Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Lobbyist Cecil Russell”

Modesto’s Police Chief Used Public Funds to Hide Energy Theft By Chamber CEO

By Emerson Drake   

In a Public Record Request (PPR) just received yesterday it was revealed that Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll is using taxpayer  money from his budget to pay for electricity being stolen by Chamber of Commerce CEO Cecil Russell for his gated community’s security cameras.

We’ve told this story before but the recent developments are disturbing to say the least.  In July/August of 2016, Cecil Russell fronting for the his Chateau Provence Homeowners Association, used Rank Security to mount three cameras from city light poles and then had Rank’s workforce illegally tie into the poll’s power supply without Modesto Irrigation Districts’ knowledge or approval.  This theft of electricity went unnoticed until a sharp eyed MID worker spotted the illegal cameras and power hook-ups.

In an email to the city December 6th, 2016, MID pointed out the theft and asked the city to make the appropriate disconnect.  In a series of emails obtained through a PPR it was learned that city staff was preparing to unhook the illegal instillation until the MPD Chief Galen Carroll intervened.  This was all documented in our 3/3/2017  story.  We also learned that Chamber lobbyist and CEO Russell had not applied for any of the easily available permits despite suggestions to the contrary by Chief Carroll.

Why the deception?  As Dave Boring (member of the Chamber of Commerce) told the Council a few weeks ago: “We’re the movers and shakers, you need to take care of us”, talk about self entitled. The way we see it the only thing that makes sense is they just didn’t care.  After all if you have the Police Chief pulling strings to keep your little project afloat (by avoiding being arrested and by paying for electricity) and away from the public eye, why bother following the law. And don’t buy the story that there should be an easier way to get this approved because only an elitist wouldn’t even bother to pull the necessary paperwork to apply, which by the way was discovered in another PPR.

Grand Theft?  Well if you total the monies owed to MID  and now the city for the illegal instillation, electricity theft, meter instillation and having to rewire at least one of the connections for being faulty, it comes to significantly more than the $1,000 threshold required by law for Grand Theft.

The most current claim they are making, which we’ve only heard since this malfeasance of using public funds to pay for a politically connected, well-to-do gated community’s electric bill,  is the city is going to create a program where the city will have the camera’s bill sent to them for the gated subdivision to pay.  But why the delay you ask?  After all the theft has been going on for over 14 months and the city has been paying for over 6 months.  We don’t have the answer to that but the city started paying the bill in May and is still paying the bill and yet there’s no program for reimbursement.  It seems the only thing moving them forward is us exposing what’s been going on.

So you probably won’t surprised to learn the Graceada Park camera bill has been going to the city and hasn’t been being paid by Rank Security like you’ve been told (yes the Bee was given erroneous  information too).

Just so you know the City Council has been made aware several times of the electricity theft by the Chamber’s CEO.  It is one of the reasons Councilman Bill Zoslocki melted down at a recent City Council meeting and started attacking the citizen informing them.  But we can’t say for sure if they were aware of the MPD using taxpayer money to support certain ‘special’  neighborhoods electric bills.  We do know that Joe Lopez has been aware the whole time and it’s just another reason to pass on him for the Permanent City Manager position.

It’s time for the silence to end.

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EyeonModesto is coming to the Airwaves Near You

By Emerson Drake  

In order to help the residents of Modesto and Stanislaus County stay better informed  about what is going on in local government and maybe even more importantly, why it’s happening, we’ll be going on the air on 93.3 FM KPHD Modesto and 104.9 FM KGIG  Salida.

 

This answers the burning question of  “Who Will Tell The People?”   With,  “We will tell the people.”

 

We’ll be interviewing on air, politicians and candidates for you to get to know and giving you our honest opinion supported by public record requests and actually being at or viewing the MID,  City Council,  and County Board meetings, and talking with our elected officials.

 

A big Thanks to Brad Johnson and everyone involved in bringing the show to a radio near you.  Details to follow.

Should Modesto’s General Fund be Used For Monopoly Money?

By Emerson Drake  

The Modesto City Council wants to buy an entire city block downtown for $3.1 Million dollars. We don’t have money for more police officers, fire equipment, maintaining our city tree program, or proper care for our homeless population BUT we can afford to buy a block of downtown property?
The Northern and Southern boundaries are F and E Streets and the East and West by 10th and 9th. Now the city isn’t going to play landlord so they’ll probably hire Benchmark for property management.
It’s just another game of insider monopoly. The local NAI Benchmark is managed by, yes you guesses it, Ryan Swehla and Joe Muratore of Modesto’s infamous NSP2 program where Joe had to payback $58,000 or be charged with a felony.
Of course it’s being powered by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s developer connection.
We can’t help but point out Councilman Mani Grewal, best known for renting to massage parlors involved in prostitution and having his property used for a raucous  car sideshow in Wood Colony, is campaigning hard for this idea to be accepted.  According to those we’ve spoken to, Bill ‘the broker’ Zoslocki is pushing for approval also but couldn’t be reached in time for comment.
We think Modesto has better places to spend $3.1M  don’t you?
A special workshop, today, before the meeting?  What’s the rush?

AGENDA

City of Modesto

 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
Chambers, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday September 05, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

Another Back Door Land Deal by the Modesto City Council

By Emerson Drake    

Mayor Ted Brandvold seems intent on pushing a land deal between the city and Stanislaus Food Products at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council BEFORE  the public can vet it. Remember the last time the Council was in a big hurry? It was the land deal behind the new courthouse. The city lost Millions of dollars because they over paid to one of the politically connected  land owners.
 
When asked why the usual vetting process was skipped the Mayor claimed he didn’t know ( ask George Petrulakis land use attorney and puppet master of the Mayor.) 
 
Then of course Councilman Bill Zoslocki posturing claiming he hasn’t reviewed it yet most likely he’ll go along to get along. But it will provide him probable deniability if something goes south.
Stanislaus Foods is keeping quiet and is willing to let the fix take its course. And the rest of the Council?   Well,  their just the rest of the Council unable or,  more likely, as usual,  unwilling to buck George and the Chamber of Commerce.
The bottom line is there isn’t any reason for a big rush to make a decision and every time the Modesto City Council pulls a stunt like this it’s the Citizens that get stuck with the bill. Modesto’s special interest groups get richer and the taxpayers get poorer…everybody knows.

City Council Says Property Managers Must Act As Police Officers Or Pay The Price

By Emerson Drake  
Modesto Police say NO Warnings will be issued from now on regarding illegal fireworks, just citations costing a $1,000 a ticket. Last year when the Modesto Police Department in conjunction with the City Council, wrote and passed the law the city blew the paperwork implementing the fines for those that shoot off illegal fireworks and or  for property owners and managers that live on the property.  And as usual instead of the City Attorney catching the timing issue in advance it was after the fact that the timing legality reared its head. And again as usual the Council needed a fall guy and Police Chief Galen Carroll stepped up to the plate and took one for the team.
 
When originally written the law said, whether you lived there or not, property owners and or managers could and would be fined and that went for ALL property owners and managers.   BUT as usual in Modesto, the “BIG BOYS” complained and were granted an exemption. So the more property you own or manage the less likely you would get stuck paying a fine for the actions of your tenants. And yes as usual it was the Modesto Chamber of Commerce that screamed  the loudest to insist the Council exempt the “FAT CAT” owners
 
Now we don’t agree with fining property owners or managers for the actions of their tenants since it’s the police who have the power to control events. It just seems like they are pushing their responsibility onto others who don’t have the legal authority to enforce laws. Maybe both the City and Police should be held accountable for any violence or retribution against property manages or landowners that may occur when they try to enforce the law

How Does a Park Become ‘Surplus’ in the County’s Eyes?

By Emerson Drake   

Mono Park is a pretty two acres of green consisting of large beautiful trees,  picnic and play area on Mono Drive between Santa Ana and Santa Rita Ave in Modesto’s Airport District.  It is an oasis of green with its large/huge trees and lawn in an area that has very few comforts the rest of us have come to rely on, you know, like sidewalks.  Sidewalks should not  be an exception in residential areas instead of the rule but that’s the fact of life in many of  the County’s unincorporated areas.

Now the County has staff exploring whether Mono Park should stay a park or be labeled ‘surplus’  then sold to friends and possibly be turned into warehouses for the likes of the Gallo’s or one of their many subsidiaries.  Of course the County doesn’t want to speculate as to who might purchase the site. But their flyer specifically mentions cutting down the beautiful trees in the park

A community meeting was held March 13th at Orville Wright Elementary school by the Airport Community Collaborative. According to the County approximately 20 people attended. The County dangled the carrot in front of the people suggesting maybe sidewalks or a new roof for the Legion Hall.

Improving the Quality of Life By Selling Our Parks?   If we sell Mono Park to the Gallo’s for warehouse space then even  more trucks will be coming into the Airport District. Our local Air Pollution Control Board says the single biggest polluting factor in the central valley are the diesel trucks driving up and down Highway 99.  So the County’s answer to how can we improve the quality of life in Modesto and specifically the Airport District is to have more trucks with the accompanying dirt, dust, noise, and pollution at all hours in our neighborhoods.  But then again why should they be concerned, none of the Board of Supervisors lives anywhere close to there.

So the County is using slight of hand, mixing in a little community involvement, Gallo money, and Presto Change-o, you have one less park for the children to play in and for families to picnic in.

The next park they decide is surplus may be YOURS.

Modesto City Council says business as usual..SPEND…SPEND…SPEND

By Emerson Drake  

Tuesday night the council had the chance to slow down on spending by implementing a freeze on hiring (except for police numbers going from 218 to 240), promotions, and spending but they chose not to.   With the exception of Tony Madrigal, who made a motion supporting the freeze. Unfortunately the motion died for a lack of a second.
 
There were two lengthy closed secession discussions regarding evaluating City Manager Jim Holgersson.  Holgersson’s machinations became public when Fire Chief Slamon resigned to take a job with a Department  one third the size of Modesto’s.  Between forcing the Chief Slamon  to change his mind or else  on accepting grant money and Holgersson’s recently come to light involvement regarding Cecill Russell, Chateau Provence, and Rank Security involving illegal camera placement and electricity theft which was discussed by MID General Manager Greg Salyer at Tuesday’s MID meeting the Council’s tolerance for Holgersson’s antics  may be waning.
 
So the Council intends on spending money we may or may not have And Brandvold said the plan needed more work and with George Petrulakis and the Chamber pulling his strings things just might get a little interesting.

Brandvold’s Talking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth Again

By Emerson Drake  brandvold

Without any facts or figures to back him up Mayor Brandvold wants to spend another $1.8 Million passing our raises to city workers.
Since 2008 we’ve placed more of the costs of their retirement and health plan  back in the hands where it belonged in the first place just like in private business, the city workers. But now instead continuing the cost reductions he wants to hand out $1.8 Million without saying here it’s coming from.
But here is the little secret Brandvold doesn’t want us to catch on to. Some of the money that is supposed to pay for the new 22 officers for the MPD is going to pay for the raises for City staff.
The key is that if you factor in the current officers that will be retiring and those that will move on to other employment and those that will be asked to leave the MPD,  the numbers will be just about the same as they are now. So we aren’t really going to increase the boots on the street. We’re just being duped by a Mayor whose only concern is making those that funded his candidacy, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and a few unscrupulous developers along with powerful city unions happy.
The bottom line is the 22 additional officers are nothing but a figment of his imagination.  It’s meant to make us think he’s keeping his campaign promises while he’s really paying off his campaign debts to the city and  police and fire unions.  Undoubtedly some the money will be found again at the end of the fiscal year and spent somewhere else (like expanding Modesto’s sphere of influence through the General Plan after the building fees are reduced.)
So the question is:  Is Modesto shedding it’s ‘Business and Usual’ approach (straight out of the 100 day committee’s report)?  We thinks it’s just more same old same old  Business as Usual.  When the Chamber of Commerce is pulling the strings the more things change the more they remain the same.
File Brandvold’s proposal under …The Emperor’s New Clothes.
 

Are Modestans prepared for the flashbacks to the late 80’s and early 90’s?

By Emerson Drake   modestologo

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.

The City of Modesto Treats Businesses Better Than it does Its Residents.

By Emerson Drake  modestoarch (1)

Can you imagine being behind more than 30 days in your water/sewer bill what Modesto’s reaction would be?   Yep, it would cut off your service. And before the speculation begins I’ve never had my water cut off. As anyone knows that has owed the city money they can be pretty cold hearted.
Now imagine you have collected money that you owe to Modesto but refuse to pay them.  What would the city do? Well if you are a business absolutely nothing. Budgetel Inn on McHenry operated by United Resorts LLC has owed Modesto lodging taxes (transient occupancy tax) since August of 2008. That’s right 2008 and they finally got around to trying to collect in earnest  and started proceedings October 29, 2014.   Modesto Tax Administrator, Gloriette Genereux ruled in January of 2015 UR LLC owed $106,623.50 in outstanding TOT and penalties.
Since then the Motel has played the lawyer game and stretched out the proceedings by mailing challenges to the wrong party and agreeing to pay, then failing to honor its promises.  All of this comes from tonight’s Council agenda Item 14. agendaitem145316  and agendaitem1425316
Budgetel has been bargaining in bad faith from the beginning in our opinion.  They’ve held on to the City’s ‘OUR’ money since 2008 and it’s time for it to come to an end.  Unless of course they’ll let residents wait 8 years to pay their bills like they do businesses.

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