Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Bill Bassitt”

The Goodwin Report in Full

By Emerson Drake

So now it’s finally out for public consumption.  No more being passed just from one back room buddy to another.  No more just having the Alliance or the Modesto Chamber of Commerce being privy to the information YOUR tax dollars bought.

Take the time to review it and let it all soak in. We’ll be discussing the report in the near future in detail. But first, we, like you, have some questions that need answered. Feel free to add  your questions and  comments to this article. The questions we don’t know the answers to we’ll add to our own list and find out for you.

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

Radio RED 104.9 FM

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






Topics include a recent conversation with Modesto’s Mayor on the Salida annexation, What the public needs to remember from the Del Rio well proposal, an up-date on Modesto’s Cat Killers (yes we have at least two), MID’s latest budget and what you don’t know about 503 (C)(6) ‘s This and a Happy Birthday salute so don’t forget to tune us in.

To listen Wednesday night at 7:00PM or in our archives anytime


Our Flagship station 104.9 FM

Do We Want MID to Keep Giving Money to Lobbyists?

Modesto Marathon  8080

By Emerson Drake

Can it really be a coincidence MID gives money to organizations like the Alliance and the Chamber of Commerce and then representatives of these same organizations appear at MID meetings to promote the very arguments those who push the funding have? Consider what has happened recently when officials in the Alliance and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce stood many times both at the MID podium and at various organizations speaking in behest of the water sale, MID donates money and the representatives make their appearance.

MID is proposing to give the Alliance $20,000 again this year like they have in years past. MID also buys “pages” in the Chamber of Commerce’s publications at our expense and the Chamber Directors conveniently appear for MID meetings, Rotary, and the County Board meetings.  It’s another example of the “good old boy” way to do business.  They use OUR money to achieve their aims.

The Alliance’s IRS designation is that of a 501 (C)  (6).   Let’s just make it easy and call the m a 501C6.  This enables them to spend their time and money  on lobbying.  The Chamber is the same. A type of non-profit,  a little like SCAP (you remember them) was a non-profit. They can pay themselves any amount they choose and still pretend to the world their hands are clean.

The Alliance even refers to business donors as investors except for MID and maybe others because the paperwork I received from the Alliance doesn’t show a list of donors and/or amounts.  Remember MID is supposed to be a non-profit and Allen Short was making over $200,000 yearly.  Not bad for a non-profit.

According to Bill Bassitt the Alliance has three budgets.  The money from the State and County seem to be closely accounted for but the business donations aren’t dealt with so clearly (or at all) as far as I can tell. Maybe he hasn’t sent me that budget yet. He did say they revise it monthly.

The idea of MID making the donations is to create more electric sales. I have to chuckle at a company who on one hand is supposed to be cutting back on both our rates and consumption and on the other hand is spending ratepayers money on selling more electricity.  Especially interesting is the fact MID wrote over $2.5 M in bad debts to BUSINESSES who didn’t pay their bills last year.  So ratepayers covered the losses created by businesses and now we’re being asked to pony up another $20,000 to attract more.

When I waded through the MID budget workshops I didn’t see the line item for giving Modesto Lobbyist Cecil Russel the Chamber’s donation, or the subsequent advertising purchases (page buys) that make the Chamber so happy with MID Directors  Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild.

The County and the City both donate to the Alliance so I feel like I’m already getting taxed twice for these lobbyists.  I don’t want to pay another user fee to MID so Tom and Glen can make nice with their buddies at the local watering hole while they’re playing pass the scotch.

The Oakdale Irrigation District on the other hand has cut them back to just $2,000 again this year. Personally I think the $2,000 is too much and that if Directors want to make a donation it should be out of their own wallet, not ours.

Yes, I do remember Bill Bassitt making the claim at the last MID meeting that OID was in this year for $10,000.  But that was an intentional misstatement.  Why should we be surprised, after all, he’s just another lobbyist.

Bill Bassitt Stretches the Truth for a Larger MID Contribution

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

The newly appointed members of the Water Advisory Committee were introduced at yesterday’s MID meeting.  But you have to wonder if TomVanGroningen is starting to slip just a bit.  He introduced Richard Ulm, the City of Modesto’s choice, but “forgot” to offer him an opportunity to speak.  He made a point of allowing everyone else an opportunity.  Well, maybe except his own appointee who he failed to introduce for several minutes. He eventually went back and allowed his man the opportunity to be heard but never allowed the City appointees an opportunity.  We’re seeing slips like these more often in recent months along with his occasional volcanic outbursts of temper.

During public input for the good of the District, I suggested to the Board  they needed to investigate the way Allen Short, Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild and apparently willing accomplice Joy Warren (Ms. Warren with Short signed authorizations for $90,000 plus  on expired Martino Graphics payments) laundered money through Martino Graphics.  I also asked that they please  explain “exactly” what the money was used for.  I also reminded them of the $28,800 they paid George Petrulakis for facilitating the only meeting between the City and MID regarding the potential water sale.  There has to be more to the story but the Board, to this point, has refused to authorize an investigation into this apparent misappropriation of funds.

If MID continues to stonewall inquiries in these regards it appears it’s time to attempt to get either the  District Attorney (which at this point isn’t likely) or the Civil Grand Jury to investigate where the ratepayer’s money has gone. Although I believe our local Civil Grand Jury politically protects a chosen few, it would seem to be our only recourse.  In the future when Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are gone, maybe we can discover who was behind the cover-up.

In a prior article I wrote about the $210,000 for the 2nd floor’s carpet which comes to  $61.76 per yard and the $30,000 for two desks and a counter for outside Short’s office along with an ice machine which for $8,000, you would think has a flat screen and Internet access! https://eyeonmodesto.com/2012/09/24/people-1-mid-0-in-best-of-7/.  This was straight from a MID Budget workshop meeting. Director Byrd questioned the carpet and desks but didn’t include the ice machine which, according to professionals I contacted, is extremely overpriced.  And while I agree with Director Byrd about the GM’s car I didn’t write about it at the time.

                        How the Dust Up / Van Groningen’s Meltdown  Began

At the beginning of the budget discussion Director Van Groningen used his authority to bump Bill Bassitt from the Workforce Alliance to the front of the discussion.  Mr. Bassitt was there to request a donation of ratepayer money (although he didn’t describe it that way) for his organization. During his talk, which wasn’t timed like the rest of the public, and in the response to a question, he made the claim that the Oakdale Irrigation District was donating $10,000 to the Alliance this year.  Having been to the OID meeting last week, I knew they hadn’t donated $10,000 in several years, but I wasn’t allowed to ask a follow-up question of Mr. Bassitt who left the proceedings 5-10 minutes later.

What I don’t understand is the way, especially at MID, the public is treated like children who don’t know anything. When I had the opportunity to speak 20 minutes or so later I took the opportunity to point out the obvious discrepancy in donation figures and mentioned the Alliance’s budget isn’t completely available on their website.  After I sat down Tom Van Groningen pulled one of his favorite CHEAP SHOT  TACTICS.  Tom waits for you to sit down so he can launch a diatribe against you when you can’t respond without being gaveled down for being out of order.  Tom’s blood pressure jumped and he started raising his voice claiming I was wrong and he wasn’t going to stand for it.  Well he didn’t stand for it because he remained seated.

So yesterday afternoon I talked with someone from the Alliance and arranged to speak with someone more informed from there this morning.  Not surprisingly after a few questions Bill Bassitt came on the line.  First we talked about the Alliance’s Budget.  It is actually at least three budgets.  Of course, like asking questions at MID, you need to ask the question exactly the right way or you won’t get the real answer.  it took several follow-up questions to find out about each of the two additional budgets.  One is available on-line at their website http://www.stanalliance.com/. He says another is with the County and that he would make it available to me.  I offered to make a Public Information Request with the County but he said it wasn’t necessary.  At first he said the third budget they have is quarterly. but then he said they change it monthly and that it wasn’t available on-line but that he would make it available to me too.

Then we discussed the OID donation.  At first he stuck with the $10,000 claim. When I explained that wasn’t accurate he then claimed they donated $10,000 last year.  That, I told him wasn’t accurate either. Then he said he thought about mentioning the Kaiser donation (where that came from I have no idea) and thought better of it.  Kaiser hasn’t made up its mind for this year he finally acknowledged.  I reminded him it had been several years since OID donated the claimed $10,000 and they had cut the number to $5,000 then to $2,000 last year.  This year he  requested a four year commitment but they declined. One year at $2,000 doesn’t add up to $10,000 any way you try to spin it.

So Director Van Groningen you owe me an apology for the claims you made against me.  But I don’t expect one since we both know the kind of man you are.  And if you want to donate $20,000 to the Alliance please do it from your personal account and not that of the ratepayers.

  One thing I do want to clear up is that I misspoke when I addressed the Board when I said they had all voted to pay the Martino  Graphics invoices.  Director Byrd was the lone hold out and I didn’t get the opportunity to correct my mistake.  So Director Byrd I apologize and will do so again at the next MID meeting I attend, when on the record, I can correct my mistake.

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