Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

The Chamber Thumbs Its Nose at the Fair Political Practices Commission Rules and the Public

By Emerson Drake   followthemoney

They say the truth is stranger than fiction and that has never been more obvious than in this election cycle.  The Modesto Chamber of Commerce, or at least three of their members,  have been pulling out all stops in an attempt to steal Measure I from the public.  Their two campaign flyers are filled with falsehoods, innuendos,, and blatant lies (that’s as kind as I can be at this point) and now their obfuscating the source of their money.

It’s bad enough they don’t list the FPPC number on either of their flyers.  And yes it is required but they have also managed through a series of ‘mishaps’ to make it almost impossible to follow the money.

Where Did the Documentation Go?

So we contacted the County Clerk’s office to try to follow the money trail.  Here is the official version: The Modesto Chamber of Commerce faxed to the County Clerk’s office their 497’s which is the document required when a contribution of $1,000 or more is received and it is supposed to be filed within 24 hours of receipt..  But since this is a city Measure it is supposed to go to the City Clerk’s office.  ‘Unfortunately’ it was misfiled in the manila folder (no matter how many times people and the BoS have requested, the County Clerk’s office refuses to place these documents on line) of another Political Action Committee or PAC  account of the Chambers.  This is extremely strange considering 497 documents weren’t supposed to be accepted at the County Clerk’s office period.

For another unknown reason a clerk was rummaging through the outdated PAC file and discovered the document (how lucky for us was that?).  It was then forwarded to the City Clerk’s office 11 days late.

Some interesting Coincidences

There is a history between someone who now works at the County Clerk’s office in the election division with access to campaign statements and the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber and the Bee’s former opinion page editor, who for the last 10 years supported three candidates to the Modesto Irrigation Board, all of whom were sponsored by Bill Lyons (who wanted to sell the free water he gets from his special arrangement with MID).  The cabal of three at MID that was in place three years ago, Tom VanGronigan, Glen Wild and Paul Warda, who were supported by the Bee and the Chamber during their election campaigns) were pushing to sell our water to San Francisco.  The Bee, Chamber, and Bill Lyons  supported the sale which after much intense public discussion was turned down despite the Bee’s endorsement.

Now we see the most current aligning of stars with Bill Lyons pushing against Measure I (he has property in the Beckwith Dakota Triangle –  read Wood Colony, that he wants to develop) along with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and (at this writing the Bee hasn’t made a public comment) with a friend possibly in position to obfuscate the public knowledge of the money trail.

While we will say without any qualms and with many thanks from us that County Clerk Lee Lundrigan looked into events and has been most helpful in explaining the much traveled documentation: an unknown someone in her office ‘accidentally’ accepted wrongly submitted faxes and misfiled these important documents and then someone in her office fortunately discovered the mistake nine days later and then forwarded the documentation the the City Clerks office where it was placed online for the public on Monday afternoon.

Another  Coincidence

When checking for updates on the Campaign documents, yesterday, Oct. 22nd was a mandatory reporting day, the former online  497’s were missing.  According to the city Clerk’s office the missing documents along with any updates will be online by day’s end.

Why does this matter?

There are several reasons, actually violating FPPC campaign laws would be one.  But during an election season opponents and the public have a right to know how much money is involved and where it’s coming from.  Since the Chamber and their three donor amigos and their friends like George Petrulakis are very familiar with election laws and rules it’s our opinion this has been willful and orchestrated.

Advertisements

The Subterfuge Behind the NO on Measure I Campaign

By Emerson Drake  chamberlogo

When it comes to misleading the public, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is second to none. We’ve watched while the Chamber pulls strings behind the scenes and gets City Council members to say and do the strangest things but for today lets focus on their No on Measure I campaign.

The Campaign started out by breaking the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) rules.  When the Chamber mailed their pack of lies to voters they didn’t include the FPPC number which is required.  Wondering why?  Well the Chamber filed their original paperwork with the City Clerk’s office without the FPPC number and without stating where their money came from.  Days later the Chamber filed their required  497 forms (for donations over $1,000 dollars) with the County Clerk’s office. But that isn’t where city candidates are supposed to file. Since they advise political newcomers on procedure you’d think there had to be a reason.  There was, it took eleven days for the forms to travel the two blocks between the County Clerks and the City Clerk’s office.

Maybe this was because Judy Sly, the Bee’s former Opinions Editor, was seen working behind the counter at the County Clerk’s office in the immediate area where the filed campaign forms are kept. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but it is interesting.   Remember Ms. Sly and the Chamber’s lobbyist and CEO Cecil Russell were some of the few people to be in favor of selling our water to San Francisco and the result would have been Bill Lyons making even more money. You ask what does the No on I campaign have to do with selling our water?  Bill Lyons is the answer. This is always an informational  litmus test  but I digress.

The Money Behind No on I 

The money behind the No on I campaign came from Craig Lewis, ($3,000) Chamber expansion committee chairman and Board Director, David Ginelli ($1,000) Chamber Chairman of the Board), Cecil Russell head lobbyist and CEO of the Chamber, and last but not least the Chamber of Commerce themselves to the tune of $3,000.   Anyone noticing a theme here?  No wonder they were trying to keep this information away from the public.  You just have to love lobbyists and their organizations. Well not really but you get the drift.

Ahh the Unions 

The Modesto Police Officers Union (MPOA) didn’t provide funds but allows the Chamber to use their name in the flyer and yes, for a group that claims to be concerned about public safety there is an unusual history here.  Now most officers are good people but their union is a lobbying organization with their prime purpose is supposed to be for the officers and the public, but is it?  Back in 2008 the City opened its books for the MPOA and explained there was only so much money but the union demanded a raise.  So the city offered the MPOA a choice.  You can have your raises but we’ll be forced to lay-off our youngest officers with families.  The Union said in no uncertain terms lay them off.  They weren’t concerned about having fewer officer on the street which, according to the No on I campaign’s propagand,a will make us less safe.  It was all about the money then like it is now.

Claims by Current Politicians

Mayor Marsh and Councilman Gunderson like to say the county will do something similar like they did with Beard Industrial Park back in 1963.  In August of 2011 the city requested an out of boundary service application.   LAFCO required the land owners to sign a waiver preventing them from protesting being annexed by the city.  But Marsh, Gunderson, Zoslocki and the City of Modesto actually have petitioned Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to rescind their waiver policy and on Jan. 22, 2013 LAFCO gave Marsh, Gunderson and the rest of the City Council their wish and voted to allow the change.  So it really doesn’t matter what the County did back in 1963 if Modesto is going top continue to bend over backward to SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS like the Chamber, Beard Industrial,  realtors,  and other developers and then mislead us.  We’re just in for more of the same lies we’ve been fed for a long long time.

It isn’t About  Jobs, It’s All About Developers and Their Greed

The local developers own land and want to develop it no matter what the cost.  Here in Modesto we watched as the family farm across from Big Valley Grace  was forced out of business because of encroaching developments.  They were promised by the city the “right to farm” but when complaints started coming in the were forced to give up land they’d farmed for years.  Sprawl advocates say farmers can always buy more land but that really isn’t true. Prime farmland like in Wood Colony and North of Kiernan is irreplaceable.  Not only is it the best water recharge land there is, but more crops can be grown on this land than almost anywhere in the world.

The Questionable Candidates and Their Questionable Statements  kristiahyou

dougridenoursrMani GrewalDespite what candidates like Doug Ridenour say (Doug doesn’t really say it he just repeats it but the people being paid to run his facebook page do) California law pushes homes to be built near jobs not highways.  So if the Chamber’s preferred candidates, Kristi Ah You, Doug Ridenour Sr. and Mani Grewal will be honest for a moment, don’t hold your breath, they’ll be forced to acknowledge if business parks are built in Wood Colony then homes and SPRAWL will soon follow.

Don’t Buy the Lies, Vote YES on Measure I

 

MID’s Fun With Numbers

By Emerson Drake    MIDpic

The Tuesday meeting of the Modesto Irrigation District Board was another head shaker.  The topic of our interest was the 2016 rate workshop which was conducted by MID’s Planning, Pricing and Risk Manage,r Jimi Nitniss.  Now Jimi, whose compensation package comes to around $195,000 a year, has questionable goals and apparently has way too much time on his hands.

How Do You Lower Rates and Remain Revenue Neutral?

If you take a look at your bill you’ll notice a fixed monthly charge of $12.50, an environmental adjustment and a capital adjustment. And of course the really bad news, your electric usage.  But MID Staff has a way for you to lower your electric rates but at the same time pay the same amount for the first 500 kWh.  Huh?  That’s right some might call it smoke and mirrors but MID says it’s all the rage with other utilities.  MID_2016_Residential_Rate_Design

“This Will Make the District Look Like Heroes”  PaulCampbell

That’s a direct quote from MID Director Paul Campbell at Tuesday’s workshop.  See it isn’t about making things better,  it’s about making them appear better.  Staff wants to raise your fixed fee from $12.50 to $20.00 and charge less for the first 500 kWh.  So the cost is a wash or revenue neutral. BUT  MID gets to say they have the lowest residential rates around.  So how does this help us?  It doesn’t.  It’s all public relations. The electric rate remains the same for everything  more than the first 500 kWh  used, .18 per kWh.  Lots of fanfare with little or no effect.

The Driving Force Behind the Change

Jimi says since Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD), and Roseville all do it it must be a good idea.  The idea is to have fixed cost on your bill to more accurately cover MID’s fixed cost.  But it still doesn’t cover it all of the fixed costs, all it really does is pretend to lower your bill, which of course it doesn’t do. To our mind it’s like a placebo for electric ratepayers.  And at the end of the day you still have the headache.

Our suggestion

Most people don’t realize just how much the residential ratepayer subsidizes industry in Modesto.  Right now you’re (residential) paying .16 per kWh in the summer and .13 per kWh in the winter.   Large industrial  businesses around Modesto are paying as little as .05 per kWh summer and .03 Per kWh winter rates.  Do you know that .03 is cheaper than the cheapest power MID buys (Don Pedro hydro is almost .04) but hey as long as homes are paying .16 and .13 who cares?  If MID wants to emulate Roseville and SMUD and virtually ALL of the utilities in the Bay area they will bring industrial and residential closer in line.  For these bay area companies don’t use they residential rates to subsidize their industrial base like we do.  And if you’re curious farmers and ranchers  are paying  .10 per Kwh summer and winter.  Forget the water subsidy, open your eyes to the electric subsidy.

If you would like to watch the workshop you can see the magical effect of the rate adjustment on the MID Board.  There will be a public hearing in November, so stay tuned.

Post Navigation