Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh”

More Foul Play From the Chamber and Their Minions

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

By Emerson Drake roadtrip

If you don’t mind lets take a short road trip. Lets get in the car at the Double Tree hotel on 9th St. in Modesto and go west on Maze Blvd also known as 132. We’re going to pass Carpenter Rd and Dakota Rd. Still heading west we pass Hart Rd and Gates Rd, past the old Yandell Ranch Airport. We’re even going to pass the large Mapes Ranch sign and go all the way to the river. Our journey was about 13 miles and took us around 23 minutes just to get here. Now lets turn right on the river and take it all the way to just past Salida to the north.

This is the area Ted Brandvold voted to give to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce complete control of for ANY kind of development they can dream up.   Now you know why the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, along with real estate people and developers are supporting Ted Brandvold.

So from 99 to past Mapes Ranch, to the San Joaquin river on the west, from here all the way past Salida to the North. That’s a lot of homes and farms and ranches for the Chamber to pave over.

The boundaries and votes I mentioned are all part of public record during Ted’s time on the Modesto Planning Commission. The plan was presented by Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and “Broker Bill” Zoslocki all members of the Chamber, Craig Lewis is a realtor and Bill Zoslocki is a real estate broker while Cecil Russell is a lobbyist. All of these men support Ted for Mayor.  We need to hold Ted Brandvold responsible for his votes while on the Planning Commission.

Now you see why we need to vote for Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto.

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“Broker Bill” Zoslocki Makes a Cheap Joke at the Expense of Modesto College Students

By Emerson Drake    bzoslocki (1)
At last night’s Modesto City Council meeting Councilman Bill Zoslocki once again embarrassed himself and all of the Citizens of  Modesto. For those who aren’t aware, Zoslocki was a developer involved in the Village 1 fiasco and at the same time he was the President of the local Building Industry Association.
 Some Background
 At that time he actively purchased influence in our local government using campaign donations. Now he’s on the flip side of the coin. Councilman Zoslocki, when not pandering to special interest groups,  is busy selling HIS influence in local government. Zoslocki likes to call himself a broker now. A broker of influence, so we’ll start referring to him by the name he prefers Broker Bill.  Broker Bill made his money by NOT paying the proper amount of building fees thereby forcing new home buyers to pay Mello Roos fees out of their pockets instead of his. This was accomplished by purchasing influence and maneuvering the then council to lowering the building fees to below actual cost.  Some have estimated conservatively these ‘missing funds’ to be between $15 and  $20 Million.  Missing only if you forget the developer/builders got market value but paid significantly below actual costs to the city.
Last Night
But last night at the council meeting Broker Bill denigrated all of MJC’s students, young adults, single mothers and fathers, people returning to college trying to improve their job skills, and others just wanting to expand their horizons. at our local MJC by calling them too cheap to purchase a parking pass.  What the City Council and especially Broker Bill chose to ignore is that MJC has been in existence since 1921 and now serves over 18,000 students each semester.  Last night the Council voted to ban students from parking on Myrtle Avenue.  Now city policy says if you want to have this type of restricted residential parking you must buy a yearly pass.  But both of the Council members are running for office,  Mayor Marsh in a March run-off and Broker Bill has had eyes on Kristin Olsen’s seat in the state legislature this coming fall.  Both of these men vowed to make the parking passes free for residents living on Myrtle.
Pandering to Voters
So while we have sympathy for the residents parking situation near MJC they chose to live there knowing the college was near by.  Now suddenly ‘students’ are made into second class citizens.  The many of these students most likely live in Modesto and we all know MJC doesn’t have sufficent parking for 18,000 students between their two campuses.  But Broker Bill and the Mayor want those votes, so students be damned.  Actually both basically said student parking wasn’t their problem, at least as long as they don’t park on city streets.
 
A Wake Up Call Regarding Costs
Just for the Mayor’s and Broker Bill’s information when you add up the fees the cheapest semester could easily add up to over $1,134 and that doesn’t count units per class and enrollment fees.  The most expensive, or as my Grandson who is enrolled there put it, the most unfortunate semester,  can cost $4937 again not counting units per class and enrollment fees.  So not allowing the students to park on the very city streets their gas tax dollars (remember Modesto steals the gas tax dollars from the entire County) paid for is just another way for Broker Bill to laugh in their faces and  say “Let Them eat Cake.”

City Council Theatrics, a Glimpse behind the Curtain

By Emerson Drakeroyalty-free-vector-of-a-comedy-and-tragedy-theater-drama-mask-logo-by-john-schwegel-51421

We’ve all read the fairy-tale version Mayor Marsh, city staff, Cecil Russell  (lobbyist from the Chamber), Ryan Swehla,  and David White from the Alliance, staged for the public and the Modesto Bee, but is it the truth?  One thing we can assure you of and that is that it’s NOT the whole story.

Thanks to a public records request we discovered Mayor Marsh and Josh Bridegroom from the city and Ryan  (NSP2 funds debacle) Swehla had been having conversations behind the scenes regarding the purchase of the old JC Penny building at 11th and J streets.  As you may recall Swelha is wired into city staff because of his business relationship with former Councilman Joe Muratore.  Muratore was forced to return a $58,000 real estate commission payment from the sale of an apartment complex to avoid felony charges. On top of this it seems city staff had set aside $1.2 Million for his and Swehla’s apartment project while several other developer’s projects languished due to a lack of NSP2 funds.

Is this all about sales commissions?

In order for Swelhla and Muratore’s company NIA Benchmark to make the sale to Valley First Credit,  Modesto would have to make concessions of approximately $445,000 in parking revenue to Valley First Credit. These proposals/demands are listed in the email suggesting they  have  already been discussed and acquiesced to by the Mayor and staff.  It would leave a sour taste in citizen’s mouths if they thought it was all being done for realtors, especially these two ,considering their histories. It would be a hard sell if not impossible.  So they decided to reinvent the story.

Is David White more familiar with downtown businesses than Swehla and Muratore?

It belies credulity that a newcomer to Modesto is more aware of business conditions than those who control more than 2 Million square feet of office space and represent many of the lots ready for development, yet that is what we are supposed to believe.  Benchmark is always out in front of the crowd.  Remember, they were cornering  the Salida market when all hell broke loose regarding the  backroom talks taking place over Modesto’s annexation desires. Of course Muratore was in on the initial discussions behind the scenes before Marsh and  Cogdill Jr. took his place.

White makes the perfect Frontman

David White, being new to Modesto needed a feather in his cap to get a little credibility/gravitas but this might not have been the way to get it.  He has been going around telling his different audiences what they want to hear.  When he talks  to the City and County he promotes business parks and bringing new businesses to Modesto.  But when he was thanking the MID Board (3 of the 5 are farmers) for their $10,000 contribution, in advance he denies looking at farmland for business parks and stresses local business.  Heck, speaking out of both sides of his mouth the way he does,  you’d think he was running for office.  Getting credit for allegedly bringing 70-100 jobs, after five years can’t hurt.  What falls by the wayside is these jobs were already in Modesto located at Orangeburg and College.

To Balance the Parking Fund, Parking Meters Will be Installed.

Timing is everything and this is no different. The Council and their committees will be entertaining a proposal from the Downtown Improvement Association  to re-install the parking meters they recommended be removed years ago.  There is little doubt they will be suggesting a PRIVATE company administer/own these meters.  To understand better try reading Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. Our council has a history of wanting  to privatize city jobs not always for the better…. well, except for those who get our money.

The sale hasn’t gone through

Yes the sale hasn’t gone through.  What was lost in the stage play was the air in the basement of the Penny building isn’t of the best quality.  The county used to rent space there but had to give it up because of environmental concerns.  To sum it up, this whole dog and pony show was staged this way so a realtor could get his commission, a newcomer could get his spurs, the council could claim a victory of sorts and get some of the annexation stink off of themselves (it didn’t work regardless of whether or not this sale goes through) and the parking concessions are being done at the taxpayers/store customer’s expense.  After all the  street parking is free now so why should we pay for it?

Here is one of  the emails we drew information from  Swehla and Marsh

Marsh, Zoslocki, Lewis, Russell, and Nyhoff were Collaborating All Along

By Emerson Drakechamberslargeplan

We’ve all listened to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce tell their story, some of us six or seven times,  of how their Transportation Committee met over a six month period (it gets longer every time they tell it) met to discuss Modesto’s land expansionist  planning needs for the next twenty years.  In previous articles we  chronicled how the Chamber went from needing 1,000 acres to over 25,300 of land during their series of presentations to various civic groups and  public entities. The above map is from their July 2013 presentation. This represents their goals and is an early view of what the comprehensive General Plan scheduled to begin two years from now will look like if they get their way.

As usual when it comes to people attempting to manipulate the public for their own selfish interests what they don’t tell us is just as, and sometimes more important, than the information they disseminate.

For example during these ‘planning meetings’ that Mayor Marsh and City Manager Nyhoff attended along with members of the Chamber’s Transportation Committee, they discussed how best to seize Wood Colony land for an industrial park and sneak Salida’s already zoned business park land from them to be placed under Modesto’s control.

I admit after hearing Mayor Marsh paint George Petrulakis and the Chamber as  ‘evil’ and a position we don’t totally disagree with, as the people we really had to worry about compared to himself and his friends,  I was surprised to learn of the initial collaborations. When his friends, Councilwoman Kenoyer of  (I don’t have to worry about Wood Colony because they can’t vote for me) fame,  and Councilman Gunderson who just can’t stop repeating “no one is talking about annexation”, while the Mayor keeps using the terms annexation and eminent domain, don’t make anyone feel they can be trusted.

Part of the ‘art of the deal’ was the watering down and delay of Denny Jackman’s Residential Urban Limits proposal.  An arrangement was made so the Chamber wouldn’t fight it when it came on the ballot but at the council meeting where it was proposed, a little ‘kicker’ was added.  Councilman Cogdill proposed that Modesto would repeal the Measures A and M  which deal with the public’s ability to control land acquisition and development(sewer expansion) by the city by requiring public advisory votes.

All of the General Plan Amendment discussion has been orchestrated from the beginning by just a few people. For example the rank and file of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce don’t get to vote on the Board of Directors, they’re appointed, the same is true of the Alliance.

The Modesto Planning Commission and Staff spent the better part of a year holding workshops for the public where Bill Zoslocki and Craig Lewis passionately advocated for a much larger footprint for Modesto.   People came forward and expressed themselves very succinctly.  And the Planning Commission’s meetings,  Brent Sinclair and the rest of Modesto’s planning staff listened to the public’s wishes and proposed a footprint which was in line with Denny’s original RUL proposal.

Then the politicians stepped in.  For a while you needed a score card to understand where each one of them stood.  From Nyhoff’s open mic fiasco where he dissed everyone who disagreed with the Chamber, we learned why Jenny turned her back on both her campaign promises, to protect prime farmland and keep Salida for Salida. The bumbling John Gunderson, so elated  the Mayor was finally talking to him as an equal, rubber stamped every proposal Marsh made whether he understood them or not.  For Cogdill and Zoslocki the mantra is “more is better.”  But Zoslocki added “but I can’t be caught voting/going on the record for it.”  Lopez, after being warned about people willing to energetically campaign against him in the Board of Supervisors race, disavowed any interest in Wood Colony. And Madrigal, well Tony is still out collecting prom dresses, rather than focusing on the larger tasks needed by the city.

But it all began with a few greedy real estate men (Zoslocki and Lewis), a small handpicked few from the Chamber,  a City Manager who spent more time working for the desires of a few in the Chamber of Commerce than he did the people of Modesto, and a Mayor who though he could write his own legacy by stealing the land from the residents of Salida, the farmers of Wood Colony and the German Baptist Brethren who, to take a page from Jenny Kenoyer’s book,  don’t vote anyway.

And We, the Citizens of Modesto are the only ones who can stop this.  And what have we been doing?  We’ve been  saying…. Sir, can I please have another?

It’s time to take back our City Government from the greedy special interests that are intent on ruining Modesto.

 

Modesto Gives Itself a Black Eye in the New York Times

By Emerson Drake      NYtimes

Thanks to the Modesto City Council and the Chamber of Commerce Modesto has received more bad notoriety.  Every time we end up on another negative list, worst to retire to, worst places to live, worst places to breathe, and well, you remember them since they just keep coming.  To hear the Council and Chamber tell/spin it it’s never our fault but outsiders keep picking on us.

This time it’s well deserved, and maybe, just maybe, we came out looking better than we deserve.  We, Modesto citizens and voters,  brought this upon ourselves by not standing up to the City Council en masse and saying “enough is enough.”   The citizens of Modesto, on the large part, have been sitting back and allowing Salida and Wood Colony residents to fight our battles for us and it’s time we took over and straightened the Council and Chamber out. Here is the link to the article:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/us/rural-spot-settled-by-religious-group-in-california-fears-a-citys-encroachment.html?_r=0

We should be ashamed of ourselves for not going down to the Council meeting in numbers that would dwarf our outlying neighbors, (Salida and Wood Colony).

Jenny Kenoyer was just speaking the unvarnished truth when she said referring  to Wood Colony that ” They can’t even vote for me”.  Cold sounding as it was it should have resonated in the hearts of Modesto voters as a plaintive cry for help for those who can’t help themselves. Jenny needed guidance and since the voters didn’t provide it the lackeys from the Chamber, including City manager Greg Nyhoff, stepped forward to label Wood Colony residents as anachronisms and being out of step with modern times.  The Chamber reps have been preaching from the rooftops that paving over Wood Colony is inevitable so we might as well get started.

Greg Nyhoff, Dave Cogdill, Bill Zoslocki and Cecil Russell have been reminding everyone who will listen that they don’t have to pay attention to Salida representatives and that the furor over Wood Colony will pass in time.   And why do they keep saying this?  Because the German Brethren will seldom speak in public let alone vote on any level and Salida’s residents, like those in Wood Colony, can’t vote in Modesto elections.  Mayor Marsh has gone so far as to gerrymander the proposed border to purposely exclude a major portion of Wood Colony’s voters.

A Modesto resident named John Walker has provided the most visible push-back to date. He has initiated a petition to recall Dave Cogdill and we wish him well.  Interestingly, when he announced his efforts at the last City Council meeting, Cogdill played the ‘hurt’ card.  He said he was willing to talk with Mr. Walker but wasn’t going to change his mind.  So basically he was going to talk at John and not to him.  From our point of view, when your elected representative feels different from his constituents, he/she needs to be replaced.

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.

Mayor and City Attorney Create Imaginary City Council Policy

By Emerson Drake gmarsh

In recent weeks we’ve made several attempts to contact the interim City Attorney for Modesto,  Adam Lindgren,  we’ve left detailed messages but Mr. Lindgren refuses to return our calls.  The first time was before the Jan. 7th meeting of the City Council to discuss the Mayor’s illegal refusal to allow those who had spoken at the Dec. 3rd meeting regarding the General Plan Amendment to speak again despite the fact that the proposal had changed significantly.  We left messages explaining the legal ramifications in an attempt to head this miscarriage of the Brown Act off at the pass. Unfortunately the City Attorney had been given the task of ‘finding’ a way to keep the people from speaking again so it became necessary to educate both he and the Mayor in public. Fortunately one of our contributors quoted the case on point (Friant Water Authority v. County of Madera) and eventually the Mayor relented and allowed those who spoke at the Dec.3rd meeting to speak again.

The second time it’s regarding the Mayors threat to remove anyone holding signs from the meeting. Admittedly it was a childish threat made in anger.  We called Mr. Lindgren, who seems to ALWAYS be out of the office,  several times but he refuses to return my call.   So as is our way, we made a Public Record Request of the city for the applicable City Charter amendment that would allow the Mayor to  take away the First Amendment rights of the attendees. The Supreme Court has ruled signs are “free speech.”   Here are the eleven pages the City responded with. If you can find where this document allows the Mayor to threaten to throw citizens out of the meeting for carrying signs please let us know.City_Council_Organization_and_Procedure (2)

Mr. Mayor, until you finally corrected yourself towards the end of the Jan.7th  meeting you violated the law,   please don’t do it Tuesday night.

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