Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Dave Cogdill”

Local Candidates Didn’t Want You to See What They Were About to Do

By Emerson Drake                       modestologo

On Wednesday March 25, 2015, the Modesto City Council held a special meeting away from video recording devices.  Ostensibly it was to decide if they should send a letter in support of five other cities in Stanislaus County regarding a decision the Local Agency Formation Commission better known as LAFCO, made.  The Commission isn’t sexy or well known but is vitally important when it comes to setting boundaries and settling disputes.

But let us begin the conversation  with a little ground work.  LAFCO was intending to set actual values to the in-lieu of fees part of the mitigation discussion.  Several cities proposed setting their own fees.  For example LAFCO research suggested for the fees to be meaningful the price needed to be around $7,000 per acre and Patterson for one, was proposing $2,000 per acre of prime farmland.

The Special Meeting with NO Video Recording

LAFCO’s intention of visiting the fees has been public knowledge for several weeks.  They notified the Modesto City Council by email two weeks prior to the meeting according to Mayor Marsh.  And of course they posted their agenda as required by law.   The special meeting was requested by Council members Kenoyer, Cogdill, Zoslocki, and Lopez.  The topic of the fees could have been dealt with at the last meeting of the city council but instead they choose to have a meeting not in their official chambers but in a small meeting room, 2001, on the second floor.

Six members of the public were present Craig Lewis, Brad Barker,  Cathy Zoslocki, Kevin Valine,  myself, and Tom Halan,  the Patterson City Attorney ( if I got that name wrong I’m sorry, who just happened to be in the building on other business).

When the Council members weighed in Jenny Kenoyer said she didn’t understand what LAFCO was intending to do  and she didn’t appreciate the last minute meetings with out prep time.  Dave Cogdill complained about  the cities losing control of their mitigation fees.  Bill  Zoslocki claimed it was an over reach by LAFCO.   Dave Lopez said LAFCO was over stepping their bounds and claimed Jenny Kenoyer agreed with him.  He also blamed Mayor Marsh for not writing a letter supporting the other cities. During the meeting Kenoyer never commented on Lopez’s remarks.  And John Gunderson said he needed more time to think about whatever it was LAFCO intended on doing.    Marsh tried to explain LAFCO was just setting a price so there would be a level playing field for all of the cities but Kenoyer and Gunderson just had a blank look on their faces.  The others just kept repeating their previous comments like mantras. Just saying the same thing over again.  The work of developer special interests was obvious.

Now I realize this sounds like just sound bites but it was the entire text of their statements at this point.   Each of them, talked twice and they just repeated their brief statements.

Members from the public

Brad Barker went first and was the most eloquent and informative.  He carefully explained to Kenoyer and Gunderson what LAFCO’s intent was and walked them through the chaos that would ensue if each city could set their own fee levels.  The Patterson City Attorney just restated the cities should be allowed to keep control of their own fees.  I reminded the Council of the Patterson building fees which were woefully short on being able to build the needed infrastructure for the tarffic which eventually come  and that the County had to step in to pay for the costs of rebuilding the roads.  Also having seen the blank faces of Gunderson and Kenoyer,  I tried once again to explain what was happening later on that night at the LAFCO meeting.  Craig Lewis read some of Ed Persike’s op ed piece from the Bee that day and also trotted out the book the Coming Jobs War which actually says to do the exact opposite of what he, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the developers are pushing for.  But unfortunately as we learned at a Modesto Planning Commission meeting, most of the commissions members who opened the book didn’t read past the first few pages (one to two pages) and unfortunately, the general public has read even less.  But pretending to relay information from a book gives the air of knowledge.  Unfortunately it just makes it easier to manipulate them.

At the end of the short meeting Kenoyer and Marsh voted against sending the letter and Cogdill,  Zoslocki, Gunderson, and Lopez voted for the City Manager to send a letter in support of the other cities.  In other words,  at this point in time in the City of Modesto,  special interests rule.  After the meeting they each stuck to their short sound bites.  Especially Gunderson. He had that feral, almost goofy look  he gets.  You know the one a child gets when they think they have fooled you and just kept saying he needed more time to consider everything over and over again as if that explained everything away.

The Four Who Were Shills for Developers Promoting SPRAWL


The Bottom Line

LAFCO, thanks to Terry Withrow,  Jim DeMartini,  and Matt Beekman made us all proud and went forward and set the price for land fee mitigation in the amount of $7,000 per acre.

The following are the letters sent by various groups both for and against LAFCO’s proposal.



Take the Special Interest Money out of Politics Lower Campaign Donation Limits

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

By Emerson Drake

A change in Modesto’s TIN CUP  Ordinance (Time Is Now To Clean Up Politics) is coming up before the Modesto City Council and we need YOUR help.  In 2005 the Modesto Chamber of Commerce asked the council to eliminate the donation limits candidates can receive before they are forced to recuse themselves or step back from discussion and voting on a subject a contributor brought before the council.  It other words the Chamber wanted to make it so they could give many thousands of dollars to council members and they could vote for whatever the donor wanted.

Imagine where we would be if that had passed.

Instead the council decided to raise the limits from $1,000 to $3,000 before the cutoff limit was reached.  Since then we have divided the city up into six districts lowering the cost of running for office. Unfortunately this has brought forth excessive amounts of special interest money into the campaigns of some.

There is another argument being made by Councilman Lopez in which he suggests to be a good council member you must have the intestinal fortitude to ask for $3,000 or you won’t be worth your salt on the council.  But that isn’t how he plays the game.  For insistence, he asked the Modesto Fire Fighters Union for $2,962 just under the limit before he would have to recuse himself. He also asked the Modesto Police Officers Union, the MPOA, for $2,750  again just under the donation limit.

The argument is being made you need $6,000 to mail a flyer but in checking Lopez’s campaign reports ( called 460,s) the costs of running a mailer are around $3,000.

After checking the 460’s of the most recent council races I discovered very few donations were made OVER $1,000 in fact, with only a couple of small exceptions (over by a couple of hundred dollars) all of the candidate’s contributions were below the $1,000 threshold EXCEPT for those of special interests.   The special interest money came from unions, developers, and Lobbyists.

When comparing the money spent on council races a few other things became apparent.  When developer money (especially Salida area developers “surprise surprise”) piled in on a candidate like Dave Cogdill Jr., he spent it like it was on fire.  Councilman Cogdill spent $37,747 to get elected, took in at least 15 donations of $1,000 and his opponent spent about $2,000. Talk about a case of ego and overkill.

As a comparison Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside’s spent $23,000 and took six donations of $1,000 or more (two from Burnside Auto Body) and the rest were basically $500 and under.  Her opponent Jenny Kenoyer collected one contribution of $500 and the rest were smaller.  She raised and spent $13,000 on her campaign showing it can be done.

What the Bee didn’t mention in their recent article is the Modesto Fire Fighter’s Union made two independent campaign expenditures to Councilman Lopez’s campaign.  They spent $2,000 in telephone calls in July and they spent  another $6,000 in the final weeks of the race for mailers supporting Lopez. Todd Aaronson, Lopez’s major opponent, took in only six donations of $1,000 or more.

In other words Councilman Lopez out spent Aaronson by over 2-1 NOT counting the eight thousand dollars spent by the Fire Fighters Union.  If special interests are going to weigh in so heavily we need to know about it.  That will be my  next attempt to update the TIN CUP Ordinance.

So if you can take a moment, please email this to your friends to make them aware of  OUR opportunity to take Modesto out of the hands of the special interest groups be they Union, Lobbyist, OR Developer. Here is the list of Council emails I welcome you to write to:

mayor@modestogov.com               jgunderson@modestogov.com                 dgeer@modestogov.com

dlopez@modestogov.com               jmuratore@modestogov.com                    sburnside@modestogov.com


You can call them at (209)571-5169

Be an Engaged Citizen…!

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Thursday’s Salida Ad Hoc Committee Meeting

By Emerson Drake

We had a room full of City of Modesto Staff and of course Mayor Marsh and Councilman Codgill. The County was out in

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

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

force With Supervisors Terry Withrow and Board Chairman Supervisor Vito Chiesa along with CEO Monica Nino and staff.  The Ad Hoc Committee is led by Thomas Reeves but the meeting was dominated by Katherine Borges.  Because of the research she has done she challenged the Goodwin Report’s numbers and quite honestly the report was found lacking in accuracy.  Despite being paid $60,000 by the city and county the Goodwin representative was forced to admit the “costing figures”  were estimates not grounded in fact but estimates created by using fuzzy numbers.  Ms. Borges rightly pointed on the vast difference between the amounts charges to contract cities and those “allotted” to Salida for the Sheriff’s Department.

Mayor Marsh admitted he might have jumped the gun by talking about the possible annexation of Salida last year by not quietly consulting with Salida first and Ms. Borges underlined his comment and placed an exclamation point after it. She repeatedly said Salida does NOT want to be annexed by Modesto.  She set off the short fused Modesto Councilman Dave Cogdill.  How a man with such a short temper ever made it into politics is a wonder.  Of course it might have something to do with riding his daddy’s coattails and the silver spoon of entitlement he was born with.

He basically said “why should Modesto be at these meetings since you aren’t going to believe a word we say.”   Here is where I believe an opportunity was lost.  If someone would have taken him up on his offer to walk away I really think he would have left just as he started to  at a Salida MAC meeting.  Supervisor Chiesa talked him down from the ledge that night but since the Supervisor was under the weather today maybe he would have let Cogdill walk.  Believe me it would have been no loss because of his my way or the highway attitude.

They Mayor offered to help  by using Modesto staff and his experience to assist Salida in exploring incorporation.  My real thoughts are,  if Salida has difficulty early on in the conversation in securing the financial wherewithal to stand alone the County will  try to push the Salida MAC into a shotgun wedding with Modesto.

As usual the topic came around to jobs and shovel ready land.  It appeared both the County and Modesto’s  leaders thought the EIR or environmental impact reports had been done on the 1,000 of business park in the Salida plan. But Matt Machado threw ice water on their warm and fuzzy moment.  NO EIR has been completed according to Mr. Machado.  So what no one said until AFTER the meeting, because the public wasn’t allowed to speak was the question, “Who controls the county’s largest business Park?”  The County does…its name is WestPark.

So now we know the Salida business park ISN’T shovel ready.  Will Modesto still thirst for the annexation?

You better believe it. There are too many on the Council who see that land as being good for THEIR own pocketbooks. And for my two cents that starts with Councilmen  Dave Cogdill and Joe Muratore.

The Ad Hoc meetings will continue in the future but sadly no one on the Ad Hoc Committee suggested the public be allowed to contribute in the future.  If we go the taxpaying public be forced to sit quietly and watch.

Ridenour vs Marsh Two different ways of Treating Ad Hoc Committees

Modesto's Double Tree and Brenden Theater

Modesto’s Double Tree and Brenden Theater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

This is a follow-up to the Salida Ad Hoc Committee conversation.  Mayor Ridenour had two ad hoc committees while he was Mayor for eight years.  The City of Modesto’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness and the Comprehensive Fee Task Force.  Both were treated more or less as if they were regular City Committees, and for the most part, behaved as if they were subject to the Brown Act.  They announced the time and place of their meetings, had agendas, met in public, allowed the public to be present, and encouraged public participation albeit after we made a request to the Modesto City Council regarding the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Now the Salida Ad Hoc Committee is suddenly being treated differently than its predecessors. They don’t want the public to be present or the public to participate in the discussions. The only noticeable differences would seem to be the Mayors they were created under.  Just to be sure no other group was working on the people’s business and operating under the radar, we made a public records request. Here is their response. The only caveat in what you are about to read is that the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness is still active despite having given their final report to the Council.


Mr. Drake:  Kathy Espinoza has provided the following information:


The last two Ad Hoc Committees formed were the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness

and the Comprehensive Fee Task Force. I believe they have completed their work and made recommendations to the City Council.


The most recent Ad Hoc Committee formed by the City Council was the Salida Annexation Study Ad Hoc Committee

and they appointed Mayor Marsh, Councilmember Dave Cogdill, Jr. and a staff person.  


I am not aware of any other Ad Hoc Committees which have been recently appointed and are working on single focused issues.


This completes your public information request.

Hopefully Mayor Marsh will come around and insist the Salida Ad Hoc Committee follow Mayor Ridenour’s example of being transparent when conducting the people’s business and adhere to the  requirements of the Brown Act.


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