Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Allen Short”

And Now for the Rest of the Story

By Emerson Drake

In the past, especially in a one newspaper town, the Opinions Page Editor had the bully pulpit and was king.  You might

A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures ...

A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures that I took for the Infobox in the Modesto, California Article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

dispute their particular version of events at home, work, or when friends get together but you couldn’t mount a vocal opposition to those special interest groups the Editors supported, those who would run roughshod over average people to get their sometimes exploitative and usually lucrative way.  And in Modesto, that’s the way it’s been.

Enter the new media.  Not facebook or myspace but blogtalk radio and News/Opinion Blogs like this one.  We also have a local public radio station 104.9 FM K-GIG that allows local people to air their concerns. Concerns the Bee ignores when it isn’t convenient to them and their advertisers, advisers, and lobbyists.  In recent years we have seen the Bee adopt a policy that allows people to comment on articles challenging the views and articles of their reporters and Op Ed staff. From talking with many of the reporters and ALL of the Op Ed people the general consensus is most dislike having their version of events challenged.

For an educational experience,  go to a city,  county,  school board, or one of their committee meetings and see if you recognize it when you read about it the next day in the Bee.   You can take this challenge from home by watching the meetings on cable or on streaming video but you really need to be there to experience the totality of the  complexities occurring at these meetings.   As an example, after a recent SalidaMAC meeting Ms. Sly wrote about the evening.  After reading her piece I found it difficult to believe she had been present.  But she was.  That’s the scary part. Her story was barely recognizable. Or maybe I should say her perceptions were more like a glass half empty than half full.  Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure she even knew a glass of anything existed. But that’s been the problem all along.

The behind the scenes power structure in Modesto has been basically the same for years.  Yes, some of the faces have changed but the policies have remained the same. And the Bee has continually supported them with their “go along to get along” mantra.  The only real exception to that is when the public, faced with the unpleasant realities of the Village I debacle, over-threw  the developer/real estate bosses who had dominated Modesto’s  political landscape for years.  There was a four or five year window, a kind of renascence if you will, when voters and not political machines were in control.  But then partially thanks to the Bee’s bitter vendetta with Mayor Sabatino, and the dark ages sometimes called Ridenour years,  a developer controlled council re-emerged.

We witnessed a rise in power of the lobbyists at the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance.  They once again, thanks to the Bee’s  influence and MID donations of ratepayer’s money, started their campaign of greed.

For twenty years the Bee has promoted the local real estate and home builders contention that planting driveways remains supreme, and look where it got us.  The housing bubble burst and we have a plethora of empty homes seeking owners.  We’ve been turned into a city of renters by the slavish devotion of the Bee to the Chamber’s and the Building Industry Association’s mantra of homes.  Now the cry ringing in our ears is jobs, jobs, jobs.  Yes we do need jobs but isn’t this deja vu?  We heard this from the Alliance and the Chamber six years ago about Westpark and how it would be our salvation.  Well how’s that working out for you?

Also during this time the Modesto Irrigation District was mismanaged into a near fiscal bankruptcy.  But being a monopoly  it’s much easier to survive.  You just raise the rates on electricity.  The millions and millions of dollars lost on the failed geothermal project, the Mountainhouse debacle, the four cities boondoggle, the TANC project power-line project failure, and the doomed garbage burning/biomass  plant helped to create the high electric rates and lost opportunity at the Lodi generating facility which could be saving us money in much greater quantities every single day.

What did all of these have in common?  They were all supported by the Bee.  Every, single, one.

So when the often quoted (in Bee Op Eds) lobbyist/political consultant Mike Lynch was exposed for having taken $52,500 from MID without ever sending them an invoice, blow back was expected.

When it was exposed that Ms. Sly had been in possession of MID documents for several months detailing the funneling of money from MID through a third party not only to Mike Lynch but Mark Looker, Janice Keating and Carol Whiteside, but maintained her silence, blow back was expected.

When it was exposed that only Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild on the MID Board along with the guidance and support of General Manager Allen Short were aware of Ms. Whiteside receiving payments from Martino Graphics, blow back was expected.

I will continue to offer Ms. Sly-Herrero the opportunity to discuss these issues in a public forum as I have in the past. I wonder if she would prefer live TV or Radio?

Blow back is expected.

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MID.. Re-writing History While Neglecting the Future -The Tom Van Groningen Story

By Emerson Drake

Let us travel back in time for a moment and visit Feb. 23rd, 2010.  MID had just voted to purchase half of its originally

Cover of "Millions"

Cover of Millions

intended share (from 66 to 33 MW) of the Lodi Energy Center.  MID had been spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave for years on projects costing ratepayers millions of dollars.  From the geo-thermal project, to Mountain House, to TANC, to the four cities project,  all were massive losers, millions upon millions of dollars going out with almost nothing coming back in.  In less than twelve years (1998 to 2010) we went from being $200 million in debt to $1.2 BILLION.  In January of 2010, they had voted in a 7% rate increase which doomed a larger piece of the action for MID.  I was at both of those votes and was happy with neither.

Many of us had been trying to stop the fiscal bleeding for years by going to meetings and speaking out, but Tom Van Groningen,  Paul Warda,  Cecil Hensley, and John Kidd were determined to follow Allen Short down the fiscal prim rose path.  During four of those years Mike Serpa was the only voice of reason on the Board. By 2010 being able to take full advantage the Lodi opportunity was little more than a pipe dream.

Jerry Gold, MID’s financial advisor, had previously reported MID’s credit had been down graded and no one was willing to allow us to borrow more money in our present (2009)  financial condition. By 2010 we were being required to raise rates by 7% just to stay afloat.

Even our newest green energy contracts are too expensive.  We overpaid by more than 30 percent of the going rate.  This isn’t hindsight speaking. PG&E announced their newest solar contract price PRIOR to MID signing the contract.  When I pointed this out to Tom Van Groningen during the meeting BEFORE the solar vote was taken and the contract was signed with Sun Power, he said he didn’t care what PG&E signed for.  What?  Don’t care?  I made public information requests during the negotiations but MID refused to acknowledge prices being discussed.  When you see how much was left on the table (30%) there should have been an investigation.

Just so everyone understands the Lodi Energy Center (LEC) is the most efficient gas turbine power plant in the state. Its average heat rate surpasses even Turlock’s new much smaller plant. We actually could and will make money by owning it but now only half as much.

To watch Director Van Groningen be self congratulatory and preen himself for signing the contract two years earlier for  the Lodi plant was astonishing.

It wasn’t surprising to see the Bee supporting the revised version of MID’s history.  Admittedly it was closer to reality than it would have been with John Holland.  Something else of note came out of the MID meeting.  I received a response to a Public Records Request prior to the meeting.

It was about the astonishing amounts of money Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen, and Glen Wild had been funneling through Martino Graphics to lobbyist Modesto Mike Lynch.  Mike, who provides Judy Sly many of  her “editorial positions” and who was even quoted in a recent column by Ms. Sly, was a participant in the $89,500 in 2010, $227,628.69 in 2011, and $108,000 in 2012 paid  to Martino Graphic design and distributed to three different lobbyists.  Just as in 2012 Mike Lynch profited the most from the parasitic relationship with MID and Martino  than Mike Looker, and Janice Keating.  Just a few short months ago Ms. Sly was telling us  we had plenty of “extra” water to sell to San Francisco?  Now, the tune being sung by the Bee is different.

It never fails to amaze me the amounts of ratepayer money being thrown around to convince us bad is good and good is bad.

It’s going to be interesting to see if any of the MID Board members have another prior  “relationship” with political campaign consultant Mike Lynch.

I wrote the following back in Feb. of 2010

MID Goes on a Spending Spree and Maxes Out its Credit

The MID Board today authorized Allen Short to buy into the soon to be built Lodi plant for a 30 MW (Mega Watt) share.

Interestingly enough this wasn’t one of the options presented to the board or to the public.  Tom Van Groningen made the motion and despite calls from several public speakers for more information the board voted 3-2 with Hensley and Kidd being the two dissenters.

It was noted that MID has refused to make cost cutting measures such as stopping the flood of Mountain House red ink.  A concern was noted that possibly the board is going to try to slash the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers contract offer while maintaining the extremely lucrative pay for executives.

The Lodi plant will utilize the most efficient turbines in Northern California and would seem to be a great opportunity if only we could afford it. The MID Board has spent us into $1.2 Billion dollars in debt.  I don’t think Tom Van Groningen will be forced to sell his private plane to pay for the increase in electric rates this purchase will mandate.

MID financial advisor Jerry Gold pointed out MID will exhaust it credit capability with this expenditure.  So like families who max out their credit cards and continue to only make minimum payments our road to solvency will be long, rocky and definitely on the back of the average electric user.

Of course we remember that the board is looking at surcharges in lieu of more rate increases this year with a caveat since staff members today said they will be looking at rate increase by next year at the latest..  I’m not sure that semantics (word games) make much difference to our check books or to our bottom line it sure seems to be the direction MID is determined to go in. Surcharges and rate increases will hurt families, farmers and businesses in District.

One concern that was made public during discussions while on a break at the meeting was a question regarding MID’s potential violations of the Brown Act.  Has Allen Short been meeting in series with the board members, and just what emails have been exchanged since that particular form of communications was mentioned by several of the board members?

 

“What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 7:00 PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

Topics include Salida annexation and the sneaky SoB’s, does government just happen to people or is it government by ambush, the animal cruelty ordinance, MID, Valley Vision Stanislaus,and more so tune in at 7:00PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station

http://www.EyeOnModesto.com 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/02/21/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday 12/19 7:00 PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Topics include: Money laundering by Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, and  Deceptive business practices by the MID’s Joy Warren, How the Workforce Alliance spends your money, Is Modesto’s Ruling Class Immune to scrutiny, the Salida Ad Hock Committee meeting you haven’t heard about, On line balloting, the Newton Ct. shooting, Cat Killers Reed and Sumner and the progress on the Protective Animal ordinance, all this and more Wednesday night at 7:00 PM

We can be found here live or in our archives: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/20/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake 

104.9 FM our Flag Ship Station

Our call in number is 347-215-9414

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You won’t read in the Bee,

It’s Eye on Modesto,

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MID’s Layers of Deception – the Public Information Requests

Modesto Marathon  7983

By Emerson Drake

After Tuesday’s meeting I think some clarity needs to be added to the way MID spends our money.  The most used way is through the Purchase Order system. They put contracts out to bid and choose the lowest responsible bidder, at least in theory.  A lot of attention has been focused on purchase order #54981 which was effective from 7/19/2010 thru 12/31/2012, with a “not to exceed” cost of $450,000.  Yet this purchase order authorizations continued to come through signed by Allen Short and initialed by “J.W.” for payment. A minimum of $90,000 has been paid on this expired  Purchase Order numbe,r all containing the same generic billing reasons. No contracts for subcontractors have been made available and MID’s Joy Warren has yet to explain how this contract was part of the competitive bidding process.  These typically included:

Client Meeting/Planning Fees…..$5,000

Consulting…………………………$7,500

Communication services…………$3,500

Outreach/Transparency………….$5,000

According to MID, Martino Graphics uses four subcontractors to fulfill their contract. This Contract  Purchase Order is issued to provide professional services to Refocus and Enhance Public Education and Information Services per Board Resolution # 2010-35.  The following link is to the Board Resolution #2010-35  Slegal12110816440

The following is a response to several question in regard to Martino Graphics PO#54981.  It includes the pages of invoices, copies of authorizations, and checks (well at least the ones they sent us). It’s a lot of work/pages  so don’t hit print unless you mean it.

Slegal12101913110

 MID has consistently ignored  requests to release the total amount of money spent (including details) using PO#54981.

One of the reasons I question if all of the requested information is being supplied is that they have been charging consumers a falling water charge for over 20 years according to Van Groningen.  So I thought I would cut them a break and only ask for 10 to 15 years worth.  All they were willing to send were 5 years.  Here is the copy of the PIR. son_Drake_dated_October_26__2012_re_Falling_Water_Charge

Last week much of the conversation was about the “Serpa” rule.  Here is the link Slegal12110515150

It was gratifying to see Mike Serpa vindicated by the present MID Board and obviously showed the prejudice he was subject to by Van Groningen, O’Laughlin and Short.  I will take this moment to point out how the Bee’s Opinion Editor Judy Sly never spoke out against the treatment former City Councilman/MID Director Serpa endured. If fact, Ms. Sly helped the three amigo’s cause by heaping abuse on Mike in her Editorial Column as often as she could work it in.

Lets look at Carol Whiteside and her California Strategies  Company for a minute,  She received over $15,000 in payments $6,000 of it almost two months AFTER she terminated the contract.  This money was funneled through Martino Graphics WITHOUT a contract.  At least no contract with Martino Graphics (MG). Ms. Whiteside supposedly has a contract with MG but we aren’t privy to it. There also is no contract with MG since Short, Van Groningen, and Wild took it upon themselves to spend this money BEHIND the rest of the Boards back.

I believe Short, Van Groningen and Wild should be held personally liable for this money and should pay it back to the MID  ratepayers.

In my opinion it’s time not for an audit. but an investigation of how MID’s been spending our money.  It appears services for lobbyists have been procured by upper management  with the help of two Board Directors and I’m not sure they did it legally.

I also don’t believe MID should  financially support Allen Short’s new position with The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority.

You can hear more about MID and the City Council by checking out any of the “What’s on America’s Mind” broadcasts. Just click on the link and it will take you directly to the show archives for a listen.

Here’s the Letter from Allen Short to Sen. Dianne Feinstein

MID’s general manager Allen Short wrote this back in November 2011. Is he negotiating or solidifying an agreement.  Either way, remember this as you listen to the Senator speak on Wednesday.

MIDShortFeinstein001

A Quick Peek Behind the Curtin at MID

Where do we know Martino Graphics from?  

 
The answer is simple, co-owner Marian Martino competed in the political forums to replace Kristin Olsen after Olsen abandoned her City Council position to be a State Assemblywoman.

 
At the time, when asked, Ms. Martino chose not to supply a reasonable explanation as to why she  bailed out of the running for the council after she was proclaimed one of the three finalists (and in many viewers minds one of the best selections).  Marian has been seen occasionally at MID meetings.  She never speaks but one has to wonder if political consultant Mike Lynch traded his support for MID Director in exchange for stepping back as a candidate for council.
 
MID General Manager Allen Short confirmed the money paid to Martino Associates, a Graphic Design firm,  actually ended up in  political consultant Mike Lynch’s wallet.
 
Nothing that MID Directors Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, Paul Warda or the people in the shadows behind them do can be taken at face value. 
 
And it appears that the evil emperor Allen Short has persuaded Director Nick Blom to join the dark side.

MID Pays Tim O’Laughlin $1.5 Million in the Last Two Years

By Emerson Drake

Talk about attorney’s fees…

So you wonder where your money went?  You wonder why the rates keep going ever skyward?  Thank Tom Van Groningen, Allen Short, Paul Warda, and Glen Wild for paying O’Laughlin over $100,000 for February alone. 

Where did his big jump in pay come from you ask? From accompanying Allen Short around trying to convince gullible citizens that selling our water makes sense.

To use O’Laughlin’s favorite phrase from a recent council meeting where he was faking surprise, “I’m Shocked, just Shocked!”

Do you wonder why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce fell in behind the water sale so quickly without truly giving those against the sale an equal hearing?

It’s all about money!

It’s called the Presidents Club Circle of Influence..

View of 10th street of Modesto.

View of 10th street of Modesto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GOLD LEVEL. (check out Progress News pg. 9  next to the Lovelady’s ad) http://www.modchamber.org/news/default.asp

How did they get there? 

MONEY..the $1,000.00 ad they bought was a good start. But MID, using ratepayers money, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Want to buy influence in Modesto?  Just use a couple of Million dollars worth of electric and water ratepayers money to pay a  lawyer that keeps changing what he laughingly calls facts, buy a few ads, and you’re home free.

Some of you may believe the three obstinate minds,  Tom VanGroningen,  Paul Warda, and Glen Wild, can be made to see reason.  But as sad as it makes me to say it,

You’re wrong.

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