By Emerson Drake
Prior City Councils helped to guide us through the recession created by the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Recently we’ve been faced with the need to chart a new course for Modesto. Unfortunately the current council seems to be taking a step backward. In the last four years we’ve had transparency replaced with obfuscation and thriftiness with a spend-it-like-you’ve-got-it mentality. The most tenured council members are Bill Zoslocki, Jenny Kenoyer, and Tony Madrigal and they just happen to be up for re-election.
No Council oversight: City staff has run amuck with contracts. An example is with the Garrett Thompson contract for soft patch, first being signed in 2012, then being doubled in 2014, then tripled from its original numbers in 2016, and the most recent increase was without Council approval. And Acting City Manager Joe Lopez, tried to slip it in under the radar under a consent item at a recent Council meeting. He blamed it on human error and accepted no responsibility.
Most recently we’ve been informed about a second contract where we paid $426,452 more than the contract called for. Again… no real answer as to why this happened.
Should this surprise us? Probably not since Joe Lopez says more of these financial bombshells will be coming. When will they be coming? After the election.
Now they want to buy a city block: The senior three council members, Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal, all want to but a city block for $3.1 Million. They want to use money (steal it would be more accurate) that earlier councils from 1998 to 2008, and we the taxpayers put aside, to build a fleet maintenance facility. A facility we need since the one we were using was on the land we overpaid for and subsequently sold to the state for the new courthouse. It doesn’t matter to these three that the same block has been up for sale for years and several developers have been pitched the deal and everyone of them walked away because they determined it wasn’t financially feasible. When asked what they intend to do with the property, to paraphrase, their answer was “we don’t have a clue, but it sure sounds like a good idea doesn’t it.”
The Red Lion will never go bankrupt! As a reminder to put it short and sweet… in Modesto’s past, the city bought and then used the property under what’s now called (oops spoiler alert) the Double Tree as collateral for the Red Lion hotel to be built. It went bankrupt and the city lost the land. But maybe it’ll be different this time! After all Ryan Swehla and Benchmark have already been offering their management services (for a price) to the city. Even Craig Lewis offered his services for financial management. Local businessmen always want to get their fingers in our pockets.
Don’t they say that doing the same thing over and over is a sign of insanity?
Under the senior three we watched former City Manager Ted Holgerson threatened to terminate then Fire Chief Slamon which would result in him losing his retirement, if he gave the benefit of his experience and his opinions rather than giving the party line that Holgerson and the senior three wanted. Because of this, Chief Slamon eventually resigned from his position and took a position with a city half the size of Modesto.
Under the senior three Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal, over 14,000 emails weren’t applied to Public Record Requests. Using private email accounts instead of city accounts to conduct city business is unethical and obfuscating. These emails went missing during their term in office. The city attorney has delayed his response to requests for these emails for the last six months. To date we’ve received approximately six months worth out of three and a half years.
Under the senior three the City’s situation with CalPers and the union retirement accounts has become more dire. The issue is so serious that according to some the City could possibly face bankruptcy in the next five years. But the senior three intend to keep on spending like there’s no tomorrow.
The senior three’s experience hasn’t made Modesto more financially sound. They seem intent on having us crawl further and further out that proverbial limb and refuse to provide the accountability and guidance staff obviously requires.
The senior three have had their chance it’s time for a new starting line-up.