Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Judy Sly”

The Subterfuge Behind the NO on Measure I Campaign

By Emerson Drake  chamberlogo

When it comes to misleading the public, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is second to none. We’ve watched while the Chamber pulls strings behind the scenes and gets City Council members to say and do the strangest things but for today lets focus on their No on Measure I campaign.

The Campaign started out by breaking the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) rules.  When the Chamber mailed their pack of lies to voters they didn’t include the FPPC number which is required.  Wondering why?  Well the Chamber filed their original paperwork with the City Clerk’s office without the FPPC number and without stating where their money came from.  Days later the Chamber filed their required  497 forms (for donations over $1,000 dollars) with the County Clerk’s office. But that isn’t where city candidates are supposed to file. Since they advise political newcomers on procedure you’d think there had to be a reason.  There was, it took eleven days for the forms to travel the two blocks between the County Clerks and the City Clerk’s office.

Maybe this was because Judy Sly, the Bee’s former Opinions Editor, was seen working behind the counter at the County Clerk’s office in the immediate area where the filed campaign forms are kept. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but it is interesting.   Remember Ms. Sly and the Chamber’s lobbyist and CEO Cecil Russell were some of the few people to be in favor of selling our water to San Francisco and the result would have been Bill Lyons making even more money. You ask what does the No on I campaign have to do with selling our water?  Bill Lyons is the answer. This is always an informational  litmus test  but I digress.

The Money Behind No on I 

The money behind the No on I campaign came from Craig Lewis, ($3,000) Chamber expansion committee chairman and Board Director, David Ginelli ($1,000) Chamber Chairman of the Board), Cecil Russell head lobbyist and CEO of the Chamber, and last but not least the Chamber of Commerce themselves to the tune of $3,000.   Anyone noticing a theme here?  No wonder they were trying to keep this information away from the public.  You just have to love lobbyists and their organizations. Well not really but you get the drift.

Ahh the Unions 

The Modesto Police Officers Union (MPOA) didn’t provide funds but allows the Chamber to use their name in the flyer and yes, for a group that claims to be concerned about public safety there is an unusual history here.  Now most officers are good people but their union is a lobbying organization with their prime purpose is supposed to be for the officers and the public, but is it?  Back in 2008 the City opened its books for the MPOA and explained there was only so much money but the union demanded a raise.  So the city offered the MPOA a choice.  You can have your raises but we’ll be forced to lay-off our youngest officers with families.  The Union said in no uncertain terms lay them off.  They weren’t concerned about having fewer officer on the street which, according to the No on I campaign’s propagand,a will make us less safe.  It was all about the money then like it is now.

Claims by Current Politicians

Mayor Marsh and Councilman Gunderson like to say the county will do something similar like they did with Beard Industrial Park back in 1963.  In August of 2011 the city requested an out of boundary service application.   LAFCO required the land owners to sign a waiver preventing them from protesting being annexed by the city.  But Marsh, Gunderson, Zoslocki and the City of Modesto actually have petitioned Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to rescind their waiver policy and on Jan. 22, 2013 LAFCO gave Marsh, Gunderson and the rest of the City Council their wish and voted to allow the change.  So it really doesn’t matter what the County did back in 1963 if Modesto is going top continue to bend over backward to SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS like the Chamber, Beard Industrial,  realtors,  and other developers and then mislead us.  We’re just in for more of the same lies we’ve been fed for a long long time.

It isn’t About  Jobs, It’s All About Developers and Their Greed

The local developers own land and want to develop it no matter what the cost.  Here in Modesto we watched as the family farm across from Big Valley Grace  was forced out of business because of encroaching developments.  They were promised by the city the “right to farm” but when complaints started coming in the were forced to give up land they’d farmed for years.  Sprawl advocates say farmers can always buy more land but that really isn’t true. Prime farmland like in Wood Colony and North of Kiernan is irreplaceable.  Not only is it the best water recharge land there is, but more crops can be grown on this land than almost anywhere in the world.

The Questionable Candidates and Their Questionable Statements  kristiahyou

dougridenoursrMani GrewalDespite what candidates like Doug Ridenour say (Doug doesn’t really say it he just repeats it but the people being paid to run his facebook page do) California law pushes homes to be built near jobs not highways.  So if the Chamber’s preferred candidates, Kristi Ah You, Doug Ridenour Sr. and Mani Grewal will be honest for a moment, don’t hold your breath, they’ll be forced to acknowledge if business parks are built in Wood Colony then homes and SPRAWL will soon follow.

Don’t Buy the Lies, Vote YES on Measure I



Judy Sly and the Bee’s Cover-up of Jim Mortensen’s Lie

By Emerson Drake

When the Modesto Bee’s Editorial Staff brought the MID District 4 candidates in to visit they allowed the candidates to ask one  question of

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

another candidate.  Jim Mortensen was asked if he had brought a lawsuit, made a financial claim or received any monetary payouts from MID in the past.  His response was that he’d received between $3 to $4 thousand dollars in remunerations.

In response to two Public record Requests MID turned over the claim Jim Mortensen and his attorney filed against MID for $90,000 dollars.  At first it was denied but after threatening  further legal action a settlement was reached in the amount of $20,000.

Ms. Sly has always claimed she believes it a greater offense when a candidate lies about his past instead of coming clean.  So to be fair we forwarded the Public Record Request responses to Ms. Sly so she could set the record straight since the Bee has already  endorsed Mortensen.  Ms. Sly has yet to respond to our information and queries.  It’s generally known Ms. Sly is finally retiring after this election, but to see her go out on such a dishonest note is sad.

An interesting side note is one of the Directors who voted for the payoff was the same man paying Mike Lynch to be Mortensen’s campaign adviser,  Bill Lyons.

This  pdf is the $90,000 claim Jim Mortensen ‘forgot’.


This pdf documents the $20,000 payout Jim Mortensen tried to obfuscate.

Slegal13102413510 (1)

Shame on Jim Mortensen for failing to come clean on a $90,000 claim and a $20,000 payout.  Those kind of numbers you would remember, especially if you’re running for the MID Board.

Shame on Judy Sly and the Modesto Bee for trying to cover-up Mortensen’s obvious lie.  It just goes to show you can’t trust the Modesto Bee’s Editorial staff, especially when they have an  agenda.

Pinocchio’s anyone?


MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s $110,000 Financial Conflict of Interest

By Emerson Drake

Modesto Irrigation District has been generous in giving away ratepayers money for many years.   Director Tom Van Groningen has voted to


Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

give  the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance $110,000 dollars.  Starting suddenly  in 2008, they donated $20,000 a year for five consecutive years, and only cut back this year  (2013)  after the community and Director’s Larry Byrd, Nick Blom and Paul Warda fought back. We spoke to the Board several times prior to the last donation, pointing out the Alliance is a 501 C (6) which means they’re allowed to lobby and give their investors an IRS business deduction.  We also pointed out that the Alliance’s CEO Bill Bassett had blatantly lied to the Board to receive a larger donation.  I always wondered why Director Tom Van Groningen fought so hard to give away  MID’s money, well actually the ratepayer’s  money, that’s right, your money and mine,  to a private company who specializes in lobbying efforts.  Maybe  now we have the answer.

Here is the Public Records Request response which has the donations listed   Slegal13051013420 (1)

It appears Director Tom Van Groningen is not only on the Alliance’s Board of Directors, http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-brd.php his company, TVG Consulting which he’s the sole owner of, according to his linkedin page, is a member of and an investor in the Alliance.  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tom-van-groningen/11/929/809  are investors  http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-invest.php

The problem as I see it is Alliance CEO  Bill Bassett has always said “the investors EXPECT a return on their investments” and the more investments the larger the return.  So if  Director Van Groningen donates MID’s Money he’s likely to see a larger return for HIMSELF and his company along with playing the big man to his buddies on the Alliance. Who knows, maybe that’s how he made the Board in the first place.

A conflict of interest…. It’s well know by now that Judy Sly protects, defends, and supports  MID Director Tom Van Groningen and MID’s secret lobbyist Mike Lynch, but why is she keeping this conflict of interest from the public?  Why did MID’s attorney Tim O’Laughlin allow the conflict to continue since 2008? Didn’t Tom file this investment (financial disclosure) in the Alliance with the state?

Are you as tired as we are of the Bee’s  Editorial Staff  hiding the facts from the public in order to protect their friends?  Could one of the reasons be because the Modesto Bee has donated $100,000 to the Alliance too?  Are you starting to understand why Judy Sly has kept her personal connection with MID’s secret lobbyists Mike Lynch, Mark Looker, Janice Keating, and Carol Whiteside  on the down low? Remember these four lobbyists received $125,500 from MID ratepayer funds while only invoicing them for $1,500 in 2012 all thanks to Director Tom Van Groningen.

The Bottom LIne…

I was hoping someone else would notice but …Judy Sly never says what I said was wrong about Tom Van Groningen and his

News of the day.

News of the day. (Photo credit: RussellReno)

negative effect on MID.  What she said was she didn’t like the fact it was  me who  said it. That makes it a petty hit piece  by anyone’s definition.

I believe we are now witnessing the anticlimax of her journalistic career.

If I made the powers that be, and our local lobbyists and their organizations  this upset,  I must be doing something right.

See everyone at the MID meeting.

And Now for the Rest of the Story

By Emerson Drake

In the past, especially in a one newspaper town, the Opinions Page Editor had the bully pulpit and was king.  You might

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)

dispute their particular version of events at home, work, or when friends get together but you couldn’t mount a vocal opposition to those special interest groups the Editors supported, those who would run roughshod over average people to get their sometimes exploitative and usually lucrative way.  And in Modesto, that’s the way it’s been.

Enter the new media.  Not facebook or myspace but blogtalk radio and News/Opinion Blogs like this one.  We also have a local public radio station 104.9 FM K-GIG that allows local people to air their concerns. Concerns the Bee ignores when it isn’t convenient to them and their advertisers, advisers, and lobbyists.  In recent years we have seen the Bee adopt a policy that allows people to comment on articles challenging the views and articles of their reporters and Op Ed staff. From talking with many of the reporters and ALL of the Op Ed people the general consensus is most dislike having their version of events challenged.

For an educational experience,  go to a city,  county,  school board, or one of their committee meetings and see if you recognize it when you read about it the next day in the Bee.   You can take this challenge from home by watching the meetings on cable or on streaming video but you really need to be there to experience the totality of the  complexities occurring at these meetings.   As an example, after a recent SalidaMAC meeting Ms. Sly wrote about the evening.  After reading her piece I found it difficult to believe she had been present.  But she was.  That’s the scary part. Her story was barely recognizable. Or maybe I should say her perceptions were more like a glass half empty than half full.  Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure she even knew a glass of anything existed. But that’s been the problem all along.

The behind the scenes power structure in Modesto has been basically the same for years.  Yes, some of the faces have changed but the policies have remained the same. And the Bee has continually supported them with their “go along to get along” mantra.  The only real exception to that is when the public, faced with the unpleasant realities of the Village I debacle, over-threw  the developer/real estate bosses who had dominated Modesto’s  political landscape for years.  There was a four or five year window, a kind of renascence if you will, when voters and not political machines were in control.  But then partially thanks to the Bee’s bitter vendetta with Mayor Sabatino, and the dark ages sometimes called Ridenour years,  a developer controlled council re-emerged.

We witnessed a rise in power of the lobbyists at the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance.  They once again, thanks to the Bee’s  influence and MID donations of ratepayer’s money, started their campaign of greed.

For twenty years the Bee has promoted the local real estate and home builders contention that planting driveways remains supreme, and look where it got us.  The housing bubble burst and we have a plethora of empty homes seeking owners.  We’ve been turned into a city of renters by the slavish devotion of the Bee to the Chamber’s and the Building Industry Association’s mantra of homes.  Now the cry ringing in our ears is jobs, jobs, jobs.  Yes we do need jobs but isn’t this deja vu?  We heard this from the Alliance and the Chamber six years ago about Westpark and how it would be our salvation.  Well how’s that working out for you?

Also during this time the Modesto Irrigation District was mismanaged into a near fiscal bankruptcy.  But being a monopoly  it’s much easier to survive.  You just raise the rates on electricity.  The millions and millions of dollars lost on the failed geothermal project, the Mountainhouse debacle, the four cities boondoggle, the TANC project power-line project failure, and the doomed garbage burning/biomass  plant helped to create the high electric rates and lost opportunity at the Lodi generating facility which could be saving us money in much greater quantities every single day.

What did all of these have in common?  They were all supported by the Bee.  Every, single, one.

So when the often quoted (in Bee Op Eds) lobbyist/political consultant Mike Lynch was exposed for having taken $52,500 from MID without ever sending them an invoice, blow back was expected.

When it was exposed that Ms. Sly had been in possession of MID documents for several months detailing the funneling of money from MID through a third party not only to Mike Lynch but Mark Looker, Janice Keating and Carol Whiteside, but maintained her silence, blow back was expected.

When it was exposed that only Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild on the MID Board along with the guidance and support of General Manager Allen Short were aware of Ms. Whiteside receiving payments from Martino Graphics, blow back was expected.

I will continue to offer Ms. Sly-Herrero the opportunity to discuss these issues in a public forum as I have in the past. I wonder if she would prefer live TV or Radio?

Blow back is expected.

Here is the Link to a Short MID Meeting Video

Take this link and watch MID Board President Tom Van Gronongen interrupt Brian DuBois.  Talk about a lack of civility. This was just one of many times VanGroningen interrupted speakers at the meeting.  More footage will be posted shortly.


What on eath can Judy Sly be thinking?

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