Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Craig Lewis”

Today in the Name of Freedom We Start Taking the Battle to Them

By Emerson Drake7539_644398712288462_663275294_n

Okay it’s a little dramatic, but it fits.  The Modesto City Council is preparing, through its General Plan Amendment update, to annex Wood Colony and possibly Salida and I say enough is enough.  Unlike the beleaguered citizens of Modesto, residents of Wood Colony and Salida have a means to fight back.  Marketplace Shopping Center is a prime example.  Modesto residents came out in droves to protest the building of the center at Sylvan and Oakdale roads but the city council, after pretending to listen and postponing the decision a few times, decided developers were more important to them than the voting citizens of the neighborhood.  They can’t protest the decision to a higher authority like Wood Colony and Salida will be able to ie: LAFCO.

The Modesto City Council has been drinking the Chamber of Commerce’s Kool aid.

After speaking with Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer on Jan.7th it became obvious, that despite her protestations of independent research, she was mouthing the exact platitudes of the Chamber’s Craig Lewis and lobbyist Cecil Russell.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, is the chant.  But all they are providing are empty promises of ‘core’ jobs which is deceiving few if any.  Core jobs don’t rely on freeway access, warehouse and distribution jobs at $10 to $12 an hour do.  And the Chamber says we should be grateful for that.  But Bill Lyons’ Wood Colony Business Park (WCBP) would provide the 5% commissions for Realtors like Councilman Bill Zoslocki and his boss at Prudential Realty, Craig Lewis.  Jenny likes to say she wants a research facility to be built at WCPB and challenged me to give her another option.  Very simple, if it’s going to be 10 to 20 years before build-out, which I doubt, lets use the second rate soil on land East of Modesto.   Just like the Chamber, Jenny dismissed this out of hand.   Why?  Because they know it’s out best option and it undermines their arguments in favor of Salida and Wood Colony.

Another talking point they, the Chamber and many members of the Council make is a business park would keep our children from leaving Modesto.  What a joke, but again false promises hold out hope to parents of children who might leave after college graduation.  I suppose if they had a child who wanted to be an oceanographer they’d promise to build an ocean in the proposed park too.

Their spiel isn’t about truth, it’s about taking advantage of the hard times and making as much money as possible for themselves and their friends just like developer and profiteer Bill Zoslocki did with Village I.

I supported Jenny Kenoyer when she ran for office the first time. I sat with her and fought the proposed water sale to San Francisco.  I heard her speak many times about preserving prime farmland.  And now because she mentions  farmland mitigation she believes it covers for her sins for making false campaign promises.  I understand some politicians lie to get in office but I truly never expected it of her, not to this extent.

And as for taking the fight to them…

There are people walking Modesto council districts explaining to the people just how badly the City Council is treating the German Baptist Brethren in Wood Colony.   But as Jenny admitted saying, they (the Brethren) can’t vote for her.

Food for thought about the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and those in the Modesto City Council who vote against the preservation of Wood Colony and Salida…To know where Evil grows and permit it to flourish is to accept responsibility for all that follows.

The Chamber Plotting the Take over of Wood Colony

By Emerson Drake                                         LTU_Team-225x145

In our opinion a small cabal of greedy people have taken over the Modesto Chamber of Commerce in the last eight to ten  years.  They run candidates who promote their agenda, many times to the detriment of Modesto citizens.  From Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild, and Jim Mortensen on MID Board to Stephanie Burnside and Dave Cogdill Jr. on the City Council, we’ve helped in the attempt to fight off their influence and it’s one more time into the breach my friends.

Herein the picture are some on the people behind the land grab.   And this is the list of names of the Transportation Committee which comprises many of the other plotters.                                                                                                                                                                            Modesto Chamber of Commerce – Land Use & Transportation Committee 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 And of course the Chamber’s head lobbyist Cecil Russell.  If you know  any of these people feel free to contact them and register your disapproval.

It’s difficult to expect an open mind from Councilman Bill Zoslocki when he was part of the problem.  Little wonder he was being so condescending and speaking like a preschool teacher to their charges. But what is the connection you ask?  It goes back to the Village I debacle where developers and the Chamber used their considerable influence to lower building fees which allowed developers like Bill Zoslocki to receive excess profits (in other words become profiteers), but now Councilman Zoslocki is working for Craig Lewis at his branch of Prudential Real Estate.  Their constant lament during the Planning Commission presentations/workshops was there wasn’t enough commercial land for THEM to sell. Like we owe them a living and should take/steal land from others and make it available to them.  Just how self-entitled can you get?

Brad Hawn (on the lower right) is a former city councilman who the Chamber worked behind the scenes to get placed on LAFCO (Land Formation Commission) which will eventually get to decide if the annexation will go through.  Jim Mortensen, a failed MID candidate, was helping the Chamber promoting the water sale to San Francisco and is/was actively promoting the land grab.

George Petrulakis (second from the right) is a land use attorney who wrote most of the Modesto Charter and helped ensure clauses like the one Marsh misused to keep the public from speaking out at city council meetings as the Brown Act allows. Fortunately one of our contributors quoted the case on point (Friant Water Authority v. County of Madera) and eventually the Mayor relented and allowed those who spoke at the Dec.3rd meeting to speak again.  Unfortunately if was after many had already gone home.  George’s boss from Keystone Development spoke at the meeting to promote the land grab.  George’s claim to fame, along with writing the Modesto City Charter, was with Keystone where  he threatened to sue Patterson and then he was behind a petition to create a zoning czar in Patterson who would NOT be accountable to the city council just because of a zoning disagreement.  He’s one land use attorney we need to keep an eye on.

Of course we can’t overlook the Chambers head lobbyist Cecil Russell especially since Cecil was actively promoting the water sale to San Francisco along with Keating.  He and former Modesto Councilwoman Janice Keating, also from the Chamber, are basically speakers for hire and will say almost anything at any time for a payday.

In order to fight fire with fire we suggest a flyer be made and spread around town to businesses who are Modesto Chamber members.  The flyer would request support from Modesto shoppers with the goal of saving Wood Colony and while asking the store owners for permission to display the flyer ask the owners to call the Chamber and request they cease and desist.

And this is just the beginning…

Here are more of the denizens of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce

Craig-LewisRuben-VillalobosBrad-Hawncecil-russell Left to right: Craig Lewis, Ruben Villalobos, Brad Hawn, and of course the lobbyist Cecil Russell.

Mayor Marsh and Some Council Members Want to Silence the Opposition


By Emerson Drake

Thanks to Mayor Marsh the excrement has hit the oscillating rotary device (something about hitting a fan).  We learned last week Mayor Marsh was planning NOT to allow people who had spoken at the December City Council meeting to speak again.  Apparently if you don’t agree with the Mayor and Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s land grab proposal (also known as Pathways to SPRAWL) you should sit down and shut up!

When we tried to inform people regarding his plan we were met with disbelief.  Not that people thought we were lying, but shaking their collective heads thinking it was political suicide and was unthinkable.  But now it has been made public (remember just because you might have read it in the Bee doesn’t make it wrong.. :).  We were singing our tale loud and long (including to the Bee) because the purpose is to get the word out to as many people as possible.

What may have slipped past many people is the Mayor and staff are cooking up an idea to delay Denny Jackman’s Residential Urban Limit (RUL) proposal they had originally slated to vote on next year and place it on the 2015 ballot along with the removal of Measures A&M. Now I believe Denny’s RUL was watered down in order to get it past the City Council but it would be better than nothing, but NOT worth exchanging Measure A&M for.  No Way.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the official versions of A&M taken from the city website.

Measure A
On March 6, 1979, the voters enacted Measure A, the “Citizens’ Advisory Growth Management Act,” which requires the City Council to hold an advisory vote of the citizens of Modesto prior to extending sewer trunk lines to areas outside of the current sewer service area. Measure A allows Modesto’s citizens to voice their opinions on growth before it happens and ensures that City Council members know the public opinion.

Measure M

On November 4, 1997, the voters enacted Measure M, the “Modesto Citizens’ Advisory Growth Management Act of 1995”.  The purpose of Measure M is to extend the advisory votes required by Measure A to all sewer improvements and to bring the public’s voice into decisions concerning whether or not to allow urban expansion.  And of course the link for those named Thomas…. http://www.ci.modesto.ca.us/ced/documents/planning_urbanarea.asp (http://www.ci.modesto.ca.us/ced/documents/planning_urban-area.asp)

A and M allow the citizens of Modesto to control, what in the past was uncontrolled growth (SPRAWL) and to help maintain the quality of life Modestans enjoy and to keep Modesto’s greedy developers at bay.  We have been aware for years that the developers, staffers, Chamber of Commerce and some elected officials don’t want the public to be able to weigh in.  Four years ago when David Geer was first elected we had five areas to vote on and ALL five were turned down by the voters by a margin of 60 – 70 percent.  Yet current council members have referred to this vote as voter fatigue and try to use this as a reason to negate your prior vote.  Councilman Lopez was one of the worst offenders at this.

Tuesday night at 5:30 in the basement of 1010 10th Street (City Hall), the Council will be considering and discussing the General Plan Amendment which may or may not include Salida (Marsh says yes), but definitely will include 1825 acres of Wood Colony.  I believe since the staff proposal has been changed EVERYONE should get to speak.  But Marsh is tired of people not agreeing with him, but that isn’t our problem.  As they say in business, he isn’t hourly, he’s salary (as they all are) and as such should allow the public to speak.  The RUL extension is on the calendar as is the Berberian Shopping Center slated for the corner of Sylvan and Oakdale Roads.

Come early and be prepared for a lengthy meeting.  Remember, this is part of their plan.  They want you to get tired and discouraged and go home without speaking.

If you are interested in some of the players behind the scenes in this little play of greed, check out this website and see who owns the property involved.  It isn’t just Prudential Real Estate Salesmen like Craig Lewis and Councilman Bill Zoslocki (yes, Bill works for Craig) who have been pushing this nasty piece of business through the Planning Commission, others are involved, like lobbyist Cecil Russel with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

Here is a link to the maps of the county.  use the little hand to see who the players are in Wood Colony from the vocal to the silent.  The silence is deafening-but you can afford to be silent when others do your bidding for you.  This is a new link that works. Thanks to those who pointed out the difficulty.

Stanislaus County: GIS Central :: GIS Standards.


The sabbatical is over…I’m back!

As a point of interest the OFFICIAL minutes of the council don’t list the speakers….so maybe no one spoke..:)

Whats on America’s Mind with Emerson Drake

Today’s topics include Modesto’s plan for the Wood Colony area and the

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

neighbors who are up in arms (includes their comments to the Modesto City Council) against destroying the German Baptist way of life, Michigan’s insurance debacle over abortion, Charlie Goeken’s crazy stance against anyone who disagrees with him over government-funded give away to developers, MID intrigue, do we have a fox in the hen-house regarding Wood Colony, these and more so tune in and get informed.

Our flagship station 104.9 FM K-GIG Modesto-Salida

To listen live or from our archives: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/12/13/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Magic Elixir for Our Economic Woes

Emerson Drake

Jobs,,,Jobs…Jobs is the cry and we’re being told the magic elixir to our problem is shovel ready land.  If you build them they

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wond...

will come is the Chambers mantra referring to Business Parks.  The quality jobs will flow into Modesto if we only had a park….

We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto

It sounds like a chant from L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and it may be just as fanciful.  At the recent Planning Commission meeting we heard the Chamber’s lobbyist Cecil Russell and his faithful realtor side kick Craig Lewis repeat this claim as they have several times before, but this time with a twist.  The lobbyist had promised at prior meetings to supply us with the numbers of the prospective contacts they had received from companies looking to establish a business in Modesto.

They alleged the Stanislaus County Alliance had received over 70 inquires and the reason NONE of these came to to fruition was, you probably guessed it, lack of shovel ready land.  Bill Bassitt the Alliance’s former CEO admitted that during his tenure he had failed to bring in a single major manufacturing company despite Modesto giving the Alliance $65,000 this year alone (Modesto has funded them for years) to do just that.

 The Alliance is, by design and charter, supposed to represent ALL of Stanislaus County in an effort to obtain new business.

Lets take a look at this claim by asking ourselves a few questions:

Is the only reason we have had few companies move to Modesto because of lack of shovel ready land?  A more obvious answer would be since the current recession started in 2007 even if we had massive amounts of unused land available for immediate use here in Modesto it would have remained unused.  We’ve had land available on Pelendale (35 acres in a single plot alone) acreage in the Beard Industrial Park and Kiernan Business Park East but it has gone undeveloped.  In Beard the owners have played a waiting game looking for a particular type of tenant who would need rail access to support their private railroad company.  They’ve actually been thwarting some business possibilities playing a game with the public until the City Council made them a “special” deal by going to LAFCO and not requiring them to sign waivers to be able to access the utilities you and I paid for.

Isn’t the Stanislaus Alliance supposed to represent ALL of the County not just Modesto?

Yes, they are and Turlock, Patterson, Riverbank and Oakdale all have land available so why the flimsy excuses?  They feel the time is right and want to strike while the window of desperation is open. And what political leader is willing to speak out against the jobs, jobs, jobs mantra?   NONE.

The Chamber is running Village I Developer and Profiteer Bill Zoslocki for City Council

When the Chamber can’t come up with new ideas or faces they run retreads like Bill Zoslocki.  He has spoken out for the Chambers Pathway to SPRAWL several times in front of the Planning Commission but now that the elections are getting closer he has become the invisible man.  When we reminded people of Developer Bill Zoslocki’s past of manipulating prior councils and making millions of dollars at the expense of Modesto taxpayers his supporters whined, forgetting that once he pulled papers and then filed for office he opened himself up to public scrutiny. Something the Candidate workshops remind the prospective candidates that their supporters ignore.

Will we stand up to the Chamber’s pressure?

As we’ve written in recent articles the Chamber is playing both ends against the middle which seems to be their way.  In public pretending to lean one way and behind the scenes working in the opposite direction.  Will we, the voting/taxpaying public, see through the smoke screen or will we be like the scarecrow seeing the paved over farmland filled with houses wishing …if I only had a brain.

Planning Commission Forwards Recommendations to City Council, 4-3

By Emerson Drake

Monday night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting was one of the most enlightening so far.  Traipsing through the murky

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

waters of the General Plan Amendment process has been challenging.  Like all public processes at times it becomes trench warfare with groups like Modesto’s Chamber of Commerce saying one thing publicly and then maneuvering behind the scenes in a completely different direction.

The case in point

The Chamber has been talking publicly with the Commission and interested parties like those from Salida, saying Salida should be removed from Modesto’s General Plan. But when it came time to vote the three Commissioners most closely tied to Modesto’s Chamber, Ted Brandvold, Steve Carter,  and Marshall Riddle,  finally showed their cards.  They openly voted against the PC’s Staff proposal  and  earlier attempts to return Salida to the General Plan along with an additional 1,200 feet on the North side of Kiernan between Dale and McHenry.

Brent Sinclair had explained to the PC and the public that he and staff had made the recommendations because he believed, not only could he sell the plan to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO),  but that Modesto could set the standard for all Stanislaus County communities to follow.  At previous meetings Brandvold’s comments had made it obvious he had bought into Craig Lewis’ ‘we need to stay ahead of Riverbank’ spiel.

Craig Lewis made a last desperate attempt to try and sway the Planning Commission by pointing out how many acres less the new proposal was but it was quickly responded to by acknowledging the majority of the acreage being removed was Salida.  The Commissioners didn’t buy the keeping up with the Jones’ (Riverbank) or maybe like many of those in the audience they were aware Riverbank is in the process of pulling back their General Plan boundaries to more reasonable limits.

The PC Staff recommendations  091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

The Brandvold, Carter, Riddle proposal which included the additional land failed to pass 3-4 and the following vote to  support the PC Staff’s proposal passed 4-3.

Another interesting note was the mention of the several hundred notices which had been sent to landowners in the now expanded Beckwith-Dakota Triangle (1,830 acres in the shape of a rectangle) and that only 6-8 came to the meeting.  Also of note was Commissioner Brandvold’s comment that the same few faces from Salida were always present and he wasn’t convinced they represented Salida’s position on annexation. You can imagine the reaction. You had the Salida Chamber of Commerce represented at the meeting along with the Salida MAC. The Salida MAC had previously voted to officially oppose the annexation of Salida by Modesto so I’m really not sure what he was thinking or if he was…thinking.

It could have just as easily been said that the same few people had been representing Modesto Developers at these meetings but since he clandestinely supported the Chamber it went unsaid by him.  It also needs to be noticed Salida has continually supported their friends to the south, Wood Colony, in their attempt to avoid annexation.  But there are those, especially those who didn’t bother to attend this meeting,  who would sow the seeds of dissent and ignore this fact.

It’s far from over

The business park planned for the Beckwith-Dakota triangle is HUGE and 1,830 acres (almost 3 square miles) is too much land to allow to be stolen from farmers and those living in Wood Colony.  It has been pointed out repeatedly NO buffer between Business Parks  is allotted for. And if this doesn’t change the harassing lawsuits against these farmers are inevitable regardless of Right to Farm Ordinances.

Chris Tyler’s comment from the prior meeting, “Prove it Works”, is important to remember because if those responsible for placing businesses in the proposed business park allow an inequitable arrangement similar to the one Blue Diamond received in Turlock we’ll have squandered, not only our legacy for Modesto’s future, but allowed the best soil on God’s green earth to be paved over.  Giving away 88 precious acres of some of best farmland in the world for 50 jobs has to be considered unacceptable. Over in Mountain House they insist on high quality jobs to be brought in or they turn the businesses away. I realize how desperate we are for jobs but we can’t afford a giveaway to “buddies” to line the pockets of a few.

The recent months with the Planning Commission have been similar to the opening skirmish of a major battle and the Modesto City Council will be the battleground.  The big guns/power brokers will be brought in to do battle in the main arena. Of notice was land use attorney/developers mouthpiece George Petrulakis sitting in the back of the room taking in the preliminary’s planning and  awaiting the spectacle yet to come.

Modesto Chamber of Commerce Representatives Get Offensive with Salida MAC Attendees

By Emerson Drake

Despite the nice turnout of over 120 people the night had an ugly start when one of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s representatives, Craig Lewis, started making negative comments to a few of the people as they walked through the door.  (No, they weren’t directed at me)!  I believe he prefers to denigrate women as we heard several times as the night progressed.  I guess its the way he was raised, believing women belong at home, pregnant and if they want to have an opinion they should ask their husband for theirs, (heaven forbid they form an intelligent one of their own).

Unfortunately professionalism went right out of the window and the presentation continued going down hill from there.  Land use attorney, George Petrulakis, felt the need to call out several people in the audience during his part of the presentation, even before they had a chance to speak.  He made the mistake in attempting to suggest that a Del Rio resident, who in the past at a variety of meetings around the County, has been vocal in her attempt to save prime farmland,  had no real basis for her argument since she lived in Del Rio.  Several in the audience immediately stood up and requested Salida MAC Chairman Thomas Reeves to reign in  Mr. Petrulakis and insist he start using civility which he was obviously lacking.  George claimed he was only making a point, although at her expense.  Maybe in this case George should have stayed quiet since she stood up and pointed out he lived in Del Rio too and was attempting to convince others his opinion was the only correct one. Agriculture_Investment_Zones_Around_Modesto

The above is the first time the Chamber suggested all 25,300 acres of their plan for SPRAWL be brought into Modesto’s General Plan. The above picture is courtesy of Duane Spyksma.

It seems that according to Mr.Lewis and Mr. Petrulakis, the only people allowed an opinion are men since they were heard to  verbally abuse both females, an audience member and a member of the Salida MAC for having one.

During the meeting the Modesto Chamber’s CEO and head lobbyist Cecil Russell was overheard by several attendees to say “The problem with these people is they’re stupid, they aren’t smart enough to think outside of their small box.”  We freely admit this phrase was told to us by several people after the meeting.  And though their recollections varied slightly and the prior statement is paraphrased, we believe it is  extremely close to his original statement.

While the presentation was going on it appeared that several people who were first time attendees and lived in the Wood Colony area weren’t believing very much of what they heard.  Like most of us believe, the idea that the Chamber wanted to protect prime farmland by bringing it into Modesto’s General Plan was ludicrous. And when the Chamber reps started getting vicious and personal with the audience several couples  got up and left shaking their heads in disgust.

Very telling was hearing Cecil Russell trying to take the meeting over by attempting to not allow the comment time that Chairman Reeves had already scheduled immediately after the presentation for the listeners.  Now and in the past Cecil has refused to allow the general public to have a copy of his Pathway to Growth/SPRAWL plan and isn’t interested in any forum that allows debate.  He, and the Chamber, apparently intend on ramming it through the Modesto City Council where it’s believed he might already have the votes. The Modesto Council has ignored the public on every recent vote where preserving prime farmland is concerned.

Here is the most recent copy of the plan for greed and SPRAWL we’ve managed to obtain.  The is from the Modesto Planning Commission meeting July 15, 2013.  The Chamber refused to supply the Salida MAC with an electronic copy from their meeting.


The Chamber brought along most of their usual cadre of supporters, Brad Hawn, Dave Romano, Bill Zoslocki and a few others.  We found council candidate for District 4 Bill Zoslocki, a Village I profiteer, prefers to be called a “broker” rather than “developer.” From our view that like a highway man being offended by someone saying  he used a revolver  instead of an automatic during a hold-up, but if that’s what he prefers maybe he won’t jump up and melt down when his name hasn’t been used.  It seems like the Chamber’s buddies enjoy when members of the public are called out by name but take offense even when theirs isn’t used.  I have to think he recognized himself.

What the remaining listeners heard was the Chamber’s plan will bring 39 square miles into Modesto’s General Plan when Modesto proper is only 37 square miles. And the Chamber wonders why their plan is being called the Pathway to SPRAWL by those who see it for what it is. The largest bait and switch land grab in Modesto’s history.   After all, who could believe the Chamber was going to “protect” the farm study areas by bringing them into the General Plan?  From all of those I talked with there weren’t any believers that night.

And shame on the arrogance and lack of professionalism of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce for publicly going after these women by name.     Besides boys, these ladies will kick your butt at the ballot box!

A Salida Resident Talks about the Recent Salida MAC Meeting

By Jim Bonetti

I attended Tuesday nights Salida M.A.C. meeting and listened to the delivery and performance of Modesto Chamber’s
plan for expansion that will bring Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.  George does a pretty good job getting his point across. I did notice that a few items were left out of the delivery.  Namely that part about the property on Kiernan Road. I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but George does not make many mistakes.
Salida CA - Salida, CA
There were a few disparaging comments made during the meeting as well that will probably hurt the Modesto Chambers cause.
Cecil Russell was overheard saying that the people of Salida are too stupid to see out of their own box”.  Hey, we don’t want to see anything but ALL OF SALIDA BEING INCORPORATED! You don’t see us stepping on Modesto’s toes as they can do whatever they want…..with Modesto!
Craig Lewis said he doesn’t think Amanda Sorenson dresses well for a meeting. Hmm, does she need wear clothes according to Craig’s dress code. WHAT? He also says that Katherine Borges is OPINIONATED!! OMG! Really? Thank God she has opinions and thank God we have a dedicated group of Salidan’s who care about the future of this town to donate their time and talents to make this a better town as well as contribute to incorporation. Yes, Katherine is opinionated…..and, I confess, so am I. Its beyond me to allow outside organizations, without expressing myself, to take over our town or chip away at our land as they did with Kaiser Hospital, Costco, Lowes and Save Mart.
By Jim Bonetti


Modesto Chamber Double-Crosses Pathway to SPRAWL Supporters

By Emerson Drake

In recent weeks the Modesto Chamber of Commerce has been going around to a variety of civic organizations

attempting to drum up support for its dubious  Pathways to Jobs plan which should be more accurately named  Pathway to SPRAWL because of the housing the Chamber plans on building houses instead of business parks.  The Chamber has visited the Latino Community Roundtable (LCR), the King Kennedy Community Center Board, and even had a discussion with Frank Johnson, President of the local NAACP.  Now while I might and will question how wide spread the support is in these various organizations, the Chamber uses their endorsements when speaking to the Modesto City Council and the Stanislaus Board of Supervisors to claim some in the community support their plan.

After talking with many members of these organizations one topic reverberates consistently, and that’s the unrelenting belief of a need for more police officers in their respective neighborhoods. I’ve also talked with and interviewed many of the council candidates and they too expressed the over arching concern of the people they’ve talked with for the need for more police officers.

Now that the Modesto Chamber has their endorsements for the carrot on a stick, “JOBS” , and their Pathway to SPRAWL, the Chamber has pulled the old switcheroo. 

On Tuesday night at the Modesto City Council meeting the Chamber’s head lobbyist, Cecil Russell, announced very

Hetaera urinating in a chamber pot. Tondo from...

Hetaera urinating in a chamber pot. Tondo from an Attic red-figure kylix. Antikensammlung Berlin, 3757. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

plainly the Chamber would not be supporting the proposed “sales tax” initiative which according to Modesto City Manager could add 60 to 80 more police officers.  No real surprise there considering the Chamber is afraid if Modesto’s sales tax gets approved this year the voters won’t approve the County road tax in November of 2014 and they feel the road tax is a necessary link for their proposal.

The Modesto Chamber says NO to more Police Officers for Modesto

BUT now the Chambers representatives, George Petrulakis and Janice Keating and others are  actively seeking  groups and individuals to undercut community support to DEFEAT the sales tax proposal.  Now that the Chamber has the endorsements of LCR, NAACP and the King Kennedy Board they are seeking to remove, what these groups feel is the  number one concern, SAFETY in their neighborhoods.  How many more drive-bys shootings and children being stabbed and killed over cell phones are we going to endure just to support the greed of the members of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce?

Why should lobbyist Cecil Russell care, he lives in a gated community safe and far away from much of Modesto’s crime.  Will these organizations rethink their endorsements?  Or will they continue to follow along like lemmings to the slaughter?

Modesto’s Chamber is Trying to Undermine Ag Mitigation

By Emerson Drake

Once in a while I have one of those moments where the curtain lifts and “understanding of the big picture” is achieved.  I

parking lot

parking lot (Photo credit: liikennevalo)

had one of those when I read the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s letter to Stanislaus County’s Local Agency Formation Commission or  (LAFCO ).  The letter complains that not enough of their members were aware of Citizen openings on the Commission and they protested the way LAFCO  interviews and chooses the appointees.    Here is the pdf of the letter:


Now I find it disingenuous when they say “despite some knowledge of this in the business community, we recently received feedback from some of our members who were not aware of the openings.”  Strange since Brad Hawn, who is on the Chamber Board of Directors is one of the finalists.  And with lobbyist Cecil Russell on the payroll shouldn’t the fault have been his?  But it actually gets worse. Of the three signers from the Chamber the first is real estate agent Craig Lewis who, by his statements,  has misled the planning Commission during the last two meetings.  The second ,  Steve Madison,  recently of Stanco fame but was on the Building Industry Association (BIA) Board of Directors when they sued Stanislaus County to remove Ag Mitigation and lost in State Court costing the taxpayers  over $300,000 in legal fees. And of course Chamber lobbyist Cecil Russell is the third signatory.  Their obvious intent is to do away with LAFCO’s Ag Mitigation policy. An aside here, you will notice Modesto’s logo on the bottom of page one of the letter.  While speaking to Councilman Dave Geer at a recent Council strategy session, this logo is copy-written and can only be used by the City of Modesto.  So I called and emailed the City Manager’s office to inquire.  But Gregg Nyhoff was too busy to get back to me. The fact Mr. Nyhoff’s  called an ex-officio on the letter head probably doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Why is this organized attempt to game LAFCO a concern?  Well it follows a Modesto City Council meeting where Councilman Dave Cogdill seconded by Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside, passed a resolution disallowing Modesto the opportunity to have an Ag Mitigation policy of its own.  Mayor Marsh was the only person to vote against the motion. The Councilwoman after the meeting said she wanted to vote for the Mayor’s proposal of 1-1 mitigation only on prime farmland but failed to explain why she didn’t. This was the second of two votes.  The first vote was a special interest give away to Mike Zagaris and the Trombetta family involving Tivoli.  When Tivoli, a housing development, was first discussed, land mitigation was required.  But thanks to Councilman Cogdill’s “deal” all land inside Modesto’s city limits will be given a free pass for Ag Mitigation.

If the Chamber can undermine LAFCO’s determination to mitigate farmland by stacking the deck then we’ll be planting driveways where we now plant crops.  Remember an acre of farmland brings in about $25,000 worth of positive cash flow for the county.  It costs cities after taxes and fees  between $3,000 and $5,000 for each acre of housing every year. And what is Mr’ Madison and Mr’ Lewis’ specialty?  You guessed it HOUSING.

After hearing Brent Sinclair mouthing the exact same words that Mr. Lewis used at the last meeting, it has become apparent the General Plan Amendment meetings are just a dog and pony show.  Otherwise Modesto would have made sure the GPA meeting was advertised as well as the recent City Plaza sticker fest.  We have to hope the council appointees on the Planning Commission will listen to the desires of our citizens.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting citizens should give up. We need to redouble our efforts to retake Modesto from the same developers who brought us the housing debacle in 2008.

Post Navigation