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
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.
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.