By Emerson Drake
Peeling the onion would be another way to describe what this series of stories is going to attempt to do. Like layers of an onion some will be longer and some shorter but hopefully they will provide insight to what is going on down at 1010 10th st., City Hall
At the end of January we heard Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold express disappointment that Wood Colony didn’t inform him they were setting up a MAC (Municipal Advisory Council). He made it sound like he was completely blindsided. Could this have been true?
Possibly, but I sincerely doubt it. You see I’m sitting here looking at an email from Cynthia Birdsill, City of Modesto-Community & Economic Development, dated September 26,2013 that says “FYI, the County has been meeting with Wood Colony to possibly create a MAC.” This email was sent to City Manager Jim Holgersson and Brent Sinclair.
Now it’s within the realm of possibility that Ted wasn’t told by all three members of City staff…but…I’m looking at another email that’s from Land use attorney George Petrulakis three hours and thirty four minutes later and he’s been reading the MAC proposal and is commenting to Cynthia Birdsill, Patrick Kelly, Steve Mitchel, and Brad Wall.
With all of those people in the loop it would be doubtful that the Mayor would not be told by someone on City Staff. But it gets better. For those not following local politics when it comes to the Mayor, you get two for one. First is George Petrulakis, the Ventriloquist and Ted Brandvold is the puppet on his lap. George’s hands up Ted’s backside move and Ted’s mouth opens and closes. George knowing about the MAC proposal makes it a foregone conclusion that Ted knows all about it.
So why was our Mayor being so disingenuous? It’s all about public perception. Ted plays the affable elderly gent quite well. And George wants to lull Wood Colony with a false sense of security.
And don’t worry there’s much more to come.
Mayor Ted Brandvold and those who funded his campaign in the developer community are ready to place their grand plan for expansion in motion. They’ve already announced their intentions to lower building impact fees to developers which won’t lower prices to consumers but will pad the pockets of developers. Then in their minds the next logical step is to try to steal land that Wood Colony and Salida have been trying to protect. Developers have been placed on the Alliance Board of Directors and the Modesto City Council to assure us this is the best course, but since these same developers own properties in these areas, Bill Lyons and Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal in Wood Colony and Dr.Stephen Endsley in Salida, how can we expect them to do anything other than to provide support to their own cause.
Obviously they can’t be trusted but who will stop them? The money behind Brandvold’s election campaign owns and or controls property outside of Modesto so infill is just given lip service. Endsley, who when heard of last was intent on building a garbage burner on Modesto’s south side, has been itching to develop his property north of Kiernan inside the Salida plan. And Mani Grewal and Bill Lyons own property in the Dakota triangle and so Brandvold and his supporters want to ignore the many people that spoke to the Modesto Planning Commission and go back to the good old days where developers rule. just like they did during the Village 1 debacle. It will be no surprise to see City Staff finding reasons to support the developers cause because, after all, they want to keep their jobs.
Expect the same people that wanted to sell our water to San Francisco like the Chamber’s Janice Keating and Chamber lobbyist Cecil Russell, to tell the public how this will save Modesto and bring quality jobs. Except Lyons wants to build retail, which provides minimum wage jobs, Cecil waxes almost poetically about warehouse jobs in the Chamber’s monthly magazine and Endsley just craves action. After the good doctor received his check from MID’s ratepayers for $1.2 Million for not building his garbage burner, he’s been after Salida’s zoned business park which curiously enough surrounds Gregori High School. We’ve even documented where Union Bank is fronting for Ryan Swehla and Benchmark in the sale of property north of Kiernan.
Recognize any of these names? 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. They’re all members of the Chamber land use and Transportation Committee. Expect to see any and all of these people coming out in the near future in favor of not only reverting back to old land use plans but for a massive, expansive, land grab. Many of these same people already spoke in front of the Planning Commission in favor of extending Modesto’s sphere of influence all the way to the river to our West and North. Nothing like building homes on some of the worlds richest and best soil for farming.
Developers even managed to place Brad Hawn on LAFCO so don’t expect organizations that are supposed to protect against SPRAWL to protect us from the developer’s greed. The voters, understandably, were frustrated by former Mayor Marsh’s policies but as we’ve already warned, we’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Mayor Marsh and those who supported him are responsible for lighting the fuse and will now act surprised that the developers’s power keg of GREED and SPRAWL goes off.
And what will the rest of Modesto’s City Council do? Our guess is hey’ll admire the Emperor’s new clothes.
They say the truth is stranger than fiction and that has never been more obvious than in this election cycle. The Modesto Chamber of Commerce, or at least three of their members, have been pulling out all stops in an attempt to steal Measure I from the public. Their two campaign flyers are filled with falsehoods, innuendos,, and blatant lies (that’s as kind as I can be at this point) and now their obfuscating the source of their money.
It’s bad enough they don’t list the FPPC number on either of their flyers. And yes it is required but they have also managed through a series of ‘mishaps’ to make it almost impossible to follow the money.
Where Did the Documentation Go?
So we contacted the County Clerk’s office to try to follow the money trail. Here is the official version: The Modesto Chamber of Commerce faxed to the County Clerk’s office their 497’s which is the document required when a contribution of $1,000 or more is received and it is supposed to be filed within 24 hours of receipt.. But since this is a city Measure it is supposed to go to the City Clerk’s office. ‘Unfortunately’ it was misfiled in the manila folder (no matter how many times people and the BoS have requested, the County Clerk’s office refuses to place these documents on line) of another Political Action Committee or PAC account of the Chambers. This is extremely strange considering 497 documents weren’t supposed to be accepted at the County Clerk’s office period.
For another unknown reason a clerk was rummaging through the outdated PAC file and discovered the document (how lucky for us was that?). It was then forwarded to the City Clerk’s office 11 days late.
Some interesting Coincidences
There is a history between someone who now works at the County Clerk’s office in the election division with access to campaign statements and the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber and the Bee’s former opinion page editor, who for the last 10 years supported three candidates to the Modesto Irrigation Board, all of whom were sponsored by Bill Lyons (who wanted to sell the free water he gets from his special arrangement with MID). The cabal of three at MID that was in place three years ago, Tom VanGronigan, Glen Wild and Paul Warda, who were supported by the Bee and the Chamber during their election campaigns) were pushing to sell our water to San Francisco. The Bee, Chamber, and Bill Lyons supported the sale which after much intense public discussion was turned down despite the Bee’s endorsement.
Now we see the most current aligning of stars with Bill Lyons pushing against Measure I (he has property in the Beckwith Dakota Triangle – read Wood Colony, that he wants to develop) along with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and (at this writing the Bee hasn’t made a public comment) with a friend possibly in position to obfuscate the public knowledge of the money trail.
While we will say without any qualms and with many thanks from us that County Clerk Lee Lundrigan looked into events and has been most helpful in explaining the much traveled documentation: an unknown someone in her office ‘accidentally’ accepted wrongly submitted faxes and misfiled these important documents and then someone in her office fortunately discovered the mistake nine days later and then forwarded the documentation the the City Clerks office where it was placed online for the public on Monday afternoon.
When checking for updates on the Campaign documents, yesterday, Oct. 22nd was a mandatory reporting day, the former online 497’s were missing. According to the city Clerk’s office the missing documents along with any updates will be online by day’s end.
Why does this matter?
There are several reasons, actually violating FPPC campaign laws would be one. But during an election season opponents and the public have a right to know how much money is involved and where it’s coming from. Since the Chamber and their three donor amigos and their friends like George Petrulakis are very familiar with election laws and rules it’s our opinion this has been willful and orchestrated.
Thanks to Brad Johnson and 104.9 K-GIG FM the Salida MAC July meeting is available on line. Watch land use attorney George Petrulakis, lobbyist Cecil Russell, real estate salesman Craig Lewis, Village I profiteer Bill Zoslocki, and conflicted LAFCO member Brad Hawn try to convince the audience that SPRAWL is a good thing and that concrete is better than Prime Farmland. Now if we could only get the Chamber representatives to respect women….
The following is the complete (all five parts) Salida MAC meeting.
By Emerson Drake
During the Modesto Irrigation District Board Meeting on July 24,2012, Board President Tom Van Groningen refused to allow the public to speak in response to several agendized items. This is a direct violation and should not be allowed but this Board President likes making up rules as he goes along.
Just a point of reference, but Bee reporter John Holland was sitting just a few rows away from me, but somehow neglected to report this Brown Act Violation in his story about the meeting.
The Public Records Act limits the time a public agency has to respond to inquiries and since no emergency delay has been requested, by the time MID responds they will be in violation. MID has delayed many Public Records Act requests, and this is just another example.
To: Emerson Drake Via email only
Re: California Public Records Act Request
Dear Mr. Drake:
On July 16, 2012 Modesto Irrigation District received your Public Records Request via
email, requesting copies of any contracts regarding George Petrulakis or his law firm and
copies of any pay outs to him or his firm.
In accordance with Government Code section 6253, MID will comply with your request
to the extent that the writings you have requested are not privileged or otherwise exempt from
production under the California Public Records Act, or other applicable law.
We are currently gathering the information and will notify you when the information is
Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact this
office at (209) 526-7388.
Copy: Allen Short