Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “MID Water sales”

Going, Going, Gone, Our Water is Being Auctioned Off Thanks to the MID

By Emerson DrakeMIDpic

All farmers who irrigated their crops last year using MID are allotted a minimum 18 inches this year, not enough to bring a crop to the market place.  MID has set a bounty on the water of Four Hundred Dollars per acre for not using the water and returning the water to MID for distribution to all farmers that apply using a random drawing.  The reality is they set a base price for the upcoming private water auction for this year.

If the rate increase of 10% goes through the cost will be $32.50 for the base allocation of 18″  plus a ‘Drought Surcharge” of $11.91 which equals $44.14 per acre.  MID is offering to give irrigators  $400.00 per acre for their base of 18″ or $267 per acre foot if they don’t use the water and leave it with MID.  A nice incentive to return something they haven’t received or paid for.

It Gets Better:  Our self described city boys, yes John Mensinger used/coined the term referring to himself and Paul Campbell threw in a wild card.  He made his point by saying, “they mostly represented people living in Modesto.”  Their argument was that a farmer should be allowed to sell their water to anyone they wanted and not just to family as has been MID’s past practice for transferring water delivery rights.   And by pushing the $400 incentive they created a ‘base’ price for MID water.

But The Water Isn’t Theirs:  See the rub is the water is MID’s water and MID is owned by its ratepayers meaning you and me.   So the two city boys along with Nick Blom, who reversed his earlier position, voted to place MID’s water up for auction to the highest bidder.  Remember, this is water they haven’t paid for, don’t own, yet windfall profits are going to be allowed?  What did these three eat for breakfast?

Mensinger and Campbell have been complaining about subsidies by the electric side: With all of the preaching that has been going on about subsidies you would have thought they would have suggested that MID hold an auction for any surplus water and then use the profit to support its  budget instead of allowing a few special interest farmers to line their pockets using our water, which they won’t have to pay for until they receive their bill November.

We all understand the Modesto Chamber of Commerce donated $2,000 and Bill Lyons even more to each of the ‘city boys’ and that the Chamber is  famous for using public money to help their ‘friends’ and they do expect a return on their money, but I would have hoped they would have refrained from passing out the largess for a couple of months more.

The sellers are guaranteed a MINIMUM profit of $355.59 per acre.  And who knows where that will end up after the unofficial auction.

The bottom line is:  We’re fronting them the water for at least six months at no money down or interest fees to allow them to find the highest bidder on our water for them to make the profit on?   And this is  the business acumen the two city boys bring to the MID Board?   Just how did this help the 113,000 electric account holders?   How did this help the small farmer who is barely making it bring his crop to harvest.   How did this help us?

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Shh That Sound You Heard was Strings Being Pulled at the MID

By Emerson DrakeMIDpic

For the second meeting in a row the Modesto Irrigation District Board had a spirited debate, completely without rancor, which included several diverse positions.   After the Boards of Tom VanGroningen and Allen Short it truly is like a breath of fresh air.  Now if only the actions and decisions were different.

Jumping right into it:  The conversation started regarding the DRAFT  Drought Operation Rules proposed by staff.The proposed Transfer Policy was a complete reversal of what was decided at the last meeting which took place on Feb. 11, 2014.  You can watch it here starting at 59 minutes,  in the agenda it’s the ‘Drought workshop. You can forward to 1:18 to listen to the public debate. At 1:36 you can hear the unusual banding together of Mensinger and myself.  At 2:11 you can listen to Nick Blom argue the exact opposite position he voted for at today’s meeting.  http://mid.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=24&meta_id=1689 you can advance through the short sound issues without missing anything.

The topic centered on deciding on how water transfers would be handled, and who would be allowed to transfer their water.  At the time I supported the idea of farmers being allowed to sell their water to anyone.  I was behind Director Mensinger in his opinion.  But we lost the argument convincingly. Yet today the DRAFT proposal supported this same position.  So why did staff bring a proposal that lost, forward as potential policy?  A look around the room and then listening to public comment gave us some clues.  The Chamber trotted out Chamber Board of Directors member Ruben Villalobos in support of the grower to grower transfers. What does Ruben know about water transfers?  Absolutely nothing.  But when Chamber of Commerce  lobbyist Cecil Russell calls Ruben,  Ruben  says yes Cecil, and trots on over. Bill Lyons Jr. was sitting in the audience making sure the actors in our little play performed as they were instructed otherwise he would tell daddy on them.  To cut to the chase they wanted to allow farmers to sell their MID allocated  water of 18″ inches per acre.

Larry Byrd and Jake Wenger wanted to limit the transfers to family and were encouraging an incentive to farmers to decide to return the allocated water to MID.  Jake wanted $400 per acre and Larry $100 per acre as an incentive, to be distributed to other interested farmers and encourage the sharing of water if a farmer had other supplies (pumping).  Unfortunately the establishment of the incentive plan came after the ‘Transfer’ issue was resolved and may have been a mute point.

Much to the dismay of many in the room, Nick Blom decided to go with the self- described ‘city boys’ and voted for growers to be able to sell to anyone. It’s a extremely intricate issue and not one lending itself to simple explanations.   It’s understandable for farmers to want to help each other and no one is really against that.  The overreaching concern is a few of the wealthier farmers will be able to out bid smaller farmers and the smaller farmers might go under, not that the Chamber of Commerce would mind.

An attorney from Ripon (Stacey Henderson) claimed to be representing several small farmers decided to insert the term lottery into the mix.  It seemed like she took the opportunity to unduly influence the issue since this word was no where to be seen in the staff’s proposal.  Later during a break and in private  conversation she upbraided me for characterizing her comments as spin. She said if I had any question I should ask her first.  So I did and she walked away without saying a word.  Someone from Ripon is getting paid to influence our decisions.  Just like a lawyer/lobbyist making suggestions they had no intention on following through on.  Just more paid for testimony from my point of view.  We see lots of that at the MID.

Were strings being pulled and Directors were dancing to the Chamber’s and Bill Lyons tune?  This time it’s the farmers not the ratepayers who will pay.

On another note, Modesto City Councilmen Bill Zoslocki and Dave Cogdill just authorized MID to spend up to $504,000 on a study of the rim fire area.  Consequently,  our rates will be going up at a time when the Council wants to forgive Seneca Foods an $8 Million fine they incurred by generating excessive waste water, causing Modesto to settle a lawsuit costing up to $1 Million.

I wonder when the City Council will get around to telling us?

 

Board of Supervisors Meeting 10/29/13

Water drop

Water drop (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Vance Kennedy

There has been widespread discussion of groundwater problems in the foothills.  The question seems to be “what to do about it”?  Major damage to some smaller property owners is occurring right now and that can be a complete loss of value of home and property, simply because adjacent large plantings of almonds are taking their groundwater.  An estimate of that property loss would be highly appropriate in your investigation.  Legal costs to defend these small properties are simply too expensive to individuals and are prolonged.

You have the police power to stop abuses.  Please use that power as soon as possible.  An immediate moratorium, like that in San Louis Obispo County would be very appropriate…but then what?

A rapid estimate of the problem could be made with existing knowledge by county employees, hydrologists and farmers, using present orchard records and detailed data on approved wells, plus planned almond planting and wells.  That would be a guide.

Rainfall in the low foothills is on the order of 12 inches per year.  Half may reach the water table.  Minimum irrigation needs of almond trees is estimated at 30 inches per year.  Thus, at least 2 feet of water is needed, in addition to rain.  That must come from groundwater, since there is no other source.  Because the pore space in rocks holding available water is roughly 15% (plus or minus 5%), every foot of pumped groundwater should drop the water perhaps 8 feet.  That equals 16 feet per year.  If the water table drops significantly less than that, it means that groundwater is flowing laterally underground to the well from ones’ neighbors and depleting the overall groundwater supply.  That would not be surprising, since lateral movement of groundwater is well known to be much easier than vertical movement.

There is a legal term known as “prescriptive rights”, whereby, if water is taken wrongly, and no objections occur, then at some point in time the right to object is lost.  Since there is no groundwater law in California, the time for a prescriptive right is unknown, but could conceivably be quite short.  You can control that.

A rough estimate of the magnitude of the water problem in the foothills can be made in a week.  Not a year or two, if people use reasonable estimates, as described.  There is certainly enough understanding of the problem by employees of the local irrigation districts to make valid estimates of the problem.  I cannot overstate the need to act now on requiring environmental impacts on properties adjacent to wells.  Also, grand-fathering in of continuing harmful practices absolutely must be avoided.

While I am up here, I would like to put in a plug once again for an influential county/city committee to look at the truly long term needs by our local society for food and water.  Some members of this area seem determined to make the central valley another silicon valley.  that would truly be a local and national disaster.  I believe the average local citizen is concerned but does not know how to register that concern with the decision makers.  A prominent committee could help

WATER EXPORT RULES

I would like to put in a plea that you folks approve the proposed rules on export of groundwater today.  I understand from highly reliable sources that this sort of problem was recognized at least 10 years ago and ignored.  If it had been addressed then we would probably not have the present problems.  There is a phrase to “kick the can down the road” that has been applicable in the past.  Please do not do it in this case.  If there are major unexpected problems with the rules, there is no reason why they cannot be changed in the future.

The county does need a water expert on its staff, who has legal advice available.  Neither the city or county has a lawyer knowledgeable in water precedents….I have asked.  given the tremendous importance of water at present, and even more so in the future, it is imperative that the county have such advice readily available, the sooner the better.

Rumor has it that 40% of natural river flow will be kept for the fish in the future.  Meanwhile, the state requires major increases in housing by the city.  It seems obvious that truly great water challenges lie ahead and that does not even consider potential global warming.

Lessons Learned at LCR’s MID Candidate Forum

By Emerson Drake

The Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) conducted a flawless MID candidate  forum for the public Monday night. They

Lyons

adhered to their rules which include: only those with paid memberships can vote, those with both personal and business memberships can vote twice, and it’s allowable to come prior to the forum and place your votes and leave before the forum starts.  About 50 people were present if you include the eight candidates.  I was present as the votes were counted and the process went off without a hitch as has been my experience with LCR. The eight candidates all responded to the questions put to them to the best of their ability.  Quite honestly there was a wide discrepancy in their ability and afterward I wondered if those voting were at the same forum I was, but that is just my personal opinion.  All in all It was a fair democratic process.

And now the vote totals:

MID District 2           John Mensinger 23              Carmen Sabatino 3

MID District 3        Paul Campbell 18        Les Johnson 7

MID District 4        Jim Mortensen 15          Jake Wenger 9          Ted Donham 1       Brad Johnson 0

What I learned at the Forum

As an observer and participant of the political process I’ve been aware of a slate of candidates being run by Bill Lyons.  In recent MID elections Mr. Lyons has supported the majority of candidates to the tune of $5,000 each.  Unfortunately he supported the candidates who, in turn, supported former General Manager Allen Short.  Short consistently made some of the worst decisions possible costing MID ratepayers millions of dollars.  He was also behind the creation of the slush fund where the MID Board funneled $249,000  through Martino Graphics to a variety of lobbyists.  The man receiving the most money was a political consultant named Mike Lynch.  Would it surprise anyone  to learn Mr. Lynch is the major consultant behind Lyons candidate slate?  With Mike Lynch having the MID money pie all over his face it’s understandable for Bill Lyons to bring in someone unconnected with the Martino Graphics fiasco to be the slate’s (Mortensen, Mensinger, and Campbell) public consultant.

The high profile political consultant is Chip Langman of Langman Consulting.  In a conversation with Mr. Langman he stated he was representing and being paid by candidates Mensinger and Campbell and denied being part of the Mortensen campaign. I suppose when campaign consultants are talking with those who might write about the conversation it’s understandable that being forthcoming (honest) might not be first on their agenda and unfortunately this was the case with Mr. Langman.  Jim Mortensen had previously let it slip, that while he didn’t have a contract with Langman Consulting directly, his major benefactor, Bill Lyons did and it was on his behalf along with that of the other two candidates.

Both John Mensinger and Paul Campbell seem to be nice men in their own right.  This is part of the Bill Lyons technique (modus operandi seemed a little too fancy, but applicable). Lyons likes to bring in respectable businessmen that have little or no experience to run for MID like Glen Wild.  Their main value?  To vote as they are told.  They have little to no experience with MID’s water and electrical issues seeing that Mensinger just started coming to meetings recently and Campbell might not have even located the  the MID Board room more than once.  In the past both men have made public statements regarding the need to sell our water to San Francisco.

Jim Mortensen is a horse of a different color. He came to the podium during the water sale talks and was adamant about wanting MID to sell water on a long term basis to San Francisco.  And he stuck to his opinion when all of the details of the reprehensible contract came to light.  To make a mistake and be wrong and then change your mind is one thing, but to continue on the road to ruin is another.  He continues to say we need to monetize our water.  Just a week ago Mortensen came out publicly for the Board Governance policy which restricts the elected Directors access to the very information necessary to make informed decisions, thereby forcing them to rely solely on staff opinions without being able evaluate the facts for themselves.  This rule made it easier for Allen Short to bamboozle the Board into terrible costly decisions, decisions we ratepayers are still paying for (if you have any doubt check your electric bills).  Mortensen had pledged he would NOT use the Water Advisory Board as a jumping off point to run for office but he did.   Mortensen’s track record tell us he either lies to his advantage or makes terrible decisions and refuses to correct them.

Please understand Bill Lyons has been behind the proposed MID water sale to San Francisco all along. He doesn’t care if we run out of water since his property is along the river and he knows his 11 deep wells will bring him a fortune if the water runs out and everyone become desperate.  In my opinion he wants to assist in our destruction so he can make a fortune.  He can’t dam the water up so he wants to facilitate the sale of it out from underneath us. Even during droughts San Francisco was going to get their water first and MID, you and I, were going to get the leftovers.

Also know this isn’t Lyons first rodeo.  Four years ago Lyons personally supported Glen Wild’s and Paul Warda’s campaigns to the tune of $5,000 each and had his cronies do the same for Tom VanGroningen. Team Lyons has pledged to raise $60,000 for Mortensen’s campaign. In the past  he supported John Kidd and Cecil Hendsley’s campaigns too.   Lyons likes to play behind the scenes and stack the deck with jokers.  Please know several people who helped to recruit Mensinger, Campbell and Mortensen  were directly involved with MID in the last few years.  These include Janice Keating through the Martino Graphics slush fund and George Petrulakis who was paid $28,000 to facilitate ONE meeting between MID and the City of Modesto.  It isn’t a stretch to suggest this money, Keating’s and Petrulakis’,  were down payments for services ‘to be rendered.’

We have many good candidates to choose from running for the Modesto Irrigation District and no offense to anyone, but none will be endorsed by the Latino Community Roundtable.  Now you know the Bill Lyons and MID back story.  Tell your friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  The only way we can save our drinking water and keep our electric bills down is to make sure the Lyon’s slate of candidates doesn’t get into office.

Public Comment Delivered to MID and Modesto City Council

By Joan Rutschow

The need to produce and deliver safe and nutritious food is a fundamental human concern.  We will have to produce

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a on...

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a one acre area with a depth of one foot. This is equivalent to a 66 x 660 x 1 foot volume since an acre is defined as 66 x 660 feet. NOTE: the drawing is not to scale! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more food in the next 40 years than we have in the last 10,000.

California farm revenue was $43.5 billion in 2011, making it the nations’ top ag state.  California produces more than 400 commodities, employing 800,000 workers on 81,500 farms.  U.S. farmers are among the most efficient in the world.  Over the past 30 years, California has increased production of milk by 44%, processing tomatoes by 69% and almonds by 122%.  At the same time, new production methods have helped growers save 100,000 acre feet of water a year.  Our farmers are excellent stewards of our land and our water!

Letter to Editor, 5/31/13

It is very encouraging to see Adam Gray and Anthony Canella supporting farmers in Stanislaus County and Merced County, location of the most prime agricultural land in the world.  We do have a water storage problem.  We need more facilities to capture and store our water.  Currently, because of 2 year drought conditions, and low water levels in our reservoirs, I feel San Francisco needs to seriously consider desalinization plants if they want more water and not take our water here in the valley (whole Pacific Ocean; technology for 50 years in the Mideast and Japan).

Bee Article, 6-23-13

The Water Advisory Committee stated that farmers get credit for replenishing our underground aquifers which have a value of $600,000/year.  However, our resident farmer and hydrologist, Vance Kennedy, has stated that the value of aquifer recharge by our farmers is $2 million + per year.  Concerning garden head accounts, which is property of less than 5 acres, homeowners are permitted to flood their property.  The great majority of these small user accounts are urban homeowners and are maintained by families and elderly people who grow their own food in their back yard.  Human survival by growing your own food, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency should not be penalized financially by raising the rates of the garden head accounts to sky high levels.

Remember – water + food = life itself!

By Joan Rutschow

Presented to at the Modesto Irrigation District April 9,2013

By Joan Rutschow

The over regulation of farmers by the State Water Resources Control Board will have a devasting effect on farmlands, agriculture income, and jobs.

The recent proposal by the WRCB to release 35% of the unimpaired flow on the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne Rivers

The department logo.

The department logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

will have the following estimated and unacceptable outcomes:

1. Fallowing as many as 220,000 acres of farmland.

2. Loss of $187 Million in ag income and using a 7x economic multiplier according to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce equates in their estimate to $1.3 Billion.  But it is MUCH WORSE:  220,000 acres of permanent  crops which is what will have to be abandoned.  An average 5,000 lbs. at $2.50  per lb. equals gross farm-gate value times the economic multiplier of 7x equals $87,000 of economic benefit to those ag communities.  Apply this to 220,000 acres and it is a very big economic hit of $19.2 Billion that we currently HAVE and will LOSE.

3. Unfortunately, the WRCB is willing to sacrifice our agricultural livelihood and destroy our entire community.  All for the purpose of providing striped bass with exorbitantly priced salmon for every meal.

I personally attended the Don Pedro re-licensing meeting at Modesto Irrigation Headquarters on January 30 and 31st, 2013.  We were told by the meeting attendees that 93% of the young salmon in the rivers were killed by PREDATORS – mainly large mouth bass!  HUMAN NEEDS MUST COME FIRST!  Farmers MUST be allowed adequate water to provide food and fiber as needed by our growing population.  With our present drier water pattern, water is more important than ever!  There is NO GUARANTEE that the proposed release of 35% of the unimpaired flow of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers would significantly save the salmon population, but would definitely GREATLY HARM FARMLANDS (FOOD PRODUCTION!), agriculture income and jobs!

Respectfully,

Joan Rutschow

Modesto Ca.

 

 

Groundwater Problems In The Foothills of Stanislaus County

come on in, the water's bad

come on in, the water’s bad (Photo credit: scpgt)

By Vance Kennedy

There has been a large increase in planting of trees in the foothills of this county, especially almonds.  There is no flood irrigation to replenish groundwater, which is being pumped by increasingly deep wells.  Rainfall in the area ranges between 12 and about 16 inches per year on average, of which perhaps half recharges groundwater.

Almond trees need about 30 inches of water per year to do well.  Hence, there is on the order of two feet of water deficiency from rainfall alone.  The rest of the needed water must come from pumped groundwater.  That seems fine if you have a ready and easily available groundwater supply.  But therein lies the problem.

In the foothills the rocks are tight and much of the water must come from fractures.  Overall, an estimate of 10 percent porosity is possibly a generous estimate.  So, when one pumps out a foot of water, the water table drops 10 feet.  Since perhaps 2 feet of water must be pumped a year, that means that the water table may drop 20 feet per year or more.  Initially, the trees may do fine and the orchard can be sold to an unsophisticated buyer at a very large profit.  However, in 10 years, the water table will be down about 200 feet, or much more if the porosity is less than 10 percent.  I have heard that some very large pumps are getting water at 300 to 400 feet.  That is very expensive and cannot be justified if prices go down.  One might say that the buyer will lose and that is his problem.  There is a Latin phrase to describe the situation – Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.  It is not that simple.

When a well begins removing water from an aquifer, that is a water-bearing rock, there is a “cone of depression” that forms around the well, so that there is a sloping water table toward the well.  As the well goes deeper that cone of depression extends further and further from the well and ultimately will start drawing water from neighboring properties, causing their water table to drop.  California law provides no protection for that adjacent property owner.  He can be ruined, and he has no legal recourse.

There is another problem, for society as a whole.  When the tree grower has removed the groundwater to 400 feet or so and lets his trees die, that property is useless for many decades.  The water table will only be recharged by rainfall and that can raise the water table perhaps 5 feet per year.  That almond grower has literally mined a valuable resources and harmed future generations.  He has actually caused an environmental disaster, and as matters stand, there is no way of stopping him.

Mr. Kennedy is a citrus grower and a retired Hydrologist with the U.S.G.S.

 

Deceiving the Public MID Style

[CALIFORNIA-A-0023] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0023] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

MID has come through some very turbulent times. They had an iron fisted General Manager in Allen Short and until last year MID’s Board of Directors was a rubber stamp for his misguided dictatorial policies. Unfortunately it is the public that has been required to foot the bill. Here is an example of what has gone on during the last year of Allen Short’s reign.

Some Background

Back in 2010 the Board allowed GM Short to create a policy know as  Resolution No. 2010-35. This resolution, when combined with Purchase Order 54981 to Martino Graphic Design (MGD) for a total of $450,000, effectively created a slush fund using Joy Warren as Regulatory Administrator for control.  The original purpose for this fund included concerns about regulation concerning the delta, greenhouse gas, state regulations, and a euphemistic “improve the image and credibility of the district.”

But through a series of phone calls leaving no paper trail, the Resolution was bastardized and at least $148,000 went, utilizing “creative descriptions,” to a series of players/vendors to be used to create a false image of the potential water sale to the general public.  It’s my opinion this was done by nefarious design to make tracking the money and proving where it went  difficult, if not almost impossible. At least one recipient of the slush fund (Janice Keating) spoke before the Board claiming to be a private citizen while others  recruited “politicos”, both politicians and wannabee’s to speak in favor the sale thus attempting to create a false impression using testimony for hire to fool the media and the unsuspecting public.

The Key to the Code

Throughout the year I submitted multiple formal Public Information Requests and queried the MID Board in a variety of ways during meetings, trying to get to the bottom of where the money was going .  But MID’s staff, management, and attorney, refused to provide any real answers other than the veiled documents themselves.  Finally on December 18, 2012 after a tumultuous MID Board meeting, Modesto Bee Reporter Garth Stapley was given the key to the code by a MID staff member to decipher the Martino Graphic design invoices. His story is here with the relevant information on page two.  http://www.modbee.com/2012/12/18/2500794_p2/raises-okd-for-modesto-irrigation.html 

Unfortunately, Garth only broke down the current invoice totalling $48,500, instead of the entire amount of $148,000 billed in 2012, despite being in possession of the earlier invoices MID already paid to MGD.  We know he had the earlier invoices because I sent them to both Garth Stapley and to Judy Sly many weeks earlier in an attempt to get them to write a story about what was going on.

Money was laundered using Martino Graphic Design as a middle man. The plan was designed to allow MID to make the claim, which they did, of having no contracts with those receiving the money and as such did not know where it was going.

Here is the Breakdown as we Know it Today

During the year 2012 under the guise labeled Outreach and Transparency, Janice Keating took $28,000.  Under Communications Services Mark Looker took $28,500 and under Consulting,  Mike Lynch took a whopping $52,500.   For their part in this ruse Martino Graphics Design pocketed $29,000.

In a recent Public Information Request response MID stated “NO money has been given to Janice Keating or Mike Lynch  for the last THREE years.”  The same PIR showed Carol Whiteside had only received $1,500 dollars to her or her company, California Strategy, in the last three years when the actual total to Ms. Whiteside  is almost $30,000.  In a follow-up conversation with Asst. General Manager Lou Hempel,  he stated “after checking I show no money other than the $1,500 to Carol Whiteside’s California Strategy’s has been paid to any of the three in the last six years.”

MID used ratepayer’s money deceptively to create a false impression in the public’s mind in order to sell water we don’t have in order to hide the financial mismanagement that has been going on for many years. It would be my suggestion this type of paid testimony has been going on for years. Unfortunately only an in-depth investigation by knowledgable persons would discover what has been occurring.  Several members of staff including Joy Warren, took an active role in this, what can be described at best as a legally questionable  tactic. No effort was made by staff including the General Manager to inform the Board members,  yet by their own admissions during public meetings, Directors Tom VanGroningen and Glen Wild were willing participants to the deception.

MGD did create a few flyers, stickers, and handouts but these were billed separately and at much smaller costs  to the same PO number. MID  Board Agenda Report from their December 18, 2012 meeting was filled with deception and what can only be described as political spin trying desperately to paint a false impression to anyone who hadn’t been following their exploits for the past year.

Did you know MID is still paying former General Manager Allen Short his regular pay through October of this year despite him having left back in December?   You do now.   Are you wondering why there was a $60,000  investigation conducted by the personnel department at the end of last year?  Maybe you should be.

Money Laundering, payoffs, Just Another Day at the MID

English: A picture of two dual-circuit power l...

By Emerson Drake

Did you ever watch someone with a gambling disease?  They keep raising the bet hoping for the  payoff that seldom if ever comes.  The hole gets deeper and deeperand sooner or later they have to pay the piper,  and that’s what is happening at the MID. 

For years they’ve been getting away with murder by doing whatever came to their minds ( The TANC project, Geo thermal energy to name two losers) flaunting public opinion but when the proposed water sale to San Francisco came around the opposition became formidable.  First the public had been aroused last summer before and  during the MID elections.  Then the Board changed getting two new members, Larry Byrd and Nick Blom. And suddenly during January of 2012 GM Allen Short, and Directors Tom Van Groningen, and Glen Wild realized they needed additional support,  reinforcements if you will.

The reinforcements came in the disguise of Martino Graphics. Allen Short found an expired purchase order that could be twisted, at least if you squint real hard, to assist in their determination to sell MID’s water through an unfavorable contract. So the “Three Caballeros” with the assistance of a MID staff member started funneling money, laundering if you prefer, through Martino Graphics to a local lobbyist, Mike Lynch, and at least one other shill named Janice Keating.  Janice a former Modesto Councilwoman, spoke publicly to the MID Board pretending to be a private citizen concerned about the water transfers, but in reality we know she spoke as a paid shill, someone who pretends to be an innocent bystander but is paid by the house to manipulate the crowd and public opinion. Mark Looker was also a recipient of their largess.

In an enlightening flash MID finally, after more than six months and multiple requests, including Public Information Requests,  after Van Groningen publicly stating they had no contracts with anyone other than Martino, and had no idea who Martino had contracts with, they have finally admitted Martino had subcontracts with Mike Lynch, Janice Keating, and Mark Looker.

Since January of 2012 MID has spent over $99,000 with Martino Graphics under the expired purchase order #54981 and is now requesting another $49,500 all in a failed effort to change your mind about the water sale to the San Francisco Public Utilities District.  The original intent of this purchase order was to have a fund to work/lobby  legislators over water and electric issues. You remember,  like the one to allow large hydro generators to be classified as “Green”.  Yet they didn’t bother to use it for OUR benefit ( a green designation would have held down the cost of electricity) they used it to promote a failed, water wasting idea they couldn’t let go of.  We’ve seen this in the past with the likes of the TANC project where Short spent between $3.5 and $5 million dollars before  the plug was pulled, all thanks to Allen Short’s obsession with being in charge, Van Groningen’s willingness to be led around by the nose and Glen Wild’s subservient way of saying “which way should I vote?” to Van Groningen. They remind me of three elephants walking in file, the latter two holding on to the lead elephant’s tail by their trunk.

Ask them to actually quantify and break down what Martino did to earn the money instead the sweeping obfuscations of reality they provide and they can’t.  An examination of the purchase orders, which wasn’t provided but EOM  has made available in the past, reveals the same generic charges month after month while providing no real substantiation of work.

The following pdf link provides a glimpse into the twisted cover-up mentality staff uses to provide Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild a spider hole to crawl into under the glare of public examination.

121812BoardAgendawithAttachments

Pages 116 -130 are the ones discussed in this article.

If you choose to dive further into the MID cesspool we can talk about the contract the MID Board gave to George Petrulakis allegedly to facilitate in the meetings between Modesto and the MID Board. Mr. Petrulakis was paid:

$28,852.50

  But since they only held only one meeting and George  gets paid $415 per hour what else did he do for the Board to justify his 69.39 hours of work?  Can you say lobbying and influence pedaling or did he provide inducements to others to go in front of the MID Board and endorse the water sale?

Then there is MID attorney Tim O’Laughlin who as a going away present is requesting a payment of $146,250.89. These are a total of his invoices from November and December and it isn’t his last bill there is at least one more coming. MID the gift that keeps on giving.

You have to walk away shaking your heads wondering where the closest bathroom is to wash your hands. But we need to resist that impulse. We need to dig down deep to get to the bottom of the MID barrel to rid ourselves of ALL of the rotten apples.

 The next MID meeting is at 9:00 AM Tuesday Dec. 18th.   As with all parties it’s BYO Pitchforks and torches lynch ropes are optional.

You don’t want to be late, it’s the best show in town.

Bill Bassitt Stretches the Truth for a Larger MID Contribution

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

The newly appointed members of the Water Advisory Committee were introduced at yesterday’s MID meeting.  But you have to wonder if TomVanGroningen is starting to slip just a bit.  He introduced Richard Ulm, the City of Modesto’s choice, but “forgot” to offer him an opportunity to speak.  He made a point of allowing everyone else an opportunity.  Well, maybe except his own appointee who he failed to introduce for several minutes. He eventually went back and allowed his man the opportunity to be heard but never allowed the City appointees an opportunity.  We’re seeing slips like these more often in recent months along with his occasional volcanic outbursts of temper.

During public input for the good of the District, I suggested to the Board  they needed to investigate the way Allen Short, Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild and apparently willing accomplice Joy Warren (Ms. Warren with Short signed authorizations for $90,000 plus  on expired Martino Graphics payments) laundered money through Martino Graphics.  I also asked that they please  explain “exactly” what the money was used for.  I also reminded them of the $28,800 they paid George Petrulakis for facilitating the only meeting between the City and MID regarding the potential water sale.  There has to be more to the story but the Board, to this point, has refused to authorize an investigation into this apparent misappropriation of funds.

If MID continues to stonewall inquiries in these regards it appears it’s time to attempt to get either the  District Attorney (which at this point isn’t likely) or the Civil Grand Jury to investigate where the ratepayer’s money has gone. Although I believe our local Civil Grand Jury politically protects a chosen few, it would seem to be our only recourse.  In the future when Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are gone, maybe we can discover who was behind the cover-up.

In a prior article I wrote about the $210,000 for the 2nd floor’s carpet which comes to  $61.76 per yard and the $30,000 for two desks and a counter for outside Short’s office along with an ice machine which for $8,000, you would think has a flat screen and Internet access! https://eyeonmodesto.com/2012/09/24/people-1-mid-0-in-best-of-7/.  This was straight from a MID Budget workshop meeting. Director Byrd questioned the carpet and desks but didn’t include the ice machine which, according to professionals I contacted, is extremely overpriced.  And while I agree with Director Byrd about the GM’s car I didn’t write about it at the time.

                        How the Dust Up / Van Groningen’s Meltdown  Began

At the beginning of the budget discussion Director Van Groningen used his authority to bump Bill Bassitt from the Workforce Alliance to the front of the discussion.  Mr. Bassitt was there to request a donation of ratepayer money (although he didn’t describe it that way) for his organization. During his talk, which wasn’t timed like the rest of the public, and in the response to a question, he made the claim that the Oakdale Irrigation District was donating $10,000 to the Alliance this year.  Having been to the OID meeting last week, I knew they hadn’t donated $10,000 in several years, but I wasn’t allowed to ask a follow-up question of Mr. Bassitt who left the proceedings 5-10 minutes later.

What I don’t understand is the way, especially at MID, the public is treated like children who don’t know anything. When I had the opportunity to speak 20 minutes or so later I took the opportunity to point out the obvious discrepancy in donation figures and mentioned the Alliance’s budget isn’t completely available on their website.  After I sat down Tom Van Groningen pulled one of his favorite CHEAP SHOT  TACTICS.  Tom waits for you to sit down so he can launch a diatribe against you when you can’t respond without being gaveled down for being out of order.  Tom’s blood pressure jumped and he started raising his voice claiming I was wrong and he wasn’t going to stand for it.  Well he didn’t stand for it because he remained seated.

So yesterday afternoon I talked with someone from the Alliance and arranged to speak with someone more informed from there this morning.  Not surprisingly after a few questions Bill Bassitt came on the line.  First we talked about the Alliance’s Budget.  It is actually at least three budgets.  Of course, like asking questions at MID, you need to ask the question exactly the right way or you won’t get the real answer.  it took several follow-up questions to find out about each of the two additional budgets.  One is available on-line at their website http://www.stanalliance.com/. He says another is with the County and that he would make it available to me.  I offered to make a Public Information Request with the County but he said it wasn’t necessary.  At first he said the third budget they have is quarterly. but then he said they change it monthly and that it wasn’t available on-line but that he would make it available to me too.

Then we discussed the OID donation.  At first he stuck with the $10,000 claim. When I explained that wasn’t accurate he then claimed they donated $10,000 last year.  That, I told him wasn’t accurate either. Then he said he thought about mentioning the Kaiser donation (where that came from I have no idea) and thought better of it.  Kaiser hasn’t made up its mind for this year he finally acknowledged.  I reminded him it had been several years since OID donated the claimed $10,000 and they had cut the number to $5,000 then to $2,000 last year.  This year he  requested a four year commitment but they declined. One year at $2,000 doesn’t add up to $10,000 any way you try to spin it.

So Director Van Groningen you owe me an apology for the claims you made against me.  But I don’t expect one since we both know the kind of man you are.  And if you want to donate $20,000 to the Alliance please do it from your personal account and not that of the ratepayers.

  One thing I do want to clear up is that I misspoke when I addressed the Board when I said they had all voted to pay the Martino  Graphics invoices.  Director Byrd was the lone hold out and I didn’t get the opportunity to correct my mistake.  So Director Byrd I apologize and will do so again at the next MID meeting I attend, when on the record, I can correct my mistake.

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