Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

MID…The Lame Ducks Do it again..People Should Be Outraged.!

By Emerson Drake

Just when you think things are somewhat under control down at the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) the old guard pulls a

Luke on Modesto, Tatooine

fast one.  And just like they have in the past they voted for an incomplete  piece of legislation called Board Policies Regarding Board Governance Process and Staff Linkage.  This was a ghost from the past since it was under this ‘guise’ they voted for the “Serpa” rule.  This was how Allen Short used to manipulate the information made available to elected Board members and the public.  One of the main parts of the original policy enabled the General Manager to use a ’15 minute rule’  as a tool to limit staff time to  research questions from the MID Board.

Here is the scary part. According to General Manager Roger Van Hoy  parts of the policy were  not included in the material on the website and in the packets passed out to the public AND the Directors. Here is the incomplete segment the Directors and the public were allowed to see.


The General Manager stated links to “other” policies” would be added using hyper-links referencing the other unnamed policies and enforced.  I specifically asked if any of the old SERPA rule were included.  NO response was given.  I requested a delay so the Board could read the entire policy they would be voting for and was ignored. Director Larry Byrd said he didn’t realize this was an action item and requested more time to study the proposed governance policy.

Unfortunately Unity of Control BL-4 which was approved IS the Serpa Rule

Once again the ultimate power is in the hands of the General Manager and the best we can hope for is a benevolent Dictator

. 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.   In the past Allen Short used a 15 minute time limit as his policy for a material amount of staff time. And just what describes disruptive?

Tom Van Groningen and Paul Warda revisit the crime scene

Directors Van Groningen and Warda were among the Directors voting for the original policy and Glen Wild has been a rubber stamp from the beginning of his term four years ago.  Sadly it appears the lame ducks are desperate for so sort of legacy. I would have thought they had placed enough anchors around the necks of ratepayers in the form of sky-high rates.

Paul Warda had promised to vote against this policy at the last meeting

He did come up to me during a short break five minutes prior to the Board taking up the policy and informed me of his rethinking his prior decision against the governance policy and that he would be supporting it.  It seems a legacy, no matter how devastating, is more important to these three lame ducks than having helped improve MID.

You can register your unhappiness with their decision by emailing the MID Board at board@mid.org  Ask them to take BL-4 out of the Governance policy immediately.

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake

Tonight’s topics include MID’s newly adopted Serpa rule, Modesto’s one percent sales tax , water mining, these topics and

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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 to this show live or from our archives use: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/12/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

Vance Kennedy Addressing the Modesto Irrigation District Board

By Vance Kennedy – 9/10/13

I was at a meeting yesterday at which Larry Byrd said that electric service to the foothills may need to be increased to service

Groundwater Well

Groundwater Well (Photo credit: Kecko)

the very large pumps being installed to mine groundwater for growing almonds.  There are major policy questions to be addressed here:

1.   These pumps will suck water from a large area of neighbors and wipe them out, thereby cutting off existing demand by those neighbors permanently.

2.   The new large deep wells will require high-power lines, but will return money to MID to pay off those lines for a very limited number of years, depending on how long it takes to deplete the ancient ground water in the area.  That groundwater, if similar to that in the foothills in Calavaras County, is in the range of 2,000 to 13,000 years old and will take many decades to replace, assuming present rainfall.  If global warming reduces rainfall, a real possibility, it may take centuries.  There is no way of knowing, so at least consider the worst and plan accordingly.  Any wasted money for installing new high power lines to those very deep wells will be borne by other ratepayers and that is unfair to them.

When the groundwater is gone in the foothills, it will be essentially a permanent wasteland except in those areas where outside water can be imported.  Does the general public really want that?

The best simile I can think of is a bus load of people headed for a cliff in the fog on automatic pilot.  We already have several examples to the south and there are no rules to prevent a disaster due to human greed and lack of state laws.

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake…Wednesday 8:00 PM

Tonight’s topics include Developer Bill Zoslocki, Paul Draper and Centerra, Archway Commons and the downtown Court House

Radio RED 104.9 FM

an update on the Montana judge who sentenced a man 5 days for rape, these topics and more so tune into tonight at 8:00 PM and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community.

104.9 FM our flagship station

To listen live or from our archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/05/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

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

Modesto's Double Tree and Brenden Theater

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.


An email sent to the Modesto City Council

By D. Minighini

I would like to express my public comment (via email) as I am not able to personally attend tonight’s meeting.  I would
English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

like this comment to be part of the formal record:

Of great concern is the deception of this City as it oftentimes conducts its business – important land development sales involving overpayment of millions of dollars (exceeding market value….see overpayment of Archway Commons low income housing units with same Centerra Capital) as recently informing the public and featured in “The Bee” newwpaper.  And of newest concern, negotiations with the Courthouse land deal involving Centerra Capital have apparently been going on behind closed doors without the public’s input or comment via public meeting!  Such an important and major public property acquistion should reasonably support “public involvement”before the land purchase is finalized.
Of additional concern is the business players the City chooses to engage with.  Land deals appear to involve the same consultants and developers who make millions of dollars in excess of what should be a fair and reasonable profit.  Why is this happening?
Per the Modesto Bee article in today’s paper, Centerra Capital has already been involved with negotiations to sell this land to the City for this courthouse land deal!  And tonight the City is supposed to, “after the fact”, going to publically approve Centerra Capital “to help the city in negotiations with the landowners.”  In real estate law, representing both buyer and seller is known as “dual agency.”  Every real estate professional knows there is no such “impartiality” possible with dual agency.
The public’s interest (as the ultimate benefactor buyer) would be best served in this land deal-  with its own separate real estate agent – not with Centerra Capital who gains to receive commission fees from both buyer and seller and who will compromise the interests of each to get the deal done.
The City has conducted the public’s business negliently like this before.  In addition to a poorly constructed land purchase with the low income Archway Commons in which millions of dollars were overspent by the City in the land purchase and construction costs, other backdoor city actions included one of the the city attorneys having filed a lawsuit –  even before she received City Council approval to do so!
It is becoming very clear from the public’s view of what kind of business ethics does our City government really have and are their decisions in the best interests of the public?  Have they repeatedly shown a lack of understanding of economic principles and financial mismanagement?
The Courthouse land purchase should not mirror the real estate purchase incompetency and negligent financial mismanagement which is on record in the “Archway Commons” low income housing units land purchase (which also involves excessive development “per unit” costs).
City government should NOT pay more than “market value” for any property, and individuals with such power to purchase land and make these decisions  have a responsibility and due diligence (to the public) as a “buyer” in such transaction to perform all “inspections” before ratifying the real estate deal – to make sure the condition of the property and land is in proper condition and financially worth it, and that the public’s money is properly and wisely spent.
Paying excessively above “market value” constitutes “financial blackmail” by the seller.  A city government that agrees to pay well over market value is one that is NOT protecting and wisely spending the public’s money.  If the Courthouse acquisition turns into the same purchase situation as the Archway Commons –  the City and its representatives should abandon its buyer position and seek another property more reasonably priced.
The real estate principle that “property can be purchased for what a buyer is willing to pay” does not apply to government purchases in a time of economic depression, a city government which is not financially strong, and is an example of negligent financial management.
A government’s duty in use of the public’s money for purchase of land for development should be prudent, reasonable, and financially conservative so as NOT to misspend or extravagently misuse public funds, which would ultimately negatively impact a city to operate, or negatively impact its reserves which could lead to financial inability to operate with basic services.  The City has put the residents in this position already from several past incidents of financial mismanagement with overspending on contracts and services and land deals.  Such decisions have brought forth the need of a 1% sales tax increase (ballot initiative) to be forced upon residents.  The sales tax deception to residents started out saying it was for additonal police and fire safety, when in fact there are no guarantees of additional officers, and the money can be spent on whatever the City decides to spend it on:  more mismanagement.
D. Minighini
Concerned Modesto citizen

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