Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Ryan Swehla”

Should Modesto’s General Fund be Used For Monopoly Money?

By Emerson Drake  

The Modesto City Council wants to buy an entire city block downtown for $3.1 Million dollars. We don’t have money for more police officers, fire equipment, maintaining our city tree program, or proper care for our homeless population BUT we can afford to buy a block of downtown property?
The Northern and Southern boundaries are F and E Streets and the East and West by 10th and 9th. Now the city isn’t going to play landlord so they’ll probably hire Benchmark for property management.
It’s just another game of insider monopoly. The local NAI Benchmark is managed by, yes you guesses it, Ryan Swehla and Joe Muratore of Modesto’s infamous NSP2 program where Joe had to payback $58,000 or be charged with a felony.
Of course it’s being powered by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s developer connection.
We can’t help but point out Councilman Mani Grewal, best known for renting to massage parlors involved in prostitution and having his property used for a raucous  car sideshow in Wood Colony, is campaigning hard for this idea to be accepted.  According to those we’ve spoken to, Bill ‘the broker’ Zoslocki is pushing for approval also but couldn’t be reached in time for comment.
We think Modesto has better places to spend $3.1M  don’t you?
A special workshop, today, before the meeting?  What’s the rush?

AGENDA

City of Modesto

 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
Chambers, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday September 05, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

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City Council Theatrics, a Glimpse behind the Curtain

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

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

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

Is this all about sales commissions?

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

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

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

White makes the perfect Frontman

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

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

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

The sale hasn’t gone through

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

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

On-Going Scandal in Modesto

By Emerson Drake

City Manager Gregg Nyhoff perpetuated the myth of “everything is fine” down at city hall at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.  The bobble heads were nodding in agreement that city workers overseeing the NSP2 funds are stretched too thin, rather than acknowledging pressure from local power brokers was responsible.  When you listen to members of the Commonwealth Group explain it away, it almost sounds plausible until you consider the web of intrigue that surrounds the scandal.

From city councilmen and their business partners scheming their way through the NSP2 maze of paperwork and guidelines, to newspaper publishers relatives being waist deep in the mire.

While the SCAP controversy abused everyone’s sense of reason, the NSP2 controversy exposed the raw naked greed of a city councilman who can’t use city attorney Susan Alcala Wood as a shield this time.

The premise that a city official can’t profit from NSP2 funds or HUD money isn’t obscure, not in the least.  It’s one of the first things you learn.

But when the money Ryan Swehla and Scott Monday funneled to Benchmark Realty (a company Swehla owns with Joe Muratore) first came to light, it was eclipsed by the SCAP scandal.

Needless to say, despite Mark Vasche’s claim of distancing himself from the reporting on this, it can’t be easy to be a reporter writing about Vasche’s son-in-law (Scott Monday).

Commonwealth members continue to support Councilman Muratore despite his being caught with his fingers in the till.  After all, his being on the council, adds unspoken pressure on city employees (unspoken by Muratore), while his partner doesn’t hesitate to play the “do you know who my partner is” card to anyone unaware of the affiliation.

Even most of the city council has remained silent on whether or not Muratore should resign his seat.

You can’t expect any pressure from his council district, considering that Mike Moradian has been inspecting all of the homes being “processed” by the conjoined triumvirate.

How can citizens ofModestoexpect to be treated with respect and honesty while the Bee management is shielding Muratore and his cohorts.

To be bluntly spoken, we can’t.  People need to express their dissatisfaction and outrage to the City Council and everyone they meet. 

We need to say the iconoclast, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
― Margaret Mead

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