Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Are Modestans prepared for the flashbacks to the late 80’s and early 90’s?

By Emerson Drake   modestologo

Mayor Ted Brandvold and those who funded his campaign in the developer community are ready to place their grand plan for expansion in motion. They’ve already announced their intentions to lower building impact fees to developers which won’t lower prices to consumers but will pad the pockets of developers. Then in their minds the next logical step is to try to steal land that Wood Colony and Salida have been trying to protect.  Developers have been placed on the Alliance Board of Directors and the Modesto City Council to assure us this is the best course, but since these same developers own properties in these areas, Bill Lyons and Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal in Wood Colony and Dr.Stephen Endsley in Salida, how can we expect them to do anything other than to provide support to their own cause.

Obviously they can’t be trusted but who will stop them?  The money behind Brandvold’s election campaign owns and or controls property outside of Modesto so infill is just given lip service.  Endsley, who when heard of last was intent on building a garbage burner on Modesto’s south side,  has been itching to develop his property north of Kiernan inside the Salida plan.  And Mani Grewal and Bill Lyons own property in the Dakota triangle and so Brandvold and his supporters want to ignore the many people that spoke to the Modesto Planning Commission and go back to the good old days where developers rule. just like they did during the Village 1 debacle.  It will be no surprise to see City Staff finding reasons to support the developers cause because, after all, they want to keep their jobs.

Expect the same people that wanted to sell our water to San Francisco like the Chamber’s Janice Keating and Chamber lobbyist Cecil Russell, to tell the public how this will save Modesto and bring quality jobs. Except Lyons wants to build retail, which provides minimum wage jobs, Cecil waxes almost poetically about warehouse jobs in the Chamber’s monthly magazine and Endsley just craves action. After the good doctor received his check from MID’s ratepayers for $1.2 Million for not building his garbage burner, he’s been after Salida’s zoned business park which curiously enough surrounds Gregori High School.  We’ve even documented where Union Bank is fronting for Ryan Swehla and Benchmark in the sale of property north of Kiernan.

Recognize any of these names? Craig Lewis, Brad Hawn, Chris Murphy, George Petrulakis, Tom Nielsen, Ron Jackson, Dennis Wilson, Chris Esther, Kole Seifkin, Ron Ehrke, Mark Buckley, Warren Kirk, Steve Madison, Jim Mortensen, Jeff Burda, Randy Clark, Linda Sadler, Becky Meredith, Bill Zoslocki, Joan Clendenin, Steve Rank. They’re all members of the Chamber land use and Transportation Committee.  Expect to see any and all of these people coming out in the near future in favor of not only reverting back to old land use plans but for a massive,  expansive,  land grab.  Many of these same people already spoke in front of the Planning Commission in favor of extending Modesto’s sphere of influence all the way to the river to our West and North.  Nothing like building homes on some of the worlds richest and best soil for farming.

Developers even managed to place Brad Hawn on LAFCO so don’t expect organizations that are supposed to protect against SPRAWL to protect us from the developer’s greed.  The voters, understandably,  were frustrated by former Mayor Marsh’s policies but as we’ve already warned, we’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Mayor Marsh and those who supported him are responsible for lighting the fuse and will now act surprised that the developers’s power keg of GREED and SPRAWL goes off.

And what will the rest of Modesto’s City Council do?  Our guess is hey’ll admire the Emperor’s new clothes.

Did the Bee Engage in Voter Suppression?

By Emerson Drake  dontbesilent

On Election Day morning, the Bee’s headline read: Clinton has Clinched, AP Delegate survey says. Now on election day, using the reasoning (defective reasoning in our view), that this was ‘real news’, I was told by a high ranking editor at the Bee, that they felt it was important to report.  I was even told they questioned the AP’s timing of the release of the poll, but they felt the need to report it anyway.   How can this headline be construed as anything but a blatant attempt to convince voters that going to vote for a Presidential nominee was an exercise in futility.

Quite honestly, reporting a ‘poll’ released by another news organization (Associated Press) on election day smacks of irresponsible behavior and extremely poor judgement to us. It doesn’t matter which candidate you supported, having our local paper suggesting they were doing the ‘right thing’ especially at a time when we all should be doing everything we can to get voters involved, is ludicrous

Adding even more shame to their actions they didn’t make the story available on Modbee.com or on their Facebook page making commenting on their actions impossible. Agree or disagree with what you read on the Bee’s Editorial Page, to place this story on the front page above the fold was a deliberate act that should have negative consequences to whomever made the decision.

When a newspaper uses its power and manipulates the public to create news instead of reporting it, it becomes just a piece of paper, a piece of paper suitable for the bottom of birdcages, wrapping fish and designating a place for the dog to go.

Does a Local Candidate’s Support of a National Candidate Effect June’s Outcome

By Emerson Drake  stanislauslogo

We avoid national politics here but this has a potential local twist that might prove interesting.
 
In Sacramento, Teamsters Joint Council 7  is reversing itself and taking back their endorsement of Republican candidate Scott Jones for Sacramento’s 7th Congressional District. Up until now the union’s support is self interest.  Jones’ opponent Rep. Ali Bera supported giving President Obama fast track trade authority.  The problem the Teamsters have is the candidate’s support of Donald Trump. They feel Trumps’ campaign  decisions don’t align with their views.
 
Be that as it may, the question here is, will County Board Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who is up for re-election and is the head of the Republican Party here in Stanislaus County, be effected by his inevitable support of the eventual candidate for President, Donald Trump?   After all Patterson’s Latino Mayor Luis Molina is running against DeMartini, as is Eileen Wyatt Stokman.
 
Nobody including the Modesto Bee, seems to want to broach this topic. Maybe because DeMartini might get elected in June BEFORE the Trump issue is front and center? We think we need to take a look at people’s thinking now before the June elections.

The City of Modesto Treats Businesses Better Than it does Its Residents.

By Emerson Drake  modestoarch (1)

Can you imagine being behind more than 30 days in your water/sewer bill what Modesto’s reaction would be?   Yep, it would cut off your service. And before the speculation begins I’ve never had my water cut off. As anyone knows that has owed the city money they can be pretty cold hearted.
Now imagine you have collected money that you owe to Modesto but refuse to pay them.  What would the city do? Well if you are a business absolutely nothing. Budgetel Inn on McHenry operated by United Resorts LLC has owed Modesto lodging taxes (transient occupancy tax) since August of 2008. That’s right 2008 and they finally got around to trying to collect in earnest  and started proceedings October 29, 2014.   Modesto Tax Administrator, Gloriette Genereux ruled in January of 2015 UR LLC owed $106,623.50 in outstanding TOT and penalties.
Since then the Motel has played the lawyer game and stretched out the proceedings by mailing challenges to the wrong party and agreeing to pay, then failing to honor its promises.  All of this comes from tonight’s Council agenda Item 14. agendaitem145316  and agendaitem1425316
Budgetel has been bargaining in bad faith from the beginning in our opinion.  They’ve held on to the City’s ‘OUR’ money since 2008 and it’s time for it to come to an end.  Unless of course they’ll let residents wait 8 years to pay their bills like they do businesses.

Political Gamesmanship By Olsen and O’Brien

By Emerson Drake  krolsen

We’ve watched Supervisor Bill O’Brien for years on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors (BoS) and most of the time his decisions (if you overlook the waste of time with Gerry Kamilos’ West Park illusion/fantasy) were in the public’s interest.  But his decision to hide his not running for Supervisor again must have a hidden payoff for him ( maybe her support such as it is when he runs for state office).  Kristin Olsen who has done little except cash  state pay checks and find a job for her unemployed wannabe soccer coach husband has scurried sideways for another taste of the public’s teat,  is running unopposed for O’Brien’s position on the BoS.

Olsen, who despite her claims of wanting to campaign, knew she didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning against Cathleen Galgiani.  Just two months ago she was talking about spending some quality family time. Well if Olsen isn’t lying she isn’t talking. 

Local campaign donors have to be excited regarding this about face.  Olsen’s secret to getting elected has been, since her Modesto City Council days,  to be an energetic advocate for those who crossed her palm with money ( campaign contributions of course).  Watching her on the floor of the City Council defending the Chopra’s slight of hand in a local development (screwing a family farm out of usable land by shifting a designated water catch basin onto their land from  Chopra’s) was a sight to behold. The only right or wrong in her eyes is who donated to her campaign and who didn’t.  I’ll give her this, once she’s bought she stays bought.  Local developers will rejoice at her decision to run for the BoS.

Who orchestrated this slight of hand we could speculate but don’t know for sure (if we can find out you’ll hear it here) but since Olsen accomplished almost nothing of consequence at the state level we don’t hold out much hope for her accomplishing anything  worthwhile on the Board of Supervisors, well except for those dreams of avarice of her contributors.

Modesto’s Latest Money Giveaway

By Emerson Drake dridenour

 

When a politician tells you what something isn’t they’re telling you exactly what it is. Talking about Modesto considering to give Modesto Neighborhoods Inc $900,000 Modesto Councilman Doug Ridenour was quoted as saying “This is not a power grab, this is not a money Grab.” Now you know exactly what it is.

Modesto’s history of keeping track of public funds is atrocious. Consider our track history of NSP2 or Neighborhood Stabilization and Preservation funds. Ryan Swehla created Trinity Ventures and received the lions share of the millions of dollars in grant money. Then former City Councilman Joe Muratore, Swehla’s real estate business partner, had to return $68,000 or be charged with a felony by the feds for his participation.

Then there was SCAP and Joe Gibbs who took public money for rebuilding homes and was supposed to be renting them out to low income families. But instead placed their friends and relatives in them.

The city was supposed to be overseeing these funds but instead they went to political insiders. Can we trust our politicians with our money without watching them closely? Heck NO!

To borrow a line from Frank and Ernest, Our problem is we have too many teachable moments and not enough learnable ones.

The High Cost of Being a Resident of Modesto California

.By Emerson Drake   inflation
The City Council keeps raising the cost of living here in Modesto by charging us more for the necessities. Check your water and electric bill and you’ll find a 6% city tax  ($6.00 for every hundred dollars on your bill)  just for the privilege of living here. And now they want to raise our sewer bills even more to add on to the sewage treatment plant. The funny thing is, if you can call it that,  of the majority of the companies that use our sewage treatment facility, most of them DON’T pay that tax and one is even suing us for over billing. 
 
For the few companies that do pay the city tax there is a cap or max limit on the tax they have to pay.
 
Everyone encourages us to conserve water, and we should,  but now the city wants to raise our rates because they aren’t selling as much water and need a higher profit margin to cover their spending.  Because they can’t control their spending WE have to pay more. 
 
Residents are encouraged to conserve electricity but we pay more than large.companies, that chew through electricity at an ever increasing rate, 17 cents vs 10 cents per kWh, PLUS we pay the city utility tax and most of them don’t!
 
Now the City Council wants to give another set of one time incentive pay to MPD managers, totaling almost a quarter of a million dollars. Remember just a few short months ago we paid millions of dollars in one time bonuses to city employees. I guess we’re just lucky there are fewer of the MPD managers so our bill is less.
 
The really strange thing is there are actually people out there saying we should be happy paying extra to support big businesses, large corporations and the wealthy.  Talk about a sense of entitlement.

More Foul Play From the Chamber and Their Minions

By Emerson Drake   stealingmoney
Joan Trombetta Clendenin wrote a letter to the editor today against Marsh that isn’t available onliine yet that attacks Marsh. I find this interesting since it was her company Clendenin Byrd, a bookkeeping company that has election experience, connection to the Chamber and their No on Measure Committee that first broke election laws by failing to report thousands of dollars in LARGE election campaign contributions on a timely basis. By hiding their contributions they broke FPPC rules for clean elections and now she’s berating Marsh.
 
Unfortunately this is just another example of how far the Chamber of Commerce and their minions will go to promote special interest groups intent on taking money out of our pockets and placing it in theirs.
 
And maybe even more importantly it brings into question the Bee’s culpability in the outcomes of both ballot decisions. For that we’ll have to wait and see.

Our Options For Mayor Are Limited But Our Choice Is Clear

By Emerson Drake roadtrip

If you don’t mind lets take a short road trip. Lets get in the car at the Double Tree hotel on 9th St. in Modesto and go west on Maze Blvd also known as 132. We’re going to pass Carpenter Rd and Dakota Rd. Still heading west we pass Hart Rd and Gates Rd, past the old Yandell Ranch Airport. We’re even going to pass the large Mapes Ranch sign and go all the way to the river. Our journey was about 13 miles and took us around 23 minutes just to get here. Now lets turn right on the river and take it all the way to just past Salida to the north.

This is the area Ted Brandvold voted to give to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce complete control of for ANY kind of development they can dream up.   Now you know why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, along with real estate people and developers are supporting Ted Brandvold.

So from 99 to past Mapes Ranch, to the San Joaquin river on the west, from here all the way past Salida to the North. That’s a lot of homes and farms and ranches for the Chamber to pave over.

The boundaries and votes I mentioned are all part of public record during Ted’s time on the Modesto Planning Commission. The plan was presented by Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and “Broker Bill” Zoslocki all members of the Chamber, Craig Lewis is a realtor and Bill Zoslocki is a real estate broker while Cecil Russell is a lobbyist. All of these men support Ted for Mayor.  We need to hold Ted Brandvold responsible for his votes while on the Planning Commission.

Now you see why we need to vote for Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto.

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“Broker Bill” Zoslocki Makes a Cheap Joke at the Expense of Modesto College Students

By Emerson Drake    bzoslocki (1)
At last night’s Modesto City Council meeting Councilman Bill Zoslocki once again embarrassed himself and all of the Citizens of  Modesto. For those who aren’t aware, Zoslocki was a developer involved in the Village 1 fiasco and at the same time he was the President of the local Building Industry Association.
 Some Background
 At that time he actively purchased influence in our local government using campaign donations. Now he’s on the flip side of the coin. Councilman Zoslocki, when not pandering to special interest groups,  is busy selling HIS influence in local government. Zoslocki likes to call himself a broker now. A broker of influence, so we’ll start referring to him by the name he prefers Broker Bill.  Broker Bill made his money by NOT paying the proper amount of building fees thereby forcing new home buyers to pay Mello Roos fees out of their pockets instead of his. This was accomplished by purchasing influence and maneuvering the then council to lowering the building fees to below actual cost.  Some have estimated conservatively these ‘missing funds’ to be between $15 and  $20 Million.  Missing only if you forget the developer/builders got market value but paid significantly below actual costs to the city.
Last Night
But last night at the council meeting Broker Bill denigrated all of MJC’s students, young adults, single mothers and fathers, people returning to college trying to improve their job skills, and others just wanting to expand their horizons. at our local MJC by calling them too cheap to purchase a parking pass.  What the City Council and especially Broker Bill chose to ignore is that MJC has been in existence since 1921 and now serves over 18,000 students each semester.  Last night the Council voted to ban students from parking on Myrtle Avenue.  Now city policy says if you want to have this type of restricted residential parking you must buy a yearly pass.  But both of the Council members are running for office,  Mayor Marsh in a March run-off and Broker Bill has had eyes on Kristin Olsen’s seat in the state legislature this coming fall.  Both of these men vowed to make the parking passes free for residents living on Myrtle.
Pandering to Voters
So while we have sympathy for the residents parking situation near MJC they chose to live there knowing the college was near by.  Now suddenly ‘students’ are made into second class citizens.  The many of these students most likely live in Modesto and we all know MJC doesn’t have sufficent parking for 18,000 students between their two campuses.  But Broker Bill and the Mayor want those votes, so students be damned.  Actually both basically said student parking wasn’t their problem, at least as long as they don’t park on city streets.
 
A Wake Up Call Regarding Costs
Just for the Mayor’s and Broker Bill’s information when you add up the fees the cheapest semester could easily add up to over $1,134 and that doesn’t count units per class and enrollment fees.  The most expensive, or as my Grandson who is enrolled there put it, the most unfortunate semester,  can cost $4937 again not counting units per class and enrollment fees.  So not allowing the students to park on the very city streets their gas tax dollars (remember Modesto steals the gas tax dollars from the entire County) paid for is just another way for Broker Bill to laugh in their faces and  say “Let Them eat Cake.”

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