Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

April’s SalidaMAC Meeting

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Your video, Salida CA Town Meeting 2013 April smac-4-13-tree-update-wmv–2h15min, is ready to watch. Share it with friends, family, computer-savvy pets, and total strangers.

Salida CA Town Meeting 2013 April    smac-4-13-tree-update-wmv--2h15min Salida CA Town Meeting 2013 April smac-4-13-tree-update-wmv–2h15min
http://vimeo.com/65049928

“Salida CA Town Meeting Stanislaus County Parks Dept reports back to us regarding replanting the ‘bad trees’ that will be cut down due to breaking up the sidewalk and getting into the pools of backyards with root systems its still clear that the county has no plan to select the tree that will be best for the community and is stuck in a corporate frame of mind to use the cheap trees and the low bid contractors meeting runs 2 hours 15 minutes produced by Brad Johnson at the local public radio station 104.9 FM http://www.kgig.org”;

Did you know you can add Looks and Music to your video using the incredible powers of the Enhancer? Check out some of these amazing Looks!

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Modesto Bee Heavily Biased in Water Discussion Says Vance Kennedy

By Vance Kennedy

The Chamber of Commerce and developers want to make the San Joaquin Valley another Santa Clara Valley.  It will be

California's San Joaquin Valley and Central Va...

California’s San Joaquin Valley and Central Valley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a food disaster for the nation.

MID Talk – The Modesto Bee is heavily biased in discussing the so-called subsidy of farmers by electric rate payers.  There has been extensive coverage of the subject.  There has been essentially no effort made to ask how the farmers are subsidizing the rate payers in return.  I have already mentioned the groundwater recharge that flood irrigating farmers do for the city’s benefit.  That has been largely ignored.  There are many other benefits that need to be emphasized, but have not been.  These include the cleansing of dust particles from the air by vegetation, which is known to occur, but has not been extensively studied in the community.  Another is the fact that agriculture is the main source of outside money for our economy.  The Bee would do well to look for the many pluses that farmers and the irrigation system bring to the Valley and give them equal coverage.

Subsidizing is not necessarily a dirty word.  The federal and state governments do it all the time, when they feel that it is best for the overall community.  The Modesto Bee is apparently pushing to greatly increase farmer’s water rates.  What will that do to the overall community?  I’m told that the dairy farmers are struggling to survive and that many of them across the state are going into bankruptcy.  In Stanislaus County, in the last two years, 61 dairies have gone bankrupt.  In 2 months, 10 dairies,  3 more now ready to go bankrupt.  20 more expected this year.  207 dairies have now gone bankrupt in Stanislaus County.

Water in large quantities is absolutely required to operate a dairy.  Has the Been inquired about the economic impact on the county of water rates were tripled, for example?  Could the job losses far exceed the subsidy that the Bee is so fond of emphasizing?  If it were a responsible organization, it would look into the effect of what they are pushing so hard.

Now, I don’t question that there is a real need to issue more long-term MID bonds while bond interest rates are at an all time low.  When the government prints lots of money, inflation is a usual result, delayed for a varying length of time.  With inflation, prices go up along with interest rates.  Such bonds have a guaranteed source of payoff and that means additional income will be needed.  City residents should realize that only a very small fraction of their water charges is due to the wholesale price of water that the city and the farmers pay.  By far, most of the water charge to city residents is due to treatment and distribution charges.  Even so, I think that the cost to city residents is on the order of 2/10ths of a penny per gallon.  That is guaranteed pure and available in large quantities at the touch of a faucet.  What a deal!  Half of that water is there now because farmers pushed for the Don Pedro dam many years ago.  It raises a familiar old question – “What have you done for me lately?”

Before we price many farmers out of business with water charges, lets have an independent group look at all of the factors that contribute to the community’s welfare.  Some farmers can easily pay considerably more for water.  Others will be wiped out.  What does the community want and what is reasonable for the long-term good of the city residents and businesses, who constitute the over-whelming users of electricity?  It is a very complicated question which must not be ignored.

In Stanislaus County in the last two years 61 dairies have gone bankrupt.     In the last two months 10 dairies went bankrupt, 3  more are on the brink, 20 more are expected this year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We have only 207 dairies left in the county.

MID Ratepayer Wants Safe and Tasty Local Produce and is Willing to Pay for It

By Joan Rutachow

I would to thank Vance Kennedy for his comments this morning.  I would like to comment on an article by Glen Wild that

Agriculture

Agriculture (Photo credit: thegreenpages)

appeared in the Modesto Bee on Sunday, April 21st –

Item #5 – “Those urban residents, the vast majority of our district customers, have their power bills inflated so that the MID irrigators do not have to pay for the cost of service.  It is estimated to amount to at least 3% of their power bill”.

Speaking for myself, a private citizen, I am happy to pay 3% of my MID bill for the irrigators!  Our irrigators raise livestock, grow hay and food crops.  They wake up in the middle of the night to irrigate.  They supply my food and the food for hundreds of thousands of people.  A 3% fee is a good investment!  3% of a $50 MID bill is $1.50; 3% of a $100 MID bill is $3.00, 3% of a $150 MID bill is $4.50.  3% is a small price to pay for all of the services our farmers provide.

Let us not forget that the farmers  subsidize the ratepayers.  Their water recharges the aquifer and agricultural products bring millions of dollars to our district.  Again, 3% of my MID bill is money well spent!

Monday Night 6 PM “On Watch” with Special Guest Supervisor Jim DeMartini

I’m guest hosting Athens Abell’s cable TV show “On Watch”  and Supervisor Jim DeMartini will be my guest.  The show is

Cable tv

Cable tv (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

on KBSV-DT  Comcast channel  15 and can be found on any cable company in the Central Valley.

You can watch it on the internet at: http://www.betnahrain.org/KBSV/kbsv.htm it’s also on 89.5 FM

You’re welcome to send any questions you have to me here as comments to this article until 5 PM tonight.

Mayor Marsh to Host Town Hall Meeting at Gregori High

Saturday May 4 at 1:00 PM – Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting 

Money

Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)


Gregori High School, 3701 Pirrone Road

 

Last Night’s Local Agency Formation Commission Meeting (LAFCO)

By Emerson Drake

Last night’s LAFCO was sparsely attended, short and bitter sweet.  All of the  Commission Members were in attendance.

English: This map shows the incorporated and u...

English: This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Stanislaus County, California, highlighting Modesto in red. It was created with a custom script with US Census Bureau data and modified with Inkscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They started out by discussing the letter from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce where the Chamber “mistakenly” used the official Modesto logo.  The letter had blasted LAFCO for conducting interviews out of the public’s eye. The letter’s last paragraph complained about the direction LAFCO has been going in favor (Ag Mitigation) hence my  concern about the possible confusion of using Modesto’s official logo.  It’s the way LAFCO has been doing business for a long time and it’s similar to the way the City and County interview potential Committee members.  The Board as a whole Chairman O’Brien and Supervisor Jim DeMartini took exception to the Chambers expressed opinions.

Chairman Bill O’Brien and Vice Chair Amy Bublak met and interviewed the four finalists before the meeting started (okay technically they interviewed Brad Hawn by phone) and they were Ron Freitas, John Mier, Annabel Gammon, and Brad Hawn.  Commissioner Mayor Charlie Goeken made the nominations for both Public member and Alternate public member.  Successful candidates were required to receive a vote from both a city and a county member.

After each nomination a vote was taken.  Brad Hawn, former Modesto City Councilman and a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors was chosen for public member and Annabel Gammon was chose as the alternate. Ms. Gammon’s vote was unanimous and  Commissioner DeMartini voted against Brad Hawn.

It was somewhat interesting to see Steve Madison builder, former BIA Director, and Chamber of Commerce member not only attending but speaking in support of the Chamber.  Sitting directly  behind me was  land use attorney and who is also sometimes portrayed as political kingmaker and Chamber campaign fund facilitator  George Petrulakis.  While George  and Steve were sitting separately,  they  left huddled in conversation together very soon after Brad Hawn who is also on the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors nomination.

Did the letter have the desired effect and help Hawn get the position?  I couldn’t say.  But I do know the past practice with LAFCO is to take the alternate public member who has been observing and participating as necessary and bringing them onto the Board as the Public member. Ron Freitas would have been my first choice for the position of Public member but the public doesn’t get to vote and since he had already served a term as Alternate he wasn’t eligible for the position. The public and the candidates were given the opportunity to speak in behalf of themselves or any of the candidates but since Commissioner Goeken wasn’t part of the interviewing process and was the one making the nominations I don’t believe any input at that point would make a difference.

So does Brad Hawn being chosen place Ag Mitigation in jeopardy? I spoke to several of the Commission members after the meeting and they assured me changing their Ag mitigation policy was a long and arduous process and that particular conversation wasn’t even on the distant horizon.

Now the flip side.

We all know the Modesto Chamber of Commerce has been actively planning and has started using Modesto’s General Plan Amendment process to campaign to completely destroy not only Ag land preservation but also Ag Mitigation utilizing the current election cycle as a tool and that Steve Madison and George Petrulakis were there for a reason last night.

.Lobbyists, real estate agents, and home builders fill their action committees and with no direct concerted opposition mounted by the citizens of Modesto I’m afraid there are dark times ahead.

I’m looking forward to next Monday’s “On Watch With Athens Abell”  on local cable television KBSV 6:00 PM Comcast 15 also on streaming video.  I’ll be the guest hosting  and  talking with  Stanislaus County Board member and LAFCO Commissioner Jim DeMartini.

Now that’s one conversation  you won’t want to miss.

Lower Campaign Donation Limits

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)

Modesto’s Campaign donation ordinance, known as the TIN CUP or Time Is Now to Clean Up Politics, is coming in front of  the Modesto City Council and citizens need to speak out. We have a chance to level the playing field between residents and special interest groups with deep pockets.  The ordinance was originally adopted in 1986 and amended in 2005 at the request of Rob Ellett of the Chamber of Commerce, who wanted to do away with the ordinance altogether. The code prohibits council members from exerting any influence (voting) on a City decision in which he/she has reason to know they have a financial interest.  The ordinance stated in 1986 that a council member has a prescribed financial interest if the decision will have a material effect on a major campaign contributor or someone who donated more than $1,000.

The original donation limits were $1,000 and and didn’t allow donations during the last week of the election. The changes adopted in 2005 were a $3,000 limit and did away with the “no donations clause” during the last week of the elections.

The currently proposed change limits a council race to $1,000 and a Mayoral race to $2,000.  An examination of donation records called 460’s show, for example, Councilman Cogdill raised over $37,000 while not taking in ANY donations of more than $1,000.   Councilman Muratore  took only two donations of over $1,000 while raising $23,000 while Councilman Geer raised $11,000 while taking in only three donations of over $1,000 and Councilwoman Burnside accepted only four while raising $23,000.  So a substantial amount of money can be raised while keeping a $1,000 limit.

An additional change that needs to be made but hasn’t yet been broached, is a notification limit  (to the Modesto City Clerk to be published immediately) of 48 hours for $1,000 independent expenditures for those Political Action Committees called (PACs).  The limit should come in to play AFTER the mail-in ballots have been sent out to voters.   An example of this occurred just last year:  Councilman Lopez had maxed out the amount the Modesto Fire Fighters Union could donate ($2,962)  to his campaign early and his campaign went back to the well for an independent expenditure from them of over $2,000 in June.  In addition to that a $6,000 expenditure for two mailers during the last two weeks of the election after the ballots had been mailed.

These suggested changes do NOT limit the amounts anyone can donate to candidates.  They only either stop an elected official from voting in support of a donor if limits are exceeded, or as in the case of  “late expenditures” help notify the public when someone from outside the campaign is trying to influence the voters.  Hopefully then the Modesto Bee and other media will hopefully enlighten the public as to what is going on.

We need to” level the playing field” when it comes to our elections.  A $3,000 limit allows too much influence to be applied by deep pocketed special interest groups of any kind.  Please make your opinion known by emailing or calling your council representatives.

Emerson Drake

What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 7:30 PM Special Starting Time

Salida residents please call the show tonight to tell us about the SalidaMAC meeting.

Radio RED 104.9 FM

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

Topics include last night’s SalidaMAC meeting, how special interests are buying our city councilmen and women and how it effects YOU, how lower campaign donation limits protect our voice in the political process, Tonight’s LAFCO meeting and who was chosen to represent us, MID and the ongoing water issues,  Women at Dartmouth College who we protesting the “rape culture” are receiving rape and death threats so some classes are being canceled, these and more so tune in at 7:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

 

 

This link is good live or from our archives http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/04/25/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

The call in number is (347)215-9414

The Bottom LIne…

I was hoping someone else would notice but …Judy Sly never says what I said was wrong about Tom Van Groningen and his

News of the day.

News of the day. (Photo credit: RussellReno)

negative effect on MID.  What she said was she didn’t like the fact it was  me who  said it. That makes it a petty hit piece  by anyone’s definition.

I believe we are now witnessing the anticlimax of her journalistic career.

If I made the powers that be, and our local lobbyists and their organizations  this upset,  I must be doing something right.

See everyone at the MID meeting.

Government Meetings of Interest 4/22-4/28

Modesto:

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)

Monday 4/22

City Council Agenda meeting 4:30 PM Room 2005

Finance Committee meeting 5:00 PM Room 2005

Tuesday 4/23

Modesto Irrigation District 9:00 Water Committee report

Board of Supervisors meeting  9:00 AM Board Chambers

Modesto City Council meeting 5:30 Council Chambers

Wednesday 4/24

Stanislaus LAFCO 6:00 PM Basement of 1010 10th

LAFCO will be selecting its members from the public. This an IMPORTANT MEETING lobbyists and developers will be attempting to sway the LAFCO members.

A major topic of the City Council meeting:

Denny Jackman’s Residential Urban Limits (RUL) Proposal is on the agenda

The Residential Urban Limit (RUL) for the City of Modesto is bound
on the north by Pelandale and Claratina Expressways east to Oakdale
Road; on the west by an extension of Morse Road; on the south by
Whitmore Avenue west of freeway 99, the Tuolumne River east of
freeway 99, and on the east as Church Street ending at Dry Creek.
This policy does not apply east of Oakdale Road north of Dry Creek.

As a side note:

The developer’s lobbyists will be out in full force trying to defeat Denny’s RUL proposal so those interested in preserving prime farmland might want to come and speak out.  It’s always interesting to put names and  faces together on those who believe short term profits for themselves is more important than ensuring good healthy locally grown produce for our families.

While RUL doesn’t effect  Salida’s annexation concerns, these same developers covet the proposed land grab from Salida that’s being called Kiernan Business Park West.

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