about the County’s future efforts of providing more “transportation improvements” – however they quickly breeze over the fact (and don’t talk at all) that in order to obtain millions of dollars in grant monies, the requirement of forecasting future county “housing growth” numbers “need” resulted in their determination of 25,608 low income high-density multi-complexes to be “forced” upon city and county neighborhoods.  When asked at a recent VALLEY VISION public workshop meeting, and then again at the first public GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT/LAND USE public workshop meeting –  they say their presentations are about transportation improvements – (not housing) and they quickly avoid any discussion or explanation about what is outlined in the “2009-2014 Revised Housing Element Update Report” – describing low housing development. (http://www.co.stanislaus.ca.us/planning/pl/gp/housing-element.pdf).   Why is our government depressing a public presentation of these housing goals (which are already in progress)?  Providing housing growth projections are part of the requirement for transportation funds. http://www.hcd.ca.gov/hpd/hrc/plan/he/he_time.htm.


A city and county should help its needy with some subsidized housing and Modesto and Stanislaus County have always provided this assistance.  Many private property owners have, and still offer their properties for rent under section 8 subsidization agreements.  But for Modesto and County government to provide future growth housing “stats” (to Sacramento) of needing 25,608 more low-income high density multi-family housing units is adding to an already over-supply housing problem which our area has been struggling to get over, and ,of which has destroyed thousands of dollars in homeowner’s property values causing them individual economic harm.  Over-development of housing is not fixing the real problem:  the need for jobs and economic growth for all residents.  Forcing 25,608 low income high-density multi-family units within our neighborhood streets (see “2009-2014 Revised Housing Element Update Report”) with a list of potential exact vacant lot “APN” parcels for each city and town to which the County can mandate this housing be built on (the County classifies some of these as “INFILL” locations, giving developers special preference – and forming “the law to the project”!)  The report even provides shocking statements that existing statutes and law can be “government restraints” to the building of this housing!  When has a government agency or report ever made such condemning statements as to bad mouth or overturn the protections of the public as identified in existing local or state statutes?


High density residential projects destroy our beautiful “rural” low-density single family residential neighborhoods – the prime reason people want to live here (decent spacious family living).  This new housing policy is a developer’s dream of making a lot of money and the “valley vision” of a few government persons who possess bad “decision making authority” which will add to the problem of our area’s housing over-supply.  Whether an over-supply or not, this policy is sure to cause economic financial harm to homeowners’ neighborhood with further decline of property values.  A home for many is the only source of financial stability for their future.  No “valley vision” or government policy should cause economic harm to any of its residents.  And the power to make land use decisions should not trump people’s individual property rights and well-being of a neighborhood.  A Board of Supervisor’s comment regarding a land use policy was “get used to it!”  As the public, we don’t have to live with decisions from government that invade our privacy, well –being, and individual land rights.   Any person can challenge the decision of local government by filing a Writ of Mandamus action with the required timeframe to do so.

The current re-written “LAND USE” amended document which can be seen at

(http://www.stancounty.com/planning/pl/gp/gp-chapter1.pdf ) is part of the “General Plan” Amendment project, and indicates shocking “absolute sole power” given to the Board of Supervisors and the HCD (Housing Community Development) for such housing and commercial development.  The housing land use policy circumvents and tramples on a resident’s private land use protections such as “community plan” agreements/contracts, “CCRs”, and the quality-of-life expectations a homeowner thought he/she could count on for their family in the character of a neighborhood.  A city or town’s “progress” or “modernization” is never justified if it destroys another person’s well being and property rights.

The County doesn’t even have to continue to fight to annex Salida because they force their specific “business and residential land” goals of developing over 3300 acres by simply exercising their County goals in “upgrading” an unincorporated area as they see fit, approval developers applications (with flexibility) – and they’ll even get grant monies to do so!


The current land use actions and documents are nothing more than extreme “government control” over you as a private citizen, and another very bad decision to transform Modesto and other towns into a high-density area, (all in the name of “progress”).  Such changes will not be seen immediately with today’s rezoning maps – until construction projects formalize in the future. Everything looks good on beautiful color coded maps and diagrams but think beyond this about possible congestion or neighborhood character transformation that will occur in the future?   Just travel to any Bay Area city and see what overpopulation feels like, and how hard it is to navigate around high-density commercial shopping and business areas. Is this the kind of city you want to live in? Beautiful presentations to the public today do not substitute the future demise of a “rural Agricultural town”.  Persons who think “modernization” and “updates” involve high density mixed-use development will in fact, will bulldoze over the “character” of your rural town, which is why most people live here:  low density spacious living to raise a family from the hectic ills of the big cities.  Yes, I’ll agree we need some updates in the downtown area with re-development.  Most downtowns are high- density residential and business use (mixed-use zoning) offering a variety of shops, restaurants, cultural events, personal services, and apartment housing – but leave our easy going, spacious single family neighborhoods alone from forcing multi-plex, high-density low income housing which will change the very character of these neighborhood streets.   Many residents don’t want an “urban” high density character in their “rural” neighborhoods!


Much of the transportation improvements within Modesto and in County areas are being made in North Modesto instead of helping to raise the quality of life in many Southern Modesto areas.  Why doesn’t the City and County direct the $92 million dollars of transportation grant monies just received for “further” improvements of north Modesto’s Pelandale and Kiernan roads (which are improved sufficiently to date) to south Modesto’s neighborhoods and streets, in an effort to bring these areas up to middle class status and beauty?   See StanCog’s “Overall Work Program, Amendment 2” report, to see the Counties’ transportation strategies.  http://www.stancog.org/pdf/owp/owp-fy-2012-2013.pdf


D. Minighini


Salida MAC Meets Tuesday the 26th at 7:00 PM at the Salida Library

Last Months Salida MAC Minutes courtesy of  http://salidamac.blogspot.com/


English: Map of the Stanislaus River, a major ...

English: Map of the Stanislaus River, a major tributary of the San Joaquin River, CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Salida MAC Newsletter – March 2013



The February Salida MAC meeting video is viewable online by clicking this
LINK – thanks to Salida MAC Councilmember, Brad Johnson and local Salida Public Radio Station 104.9 FM. LIKE “Salida MAC” on Facebook and follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/SalidaMAC
and sign up to receive our newsletter via e-mail. ~ Katherine Borges, Editor

Salida Annexation Report – Salida Municipal Advisory Council Chairman, Thomas Reeves, moved the annexation agenda item up to be discussed and voted upon first. Chairman Reeves read a statement and then asked the other MAC council members for their comments. He then opened the topic for public comment and discussion. The MAC council voted 4-0 against annexation with the public’s support. The Salida MAC council and members of the community requested that Stanislaus County District 3 Supervisor, Terry Withrow, support the position. Salida MAC’s vote and Supervisor Withrow’s decision to support the Salida MAC vote were covered by several local media outlets:
Salida leaders vote against annexation plans” – KCRA 3 – Feb 27, 2013
Salida advisory council rejects Modesto annexation plan” – The Modesto Bee – Feb 27, 2013
Modesto’s Salida annexation proposal gains a foe in Supervisor Withrow” – The Modesto Bee – Mar 1, 2013

Salida Postmaster Report – Salida Postmaster, John Paul Cabral, reported that there had been 90 mailboxes broken into in the area, 14 of which are in Salida. Postmaster Cabral asked that Salida residents please pull their mail from the mailboxes because there are gangs coming in from Modesto targeting Salida’s mailboxes. The Stanislaus County Sheriff has made two arrests so far. Thanks to an alert postal clerk at the Salida Post Office, a man was arrested who had been robbing post offices.

Salida Fire Department Report – Capt. Greg Bragg reported January’s numbers for Station 12 which ran 164 calls serving two fire management areas: from Dale Road to Ladd comes back in on Kiernan and down the Sisk Road corridor and then everything out to the river. 60% of the 164 calls were for EMS. They also provide services in other station areas.

Salida Fire Administration building used for training and
scheduled to be demolished.

The old Salida Fire Administration building has been sold for demolition due to the widening of the Kiernan interchange and is being utilized for training.

Stansilaus County Sheriff Report – Stansilaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson reported that the Sheriff’s Department is not facing any more cuts and is hiring for the first time in more than three and a half years. There are sixteen recruits in the academy and the Sheriff is building jail bed infrastructure and a Coroner’s facility. Sheriff Christianson introduced Deputy Lloyd McKinnon from the Crime Reduction Team who said, “The Team would be in Salida a lot this week, but you’re not going to see us.” Deputy McKinnon also reported that robberies are down 33%, aggravated assaults are up 67%, burgulary is up 8%, larceny is up 12%, auto theft is a big zero, homicide zero and rape is zero.

Salida Sanitary Report – Salida Sanitary Board member Brad Johnson shared a photo of one of the two robots at the Sanitary District.

City of Modesto Water Division Report – Dennis Turner, Director of Public Works for the City of Modesto stated that the water well that had been shut down for contamination was well #281 which is right across the street from the Salida Library. On December 5, 2012, a routine yearly sample was taken on well #281 and the sample showed higher than acceptable nitrate levels. The results were conveyed to city staff on December 6 and the procedure should have been to resample the well immediately, and that was not done. Staff discovered the error when they did a monthly report on January 8, 2013 and promptly shut the well down which is procedure. From December 5 to January 8th, well #281 ran for one hour a day contributing water into the Salida system. The department collects 585 samples in the Salida system every year. Well #281 contributed about 11% during that time period. Well #281 is the smallest well of the eight wells that serve the community of Salida and its water mixes with other sources to meet all of the demands for the Salida community. The City of Modesto is working with the State Department of Health to ensure this never happens again. New procedures have been put in place. Well #281 will remain offline until a treatment is decided upon to remove the nitrates.

Following are answers to some of the questions asked during the Q&A. Answers were provided by Dennis Turner.

The allowable limit for nitrates is 45 ppm (parts per million) and the well tested at 68 ppm.

Modesto plans to install water lines on the new Highway 99 overcrossings and large water storage tanks in North Modesto which will also serve Salida’s water system. The water tanks will not be installed until hydraulic models demonstrate the need.

The City of Modesto is required at all times to maintain a certain water pressure to maintain fire services. The system that monitors the pressure is not manned 24 hours a day so residents should call the City of Modesto Water Department if they detect a dramatic drop in water pressure, or detect any odd colors or smell in the water.

Public Works Department Report – Gary Hayward submitted an announcement about the work on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Broadway will be closed for this work on March 4. The Kiernan RR crossing is tentatively scheduled for closure Mar 18-21.

The rough section of road on north Pirrone is scheduled for resurfacing and work should be completed in late April/early May.

Public Works is co-oping with the Parks Department on budgeting for a fix on the mile section of sidewalks on Pirrone west of Sisk. When the plan is determined, Salida MAC will view it.

The sound wall that was run into by a vehicle on Whitestone Way has been repaired.

Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Report – Branch Manager Diane Bartlett reported that on Saturday, March 1, 2013 there will be a celebration of Dr. Suess’ birthday and “Read Across America” with story and craft in the Storytime Room.  On March 23, ‘Paver Painting’ will be at the Salida Library where you can paint stone paver ladybugs, turtles, and bunnies. This program will be held from 1-3 pm and is open to all ages.

Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale held March 7 from 10 am – 5 pm and March 9 from 10 am – 3 pm.

March 22 & 23 – the Stanislaus County will hold a mobile hazardous waste collection in the library’s parking lot from 9-1 pm.

Love Salida“will be held April 27. Geary Oreglia at Salida’s Kountry Kitchen is looking for opportunities within the community. One of the project’s will be held at the library from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Supervisor District 3 Report – Supervisor Withrow shared that the ‘DRC’ (Day Reporting Center) for probationers located on Broadway will be out of Salida by the end of March. The DRC is moving to downtown Modesto.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 7 pm at the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Community Room, 4835 Sisk Road, Salida. Featured presenters are Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) and Stanislaus County Parks Division.

Salida MAC meetings are broadcast on government cable channel 19 in Salida and channel 7 in Modesto on Saturdays at 11 am.

Be sure to “LIKE” Salida MAC on Facebook and follow on Twitter to keep apprised of the latest information about Salida.


Public Record Requests Should Benefit From Judge’s Ruling

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

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

It may not seem like a big deal to most people but Friday’s ruling by Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg should change the way Modesto responds to Public Record Requests (PRR) regarding emails and texts.  Several times in the past we’ve requested emails from Council members through the city only to have the request denied by Modesto City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood.  She used a unique measuring criteria when it comes to email.

Her responses in the past have been, unless a council member prints an email and uses it as a reference for information in a conversation with other council members then it doesn’t meet the threshold for a response to a PRR.  Modesto as a rule deletes emails in 30 days.  They say it’s because they need the space on their servers.  From the judge’s ruling it appears   Modesto will be arranging for larger servers.  Judge Kleinberg also ruled private text messages are obtainable by the public.  Hopefully Modesto will start saving the emails for longer periods of time and will stop disallowing access to them.

I should take this opportunity to say former Councilman Brad Hawn was always forthcoming with his emails when they were requested.  But he was the Lone Ranger on this issue.


A Northern California judge has ruled that private text messages, emails and other electronic communications sent and received by San Jose officials about city affairs are public records.

The ruling Friday in Santa Clara County has the potential to settle a long-simmering legal debate in California over access to such records.

The state’s Public Record Acts and other laws require communications of elected officials and other public officials on public issues to be retained and turned over upon request.

Since the advent of email, activists and others in the state have been battling with officials at all levels of government over whether public issues discussed on private devices with personal accounts are covered by the Public Records Act. Similar legal battles and political debates have sprung up across the country as well.


Public Workshop on the General Plan Amendment..Why Weren’t You There?

By Emerson Drake

The only way to prevent  “Government from just happening to us”  is to be a participant every step of the way.  It

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

isn’t easy for most of us, heck it isn’t even possible for some.  Life has many demands from work, family, and all that is entailed in keeping our heads above water.  We’re limited to trying to pay as much attention as we can to our communities and hope others will keep us informed.  In Stanislaus County and Modesto in particular,  politics has always been an insiders game. One thing to keep in mind considering the current topic is, the Planning Commission was chosen by the City Council not voted on by the people  and will be making the recommendations to the Council regarding the General Plan. Like I said, it’s an insiders game.

Politicians make the rules, not so much to benefit the people, but  more often to give them something to point to when the citizens suddenly become aware and wake-up and say, “hey, what’s going on”  and of course by then it’s too late.  They’ll say, “we did everything as required by law” but the damage is done and can’t be undone.  And of course they wrote the laws.

We were at the meeting Monday night at the Peterson Event Center.  Out of 203,000 who live in Modesto and another 20-30,000 who live around the city about 85 people showed up to hear what Modesto City Council wants to plan for our futures. Make no mistake and think the eventual outcome doesn’t matter,  because it does.  What ever the final form of this document is, it will be referred to for 20-50 years as guiding force for what comes next.  The areas which end up being marked for expansion will be planted with driveways.  Previously preserved farmland acres  which are covered by the Williamson Act will be undone.

Phrases like, “Modesto adopted a  a statement of overriding consideration for loss of prime farmland as being significant and unavoidable.”  This came out of the following LAFCO document which walks us through just one of the areas Modesto annexed in recent years, This particular one just goes back to May 15,1997 but the documentation as you will see goes back to Jan. 14, 1995 for the Contract-Land Conservation Act which in turn references the Land Conservation Act of 1965.


Monday night showed a glimpse of the devious developer schemes to come.  We heard from Craig Lewis a developer and Prudential Real Estate Broker and he is also connected to six different companies.  Mr. Lewis was also at the Valley Vision workshop between the City Council and the City Planning Commission where he bemoaned the desire of the majority of the public to preserve prime farmland.  For those who haven’t gone through  the “developer experience”  you get to hear their mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs.”  Don’t get me wrong we need jobs but the only one s taking home the big greenbacks will be developers and their friends. He read to us out of his guiding light book, a financial magazine.  He and his kind will (metaphorically speaking) attempt to wrap themselves in a flag in an attempt to make it seem to be your patriotic duty to forget farming and plant driveways. We heard him and his colleagues talk about developing the Dakota/Beckwith area, also know locally as the Emerald Triangle because of the ultra prime soil (rated 95 out of 100) which exists there.  They talked about how Dakota was being expanded to four lanes and made it sound like it was going to be tomorrow.  After talking with County staff, Matt Machido last night I can tell you NO money has been appropriated for Dakota Road expansion, none has even been applied for.

Likewise we noticed on City maps being used for the workshop Hammitt Rd. interchange with a completed tie in to Ladd Rd was shown. When I questioned Brent Sinclair about this he said he would ask Matt Machado at the County.  Not being one to wait for Modesto’s rendition I went straight to the horses mouth so to speak and asked Matt about it Tuesday night.  Again Matt said NO money has been requested or set aside for the interchange completion let alone the tie in.

While many people spoke that night among the notable were Reed Smith, Karla Von Hungen, and Donna Minighini.  Reed ask questions about the availability of water to service the ever enlarging expansion Modesto has in mind.  He pointed out the water supply is already inadequate and steadily diminishing.    Brent Sinclair had earlier promised replies to questions but remained silent preferring to ignore the question completely.  Several bordering on many in the audience requested a response but Brent just remained silent.  Ms. Von Hungen and Ms. Minighini commented on California’s  insistence on forcing counties and cities to designate a portion of their land for large numbers of future middle and low income housing as a requirement to receive state funds. They noted the county had designated large numbers of homes for the Salida footprint and pointed out how the county had violated home owner rights by designating condos to be built in Del Rio over the objections of the majority of the residents.

Here are two pdfs with maps showing the version adopted in 9/9/09 and the second the map proposed by staff on 2/14/13.

GPA-10-001 EXH GPLU Diagram Adopted 9-9-09

GPA-10-001 EXH GPLU Diagram Proposed 2-14-13

The following is a link to the city of Modesto website where these diagrams can be found.  I’ve requested the city to put a link on the front page but so far Mr. Sinclair and his staff are “too busy” to help keep the public informed. After all they held one of the three meetings  they are required by law to hold.


Here is what Modesto’s outside accountant (Moss Adams) said about Modesto Staff.  Take a bow Mr. Nyhoff. All of the credit is yours.


It wasn’t pretty was it. This is what happens when you hire a City manager who refuses to put anything in writing for fear it will be discovered by a public information request as as such will be held accountable, and is more concerned about what the Chamber of Commerce thinks, than about what the Citizens of Modesto need.

There will be two more public workshops, Monday, April 15,2013 at 6:00 PM at the Davis High School “Little Theater” 1200 Rumble Rd. Park near the tennis courts at Davis Park.  The final workshop or opportunity for the public to speak their minds will be Monday, June 3, 2013 at 6:00 PM at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center 601 South Martin Luther King Drive-Mellis Park.

Here is a line straight out of their flyer:  Broad public participation will help ensure that the amended plan reflects the community’s preferences and values to “the maximum extent possible”.

An interesting  way to phrase it isn’t it.  After expanding into previously carefully guarded areas, ignoring some questions and refusing to answer others, I wonder just what “the maximum extent possible” really means.

What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Topics include a conversation about What Modesto has its eyes on in the Salida area,  Modesto’s General Plan Amendment

Radio RED 104.9 FM

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

and the games being played, the Kiernan Business Park East,  does government just happen to people or is it government by ambush, California’s water grab, and an up-date on the Steubenville rape trial these and more so tune in at 6:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

Don’t forget to call in and let your voice be heard!  (347)215-9414

We’re on LIVE 6:30 Wednesday night on 104.9 FM LP Modesto our Flag Ship station

Live and archive link for this program http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/03/21/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake


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