City Council Theatrics, a Glimpse behind the Curtain
We’ve all read the fairy-tale version Mayor Marsh, city staff, Cecil Russell (lobbyist from the Chamber), Ryan Swehla, and David White from the Alliance, staged for the public and the Modesto Bee, but is it the truth? One thing we can assure you of and that is that it’s NOT the whole story.
Thanks to a public records request we discovered Mayor Marsh and Josh Bridegroom from the city and Ryan (NSP2 funds debacle) Swehla had been having conversations behind the scenes regarding the purchase of the old JC Penny building at 11th and J streets. As you may recall Swelha is wired into city staff because of his business relationship with former Councilman Joe Muratore. Muratore was forced to return a $58,000 real estate commission payment from the sale of an apartment complex to avoid felony charges. On top of this it seems city staff had set aside $1.2 Million for his and Swehla’s apartment project while several other developer’s projects languished due to a lack of NSP2 funds.
Is this all about sales commissions?
In order for Swelhla and Muratore’s company NIA Benchmark to make the sale to Valley First Credit, Modesto would have to make concessions of approximately $445,000 in parking revenue to Valley First Credit. These proposals/demands are listed in the email suggesting they have already been discussed and acquiesced to by the Mayor and staff. It would leave a sour taste in citizen’s mouths if they thought it was all being done for realtors, especially these two ,considering their histories. It would be a hard sell if not impossible. So they decided to reinvent the story.
Is David White more familiar with downtown businesses than Swehla and Muratore?
It belies credulity that a newcomer to Modesto is more aware of business conditions than those who control more than 2 Million square feet of office space and represent many of the lots ready for development, yet that is what we are supposed to believe. Benchmark is always out in front of the crowd. Remember, they were cornering the Salida market when all hell broke loose regarding the backroom talks taking place over Modesto’s annexation desires. Of course Muratore was in on the initial discussions behind the scenes before Marsh and Cogdill Jr. took his place.
White makes the perfect Frontman
David White, being new to Modesto needed a feather in his cap to get a little credibility/gravitas but this might not have been the way to get it. He has been going around telling his different audiences what they want to hear. When he talks to the City and County he promotes business parks and bringing new businesses to Modesto. But when he was thanking the MID Board (3 of the 5 are farmers) for their $10,000 contribution, in advance he denies looking at farmland for business parks and stresses local business. Heck, speaking out of both sides of his mouth the way he does, you’d think he was running for office. Getting credit for allegedly bringing 70-100 jobs, after five years can’t hurt. What falls by the wayside is these jobs were already in Modesto located at Orangeburg and College.
To Balance the Parking Fund, Parking Meters Will be Installed.
Timing is everything and this is no different. The Council and their committees will be entertaining a proposal from the Downtown Improvement Association to re-install the parking meters they recommended be removed years ago. There is little doubt they will be suggesting a PRIVATE company administer/own these meters. To understand better try reading Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. Our council has a history of wanting to privatize city jobs not always for the better…. well, except for those who get our money.
The sale hasn’t gone through
Yes the sale hasn’t gone through. What was lost in the stage play was the air in the basement of the Penny building isn’t of the best quality. The county used to rent space there but had to give it up because of environmental concerns. To sum it up, this whole dog and pony show was staged this way so a realtor could get his commission, a newcomer could get his spurs, the council could claim a victory of sorts and get some of the annexation stink off of themselves (it didn’t work regardless of whether or not this sale goes through) and the parking concessions are being done at the taxpayers/store customer’s expense. After all the street parking is free now so why should we pay for it?
Here is one of the emails we drew information from Swehla and Marsh