Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Dave Geer”

Are Voters Becoming Disenchanted with the Modesto City Council?

By Emerson Drake                    The Draper/Centerra Decision

 

Last night’s City Council meeting was true to form. The public was forgotten and ignored by most of those on the dias.  The

Modesto's Double Tree and Brenden Theater

Mayor was so distracted by his email that many times it appeared he wasn’t aware of his surroundings. But lets start at the public comment period.

 

Many members of this Council have conspired to keep information out of the public’s eye.  An example is the article written August 18th about a Finance Committee meeting where City Manager (C.M.) Gregg Nyhoff deliberately waited until it was too late to include his Summary of Reductions – Target $6 Million Report in the Finance Committee’s agenda packet.  His report, which highlighted recommendations for targeted budget reductions to the formal agenda, (where it would have been made available to the public ).  During the meeting Nyhoff passed the report out to the committee and members of the public attending the meeting. The Committee voted to accept the report without comment.  This was a decision made several weeks prior to the meeting. After all it would be difficult for Councilwoman Burnside to stand in front of the Modesto Police Officers Association (MPOA) after voting to eliminate 20 sworn positions if the sales tax doesn’t pass. With some members of our council one hand washes the other.

 

At a subsequent meeting of the Finance Committee on August 27 I requested the report to be included on the city’s website.  Unfortunately as of September 3rd they had failed to comply.  So at last night’s meeting I again pointed out it was a Brown Act meeting and as a result the City Manager’s Report should have been included in the minutes despite C.M. Nyhoff’s efforts to obfuscate it.  So when I protested again last night the now ‘clandestine’ reports absence, City Council Attorney Susanna Acala Wood weighed in stating since it was a Brown Act meeting the report should be included in the official record.  But Nyhoff and the council members had already achieved their goal of not having the Committee be forced to give their recommendations and to keep it out of the public’s eye. Bee reporter Kevin Valine was present at the meetings but has yet to write a word regarding the events at the meeting.

 

Brent Sinclair Supports Paul Draper Being Chosen (actually he was the one who chose Draper)

 

To hear Brent Sinclair make the case for Paul Draper to be chosen was ludicrous.  His main argument was since Draper was involved with his self named ‘Team Modesto’ and had spent hundreds of hours attempting to build his multi-use towers he deserved the council’s largess.  While I commend Draper for his attempt I don’t feel the need to grant him the ‘excess profits’ by allowing him to represent Modesto’s five properties in the sale to the state. From our point of view Draper was ‘given’ a bonus by allowing this to occur. Draper will receive $30,000 for every million dollars the city receives for its five properties.  And yes it comes from Modesto’s pocket.

 

Even a judge weighed in

 

The the Honorable Ricardo Cordova Superior Court judge, spoke for the need to use Draper.   Judge Cordova’s claim to fame in the ‘good old boy’ network was reducing the charges in former Stanislaus County Detective Kari Abbey’s case in the killing of Rita Elias.  His reasoning for using Draper was that time was of the essence.  This just didn’t ring true.  After all, these negotiations for the courthouse properties have been on going for quite some time  and as a result the need for haste seems very contrived.

 

Cordova’s fear tactics appear to have worked,

 

Talking with Councilman Geer after the meeting he said he had listened intently to both sides of the arguments being made but the Judge suggesting we could possibly lose the state money swayed his vote.  It could be suggested that was why Cordova was trotted out last night. I have to wonder if he was going to speak BEFORE Sunday’s article  exposing the Centerra / Draper / Archway Commons article came out or if he was recruited afterward…

 

Why are we waiting until the last minute to approve a consultant and why wasn’t it vetted by a Committee?

 

The Mayor and City Council were well aware of the history Paul Draper and his Centerra company have with Modesto’s Archway Commons project.  The outrageous profit unnecessarily paid to Centerra was just another example of behind the scene politics that seem to occur on a regular basis in Modesto.  Kudos to the Bee for finally discussing the seamy underbelly of Modesto politics. Unfortunately the Council has learned to rush forward at the last minute anything they hope to avoid much public discussion on.  Once again it was obvious if no committee vetted Draper being hired as a consultant/realtor no one could be held responsible in the future.  It’s all about the lack of accountability for Modesto’s politicians.  The exception to the rule would be Councilman John Gunderson who understood the concern for having a downtown court house,  voted against the ‘last minute’ consideration of Draper. Congratulations Councilman Gunderson for standing up for Modesto’s citizens and not falling for the contrived, last minute, rush job.

 

Mayor Marsh answering emails during the Council meeting

 

Mayor Marsh seemed to be trying to distance himself from all questions of Archway Commons and Draper’s Centerra.  Mayor Marsh had apparently decided if he ignored the speakers they would eventually just go away.  At one point he had to be called by name three times to get him to look up from his phone and respond to a question.  The City Attorney tried to cover for him by saying she was advising him not to answer the question of how much Draper would make for selling Modesto’s five properties along with those he already represented. But unfortunately for the Mayor, he didn’t have a clue his name was being called out loud.

 

Have the taxpayers given up?

 

It needs to be acknowledged only three people came to speak against using the Draper/Centerra  in connection with the downtown courthouse.  Yet five people, including a former Councilman took the time to write a letter to the editor protesting the possibility.  Why?  Maybe because they knew it would be a waste of time since the Mayor and Council have been steadfastly ignoring the wishes of the public and just have been listening to the ‘backroom’  denizens.

 

Will Modesto Voters Memory Improve?

 

I have to be honest I doubt it.  After all they (District 4 ) are considering electing a Village I developer/profiteer Bill Zoslocki to the Modesto City Council without laughing, spitting or reaching for the tar and feathers.  But we can always hope.

 

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News Last Week in Modesto – What You Haven’t Read Anywhere Else

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

By Emerson Drake

Former SCAP Director Appointment to Housing Committee Delayed but NOT Cancelled

On Tuesday the City Council came within moments of voting former Director of  SCAP Frank Ploof, onto Modesto’s Citizen Housing and Community Development Committee.  Mr. Ploof only served for two months as a Director on SCAP’s Board according to Julie Hannon.  Our concern is the ongoing relationship that developed between Daryl Fair, who was the President of the SCAP Board during the worst of the excesses, and who recruited Ploof for SCAP and  the Renaissance Center.  They continued to have an incestuous relationship with SCAP and the organization they billed as a nonprofit, the Renaissance Center.  Fair was the Executive Director and Ploof was a “case manager” and SCAP was paying the rent for the building on “D” street where the pseudo nonprofit was located.

Incredible as it sounds the Finance Committee met according to Julie Hannon, in November to interview eight candidates and choose Ploof. Interesting, since the City website shows the November and December meetings of the Finance Committee being cancelled.  Ms. Hannon told us Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside and Councilman David Cogdill Jr. were the ones interviewing the candidates.

While Mr. Ploof seems like a nice enough man, his relationship with Daryl Fair is a cause of major concern when it comes to Modesto’s Housing Committee.  And we have to wonder about the reasons J. David Wright is buzzing like a bee from councilperson to councilperson promoting Mr. Fair and his search for money to open a homeless drop in center.  It should also be noted J. David Wright was one of Modesto’s larger contributors to local Council races.  Why is Mr. Wright involved with people fronting for phony nonprofits?

After sitting in with the Finance Committee interviewing candidates for the planning Commission and the Board of Zoning adjustment and hearing the probing questioning, I’m surprised Ploof slipped through.  Though in all fairness it should be pointed out Ploof omitted disclosing the SCAP position from his questionnaire. And since City Manager Greg Nyhoff failed to document his investigation, or lack there of,  into the SCAP debacle, the Council members would have to be paying attention to the media to have known. Councilman Lopez asked for this appointment to be delayed and the rest of the council agreed and it was sent back to committee.

We have no doubt with seven others to choose from the Committee can find another capable candidate.

Mayor Marsh Wants Salida Ad Hock Committee to Meet Without the Public Being Present

The Mayor finally admitted having received the “Draft” of the Goodwin Study on the Salida annexation.  He had a meeting scheduled for this week and had staff relay to the public “Stay Home, you’re not invited.”  This is a major concern. Fortunately Supervisor Withrow had already given me an invitation.  When the Mayor was made aware of this he promptly cancelled the meeting.  Eventually it was rescheduled for Jan. 28,2013, but civilian member Thomas Reeves cancelled it, since the politicos were refusing to share the Goodwin report with the rest of the committee members.  I felt it was necessary and went to the Board of Supervisors and to the City Council to protest the Mayor’s actions.  Surprisingly the local print media failed to share this information with the citizens of Modesto or Salida.  Nothing like the third estate allowing games like these to be played. 

The bottom line is,  why the secrecy?

It’s only Money – OURS..!   $17,000 Extra for Soccer Fields

On December 4,2012, Item #16, with the consent of the council Staff pulled back the bids of the synthetic turf for the three soccer fields at Mary Grogen Park saying they had written the bid so poorly they only received a bid from one company which they said wasn’t competitive. On Tuesday they accepted a bid for $17,000 dollars more than the bid in December.  There were questions about the bidding process regarding the City not stating the way the bid was going to be judged. But this time staff didn’t care about the challenge made during the meeting, concerning the bid process, which was flawed or the fact it cost Modesto more money.  But what the heck it was only $17,000 out of Village One’s pocket-book right?    Huh?

Lower TIN CUP Limits Passes Committee and is Sent to Staff – Will Come Back in March

Something we’ve been trying to accomplish for several years is to lower the amount people can contribute to a candidate before  the now elected official has to step back or recuse themselves and not vote for an item brought forward by their contributor.  In Modesto this ordinance is called the TIN CUP or Time Is Now to Clean Up Politics.  The current amount is $3,000 dollars to all candidates and the new levels, if passed, will be $1,000 for council races and $2,000 for mayoral races.  Councilman David Geer and Councilman John Gunderson voted for the lowering of the limits and Councilman Dave Lopez voted against the proposal. Remember anyone one can continue to contribute any amount they choose but the candidate can’t vote for a proposal if the upper limit is passed.  This should help level the playing field for the average citizens. I hope people will call their council representatives and request they support the new levels. 

 After all,  does anyone think we need more money in politics?

To learn more about the Renaissance Center, “the nonprofit that wasn’t,”  go to our older archive location http://www.eyeonmodesto.blogspot.com/2011/11/renaissance-community-services-non.html

Modesto’s Cat Killer…Phillip Sumner

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

English: 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)

By Emerson Drake

I try to bring a variety of concerns to the public’s attention and this topic has been brought to the attention of the Board of Supervisors (BoS)  and the Modesto City Council. 

Modesto resident Phillip Sumner says he has been capturing 18-20 cats each year for the last 10 years  here in Modesto.  Many, if not most of these were family pets.  An argument can be made they shouldn’t be in his back yard but he baits them by placing multiple cans of cat food in his yard to attract them.  He uses cages to capture them and then takes them miles away from his home and dumps them in city parks and business parks where, according to his own words “they’ll never find their way back here again”,  meaning home.  Maybe the worst part is he then brags to the families about his activities. He has even bragged to a family with a young autistic youth who “related” to his pet cat as a means of coping with the world, that he captured their pet and dumped it without remorse.

According to animal rights groups and local officials, most “pet cats” will starve when dumped in the wild unless adopted by people living around the parks.

 The Board of Supervisors paid little, if any, attention to the women who have had their pets captured and dumped around the city and the county, even after they made a heart-felt plea for help.  They have tried going to the District Attorney’s office but were told they were too busy to bother and also suggested the state animal cruelty and anti dumping ordinances weren’t applicable…basically they were told “go away and don’t bother us.”  I was actually told by a  member of the BoS  that in the scheme of things this wasn’t important enough for them to focus on.

These women appeared in front of the Modesto City Council to tell them of their problem on October 23,2012. This link will allow you watch and listen to the multiple women who spoke that night. It occurs around 38 minutes to the meeting so once it loads you can fast forward to the time. http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=461&doctype=AGENDA  Once the video starts you take your cursor just below the blue line and it turns into a finger. Click your mouse finger and the meeting advances.

Fortunately the City Council listened and cared.  First the women were referred to Police Chief Gene Balentine who listened to their story a second time, took notes and promised to get back with them.  One thing you can be sure about with Chief Balentine, if he says he’ll get back to you, he does.  After checking everything out he contacted the women again and told them of the situation. The D.A.’s office continued to rebuff the women’s concerns.  But the Chief came forward with an update when I spoke at the 11/13/12 Council meeting. If you take this link and go to 34 minutes 50 seconds  in and you can listen to the complete discussion. http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=463&doctype=AGENDA 

I had spoken with Chief Balentine before the start of the meeting but since it had been three weeks I thought the topic should be brought up again during a Council meeting.  The Chief had spoken with the women several time and had laid the ground work for the next step. He and I had discussed this topic during the interim meeting where he brought me up to speed.  We had vocal support from Councilmen Joe Muratore and Dave Geer along with City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood who said once we have an ordinance we could be assured her department would aggressively pursue the offender.  City Manager Nyhoff spoke to help provide an update. 

Councilman Muratore asked me to assist in the search for an existing ordinances. I did do many internet searches and came up with four I thought would work best out of the many I sorted through.  I forwarded them to City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood for review.  Since then I’ve received the following email which was circulated to those who were following this with interest.

Sue/Sherry,

I just wanted to give you guys an update on what we’ve been doing.  Captain Mike Harris has been in contact with Annette Patton from the Animal Shelter, as well as representatives from the County and City.  Additionally I spoke with the County CEO’s office today (Doris) and she/they are interested in moving forward together.  What we are doing is researching other agencies with ordinances that would meet our needs.  The suggestion from the County District Attorney’s Office was that we consider adopting local ordinances that would be more on-point with this issue, rather than using the 597 section.  So, we are moving forward with that idea.  Captain Harris has located some ordinances and I believe the County folks also have some samples.  We plan to meet with the City and County legal staff to see if we can’t draft an ordinance that will meet the needs of the City and County, and can be adopted by each entity.  I believe they are meeting next week to try to hammer something out. 

 

Emerson, I know that you volunteered to assist in the project and also research some other city/county ordinances.  I’ve included Captain Harris’ email in the “cc” line of this email so that you can communicate with him any ordinances you may have located that you feel is on point.

 

Just wanted to update you on what is happening.  I’m hoping that once we get some good language in place the process can move fairly quickly. 

 

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving,

 

Gene Balentine

Interim Chief of Police

Modesto Police Department

So the system is working, the City Council, staff, and county personnel, along with citizens are working toward implementing the necessary City Ordinances to protect helpless animals.  And the wheels of justice are moving forward to stop the heinous practice of cruelly killing pets in Modesto by intentional abandonment.

I’ll let you know when the next step occurs.

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