Are Voters Becoming Disenchanted with the Modesto City Council?
By Emerson Drake The Draper/Centerra Decision
Last night’s City Council meeting was true to form. The public was forgotten and ignored by most of those on the dias. The
Mayor was so distracted by his email that many times it appeared he wasn’t aware of his surroundings. But lets start at the public comment period.
Many members of this Council have conspired to keep information out of the public’s eye. An example is the article written August 18th about a Finance Committee meeting where City Manager (C.M.) Gregg Nyhoff deliberately waited until it was too late to include his Summary of Reductions – Target $6 Million Report in the Finance Committee’s agenda packet. His report, which highlighted recommendations for targeted budget reductions to the formal agenda, (where it would have been made available to the public ). During the meeting Nyhoff passed the report out to the committee and members of the public attending the meeting. The Committee voted to accept the report without comment. This was a decision made several weeks prior to the meeting. After all it would be difficult for Councilwoman Burnside to stand in front of the Modesto Police Officers Association (MPOA) after voting to eliminate 20 sworn positions if the sales tax doesn’t pass. With some members of our council one hand washes the other.
At a subsequent meeting of the Finance Committee on August 27 I requested the report to be included on the city’s website. Unfortunately as of September 3rd they had failed to comply. So at last night’s meeting I again pointed out it was a Brown Act meeting and as a result the City Manager’s Report should have been included in the minutes despite C.M. Nyhoff’s efforts to obfuscate it. So when I protested again last night the now ‘clandestine’ reports absence, City Council Attorney Susanna Acala Wood weighed in stating since it was a Brown Act meeting the report should be included in the official record. But Nyhoff and the council members had already achieved their goal of not having the Committee be forced to give their recommendations and to keep it out of the public’s eye. Bee reporter Kevin Valine was present at the meetings but has yet to write a word regarding the events at the meeting.
Brent Sinclair Supports Paul Draper Being Chosen (actually he was the one who chose Draper)
To hear Brent Sinclair make the case for Paul Draper to be chosen was ludicrous. His main argument was since Draper was involved with his self named ‘Team Modesto’ and had spent hundreds of hours attempting to build his multi-use towers he deserved the council’s largess. While I commend Draper for his attempt I don’t feel the need to grant him the ‘excess profits’ by allowing him to represent Modesto’s five properties in the sale to the state. From our point of view Draper was ‘given’ a bonus by allowing this to occur. Draper will receive $30,000 for every million dollars the city receives for its five properties. And yes it comes from Modesto’s pocket.
Even a judge weighed in
The the Honorable Ricardo Cordova Superior Court judge, spoke for the need to use Draper. Judge Cordova’s claim to fame in the ‘good old boy’ network was reducing the charges in former Stanislaus County Detective Kari Abbey’s case in the killing of Rita Elias. His reasoning for using Draper was that time was of the essence. This just didn’t ring true. After all, these negotiations for the courthouse properties have been on going for quite some time and as a result the need for haste seems very contrived.
Cordova’s fear tactics appear to have worked,
Talking with Councilman Geer after the meeting he said he had listened intently to both sides of the arguments being made but the Judge suggesting we could possibly lose the state money swayed his vote. It could be suggested that was why Cordova was trotted out last night. I have to wonder if he was going to speak BEFORE Sunday’s article exposing the Centerra / Draper / Archway Commons article came out or if he was recruited afterward…
Why are we waiting until the last minute to approve a consultant and why wasn’t it vetted by a Committee?
The Mayor and City Council were well aware of the history Paul Draper and his Centerra company have with Modesto’s Archway Commons project. The outrageous profit unnecessarily paid to Centerra was just another example of behind the scene politics that seem to occur on a regular basis in Modesto. Kudos to the Bee for finally discussing the seamy underbelly of Modesto politics. Unfortunately the Council has learned to rush forward at the last minute anything they hope to avoid much public discussion on. Once again it was obvious if no committee vetted Draper being hired as a consultant/realtor no one could be held responsible in the future. It’s all about the lack of accountability for Modesto’s politicians. The exception to the rule would be Councilman John Gunderson who understood the concern for having a downtown court house, voted against the ‘last minute’ consideration of Draper. Congratulations Councilman Gunderson for standing up for Modesto’s citizens and not falling for the contrived, last minute, rush job.
Mayor Marsh answering emails during the Council meeting
Mayor Marsh seemed to be trying to distance himself from all questions of Archway Commons and Draper’s Centerra. Mayor Marsh had apparently decided if he ignored the speakers they would eventually just go away. At one point he had to be called by name three times to get him to look up from his phone and respond to a question. The City Attorney tried to cover for him by saying she was advising him not to answer the question of how much Draper would make for selling Modesto’s five properties along with those he already represented. But unfortunately for the Mayor, he didn’t have a clue his name was being called out loud.
Have the taxpayers given up?
It needs to be acknowledged only three people came to speak against using the Draper/Centerra in connection with the downtown courthouse. Yet five people, including a former Councilman took the time to write a letter to the editor protesting the possibility. Why? Maybe because they knew it would be a waste of time since the Mayor and Council have been steadfastly ignoring the wishes of the public and just have been listening to the ‘backroom’ denizens.
Will Modesto Voters Memory Improve?
I have to be honest I doubt it. After all they (District 4 ) are considering electing a Village I developer/profiteer Bill Zoslocki to the Modesto City Council without laughing, spitting or reaching for the tar and feathers. But we can always hope.