Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto politics”

Contributor Endorses Jake Winger

By Jim Bonetti

MID should have people who are committed to doing what’s right for rate payers AND farmers. Not just to do what farmers and/or MID

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wants. Electric rate payers already pay 95% of the MID bills and water users pay 5% of these bills.
Jake Wenger dropped off a flyer while I was out. I called him Wednesday morning and asked him where he stands on a number of subjects at MID. First off he was glad I called and second he was forthright with his answers. When I asked about the “board governance policy” which gives the MID manager more power to make decisions (and less power to the Board), he explained that when he is elected, that will be the first thing he will addres,s to delete this “policy”! I agree wholeheartedly!
I spoke to Paul Warda a couple of months ago about this same “policy”. He told me that he didn’t know it was in the proposal at the time he voted on it and asked for a clarification from a MID executive who researched it and told him “yes, this “policy” was still in the proposal when the Board voted on it”, unfortunately. He apologized for his mistake and vowed that if he had known about it, he never would have voted for the proposal!
Maybe it was just Van Groningen leaning on Warda to push him to vote for the proposal…..
Jake is not just looking out for farmers, as some people may think (farmers are for farmers mentality). On the contrary, he says that the cost of water could be increased to about $30/acre foot and still be profitable for most farmers. Those that grow corn would have a tougher time of it as corn requires more water to mature. However, with water users paying more of the bills it would ease the expense paid by electric rate payers.
If the cost of water reaches $50/acre foot, farmers would drill their own wells and not buy MID water. But, if farmers keep drilling, the aquifer will diminish and may never be replenished and we have only so much water to spread around.
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR DOUBTS REGARDING JAKE or MID policies, CALL HIM! THE NUMBER IS IN THE FLYER (209-484-9343). He’ll answer you with good, honest information.

By Jim Bonetti

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What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake at Noon Thursday 10/25

Today’s topics include, Jim Mortensen’s $20,000 lie, the Modesto Bee’s misinformation campaign,  the latest goings on at MID with the

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

disastrous  Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate, MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s temper tantrum, the Modesto City Council and  the Measure X proposal, the Modesto Courthouse placement. these topics and more so tune into and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 6:30  PM

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To listen live or from our archives go to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/25/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wed 10/16 at 6:30 PM

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

Tonight’s topics include Rod Olsen’s special relationship with the police and DA Birgit Fladager in regard to the child endangerment charges, the school Board race including both Modesto and Hart Ransom districts, Olsen’s upcoming fundraiser for the Sheriff, the County’s take on mining water on our East side, the upcoming workshop on Don Pedro,  the Measure X proposal, the Modesto Courthouse placement. these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 6:30  PM

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To listen live or from our archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/17/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wednesday at 8 PM

Tonight’s topics include MID candidates, the Serpa rule, where are our MID payments going,  water mining, the latest from the

 

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Planning Commission, Wood Colony and Salida,  these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 8:00 PM

 

104.9 FM our flagship station

 

To listen live or from the archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/19/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

 

Is MID at it Again?

By Emerson Drake

During the discussion of the consent calendar we requested some information on several items.  Document #11389 in the

English: I Myke waddy took this photo. Canada....

amount of $37,946.87 and #11408 in the amount of $8,247.96 were detailed for manual checks.  No breakdown was given.  And Document #11404   in the amount of $18,229.63 –  #11430 in the amount of $12,590.11 – #11459 in the amount of $38,436.15, detailed for prepaid procurement cards and again no detail was given.

$115,450.72 in money for which no detail has been provided is a concern.  So we made a public records request for the details regarding these expenditures.  When the topic was broached all that was asked for was an explanation.  The example we received was “for example it would repay employees for bridge tolls.”  Now we don’t know how much of this money was spent on tolls,  but using bridge tolls as an example for over $115,000.00 spent between August 6 thru August 27 seems a little ludicrous.

We also questioned a $1,300 dollar charge labeled ‘monthly’ for progress magazine which is a publication by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.  The same chamber which actively supported selling our water long term to San Francisco and which endorses political candidates including those for the Modesto Irrigation District. This presents an ethical dilemma for MID and the ratepayers. We have repeatedly requested this practice be halted to no avail.  It may be we’ll have to wait for new candidates to be elected to help support Directors Larry Byrd and Nick Blom.

Three MID candidates to avoid: Jim Mortensen, John Mensinger, and Paul Campbell

Jim Mortensen actually jumped up to be speak during the public comment period to support/endorse (he used both terms) last weeks adoption of the “Serpa” rule in the Board Governance policy specifically section BL-4 (b).  Quite honestly I was surprised but maybe I shouldn’t have been.  He was nominated by Tom Van Groningen to the Water Advisory Board.  He promised NOT to run for the MID Board and as soon as possible he pulled papers and signed up to run.  Jim Mortensen has also publicly spoken in favor of selling our water to San Francisco.  John Mensinger and Paul Campbell both failed to speak out against the proposed water sale. For Mortensen to support a policy that not only allows but insists the General Manager and Attorney NOT allow requests for information if it takes up too much staff time or is disruptive, is unconscionable. Please remember former GM Allen Short deemed 15 minutes of staff time as too much.

Trust is something you build

Already our new General Manager Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy has demonstrated a desire to withhold information from the public and also a penchant for presenting misinformation unless his feet are held to the fire by the Board.  After remaining silent last week when asked if the ‘Serpa’ rule was part of the Governance policy we got a taste of things to come IF he’s allowed to go the way of his mentor Allen Short.

We are also following up with TID Board President Michael Frantz regarding Board of Control report concerns.  More on that subject after we’ve talked with Director Frantz.

If you get the chance, ask “the Dodger” why MID is spending over $6,000 a year on having bottled water delivered when MID own’s two water treatment plants. His answer would be funny until you consider the elderly and low income people barely scraping by so his people in Ripon, the Woodland generator(near MJC) and,  believe it or not, the MID legal Department, can drink bottled water.  Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of ours.

I know it gives me a sour taste in my mouth what about you?

Planning Commission Forwards Recommendations to City Council, 4-3

By Emerson Drake

Monday night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting was one of the most enlightening so far.  Traipsing through the murky

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waters of the General Plan Amendment process has been challenging.  Like all public processes at times it becomes trench warfare with groups like Modesto’s Chamber of Commerce saying one thing publicly and then maneuvering behind the scenes in a completely different direction.

The case in point

The Chamber has been talking publicly with the Commission and interested parties like those from Salida, saying Salida should be removed from Modesto’s General Plan. But when it came time to vote the three Commissioners most closely tied to Modesto’s Chamber, Ted Brandvold, Steve Carter,  and Marshall Riddle,  finally showed their cards.  They openly voted against the PC’s Staff proposal  and  earlier attempts to return Salida to the General Plan along with an additional 1,200 feet on the North side of Kiernan between Dale and McHenry.

Brent Sinclair had explained to the PC and the public that he and staff had made the recommendations because he believed, not only could he sell the plan to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO),  but that Modesto could set the standard for all Stanislaus County communities to follow.  At previous meetings Brandvold’s comments had made it obvious he had bought into Craig Lewis’ ‘we need to stay ahead of Riverbank’ spiel.

Craig Lewis made a last desperate attempt to try and sway the Planning Commission by pointing out how many acres less the new proposal was but it was quickly responded to by acknowledging the majority of the acreage being removed was Salida.  The Commissioners didn’t buy the keeping up with the Jones’ (Riverbank) or maybe like many of those in the audience they were aware Riverbank is in the process of pulling back their General Plan boundaries to more reasonable limits.

The PC Staff recommendations  091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

The Brandvold, Carter, Riddle proposal which included the additional land failed to pass 3-4 and the following vote to  support the PC Staff’s proposal passed 4-3.

Another interesting note was the mention of the several hundred notices which had been sent to landowners in the now expanded Beckwith-Dakota Triangle (1,830 acres in the shape of a rectangle) and that only 6-8 came to the meeting.  Also of note was Commissioner Brandvold’s comment that the same few faces from Salida were always present and he wasn’t convinced they represented Salida’s position on annexation. You can imagine the reaction. You had the Salida Chamber of Commerce represented at the meeting along with the Salida MAC. The Salida MAC had previously voted to officially oppose the annexation of Salida by Modesto so I’m really not sure what he was thinking or if he was…thinking.

It could have just as easily been said that the same few people had been representing Modesto Developers at these meetings but since he clandestinely supported the Chamber it went unsaid by him.  It also needs to be noticed Salida has continually supported their friends to the south, Wood Colony, in their attempt to avoid annexation.  But there are those, especially those who didn’t bother to attend this meeting,  who would sow the seeds of dissent and ignore this fact.

It’s far from over

The business park planned for the Beckwith-Dakota triangle is HUGE and 1,830 acres (almost 3 square miles) is too much land to allow to be stolen from farmers and those living in Wood Colony.  It has been pointed out repeatedly NO buffer between Business Parks  is allotted for. And if this doesn’t change the harassing lawsuits against these farmers are inevitable regardless of Right to Farm Ordinances.

Chris Tyler’s comment from the prior meeting, “Prove it Works”, is important to remember because if those responsible for placing businesses in the proposed business park allow an inequitable arrangement similar to the one Blue Diamond received in Turlock we’ll have squandered, not only our legacy for Modesto’s future, but allowed the best soil on God’s green earth to be paved over.  Giving away 88 precious acres of some of best farmland in the world for 50 jobs has to be considered unacceptable. Over in Mountain House they insist on high quality jobs to be brought in or they turn the businesses away. I realize how desperate we are for jobs but we can’t afford a giveaway to “buddies” to line the pockets of a few.

The recent months with the Planning Commission have been similar to the opening skirmish of a major battle and the Modesto City Council will be the battleground.  The big guns/power brokers will be brought in to do battle in the main arena. Of notice was land use attorney/developers mouthpiece George Petrulakis sitting in the back of the room taking in the preliminary’s planning and  awaiting the spectacle yet to come.

General Plan Amendment Meeting Monday 9/16 at 6:00 PM 1010 Basement

Tonight is one of the last times if not the last time the public will get to influence the Planning Commission’s recommendations

Beyond the First Amendment

to the Modesto City Council.

Here is the supporting pdf: 091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

It’s yet another important meeting the Bee didn’t mention.

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake…Wednesday 8:00 PM

Tonight’s topics include Developer Bill Zoslocki, Paul Draper and Centerra, Archway Commons and the downtown Court House

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an update on the Montana judge who sentenced a man 5 days for rape, these topics and more so tune into tonight at 8:00 PM and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community.

104.9 FM our flagship station

To listen live or from our archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/05/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

Are Voters Becoming Disenchanted with the Modesto City Council?

By Emerson Drake                    The Draper/Centerra Decision

 

Last night’s City Council meeting was true to form. The public was forgotten and ignored by most of those on the dias.  The

Modesto's Double Tree and Brenden Theater

Mayor was so distracted by his email that many times it appeared he wasn’t aware of his surroundings. But lets start at the public comment period.

 

Many members of this Council have conspired to keep information out of the public’s eye.  An example is the article written August 18th about a Finance Committee meeting where City Manager (C.M.) Gregg Nyhoff deliberately waited until it was too late to include his Summary of Reductions – Target $6 Million Report in the Finance Committee’s agenda packet.  His report, which highlighted recommendations for targeted budget reductions to the formal agenda, (where it would have been made available to the public ).  During the meeting Nyhoff passed the report out to the committee and members of the public attending the meeting. The Committee voted to accept the report without comment.  This was a decision made several weeks prior to the meeting. After all it would be difficult for Councilwoman Burnside to stand in front of the Modesto Police Officers Association (MPOA) after voting to eliminate 20 sworn positions if the sales tax doesn’t pass. With some members of our council one hand washes the other.

 

At a subsequent meeting of the Finance Committee on August 27 I requested the report to be included on the city’s website.  Unfortunately as of September 3rd they had failed to comply.  So at last night’s meeting I again pointed out it was a Brown Act meeting and as a result the City Manager’s Report should have been included in the minutes despite C.M. Nyhoff’s efforts to obfuscate it.  So when I protested again last night the now ‘clandestine’ reports absence, City Council Attorney Susanna Acala Wood weighed in stating since it was a Brown Act meeting the report should be included in the official record.  But Nyhoff and the council members had already achieved their goal of not having the Committee be forced to give their recommendations and to keep it out of the public’s eye. Bee reporter Kevin Valine was present at the meetings but has yet to write a word regarding the events at the meeting.

 

Brent Sinclair Supports Paul Draper Being Chosen (actually he was the one who chose Draper)

 

To hear Brent Sinclair make the case for Paul Draper to be chosen was ludicrous.  His main argument was since Draper was involved with his self named ‘Team Modesto’ and had spent hundreds of hours attempting to build his multi-use towers he deserved the council’s largess.  While I commend Draper for his attempt I don’t feel the need to grant him the ‘excess profits’ by allowing him to represent Modesto’s five properties in the sale to the state. From our point of view Draper was ‘given’ a bonus by allowing this to occur. Draper will receive $30,000 for every million dollars the city receives for its five properties.  And yes it comes from Modesto’s pocket.

 

Even a judge weighed in

 

The the Honorable Ricardo Cordova Superior Court judge, spoke for the need to use Draper.   Judge Cordova’s claim to fame in the ‘good old boy’ network was reducing the charges in former Stanislaus County Detective Kari Abbey’s case in the killing of Rita Elias.  His reasoning for using Draper was that time was of the essence.  This just didn’t ring true.  After all, these negotiations for the courthouse properties have been on going for quite some time  and as a result the need for haste seems very contrived.

 

Cordova’s fear tactics appear to have worked,

 

Talking with Councilman Geer after the meeting he said he had listened intently to both sides of the arguments being made but the Judge suggesting we could possibly lose the state money swayed his vote.  It could be suggested that was why Cordova was trotted out last night. I have to wonder if he was going to speak BEFORE Sunday’s article  exposing the Centerra / Draper / Archway Commons article came out or if he was recruited afterward…

 

Why are we waiting until the last minute to approve a consultant and why wasn’t it vetted by a Committee?

 

The Mayor and City Council were well aware of the history Paul Draper and his Centerra company have with Modesto’s Archway Commons project.  The outrageous profit unnecessarily paid to Centerra was just another example of behind the scene politics that seem to occur on a regular basis in Modesto.  Kudos to the Bee for finally discussing the seamy underbelly of Modesto politics. Unfortunately the Council has learned to rush forward at the last minute anything they hope to avoid much public discussion on.  Once again it was obvious if no committee vetted Draper being hired as a consultant/realtor no one could be held responsible in the future.  It’s all about the lack of accountability for Modesto’s politicians.  The exception to the rule would be Councilman John Gunderson who understood the concern for having a downtown court house,  voted against the ‘last minute’ consideration of Draper. Congratulations Councilman Gunderson for standing up for Modesto’s citizens and not falling for the contrived, last minute, rush job.

 

Mayor Marsh answering emails during the Council meeting

 

Mayor Marsh seemed to be trying to distance himself from all questions of Archway Commons and Draper’s Centerra.  Mayor Marsh had apparently decided if he ignored the speakers they would eventually just go away.  At one point he had to be called by name three times to get him to look up from his phone and respond to a question.  The City Attorney tried to cover for him by saying she was advising him not to answer the question of how much Draper would make for selling Modesto’s five properties along with those he already represented. But unfortunately for the Mayor, he didn’t have a clue his name was being called out loud.

 

Have the taxpayers given up?

 

It needs to be acknowledged only three people came to speak against using the Draper/Centerra  in connection with the downtown courthouse.  Yet five people, including a former Councilman took the time to write a letter to the editor protesting the possibility.  Why?  Maybe because they knew it would be a waste of time since the Mayor and Council have been steadfastly ignoring the wishes of the public and just have been listening to the ‘backroom’  denizens.

 

Will Modesto Voters Memory Improve?

 

I have to be honest I doubt it.  After all they (District 4 ) are considering electing a Village I developer/profiteer Bill Zoslocki to the Modesto City Council without laughing, spitting or reaching for the tar and feathers.  But we can always hope.

 

An email sent to the Modesto City Council

By D. Minighini

I would like to express my public comment (via email) as I am not able to personally attend tonight’s meeting.  I would
English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

like this comment to be part of the formal record:

Of great concern is the deception of this City as it oftentimes conducts its business – important land development sales involving overpayment of millions of dollars (exceeding market value….see overpayment of Archway Commons low income housing units with same Centerra Capital) as recently informing the public and featured in “The Bee” newwpaper.  And of newest concern, negotiations with the Courthouse land deal involving Centerra Capital have apparently been going on behind closed doors without the public’s input or comment via public meeting!  Such an important and major public property acquistion should reasonably support “public involvement”before the land purchase is finalized.
Of additional concern is the business players the City chooses to engage with.  Land deals appear to involve the same consultants and developers who make millions of dollars in excess of what should be a fair and reasonable profit.  Why is this happening?
Per the Modesto Bee article in today’s paper, Centerra Capital has already been involved with negotiations to sell this land to the City for this courthouse land deal!  And tonight the City is supposed to, “after the fact”, going to publically approve Centerra Capital “to help the city in negotiations with the landowners.”  In real estate law, representing both buyer and seller is known as “dual agency.”  Every real estate professional knows there is no such “impartiality” possible with dual agency.
The public’s interest (as the ultimate benefactor buyer) would be best served in this land deal-  with its own separate real estate agent – not with Centerra Capital who gains to receive commission fees from both buyer and seller and who will compromise the interests of each to get the deal done.
The City has conducted the public’s business negliently like this before.  In addition to a poorly constructed land purchase with the low income Archway Commons in which millions of dollars were overspent by the City in the land purchase and construction costs, other backdoor city actions included one of the the city attorneys having filed a lawsuit –  even before she received City Council approval to do so!
It is becoming very clear from the public’s view of what kind of business ethics does our City government really have and are their decisions in the best interests of the public?  Have they repeatedly shown a lack of understanding of economic principles and financial mismanagement?
The Courthouse land purchase should not mirror the real estate purchase incompetency and negligent financial mismanagement which is on record in the “Archway Commons” low income housing units land purchase (which also involves excessive development “per unit” costs).
City government should NOT pay more than “market value” for any property, and individuals with such power to purchase land and make these decisions  have a responsibility and due diligence (to the public) as a “buyer” in such transaction to perform all “inspections” before ratifying the real estate deal – to make sure the condition of the property and land is in proper condition and financially worth it, and that the public’s money is properly and wisely spent.
Paying excessively above “market value” constitutes “financial blackmail” by the seller.  A city government that agrees to pay well over market value is one that is NOT protecting and wisely spending the public’s money.  If the Courthouse acquisition turns into the same purchase situation as the Archway Commons –  the City and its representatives should abandon its buyer position and seek another property more reasonably priced.
The real estate principle that “property can be purchased for what a buyer is willing to pay” does not apply to government purchases in a time of economic depression, a city government which is not financially strong, and is an example of negligent financial management.
A government’s duty in use of the public’s money for purchase of land for development should be prudent, reasonable, and financially conservative so as NOT to misspend or extravagently misuse public funds, which would ultimately negatively impact a city to operate, or negatively impact its reserves which could lead to financial inability to operate with basic services.  The City has put the residents in this position already from several past incidents of financial mismanagement with overspending on contracts and services and land deals.  Such decisions have brought forth the need of a 1% sales tax increase (ballot initiative) to be forced upon residents.  The sales tax deception to residents started out saying it was for additonal police and fire safety, when in fact there are no guarantees of additional officers, and the money can be spent on whatever the City decides to spend it on:  more mismanagement.
D. Minighini
Concerned Modesto citizen

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