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.
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!