Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

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City Staff’s SNAFU or is it something Worse? The $2.1 M Boondoggle

By Emerson Drake  

The Council meeting last week 9/12/17 was confusing and disconcerting so lets go over the numbers, so we’re all on the same page.

On 9/25/12 the Council authorized a five year contract with Garrett Thompson for hot patch work (street repair from water meter installation and small water main repairs) for $749,700 per year totaling $3.748 Million. Within two years the city had spent 75% of the money. So on 12/9/14 two years into the contract staff came back and asked for and received another $3.1 Million to be added to the original agreement.

On 12/15/15 the Finance staff increased the purchasing authority to $9.6 Million WITHOUT the Council’s approval.  And last week staff tried to slide a $2.2 Million catch-up/increase on the consent calendar on a week when it was known it was going to be a short meeting because the Council had to be in Riverbank for joint meeting with the Riverbank City Council.

First of all it’s almost the old bait and switch. Staff tells the Council that $3.748 Million will pay for five years of hot patches and then the amount spent goes up 250%.  It wasn’t cost overruns or because of change orders like Tony ‘the clueless one’ Madrigal  wondered.  Yes, Garrett was the low cost bidder but the contract was by the square foot and that price didn’t go up, city staff just kept ordering more patches and spending money that hadn’t been authorized.

Diana Christianson claimed someone had entered erroneous numbers multiple times into the city’s Oracle financial system.  The Oracle system was purchased in 2010 at the cost of $7.4 Million and was supposed to prevent just this kind of problem. And to protect the citizens the questions of whether inducements were offered to make the mistakes or could the missing contract language and oversight be intentional?

Among other questions we have are did staff intentionally put out to bid a RFP that could never cover all the worked scheduled/planned?  Was easier to get Council’s buy in for a much smaller amount than was needed figuring then it would be easy to up the approval in the future? If it was the latter then it worked.

Talk about a lack of trust.    Kristi Ah You asked Mayor Brandvold how the search was coming for an in house auditor. His reply was he’d been working on it the last few weeks. But why the questions about an auditor?  We already have an independent outside firm, Moss Adams, auditing anything they’re asked to audit.  The Council wants someone that reports to them at more than twice the cost and not to the City Manager.  If you don’t trust Joe Lopez, and we don’t, then get rid of him and look outside for someone else.  As an aside you might not want to hire someone that works for the headhunters you hire like you did the last time.

Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal all voted for the second expansion of the contract and have been there during the boondoggle.  All of them seemed concerned but appeared to be willing to vote to pay the $306,000 that night (but only Kenoyer was willing to verbalize her thoughts).  Doug Ridenour made some of his usual comments that he doesn’t believe in emotional decisions or feelgood proposals but never actually said what those might be.

Zoslocki claimed he talks with respect and doesn’t let emotion enter into his thinking.  That would have drawn a laugh from the audience the night of the General Plan discussion after he melted down and verbally attacked a speaker who showed Zoslocki was hiding his council communications from the public.  And talking about Kenoyer, there is still the video where she rants “If you work for the city, I’m the boss of you”.

The bottom line is it doesn’t take 10 to 12 weeks to discover how and when the erroneous changes were inputted.  It doesn’t take 10-12 weeks to know who was involved.  You don’t get a contract from the city and not know how much it’s worth. For trying to slide this by on consent, Joe Lopez should be gone.  Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal by their actions and disconnect don’t deserve to be on the Council.  All three would like nothing better than to have this be swept under the rug until after the elections. And last but not least Garrett Thompson should not be allowed to bid in the current RFP.   People need to be held accountable starting with our elected officials.

 

 

 

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EyeonModesto is coming to the Airwaves Near You

By Emerson Drake  

In order to help the residents of Modesto and Stanislaus County stay better informed  about what is going on in local government and maybe even more importantly, why it’s happening, we’ll be going on the air on 93.3 FM KPHD Modesto and 104.9 FM KGIG  Salida.

 

This answers the burning question of  “Who Will Tell The People?”   With,  “We will tell the people.”

 

We’ll be interviewing on air, politicians and candidates for you to get to know and giving you our honest opinion supported by public record requests and actually being at or viewing the MID,  City Council,  and County Board meetings, and talking with our elected officials.

 

A big Thanks to Brad Johnson and everyone involved in bringing the show to a radio near you.  Details to follow.

Should Modesto’s General Fund be Used For Monopoly Money?

By Emerson Drake  

The Modesto City Council wants to buy an entire city block downtown for $3.1 Million dollars. We don’t have money for more police officers, fire equipment, maintaining our city tree program, or proper care for our homeless population BUT we can afford to buy a block of downtown property?
The Northern and Southern boundaries are F and E Streets and the East and West by 10th and 9th. Now the city isn’t going to play landlord so they’ll probably hire Benchmark for property management.
It’s just another game of insider monopoly. The local NAI Benchmark is managed by, yes you guesses it, Ryan Swehla and Joe Muratore of Modesto’s infamous NSP2 program where Joe had to payback $58,000 or be charged with a felony.
Of course it’s being powered by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s developer connection.
We can’t help but point out Councilman Mani Grewal, best known for renting to massage parlors involved in prostitution and having his property used for a raucous  car sideshow in Wood Colony, is campaigning hard for this idea to be accepted.  According to those we’ve spoken to, Bill ‘the broker’ Zoslocki is pushing for approval also but couldn’t be reached in time for comment.
We think Modesto has better places to spend $3.1M  don’t you?
A special workshop, today, before the meeting?  What’s the rush?

AGENDA

City of Modesto

 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
Chambers, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday September 05, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

The Missing Council Video

By Emerson Drake  

On Tuesday 8/15 the entire Modesto City Council met for ethics training.  It was a Brown Act meeting which meant there was a published agenda and the public was allowed not only to attend but to speak during the public comment part of the meeting.  Now usually these types of meetings are held in a much smaller room than the Council chambers but since all of the decision makers in the City’s staff including about a dozen members of the Modesto Police Dept. were required to attend, it was held in Council Chambers.  They don’t have video capability in the smaller rooms but obviously they have it in Council Chambers.

But as you’ll note unlike other council meetings they not only haven’t posted the video but are actually refusing to make it available for streaming even though they recorded it.

Council Meeting 8/15/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes
Council Meeting 8/8/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes|Video
Council Meeting 8/2/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes|Video

First we called the City Clerk’s office and requested that they make the meeting video available but they claim that it was never streamed and that they don’t make workshops available.   I explained that after being at the meeting for about one hour I then went home and we watched the rest of it live on our  computer.  They said okay but they weren’t supposed to stream it.  They are making the video available to any staff that missed the meeting at no cost.  But the public?  Well, we are kept in the dark and being sent the bill for the privilege.  We’ve called the City Manager’s office and the Mayor’s office but so far they haven’t  responded to our queries.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, not only was it a tutorial for the elected office holders and city staff BUT it was also a tutorial for the public to let them know their rights and what to expect from public record requests.

And for the record despite the taxpayers paying for the elected and city staff that packed council chambers some still could not get there for the meeting to start on time.  So Mr. City Attorney, you may have blamed the three minute public comment period for running 18 minutes overtime but that wasn’t the truth, was it? (It was one of Adam’s final comments that shows we were actually listening at home long after departing the meeting)

MINUTES

 

City of Modesto

 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
Chambers, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday August 15, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.

 

City of Modesto

 SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Council Conference Room, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday August 15, 2017, at 11:30 a.m.

 

CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
 

Roll Call – Present: Councilmembers Ah You (arrived at 9:45 a.m.), Grewal, Kenoyer, Madrigal, Ridenour, Zoslocki, Mayor Brandvold

Absent: None

 
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

 

  • Emerson Drake spoke regarding private emails, an email to him dated March 22, 2017 regarding 14,000 “hits” in response to his Public Records Act request, and cameras in parking lots.
1. AB1234 Ethics Training Workshop (Funding Source: Not Applicable)
  City Attorney; Adam Lindgren, 577-5288, alindgren@modestogov.com 

 

ACTION:  City Attorney Lindgren and Assistant City Attorney Sanchez conducted the AB 1234 Ethics Training Workshop.

MATTERS TOO LATE FOR THE AGENDA

 

None.

 

CLOSED SESSION

 

CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS:

(Pursuant to Section 54956.8 of the Government Code)

Property:                     Property between 9th and 10th Street, and E Street and F Street,

located in Modesto, CA; APN: 106-044-005

Property Owners:        Victor Martinez/Victor & Iris Martinez TRS

Negotiating Parties:

For City:          Cynthia Birdsill, Director of Community & Economic Development for City of

Modesto

Adam U. Lindgren, City Attorney for City of Modesto

For Property Owners:             Larry Killian, Real Estate Broker

Under Negotiation:     Possible purchase

 

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

ACTION: This meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m

Modesto…Are You Paying Attention?

By Emerson Drake  

On August 8, 2017, the Modesto City Council will consider the 6/8/16 Healthy Economy Committee recommendation to maintain the current / 1995 general plan boundary.

Here is the pdf from the email we received GPA-10-001 CC Public Meeting Notice 8-8-17 SIGNED (1)  Being it’s difficult to find and without  the Committee’s specific (no maps or detailed references were provided) recommendations and any discussion it’s hard to know what to think.  I do remember when this conversation was going on during a Planning Commission meeting, we were blindsided by a massive expansionist effort propelled by  the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, led by Craig Lewis.  And on 8/2/17 they are going to give Mr. Lewis a high profile position on the Stan COG Measure L Citizens Oversight Committee.

But after the directions some on the Council and the Board of Supervisors have  been hinting at lately, you are forced to wonder if a potential  land grab, wholesale or piecemeal,  isn’t around the corner.

Another Back Door Land Deal by the Modesto City Council

By Emerson Drake    

Mayor Ted Brandvold seems intent on pushing a land deal between the city and Stanislaus Food Products at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council BEFORE  the public can vet it. Remember the last time the Council was in a big hurry? It was the land deal behind the new courthouse. The city lost Millions of dollars because they over paid to one of the politically connected  land owners.
 
When asked why the usual vetting process was skipped the Mayor claimed he didn’t know ( ask George Petrulakis land use attorney and puppet master of the Mayor.) 
 
Then of course Councilman Bill Zoslocki posturing claiming he hasn’t reviewed it yet most likely he’ll go along to get along. But it will provide him probable deniability if something goes south.
Stanislaus Foods is keeping quiet and is willing to let the fix take its course. And the rest of the Council?   Well,  their just the rest of the Council unable or,  more likely, as usual,  unwilling to buck George and the Chamber of Commerce.
The bottom line is there isn’t any reason for a big rush to make a decision and every time the Modesto City Council pulls a stunt like this it’s the Citizens that get stuck with the bill. Modesto’s special interest groups get richer and the taxpayers get poorer…everybody knows.

City Council Says Property Managers Must Act As Police Officers Or Pay The Price

By Emerson Drake  
Modesto Police say NO Warnings will be issued from now on regarding illegal fireworks, just citations costing a $1,000 a ticket. Last year when the Modesto Police Department in conjunction with the City Council, wrote and passed the law the city blew the paperwork implementing the fines for those that shoot off illegal fireworks and or  for property owners and managers that live on the property.  And as usual instead of the City Attorney catching the timing issue in advance it was after the fact that the timing legality reared its head. And again as usual the Council needed a fall guy and Police Chief Galen Carroll stepped up to the plate and took one for the team.
 
When originally written the law said, whether you lived there or not, property owners and or managers could and would be fined and that went for ALL property owners and managers.   BUT as usual in Modesto, the “BIG BOYS” complained and were granted an exemption. So the more property you own or manage the less likely you would get stuck paying a fine for the actions of your tenants. And yes as usual it was the Modesto Chamber of Commerce that screamed  the loudest to insist the Council exempt the “FAT CAT” owners
 
Now we don’t agree with fining property owners or managers for the actions of their tenants since it’s the police who have the power to control events. It just seems like they are pushing their responsibility onto others who don’t have the legal authority to enforce laws. Maybe both the City and Police should be held accountable for any violence or retribution against property manages or landowners that may occur when they try to enforce the law

Is the Modesto City Council Just a Stepping Stone for Some?

By Emerson Drake  

We all remember how Kristin Olsen abandoned the Modesto City Council in 2011 when she won the State Representative position after being reelected to the City Council just 8 months before.  After all Olsen was known for loving public money by keeping her position as top communicator at Stan State throughout her membership on the Council and of course she kept her well paid position at Stan State until the last possible minute before being sworn in as State Representative.

And then Councilman Bill Zoslocki decided to try a preliminary temperature test of state legislative interest in himself.  Unfortunately for us, citizens of Modesto,  no one was willing to donate money to his candidacy. Maybe it was his roll as Building Industry Association President, construction company owner,  developer and profiteer associated with Modesto’s Village I debacle.

Now it appears we have another Council member chomping at the bit to run for a state wide position.  Councilman Mani Grewal has been whispering in friendly ears about running for the State Senate.  His only claim to fame that I’m aware of is him sending George Petrulakis the latest financial reports he could get his hands on when George was creating Modesto’s budget for Mayor Brandvold.  And before anyone one asks, yes it was discovered through Public Record Requests.  What we do know about him are his close ties to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, the local Republican party, and more specifically, last but not least, behind-the-scenes string pulling master manipulator/ land use attorney George Petrulakis.

 

Modesto Irrigation District Wastes $75,000 on Outsourcing

By Emerson Drake   

Among today’s action items on MID’s agenda was one to hire third party administration of their basic retirement plan. So in layman’s speak they intend to outsource the insurance part of the retirement plan.  MID has had two positions designated for handling questions and assisting retirees but for two years now only one has been filled.  I wanted to provide the two-step song and dance given to the Board by the Human Resources head but the video isn’t up yet.  I was so captivated with the jargon used I wanted to share it but that will have to come later.

Suffice to say the head of H.R was unwilling to commit to doing away with a position they haven’t needed in two years because it might become necessary AFTER they outsource the majority of the positions duties.  Interestingly enough only Director John Messinger agreed that MID wasn’t saving money but spending an extra $75,000.

When John asked if Human Resources was going to come back before the Board to request the unused position  be filled concerns were voiced by other Board members that the Board had never micro-managed the staff before and they shouldn’t start now.

So lets summarize the issue.  They have two positions designated to perform the job tasks and one of them has been vacant for two years.  They intend to out-source the majority of the job for $75,000 a year yet aren’t willing to give up the unused position.

Believe it or not the final vote was 4-1 (Mensinger being the one “no” vote) to spend the extra money and to leave the position available to be filled without oversight.

At today’s meeting being fiscally responsible wasn’t what you would call their long suit.

 

How Does a Park Become ‘Surplus’ in the County’s Eyes?

By Emerson Drake   

Mono Park is a pretty two acres of green consisting of large beautiful trees,  picnic and play area on Mono Drive between Santa Ana and Santa Rita Ave in Modesto’s Airport District.  It is an oasis of green with its large/huge trees and lawn in an area that has very few comforts the rest of us have come to rely on, you know, like sidewalks.  Sidewalks should not  be an exception in residential areas instead of the rule but that’s the fact of life in many of  the County’s unincorporated areas.

Now the County has staff exploring whether Mono Park should stay a park or be labeled ‘surplus’  then sold to friends and possibly be turned into warehouses for the likes of the Gallo’s or one of their many subsidiaries.  Of course the County doesn’t want to speculate as to who might purchase the site. But their flyer specifically mentions cutting down the beautiful trees in the park

A community meeting was held March 13th at Orville Wright Elementary school by the Airport Community Collaborative. According to the County approximately 20 people attended. The County dangled the carrot in front of the people suggesting maybe sidewalks or a new roof for the Legion Hall.

Improving the Quality of Life By Selling Our Parks?   If we sell Mono Park to the Gallo’s for warehouse space then even  more trucks will be coming into the Airport District. Our local Air Pollution Control Board says the single biggest polluting factor in the central valley are the diesel trucks driving up and down Highway 99.  So the County’s answer to how can we improve the quality of life in Modesto and specifically the Airport District is to have more trucks with the accompanying dirt, dust, noise, and pollution at all hours in our neighborhoods.  But then again why should they be concerned, none of the Board of Supervisors lives anywhere close to there.

So the County is using slight of hand, mixing in a little community involvement, Gallo money, and Presto Change-o, you have one less park for the children to play in and for families to picnic in.

The next park they decide is surplus may be YOURS.

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