The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s insidious influence is permeating Modesto like the bad smell of decay. It’s everywhere you go and is contaminating good people and groups. From the Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) to the Modesto Planning Commission to the Stanislaus Land Formation Commission (LAFCO) itself, the Chamber’s cold fingers of control continue to insert themselves in every layer of our society, and their companion body the Alliance is right beside them every step of the way.
And unfortunately the good citizens of Stanislaus County are paying for it through their taxes and their utility fees. As an example just Tuesday the MID decided to give the Chamber $2,730 in membership fees. Here is an impassioned plea to stop this insanity. Fast forward to 6:30 to see and listen to them give YOUR money to the Chamber. http://mid.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=24 This was the first time an MID meeting has been recorded and streamed live for public consumption. Noted in the conversation is the MID’s $10,000 donation to the Alliance. And thanks to Larry Byrd it was reduced last year from $20,000 to $10,000 thousand dollars and for that we thank him.
But compare the Chamber to the Alliance and you get another look at how these private lobbying groups manage to get public funds to spend anyway the see fit. MID gave the Alliance $10,000 each of the last two years and $20,000 per year for four years before that, thanks to having Tom VanGroningen on its Board. The City of Modesto gives the Alliance $63,000 every year and the County of Stanislaus gives the Alliance $93,000 every year. Please don’t confuse the Work Force Alliance which substitutes as our unemployment office with the Alliance. The Work Force Alliance is closely governed by state law and the County does a great job at monitoring the way our tax money is spent (the state gives the money to the County and the County gives it to the Work Force Alliance.) The County was kind enough to provide me with a detailed tour of the books thanks to Kieth Boggs. But the Alliance doesn’t share where they spend the money ($166,000) that I just pointed out.
So if you get your electricity from MID you pay a portion of your already high rates to the Alliance, along with your taxes that the city gets and then there’s the County tax contribution. All because of the ‘Good Old Boys‘ playing pass the tax money around. And nobody has to tell you how they spent the money and I’ll take this opportunity to tell you they won’t.
Lets talk about the Chamber of Commerce for a minute. Ever wonder how wide spread their influence is? Lets name just a few starting with Brad Hawn on LAFCO, Patricia Gillium Chair of Modesto’s Planning Commission, Bill Zoslocki and David Cogdill on the Modesto City Council, John Mensinger on the MID Board, and a variety of members on Modesto’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless, along with other Committees. Brad Hawn’s nomination to LAFCO was especially interesting. Ron Fretas had been had been the alternate public member for four years and doing a find job by all standards and usually the alternate is seated as the public member. But when it came time to name the new public member Mr. Fretas was cast aside and Brad Hawn, who hadn’t been to a LAFCO meeting in years let alone know about how LAFCO works, came in out of the blue.
When the Chamber was $20,000 short on refurbishing the Modesto Arch they asked the Council for a ‘Gift’ of $20,000 to complete the payments but fortunately the Council said no after we exposed the ‘gift’ part. It was written up in the Modesto Bee as a loan. I don’t know about you but its been my experience there is a lot of difference between a gift and a loan when it comes to money.
Mayor Ridenour’s administration, with some help from the Chamber gave the Double Tree Hotel a sweetheart, long term deal for catering at the Modesto Civic Plaza. As a result it isn’t feasible for someone else to come in and run it for Modesto and the Double Tree wants too much from Modesto to run it themselves. When it appeared the Double Tree was going to get the contract, the Chamber gushed over the idea and promised to help with promotions and bringing in companies to rent the Plaza. When the City was required to take over instead, the much promised help vanished in the wind like most of the Chamber’s promises do if one of its member isn’t making money and only the city is involved.
And needless to say the Chamber took the lead to provide land for their real estate members to sell known as the Pathway to SPRAWL.
The one place you can be sure to find the chamber being active, is in making your wallet a little lighter.