It was just after high noon when Mayor Marsh tried to face down the crowd at Hart Ransom Elementary School in Wood Colony. The Mayor started out on the wrong foot when he reminded the audience he once had a teaching credential and he was here to educate them in Modesto politics and how to count to four. Unfortunately for Marsh he’s allowed his educational skills and debating skills to get rusty. The Mayor has gotten used to a semi-controlled environment of the council chambers where he can threaten dissenters with expulsion if they disagree or interrupt him with the truth. He has also forgotten that truth is his best weapon because he left it at home on Saturday. And to top it all off, many of the audience members are much better informed than he and most are more knowledgeable than Council members John Gunderson and Jenny Kenoyer, who were also present but silent. The two council members riding shotgun that day must have decided to keep silent and let people wonder instead of talking and removing all doubt as to their lack of understanding the basics of the issues.
Early on he was forced to say “I’ll take that back” three times in ninety seconds as a member of the audience (they all appeared to be residents of Wood Colony) would correct statements he made and these were just a few of many mis-statements he made and was corrected on. The ever polite and politically neutral Marjorie Blom, LAFCO’s (Local Agency Formation Commission) Executive Officer, would speak later displaying her knowledge and understanding by explaining the process correctly without pointing out the mistakes Marsh made.
And yes Mayor Marsh did blame Wood Colony residents for not coming out to Modesto’s meetings starting a year and a half ago. Their absence wasn’t surprising since Marsh had mentioned annexing Salida in his Inaugural/State of the City Address but had failed to mention Wood Colony. But politicians like to play the blame game and yes he had to take that back too. The Mayor brought former councilman Denny Jackman into the conversation several times for support, especially for RUL (Residential Urban Limits). For those followers of politics, the Mayor was careful when he chose to get Denny’s endorsements and Denny was just as careful as to what he agreed with. But to the uninitiated it appeared to come off smoothly.
We’ve come to believe the compromise Denny struck trying to get a version the Council and Chamber could support, is too watered down to be effective. To enlist the Chamber’s support they had to offer up the public’s last vestiges of control and that is Measure’s A and M, and allow them to be put on the ballot for repeal. When that was discussed you could actually see Cogdill and Zoslocki become excited.
The Mayor wasn’t completely disingenuous, he stated although he is a farmland preservationist he isn’t one 100 percent of the time, not even ninety percent according to his own words.
The Mayor had kind words for Councilman Zoslocki calling him a likable and deeply religious man like himself. Just that they disagreed on farmland preservation. I admit at this point I did start laughing out loud for a moment. Here’s the thing, most everyone agrees Marsh is an intelligent man, he just isn’t always politically savvy. By the way, Mayor Marsh put the voting suggestions forward and by his unwillingness to lose a vote to keep Wood Colony out of Modesto’s General Plan, he allowed Zoslocki, Cogdill and Lopez to vote to keep it out while his block voted to keep Wood Colony in. It is an upside down world when this happens, since Zoslocki had been traveling from one Planning Commission Workshop to another with the Chamber of Commerce all last year in an attempt to take Modesto’s General Plan all the way to the river for the western boundary. Zoslocki, Cogdill and Lopez are the most Chamber/builder friendly people on the council with Madrigal coming right after them.
The Mayor addressed the recall talk towards Gunderson and Kenoyer by saying if they were recalled, Modesto/Wood Colony/Salida would only get someone worse. In all fairness we’re not sure that’s possible considering the way they voted on Jan.28th. The recall discussion regarding Jenny has been loud but the conversation regarding Gunderson had only begun to be strident when he started cutting himself off from his constituents who disagreed with his voting positions. It was a childish move and left many shaking their heads in disillusioned astonishment, which is an action many of his council mates have done since he was elected.
It truly seems to me the problem originated with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and I discussed this and pointed it out during the public comment period with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors several times at January meetings. The Chamber was allowed to frame the argument as jobs vs prime farmland but that just isn’t the case. When I had my conversation with Jenny Kenoyer on Jan. 7th about saving Wood Colony, she responded by saying “give me an alternative.” So I immediately pointed out the North County Corridor and the County’s prediction that it would be completed many years before 132 goes all the way to Interstate 5 in an expanded form and that the soils east of Modesto were far poorer, unofficially referred to as PPP (piss poor pasture) by farmers and that was where we should be building business parks and homes. But Jenny had, to use the vernacular, drank the Chambers get rich quick kool-aid and ignored the suggestion and only wanted to consider Wood Colony. And yes that was when she uttered the now famous words, “I have to worry about the 200,000 people living in Modesto and besides those people in Wood Colony can’t vote for me.” She repeated those words three different times so I’m sure I wasn’t the first or the last person she had said them to.
It was great to see that the citizens of Wood Colony had thoroughly educated themselves about the issue and were defending themselves quite adequately. They weren’t buying the half truths Marsh was selling and told him point blank he needed to bring the issue back to the council and take Wood Colony completely OUT of Modesto’s General Plan.
I fully admit I voted for Marsh and Gunderson believing then and now they were the lesser of two evils. I guess it goes to show we need a better class of politicians in Modesto.
We hope to have the audio from the meeting up soon.