Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Paul Campbell”

Modesto Irrigation District Wastes $75,000 on Outsourcing

By Emerson Drake   

Among today’s action items on MID’s agenda was one to hire third party administration of their basic retirement plan. So in layman’s speak they intend to outsource the insurance part of the retirement plan.  MID has had two positions designated for handling questions and assisting retirees but for two years now only one has been filled.  I wanted to provide the two-step song and dance given to the Board by the Human Resources head but the video isn’t up yet.  I was so captivated with the jargon used I wanted to share it but that will have to come later.

Suffice to say the head of H.R was unwilling to commit to doing away with a position they haven’t needed in two years because it might become necessary AFTER they outsource the majority of the positions duties.  Interestingly enough only Director John Messinger agreed that MID wasn’t saving money but spending an extra $75,000.

When John asked if Human Resources was going to come back before the Board to request the unused position  be filled concerns were voiced by other Board members that the Board had never micro-managed the staff before and they shouldn’t start now.

So lets summarize the issue.  They have two positions designated to perform the job tasks and one of them has been vacant for two years.  They intend to out-source the majority of the job for $75,000 a year yet aren’t willing to give up the unused position.

Believe it or not the final vote was 4-1 (Mensinger being the one “no” vote) to spend the extra money and to leave the position available to be filled without oversight.

At today’s meeting being fiscally responsible wasn’t what you would call their long suit.

 

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MID’s Fun With Numbers

By Emerson Drake    MIDpic

The Tuesday meeting of the Modesto Irrigation District Board was another head shaker.  The topic of our interest was the 2016 rate workshop which was conducted by MID’s Planning, Pricing and Risk Manage,r Jimi Nitniss.  Now Jimi, whose compensation package comes to around $195,000 a year, has questionable goals and apparently has way too much time on his hands.

How Do You Lower Rates and Remain Revenue Neutral?

If you take a look at your bill you’ll notice a fixed monthly charge of $12.50, an environmental adjustment and a capital adjustment. And of course the really bad news, your electric usage.  But MID Staff has a way for you to lower your electric rates but at the same time pay the same amount for the first 500 kWh.  Huh?  That’s right some might call it smoke and mirrors but MID says it’s all the rage with other utilities.  MID_2016_Residential_Rate_Design

“This Will Make the District Look Like Heroes”  PaulCampbell

That’s a direct quote from MID Director Paul Campbell at Tuesday’s workshop.  See it isn’t about making things better,  it’s about making them appear better.  Staff wants to raise your fixed fee from $12.50 to $20.00 and charge less for the first 500 kWh.  So the cost is a wash or revenue neutral. BUT  MID gets to say they have the lowest residential rates around.  So how does this help us?  It doesn’t.  It’s all public relations. The electric rate remains the same for everything  more than the first 500 kWh  used, .18 per kWh.  Lots of fanfare with little or no effect.

The Driving Force Behind the Change

Jimi says since Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD), and Roseville all do it it must be a good idea.  The idea is to have fixed cost on your bill to more accurately cover MID’s fixed cost.  But it still doesn’t cover it all of the fixed costs, all it really does is pretend to lower your bill, which of course it doesn’t do. To our mind it’s like a placebo for electric ratepayers.  And at the end of the day you still have the headache.

Our suggestion

Most people don’t realize just how much the residential ratepayer subsidizes industry in Modesto.  Right now you’re (residential) paying .16 per kWh in the summer and .13 per kWh in the winter.   Large industrial  businesses around Modesto are paying as little as .05 per kWh summer and .03 Per kWh winter rates.  Do you know that .03 is cheaper than the cheapest power MID buys (Don Pedro hydro is almost .04) but hey as long as homes are paying .16 and .13 who cares?  If MID wants to emulate Roseville and SMUD and virtually ALL of the utilities in the Bay area they will bring industrial and residential closer in line.  For these bay area companies don’t use they residential rates to subsidize their industrial base like we do.  And if you’re curious farmers and ranchers  are paying  .10 per Kwh summer and winter.  Forget the water subsidy, open your eyes to the electric subsidy.

If you would like to watch the workshop you can see the magical effect of the rate adjustment on the MID Board.  There will be a public hearing in November, so stay tuned.

MID Staffs’ Secret is Bill Lyons’ Cash Windfall

By Emerson Drake   MIDpic

Ahhh secrets, several years ago they were the meat and potatoes of MID’s existence. Why respond to public record requests if you don’t have to? Most recently we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of MID’s farmer to farmer water transfer program and the Return Allocation Program by requesting the names of those selling water and the amounts.  Unfortunately time and time again we’ve been refused access to these records of a public resource.  When MID’s staff announced they were going to hold private meetings with those same farmers who participated in last years programs we adamantly  argued against such secrecy.  Unfortunately the Board remained silent.  When we threatened to go public staff relented by saying they were going to contact all irrigators. But you and I know who they are going to listen to, all you have top do is follow the money.  When Directors John Mensinger and Paul Campbell originally started pushing hard for these programs you had to wonder why.  After all these two Directors, who publicly call themselves the “City Boys,”  were promoting a ‘farmer to farmer’  program which, of the actual farmers on the Board, two weren’t supporting and one was just willing to listen and eventually supported.  The self-proclaimed “city boys” seemed out of their bailiwick.   After all Campbell and Mensinger spend much of their time attacking the water irrigation price structure.  But maybe there was a reason.

Two $5,000 Campaign Donations

The two largest campaign donations by far came from Bill Lyons to these two men (Mensinger and Campbell).  But why would Bill Lyons decide it was to his benefit to have his political puppets push so hard to pass the Farmer to Farmer Transfer Program?  In a Garth Stapley article of 4/22/14,  Mr. Lyons claimed he was responsible for 54% of the 1,060 acre feet of water in the Return Allocation Program, which in the end delivered a check to Mr. Lyons of at least $ 302,400 and likely more. Unfortunately MID has decided to keep the actual amount and recipients a secret from the very public that own the company.  But his big killing, monetarily, was in the Farmer to Farmer  Transfers. Irrigation_Operations_Report

Lyons Sweetheart Deal

Unbeknownst to most of the public Bill Lyons and Mapes Ranch negotiated the rights to pump for FREE any water that comes down  MID’s canal that cuts through his property going to the river. His is the only entity with the ability to steal this public resource.  Maybe this was one of the reasons he and his then puppets, Tom VanGroningen and Glen Wild, were pushing the water sale to San Francisco.  Maybe Bill Lyons envisioned acting as a toll booth collector for any water MID might attempt to sell down the river.  At the January 22 meeting MID General Manager Roger Van Hoy characterized the MID meeting where the Lyons sweetheart deal was passed, as open and public. This meeting was before Roger’s employment with MID and according to Former MID Director and Board President when the deal was passed, John Kidd is asked about MID meetings back then he likes to say, if there were three members of the public at a meeting then word must have gotten out that someone was bringing donuts.

lyonsmapescomtract

The crux of the issue:  Stealing Water From the River

Bill Lyons has the ability to sell water allocated to his land and then replace it FREE from the canal or to use his many large industrial sized pumps located along the river to supplant his ‘sold’ water.  At least in OID’s proposed ‘fallowing’ program they don’t allow the farmer to replace the water by pumping ground water.  Most hydrologists agree that using large industrial pumps located close to a river reduces a river’s flow by increasing river bottom seepage.  And obviously taking water from MID’s canal before it gets to the river reduces flow to the fish and the delta thereby increasing salinity in farmland down stream.

Directors Mensinger and Campbell’s Decision Unethical and Immoral JohnMensinger PaulCampbell

In City of Modesto politics taking this kind of campaign donation would require the precipitant to recuse themselves or step back from the discussion and decision. MID has no campaign limits effecting this discussion. We’ve requested for MID to have this discussion several times but have been ignored, which of course sets up this dilemma.  As we’ve pointed out this has been an issue for years. VanGroningen, Wild and Warda received money ($5,000 – Lyons seems to find this to be the required amount to purchase MID Directors) from Lyons and were behind the attempted water sale.  Fortunately for all of Stanislaus County, Paul Warda changed his mind.  Don’t let anyone fool you. Director Warda’s change of heart was the one and only reason the water sale didn’t go through.  So Bill Lyons can be defeated, but not easily.  Remember he managed to get MID to spend $248,000 on convincing the public the water sale was a good thing and currently is one of the main movers and shakers behind Modesto’s attempt to annex Wood Colony and Salida.

Secrecy and Openness

In the ‘Farmer to Farmer’ program, 3,300 acre feet were passed, transferred at  unknown prices by unknown people, but handled by MID staff at a significant cost of staff (both office and field) time.  In the Return Allocation Program we cut checks of approx. $540,000 to people whose  names we aren’t allowed to know.  As a side note we/MID were stuck with $328,000 worth of unsold water costs. They want us to take it on trust that all was investigated and is on the up and up.  We, with what we believe is good reason, don’t trust staff.

To be fair Director Byrd did request staff to reconsider but the Board’s attorney response was “That is how we handled it in the past.”   There is no legal requirement and Public Record Requests show the Board didn’t vote for secrecy on this issue.   We’ve seen how MID staff’s past practices actually work against the ratepayers best interest.  Why would we expect things to be different/better if we keep following past procedures and dong them the same way?

Here is MID’s Public Record Response when asked for the people who participated in the buying and selling of our most public of resources, our water.   farmertofarmerPPRandredactedresponse

Trust MID’s Staff?  Not me, how about you?

 

Going, Going, Gone, Our Water is Being Auctioned Off Thanks to the MID

By Emerson DrakeMIDpic

All farmers who irrigated their crops last year using MID are allotted a minimum 18 inches this year, not enough to bring a crop to the market place.  MID has set a bounty on the water of Four Hundred Dollars per acre for not using the water and returning the water to MID for distribution to all farmers that apply using a random drawing.  The reality is they set a base price for the upcoming private water auction for this year.

If the rate increase of 10% goes through the cost will be $32.50 for the base allocation of 18″  plus a ‘Drought Surcharge” of $11.91 which equals $44.14 per acre.  MID is offering to give irrigators  $400.00 per acre for their base of 18″ or $267 per acre foot if they don’t use the water and leave it with MID.  A nice incentive to return something they haven’t received or paid for.

It Gets Better:  Our self described city boys, yes John Mensinger used/coined the term referring to himself and Paul Campbell threw in a wild card.  He made his point by saying, “they mostly represented people living in Modesto.”  Their argument was that a farmer should be allowed to sell their water to anyone they wanted and not just to family as has been MID’s past practice for transferring water delivery rights.   And by pushing the $400 incentive they created a ‘base’ price for MID water.

But The Water Isn’t Theirs:  See the rub is the water is MID’s water and MID is owned by its ratepayers meaning you and me.   So the two city boys along with Nick Blom, who reversed his earlier position, voted to place MID’s water up for auction to the highest bidder.  Remember, this is water they haven’t paid for, don’t own, yet windfall profits are going to be allowed?  What did these three eat for breakfast?

Mensinger and Campbell have been complaining about subsidies by the electric side: With all of the preaching that has been going on about subsidies you would have thought they would have suggested that MID hold an auction for any surplus water and then use the profit to support its  budget instead of allowing a few special interest farmers to line their pockets using our water, which they won’t have to pay for until they receive their bill November.

We all understand the Modesto Chamber of Commerce donated $2,000 and Bill Lyons even more to each of the ‘city boys’ and that the Chamber is  famous for using public money to help their ‘friends’ and they do expect a return on their money, but I would have hoped they would have refrained from passing out the largess for a couple of months more.

The sellers are guaranteed a MINIMUM profit of $355.59 per acre.  And who knows where that will end up after the unofficial auction.

The bottom line is:  We’re fronting them the water for at least six months at no money down or interest fees to allow them to find the highest bidder on our water for them to make the profit on?   And this is  the business acumen the two city boys bring to the MID Board?   Just how did this help the 113,000 electric account holders?   How did this help the small farmer who is barely making it bring his crop to harvest.   How did this help us?

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake… Friday at Noon

Topics include the ethics of Modesto’s Politicians,  the evil cabal behind

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the Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate,  will the County’s water proposal really make a difference, Mike Hardin’s Measure X claims and the missing truth, these topics and more so tune in and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Friday at Noon.

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To listen live or from our archive: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/11/01/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Tonight’s topics include our new expanded schedule,  the latest goings on at MID with the

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disastrous  Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate, MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s latest antics, the Modesto City Council and lobbyist Cecil Russell, behind the scenes of 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 archives http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/10/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

Lessons Learned at LCR’s MID Candidate Forum

By Emerson Drake

The Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) conducted a flawless MID candidate  forum for the public Monday night. They

Lyons

adhered to their rules which include: only those with paid memberships can vote, those with both personal and business memberships can vote twice, and it’s allowable to come prior to the forum and place your votes and leave before the forum starts.  About 50 people were present if you include the eight candidates.  I was present as the votes were counted and the process went off without a hitch as has been my experience with LCR. The eight candidates all responded to the questions put to them to the best of their ability.  Quite honestly there was a wide discrepancy in their ability and afterward I wondered if those voting were at the same forum I was, but that is just my personal opinion.  All in all It was a fair democratic process.

And now the vote totals:

MID District 2           John Mensinger 23              Carmen Sabatino 3

MID District 3        Paul Campbell 18        Les Johnson 7

MID District 4        Jim Mortensen 15          Jake Wenger 9          Ted Donham 1       Brad Johnson 0

What I learned at the Forum

As an observer and participant of the political process I’ve been aware of a slate of candidates being run by Bill Lyons.  In recent MID elections Mr. Lyons has supported the majority of candidates to the tune of $5,000 each.  Unfortunately he supported the candidates who, in turn, supported former General Manager Allen Short.  Short consistently made some of the worst decisions possible costing MID ratepayers millions of dollars.  He was also behind the creation of the slush fund where the MID Board funneled $249,000  through Martino Graphics to a variety of lobbyists.  The man receiving the most money was a political consultant named Mike Lynch.  Would it surprise anyone  to learn Mr. Lynch is the major consultant behind Lyons candidate slate?  With Mike Lynch having the MID money pie all over his face it’s understandable for Bill Lyons to bring in someone unconnected with the Martino Graphics fiasco to be the slate’s (Mortensen, Mensinger, and Campbell) public consultant.

The high profile political consultant is Chip Langman of Langman Consulting.  In a conversation with Mr. Langman he stated he was representing and being paid by candidates Mensinger and Campbell and denied being part of the Mortensen campaign. I suppose when campaign consultants are talking with those who might write about the conversation it’s understandable that being forthcoming (honest) might not be first on their agenda and unfortunately this was the case with Mr. Langman.  Jim Mortensen had previously let it slip, that while he didn’t have a contract with Langman Consulting directly, his major benefactor, Bill Lyons did and it was on his behalf along with that of the other two candidates.

Both John Mensinger and Paul Campbell seem to be nice men in their own right.  This is part of the Bill Lyons technique (modus operandi seemed a little too fancy, but applicable). Lyons likes to bring in respectable businessmen that have little or no experience to run for MID like Glen Wild.  Their main value?  To vote as they are told.  They have little to no experience with MID’s water and electrical issues seeing that Mensinger just started coming to meetings recently and Campbell might not have even located the  the MID Board room more than once.  In the past both men have made public statements regarding the need to sell our water to San Francisco.

Jim Mortensen is a horse of a different color. He came to the podium during the water sale talks and was adamant about wanting MID to sell water on a long term basis to San Francisco.  And he stuck to his opinion when all of the details of the reprehensible contract came to light.  To make a mistake and be wrong and then change your mind is one thing, but to continue on the road to ruin is another.  He continues to say we need to monetize our water.  Just a week ago Mortensen came out publicly for the Board Governance policy which restricts the elected Directors access to the very information necessary to make informed decisions, thereby forcing them to rely solely on staff opinions without being able evaluate the facts for themselves.  This rule made it easier for Allen Short to bamboozle the Board into terrible costly decisions, decisions we ratepayers are still paying for (if you have any doubt check your electric bills).  Mortensen had pledged he would NOT use the Water Advisory Board as a jumping off point to run for office but he did.   Mortensen’s track record tell us he either lies to his advantage or makes terrible decisions and refuses to correct them.

Please understand Bill Lyons has been behind the proposed MID water sale to San Francisco all along. He doesn’t care if we run out of water since his property is along the river and he knows his 11 deep wells will bring him a fortune if the water runs out and everyone become desperate.  In my opinion he wants to assist in our destruction so he can make a fortune.  He can’t dam the water up so he wants to facilitate the sale of it out from underneath us. Even during droughts San Francisco was going to get their water first and MID, you and I, were going to get the leftovers.

Also know this isn’t Lyons first rodeo.  Four years ago Lyons personally supported Glen Wild’s and Paul Warda’s campaigns to the tune of $5,000 each and had his cronies do the same for Tom VanGroningen. Team Lyons has pledged to raise $60,000 for Mortensen’s campaign. In the past  he supported John Kidd and Cecil Hendsley’s campaigns too.   Lyons likes to play behind the scenes and stack the deck with jokers.  Please know several people who helped to recruit Mensinger, Campbell and Mortensen  were directly involved with MID in the last few years.  These include Janice Keating through the Martino Graphics slush fund and George Petrulakis who was paid $28,000 to facilitate ONE meeting between MID and the City of Modesto.  It isn’t a stretch to suggest this money, Keating’s and Petrulakis’,  were down payments for services ‘to be rendered.’

We have many good candidates to choose from running for the Modesto Irrigation District and no offense to anyone, but none will be endorsed by the Latino Community Roundtable.  Now you know the Bill Lyons and MID back story.  Tell your friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  The only way we can save our drinking water and keep our electric bills down is to make sure the Lyon’s slate of candidates doesn’t get into office.

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

 

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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?

MID Part 2 GM Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy Has Some Explaining to Do

By Emerson Drake

When MID General Manager Roger VanHoy was asked during the last MID meeting if ‘the Serpa Rule’ was included in the Governance policy the Board

English: Flag of San Francisco Español: Bander...

was getting ready to vote on,  he looked down at the dais and acted as if he was going  to write something and made no comment.  And as I pointed out in the last article the Serpa Rule was indeed part of the Governance plan (BL-4 to be exact).

BL-4 states: (B) In the case of Board members or committees with MID employees or contractors requesting information or assistance without Board authorization, the General Manager or the General Council MUST refuse such requests that require, in their opinion, a material amount of staff time, or funds, or are disruptive.  

Previously GM Allen Short had declared that conducting a salary survey was disruptive to morale and that potentially (the project didn’t have to be started) using more than 15 minutes of staff time was cause for not supplying the requested information.

Well I wasn’t the only person he bamboozled.   Apparently he had assured more than one member of the Board the Serpa Rule wasn’t included there either.  Sadly he mislead several of the Directors who voted him his permanent position as General Manager just last week. The honeymoon is over for ‘the Dodger’ after he stepped on his own…tail.  Looks like the Board and the public are going to have a trust issues with Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy in the future, and rightly so.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Serpa Rule gets removed from the Governance policy before the elections.

The two men who pushed hard to get the Governance policy in front of the Board as an action item (Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild) are going around ‘campaigning’ for a few of the candidates saying, that like themselves the candidates believe our water should be sold to San Francisco on a long term basis and that we need to institute the Governance policy immediately.

The three candidates we should avoid like the plague are John Mensinger,  Jim Mortensen, and Paul Campbell.  We can NOT afford to for these men to get into office. Their irresponsible desire to send water out of our county to San Francisco on a first serve basis utilizing a long term (30 year) contract is shortsighted and foolish.

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