Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto California”

The City Attorney, Adam Lindgren, Just Can’t Get It Right

By Emerson Drake  

When it comes to making important decisions that effect the public, City Attorney Adam Lindgren often falls more that just a bit short, personally it’s my opinion he fails miserably.

Back when the City Council was going through the Wood colony debacle Adam Lindgren interpreted case law to say  that signs could not be shown in the Council Chambers and anyone doing so could and would  be removed.  This was enforced throughout the meeting until a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake had the chance to speak.  She cited specific case law relating to Adam’s decision. After further review as they say, Adam changed his decision and signs, which had been ruled free speech by the courts,  were resentfully allowed to be displayed  accompanied by a cheer from the 200 plus attendees.  At another City Council meeting regarding Wood Colony the city had allowed people to speak and then significantly changed what they were going to be voting on.  At first they refused to allow people that had already spoken to address the change.  Then once again a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake, pointed out case law which specifically say they had to allow it to be addressed once they significantly changed the motion.  You would think this would be City Attorney 101.

Starting to see a pattern?  We’ve recently discussed the 14,000 emails the city wants to keep out of the public and they actually started making up new policy and law.  Here is part of a follow-up email from the City where they try to charge for processing the same emails they avoided using in Public Record Requests.

The City Clerk’s office also communicated with you and asked you to narrow the requests in a manner that describes identifiable records which may be located by City staff with reasonable efforts. You informed the City that you do not wish to narrow your requests. Without more focused requests, the City considers these requests to be overly burdensome and cannot process them any further, without further action on your part, for the reasons stated below. Should you wish to contact our office and narrow your requests, and/or submit a deposit as explained below, we will be more than happy to work with you to provide the information you seek.

The City has determined that where staff time and expense necessary to respond to such broad and voluminous requests is not reasonable, the public interest in not wasting taxpayer resources to process the request clearly outweighs any public interest to respond to such requests, particularly when no attempt by you has been made focus the requests.  (Gov. Code section 6255; American Civil Liberties Union Foundation v. Deukmejian 32 Cal.3d 440, at 452-453.)

In order to begin processing this request, the City requires a $250.00 deposit, as printing and data extraction time (10 cents per page) is necessary to ensure that privileged, private, or personnel-related exempt records are not released in violation of the law.  Upon remittance of the deposit, the first 2,500 pages will be reviewed and then all non-exempt public records from those pages will be available for your inspection.  Additional deposits would be required to continue processing this request.

So in effect the City Attorney Adam Lindgren want $1,400 to process the 14,000 emails he should have been including all along in Public Record Requests. $1,400 in data extraction time?  And if the money isn’t paid in advance they processing of emails would stop!

It’s not only illegal  it’s unethical and more importantly it isn’t what the law says.    When we started this Public Record Request(PPR) for the private emails the Council has been using we were told the total email numbers were probably few and the topics inconsequential.  If, when they say a few, they mean 14,000 you have to wonder what inconsequential means.

But there’s more:  The 14,000 emails are only those on the City’s servers. Any emails sent from private email accounts to private email accounts are NOT included in the 14,000, and the city refuses to supply the email addresses saying the Council members will be given guidelines to follow and they will be going through their own emails to see what is relevant and what isn’t.

So the Mayor and Council that claim to be completely transparent and yet are using private email accounts, to conduct city business, are now going to police themselves?

Most reasonable people if asked would say that’s inconceivable. And to borrow a line from the Princess Bride, I don’t think that word means what you think it means,  especially when it comes to Modesto politics.

The Bee’s Jeff ‘the slimeball’ Jardine, First He Creates the News and Then He Writes about It

By Emerson Drake   recallbirgit

While this is far from the first time the Modesto Bee has allowed one of their employees to attack people in print it should be the last.  Some have questioned  if this was ‘slime ball’s’ idea or if it was spawned by one of his editors, I suggest either way it needs to stop and stop NOW.  Papers caught creating news can’t be trusted.  Public Record Requests are a wonderful tool when attempting to seek out the smoking gun of Hypocrisy. Jardine’s story  isn’t a case of the misuse of public money or the public’s trust.  No he’s made it personal and vindictive in our opinion.

 

Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino has been trying to point out that Stanislaus County D.A. Birgit Fladager through her minions has withheld exculpatory evidence (and yes the AJ Pontillo was subsequently  found innocent) and was more recently caught withholding discovery from the Carson defense team.  A  District Attorney withholds evidence that clears a mans name is in the minds of most people despicable and now to be caught for the second, or is it the third time, hiding evidence form the defense means Stanislaus County Court rooms can hardly be called a bastion of justice.

 

Jardine has use an informative sign as an excuse to attack our former Mayor at his place of business.   Jeff creates the story, he writes the story, and pronounces guilt in the story.  But Jeff, you’re the one that’s guilty here.

 

By Mayor Carmen Sabatino

Below is an official public records transcript between a Modesto Bee reporter, Jeff Jardine and a Caltrans employee, Rick Estrada.      The press is supposed to REPORT the news, not act in desperate protagonist measures to CREATE news, and then innocently report on their creation.

Jeff Jardine, the National Enquirer is calling – they need a gumshoe to report on alien abductions and bat-faced vampires lurking about.

January 10, 2017 at 11:19am FROM Rick Estrada TO Jeff Jardine

Jeff, you noted you were going to be out of the office for some time, so I felt an e-mail would serve best.

Regarding the Changeable Message Sign we were discussing on McHenry Avenue/State Route 108 in

Modesto:

** I have spoken to maintenance unit confirmed it is not a Caltrans sign

** I have spoken to maintenance unit and confirmed the sign is in the public right of way

** I have spoken to our permits unit and confirmed there is no permit issued for this sign

As a result, one of managers from the maintenance unit will visit this location and advise the owner of the sign that it must be removed immediately from the public right of way. If the sign is not moved following our visit, the next step is we will contact CHP and ask for law enforcement to get involved in resolving this situation.

Safety is always a priority for Caltrans. Our goal is to keep the state’s highways in the best, and safest, condition for motorists.

Regarding the use of a CMS sign when it is not in the public right of way? I would ask that you please call Caltrans’ Outdoor Advertising Unit, specifically Michele Day who oversees Stanislaus and other counties.  Her number is (916) 651-1254 and this is her realm of expertise. If she does not respond, her supervisor is James Arbis (oversees NorCal) and he is at (916) 654-6413.

 

January 10, 2017 at 12:52pm FROM Jeff Jardine TO Rick Estrada

It was not there when I drove by a few minutes ago. Maybe the rental company wanted it out of the rain.

 

January 10, 2017 at 12:57 FROM Rick Estrada TO Jeff Jardine

J=happyface

 

January 10, 2017 at 1:21PM FROM Jeff Jardine TO Rick Estrada

What about, as you mentioned, putting out a sign that looks like a CalTrans sign but bears a political message?

A violation of any sort?

January 10, 2017 at 1:23PM FROM Rick Estrada to Jeff Jardine

That’s where Outdoor Advertising comes in. We have a unit stationed at our HQ that deals with ‘advertising’ signs of this sort … I included a name and 2 phone numbers of potential contacts who can give you more concise information.

If they don’t get back to you, let me know and I’ll pull the chain. Hope everything’s going well Glad to see the sign is gone

J=happyface

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:16AM FROM Jeff Jardine to Rick Estrada

OK, so Michelle said that if an unauthorized sign is reported, a maintenance crew would go out and seize it, informing whomever that they have 30 days to come pick it up at the yard. So can you tell me if that sign was seized or direct me to someone locally who can answer that question.

Mr. Sabatino claimed I was disrespecting him by even calling him.

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:22AM FROM Rick Estrada to Jeff Jardine

I spoke with our Modesto Maintenance manager, who visited the location yesterday afternoon. When he got there, the

CMS sign was already gone – having been moved by someone other than Caltrans.

City might have stepped in? Or perhaps owner was told by someone else to move it … I had checked with our guys this morning

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:25AM FROM Jeff Jardine to Rick Estrada

Thanks. Some folks posted pics of it on FB, and his PI buddy wrote about it on Carmen’s blog…..

When Thursday is the New Friday

By Emerson Drake  ladyjustice

When politicians and public relations consultants have bad news that has to be delivered for public consumption they try to do it on Friday afternoons. It’s referred to as the Friday news dump.  It’s used to avoid the media scrutiny that would accompany any release during the rest of the week.

 

You see newspaper people like to have weekends off just like the rest of us.  So the majority of the Saturday and Sunday editions of the paper are pre-written and much of it already printed.  They leave a small space for sports but that’s about it.  And with their staffing cuts many times reaching someone on the weekend  in the newsroom is impossible.

 

For the most part for courts in the  judicial system Friday is a day to sort out legal and side issues with the attorneys so juries get to stay home.  So any news will come out on Thursday and what better day to release a bombshell like the Frank Carson revelations of forgotten files than the day before Christmas Eve.  The Chief Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira, after delivering the bombshell of newly found files, had her car brought around to the back of the building and snuck out the back door, all of the time refusing to questions.  And of course where was District Attorney Birgit Fladager?  Conveniently out of town traveling with family, incommunicado. Couldn’t plan that any better.

 

The District Attorney’s conduct in this case, in our opinion, was reprehensible at best and vindictive, personal and almost criminal at worst.

 

One of the important questions remaining is will local mainstream media Public Relations Powerhouse, the Modesto Bee, call her out on her heinous behavior and run a series of articles ON A TIMELY BASIS (soon and often) or will they support this petty vindictive politician that is apparently using her office for personal payback.  Another example is if they backed a politician for office than you won’t see many follow-up negative stories.  But if you ran against one of their ‘favorites,’  and that’s a lengthy list,  then God help you because the Bee’s version of ‘scorched earth’ would make General Sherman jealous.

 

Bee history suggests they will run a positive article after they run a negative one for politicians and organizations they supported to gain ofice.  If they run an article showing the dark side of a few Sheriff’s deputies they’ll run a feel good article showing deputies interacting with children (not picking on deputies just using an example you’ll recognize.

 

So expect the Bee to allow the behavior of Birgit Fladager and her office to fall by the wayside.  They want to shape the narrative and decide which stories you’ll remember and which you’ll forget.  There goes that institutional memory thing I talk about again.

 

 

 

 

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.

1910512_944071922335998_1822239559813798308_n

Modesto Workforce Alliance Falls Down on the Job

By Emerson Drake     workforceallchamber

So a local hotel is looking for breakfast attendants, housekeeping staff, maintenance personnel, and front desk clerks but can’t find an easy way to post on the Modesto Workforce Alliance website. These people are getting state money to run the unemployment office here in Modesto. The County is giving the Alliance $94,000 in taxpayer money to help develop business and bring jobs.  While at the same time the Alliance is receiving $64,000 from Modesto taxpayers for the same alleged services. To create  job postings looking for workers should be a no-brainer but it isn’t an easy task, as a matter of fact you can’t. So I called the Alliance for a phone number and guess what?  They gave me a number but no one answered it. So I called the Board of Supervisors and asked for assistance. Supervisor Monteith was on hand and is looking into it as you read this.

We sure aren’t getting much for all that money.  Mr. White  (Alliance CEO) I’m told by your office that you are working on updating the site by next year.  I think you need to step up your time table.

 

Attn John Gunderson Please Try Being Informed and NOT just Opinionated

By Emerson Drake    jgunderson

On July 26th Modesto City Councilman John Gunderson wrote an article under Community Columns John Gunderson: Clear thinking needed on Salida annexation issue where he makes several dubious and completely wrong claims.  Now we can’t tell you if just can’t comprehend what he reads or is just being malicious.  What we can say is when he relayed his columns to fellow council members, staff and others (yes the result of a public record request) where he claims to have done the research himself. The above photo is the Councilman’s ‘official’ picture.  The below one is the one he posted of how he see’s himself on facebook.  jJohnGunderson

Unfortunately Councilman Gunderson  has been wrong on this issue for a long time but to make specious claims he says he researched? well here is Katherine Borges’  response in its entirety. Her original post 

Fun from Cat and Gundy -or- John Gunderson Salida Facebook post #4 and my reply

 
John Gunderson’s new profile pic of “me”. Which ironically
(and eerily) looks just like my cat.

Well folks, Modesto City Councilman John Gunderson is at it again. I must really crawl under that guy’s skin because he can’t seem to go a week without a Facebook post on Salida. This week, he regurgitated an e-mail I wrote to the council in June regarding a tip I received from a Salidan that Modesto had hired a consultant to help them annex Salida. 

 
My cat. Rescued as a kitten
from the intersection of
Woodland & Carpenter.

While both Mayor Marsh and city planner, Patrick Kelly replied that the city didn’t hire Keith Bergthold as an annexation consultant, there’s something still amiss here. Why would Bergthold tell his Fresnan friend that he had an eighteen month contract otherwise? Perhaps it was just being bandied about and was all verbal at that point? Either way, its DOA now because the city can’t very well go and hire him after denying that they hadn’t. And how effective would he be with any kind of collaboration building with Salida? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)

 
Councilman Gunderson can’t help but crank up the old propaganda machine starting right in the second sentence with, “Think the Goodwin Study would have been enough, the annexation concept was proven to be a bad idea.” First of all, anyone want to wager that Councilman Gunderson has NOT read nor thoroughly examined the Goodwin Study? Because if he had, he would know it shows that Modesto would stand to rake in $22.8 million a year in revenue in annexing Salida at full build out of the Salida Community Plan. How does that prove the annexation concept is a bad idea? And if it were proven to be a bad idea, then why is Modesto keeping Salida in their general plan? Councilman Gunderson wrote in his community column just two weeks ago that, “…the majority of the Modesto City Council feels (annexation) is still a possibility“. And he says I have “nothing to worry about???”

And once again, the councilman nay says Salida incorporating, “Should stop worrying about incorporation for Salida as well because that can’t happen either.” I previously responded to his comment about whether or not Salida can be incorporated, but it apparently didn’t register in his brain so I’ll say it again, “Keep in mind that no one has ever applied to incorporate Salida as a city. If no one has ever tried, how does anyone know whether or not it can be done?

 
Available land in
Beard Industrial Park
What he also doesn’t seem to comprehend is only supplying water in exchange for land -IS- extortion when you supply water to other areas without forcing them to turn over their land! To put it into language he’ll understand, its known as an “out-of-boundary service agreement” and the council approves them all the time. And once again, I’m going to call him out on his double standard for trying to justify water extortion by saying “Modesto ratepayers deserve better” when Beard Industrial’s sweetheart deal costs ratepayers and the city millions upon millions each year. The city of Modesto supplies both water AND sewer to Beard without annexing the land. (Read more about Beard)
 
Lastly, Councilman Gunderson said, “Modesto’s water should be leveraged for the best possible outcome that helps pay for services for residents of Modesto proper, not the surrounds.” When the City of Modesto purchased the Del Este Water Company in the mid-1990’s, they took over the existing wells and infrastructure in Waterford, Grayson, Del Rio, part of Turlock and Salida. So technically, they bought Salida’s (et al) water so its not “Modesto’s water” he wants to “leverage” to begin with. Our water comes primarily from wells in Salida so he wants to leverage our own water against us! Additionally, development occurs in all of those other former Del Este served communities and yet, Modesto does not “leverage” the water by extorting land from them; except in Salida.

In case you were wondering why Councilman Gunderson is so fixated on Salida its because if Salida were annexed, we would be assimilated into his district. That’s right, we would be the constituents of a man who feels water extortion upon us is justified because the majority Modesto residents in his district “deserve better” than the Salidans.

“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.” – Aldous Huxley

Stay tuned for more “fun” from Cat and Gundy…at some point in the next 7 days – –
________________________________________________________________

 

More fun from “Cat”. Think the Goodwin Study would have been enough, the annexation concept was proven to be a bad idea. Catherine has nothing to worry about on that. Should stop worrying about incorporation for Salida as well because that can’t happen either. Refusing City of Modesto water for new development within the Salida TPA… refusal is extortion? Modesto ratepayers deserve better than that. Modesto’s water should be leveraged for the best possible outcome that helps pay for services for residents of Modesto proper, not the surrounds. Development outside of a city’s limits is a losing proposition because of the State’s mandated property tax distribution scheme. 

salidakat@
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 12:48 PM
To: COUNCIL; Brad Wall; Patrick Kelly; Terry Withrow; Vito Chiesa; Dick Monteith; Jim DeMartini; Bill O’Brien; Marjorie Blom; George Petrulakis
Subject: SALIDA ANNEXATION CONSULTANT
To the Modesto City Council:
I received the following from a Salidan today, “My father lives in Fresno and is friends with a man named Keith Bergthold. Keith told my dad he was hired by the city of Modesto to see what can be done about annexing Salida.”
I’ve met Mr. Bergthold at the Carpenter’s Church General Plan presentation in May and I also attended the April Stanislaus Community Foundation breakfast that was connected with Fresno Metro Ministries.
So you can fire Mr. Bergthold because HELL WILL FREEZE OVER before you ANNEX SALIDA or the Kiernan Corridor! Get that through your thick skulls!! How many different ways and from different people do you need to hear that before it sinks in?!? It doesn’t appear that turning out hundreds of people to voice that works since both Salida and Wood Colony have done that!!
I’ve told you once if I’ve told you a thousand times, we are willing to work with you if you want to develop the Kiernan Corridor (although I don’t know why since you are so IMPOSSIBLE, OBSTINATE and DYSFUNCTIONAL about our communities) BUT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO JUST TAKE SALIDA NO MATTER WHOM YOU HIRE!!! Your status quo land grab days are over!!! Get a clue!!!
Since you have a contract with Mr. Bergthold, why don’t you have him use his remaining time in educating you about “build up, not out”. Fresno has done well with that. Look around their Kaiser Hospital and then look around Modesto’s. And in the meantime, LEAVE SALIDA and WOOD COLONY ALONE you greed-driven sellouts!!!
Very sincerely,
Katherine Borges

On Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 1:53 PM, Garrad Marsh wrote:
Katherine,
You are wrong about Mr. Bergthold being hired by the city. Mr. Bergthold has not been hired (or to my knowledge even contacted) by any City of Modesto employee or elected.
Garrad

From: Katherine Borges [mailto:salidakat@
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 2:02 PM
To: Garrad Marsh
Cc: COUNCIL; Brad Wall; Patrick Kelly; Terry Withrow; Vito Chiesa; Dick Monteith; Jim DeMartini; Bill O’Brien; Marjorie Blom; George Petrulakis
Subject: Re: SALIDA ANNEXATION CONSULTANT
Mr. Mayor,
WHO hired him then? I was told he has an 18-month contract. Emerson has filed a public information request with the city. Even if it turns out that you’re right and the city has nothing to do with it, then you need to find out who working to annex Salida on your behalf. I want nothing to do with this man and will not contact him. His e-mail is: Keith.Bergthold@
Katherine

On Jun 4, 2014, at 2:47 PM, “Patrick Kelly” wrote:
This is to confirm that the City did not hire Keith Bergthold. Keith represents Fresno Metro Ministries and has volunteered his time to work with Stanislaus Community Foundation to look at asset based community development. At Keith’s request, the City presented the General Plan Amendment proposal at a community workshop (hosted by Metro Ministries) held on May 8, 2014, intended to inform the public about Modesto’s General Plan Amendment currently underway. At Keith’s request, the workshop also included a presentation by Carlos Yamzon, Executive Director with StanCOG about the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan / Sustainable Communities Strategy. The intent of the presentation format was to share with the public Modesto’s General Plan Amendment proposal in context of StanCOG’s regional plan.
Patrick Kelly, AICP

From: Keith <Keith@
Date: June 4, 2014 at 3:37:17 PM PDT
To: Patrick Kelly < >
Cc: Katherine Borges <salidakat@ Garrad Marsh < >, COUNCIL < >, Brad Wall < >, Terry Withrow < >, Vito Chiesa” < >, Dick Monteith < >, Jim DeMartini < >, “Bill O’Brien” < >, Marjorie Blom < >, George Petrulakis < >, “Brent Sinclair” <>, “kberg@ <kberg@>
Subject: Re: SALIDA ANNEXATION CONSULTANT

Thank you Patrick. I have no idea where such false assertions mentioned below with respect to the City of Modesto and Salida or contracts with the City might originate. I have been volunteering with various groups in Modesto, Fresno, Madera, and Kern around community building for healthy people and healthy places – which is a regional initiative and goal of Fresno Metro Ministry. Please have people contact me directly to confirm my activities and intent. Thank you again for sharing this information. Regards, keith

 

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?

 

Mayor Marsh’s O.K.Corral at Hart Ransom in Wood Colony

By Emerson Drakeokcorral

It was just after high noon when Mayor Marsh tried to face down the crowd at Hart Ransom Elementary School in Wood Colony.  The Mayor started out on the wrong foot when he reminded the audience he once had a teaching credential and he was here to educate them in Modesto politics and how to count to four.   Unfortunately for Marsh he’s allowed his educational skills and debating skills to get rusty.  The Mayor has gotten used to a semi-controlled environment of the council chambers where he can threaten dissenters with expulsion if they disagree or interrupt him with the truth.  He has also forgotten that truth is his best weapon because he left it at home on Saturday.  And to top it all off, many of the audience members are much better informed than he and most are more knowledgeable than Council members John Gunderson and Jenny Kenoyer, who were also present but silent.  The two council members riding shotgun that day must have decided to keep silent and let people wonder instead of talking and removing all doubt as to their lack of understanding the basics of the issues.

Early on he was forced to say “I’ll take that back” three times in ninety seconds as a member of the audience (they all appeared to be residents of Wood Colony) would correct statements he made and these were just a few of many mis-statements he made and was corrected on. The ever polite and politically neutral  Marjorie Blom,  LAFCO’s (Local Agency Formation Commission) Executive Officer,  would speak later displaying her knowledge and understanding by explaining the process correctly  without pointing out the mistakes Marsh made.

And yes Mayor Marsh did blame Wood Colony residents for not coming out to Modesto’s meetings starting a year and a half ago.  Their absence wasn’t  surprising since Marsh had mentioned annexing  Salida in his Inaugural/State of the City Address but had failed to mention Wood Colony.  But politicians like to play the blame game and yes he had to take that back too.  The Mayor brought former councilman Denny Jackman into the conversation several times for support, especially for RUL (Residential Urban Limits).  For those followers of politics, the Mayor was careful when he chose to get Denny’s endorsements and Denny was just as careful as to what he agreed with.  But to the uninitiated it appeared to come off smoothly.

We’ve come to believe the compromise Denny struck trying to get a version the Council and Chamber could support, is too watered down to be effective.  To enlist the Chamber’s support they had to offer up the public’s last vestiges of control and that is Measure’s A and M, and allow them to be put on the ballot for repeal.  When that was discussed you could actually see Cogdill and Zoslocki become excited.

The Mayor wasn’t completely disingenuous, he stated although he is a farmland preservationist he isn’t one 100 percent of the time, not even ninety percent according to his own words.

The Mayor had kind words for Councilman Zoslocki calling him a likable and deeply religious man like himself.  Just that they disagreed on farmland preservation.  I admit at this point I did start laughing out loud for a moment.  Here’s the thing, most everyone agrees Marsh is an intelligent man, he just isn’t always politically savvy.   By the way, Mayor Marsh put the voting suggestions forward and by his unwillingness to lose a vote to keep Wood Colony out of Modesto’s General Plan, he allowed Zoslocki, Cogdill and Lopez to vote to keep it out while his block voted to keep Wood Colony in.  It is an upside down world when this happens, since Zoslocki had been traveling from one Planning Commission Workshop to another with the Chamber of Commerce all last year in an attempt to take Modesto’s General Plan all the way to the river for the western boundary.  Zoslocki, Cogdill and Lopez are the most Chamber/builder friendly people on the council with Madrigal coming right after them.

The Mayor addressed the recall talk towards Gunderson and Kenoyer by saying if they were recalled, Modesto/Wood Colony/Salida would only get someone worse.  In all fairness we’re not sure that’s possible considering the way they voted on Jan.28th.  The recall discussion regarding Jenny has been loud but the conversation regarding Gunderson had only begun to be strident when he started cutting himself off from his constituents who disagreed with his voting positions.  It was a childish move and left many shaking their heads in disillusioned astonishment, which is an action many of his council mates have done since he was elected.

It truly seems to me the problem originated with the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and I discussed this and pointed it out during the public comment period with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors several times at January meetings.  The Chamber was allowed to frame the argument as jobs vs prime farmland but that just isn’t the case.  When I had my conversation with Jenny Kenoyer on Jan. 7th about saving Wood Colony, she responded by saying “give me an alternative.” So I immediately pointed out the North County Corridor and the County’s prediction that it would be completed many years before 132 goes all the way to Interstate 5 in an expanded form and that the soils east of Modesto were far poorer, unofficially referred to as  PPP (piss poor pasture) by farmers and that was where we should be building business parks and homes.  But Jenny had, to use the vernacular, drank the Chambers get rich quick kool-aid and ignored the suggestion and only wanted to consider Wood Colony.  And yes that was when she uttered the now famous words, “I have to worry about the 200,000 people living in Modesto and besides those people in Wood Colony can’t vote for me.”  She repeated those words three different times so I’m sure I wasn’t the first or the last person she had said them to.

It was great to see that the citizens of Wood Colony had thoroughly educated themselves about the issue and were defending themselves quite adequately.  They weren’t buying the half truths Marsh was selling and told him point blank he needed to bring the issue back to the council and take Wood Colony completely OUT of Modesto’s General Plan.

I fully admit I voted for Marsh and Gunderson believing then and now they were the lesser of two evils.  I guess it goes to show we need a better class of politicians in Modesto.

We hope to have the audio from the meeting up soon.

Here is a Counter to Marsh’s Letter: Don’t believe Marsh’s Ag-friendly ‘Smokescreen’

By Katherine Borges and Valerie Goldstein keepwoodcolonygreen

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist and not as they may appear or are imagined.

Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh’s Op-Ed in last Sunday’s Bee (“Mayor: Council acted to protect farmland,” Feb. 9, Page D1), attempts to justify the City Council’s “unprecedented” votes on the general plan update. The reality of the plan means annexation and development for Wood Colony and Salida behind Marsh’s “ag-friendly” smokescreen.

The first item addressed by Marsh is the “return” of the Beckwith Triangle from the general plan. The area was slated to become a ballpark along with commercial and industrial development, which Marsh now describes as an “unsound plan.” The Beckwith Triangle is still a part of Modesto’s new plan update, just with a different zoning mix. But more importantly, how can something be “returned” when it was never yours to begin with?

His next paragraph is an acknowledgment of just how much the Modesto Chamber of Commerce controls the council. Despite the massive and well documented public outcry against including Wood Colony in the general plan, the council conceded to a compromise with the chamber of “around 1,000 acres.” Marsh even refers to it as a “pristine agricultural treasure,” but zones it for both commercial and business park with a gerrymandered notch on Beckwith to try to prevent residents from voting down the annexation.

Marsh’s third point of ag mitigation is nothing more than a damage-control diversion for Jenny Kenoyer’s political gaffes. Stanislaus County already has an ag mitigation policy in place, yet Modesto’s has not yet been approved; which Marsh alludes to with, “If completed … ”

In his fourth attempted rationalization, Marsh cites “1,500 acres of land that was targeted for housing back to ag and out of the General Plan.” To remove LAFCO-approved land in exchange for land that LAFCO previously voted against being urbanized is not commendable but is, in reality, irresponsible planning. (LAFCO is the county commission which approves/denies land annexations.)

Most wouldn’t even know that Salida was included based on Marsh’s skillfully crafted wordsmithing. The land around Gregori High is part of the Salida Community Plan, an initiative passed by the Board of Supervisors for Salida in 2007. To put it another way, Marsh is saying, “ … the best and quickest way for Modesto to attract more jobs without taking any land that retained its agricultural zoning” is to steal it from Salida. The land currently around Gregori is zoned ag and the council has repeatedly admitted the jobs produced are 25-40 years out.

The last Trojan Horse that Marsh trots out is the Residential Urban Limits (RUL), which if approved by voters, would send to ballot any time a residential developer wants to build on farmland. As if the people of Wood Colony are going to respond, “It’s OK for you to bulldoze my house as long as you don’t build another house in its place.”

Like the aforementioned ag mitigation, Stanislaus County already has a rural urban limit in place, Measure E (co-authored by Denny Jackman and … wait for it … Garrad Marsh) passed by voters in 2007. Yet for Wood Colony and Salida, RULs will not apply since neither land-jacking by Modesto involves residential development plans.

Modesto neighbors, please help us! With Salida and Wood Colony united to protect our homes, our farms and our communities, every member of your City Council cast a vote against us. They aren’t listening to us and they aren’t listening to you. We cannot recall them, but you can. Join your district’s recall effort and help take your city back from the money interests. We just want to live our lives in peace without the threat of losing our homes and communities.

By Katherine Borges and Valerie Goldstein

 

Mayor’s Letter to the Modesto Bee and the Citizens of Modesto

Mayor Marsh’s Letter to the Modesto Bee

February 6, 2014 at 8:05pm gmarsh

Often there is perception and then there is reality. The City Council actions on the General Plan Update have, for most, been perceived differently from what is real.

The most far reaching recommendations to protect our agricultural economy ever in Modesto’s history were proposed by the Modesto City Council. At the January 28th Council meeting, the General Plan (of our land use) was recommended to be amended.  Unlike reports and some general concepts of the votes taken, these votes were unprecedented in the history of Modesto.

There were four votes to preserve ag that evening that were unlike any former votes ever made by a Modesto City Council.  This seemed to be missed in the reporting and in the general public’s understanding of the events of that long evening.

First, Modesto REVERSED an almost 20-year general plan policy by RETURNING over 800 acres of Wood Colony to agricultural zoning. In 1995 Modesto designated the “Beckwith Triangle” to become business, industrial, and commercial uses.  This council is abandoning the scope of that former unsound plan.

Second, your City Council rejected the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s plan to convert almost another 1,000 acres of Wood Colony into industrial and business park uses.  The Chamber had actively lobbied your Council to target this pristine agricultural treasure for development. Modesto Chamber’s early plan was to take over 4,000 acres of Wood Colony, but Modesto staff lowered that to about a thousand.  I believe Modesto’s Council has never before been so agricultural friendly as to rebuff the developer packed Chamber’s proposal.

Third, based upon feisty Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer’s motion, Modesto moved forward the idea of farmland mitigation. Never in Modesto’s history has it taken steps to enact a policy to save farmland. On a narrow 4-3 vote this policy change moved forward. If completed it would require permanent protection of agricultural land equal to any land the City takes into its city limits.

And fourth, Modesto is returning 1,500 acres of land that was targeted for housing back to ag and out of the General Plan. It also is returning 320 acres of business-designated land to agricultural uses.  What especially makes these plans unparalleled is this land was already blessed by LAFCO (the countywide land authority on urbanization) to let Modesto develop. Think of that. Modesto is taking prime farmland that has for decades been planned to be paved over for housing and returning it to agricultural uses.

I am of the opinion that those who have had undue influence over the city’s council for far too long, were shocked by the results of Jan. 28th’s actions. There have even been whispers of recall.  Really?  A recall because the importance of ag was finally recognized by action.  This Council finally put our agricultural heritage ahead of money.

Besides those extraordinary votes, the Council took action to secure well-located business property for the future. I support the idea of moving forward on the business designated land around Gregori High.  The County Board of Supervisors had already given a 25 year right for developers to build on this land.  This is the best and quickest way for Modesto to attract more jobs without taking any land that retained its agricultural zoning.

One other vote from the week previous to the General Plan agenda also got no coverage. The City Council moved a residential urban limits (RUL) question to the next City ballot. If approved by the voters, this would build a wall between Modesto and prime farmland for building of homes.  Again, an historic move by this Council.

If anyone would like more information on these historic steps toward Modesto’s recognition of agriculture’s importance to our economy or the votes taken by your council, I would be pleased to meet with you. Email gmarsh@modestogov.com.

I will be presenting the State of the City address on Wednesday, February 26th at 5:30 p.m.  The address will be given in the City Council chambers, lower floor of the City-County building, 1010 10th street.  Questions will be taken at the end of the address.

Garrad Marsh, MayorCity of Modesto

3700 McHenry Ave.Modesto, CA 95356209-417-7991

mchbowl@aol.com

We’ve added Marsh’s letter to the Eye to future reference it.  It has been spread on facebook days before being printed in the Bee.  We will respond to its contents at a future date.

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