Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “corruption”

When Thursday is the New Friday

By Emerson Drake  ladyjustice

When politicians and public relations consultants have bad news that has to be delivered for public consumption they try to do it on Friday afternoons. It’s referred to as the Friday news dump.  It’s used to avoid the media scrutiny that would accompany any release during the rest of the week.


You see newspaper people like to have weekends off just like the rest of us.  So the majority of the Saturday and Sunday editions of the paper are pre-written and much of it already printed.  They leave a small space for sports but that’s about it.  And with their staffing cuts many times reaching someone on the weekend  in the newsroom is impossible.


For the most part for courts in the  judicial system Friday is a day to sort out legal and side issues with the attorneys so juries get to stay home.  So any news will come out on Thursday and what better day to release a bombshell like the Frank Carson revelations of forgotten files than the day before Christmas Eve.  The Chief Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira, after delivering the bombshell of newly found files, had her car brought around to the back of the building and snuck out the back door, all of the time refusing to questions.  And of course where was District Attorney Birgit Fladager?  Conveniently out of town traveling with family, incommunicado. Couldn’t plan that any better.


The District Attorney’s conduct in this case, in our opinion, was reprehensible at best and vindictive, personal and almost criminal at worst.


One of the important questions remaining is will local mainstream media Public Relations Powerhouse, the Modesto Bee, call her out on her heinous behavior and run a series of articles ON A TIMELY BASIS (soon and often) or will they support this petty vindictive politician that is apparently using her office for personal payback.  Another example is if they backed a politician for office than you won’t see many follow-up negative stories.  But if you ran against one of their ‘favorites,’  and that’s a lengthy list,  then God help you because the Bee’s version of ‘scorched earth’ would make General Sherman jealous.


Bee history suggests they will run a positive article after they run a negative one for politicians and organizations they supported to gain ofice.  If they run an article showing the dark side of a few Sheriff’s deputies they’ll run a feel good article showing deputies interacting with children (not picking on deputies just using an example you’ll recognize.


So expect the Bee to allow the behavior of Birgit Fladager and her office to fall by the wayside.  They want to shape the narrative and decide which stories you’ll remember and which you’ll forget.  There goes that institutional memory thing I talk about again.






Bruce “Dark Side” Frohman, Methinks Thou Doth Protest Too Much

By Emerson Drake    Darksidepic

Okay I know the title is a misquote of a line from Shakespeare that has entered the common  vernacular but seldom has it been more appropriate.  Public Record Requests (PRR) are a valuable tool in trying to peek behind the curtain  of deceit that sometimes appears when dealing with public entities and  public figures.  We use it here on the Eye on a regular basis, as do others .  In this instance a  PRR was made in an attempt to discover any ongoing correspondence between Modesto’s Mayor, Council, and Staff.

                                              Some Context 

Much to my surprise  an exchange of ‘curious’ emails between  Modesto’s Mayor Marsh and former one term  Modesto City Council Bruce “Dark Side” Frohman were among the several hundred that were turned over.  It’s common knowledge,  at one time prior to being elected Mayor,  Marsh was an advocate for the preservation of prime farmland.  Soon after the election it was revealed he (Marsh) not only attended the private Modesto  Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee meetings but publicly stood quietly on the sidelines while the Modesto Chamber and its members plotted to extend Modesto’s General Plan boundaries West and North to the river.  What was unknown  to the public at this time Marsh was a co-conspirator with his own plan.

In the past Dark Side had  been publicly siding with Denny Jackman and others for the preservation of prime farmland while pushing development onto less productive soils..but something changed recently.  After the Council withheld it’s previously promised support for a watered down version of RUL last spring and refused to place it on the ballot Denny was forced to seek signatures for his Stamp Out Sprawl initiative.

Mayor Marsh had been throwing the Board of Supervisors (BoS) under the bus at every opportunity.  He actually started using them as the boogie man and the reason for his land grab.  To “protect the farmers” he claimed.  And of course it came at a price, over 1,000 acres of prime farmland and the ability to place retail businesses inside the Beckwith Dakota Triangle.  This is akin to starting a small fire in a tinderbox forest and not expecting the Rim Fire which we experienced last year to develop. The Rim Fire eliminated hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and Marsh’s big-box retail would eventually eliminate the family farms in and around Wood Colony.  But he doesn’t care.

So when I wrote three sentences to my private facebook friends I didn’t expect the hoopla that ensued. Here is what I wrote.

“Stamp Out Sprawl has new opposition. Bruce Frohman has gone over to the dark side and has contacted Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh to co-author the con or opposition to SOS on the ballot. More to come. Watch EyeOnModesto.com for more information including the damning emails to be released soon.” 

These sentences spawned five articles from both Dark Side and the sites owner.  Each one funnier  than the prior one from my perspective since they flail out at anyone who commented  either on the sites’s stories or on my facebook follow-up.

Dark Side made the usual protestations, the statements were taken out of context, that his privacy was violated and I should have asked for permission, that Marsh’s emails were being monitored and  maybe my favorite was that it was  Orwellian. My response was: Your email wasn’t between private citizens, it was sent to the Mayor of Modesto at his ‘official’ city email so there was no expectation of privacy. It was obtained by a public record request which focused on developers in the Salida area, so asking for permission to publish it would seem to be a moot point.

Instead of me listing some of the phrases he used, here are Dark Side’s own words:    “Regarding Mr. Drake’s comment, I have no expectation of privacy when I write an email. However, I was quite surprised that the Mayor of Modesto’s email is being monitored so that those who may disagree with Mr. Drake’s viewpoint can be attacked without opportunity to respond. To have emails monitored in such a fashion seems Orwellian. Characterizing me, a private citizen, as having gone to the dark side for wanting to participate in the discussion is insulting and unreasonable. It is regrettable that some folks cannot engage in a discussion without name calling and personal attacks.”

Now compare my three sentences to what Dark Side wrote.  Kind of funny isn’t it?

After using over six hundred words in response to my three sentences, the one thing he didn’t supply is the email exchange:  From Frohman to Marshl: Subject: Denny Jackman Urban Limit Line Initiative  Bruce ‘Dark Side‘ Frohman’s exact words to the mayor on August 27, 2014 were: I would like my name to appear on the ballot argument opposing the initiative.  “Would you consider co-authoring a ballot argument, including me as a signatory?”

Is ambiguity involved?  Could there be a misunderstanding?  Is he undecided?  Were his words twisted out of context?  At least now you know why he was blustering and making all kinds of claims and  accusations.

               Lets get to the Heart of the matter…the Emails

Click on the link and you see the entire email exchange. Frohman_emails

Its almost understandable that the Mayor put further contact off for several months.  The purpose here isn’t to demonize anyone but with so many futures at stake in Wood Colony,  Salida, and Modesto knowing who REALLY supports you and who is drilling a hole in the bottom of your life boat IS important.

Bruce, your own words tell us you HAVE gone over to the Dark Side.







Mr. Greg Nyhoff, City Manager                                                                 via mail & fax.
P.O. Box 642                                                                                                209-571-5128

Modesto California

Modesto California (Photo credit: Wha’ppen)

Modesto, CA  95353
Mr. Garrad Marsh                                                                                                via email.
Mayor of Modesto
RE:  “Community Outreach Survey” to be done by Oakland based Lew Edwards Group
Dear Mr. Nyhoff and Mayor Marsh,
            Today, The Modesto Bee featured a front page article about a community outreach survey the City of Modesto plans to conduct in April or May through the above business group.  This survey is supposed to “assess the priorities of the community and its attitudes and awareness of services provided by the city”, give you feedback regarding the public’s feelings about the city’s public safety, roads, and the establishment of commercial flights from Modesto airport to Los Angeles area, how people feel about the city’s customer service, residents’ attitudes towards the city’s revenue options, and capture residents’ quality of life issues.
            To get a proper assessment of the community of the city of Modesto, a “random” telephone survey of only 400 residents (among a population of 203,000 (2010 Census) is only .00019% of the current population!  This is not even 1% representation.  How could this survey even be a realistic one, or true representation of the attitudes or community sentiment of Modesto?  Every resident’s voice should be heard
As far as we know, the outreach area just might be selected to be the poorest area of Modesto –  which would not reflect several middle class or upper scale neighborhoods’ concerns, attitudes, and values. 
            The public has a right to know the questions for the survey
Why don’t you publish another front page article in the Modesto Bee – with the survey questions and an email response address, so that EVERY Modesto resident can send you their comments.  
            Additionally, Modesto has not even sufficiently marketed and informed the public of the April 18, 2013 public outreach opportunity for the “strategic plan update” and what is this all about? Is this going to be done the day before, which will limit attendance too?
D. Minighini
Modesto, Del Rio resident”

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?


Dirty Politics by Bill Lyons, Mike Lynch and the Alliance Cost Stanislaus Residents Jobs

By Emerson Drake

Why is it every time people start looking into backroom deals to line a few private pockets at the expense of the majority of us, the names  Bill Lyons and Mike Lynch are usually at the top of the slime ball list?  Tuesday night at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting was no exception.  One of the first announcements was that Supervisor Terry Withrow was required to recuse himself from voting on Gerry Kamilos’ WestPark project.   

Bill Lyons, who was the political opponent Terry Withrow soundly defeated, allegedly sent an email complaining about a potential conflict of interest since Withrow’s wife holds a one twelfth interest in some land across the street from the project.  This wasn’t considered a problem during earlier discussions but when Lyons and Lynch became concerned about the possibility of Kamilos being told to hit the road, Lyons and Lynch pulled out all of the stops.

Gerry Kamilos gave a presentation to the Board that quite honestly defied belief for anyone who has followed this debacle from the beginning. He did acknowledge the WestPark footprint had changed yet again.  Remember the original size was supposed to be approximately 1,400 acres but Kamilos insisted on 4,800 acres.  The bloated size of the project caused him problems from the beginning.  His most recent fantasy involves 2,900 acres which includes a scaled down solar farm (he can’t find a buyer for his electricity if built) and intermodal operation (truck and rail)  and a business park.

Kamilos paraded a mixed group of consultants who allegedly supported his concept but each and every one of them can to the party empty-handed and represented only themselves and not their organizations.  While Port Commissioner Victor Uno said “we think this project has great value to your community” he wasn’t bearing any “official”  Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) to do business with Kamilos.  None of his business supporters were carrying MOU’s.  We were treated to kind words regarding the Union Pacific Railroad but again no MOU, in other words nothing concrete.

When Kamilos came to a page in his presentation containing about twelve as he termed it “good questions” he provided a little smoke and a few mirrors but didn’t completely answer any of them.  His consultant for water and sewer who has been with the project from its inception could provide no insight to how the sewer and water could be handled.

Kamilos’ Problem is he doesn’t have ANY Answers.

Kamilos doesn’t know or isn’t willing to admit he doesn’t have a clue where the money to upgrade the railroad tracks will come from.  He overlooks the fact that an Intermodal operation in Modesto had to be down sized because of the lack of business.  But Kamilos keeps using numbers that suggest he will get the lions share of the business in the valley when at least one of his competitors in Lathrop is better located and has had a successful operation for years. 

When Kamilos was questioned by Supervisor DeMartini his responses fell flat.  Kamilos used phrases like “value engineering” and “when the contingencies are factored” which have absolutely no meaning and DeMartini called him on it. When Kamilos claimed to have made “credible progress” the audience laughed and wondered aloud if Kamilos understood what that meant.  I’ve heard a few complaints regarding Supervisor DeMartini’s questioning of Kamilos but I thought DeMartini’s response was on target. DeMartini said he didn’t find Kamilos’ answers credible and he didn’t have the track record of someone the Board should be doing business with.

DeMartini asked Kamilos for a list of successful business parks he developed.  Kamilos named a few but DeMartini pointed out the parks he mentioned had never been completed or were mainly housing developments. DeMartini has been suggesting all along that Kamilos had originally used a map with five thousand home on it.  Kamilos has been denying this but last night Supervisor Monteith slipped and said the original map contained the  homes but the board had asked Kamilos to change it and he did.

Kamilos sued for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars by his vendors

Kamilos has a track record which suggests his vendors have been required to take him into court to get paid. These weren’t challenges of withholding payment for shoddy work. Kamilos just doesn’t have the money to pay his creditors. One of his consultants last night appears to be continuing to support him in order to eventually get paid for past services rendered.  DeMartini raised the concern a creditor would come after the $2 Million deposit the County is going to hold.  That issue was never cleared up completely.

Supervisor Monteith says Kamilos is AMAZING

Actually Monteith said Kamilos was amazing three separate times.  It sounded almost like Monteith had a bro-mance going on with Kamilos.  Monteith didn’t mention if he purchased his rose-colored glasses or if they were loaned to him by Lyons and the Alliance but they definitely effected his view of reality in the opinion of many. Monteith has been a Kamilos supporter and sees nothing wrong with the five, going on six-year delay.  But since Monteith stopped placing candles on his birthday cakes he might not be aware of just how many years have passed. It begs the question if six years in “Supervisory Years” are the same as they are for you and me.

Supervisor Chiesa a disappointment

Although Supervisor Chiesa sent plenty of warning signs out about his vote prior to the proceedings, a glimmer of hope had prevailed with the crowd, since Supervisor Chiesa had said fifteen months ago it was the last extension he would vote for. But alas, in our opinion it appears he had been persuaded to change his mind prior to last nights meeting.  Chiesa is a smart businessman and I firmly believe nothing he heard last night could have possibly influenced him to vote for Kamilos and his project.

Kamilos held the Reports Hostage and dangled the $2.75 Million as a Saving Grace for the Supervisors

Yes the combination of the money and the lost reports were used as an excuse for the three Supervisors to vote for this option.  Bill Bassitt of the Alliance basically said there was no downside to the deal.  He told the Board early on If they got to keep the money it would be a fair deal.  But Mr. Bassitt and his Alliance get paid more from the state if the economic conditions remain as they are.  Yes, they want things to get better for the valley but would prefer it to be coordinated  to ensure the best of possible deals for their boards members.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce Trots out Paid help to Promote Kamilos’s Deal

Yes, as usual the Chamber was knee-deep in trying to divide the “spoils” they hope to receive. They supplied paid employees to speak in support of Kamilos. Someone compared them to a “Union” for businesses. Others prefer to think of them simply as paid lobbyists.

JOBS are the Most Important result for WestPark

Yes, jobs are the top concern but the question that was supposed to be asked and answered last night was ‘is Kamilos the right developer to answer Stanislaus County’s prayers? ‘

Most of the public seems to feel Kamilos brought the early difficulties with WestPark on himself with his arrogance.  He believed he could run rough shod over everyone and everything, but he failed to size up the opportunities correctly.  Now all he can do is try to buy time to find  a deep pocketed suitor who won’t look too close at the details to provide the working capital he so desperately needs to continue his bumbling, stumbling, lurching attempt to cross the goal line.

Modesto Wants to Make Camping in Your Own Backyard Illegal

By Emerson Drake

I know it sounds crazy but that is what they intend to do Tuesday night at the City Council meeting.  It’s Item #20 on this weeks agenda.


If the City Council has their way, if you want to campout in your backyard with your kids for two nights you’ll have to go to City Manager Gregg Nyhoff to get a permit.  And as we all know permits are a fund-raising mechanism and as a result cost money.  Does anyone possibly believe this makes sense?

Councilman Joe Muratore of NSP2 infamy has been leading this attack on the homeless since he was elected. But now he and his cohorts are willing to punish all of Modesto’s citizens in order to “put the hammer down” on a few.

Children have been camping out in their backyards for as long as I can remember and longer. My grandsons have been occasionally camping in the backyard for years .  A sleeping bag is considered illegal by the Council’s new ordinance.

This Crazy Ordinance makes relatives visiting in RV’s illegal

The following is taken directly from the City’s website…

4-12.701. DEFINITIONS.

Unless the particular provisions or the context otherwise requires, the definitions

contained in this section shall govern the construction, meaning, and application

of words and phrases used in this Article.


“Camp” means to place, pitch or occupy camp facilities; to live

temporarily in a camp facility or outdoors; to use camp paraphernalia.


“Camp facilities” include, but are not limited to, tents, huts, vehicles,

vehicle camping outfits or temporary shelter.






“Camp paraphernalia” includes, but is not limited to, bedrolls,

tarpaulins, cots, beds, sleeping bags, hammocks or cooking facilities and

similar equipment.


“City Manager” means the City Manager or designee.


“Establish” means setting up or moving equipment, supplies or materials

on to public or private property to “camp” or operate camp facilities.


“Maintain” means keeping or permitting equipment, supplies or materials

to remain on public or private property in order to camp or operate camp



“Operate” means participating or assisting in establishing or maintaining

a camp or camp facility.


“Park” means the same as defined in Modesto Municipal Code Section



“Private property” means all private property including, but not limited

to, streets, sidewalk, alleys, and improved or unimproved land.


“Public property” means all public property including, but not limited to,

streets, sidewalks, alleys, improved or unimproved land and parks.


“Store” means to put aside or accumulate for use when needed, to put for

safekeeping, to place or leave in a location.


It is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to camp, occupy camp

facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:

(a) Any public property; or

(b) Any private property.

(1) It is not intended by this section to prohibit overnight camping on

private residential property by friends or family of the property

owner, so long as the owner consents and the overnight camping is

limited to not more than one consecutive night.





(2) Nothing in this Article is intended to prohibit or make unlawful,

activities of an owner of private property or other lawful user of

private property that are normally associated with and incidental to

the lawful and authorized use of private property for residential or

other purposes; and provided further, nothing is intended to

prohibit or make unlawful, activities of a property owner or other

lawful user if such activities are expressly authorized by the City’s

comprehensive zoning ordinance or other laws, ordinances and


(3) The City Manager may, as provided in Section 4-12.705 of this

Article, issue a temporary permit to allow camping on public or

private property in connection with a special event.

A violation of this section is a misdemeanor. In addition to the remedies set forth

in Penal Code Section 370, the City Attorney may institute civil or administrative

actions to abate a public nuisance under this Article.



It is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to store personal property,

including camp paraphernalia, in the following areas, except as otherwise

provided by resolution of the City Council:

(a) Any public property; or

(b) Any private property without the written consent of the owner.

A violation of this section is a misdemeanor. In addition to the remedies set forth

in Penal Code Section 370 the City Attorney may institute civil or administrative

actions to abate a public nuisance under this Article.


The City Manager may, in his or her discretion, issue a permit to establish,

maintain and operate a camp or a camp facility in connection with a special event.

A special event is intended to include, but not be limited to, programs operated by

the City departments, youth or school events, marathons or other sporting events

and scouting activities. The City Manager may consult with various City

departments, the health officer and the public prior to issuing any temporary

permit. Each department or person consulted may provide comments regarding

any health, safety or public welfare concerns and provide recommendations

pertaining to the issuance, denial or conditioning of the permit. A reasonable fee,

to be set by the City Council shall be paid, in advance, by the applicant. The fee

shall be returned if the application is denied. In exercising his or her discretion to

issue a temporary permit, the City Manager may consider any facts or evidence

bearing on the sanitary, health, safety and welfare conditions on or surrounding

the area or tract of land upon which the proposed temporary camp or camp facility

is to be located. 

 Did you catch the reasonable fee line?

In Other Words It’s up to the City Manager if Relatives can Visit Legally..!

Modesto is out of control and it’s up to the citizens to take control back.

I understand we have a problem with some of our homeless population but if they intend on punishing all of us to place handcuffs on a few, well they have another think coming.

I’ll be at the city council meeting with a sleeping bag to protest this intrusive law which attempts to place unconstitutional limits on what we can do on our private property.

I hope to see you there.

“What they do to the least of us they do to all of us and this is a perfect example.”

Are you Concerned about the Proposed MID Water Sale?

Here is some interesting information from Reed Smith.

Attached please find a transcription of the Thursday, May 18 SFPUC’s Deputy General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, Michael Carlin’s, presentation on behalf of SFPUC GM, Ed Harrington, to the Bay Area Water Delivery and Conservation Agency Board of Directors meeting.  The section includes both Mr. Carlin’s presentation, and the questions and answers directly following and pertaining to his presentation. 
I think you will find the area bounded by a RED BOX on page 17 interesting.
Without prognosticating the inference of the key statement.  One might suspect that MID Director Wild’s assertion this past MID Board meeting on May 22, 2012 that his support for the 2,240 AF sale to the SFPUC is solely to make money for infrastructure ( a concept publicly not shared by GM Allen Short ) is probably out the window.  It appears that MID will be spending all of it’s income from this “drop in the bucket” (as characterized by Mayor Marsh) on litigation costs.  Net result: no income benefit to MID from the sale.
So, let’s see what the next excuse in favor of the sale from Director Wild is.  I can hardly wait . . .
From: Aaron Porter
Date: Tue, 29 May 2012 08:09:58 -0700
To: Reed Smith
Cc: “Allison C. Schutte”
Subject: RE: BAWSCA May 17, 2012 meeting?

Hi Mr. Smith,


Attached is the requested section of the transcription of the May 17, 2012 BAWSCA Board of Directors meeting.  The section includes both Mr. Carlin’s presentation, and the questions and answers directly following and pertaining to his presentation.  I hope this adequately meets your request, and if you have any further questions or requests, please let me know.



Aaron Porter




Another Black Mark on Modesto, The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless

By Emerson Drake

It was supposed to help the chronic homeless and homeless veterans when Councilman Joe Muratore asked the Safety and Communities Committee  for permission to create what evolved into this cruel and heartless attack on Modesto’s homeless. 

Out of 32 applicants, 9 were chosen. One dropped out but the rest pushed forward with their personal agendas.  J. David Wright, the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless or (BRCH), stated it correctly when, at the April 03, 2012 City Council meeting ,said the 9 chosen were all “effected” by our homeless citizens . He failed to mention the members were either negatively effected by the homeless or stood to gain potential financial profit for themselves or the respective self identified groups they represent.  

But even that doesn’t tell the whole story of the BRCH’s members.

Mike Moradian was one of Joe Muratore’s confidants in Muratore’s council election campaign.  Moradian was the leader of a non-profit LaLoma Neighborhood Association (LLNA). The LLNA “strongly supported” Muratore’s council bid and the LLNA soon lost its non-profit status.  Muratore and Moradian were advocates of leveling the airport district (which is in Muratore’s council District) in order to help rid Modesto of its homeless population and those who Moradian perceived as “trouble makers.”  Moradian also supported Muratore’s hope the city would financially support their private security force in LaLoma’s local public parks.

Two of the chosen were former members of the Stanislaus Community Assistance Program (SCAP).  Darryl Fair who was Chairman for SCAP’s board of directors during the height of the SCAP debacle and has been hoping someone would come along and fund a daycare center said he could “manage.” And Frank Ploof who, for a period of time, was a member of SCAP’s board of directors and despite having SCAP’s irregularities exposed with Darryl Fair at the helm, continued to “hook up”  Fwith air at the  Renaissance Center. The center was originally set up as a non-profit in Fair’s sons’ name but lost its non-profit status from the IRS for non-compliance of financial regulations.

Vanessa Czopek, Stanislaus County’s head librarian was chosen because of, or in spite of, her misgivings regarding the homeless presence in and around the downtown branch in  Modesto.  She had taken active steps to disenfranchise these citizens from their right to use the library.  Since she couldn’t legally refuse them access to the inside, she attempted to “disinclined” them of using the outside.   Ms. Czopek had most of the tables and benches removed from the library portico.  Unfortunately many other citizens, yes even those with homes, used these benches as a place to rest while exploring the nearby farmers market or just enjoying the beautiful tree-lined streets adjoining the library.

Brad Wilson had been a long time employee of the Modesto’s Y0semite Gospel Mission.  During his time on the committee he was placed in charge of the Mission. He did have some difficulties with getting permission to renovate an existing structure to expand their rehabilitation abilities.  Of course an opportunity to reinforce his “way” of rehabilitating people and a chance to funnel a larger percentage of public donations to his organization couldn’t possibly hurt.

Steve Madison the former head of Modesto’s Building Industry Association and now on the Board of Directors there managed to get himself appointed to the Salvation Army Board.  A feat usually performed by aspiring political wannabees through donating a significant amount of money but requiring no expertise or experience with those in need.  Unless of course of you count a developer looking for a piece of prime farm land to plant driveways in or a politician looking for a campaign donation.

J.David Wright the Commission Chairman is a local insurance branch owner and salesman and doesn’t like anyone to eek out an existence by living behind a dumpster near his place of business.  Mr. Wright has been especially busy donating to successful Council and failed Mayoral hopefuls to the tune of $5,700 in the last year alone.  Did I mention many of these same candidates are now on the council and recently reappointed him and the other Commissioners (I guess they think it sounds better than committee members) to another yet unnamed commission task?

J. David Wright made it very clear he/they believe the homeless are molly coddled and overfed. He made the claim they homeless could get fed 10 to 15 times a day, which is something the report doesn’t document. Muratore later made the claim that the homeless could get fed up to 20 times daily.  This claim was refuted later by people and groups who fed the homeless daily on their own.

Wright also made the claim there are 10 or 12 agencies in Modesto that pass out food daily. Again their report does not substantiate this.  Point in fact, one of the agencies they reference will give 3 days of food once every 3 months!

We need to understand the BRCH had several goals. One is to create a mindset of “out of sight out of mind.”  Day centers would be helpful but not as a magic wand. Many of the homeless wouldn’t use a daycare facility except occasionally or during inclimate weather.

Another goal is to funnel donations, monetary and food, to just a few groups like the Yosemite Gospel Mission, Interfaith ministries) which didn’t participate here) and the Salvation Army.  unfortunately this limits the people who will be allowed access to the support services provided since these agencies have alienated aprox.15-20% of the homeless due to their restrictive rules and religious affiliations.

An informative pamphlet Merced uses would be of great use to homeless advocates and those wishing to truly assist the homeless in finding available resources.  It is also necessary to monitor the major groups presently assisting the homeless in order to ensure the greatest dispersion to ALL of the homeless not just those who fit the cookie cutter ideals of the few powerful organizations who presently dominate the field. Plus the homeless most often are transportation challenged.  The “fairytale style anecdotal stories”  told by the BRCH members are a prime example of how their agendas have tainted their perspectives.  Grants being written for or money handed over to “professional non-profiteers” should be avoided.

 The reading of the BRCH’s final report is recommended. BRCReport.   But continued community involvement and supervision is very important.  The Joe Muratore’s of the world can’t be trusted with those who are most vulnerable to society’s baser instincts. 

What we allow done to the least of us we allow done to all of us.

Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me...

Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Letter from the Tuolumne River Trust that held up the Water Sale

Here it is, the letter from the Tuolumne River Trust to the San Francisco Public Utilities District that held up the MID water sale.



MID Board Takes One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

By Emerson Drake

Board President Tom Van Groningen, in a surprise move Tuesday, allowed an extremely rare opportunity for the public to exchange thoughts with the board’s attorney, Tim O’Laughlin.  O’Laughlin spoke to the fact sheet Reed Smith previously to the Modesto City Council and supplied to MID’s Board at last weeks meeting.

“I’m Shocked just Shocked” 

This was the theatrical claim made by O’Laughlin. His reference was to the use by Reed Smith of a 60,000 acre feet seepage total from Modesto reservoir.  Those of use who sit through these outbursts of O’Laughlins were shaking our heads.  The 60,000 acre feet number was used by MID staff, General Manager Allen Short, and O’Laughlin at every presentation made to the public up to and including the presentation made to the Modesto City Council.

When you sit in these meetings month after month you start to understand why MID’s Board doesn’t want to save these performances by legal counsel.  After all, have you ever known a public entity to destroy video discs taken at their meetings after 100 days and before the minutes are accepted?  But that is standard operating procedure at MID.

So once again MID staff has revised their numbers to improve the private agenda-driven (personal profit amongst other considerations) goals of attorney O’Laughlin and GM Short.

There were only a few members of the public present to hear the latest diatribe against concerned citizens. Heck,  the MID staff out numbered the public two to one but that didn’t put a damper on those present to counter the propaganda issued at Short’s request by O’Laughlin.

After the short propaganda presentation shyster, O’Laughlin was asked for a hard copy of the numbers which he refused saying they would be available on the MID website by the end of the week.

At this point we have only two members on the board, Larry Byrd and Nick Blom who have shown concern and been responsive to the public.  Both of these men display a personal quest to understand where MID spends its money.  Understand that it isn’t because they’re new, it’s because they care.  Most of the questions they ask can’t be answered by GM Short or shyster/attorney O’Laughlin. They are usually answered by staff because Short and O’Laughlin don’t know the answers.  The other members of the board, Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild (who has never in the last two years shown an interest in doing anything but playing sycophant), and Paul Warda (who is ill and we hope for his speedy recovery),  haven’t displayed an understanding of the complexities of MID’s spending despite their years on the board.  Glen Wild has been on the board two years and has displayed less knowledge and has asked fewer questions than Larry Byrd, who has only been on the board for four months.

Rubber stamps like VanGroningen, Wild and Warda don’t have to know why….they just have to know when to vote and how Allen Short wants them to vote.

Now of major concern is the poor leadership of Tom VanGroningen.  In most instances when you address the consent calendar of a public body by pulling items of consent, they will take a moment and explain what the item is for. The MID Board has  gone both ways on this issue but after the meeting Tuesday, Tom Van Groningen stated the board would no longer respond to public inquiries at meetings.  He specifically stated questions will not be answered about warrants(one method MID uses to pay their bills) and people can make statements but the board will not respond to questions.

This I find is a curious way for the board, which during the meeting, claimed they wanted to be open with the public, to respond.  It was bad enough O’Laughlin lied to Director Byrd during the last meeting, when he claimed he didn’t know how MID handled his invoices after he submitted them.  Why do I say he lied?  Because shyster O’Laughlin had already been paid.

Why do we need more openness?  Because Allen Short and Tim O’Laughlin have repeatedly involved staff in  juggling the numbers and information made available  to make Shorts expansive and unrealistic visions of the future, the same visions requiring our rates to rise,  seem reasonable.  After all O’Laughlin let the cat out of the bag when he admitted Oakdale Irrigation District doesn’t feel any need for recapture ponds like the ones Short and staff says are not only necessary but imperative to the tune of $72 Million.

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