Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Lessons Learned at LCR’s MID Candidate Forum

By Emerson Drake

The Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) conducted a flawless MID candidate  forum for the public Monday night. They

Lyons

adhered to their rules which include: only those with paid memberships can vote, those with both personal and business memberships can vote twice, and it’s allowable to come prior to the forum and place your votes and leave before the forum starts.  About 50 people were present if you include the eight candidates.  I was present as the votes were counted and the process went off without a hitch as has been my experience with LCR. The eight candidates all responded to the questions put to them to the best of their ability.  Quite honestly there was a wide discrepancy in their ability and afterward I wondered if those voting were at the same forum I was, but that is just my personal opinion.  All in all It was a fair democratic process.

And now the vote totals:

MID District 2           John Mensinger 23              Carmen Sabatino 3

MID District 3        Paul Campbell 18        Les Johnson 7

MID District 4        Jim Mortensen 15          Jake Wenger 9          Ted Donham 1       Brad Johnson 0

What I learned at the Forum

As an observer and participant of the political process I’ve been aware of a slate of candidates being run by Bill Lyons.  In recent MID elections Mr. Lyons has supported the majority of candidates to the tune of $5,000 each.  Unfortunately he supported the candidates who, in turn, supported former General Manager Allen Short.  Short consistently made some of the worst decisions possible costing MID ratepayers millions of dollars.  He was also behind the creation of the slush fund where the MID Board funneled $249,000  through Martino Graphics to a variety of lobbyists.  The man receiving the most money was a political consultant named Mike Lynch.  Would it surprise anyone  to learn Mr. Lynch is the major consultant behind Lyons candidate slate?  With Mike Lynch having the MID money pie all over his face it’s understandable for Bill Lyons to bring in someone unconnected with the Martino Graphics fiasco to be the slate’s (Mortensen, Mensinger, and Campbell) public consultant.

The high profile political consultant is Chip Langman of Langman Consulting.  In a conversation with Mr. Langman he stated he was representing and being paid by candidates Mensinger and Campbell and denied being part of the Mortensen campaign. I suppose when campaign consultants are talking with those who might write about the conversation it’s understandable that being forthcoming (honest) might not be first on their agenda and unfortunately this was the case with Mr. Langman.  Jim Mortensen had previously let it slip, that while he didn’t have a contract with Langman Consulting directly, his major benefactor, Bill Lyons did and it was on his behalf along with that of the other two candidates.

Both John Mensinger and Paul Campbell seem to be nice men in their own right.  This is part of the Bill Lyons technique (modus operandi seemed a little too fancy, but applicable). Lyons likes to bring in respectable businessmen that have little or no experience to run for MID like Glen Wild.  Their main value?  To vote as they are told.  They have little to no experience with MID’s water and electrical issues seeing that Mensinger just started coming to meetings recently and Campbell might not have even located the  the MID Board room more than once.  In the past both men have made public statements regarding the need to sell our water to San Francisco.

Jim Mortensen is a horse of a different color. He came to the podium during the water sale talks and was adamant about wanting MID to sell water on a long term basis to San Francisco.  And he stuck to his opinion when all of the details of the reprehensible contract came to light.  To make a mistake and be wrong and then change your mind is one thing, but to continue on the road to ruin is another.  He continues to say we need to monetize our water.  Just a week ago Mortensen came out publicly for the Board Governance policy which restricts the elected Directors access to the very information necessary to make informed decisions, thereby forcing them to rely solely on staff opinions without being able evaluate the facts for themselves.  This rule made it easier for Allen Short to bamboozle the Board into terrible costly decisions, decisions we ratepayers are still paying for (if you have any doubt check your electric bills).  Mortensen had pledged he would NOT use the Water Advisory Board as a jumping off point to run for office but he did.   Mortensen’s track record tell us he either lies to his advantage or makes terrible decisions and refuses to correct them.

Please understand Bill Lyons has been behind the proposed MID water sale to San Francisco all along. He doesn’t care if we run out of water since his property is along the river and he knows his 11 deep wells will bring him a fortune if the water runs out and everyone become desperate.  In my opinion he wants to assist in our destruction so he can make a fortune.  He can’t dam the water up so he wants to facilitate the sale of it out from underneath us. Even during droughts San Francisco was going to get their water first and MID, you and I, were going to get the leftovers.

Also know this isn’t Lyons first rodeo.  Four years ago Lyons personally supported Glen Wild’s and Paul Warda’s campaigns to the tune of $5,000 each and had his cronies do the same for Tom VanGroningen. Team Lyons has pledged to raise $60,000 for Mortensen’s campaign. In the past  he supported John Kidd and Cecil Hendsley’s campaigns too.   Lyons likes to play behind the scenes and stack the deck with jokers.  Please know several people who helped to recruit Mensinger, Campbell and Mortensen  were directly involved with MID in the last few years.  These include Janice Keating through the Martino Graphics slush fund and George Petrulakis who was paid $28,000 to facilitate ONE meeting between MID and the City of Modesto.  It isn’t a stretch to suggest this money, Keating’s and Petrulakis’,  were down payments for services ‘to be rendered.’

We have many good candidates to choose from running for the Modesto Irrigation District and no offense to anyone, but none will be endorsed by the Latino Community Roundtable.  Now you know the Bill Lyons and MID back story.  Tell your friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  The only way we can save our drinking water and keep our electric bills down is to make sure the Lyon’s slate of candidates doesn’t get into office.

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Salida MAC Meeting Tuesday 9/24 at 7:00 PM

The Salida Municipal Advisory Council meeting is Tuesday, September 24 at 7 p.m. in the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Salida CA - Salida, CACommunity Room located at 4835 Sisk Road, Salida. Featured speaker will be Andrew Malizia on “Stanislaus County Public Works”. Visit Salida MAC’s online newsletter for more information: http://salidamac.blogspot.com or e-mail salidamac@gmail.com for more info.

Candidate Forums Continue with MID Monday Sept. 23 at 6:00 PM

The Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) Presents…

 

English: Minneapolis City Council Candidates f...

 

Candidate Forums Continue with Modesto Irrigation District (MID)  Monday night Sept. 23 at 6:00 PM  at Castle Real Estate  1418 J. Street, Modesto Ca.

 

The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County Presents…

 

Date and Time:  Sept.30, 6:15 to 7:30 PM. – Modesto City Council candidates for  Districts 2, 4 and 5 in the council chamber in the basement of 1010 10th Street

 

The Latino Community Roundtable Presents…

 

Candidates forums for the Turlock Unified School District and the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) on October 10th 6:00 PM at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Conference Room.

 

The League of Women Voters Presents…

 

Candidates for the Modesto City Schools of Education on  Oct.10, 6 to 7:30 PM at the King Kennedy Center 601 Martin Luther King Drive Modesto, Ca.

 

Candidates for the Modesto Irrigation District Oct. 17th 6 to 7:30 at the Modesto Junior College West at Glacier Hall Room 101

 

The Latino Community Roundtable has yet to announce the dates and times for:

 

Ceres City Council                                                                                                         Ceres Unified School District                                                                                         Riverbank Unified School District

 

 

This article will be updated when the dates and times are announced.

 

 

 

 

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Magic Elixir for Our Economic Woes

Emerson Drake

Jobs,,,Jobs…Jobs is the cry and we’re being told the magic elixir to our problem is shovel ready land.  If you build them they

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wond...

will come is the Chambers mantra referring to Business Parks.  The quality jobs will flow into Modesto if we only had a park….

We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto

It sounds like a chant from L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and it may be just as fanciful.  At the recent Planning Commission meeting we heard the Chamber’s lobbyist Cecil Russell and his faithful realtor side kick Craig Lewis repeat this claim as they have several times before, but this time with a twist.  The lobbyist had promised at prior meetings to supply us with the numbers of the prospective contacts they had received from companies looking to establish a business in Modesto.

They alleged the Stanislaus County Alliance had received over 70 inquires and the reason NONE of these came to to fruition was, you probably guessed it, lack of shovel ready land.  Bill Bassitt the Alliance’s former CEO admitted that during his tenure he had failed to bring in a single major manufacturing company despite Modesto giving the Alliance $65,000 this year alone (Modesto has funded them for years) to do just that.

 The Alliance is, by design and charter, supposed to represent ALL of Stanislaus County in an effort to obtain new business.

Lets take a look at this claim by asking ourselves a few questions:

Is the only reason we have had few companies move to Modesto because of lack of shovel ready land?  A more obvious answer would be since the current recession started in 2007 even if we had massive amounts of unused land available for immediate use here in Modesto it would have remained unused.  We’ve had land available on Pelendale (35 acres in a single plot alone) acreage in the Beard Industrial Park and Kiernan Business Park East but it has gone undeveloped.  In Beard the owners have played a waiting game looking for a particular type of tenant who would need rail access to support their private railroad company.  They’ve actually been thwarting some business possibilities playing a game with the public until the City Council made them a “special” deal by going to LAFCO and not requiring them to sign waivers to be able to access the utilities you and I paid for.

Isn’t the Stanislaus Alliance supposed to represent ALL of the County not just Modesto?

Yes, they are and Turlock, Patterson, Riverbank and Oakdale all have land available so why the flimsy excuses?  They feel the time is right and want to strike while the window of desperation is open. And what political leader is willing to speak out against the jobs, jobs, jobs mantra?   NONE.

The Chamber is running Village I Developer and Profiteer Bill Zoslocki for City Council

When the Chamber can’t come up with new ideas or faces they run retreads like Bill Zoslocki.  He has spoken out for the Chambers Pathway to SPRAWL several times in front of the Planning Commission but now that the elections are getting closer he has become the invisible man.  When we reminded people of Developer Bill Zoslocki’s past of manipulating prior councils and making millions of dollars at the expense of Modesto taxpayers his supporters whined, forgetting that once he pulled papers and then filed for office he opened himself up to public scrutiny. Something the Candidate workshops remind the prospective candidates that their supporters ignore.

Will we stand up to the Chamber’s pressure?

As we’ve written in recent articles the Chamber is playing both ends against the middle which seems to be their way.  In public pretending to lean one way and behind the scenes working in the opposite direction.  Will we, the voting/taxpaying public, see through the smoke screen or will we be like the scarecrow seeing the paved over farmland filled with houses wishing …if I only had a brain.

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wednesday at 8 PM

Tonight’s topics include MID candidates, the Serpa rule, where are our MID payments going,  water mining, the latest from the

 

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM

 

Planning Commission, Wood Colony and Salida,  these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 8:00 PM

 

104.9 FM our flagship station

 

To listen live or from the archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/19/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

 

Is MID at it Again?

By Emerson Drake

During the discussion of the consent calendar we requested some information on several items.  Document #11389 in the

English: I Myke waddy took this photo. Canada....

amount of $37,946.87 and #11408 in the amount of $8,247.96 were detailed for manual checks.  No breakdown was given.  And Document #11404   in the amount of $18,229.63 –  #11430 in the amount of $12,590.11 – #11459 in the amount of $38,436.15, detailed for prepaid procurement cards and again no detail was given.

$115,450.72 in money for which no detail has been provided is a concern.  So we made a public records request for the details regarding these expenditures.  When the topic was broached all that was asked for was an explanation.  The example we received was “for example it would repay employees for bridge tolls.”  Now we don’t know how much of this money was spent on tolls,  but using bridge tolls as an example for over $115,000.00 spent between August 6 thru August 27 seems a little ludicrous.

We also questioned a $1,300 dollar charge labeled ‘monthly’ for progress magazine which is a publication by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.  The same chamber which actively supported selling our water long term to San Francisco and which endorses political candidates including those for the Modesto Irrigation District. This presents an ethical dilemma for MID and the ratepayers. We have repeatedly requested this practice be halted to no avail.  It may be we’ll have to wait for new candidates to be elected to help support Directors Larry Byrd and Nick Blom.

Three MID candidates to avoid: Jim Mortensen, John Mensinger, and Paul Campbell

Jim Mortensen actually jumped up to be speak during the public comment period to support/endorse (he used both terms) last weeks adoption of the “Serpa” rule in the Board Governance policy specifically section BL-4 (b).  Quite honestly I was surprised but maybe I shouldn’t have been.  He was nominated by Tom Van Groningen to the Water Advisory Board.  He promised NOT to run for the MID Board and as soon as possible he pulled papers and signed up to run.  Jim Mortensen has also publicly spoken in favor of selling our water to San Francisco.  John Mensinger and Paul Campbell both failed to speak out against the proposed water sale. For Mortensen to support a policy that not only allows but insists the General Manager and Attorney NOT allow requests for information if it takes up too much staff time or is disruptive, is unconscionable. Please remember former GM Allen Short deemed 15 minutes of staff time as too much.

Trust is something you build

Already our new General Manager Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy has demonstrated a desire to withhold information from the public and also a penchant for presenting misinformation unless his feet are held to the fire by the Board.  After remaining silent last week when asked if the ‘Serpa’ rule was part of the Governance policy we got a taste of things to come IF he’s allowed to go the way of his mentor Allen Short.

We are also following up with TID Board President Michael Frantz regarding Board of Control report concerns.  More on that subject after we’ve talked with Director Frantz.

If you get the chance, ask “the Dodger” why MID is spending over $6,000 a year on having bottled water delivered when MID own’s two water treatment plants. His answer would be funny until you consider the elderly and low income people barely scraping by so his people in Ripon, the Woodland generator(near MJC) and,  believe it or not, the MID legal Department, can drink bottled water.  Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of ours.

I know it gives me a sour taste in my mouth what about you?

VANCE KENNEDY AT MID ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2013

Vance C. Kennedy

Since the last MID Board meeting a lawyer friend of mine was kind enough to call my attention to a report, published in 2011,

English: 1. Aquifer 2. Aquitard 3. Unsaturated...

which is applicable to the question of what can be done about the grossly over-drafting of the water table in the foothills.  I have left a partial copy of the reference with Pat, your secretary.

I quote, “The common law doctrine of correlative rights regulates the taking and use of groundwater, unless local arrangements apply.  That doctrine limits groundwater pumping to the ‘safe yield’, being the volume of natural and artificial recharge of the aquifer, which is shared by overlying landowners on an “equitable basis” (regardless of their particular uses), and by non-overlying landowners, if there is sufficient water available.”

That last “if there is sufficient water available” is the key.  There is not sufficient water available to support the water drawn by the existing and proposed deep wells.  The rainfall in the foot hills averages in the range 12 to 14 inches of water per year, of which perhaps half contributes to groundwater.  Almond trees being planted require at least 30 inches of water per year, so there is a shortage of about 24 inches of water above the safe yield.   The shortage is being made up by mining ancient groundwater (2,000 to 13,000 years old) in direct conflict with the doctrine of safe yield.  It causes major and continuing drops in the regional water table.  The result is a short time benefit to the County of a large increase in almond production and a long term societal disaster for the foothills region.  Politically, it is a “hot potato”, but must not be ignored, as in the past.  Irreplaceable and extensive damage has already occurred and must not continue.

In sedimentary rock deposits it is well known that the lateral permeability of rocks is much greater than the vertical permeability.  Therefore, when a deep well operates, it can draw water much more easily from the side than above.  That water comes from the neighbors before it comes from the overlying rock.  California is one of two states that have no groundwater laws, but tort law may very well apply, since a neighbor’s property may become worthless as a result of the almond grower’s actions.  After all, if water is too deep or expensive to pump, a foothill house and land is worthless.  It no longer provides taxes to the County or a livelihood to people.

Who is responsible for filing the lawsuit to recover damages due to these deep high-volume wells?  It’s a valid question.  It is my non-lawyer understanding that if the problem is a purely local one, the affected property owner is responsible for handling the suit, but if it is a regional problem, the public authorities have the responsibility.  There is little doubt that this is a regional problem and therefore the County should file suit to stop the pumping and reimburse the harmed property owners.  There is some discussion of this question in the reference mentioned.

I realize that this is outside the sphere of influence of MID, but I thought the MID members might be interested.

A copy of this talk will be provided to the Board of Supervisors, and, as a water agency, you might be interested in following up on the information I have provided.

Part four in the applicable section: UncommonInnovation

Planning Commission Forwards Recommendations to City Council, 4-3

By Emerson Drake

Monday night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting was one of the most enlightening so far.  Traipsing through the murky

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

waters of the General Plan Amendment process has been challenging.  Like all public processes at times it becomes trench warfare with groups like Modesto’s Chamber of Commerce saying one thing publicly and then maneuvering behind the scenes in a completely different direction.

The case in point

The Chamber has been talking publicly with the Commission and interested parties like those from Salida, saying Salida should be removed from Modesto’s General Plan. But when it came time to vote the three Commissioners most closely tied to Modesto’s Chamber, Ted Brandvold, Steve Carter,  and Marshall Riddle,  finally showed their cards.  They openly voted against the PC’s Staff proposal  and  earlier attempts to return Salida to the General Plan along with an additional 1,200 feet on the North side of Kiernan between Dale and McHenry.

Brent Sinclair had explained to the PC and the public that he and staff had made the recommendations because he believed, not only could he sell the plan to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO),  but that Modesto could set the standard for all Stanislaus County communities to follow.  At previous meetings Brandvold’s comments had made it obvious he had bought into Craig Lewis’ ‘we need to stay ahead of Riverbank’ spiel.

Craig Lewis made a last desperate attempt to try and sway the Planning Commission by pointing out how many acres less the new proposal was but it was quickly responded to by acknowledging the majority of the acreage being removed was Salida.  The Commissioners didn’t buy the keeping up with the Jones’ (Riverbank) or maybe like many of those in the audience they were aware Riverbank is in the process of pulling back their General Plan boundaries to more reasonable limits.

The PC Staff recommendations  091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

The Brandvold, Carter, Riddle proposal which included the additional land failed to pass 3-4 and the following vote to  support the PC Staff’s proposal passed 4-3.

Another interesting note was the mention of the several hundred notices which had been sent to landowners in the now expanded Beckwith-Dakota Triangle (1,830 acres in the shape of a rectangle) and that only 6-8 came to the meeting.  Also of note was Commissioner Brandvold’s comment that the same few faces from Salida were always present and he wasn’t convinced they represented Salida’s position on annexation. You can imagine the reaction. You had the Salida Chamber of Commerce represented at the meeting along with the Salida MAC. The Salida MAC had previously voted to officially oppose the annexation of Salida by Modesto so I’m really not sure what he was thinking or if he was…thinking.

It could have just as easily been said that the same few people had been representing Modesto Developers at these meetings but since he clandestinely supported the Chamber it went unsaid by him.  It also needs to be noticed Salida has continually supported their friends to the south, Wood Colony, in their attempt to avoid annexation.  But there are those, especially those who didn’t bother to attend this meeting,  who would sow the seeds of dissent and ignore this fact.

It’s far from over

The business park planned for the Beckwith-Dakota triangle is HUGE and 1,830 acres (almost 3 square miles) is too much land to allow to be stolen from farmers and those living in Wood Colony.  It has been pointed out repeatedly NO buffer between Business Parks  is allotted for. And if this doesn’t change the harassing lawsuits against these farmers are inevitable regardless of Right to Farm Ordinances.

Chris Tyler’s comment from the prior meeting, “Prove it Works”, is important to remember because if those responsible for placing businesses in the proposed business park allow an inequitable arrangement similar to the one Blue Diamond received in Turlock we’ll have squandered, not only our legacy for Modesto’s future, but allowed the best soil on God’s green earth to be paved over.  Giving away 88 precious acres of some of best farmland in the world for 50 jobs has to be considered unacceptable. Over in Mountain House they insist on high quality jobs to be brought in or they turn the businesses away. I realize how desperate we are for jobs but we can’t afford a giveaway to “buddies” to line the pockets of a few.

The recent months with the Planning Commission have been similar to the opening skirmish of a major battle and the Modesto City Council will be the battleground.  The big guns/power brokers will be brought in to do battle in the main arena. Of notice was land use attorney/developers mouthpiece George Petrulakis sitting in the back of the room taking in the preliminary’s planning and  awaiting the spectacle yet to come.

General Plan Amendment Meeting Monday 9/16 at 6:00 PM 1010 Basement

Tonight is one of the last times if not the last time the public will get to influence the Planning Commission’s recommendations

Beyond the First Amendment

to the Modesto City Council.

Here is the supporting pdf: 091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

It’s yet another important meeting the Bee didn’t mention.

MID Part 2 GM Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy Has Some Explaining to Do

By Emerson Drake

When MID General Manager Roger VanHoy was asked during the last MID meeting if ‘the Serpa Rule’ was included in the Governance policy the Board

English: Flag of San Francisco Español: Bander...

was getting ready to vote on,  he looked down at the dais and acted as if he was going  to write something and made no comment.  And as I pointed out in the last article the Serpa Rule was indeed part of the Governance plan (BL-4 to be exact).

BL-4 states: (B) In the case of Board members or committees with MID employees or contractors requesting information or assistance without Board authorization, the General Manager or the General Council MUST refuse such requests that require, in their opinion, a material amount of staff time, or funds, or are disruptive.  

Previously GM Allen Short had declared that conducting a salary survey was disruptive to morale and that potentially (the project didn’t have to be started) using more than 15 minutes of staff time was cause for not supplying the requested information.

Well I wasn’t the only person he bamboozled.   Apparently he had assured more than one member of the Board the Serpa Rule wasn’t included there either.  Sadly he mislead several of the Directors who voted him his permanent position as General Manager just last week. The honeymoon is over for ‘the Dodger’ after he stepped on his own…tail.  Looks like the Board and the public are going to have a trust issues with Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy in the future, and rightly so.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Serpa Rule gets removed from the Governance policy before the elections.

The two men who pushed hard to get the Governance policy in front of the Board as an action item (Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild) are going around ‘campaigning’ for a few of the candidates saying, that like themselves the candidates believe our water should be sold to San Francisco on a long term basis and that we need to institute the Governance policy immediately.

The three candidates we should avoid like the plague are John Mensinger,  Jim Mortensen, and Paul Campbell.  We can NOT afford to for these men to get into office. Their irresponsible desire to send water out of our county to San Francisco on a first serve basis utilizing a long term (30 year) contract is shortsighted and foolish.

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