By Emerson Drake
In the past, especially in a one newspaper town, the Opinions Page Editor had the bully pulpit and was king. You might
dispute their particular version of events at home, work, or when friends get together but you couldn’t mount a vocal opposition to those special interest groups the Editors supported, those who would run roughshod over average people to get their sometimes exploitative and usually lucrative way. And in Modesto, that’s the way it’s been.
Enter the new media. Not facebook or myspace but blogtalk radio and News/Opinion Blogs like this one. We also have a local public radio station 104.9 FM K-GIG that allows local people to air their concerns. Concerns the Bee ignores when it isn’t convenient to them and their advertisers, advisers, and lobbyists. In recent years we have seen the Bee adopt a policy that allows people to comment on articles challenging the views and articles of their reporters and Op Ed staff. From talking with many of the reporters and ALL of the Op Ed people the general consensus is most dislike having their version of events challenged.
For an educational experience, go to a city, county, school board, or one of their committee meetings and see if you recognize it when you read about it the next day in the Bee. You can take this challenge from home by watching the meetings on cable or on streaming video but you really need to be there to experience the totality of the complexities occurring at these meetings. As an example, after a recent SalidaMAC meeting Ms. Sly wrote about the evening. After reading her piece I found it difficult to believe she had been present. But she was. That’s the scary part. Her story was barely recognizable. Or maybe I should say her perceptions were more like a glass half empty than half full. Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure she even knew a glass of anything existed. But that’s been the problem all along.
The behind the scenes power structure in Modesto has been basically the same for years. Yes, some of the faces have changed but the policies have remained the same. And the Bee has continually supported them with their “go along to get along” mantra. The only real exception to that is when the public, faced with the unpleasant realities of the Village I debacle, over-threw the developer/real estate bosses who had dominated Modesto’s political landscape for years. There was a four or five year window, a kind of renascence if you will, when voters and not political machines were in control. But then partially thanks to the Bee’s bitter vendetta with Mayor Sabatino, and the dark ages sometimes called Ridenour years, a developer controlled council re-emerged.
We witnessed a rise in power of the lobbyists at the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance. They once again, thanks to the Bee’s influence and MID donations of ratepayer’s money, started their campaign of greed.
For twenty years the Bee has promoted the local real estate and home builders contention that planting driveways remains supreme, and look where it got us. The housing bubble burst and we have a plethora of empty homes seeking owners. We’ve been turned into a city of renters by the slavish devotion of the Bee to the Chamber’s and the Building Industry Association’s mantra of homes. Now the cry ringing in our ears is jobs, jobs, jobs. Yes we do need jobs but isn’t this deja vu? We heard this from the Alliance and the Chamber six years ago about Westpark and how it would be our salvation. Well how’s that working out for you?
Also during this time the Modesto Irrigation District was mismanaged into a near fiscal bankruptcy. But being a monopoly it’s much easier to survive. You just raise the rates on electricity. The millions and millions of dollars lost on the failed geothermal project, the Mountainhouse debacle, the four cities boondoggle, the TANC project power-line project failure, and the doomed garbage burning/biomass plant helped to create the high electric rates and lost opportunity at the Lodi generating facility which could be saving us money in much greater quantities every single day.
What did all of these have in common? They were all supported by the Bee. Every, single, one.
So when the often quoted (in Bee Op Eds) lobbyist/political consultant Mike Lynch was exposed for having taken $52,500 from MID without ever sending them an invoice, blow back was expected.
When it was exposed that Ms. Sly had been in possession of MID documents for several months detailing the funneling of money from MID through a third party not only to Mike Lynch but Mark Looker, Janice Keating and Carol Whiteside, but maintained her silence, blow back was expected.
When it was exposed that only Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild on the MID Board along with the guidance and support of General Manager Allen Short were aware of Ms. Whiteside receiving payments from Martino Graphics, blow back was expected.
I will continue to offer Ms. Sly-Herrero the opportunity to discuss these issues in a public forum as I have in the past. I wonder if she would prefer live TV or Radio?
Blow back is expected.