Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Lobbyist Cecil Russell”

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.

More Foul Play From the Chamber and Their Minions

By Emerson Drake   stealingmoney
Joan Trombetta Clendenin wrote a letter to the editor today against Marsh that isn’t available onliine yet that attacks Marsh. I find this interesting since it was her company Clendenin Byrd, a bookkeeping company that has election experience, connection to the Chamber and their No on Measure Committee that first broke election laws by failing to report thousands of dollars in LARGE election campaign contributions on a timely basis. By hiding their contributions they broke FPPC rules for clean elections and now she’s berating Marsh.
 
Unfortunately this is just another example of how far the Chamber of Commerce and their minions will go to promote special interest groups intent on taking money out of our pockets and placing it in theirs.
 
And maybe even more importantly it brings into question the Bee’s culpability in the outcomes of both ballot decisions. For that we’ll have to wait and see.

Our Options For Mayor Are Limited But Our Choice Is Clear

By Emerson Drake roadtrip

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.

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Whose Electric Bill Are You Paying?

By Emerson Drake      stealingmoney

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.

The Chamber Thumbs Its Nose at the Fair Political Practices Commission Rules and the Public

By Emerson Drake   followthemoney

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.

Another  Coincidence

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.

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