Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “San Francisco”

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.

No Water Sale- No Amount…Comments Delivered by a Concerned Citizen

The following was spoken, and a copy presented for the record to the Modesto Irrigation District and the Modesto City

Forecast San Francisco Study #2

Forecast San Francisco Study #2 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

Council on July 9, 2013.  It followed a piece by the Modesto Bee Editorial staff which chided MID for not completing the water sale to San Francisco.

The main topic at the Modesto Council meeting that night was the decision to allow Fitzpatrick Homes to built a new subdivision consisting of 533 homes/apartments and whether or not Modesto had enough water for the addition.


By Joan Rutschow

According to MID’s Proposed Contract any water sale by MID to San Francisco will:

*Be permanent.  It WILL forfeit MID water rights.

*It is not a “drop in the bucket”.  It is for all our water.  San Francisco gains “first right of refusal” for all of our water.

*Will breach an existing contract for drinking water with the City of Modesto.  Modesto will sue MID for Breach of Contract.  MID will possibly incure $1,000,000 per year in litigation costs, thus wiping out the income from the first 2,240 acre foot sale.

*Will sell water MID does not have to sell.  From MID’s own data they are currently over contracted by 88,000 acre feet.  That is nearly 3 times the size of the Modesto Reservoir.

*How can there be any water to sell if the City of Modesto has been on rationing for 10 years?

*San Francisco will get their water no matter what the availability is.  If there is a drought, like right now, San Francisco will always get their water first.

*Will generate $19 million to MID for unfunded pension liabilities.  Not a dime will be spent on infrastructure.  Read the contract on MID’s website.  Exhabit D.  http://www.mid.org/about/newswroom/projects/watertransfer/documents/MIDwatertransfer2012.pdf

*Will COST MODESTO $200,000,000 PER YEAR in lost community revenue.

*Violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In doing so, this will precipitate numerous lawsuits.  It will make San Francisco the “lead agency” on our water forever.

*San Francisco DOES NOT NEED THE WATER.  They are currently over produced by 29%.  They forecast not needing additional water until the year 2035.

By Joan Rutschow



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


Blogtalk (Photo credit: onitz)

Tonight’s discussions include the MPD’s response to a 14-year-old girl getting beat up and a video made at Enochs High school,  last nights Salida MAC meeting including an update on the annexation, MID cover-up of $21,000 in “special spending”, A quick look at the local Bail Bond Industry, missed opportunity regarding the veteran’s jobs bill.  This and more, so make a difference by participating in the democratic process and let your voice be heard.

7:00 PM Wednesday on Blogtalk or 104.9 FM Salida/Modesto

Our call in number is 1-347-215-9414


Some of the topics discussed will reference articles on http://EyeOnModesto.com/

MID Board Votes 5-0 to Kill Water Sale With San Francisco

Seal of the City of San Francisco for fair use...

Seal of the City of San Francisco for fair use to illustrate the article about San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

After emerging from closed session Board President Tom Van Groningen made the following announcement.

Based on information received from the City and County of San Francisco, the MID Board of Directors directed staff and General Counsel to discontinue further negotiations regarding the proposed sale of water to the City and County of San Francisco.

We’ve filed a Public Information Request for SFPUC’s letter to MID but apparently they refused MID’s request to change the contract’s language regarding the right of first refusal and being first to receive the contracted amount during a drought.

I’ll write in more detail regarding today’s meeting later. 

Congratulations for all of those who stood their ground and fought against the proposed sale.  Well Done.

Does the Public Have the Right to Know? MAYBE Says the Bee

By Emerson Drake

On July 31, 2012 the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (SCFB) sent a letter to each member of the Modesto Irrigation District Board of Directors and a copy to the Modesto Bee.  In the letter they outline their concerns regarding the potential water sale to the San Francisco Public Utility District. The letter was extremely detailed, citing multiple California Environmental Quality Act (CEQUA) concerns, using exact numbers from MID reports and was cross referenced with the corresponding dates the numbers were published by the district.

Many of these concerns have been voiced by the public but never have they been documented to the extent of the letter.  The Bee has refused to acknowledge even the receipt of the letter in print let alone publish it.

The media, or fourth estate, is important to an informed electorate but unfortunately sometimes some people feel it’s in their best interest to limit or shape public opinion by withholding important facts from the ongoing discourse.  By limiting access to all sides of an argument they strive to control opposition to what ever view they are trying to propagate. 

This isn’t about just disagreeing with their point of view,  it’s about  listening to all sides of a discussion and THEN deciding what is the best course of action.

Editors, especially Opinion Page Editors, like to be invited to the best soirees and have their “opinion” sought out by local movers and shakers. After all, how could their friends possibly be wrong?  We just emerged from an extended period of being under the overbearing Mark Vasche, where politicians he didn’t like were attacked in print regardless of the good they were trying to accomplish.  When it comes to MID, Mike Serpa comes to mind. Or like reporter John Holland has found,  it’s easier to write stories when you can receive phone calls from those involved and their PR people and not even have to attend meetings.

The Bee’s refusal to publicize the letters from the Farm Bureau was first broken by Eric Caine at www.Thevalleycitizen.com and since this time several attempts have been made by many of us to get the Bee to discuss the letters for the record.  Unfortunately, to this point our efforts have failed.

The original cover letter is here. This is followed by a short  overview  here and the entire  SCFB critique is here.

Fortunately, here in Modesto we have several alternatives to enlighten readers who are concerned about the whole picture and not just what the Bee and a few of their friends think is good for you to know.

Joan Rutschow Addressing The MID Board of Directors


Contracts (Photo credit: NobMouse)

By Joan Rutschow of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association

Good morning, MID Board and ratepayers and voters.  I would like to address the water contract.

The water sale contract puts San Francisco in 1st position ahead of Modesto residents and farmers.

MID would have no “out” on the contract for 50 years unless San Francisco defaults.  San Francisco can terminate the deal in any year by deciding not to allocate funds.  Very simply, the contract ties up our water for 50 years, giving San Francisco priority over Modesto.  San Francisco would be entitled to the full contract amount even if MID cuts deliveries to Modesto and our farmers due to drought or any other unforseen reason. 

Bee Article (6-16-12), “San Francisco cannot agree to a water sale contract that gives preference to Modesto!”  MID is agreeing to sell water we might not have!  Suggesting that we have excess water to sell, MID management has increased the risks that we will face onerous bypass flow regulations under our new FERC license and jeopardize our ability to meet local needs.  San Francisco understands this and can terminate the agreement if they cannot live with the bypass requirements.  There is no similar right to terminate by MID!!!  MID will be solely responsible for all costs, compliance with all laws, agreements with all third parties.  The agreement shifts all risk, liability and compliance with laws onto the MID ratepayer.  This entire contract stinks to high heaven! 

Question – what caused this gigantic mess?  A long list of poor policies and poor decisions by management and directors!  Let me count the ways:

1.  $1.3 billion debt (Editorial in  Modesto Bee, 6-6-12 – Ed Bearden)

2.  Phase 2 treatment plant failures

3.  Significant deterioration of MID’s balance sheet during past ten years (Editorial in Modesto Bee, 5-17-12, Jeff Burda –  unfunded pension obligations of $60 million (2010), unfunded health care obligations – $66 million)

4.  Unprecedented increase in electric rates, reversing our competitive advantage for job creation

5.  Recent settlement of the biomass lawsuit for $1.2 million

MID management has put the rate payers and farmers into a deep financial hole.  Unfortunately, MID is willing to sacrifice our economic lives for its immediate financial needs.

Selling our water is NOT a good idea.  It is a disaster.  It violates Modesto’s contract with MID from 2005 to supply Modesto with 30 – 36 million gallons per day of treated Tuolumne River water.  MID is trying to break that contract.

Yes to food, yes to jobs, yes to life, because water = food = jobs = life itself.

NO to selling our precious resource (our water) to San Francisco!

Reed Smith’s Thoughts about the Sen. Feinstein Letter

English: Dianne Feinstein http://bioguide.cong...

English: Dianne Feinstein http://bioguide.congress.gov/bioguide/photo/F/F000062.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 28, 2011

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

United States Senate

Re: Water Transfer Discussions

Thank you for taking the time to meet with the group from Modesto Irrigation District and City and County of San Francisco. It was a pleasure to talk with you and we appreciate the opportunity to brief you on our discussions regarding a potential water transfer. I especially enjoyed viewing your wonderful painting of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Thank you for that treat and for the signed photograph to commemorate our visit.

[ CODE for we will help tear down Hetch Hetchy and return it to a granite valley. ]

As we discussed, MID and San Francisco have developed some key points for a potential sale of Tuolumne River water that San Francisco could take through its existing Hetch Hetchy pipeline facilities, . . .

 [ NOT conserved water, Water not controlled by the CA WRCB ]

with the revenue for MID being used to finance necessary irrigation distribution infrastructure improvements . . .

[ NOT True.  Short told everybody, including YOU that it would be used for current obligations.  Now we know that his proposed 34% salary and retirement SPIKE are to be paid out if the water sale.]

 . . . that also would achieve system and water use efficiencies to produce sufficient water to serve San Francisco.

[ Here is the most disgusting statement in the document.  Allen Short works for the SFPUC, but MID rate payers foot the bill. ]

MID conducted a series of public outreach meetings . . .


[ These were not designed to inform the public, they were to get the public to disclose their objections to what a stupid irrational idea this was and have the public tell Short what he needs to tell the rest of the public to con them. ]

. . . to provide information about the discussions with San Francisco, and to solicit as wide a variety of opinions and comments as possible.

[ What we find is the Allen Short has spent $640,000 paid by MID to Martino Associates, who pays Mike Lynch, who pays Rubin Villalobos, who pays other people to write OpEd’s for the Bee, or come to the microphone to promote this water sale.  The ONLY farmers who have supported this sale are Bill Lyons, Jr., Billy Lyons, Bob Ott, and his son, and one poor destitute share-crop farmer that farms 1,000 acres of Bill Lyons Jr.’s Mapes Ranch with free water. This is a mater of public record. ]

Attached are the final presentation materials used in those meetings.

[ I do not find the materials where Short claims he has bribed Senator Feinstein to personally interfere in the FERC relicensing of Don Pedro.  We intend to find out what specific contractual activities she agreed to do for 30,000 Acre Feet of out pre-1914 water rights? ]

The meetings were very well attended. The key issues raised, as anticipated, were protecting MID water rights, making certain its customers, including the City of Modesto, are served during dry periods, and ensuring there would be no significant impact to the River or the environment.

[ MID has completely failed to account for where the water to accomplish the needs.  There are NO ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP allocations in any of the pie charts.  What we do find is 40,000 AF given to Bill Lyons, Jr. FOR FREE. ]

We have developed a set of “frequently asked questions” and responses, which is also attached for your information.

[ Why were these FAQs full if fraudulent statements?  The MID Board has done nothing to provide truthful facts. ]

The next steps would be to complete negotiations with San Francisco and present the deal points to MID’s Board of Directors to consider initiating a small 2,200 acre foot transfer as well as a new environmental review process for a subsequent larger water transfer up to 25,000 acre-feet. We will certainly keep you apprised of any developments.

[These amounts are co-joined.  This is one deal, because the SFPUC has first right of refusal on ALL THE REST. ]

As always, if you have any questions or if we can provide additional background, please contact my office.

Allen Short General Manager

Copy: Michael Carlin

Saving Money and a River

English: Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River, Yose...

English: Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park, California, July 2008; photo by self, GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Peter Drekmeier

Do you know where your water comes from? If you’re reading this, chances are most of it originates in the “wild and scenic” Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park. That’s where the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir stores snowmelt from the High Sierra for use throughout much of the Bay Area. San Mateo County receives about 85 percent of its water from the Tuolumne.

Paying $1.5 million per year for water we no longer need makes no sense and would further outrage ratepayers. Fortunately, there’s still time for our elected representatives to choose a different path. Do you know where your city councilmembers stand on this issue? Are they even aware it’s being considered?

Please contact your elected representatives and encourage them to stand up for you as a ratepayer. You can express your concerns to the SFPUC by visiting http://tinyurl.com/StopTheTransfer

For the entire article go to  http://www.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=1751322&title=OP-ED: Saving Money and a River

Peter Drekmeier
Bay Area Program Director
Tuolumne River Trust
111 New Montgomery, #205
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 882-7252 x 302

Muratore Stabs Constituents in the Back

 By Emerson Drake

When MID’s General Manager Allen Short and attorney Tim O’Laughlin made their water presentation to the Modesto City Council, they deliberately misled them regarding the reliability of Modesto’s water supply from MID.  This was acknowledged by the Council when they finally had the opportunity to read the proposed contract with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission , also know as the SFPUC.  O’laughlin had the audacity to stand  in front of the Council and claim the contract would protect Modesto and keep Modesto first when it came time to divvy up available water.

Obviously that was just a lie.

When the council first voted in closed session it was 5-2 for exploring a lawsuit against MID for violating a  2005 contract. But before it became public the Council took another vote which made it a unanimous 7-0 vote.  Councilman Lopez spoke about this in open session. The two votes against were Mayor Marsh and Councilman Lopez.

 Councilman Muratore Betrays Modesto and Changes His Mind

Unfortunately MID Director Tom Van Groningen has since somehow  “persuaded” Muratore to change his mind and suddenly Muratore loves the proposed water sale.  What arguments did Van Groningen use?  Did he magically make more water appear in Don Pedro? No. Was he able to convince the SFPUC to take a back seat to Modesto and the farmers?  No.  So what did he dangle in front of Muratore to change his mind?

Well we do know from past experience with Councilman Muratore that money talks.  Maybe VanGroningen apologized for not passing a special exemption when Muratore, Swehla, Endsley and Hawn brought a solar project to the MID board.  Unfortunately that time Swehla screwed the pooch and failed to meet a paperwork cut-off and the project wasn’t eligible for the increased financial inducement which would have made the project viable, costing their fledgling company any chance of remaining in business.  And of course we remember Van Groningen supported Endsley’s biomass/garbage burner plant which cost ratepayers $1.292Million dollars. The $92,000 went to MID attorney O’Laughlin’s firm, but hey, who’s  counting?

Maybe a Forensic Auditor should be brought in to examine MID’s books given the revelation MID’s General Manager made when he admitted he had funneled money to political consultant Mike Lynch through Martino Graphic Design,INC. Has he done this before?  Have they paid a political consultant through a graphic design company or another company unrelated to political consulting to disguise their intent?  Couldn’t this sleight of hand be considered illegal, especially if there is evidence of this not being the first time?  Lynch has been making the rounds whispering in the ear of political wannabes like Councilman Lopez’s stepson Josh Vanderveen, who has been speaking out for the sale regularly since this issue came to light. Up to this point there hasn’t been enough known inducement for Lynch to be making promises to so many political candidates.  And of course it can’t hurt that Councilman Lopez has been making discrete inquiries about running for Supervisor Dick Monteith’s job when the supervisors term expires.

Whatever VanGroningen whispered into Muratore’s ear worked and as a result the potential vote is now 4-3 regardless of anything you’ve heard.  Now all eyes are on Councilman Cogdill to see if he’s as honorable as we hope.

Above all we need Council members to watch out for the Citizens of Modesto’s best interests and not their political careers or their wallets.

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