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.
If you don’t mind lets take a short road trip. Lets get in the car at the Double Tree hotel on 9th St. in Modesto and go west on Maze Blvd also known as 132. We’re going to pass Carpenter Rd and Dakota Rd. Still heading west we pass Hart Rd and Gates Rd, past the old Yandell Ranch Airport. We’re even going to pass the large Mapes Ranch sign and go all the way to the river. Our journey was about 13 miles and took us around 23 minutes just to get here. Now lets turn right on the river and take it all the way to just past Salida to the north.
This is the area Ted Brandvold voted to give to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce complete control of for ANY kind of development they can dream up. Now you know why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, along with real estate people and developers are supporting Ted Brandvold.
So from 99 to past Mapes Ranch, to the San Joaquin river on the west, from here all the way past Salida to the North. That’s a lot of homes and farms and ranches for the Chamber to pave over.
The boundaries and votes I mentioned are all part of public record during Ted’s time on the Modesto Planning Commission. The plan was presented by Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and “Broker Bill” Zoslocki all members of the Chamber, Craig Lewis is a realtor and Bill Zoslocki is a real estate broker while Cecil Russell is a lobbyist. All of these men support Ted for Mayor. We need to hold Ted Brandvold responsible for his votes while on the Planning Commission.
Now you see why we need to vote for Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto.
A short time ago we received MID’s response to a Public Record Request. It contained the Kilowatt sales and total revenue received by rate class from 2010 through 2014. The word total is important here because some rate classes have demand charges which are difficult to explain and for most of us, including me, to fully evaluate and understand. So total means all revenue received with no exclusions. For this conversation we’ll focus on 2014.
Detail kWh Revenues in $Millions Cost per kWh
Residential 868,341 156,132 .179 Commercial 725,487 105,539 .145 Industrial 768,952 79,797 .103 Other 138,545 18,403 .132
As you can see residential is paying 20% more than commercial and over 40% more than industrial for each kWh they use. MID suggests the rate disparity is because of the cost of service. When detailing the ‘cost of service’ it all depends on what costs numbers you count and what ones you ignore. But interestingly enough most other utilities in Central California don’t have the extreme disparity. Lets look at the numbers as a whole. MID likes to say using rounded numbers that each of the three big rate classes uses about one third of the electricity MID sells. But as a total of revenue, Commercial generates about one third of the revenue that Residential uses and Industrial is little more than half.
When MID was pressed about costs back in June, by the Bee’s Garth Stapley, the response was, “The Bee asked for a demonstration showing how Netniss computed his profit estimate, using updated numbers, Van Vuren said it might not be possible, but we can get close.” A few days later, Netniss declined. He said that in November, he was trying to be helpful without considering journalistic intent.” I would suggest it’s obvious not only do they NOT want scrutiny they refuse to provide information if it will be used against their goals.
So Why are 95,819 Residents Paying So 12,693 Business Accounts can Live High on the Hog?
Traditionally MID has been run by businessmen and farmers, yes I know farmers are businessmen, but their costs have been offset by the residential customers who have been paying a premium. Recently a dairy farmer who pays the lower commercial rate commented that if people didn’t like what they were being charged “they could just shut off the switch.” Frito Lay who pays the lowest Industrial rate generates $2.2 Billion a year in profits. And yes some of these profits are because they pay a lower rate than sick senior citizens on fixed incomes (the MID CARES program).
So Lets get Back to the Cost of Doing Business Argument
Just like in Mountain House it’s all about what costs you count. In Mountain House they count basic infrastructure only. They don’t count the cost of running the transmission lines or the transformer costs among others. They only count the costs of running the lines from transformers to the street and then to the building site. For example in Beard Industrial Park they recently had to add a powerhouse and multiple transformers for the new area the City of Modesto approved and just as importantly, because of equipment failure they had to replace several very expensive transformers an older area of Beard. These don’t count against “the cost of doing business.”
What is the most expensive time to purchase electricity? In the summer, and when do you think most of the industrial power is used? You guessed it, in the summer. Does this factor into the cost of doing business? Not according to MID. So according to MID, 164 industrial users use almost 1/3 of the electricity MID sells, yet only paid $79.7 Million of the $359.8 Million of the revenue MID generated.
The public is constantly being sidetracked by a conversation regarding water subsidizes but these costs are but a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of the electric subsidies residential ratepayers are forced to endure.
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.
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.
Despite 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
Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien says, “It’s not the American way, to go against the majority”. If that were true, America would still be a British colony. But what Mayor O’Brien is referring to is Hughson Mayor, Matthew Beekman’s vote on LAFCO. On March 25, 2015, Matthew Beekman, who serves on the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), cast one of three votes supporting an equal farmland mitigation formula which applies to the nine cities in Stanislaus County. LAFCO policy requires that one acre of farmland be set aside and preserved for each acre that is lost to residential housing development. The formula was discussed and implemented because the City of Patterson was requiring too little in mitigation fees from developers to preserve equal quality farmland. Read the Modesto Bee’s April 11, 2015 “Our View: Trying to overturn LAFCO vote is wrong” on the reverse side of this flyer for more on the issue. Matthew Beekman followed LAFCO rules which state pursuant to Government Code Section 56325.1:
“While serving on the Commission, all commission members shall exercise their independent judgment on behalf of the residents, property owners, and the public as a whole in furthering the purposes of this division. Any member appointed on behalf of local governments shall represent the interests of the public as a whole and not solely the interests of the appointing authority.” The mayors of six of the nine cities in Stanislaus County are caving to pressure from developers and are holding a hearing to remove Matthew Beekman from LAFCO. Riverbank resident, David Tucker is embarrassed by the mayor’s words and actions. He wrote the following letter to the editor of the Modesto Bee on April 6, 2015:
Re “Mayors move against ag vote” (Page A1, April 5): I am ashamed to be a citizen of Riverbank. Our mayor, Richard O’Brien, implies that fellow mayor Matt Beekman of Hughson is unAmerican communist for supporting ag-land preservation by his LAFCO vote.
DAVID TUCKER, RIVERBANK
Matthew Beekman followed the rules. He voted his independent judgment. He voted for fairness in preserving ag land. And now our mayor wants to make him pay for his vote.
If you disagree with the mayor’s words and actions as David Tucker does, let Mayor O’Brien know. Write him an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or write a letter to the editor of the Modesto Bee before May 13. On this day, the hearing will be held to remove Beekman from the LAFCO board. You are welcome to attend and voice your opinion. Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 6 pm Turlock City Hall Chamber 156 S. Broadway Ave., Turlock
On Wednesday March 25, 2015, the Modesto City Council held a special meeting away from video recording devices. Ostensibly it was to decide if they should send a letter in support of five other cities in Stanislaus County regarding a decision the Local Agency Formation Commission better known as LAFCO, made. The Commission isn’t sexy or well known but is vitally important when it comes to setting boundaries and settling disputes.
But let us begin the conversation with a little ground work. LAFCO was intending to set actual values to the in-lieu of fees part of the mitigation discussion. Several cities proposed setting their own fees. For example LAFCO research suggested for the fees to be meaningful the price needed to be around $7,000 per acre and Patterson for one, was proposing $2,000 per acre of prime farmland.
The Special Meeting with NO Video Recording
LAFCO’s intention of visiting the fees has been public knowledge for several weeks. They notified the Modesto City Council by email two weeks prior to the meeting according to Mayor Marsh. And of course they posted their agenda as required by law. The special meeting was requested by Council members Kenoyer, Cogdill, Zoslocki, and Lopez. The topic of the fees could have been dealt with at the last meeting of the city council but instead they choose to have a meeting not in their official chambers but in a small meeting room, 2001, on the second floor.
Six members of the public were present Craig Lewis, Brad Barker, Cathy Zoslocki, Kevin Valine, myself, and Tom Halan, the Patterson City Attorney ( if I got that name wrong I’m sorry, who just happened to be in the building on other business).
When the Council members weighed in Jenny Kenoyer said she didn’t understand what LAFCO was intending to do and she didn’t appreciate the last minute meetings with out prep time. Dave Cogdill complained about the cities losing control of their mitigation fees. Bill Zoslocki claimed it was an over reach by LAFCO. Dave Lopez said LAFCO was over stepping their bounds and claimed Jenny Kenoyer agreed with him. He also blamed Mayor Marsh for not writing a letter supporting the other cities. During the meeting Kenoyer never commented on Lopez’s remarks. And John Gunderson said he needed more time to think about whatever it was LAFCO intended on doing. Marsh tried to explain LAFCO was just setting a price so there would be a level playing field for all of the cities but Kenoyer and Gunderson just had a blank look on their faces. The others just kept repeating their previous comments like mantras. Just saying the same thing over again. The work of developer special interests was obvious.
Now I realize this sounds like just sound bites but it was the entire text of their statements at this point. Each of them, talked twice and they just repeated their brief statements.
Members from the public
Brad Barker went first and was the most eloquent and informative. He carefully explained to Kenoyer and Gunderson what LAFCO’s intent was and walked them through the chaos that would ensue if each city could set their own fee levels. The Patterson City Attorney just restated the cities should be allowed to keep control of their own fees. I reminded the Council of the Patterson building fees which were woefully short on being able to build the needed infrastructure for the tarffic which eventually come and that the County had to step in to pay for the costs of rebuilding the roads. Also having seen the blank faces of Gunderson and Kenoyer, I tried once again to explain what was happening later on that night at the LAFCO meeting. Craig Lewis read some of Ed Persike’s op ed piece from the Bee that day and also trotted out the book the Coming Jobs War which actually says to do the exact opposite of what he, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the developers are pushing for. But unfortunately as we learned at a Modesto Planning Commission meeting, most of the commissions members who opened the book didn’t read past the first few pages (one to two pages) and unfortunately, the general public has read even less. But pretending to relay information from a book gives the air of knowledge. Unfortunately it just makes it easier to manipulate them.
At the end of the short meeting Kenoyer and Marsh voted against sending the letter and Cogdill, Zoslocki, Gunderson, and Lopez voted for the City Manager to send a letter in support of the other cities. In other words, at this point in time in the City of Modesto, special interests rule. After the meeting they each stuck to their short sound bites. Especially Gunderson. He had that feral, almost goofy look he gets. You know the one a child gets when they think they have fooled you and just kept saying he needed more time to consider everything over and over again as if that explained everything away.
The Four Who Were Shills for Developers Promoting SPRAWL
The Bottom Line
LAFCO, thanks to Terry Withrow, Jim DeMartini, and Matt Beekman made us all proud and went forward and set the price for land fee mitigation in the amount of $7,000 per acre.
The following are the letters sent by various groups both for and against LAFCO’s proposal.