Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto”

Candidate Reminds us of an ‘Excusable Homicide’ From 20 Yeas ago Today

By Emerson Drake 

While listening to the Modesto City Council District 3 candidates forum I was surprised when Janice Keating reminded viewers of the Alberto Sepulveda case from 20 years ago today.   I suppose it was to remind listeners of her experience on the City Council. But it reminded me of the parallels of two stories about police officers having family on the council when they made, shall we just call them mistakes.

1.  It was about 6:15 am on 9/13/2000 when the Modesto Police Department (MPD) executed a Federal search warrant for Meth trafficking (no drugs were found) but that didn’t stop veteran swat team member David Hawn from pointing his gun at the boy’s back even after the 11 year old had complied and was laying face down on the floor.  The Benelli 12 gauge shotgun is used by law enforcement around the world because of it’s reliability and the fact it doesn’t accidentally discharge, is the gun that Hawn was holding when it went off and killed young Alberto.

At first the MPD officers tried to blame Alberto’s 14 year old brother Moises for causing a disturbance but that was ruled out.  Then they talked about how big Alberto was for his age (11) then they decided to go with the idea that the Benelli misfired causing the death.  But during three subsequent investigations no matter how many times they tried they couldn’t make the shotgun misfire. MPD’s Chief Wasden and a variety of officers mostly unnamed, attempted to manufacture excuses, but after the three investigations the best they could come up with was a farce about the radio and or his knife some how snagging the trigger. The simplest explanation was that Hawn had pulled the trigger but the officials stayed as far away from that as we would expect.

Influence is sometimes helpful and this time it worked in Officer David Hawn’s favor. Now we would expect a circling of the wagons for another MPOA member but David Hawn’s brother Brad Hawn was also a Councilman on the Modesto City Council.  So despite the public outcry the killing was declared an accident or excusable homicide. Modesto paid $2.55 M to the family and the Feds paid out $450,000.

We were in attendance during many of the Modesto City Council meetings back then and the first thing we learned was that when it comes to the MPD if you don’t make a complaint in writing it didn’t happen. Many people came forward saying they went to the Police station and talked to someone there who listened to their story and told them they’d get to the bottom of the issue and that there was no reason to fill out a complaint form. When questioned Chief Wasden would say time and time again I have no written complaint of that problem.

2.  Sometime around August 16th Mike Warda an attorney for the Phenos, a dispensary on McHenry Ave. attempted to contact Councilpersons Kristi Ah You, Mani Grewal, Tony Madrigal and Mayor Ted Brandvold in an attempt to get some assistance.  Only Ah You responded. It’s understandable why Warda didn’t try to contact former MPD officer and now Councilman Doug Ridenour Sr. since the complaint was regarding Ridenour’s son, MPD officer Doug Ridenour Jr.

The owners and landlord of Phenos complained of harassment threats and the rudeness of Doug Ridenour Jr, along with several other MPD officers.  MPD Chief Carroll said it was a misunderstanding and that his officers did not engage in any misconduct, including harassment and retaliation.

Here’s the rub… if you’re a business and you make a complaint against an officer you have a potential problem.  If you make a complaint against a former Modesto Police Officers Association President you might have a much bigger problem.  If your dad’s a City Council member and a former police officer that is running for Mayor you might have a major issue both now and into the future.

What does it matter if your company has brought in over $250,000 in tax revenue so far this year (we have a PRR checking this) compared to having police officers chasing away your clientele both now and into the future.  Now Chief Carroll knows this and is keeping his cards close to his vest forcing the dispensary to make the first move.  So lets flip the narrative by introducing a wildcard.

We made a Public Record Request for Ridenour Jr’s body camera along with the body cameras of his buddies that were visiting the dispensary that day. Store surveillance won’t have the sound that the body cameras could provide.

As noted above, it was and maybe still is an ongoing problem with MPD.  They discourage citizens from filing complaints, so then the Chief can deny knowledge of a problem that a citizen has complained about.  Or you file a complaint and you or your business might pay the price.  In Modesto justice can be expensive.




Take the Special Interest Money out of Politics Lower Campaign Donation Limits

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Emerson Drake

A change in Modesto’s TIN CUP  Ordinance (Time Is Now To Clean Up Politics) is coming up before the Modesto City Council and we need YOUR help.  In 2005 the Modesto Chamber of Commerce asked the council to eliminate the donation limits candidates can receive before they are forced to recuse themselves or step back from discussion and voting on a subject a contributor brought before the council.  It other words the Chamber wanted to make it so they could give many thousands of dollars to council members and they could vote for whatever the donor wanted.

Imagine where we would be if that had passed.

Instead the council decided to raise the limits from $1,000 to $3,000 before the cutoff limit was reached.  Since then we have divided the city up into six districts lowering the cost of running for office. Unfortunately this has brought forth excessive amounts of special interest money into the campaigns of some.

There is another argument being made by Councilman Lopez in which he suggests to be a good council member you must have the intestinal fortitude to ask for $3,000 or you won’t be worth your salt on the council.  But that isn’t how he plays the game.  For insistence, he asked the Modesto Fire Fighters Union for $2,962 just under the limit before he would have to recuse himself. He also asked the Modesto Police Officers Union, the MPOA, for $2,750  again just under the donation limit.

The argument is being made you need $6,000 to mail a flyer but in checking Lopez’s campaign reports ( called 460,s) the costs of running a mailer are around $3,000.

After checking the 460’s of the most recent council races I discovered very few donations were made OVER $1,000 in fact, with only a couple of small exceptions (over by a couple of hundred dollars) all of the candidate’s contributions were below the $1,000 threshold EXCEPT for those of special interests.   The special interest money came from unions, developers, and Lobbyists.

When comparing the money spent on council races a few other things became apparent.  When developer money (especially Salida area developers “surprise surprise”) piled in on a candidate like Dave Cogdill Jr., he spent it like it was on fire.  Councilman Cogdill spent $37,747 to get elected, took in at least 15 donations of $1,000 and his opponent spent about $2,000. Talk about a case of ego and overkill.

As a comparison Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside’s spent $23,000 and took six donations of $1,000 or more (two from Burnside Auto Body) and the rest were basically $500 and under.  Her opponent Jenny Kenoyer collected one contribution of $500 and the rest were smaller.  She raised and spent $13,000 on her campaign showing it can be done.

What the Bee didn’t mention in their recent article is the Modesto Fire Fighter’s Union made two independent campaign expenditures to Councilman Lopez’s campaign.  They spent $2,000 in telephone calls in July and they spent  another $6,000 in the final weeks of the race for mailers supporting Lopez. Todd Aaronson, Lopez’s major opponent, took in only six donations of $1,000 or more.

In other words Councilman Lopez out spent Aaronson by over 2-1 NOT counting the eight thousand dollars spent by the Fire Fighters Union.  If special interests are going to weigh in so heavily we need to know about it.  That will be my  next attempt to update the TIN CUP Ordinance.

So if you can take a moment, please email this to your friends to make them aware of  OUR opportunity to take Modesto out of the hands of the special interest groups be they Union, Lobbyist, OR Developer. Here is the list of Council emails I welcome you to write to:

mayor@modestogov.com               jgunderson@modestogov.com                 dgeer@modestogov.com

dlopez@modestogov.com               jmuratore@modestogov.com                    sburnside@modestogov.com


You can call them at (209)571-5169

Be an Engaged Citizen…!

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

The Letter from Modesto Protesting SB-7 Inclusion of Maintenance In Prevailing Wage Programs

March 13,2013

English: Flag of Sacramento, California
The Honorable Darrell Steinberg
Senate President Pro Tem
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Cannella
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 3048
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:   Opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg) Charter Cities: Unlawful Conditions on State Funding

Dear Senators Steinberg and Cannella,

The City of Modesto (Modesto) regrets to inform you of our opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg), which
would prohibit a charter city from receiving or using state funding or financial assistance for a
construction project if the city has a charter provision or ordinance that authorizes a contractor to
not comply with state prevailing wage requirements on local construction projects funded by (nonstate)
city funds.

We are very concerned that as drafted, the legislation will jeopardize the City’s ability to contract out
basic maintenance services of its parks, municipal buildings and municipal facilities. These
contracts include a multi-year maintenance agreement with a local non-profit organization that
employs developmentally disabled workers.

Modesto, like many other cities, has been forced to utilize competitively bid contracts for
maintenance of a number of city owned facilities for fiscal survival. Modesto currently has at least
14 competitively bid contracts worth over $4.7 million annually for maintenance of city owned
facilities. These include but are not limited to contracts for maintenance of parks, janitorial services
and golf course operations. The requirement to pay prevailing wages on these contracts will impact
Modesto’s general fund and thus affect the level of service Modesto is able to provide to its citizens.
This new requirement will also impact a number of maintenance contracts in our utility funds,
increasing costs for our rate payers.

This measure violates the fundamental principle of local control and the constitutional limits of state
authority over charter cities, as recently held by the Court in the Vista decision.1 This measure
conflicts with Vista by attempting, via the Legislature, to leverage a different outcome than the
Court’s ruling by withholding vital state construction funds, derived from all of the state’s taxpayers,
from charter cities that fail to adopt prevailing wage requirements for projects built with local funds.
Such a condition is unlawful because the state is seeking to leverage outcomes it lacks the legal
authority to compel.

Modesto is a charter city that has opted to not impose state prevailing wage requirements under our
charter for projects that are considered to be strictly of municipal concern. Modesto does require
the payment of prevailing wages on all projects that are not considered to be a municipal concern in
strict accordance with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ interpretation. Modesto
has grave concerns that this legislative tactic will be used in the future to erode other local flexibility
that is important to our community. Thus, we oppose this measure due to its undercutting of local
charter authority. The state should respect the Court decision in Vista and stay out of the matter.
This measure would establish a disturbing framework for future state micromanaging of charter city
laws and policies by the tactic of withholding state funds as political leverage to attempt to force
changes to city charters and ordinances.

At a minimum the proposed legislation should be amended to eliminate its application to
maintenance contracts. While Modesto believes this bill is inherently flawed from a legal
perspective, excluding maintenance contracts would at least help avoid forcing affected cities to
choose between closing parks and keeping police officers on the street.
For these reasons, the City of Modesto opposes this legislation.

cc: Senator Ted Lieu, Chair, Senate Committee on Labor and lndustrial Relations
(Attn. Alma Perez @ Fax No. (9161-327-5703)
Gareth Elliott, Legislative Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Jerry Brown

Important Don Pedro ReLicensing Meetings for the Public

There will be two Don Pedro Relicensing meetings the public is encouraged to attend on January 30th from 8:00 AM until 5:30 PM  and January 31st 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM.  These meetings will be held at the MID offices in Modesto so please try to attend.

For those who are unable to participate in the meetings in person here is the call in information:

    Call-in Phone Number 866-994-6437, Conference Code 5424697994

–          Online meeting information (below – same for both days)

Join online meeting


First online meeting? Here are the agendas:

Initial Study Report Meeting (Day 1)

Wednesday January 30, 2013   8:00 am – 5:30 pm

Meeting Location: MID Offices, Modesto




Opening – Agenda Review, Purpose of Meeting 


W&AR‐15 Socioeconomics Study


W&AR‐01 Water Quality Assessment


W&AR‐02 Project Operations/Water Balance Model


W&AR‐03W&AR‐16 Reservoir Temperature ModelLower Tuolumne River Temperature Model


W&AR‐04 Spawning Gravel Study

Break – 10:20



    IFIM Schedule and Update


W&AR‐05   Salmonid Populations Information Integration


W&AR‐06 Tuolumne River Chinook Salmon Population Model


W&AR‐10 Onchorhynchus mykiss Population Study

Lunch Break – 11:50



W&AR‐07 Predation Study


W&AR‐08 Salmonid Redd Mapping


W&AR‐11 Chinook Salmon Otolith Study


W&AR‐12 Onchorhynchus mykiss Habitat Assessment


W&AR‐13 La Grange Reservoir Fish Assemblage and Population Study

Break – 2:55



W&AR‐14 Temperature Criteria Assessment


W&AR‐17 Don Pedro Reservoir  Fish Population Study


W&AR‐18 Sturgeon Study


W&AR‐19 Riparian Information Study


W&AR‐20 O.mykiss Scale & Age Study


  Wrap-Up & Review 1/31 Schedule



Initial Study Report Meeting (Day 2)

Thursday January 31, 2013   8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Meeting Location: MID Offices, Modesto




Opening – Agenda Review, Purpose of Meeting 


CR‐01 Historic Properties Study


CR‐02 Native American Traditional Cultural Properties Study


TR‐01 Special-Status Plants Study


TR‐02 ESA- and CESA-Listed Plants Study


TR‐03 Wetland Habitats Associated with Don Pedro Reservoir Study

Break – 10:20



TR‐04 Noxious Weed Survey


TR‐05 ESA-Listed Wildlife – Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle Study


TR‐06 Special‐Status Amphibians‐Aquatic Reptiles Study


TR‐07 ESA-Listed Amphibians – California Red-Legged Frog Study
Lunch Break – 12:15    


TR‐08 ESA-List Amphibians – California Tiger Salamander Study


TR‐09 Special‐Status Bats Study


TR‐10 Bald Eagle Study


RR‐01 Recreation Facility and Public Accessibility Assessment

Break – 2:55



RR‐02 Whitewater Boating Take Out Improvement Feasibility


RR‐03 Lower Tuolumne River Boatable Flow Study


RR‐04 Visual Quality Study


  Wrap-Up and Next Steps

English: A wide spot in the Tuolumne River as ...

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday Night at 7:00PM Pacific

Official seal of County of Stanislaus

Official seal of County of Stanislaus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did MID’ Directors Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild vote yes to save face to stop the water sales? Have you heard about MID’s Allen Short wanting to spend $30,000 on his outer office furniture? Is Judy Sly intentionally misleading the citizens of Salida about the annexation?  Are we seeing the beginning of the demise of the bail bond industry in Stanislaus County?  The heart warming story of four homeless men who rescued a 15-year-old girl from a sexual predator.  What is it about the veteran’s job bill made Republicans vote against it?

Join me tonight won’t you.

Wednesday night at 7:00 PM Pacific


Our call in number is 347-215-9414

MID Staff and GM Allen Short Caught Lying to MID Board

By Emerson Drake

We’ve spoken our concerns before regarding the accuracy and manipulation of information contained in staff reports, but seldom do they let you see  it so blatantly.  The report is titled Agreement for Directional Boring Contractors. It can be found in its entirety at the link at the bottom of the article.

To provide some very short background, when underground cable reaches its lifespan of approx. 25 years and the injection process they use to extend its usefulness’ warranty expires, it needs to be replaced. This is done by boring holes and replacing the cable.

Why Change Contractors?

MID has been using Applegate Johnson a local company with local employees satisfactorily for years.  There was a clause in their contract that allowed Applegate Johnson to request a rate hike. So they requested a hike and MID said no. MID was so upset, despite the fact MID had no other problems with this company other than their rate increase request, and instead of discussing their proposal, MID  sent the contract out for re-bidding to six vendors. Only five vendors responded and Daleo Inc of Gilroy was tentatively awarded the contract at the suggestion of nameless MID staff. The T & D Division and the Purchasing Department approved.  Assistant General Manager Tom Kimball and General Manager Allen Short both signed off as attesting to the truth of the presentation.

Here’s where it starts to get Hinky

On pages three and four of the report  are the actual bids the companies submitted.  Out of twenty-eight items Applegate Johnson was the low bidder on twenty-six and most of these by significant margins.  So why change vendors and was there a significant savings to be had by going with an out of the area vendor? According to the presentation given to the Board by Denise Ray of the Purchasing Dept and Asst. GM. Tom Kimball, Daleo was the most qualified bidder based on price,experience, and references.  But is that true?

Public Comment Period

It appeared the Board was going to vote for approval, but when the Public Comment Period opened a completely new story emerged.  Several speakers came and made their points regarding the contract.  At least two were from Applegate Johnson and pointed out Daleo’s  proposal was not only more expensive than their new one but was more expensive than if MID had used the numbers from the contract increase request they submitted.  Now company men speaking well of their business isn’t unusual, but something was different in this case. 

The Bid Numbers were Right in Front of  Us

Seldom are bids so clear and easy to read.  This one obviously was and while this was being discussed I went over them as did others. Twenty-six out of twenty-eight items  being in Applegate’s favor is easy to prove or disprove. It was easy to discern there was more than meets the eye going on  here. We’ve seen MID staff shuffle, concoct, and just create out of thin air some of the numbers GM Short has needed in the past whenever he’s challenged (see Reed Smith’s analysis of MID’s “extra” water to available for sale to the SFPUC).  I held up MID’s own documents and asked the Board members to look for themselves. I specifically addressed Directors Glen Wild and Paul Warda.  Mr. Wild,  known as a rubberstamp for GM Short and Van Groningen,  just looked bored as usual when “official reality” is challenged, but to his credit Director Paul Warda was intrigued by the opposing sides regarding the costs and wanted to get to the bottom of the dispute and requested more time to study the proposed contract.

MID Attorney Tim O’Laughlin Attempts to Obfuscate Details

All staff had to do was provide a breakdown that would support their claim of cost savings but O’Laughlin intervened and said he would prepare the rebuttal.  An important thing to understand is, if attorney O’Laughlin writes the staff report he covers it in what he considers his priestly robe of invisibility and will refuse to allow the public to see it (attorney client privilege).  But why would the attorney jump in so quickly?  The most probable reason is to prevent the public from finding out the reason for the strange and expensive to the ratepayers decision by staff.  Which in my opinion is either pique from the requested raise or blatant favoritism towards a bidder by steering the contract in a specific direction possibly for personal satisfaction or gain.

As ratepayers we can’t afford personal pique to enter into MID contract negotiations.  And anyone who does so should be summarily dismissed.  And since Tom Kimbal and Allen Short SIGNED this document saying the details are accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge, they should be held accountable for any misrepresentations.

Nothing happens at this level of MID without the General Manager’s approval. Nothing.


Contracts (Photo credit: NobMouse)

Here is the pdf.  I apologize for the size of the download and include it because it will be taken down by MID shortly despite requests from the public to keep an archive like other public entities do.

Board Agenda Report

Subject: Agreement for Directional Boring Contractors  Bids are on page four and five of the report.


Now ask yourself why you haven’t read about this in the Bee.

A Message To All of Modesto From Dave Thomas

Good afternoon, I hope you have time to read the attached.  It pretty clearly outlines my personal thinking and is generally supported by the STA.  Some of you might find some of my comments controversial.  Well, that is me, I am willing to step up and say what I believe is the truth.  I am far more interested in saying and writing what I believe is the truth, than sparing someone discomfort over their own actual public actions. 

        If you think something I say in the attached .pdf is wrong, please message or phone me and I will provide you the document(s) or other material that will tell you why I said it.  You might not want to believe some things that governments do to you, but there is plenty of documentation that is readily available in the BEE and on line.

        If you just do not like what I say, tell me why.

        If you think this information is worth sharing, please send it on to your friends.

        Thank you very much, Dave

My dear friends:

After reading this morning’s BEE, I am disheartened. Our

governments are no longer even remotely responsive nor responsible

to you and me. What is it that makes good friends and neighbors

mindless rubber stampers who grovel in front of a government staff.

Why do most elected officials become zombies after being elected?

Their peers vilify the ones who continue to think after being elected

when they try to inject common sense into an issue.

Today’s BEE challenges even the most cynical amounst us with

3 stories. The first page tells us that now, the City government is

going to regulate camping out. That is not restricted to illegal

camping out, or squatting, but even your children’s back yard fun. I

can understand vagrants who invade and ruin public property. But,

no, the City “leaders” had to make your children felons if they leave a

tent up in your back yard for more than 5 days. Apparently, your

kids cannot camp in your backyard unless the property owner goes to

the cops and gets a permit to erect a tent for no more than 5 days.

Councilman Dave Lopez told us that we desperately need a law

to “safeguard the public” against “illegal camping”. Well, Dave, if it is

already illegal, did what you voted for last night make it even MORE


Councilman Joe Muratore told us, “We are not creating a police

state.” Really? When you support a new law that allows the cops to

come into your backyard and arrest your children for having a family

Tee-Pee in it?

Councilman Dave Geer promised us that he “…trusted police

officers to enforce the ordinance with common sense…” Really.

REALLY? If illegal camping is already illegal, and the cops are not

enforcing those laws, why would he trust the cops to enforce this law

with common sense? The BEE says, “These campsites are often

strewn with trash, are a health and safety nuisance, and are occupied

by parole violators and others with criminal records..” Well, do the

cops not have a reason to arrest parole violators, other criminals, and

address health and safety violations ALREADY??

You know, it just occurred to me; this deal may be just like

Kristin Olsen’s sophomoric demand for a dumpster diving law – which

I understand has never been charged against anyone. Could it be

just another payoff to some complaining friend of a Councilperson?

Could it be a way for a Council crony to get even with a neighbor for

noisy kids in a nearby back yard? Hummmmmmm.

Well then, if that does not make your day, read the story on

the first page of Section B, “Council votes to raise rates.” Now HERE

is a remarkable story about your neighbors spending $400,000 on

something that may never happen. The deal is to double or triple

your water rates so the City can fix the MID’s water treatment plant.

You read that right, the MID build a water treatment plant, owns the

water treatment plant and screwed up the water treatment plant. It

does not work; it is a pile of useless concrete and steel junk. It must

be torn down. The City has no rights to that plant, and absolutely no

authority to trespass on it or fix it. The City has no rights to do

invasive testing of materials, or any other diagnostic work.

Does it matter that no one alive today knows how much it will

cost to fix? Several people have told me that it will cost more than

$40 MILLION dollars and as much as $65 MILLION. It is not a

remodel; it is not wallboard and bathroom fixtures. It is CONCRETE

and STEEL that does not work!! MID engineers have already found

over 100 “deficiencies” in this plant, and they are not known for

being thorough. There could well be 300 deficiencies that will be

found only after the fix gets started. MID General Manager Allen

Short promised me with his very own lips that this plant would come

in for less than $30 MILLION dollars. It has cost us about $85

MILLION to build so far, and no one knows HOW to fix it, let alone

how much it will COST to fix it.

The final act of insanity is that the CITY has sent MID a

demand letter to give the City permission to fix the plant, take over

all the legal battles that will go on for 3 to 5 years, and when the

plant is fixed – at an unknown date or cost – they want MID to simply

“hand over” the property ownership to the City…for free. And this

Council (except for Council Woman Burnside, who actually gets the

insanity of this all) is charging over the cliff as if MID has already

agreed to the Mayor’s demand.

The catch is, MID has not even read the demand. The City told

me it is not a public document, and refuses to release it to the

Taxpayers Association. The MID will not even begin to discuss this

ridiculous demand for 2 weeks, if then. Please tell me, what would

make the MID want to give away profit-making assets for nothing?

They make a huge profit (relatively speaking – ask me for details)

selling water to the City. They support plant employees with HUGE

salaries and benefits. They control the water and they control the

price of water. MID is broke, wallowing in debt and it NEEDS those

profits. What are the odds that they are going to bend over and give

away these assets?

Finally, read the Op/Ed piece by Tom VanGronigan on page A-

13. Full disclosure requires me to tell you that Tom and I have

served on several Boards and committees since the early 1990’s. We

know each other. I rarely agree with Tom. His politics and ideas are

not similar to mine. Nonetheless, we have remained cordial if not

friendly for a long time.

The comments contained in Tom’s piece simply are not

germane to the discussion of selling our precious water. Remember,

there are reasons to do things, and there are ways to do things.

Tom, in my opinion, confuses the two issues. Tom’s comments all

relate to the fact that MID is broke. It needs money, and it needs it

ASAP. OK, MID really IS broke, and that is a REASON to fix the being

broke part. But the WAY to fix the broke part is NOT to sell the most

important, precious asset we have, our water and attendant rights.

The WAY to fix the being broke problem is to get real with the

unions. MID cannot continue to pay average employees $140,000,

with bloated benefits. MID overhead consumes most of its massive

profits from electricity, and its enormous debt service eats the rest.

MID must renegotiate with the unions, get salaries in line with

reality, get its huge law suit problem solved, raise irrigation rates

from $10 per Acre Foot to at least $25 per Acre Foot, fix the water

plant and sell the water it has already contracted with the City to the

City. Selling the water will not fix the real problem, which is very bad


Thank you for your attention. If you think this is worthwhile

information, let me know, and send it on to your friends.

Dave Thomas

Modesto’s War on the Homeless Continues

By Emerson Drake

Last night by a vote of 6-1 one of the most poorly written ordinances in Modesto’s history was enacted (okay, it takes 30 days to be in effect).  Mayor Garrad Marsh was the only council member to support Personal and Private Property rights of individuals.  Councilman Gunderson almost stood to be counted.  He anguished over his vote for a few moments, then he bowed his head, acquiesced, and went along with the herd.

Councilman Lopez is the Chairman of the Safety and Communities Committee this poorly considered ordinance came from. NONE of the Council or Committee  members were aware of the home camping limitation of the  “one consecutive night” provision that would have made you and your children criminals if you allowed them to campout two nights in a row. It seems that the Modesto Police Department conveniently over looked that sentence in the provision during its Committee presentation.  This was exposed when I went to the agenda meeting Monday afternoon, which is in preparation for the Tuesday Council meeting.  Otherwise it is very likely the three alternate versions of the proposed ordinance would not have been made available.  This ordinance  also made a sleeping bag  illegal paraphernalia, which Chief Harden tried to deny until they ordinance was read to him from the podium. Unfortunately this portion was not changed. At least  now you are allowed to let your children camp out 5 nights in a row.

As bad as this unnecessary intrusion into your personal life and family decisions you might choose to make is, there is a larger cause, and that is Modesto’s War on the Homeless

A little Background is in order

 Councilman Joe Muratore’s main platform plank when he ran for office in Council District 4 was  to remove the scourge of the homeless.  He said the homeless needed to be “eliminated” in a campaign speech he made which was since removed from his campaign website. Notice Muratore wanted to eliminate the homeless not homelessness which in my opinion  provides some insight to the man. You can find a breakdown of the BRCH members in an earlier article here on EyeOnModesto.

Councilman Muratore went to this same Safety and communities Committee (pre Councilman Gunderson) for permission to create a  the so-called Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless. This commission was composed of, according to the words of Chairman J. David Wright, “people who had been effected by the homeless.”  This was true but he failed to mention effected in a negative way.

Councilman Muratore’s particular appointee was La Loma Neighborhood Association President Mike Moridian who, since his involvement in the “association, which is not officially recognized as a nonprofit because of its advocacy of Muratore for Councilman during the council race, has been an outspoken critic of the homeless and has publicly professed a desire to chase them out of Modesto.

Last Night’s Council Meeting and Criminalizing the Homeless

I met many extremely thoughtful and generous people last night who spoke out for the homeless who were not there to speak out for themselves.  From former Council candidate Jenny Kenoyer who is also an advocate for our mature citizens to Annette Mott from the Angels for the Homeless and many more who spoke passionately in defense of the homeless. All questioned the council’s desire to make the homeless criminals in these dire times.  Ed Brearden Modesto’s Poet Laureate Emeritus was strident in his concern.  I’ll thank them and provide more of the names of those good people when the council video is posted to help with accuracy.

Brian Du Bois spoke and questioned the Council’s sworn committment to the U.S.Constitution regarding our allegedly protected personal rights and freedoms. He also questioned why the Council overlooked the fact Council member, Joe Muratore, took $62,500 illegally on a NSP2 scheme with his business partner Ryan Swehla.  Councilman Muratore returned the money and some how avoided potential charges from the U.S. Department of Urban Housing (HUD).

Homeless advocate and Mayoral and Council candidate Robert Stanford took Councilman Muratore to task calling him ‘Nazi Joe Muratore’ as was noted in Ken Carlson’s story in the Bee. He reminded everyone of Muratore’s spoken desire to raze the airport district’s homes and level the ground with heavy machinery.  Hopefully, then candidate Muratore meant after the people had been thrown out of their homes and into the streets and not before.  Muratore never made a distinction of his preferences in that regard.

Modesto’s Reality

We have a serious homeless problem but criminalizing it won’t make it go away. We need effective programs to combat homelessness and several were proposed last night.  But unfortunately the council (lead in this instance by Muratore, Cogdill, and Lopez) has its own ideas on the subject and instead of offering a helping hand up,  their plans seem to involve a right cross to the jaw followed by a kick to the groin.

What we as a society do to the least of us we do to all of us.

And we need to do better if we want to improve Modesto’s  image around the County, the State, the Country, and around the World.

No Dancing Ordinance and No Camping Ordinance – Could There be a Connection?

By Emerson Drake

Just a few short years ago the Modesto Police Department (MPD) wrote an ordinance against dancing in public  without a permit and it was so poorly written that an Officer suggested if three patrons in an eating establishment were nodding their heads or tapping their feet in time to the music it could be called dancing and the establishment closed and the owner fined.  Now the MPD is proposing a no camping ordinance supported by the Council’s own Safety and Community’s Committee which is just as misguided.

I recognize this ordinance change is an attempt to provide another tool for law enforcement in Councilman Joe Muratore’s WAR AGAINST THE HOMELESS.”  Unfortunately, just like the original “anti-dancing” ordinance, it is poorly written.  It can’t be evenly enforced without making criminals out of every child who carries a sleeping bag to a friends house for a sleepover.

The Ordinance invades our personal rights and our private property by saying we can’t allow anyone, including our children, to camp or sleep outside on our private property for two consecutive nights without buying a permit from the city manager.  It even make criminals out of visiting relatives who might sleep in an RV either in our driveways or parked in front of our homes for two nights.

According to the ordinance if you take a blanket to a city park for a picnic you can be charged with a crime. The list they refer to as paraphernalia sounds like everything a boy scout might take on a camping trip. And he or she could be criminally charged if they walked down the street carrying any of the equipment necessary for a camping trip.

I’m not exaggerating, please read the ordinance for yourselves. It is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday June 5, 2012. Here is the link to the agenda, it’s item #20:   http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=449&doctype=AGENDA 

Please email our city councilpersons and tell them to either send it back to committee to be written better or vote it down!


Is there anyone who doesn’t think we have enough laws intruding on our right to privacy and invading our personal freedoms?

Is there anyone who thinks we’ve had enough of the “nanny state”  ?

Write your emails. Make those calls,  And consider coming down to the city council Tuesday night and tell them in person enough is enough.

Because when they come for you, it’ll be too late.

Modesto Wants to Make Camping in Your Own Backyard Illegal

By Emerson Drake

I know it sounds crazy but that is what they intend to do Tuesday night at the City Council meeting.  It’s Item #20 on this weeks agenda.


If the City Council has their way, if you want to campout in your backyard with your kids for two nights you’ll have to go to City Manager Gregg Nyhoff to get a permit.  And as we all know permits are a fund-raising mechanism and as a result cost money.  Does anyone possibly believe this makes sense?

Councilman Joe Muratore of NSP2 infamy has been leading this attack on the homeless since he was elected. But now he and his cohorts are willing to punish all of Modesto’s citizens in order to “put the hammer down” on a few.

Children have been camping out in their backyards for as long as I can remember and longer. My grandsons have been occasionally camping in the backyard for years .  A sleeping bag is considered illegal by the Council’s new ordinance.

This Crazy Ordinance makes relatives visiting in RV’s illegal

The following is taken directly from the City’s website…

4-12.701. DEFINITIONS.

Unless the particular provisions or the context otherwise requires, the definitions

contained in this section shall govern the construction, meaning, and application

of words and phrases used in this Article.


“Camp” means to place, pitch or occupy camp facilities; to live

temporarily in a camp facility or outdoors; to use camp paraphernalia.


“Camp facilities” include, but are not limited to, tents, huts, vehicles,

vehicle camping outfits or temporary shelter.






“Camp paraphernalia” includes, but is not limited to, bedrolls,

tarpaulins, cots, beds, sleeping bags, hammocks or cooking facilities and

similar equipment.


“City Manager” means the City Manager or designee.


“Establish” means setting up or moving equipment, supplies or materials

on to public or private property to “camp” or operate camp facilities.


“Maintain” means keeping or permitting equipment, supplies or materials

to remain on public or private property in order to camp or operate camp



“Operate” means participating or assisting in establishing or maintaining

a camp or camp facility.


“Park” means the same as defined in Modesto Municipal Code Section



“Private property” means all private property including, but not limited

to, streets, sidewalk, alleys, and improved or unimproved land.


“Public property” means all public property including, but not limited to,

streets, sidewalks, alleys, improved or unimproved land and parks.


“Store” means to put aside or accumulate for use when needed, to put for

safekeeping, to place or leave in a location.


It is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to camp, occupy camp

facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:

(a) Any public property; or

(b) Any private property.

(1) It is not intended by this section to prohibit overnight camping on

private residential property by friends or family of the property

owner, so long as the owner consents and the overnight camping is

limited to not more than one consecutive night.





(2) Nothing in this Article is intended to prohibit or make unlawful,

activities of an owner of private property or other lawful user of

private property that are normally associated with and incidental to

the lawful and authorized use of private property for residential or

other purposes; and provided further, nothing is intended to

prohibit or make unlawful, activities of a property owner or other

lawful user if such activities are expressly authorized by the City’s

comprehensive zoning ordinance or other laws, ordinances and


(3) The City Manager may, as provided in Section 4-12.705 of this

Article, issue a temporary permit to allow camping on public or

private property in connection with a special event.

A violation of this section is a misdemeanor. In addition to the remedies set forth

in Penal Code Section 370, the City Attorney may institute civil or administrative

actions to abate a public nuisance under this Article.



It is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to store personal property,

including camp paraphernalia, in the following areas, except as otherwise

provided by resolution of the City Council:

(a) Any public property; or

(b) Any private property without the written consent of the owner.

A violation of this section is a misdemeanor. In addition to the remedies set forth

in Penal Code Section 370 the City Attorney may institute civil or administrative

actions to abate a public nuisance under this Article.


The City Manager may, in his or her discretion, issue a permit to establish,

maintain and operate a camp or a camp facility in connection with a special event.

A special event is intended to include, but not be limited to, programs operated by

the City departments, youth or school events, marathons or other sporting events

and scouting activities. The City Manager may consult with various City

departments, the health officer and the public prior to issuing any temporary

permit. Each department or person consulted may provide comments regarding

any health, safety or public welfare concerns and provide recommendations

pertaining to the issuance, denial or conditioning of the permit. A reasonable fee,

to be set by the City Council shall be paid, in advance, by the applicant. The fee

shall be returned if the application is denied. In exercising his or her discretion to

issue a temporary permit, the City Manager may consider any facts or evidence

bearing on the sanitary, health, safety and welfare conditions on or surrounding

the area or tract of land upon which the proposed temporary camp or camp facility

is to be located. 

 Did you catch the reasonable fee line?

In Other Words It’s up to the City Manager if Relatives can Visit Legally..!

Modesto is out of control and it’s up to the citizens to take control back.

I understand we have a problem with some of our homeless population but if they intend on punishing all of us to place handcuffs on a few, well they have another think coming.

I’ll be at the city council meeting with a sleeping bag to protest this intrusive law which attempts to place unconstitutional limits on what we can do on our private property.

I hope to see you there.

“What they do to the least of us they do to all of us and this is a perfect example.”

Post Navigation