Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

There Comes a Time When Silence is a Form of Betrayal

EOM Contributor

The above quote is attributed to Martin Luther King during his efforts to promote civil rights for blacks.  The quote is

English: Cover of Birth Control Review July 19...

English: Cover of Birth Control Review July 1919 Captions: “How shall we change the law?”, “Must She Always Plead in Vain? “You are a nurse – can you tell me? For the children’s sake – help me!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

again appropriate at this point in time, for the attacks on women’s reproductive rights.

Several states are passing or attempting to pass legislation that severely restricts a woman’s right to choose and even limit access to birth control.  Congressmen and Senators continue to make outrageous and medically, scientifically false statements about women, pregnancy, rape and abortion.  Many bills would force a woman to give birth even if she will die and/or the fetus has a fatal flaw.

Nebraska state Senator Bill Kintner says he doesn’t understand women (and that women don’t even understand themselves) but he has no problem with passing legislation that gives government the right to control women.

North Dakota has passed a law requiring physicians to lie to their pregnant patients who are considering ending a pregnancy by telling them they will be come sterile, they will suffer from life long depression and will be very likely to commit suicide.  No study done in the decades since Roe vs. Wade has shown any of that to be true.

The men running for governor and lieutenant governor of Virginia have both compared abortion to slavery.

Virginia Republican party treasurer Bob Fitzsimmons has said “I’m not a big fan of contraception”.

Rick Santorum said during the primary debates last year that “birth control is not okay”.

Ron Paul said that “married people who use birth control are immoral.”

Republican Bobby Franklin proposed (fortunately it was not passed) a bill that would require any woman suffering a miscarriage without a doctor present to report said event to the police within 24 hours or risk facing a year in jail and a $2500 fine.  His original proposal recommended the death penalty for any woman having an abortion and the physician who performed it.

Bills are being proposed to require women to purchase a supplemental insurance policy that would cover abortions, even though at this time, most insurances already cover abortions.  A lawmaker has compared getting pregnant by rape to a “car accident”,  which is covered by specific insurance.

Representative Louie Gohmart (R-Texas) said that women carrying a fetus without a brain should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a baby that will die within minutes.

GOP Representative Trent Franks said that “denying abortion rights is just like ending slavery and the Holocaust.”

Bills have been proposed to consider a single egg a person and a single sperm a person, with all the rights that you and I have.

Bills have been proposed to deny the right to choose to a victim of rape, incest and even to a mother will die if the pregnancy continues.

Several bills have been proposed to prevent insurances from covering birth control.  Amazingly, these bills only propose to stop coverage for female forms of birth control, not vasectomies.

In the midst of all these efforts to stop abortion and limit access to birth control, the GOP is attempting to de-fund social services for low-income families.  Low income families will be even lower-income if they are forced to give birth when an unwanted pregnancy could have easily been prevented.

I have seen many stories on the news and in various newspapers about women protesting these efforts to deny our constitutional right to choose and to make our own decisions about our health care.  What I find sad is that I seldom see men in these pictures.  For any man reading this, I ask you…where do you stand?  Will you stand for the rights of all the women in your life?  Your wife, your sisters, your aunts, your cousins, your nieces and most importantly..your daughters?  Why are you so silent?  So I say again….



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

Radio RED 104.9 FM

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


Topics include the latest Salida MAC meeting and an exciting idea for Salida’s replacement trees, The Modesto Chamber’s presentation of their massive land grab call Pathways to Growth and what the opposition has to say, the arguments made at city council for lowering the Campaign Donation Limits, 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


For our live show and archive link




Salida MAC Meets Tuesday Night at 7:00 PM at the Salida Library

English: A wide spot in the Tuolumne River as ...

Salida MAC meeting is Tuesday, May 28 @ 7 pm at Salida Library Community Room. Topic: Pirrone & Finney Sidewalks and

Trees Issue

Things You Need to Know and Won’t Read Anywhere Else

By Emerson Drake

MID Has a New Back Door Man


Lyons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Modesto Irrigation District was discussing creating their Water Advisory Committee there were only a few major requirements. Being knowledgeable regarding water issues, understanding a successful business model, and most importantly, and without exception, not running for the MID Board in the fall. Most of the people nominated and approved fall into that category. But it seems we have one MAJOR exception. The Water Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Mortensen has been seeking financial supporters in an apparent run for office for District 4.  And he has apparently found one in Bill Lyons. Lyons, who supported Glen Wild, Tom Van Groningen, and Paul Warda to name the ones still on the Board  through his Beckwith-Dakota LLC,  has pledged his support. Bill Lyons has been milking MID for every penny he can, and has found a new shill to put into office. Unfortunately the people Lyons’ supported in the past are responsible for many of the terrible decisions made by MID.  And since  Jim Mortensen won’t or refuses (you choose) to honor his pledge NOT to run for the MID Board then how can anyone in good conscience vote for him?  The public should DEMAND his removal at the next MID Board meeting.  The meeting  scheduled for May 28 has been cancelled. Maybe now we know why.

Along those same lines we keep hearing Carol Whiteside (of Martino Graphic Designs funneled money fame) is considering a run for the MID Board. Ms. Whiteside who collected a minimum of $15,000 (not invoiced by her company, California Strategies) from MID through Martino Graphics ,has been contacting Board members to arrange meetings.  The last time she pulled this stunt she was being directed by Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild (they were the only Board members aware of the surreptitious arrangement with Martino Graphics.  Neither the rest  of the MID Board nor the public are clear on what she did to earn the money (except to study MID records according to Tom VanGroningen). Apparently for the friends of a chosen few, MID is the gift that keeps on giving. With her record of receiving funds under the table from MID, I don’t understand how she could consider running but then maybe she’s talking with Billy Lyons too.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s new Bible vs Their Plan,  Pathways to Growth

The book is “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton (Chairman of Google) and is quite interesting.  I’ve heard several members of the Chamber tout this book as a must read for planning Modesto’s future.  The funny thing about people pushing books allegedly supporting their actions is that most people never get around to reading them.  Come on, it’s no indictment against anyone but most people aren’t readers.  It’s just a fact of life and the Chamber knows it.  So all they feel they have to do is wave a book by Google’s Chairman and people will accept anything they say as Gospel. Unfortunately for the Chamber some of us are readers.  I finished it last week.  Would it surprise you to learn that most of the Chamber’s proposals run contrary to what the book espouses?  It shouldn’t because that’s how the Modesto Chamber of Commerce rolls.  These are the same people when they ran short of money to finish paying for refurbishing Modesto’s Arch were saying they were asking the city for a loan but had  City Manager Gregg Nyhoff place on the agenda a request for a one time gift.  Now that’s hardly the same thing.  I pointed this out during the City Council agenda meeting and when it came to the Council meeting, Councilman Cogdill expressed concern at using public money and the Chamber’s head lobbyist, Cecil Russell, ask for it to be pulled from the agenda.  It’s in the record so feel free to check it out. The print media never mentioned that to you did they?

I’ll be placing an annotated list of quotes taken word for word from the book so YOU can compare the two divergent philosophy’s (the Chamber’s and the book’s author).

The Planning Commission Decision and a Citizens Comments Regarding RUL

By Emerson Drake

English: Stanislaus River (in California) at C...

English: Stanislaus River (in California) at Caswell Memorial State Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my opinion the worst of the possible three choices was made by the Planning Commission. The decided they wanted staff to study the problem and come back with more information regarding Residential Urban Limits.  But even more telling were the statements from the majority of the Commission stating the didn’t believe something this important should be decided by the voters.  The phrase “unintended consequences” was heard over and over. From what I heard the Planning Commission wants to roll parts of RUL into the General Plan and keep it away from the voters.  I agree with the following letter since RUL only preserves prime  farmland from residential developers and suggests no mitigation for business parks. Remember the Chamber is looking for mixed use designation with would allow homes to be built in business parks away from cities. I believe with the Planning Commission’s  decision  it would be almost impossible for Denny Jackman’s RUL to be sent to the voters this fall.

Now letter read to the Planning Commission.

Commission Members: Sandra Lucas, Ted Brandvold, Patricia Gillum, Chris Tyler, Steve Carter, Dennis Smith, Marshall Riddle
1010 10th Street
Modesto, CA 95356
RE: Against Denny Jackman Urban Boundary Proposal: duplicate legislation.
Dear Planning Commission,

I am a Modesto resident who lives in the area north of Pelandale – to the Stanislaus River. This is prime farmland area: from Salida to Del Rio. I drive the roads of Kiernan, Tully, Dale, Stoddard, Ladd, Carver, and St. John. Every day I am reminded of the importance of acres and acres of prime farmland that is cultivated for personal consumption and our region’s responsibility to do so.

After reviewing the Ballot verbage for Mr. Jackman’s urban boundary proposal (which Mr. Jackman handed me a copy at the previous City Council meeting), I do not believe this proposal should be considered or allowed to become a ballot measure for public vote.


This proposal which would require voters to decide on whether the destruction of agricultural or open space land for RESIDENTIAL development, appears to be a duplicate core issue of legislation of Measure E which was passed by voters in November 2007.

In further review, I believe the Jackman proposal is inadequate in that voter approval for the destruction of agricultural lands should also include the development of commercial purposes! The serious matter of destruction of agricultural land (our #1 industry), our region’s responsibility to produce the state and nation’s food supply, is no less, if it is allowed to be destroyed for commercial development. This is a major omission.

Other unacceptable elements of this proposal cannot (exempt) or take away, the state environmental mandate of an acceptable CEQA study which might uncover any unknown and harmful consequences of a development to surrounding residents, nor should this proposal take away the right of a resident to voice their opposition to any negative social effects of low income housing to be built near their established middle and upper class subdivisions, or which could destroy their real estate values.

Once our valley’s prime agricultural land is destroyed – little by little for “this project”, or for “that project” – (whether for residential or commercial) our farmland will undergo a slow pattern of destruction. We as local residents, the owners of the land, and localgovernment agencies need to remember that we all have been entrusted to protect and be “good stewards” of this finite valuable agricultural land resource. This region is responsible for protecting and providing the food for California and our nation. With an ever increasing national population, and a finite amount of valley farmland – destruction of farmland for any reason will amount to high food prices from not enough supply (land) to meet the needs of a higher amount of the population (demand).

Most people believe food prices are already too high and many are struggling to buy the food they need. This negative impact of destroying farmland, little by little, is an important “forward thinking” approach and probably the most important reason not to destroy it at all.
Everyone is embracing “farmland preservation” but are your actions really preservation?
There cannot be “double-speak” with new law (SB 375, General Plan, Land Use, Zoning)
or policies being made, or land use decisions.

Silicon Valley is entrusted to provide our high tech knowledge. San Francisco is looked upon to be our cultural and arts provider. The Delta, nearby various lake and river regions, and others, are the sources of our much needed and precious water. Modesto and various central valley regions are the precious growers of our food. These very different regions are best “in doing what they do best.”
We cannot be, nor should we try to change WHO WE ARE: the rural rich farmland area of the state.

Thank you.
D. Minighini
Modesto unincorporated resident

Denny Jackman to Present Residential Urban Limit to Planning Commission

Tonight at 6:00 PM in the basement of 1010 10th St. Denny will be trying to get the Planning Commission to approve his RUL Measure for the Economic Development Committee in hopes of bringing it to the City Council in time to place it on the ballot in November.


The Chamber of Commerce has its own Pathway to Growth plan for Modesto.


The overreach on the Chambers plan is best appreciated when you place the two maps close together. Denny’s plan saves prime farmland and the Chamber’s uses it for planting driveways.

The thing to remember is every acre of prime farmland under production brings in $25,000 to Stanislaus County’s economy.  Homes cost us $3-5,000 per acre above and beyond the taxes they bring in.



A Letter to the StanCoG Policy Board


StanCOG Policy Board

Official seal of County of Stanislaus

Official seal of County of Stanislaus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1111 “I” Street, Suite 308

Modesto, CA


RE:  Public Comments on RHNA Low Income Housing Mandate, its process, formulas, and Sustainable City Plan under SB 375



Dear Policy Board Members,


It is very clear that StanCOG is the responsible agency for the ultimate design of this region’s “sustainable cities” as mandated by SB 375 – a vision that is NOT embraced by all California residents, usurps local government control over land use, violates residents’ private property rights under the CA Constitution, and is adding to our national debt.


Reducing greenhouse gases is a noble effort – but not an effort that should force what type of housing California residents chose to live in or how they believe is the best mode of transportation for them.  Not everyone will ride a bus, carpool, take BART or CalTrain to work or for personal pleasure.  Not everyone wants to live in “stack and pack” or “compact” housing.  If given choice, most people and families prefer to live in single family residences with space and privacy.  Not everyone is 20-30 years old with using up every minute of their personal time with socialization and going out.


SB 375 and HCD’ related housing element in which to force residents into close living quarters of “compact” housing as the “housing of the future” –  violates the very freedom of  “Choice” that are at the foundations and personal liberties of Californians and others in the United States, under constitutional protection.


The amount of 25,608 low income high density “compact” housing units being mandated by HCD and forced upon our County will cause several social and economic problems for Modesto and Stanislaus County.  To date, StanCOG is in violation of not properly informing the public that the “Valley Vision Plan” for our sustainable cities is based upon building this large amount of low income housing!  I have attended two organizational seminars put on by Valley Vision to the Farm Bureau and the City Council, and there was NO mention that this compact housing was filling the RHNA low income housing mandate.  StanCOG is guilty of misrepresentation of such housing to the public.  Therefore, all of the public presentations have mislead the public since there was never adequate explanation of the RHNA mandate as part of the sustainable city plan.

Accepting such high number of low income housing will only bring social problems to the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County as other counties will “transfer” their Section 8 recipients to Modesto – a more affordable area for subsidized funding and the transferor county will enjoy higher real estate taxed property (after they get rid of their excess low income residents.)  Being an “affordable” area attracts undesirable persons to our communities (bringing in more crime, social dependency which strains our hospitals, schools, housing, water, and utilities).  A city with a high degree of low income housing opportunities is not a city in which successful businesses want to relocate – no matter how much new commercial building is available.  Developers will always paint the rosiest and attractive picture of their grandeous projects.


Modesto and Stanislaus County struggles with a 22% increase in violent crime, a police force extremely inadequate to its population, hot temperatures which will require more water and electricity, a documented gang population of 5,000 members (the Bee had a full 3 page article on this matter), a higher proportion of convicted felons being transferred or released into our county – with an additional 1,000 expected by year’s end, and an unemployment rate of 20%.  Now tell me why do you think any mid size employer would want to bring their company and their best intellectual capital here?  Would these 30 year old’s ever want to leave the Bay Area?  The answer is clearly “NO.”


This self-appointed governing council does not have to take our cities and county down a road of subsidization – just to bring “dollars” into its coffers.  This is the easy way and not real city planning and strategy for everyone.

Many city councils and government departments are questioning HCD’s low income housing formulas because they do not want an oversupply of low income housing in their cities which will hurt economic opportunities, resident’s real estate values, and the social fabrics of their societies.  Several Bay Area cities are getting together to challenge HCD.

I encourage you to join this effort.  Be pro-active and talk with other councils.


Low income housing – now matter how modernized it appears to be, is nothing more than low income housing.  Housing does NOT bring economic growth to a city – it just brings more housing.  What is needed is REAL economic opportunities – and the right way to build  “sustainable cities” that offer “choice” for everyone – not just one income segment of society.   The foundation for economic prosperity is not a federal low income handout. It’s called “JOB CREATION”  – and I don’t mean temporary (construction) jobs.




Donna M. Minighini

Modesto resident


Encl:  2/22/13 Palo Alto online article about city council and others, rejecting HCDs numbers:



A  Public Records Request

April 4, 2013 via US mail/with return
Housing Community Development
Attn: Ms. Angela Freitas, Housing Director
1010 10th Street
Modesto, CA
Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus
1701 Robertson Road,
Modesto, CA 95352
RE: Requesting disclosure of all addresses of privately owned or county owned
existing and future “affordable” or “low income housing”, “section 8” housing, and
“special needs” housing, and those involving “Neighborhood Stabilization Program”
(NSP or NSP2), or other grant funds, in Stanislaus County.
Dear Ms. Freitas, (HCD), and Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus,
Under the “California Public Records Act”, Section 6250, et al, the federal “Freedom of Information Act”, and government transparency compliance, I would like to have access to records, as well as obtaining your assistance in receiving the following information:
a. To date, provide information as to what is the total number of housing units (townhomes, condominiums, apartments, or single family homes, (or other residential buildings) located in Stanislaus County, currently being “rented to” and/or servicing low income, affordable housing, and housing for “special needs” persons (homeless, severe mentally ill, chronic abuse, veterans, persons with HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, unaccompanied youth, emancipated foster and transition age youth, elderly, developmentally disabled, alcohol/drug additions)?
b. Provide information as to the street addresses of these existing units?
(These property units would be either owned by private owners or any city or
county agency.)
c. Provide information as to how much in NSP or NSP2 funds has been spent to date
on all existing, newly built and “rehabbed” affordable, low income, or special
needs housing?
TO: Housing Community Development/Angela Freitas, and Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus/April 4, 2013/ Page 2 of 2
Provide information as to project name, number of units, and street address.
Provide information as to who were payments made to, and how much was paid
out for each project?
2. FUTURE PROJECTS OR UNITS (for low income, affordable housing, or special needs persons):
a. Provide information as to how many “units” will be built?
b. Provide information as to what type of construction will units or project be? (SFRs, townhomes, mixed use, apartments, or other building type.)
c. Provide information as to what is project/s name/s?
d. Provide information as to what is street location of project/s?
e. Provide information as to when is construction going to begin?
f. Provide information as to who is the developer/s and/or Non-profit agency involved in project/s?
g. If NSP or NSP2 funds, or other funding sources are involved, provide source
of funding for each project.
h. Provide information as to how much in NSP, NSP2, or other grant funds, will be allocated and spent on such future unit/s or project, and paid to whom?
Thank you for contacting me at 209-522-5390 or by email at pttrs457@aol.com to obtain the information in this request.
Donna Minighini
Modesto resident


“What’s on America’s Mind” with Emerson Drake

In a special one hour show we’re going to discuss the unprecedented land grab the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

planning.  Some call it a license to steal others say it’s a gift to special interest groups. Do we need more money in politics? 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


MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s $110,000 Financial Conflict of Interest

By Emerson Drake

Modesto Irrigation District has been generous in giving away ratepayers money for many years.   Director Tom Van Groningen has voted to


Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

give  the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance $110,000 dollars.  Starting suddenly  in 2008, they donated $20,000 a year for five consecutive years, and only cut back this year  (2013)  after the community and Director’s Larry Byrd, Nick Blom and Paul Warda fought back. We spoke to the Board several times prior to the last donation, pointing out the Alliance is a 501 C (6) which means they’re allowed to lobby and give their investors an IRS business deduction.  We also pointed out that the Alliance’s CEO Bill Bassett had blatantly lied to the Board to receive a larger donation.  I always wondered why Director Tom Van Groningen fought so hard to give away  MID’s money, well actually the ratepayer’s  money, that’s right, your money and mine,  to a private company who specializes in lobbying efforts.  Maybe  now we have the answer.

Here is the Public Records Request response which has the donations listed   Slegal13051013420 (1)

It appears Director Tom Van Groningen is not only on the Alliance’s Board of Directors, http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-brd.php his company, TVG Consulting which he’s the sole owner of, according to his linkedin page, is a member of and an investor in the Alliance.  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tom-van-groningen/11/929/809  are investors  http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-invest.php

The problem as I see it is Alliance CEO  Bill Bassett has always said “the investors EXPECT a return on their investments” and the more investments the larger the return.  So if  Director Van Groningen donates MID’s Money he’s likely to see a larger return for HIMSELF and his company along with playing the big man to his buddies on the Alliance. Who knows, maybe that’s how he made the Board in the first place.

A conflict of interest…. It’s well know by now that Judy Sly protects, defends, and supports  MID Director Tom Van Groningen and MID’s secret lobbyist Mike Lynch, but why is she keeping this conflict of interest from the public?  Why did MID’s attorney Tim O’Laughlin allow the conflict to continue since 2008? Didn’t Tom file this investment (financial disclosure) in the Alliance with the state?

Are you as tired as we are of the Bee’s  Editorial Staff  hiding the facts from the public in order to protect their friends?  Could one of the reasons be because the Modesto Bee has donated $100,000 to the Alliance too?  Are you starting to understand why Judy Sly has kept her personal connection with MID’s secret lobbyists Mike Lynch, Mark Looker, Janice Keating, and Carol Whiteside  on the down low? Remember these four lobbyists received $125,500 from MID ratepayer funds while only invoicing them for $1,500 in 2012 all thanks to Director Tom Van Groningen.

The Chamber’s Pathways to Growth at the Monthly LCR Meeting

By Emerson Drake

I’ll expand on this discussion over the weekend but note the HUGE land grab around the Beckwith Dakota Triangle and the area next to Salida.  This acreage is without a doubt some of the best farmland in the world.  The area east of Modesto is PPP rated (piss poor pasture, this is actually the terminology used by farmers) so no problems there. Especially take note of the original size of the Beckwith Dakota triangle compared to their desired footprint.  A special thanks to Katherine Borges for the picture.

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