On Tuesday night 9/4 the Modesto City Council is suspending the Citizens Oversight Committee created to persuade Modesto’s residents to vote for a half-cent sales tax back in November of 2016. The Committee which is officially referred to as the ‘Citizens’ Transportation Sales Tax Commission’ was supposed to ensure that the money would be spent as promised. But since the money has been flowing in special interest groups have been claiming the money for themselves.
From Jaylen French, Director of Community & Economic Development Department
Measure L creates an “Oversight Committee to review
and monitor use of all tax revenue and to insure that all funds are spent in accordance
with the Expenditure Plan.” The ballot materials that were before the voters stated that
the functions of the Oversight Committee were to “review and monitor use of all tax
revenue and to insure that all funds are spent in accordance with [StanCOG’s]
But according to the Council instead of an oversight committee what they really want is someone to come along after the money has been spent and rubber-stamp their decisions. Not surprising is that the same night they plan on pulling the Committee’s teeth they plan on officially setting aside $1,658,925 for a future downtown Measure ‘L’ eligible project that will be spent as Cecil Russell and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce sees fit.
The crux of the problem lies in where the money is going to be spent. Citizen Committee members we’ve talked with are saying special interest groups behind the scene are insisting that a large chunk of the money be spent providing Beard Industrial Park with direct access to 132. For those unaware, Beard Industrial Park lies in the County not the City. Modesto City Council has already made special arrangements to keep the Park in the County despite LAFCO’s rules. They receive city services but don’t pay the user tax Modesto residents do. As a matter of fact, for the majority of the businesses in the Beard Park their electricity is subsidized by the residential ratepayer.
I should also mention that this same night the City Council is going forward with the acquisition of real property directing the commencement of eminent domain proceedings for the State Route 132 West Freeway/Expressway Phase 1
Back to the neutering of promises made by the City Council. At the Council meeting of 8/14, Bill Zoslocki regaled the attendees of how Measure L passed by more than 70%. But he skimmed over what helped to induce the voters to support adding to their already overburdened load of taxes. Yes the much ballyhooed Citizens Oversight Committee. But now the majority are determined to reduce it to a a rubber-stamp functionary. How can they effectively act as an oversight protecting the public’s best interests when the Council wants them to sit down and shut up until AFTER the money has been long spent. Watching the last meeting it was clear the only people on the Council worrying about the voters were Mayor Ted Brandvold and somewhat surprisingly, Tony Madrigal.
At this point we’re stuck paying that half-percent for the next 25 years and it’s become extremely obvious we won’t have any input as to what its to be spent on. It’s the classic bait and switch. No one ever said this Council was original in their thinking. But they follow their master’s orders very well.
Congratulations Cecil, on a job well done. Once again you and the Chamber have managed to get the residents of Modesto to pay for your special interest group’s projects and facilitated transferring money out of our pockets and into theirs..