By Emerson Drake
Situation Normal All Fouled Up otherwise known as SNAFU, okay I admit one of the words usually used is harsher, those having served in the military understand, but this version will do for our conversation. The Modesto City Council sometimes reminds me of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Tuesday’s early meeting started out at 3:00 PM for a workshop on choosing what options to offer the Citizens of Modesto to move to even year elections because of low voter turnout during the odd years.
We couldn’t attend the early meeting so we watched it live online. The first thing that jumped off the screen at you was that the people that work in the little room behind the screen, yes there are literally one or two people working behind the screen you see when looking at the dais to make the video possible, thought the date was June, 3 2014, because that was on the screen the entire time during the meeting.
What many people are unaware of is the Mayor and Council have an agendized meeting on the day before the regular Tuesday night meetings. These meetings are open to the public and any and all questions the Council, Mayor, or public have are answered. So when the Council started asking questions in a befuddled manner I was taken back to the John Gunderson days when coming prepared for a meeting was a waste of time because John wouldn’t have a clue what the meeting was going to be about. And many of the Council members, Doug Ridenour and Bill Zoslocki especially, couldn’t seem to understand the choices being offered. Mani Grewal was more concerned that they choose an option that would allow him to serve as many years as the ones elected this year. Strange for a man that was seeking and accepting donations to run for the California Legislature this year and will most likely do so at the next opportunity.
To make a long story short they voted 4 to 3 for ◦ Option 2: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to consider one-time extension
of four-year Council terms to five years for Council terms beginning in 2015 and 2017 . So yes, just like MID, they are awarding themselves 5 year terms, subject to the public’s approval, to allow the public to vote as required by the Modesto Charter to make the necessary changes.
But why didn’t they offer us more options than to approve or disapprove of just one idea? They had four to choose from so why not allow Modesto’s voters a real choice? Why not include Option 3: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to approve one-time reduction of
four-year terms to three years for Council terms beginning in 2019 and 2021 would seem like a choice people might make, but maybe that is an answer in itself.
They also suggested they could let voters choose to not change the charter and wait to be sued. Funny that they didn’t mention that when Modesto choose to ignore the law regarding district elections versus at large elections and it cost taxpayers $3 Million in legal fees to defend at large elections. And yes, we the taxpayers, were finally allowed to capitulate and move to district voting. Interestingly enough the same people that fought changing to districts were the same ones behind allowing only one option (can you hear me George Petrulakis)? Those who follow politics know Modesto’s politicians rely on the voters notoriously short memories. Even the vaunted Modesto Bee with their limited institutional memory has overlooked this.
And during the early session the Council voted to appoint Acting City Manager Joe Lopez to act as their property negotiator for two properties. The problem was that they hadn’t agendized this. Later when challenged the City Attorney claimed it wasn’t necessary to have it on the agenda since it was such a small item. We keep looking through the Brown Act to find this exemption but haven’t been able to find it.
When the City Council, with the help of the City Attorney start playing fast and loose with the rules and the law it’s Modesto’s voters and taxpayers that pay the price.