Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors”

Creating the Perfect Storm, Developer Style

By Emerson Drake  

It’s getting close to that time again when we get to vote for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.  But how do we separate the wheat from the chaff,  the good from the bad,  the place holders from the players.  We could do a breakdown of the political parties they represent. Or we could try to decide by their opinions on topics of importance.  But as most of us are aware, with a few of the candidates,  their opinions are like underwear that’s to say they get changed daily depending on the nature of their audience.

Unfortunately in local politics the latter is mostly true, unless, or maybe especially if their opinions are manufactured by those power brokers behind the scenes.  We have some that believe in paving paradise and putting up parking lots.  And some who don’t know what to believe and are just being used as pawns in a larger game.  Lets back up a few years for a moment and remember when Bill Zoslocki, Craig Lewis, Cecil Russell and yes George Petrulakis  were attending every meeting imaginable saying they needed to extend Modesto’s sphere of influence to the river on Modesto’s north and west sides.  That would have doubled the size of Modesto’s footprint.  And it was to be done in their words.. to protect our farmland.  And that of course was just a lie.

But many people stepped up to the plate among them were Terry Withrow and Jake Wenger, two of the higher profile politicians willing to take a stand against the Chamber’s Transportation Committee which at the time included Zoslocki, Lewis, Russell, and Petrulakis along with the then Mayor of Modesto, Garrad Marsh.  When the massive land grab was temporarily defeated, well at least a stand-off, the Chamber, led by Cecil Russell, George Petrulakis and others let it be know they were coming after Withrow and Wenger.  Let us not forget that soon after the upcoming election in June, Modesto will be taking another look at the General Plan Amendment that will put expansionism back in play again.  Refer  back to the article’s title.

A few short years later (last fall) George Petrulakis masterminded an ambush of Jake Wenger by Stu Gilman for MID  Director Division 4.  They used Janice Keating, the congregation of The House, a church in Modesto, a pocket full of money and a naive dilettante (or maybe I should say cunning) named  Katherine Borges to do their dirty work.  Keating probably made out the best since Gilman actually paid the political consulting  company she runs from her home, Fundamental,  $1,500.  Petrulakis is still owed $17,000 by Gilman for his expertise or was it actually a loan in disguise used for advertising?   Borges swallowed a completely improbable story, or at least did publicly, about Salida getting water from MID, which is contractually impossible, and let Gilman/Petrulakis use her endorsement (she eventually endorsed both candidates).  Now Borges is being encouraged by George Petrulakis (was this part of an earlier promise to get her to support Gilman?) and is running against Terry Withrow for Board of Supervisors District 3.   Could things get any curiouser?  Ahh, yes we can’t forget the chameleon  Tony Madrigal.

One interesting thing to know about George Petrulakis is that he’s an equal opportunity employer.  We learned out in Patterson when land use issues weren’t going his way he’d just as soon buy a Democrat as a Republican. In the past George swayed Modesto City Councilman Tony Madrigal several times… first he’s for saving Wood Colony from developers, then against, and now for again.  With Borges, he managed to find a reason that would allow her to support Gilman (imaginary available water) against Wenger. That along with playing to her desire for the attention.  So now he has two candidates running against Withrow.

In the other race Tom Berryhill a termed out retread who seems to be relying on name recognition, (after all it worked for Dick Monteith,)  Janice Keating who has lost her last two political races and was supported by George Petrulakis and Zagaris,  and Frank Damrell who has been an assistant for a Congressman working on Social Security issues.  Berryhill doesn’t even bother to campaign.  He expects people to remember his family name and vote for him.  He has no viable ideas just the desire for another paycheck from taxpayer’s money.  With Keating it’s pretty simple.  She took $28,000 from a MID slush fund and spoke publicly for the sale of our water to San Francisco.   Imagine if MID had had less water during the recent drought for both Modesto and the farmers to share all so a local businessman (can you say Bill Lyons) could make a windfall profit on selling water to the state.

Watching a recent Modesto Bee forum a few observations jumped out.  Tony Madrigal reminded us of Armando Arreola, a perennial Mayoral candidate in Modesto, who applies one of the three answers he has in his repertoire to every question he’s asked whether they address the question or not.  Katherine Borges the… I was a Democrat, then I turned Republican, now I’m pretending to be nonpartisan, now that even though I keep going to their meetings, the Republican Party chose not to back me… used former candidate for Supervisor Scott Calkins’  ideas from four years ago, which she loudly disdained then as she was actively campaigning for Withrow.   I know it’s hard to follow the changes ( remember the underwear analogy) but you can’t, and don’t have to,  make these things up.   Terry Withrow has stayed the course amid the stormy seas.  He defended Wood Colony and Salida from the aggressive aspirations of the Chamber of Commerce’s land grab developers.  He’s been a consistent voice for promoting our homeless issues despite the Modesto Mayor’s along with the Modesto’s business community’s (DoMo) foot dragging.  And he was one of the prominent voices on County water issues during the drought. The fact that land use attorney George Petrulakis has two candidates in the District 3 race, Madrigal and Borges, brings super clarity to the issue. Terry Withrow is the only real choice if we want insure the public has an independent voice on the Board of Supervisors in District 3.

District 4 is even less complicated.  Tom Berryhill has no vision, no ideas, and like Keating is running from political decisions made in the past. Berryhill and his ‘funneling money’ questions that he seems to be dodging every step of the way.  And Keating with her close ties to the paving paradise development community including selling her “opinions ” to the highest bidder.  Of the three running Frank Damrell  stands out compared to  the two tired political hacks he’s facing.

 

 

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EyeonModesto is coming to the Airwaves Near You

By Emerson Drake  

In order to help the residents of Modesto and Stanislaus County stay better informed  about what is going on in local government and maybe even more importantly, why it’s happening, we’ll be going on the air on 93.3 FM KPHD Modesto and 104.9 FM KGIG  Salida.

 

This answers the burning question of  “Who Will Tell The People?”   With,  “We will tell the people.”

 

We’ll be interviewing on air, politicians and candidates for you to get to know and giving you our honest opinion supported by public record requests and actually being at or viewing the MID,  City Council,  and County Board meetings, and talking with our elected officials.

 

A big Thanks to Brad Johnson and everyone involved in bringing the show to a radio near you.  Details to follow.

Modesto…Are You Paying Attention?

By Emerson Drake  

On August 8, 2017, the Modesto City Council will consider the 6/8/16 Healthy Economy Committee recommendation to maintain the current / 1995 general plan boundary.

Here is the pdf from the email we received GPA-10-001 CC Public Meeting Notice 8-8-17 SIGNED (1)  Being it’s difficult to find and without  the Committee’s specific (no maps or detailed references were provided) recommendations and any discussion it’s hard to know what to think.  I do remember when this conversation was going on during a Planning Commission meeting, we were blindsided by a massive expansionist effort propelled by  the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, led by Craig Lewis.  And on 8/2/17 they are going to give Mr. Lewis a high profile position on the Stan COG Measure L Citizens Oversight Committee.

But after the directions some on the Council and the Board of Supervisors have  been hinting at lately, you are forced to wonder if a potential  land grab, wholesale or piecemeal,  isn’t around the corner.

How Does a Park Become ‘Surplus’ in the County’s Eyes?

By Emerson Drake   

Mono Park is a pretty two acres of green consisting of large beautiful trees,  picnic and play area on Mono Drive between Santa Ana and Santa Rita Ave in Modesto’s Airport District.  It is an oasis of green with its large/huge trees and lawn in an area that has very few comforts the rest of us have come to rely on, you know, like sidewalks.  Sidewalks should not  be an exception in residential areas instead of the rule but that’s the fact of life in many of  the County’s unincorporated areas.

Now the County has staff exploring whether Mono Park should stay a park or be labeled ‘surplus’  then sold to friends and possibly be turned into warehouses for the likes of the Gallo’s or one of their many subsidiaries.  Of course the County doesn’t want to speculate as to who might purchase the site. But their flyer specifically mentions cutting down the beautiful trees in the park

A community meeting was held March 13th at Orville Wright Elementary school by the Airport Community Collaborative. According to the County approximately 20 people attended. The County dangled the carrot in front of the people suggesting maybe sidewalks or a new roof for the Legion Hall.

Improving the Quality of Life By Selling Our Parks?   If we sell Mono Park to the Gallo’s for warehouse space then even  more trucks will be coming into the Airport District. Our local Air Pollution Control Board says the single biggest polluting factor in the central valley are the diesel trucks driving up and down Highway 99.  So the County’s answer to how can we improve the quality of life in Modesto and specifically the Airport District is to have more trucks with the accompanying dirt, dust, noise, and pollution at all hours in our neighborhoods.  But then again why should they be concerned, none of the Board of Supervisors lives anywhere close to there.

So the County is using slight of hand, mixing in a little community involvement, Gallo money, and Presto Change-o, you have one less park for the children to play in and for families to picnic in.

The next park they decide is surplus may be YOURS.

Does a Local Candidate’s Support of a National Candidate Effect June’s Outcome

By Emerson Drake  stanislauslogo

We avoid national politics here but this has a potential local twist that might prove interesting.
 
In Sacramento, Teamsters Joint Council 7  is reversing itself and taking back their endorsement of Republican candidate Scott Jones for Sacramento’s 7th Congressional District. Up until now the union’s support is self interest.  Jones’ opponent Rep. Ali Bera supported giving President Obama fast track trade authority.  The problem the Teamsters have is the candidate’s support of Donald Trump. They feel Trumps’ campaign  decisions don’t align with their views.
 
Be that as it may, the question here is, will County Board Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who is up for re-election and is the head of the Republican Party here in Stanislaus County, be effected by his inevitable support of the eventual candidate for President, Donald Trump?   After all Patterson’s Latino Mayor Luis Molina is running against DeMartini, as is Eileen Wyatt Stokman.
 
Nobody including the Modesto Bee, seems to want to broach this topic. Maybe because DeMartini might get elected in June BEFORE the Trump issue is front and center? We think we need to take a look at people’s thinking now before the June elections.

Political Gamesmanship By Olsen and O’Brien

By Emerson Drake  krolsen

We’ve watched Supervisor Bill O’Brien for years on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors (BoS) and most of the time his decisions (if you overlook the waste of time with Gerry Kamilos’ West Park illusion/fantasy) were in the public’s interest.  But his decision to hide his not running for Supervisor again must have a hidden payoff for him ( maybe her support such as it is when he runs for state office).  Kristin Olsen who has done little except cash  state pay checks and find a job for her unemployed wannabe soccer coach husband has scurried sideways for another taste of the public’s teat,  is running unopposed for O’Brien’s position on the BoS.

Olsen, who despite her claims of wanting to campaign, knew she didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning against Cathleen Galgiani.  Just two months ago she was talking about spending some quality family time. Well if Olsen isn’t lying she isn’t talking. 

Local campaign donors have to be excited regarding this about face.  Olsen’s secret to getting elected has been, since her Modesto City Council days,  to be an energetic advocate for those who crossed her palm with money ( campaign contributions of course).  Watching her on the floor of the City Council defending the Chopra’s slight of hand in a local development (screwing a family farm out of usable land by shifting a designated water catch basin onto their land from  Chopra’s) was a sight to behold. The only right or wrong in her eyes is who donated to her campaign and who didn’t.  I’ll give her this, once she’s bought she stays bought.  Local developers will rejoice at her decision to run for the BoS.

Who orchestrated this slight of hand we could speculate but don’t know for sure (if we can find out you’ll hear it here) but since Olsen accomplished almost nothing of consequence at the state level we don’t hold out much hope for her accomplishing anything  worthwhile on the Board of Supervisors, well except for those dreams of avarice of her contributors.

A Voice That Went Unheard at the ‘ Stewardship Council’

By Emerson Drake   dontbesilent

At Monday’s meeting of the Stewardship Council I ended up sitting next to John Kitchell.  John is a retired Physicians Assistant who has been working with the Homeless for many years.  After around the room introductions John, like the rest of the public,  was ignored.  Fortunately for us John had a list of ideas that resonated with myself and several other members of the public in attendance. Unfortunately due to the council’s exclusionary policies these suggestions might no be heard.  I wanted to share some of his ideas with you.

Here Are A Few Possible Solutions To The Homeless Problem

Recommendations for correcting the growing problem of homelessness in this nation include the following:

*Increase the range and improve the access of services available to homeless and other indigent people.

*Increase the supply of adequate, low-income housing and decent shelters.

*Develop programs for homeless alcoholic persons, drug abusers, and those at high risk of health care problems.

*Create community facilities in which homeless people can safely convalesce from diseases or temporary exacerbations of chronic illnesses.

*Encourage volunteers, especially students and professionals in medicine, nursing, allied health, social work, law and dentistry, to provide services for   homeless and indigent persons.

*Mitigate the larger problems of unemployment, lack of job training, lack of education, and lack of hope that perpetuate the problems of poverty and     homelessness.

In addition, the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on the Homeless Mentally Ill has recommended the following:

*Graded and supervised community housing.

*Adequate, comprehensive, and accessible psychiatric and rehabilitative services with outreach services when necessary, and

*Accessible crisis services.

County Committee Says Next Meeting will Be Public and Then We’ll Decide

By Emerson Drake  collectivewisdom

The County Committee called  ‘The Stewardship Council’  met this morning for about three and a half hours upstairs at Greens Market.  The meeting  was part infomercial,  part Joel Osteen “all you need is hope” sermon,  and part new wave transcendentalism.  The members were told to expect a member to invest sixteen hours a month on this project.

Stan Risen Takes Exception

Mr. Risen walked into the room came directly over to me and accused me of lying in my last piece.  His outrage hinged on the phrase ‘religious affiliation.’  I had checked my notes prior to writing so I wondered why his umbrage.  So I asked him…didn’t he say that for a group to be considered for a grant that the groups leadership would have to be multi faceted with a segment of the leadership from the faith based/religious sector?  He replied yes, but I never said religious aspect!

Now I understand, we were talking semantics

While it is necessary for a group to successfully  request a grant they have to have what they now refer to as  ‘all ten mountains’ which includes people from a variety of backgrounds, entertainment, business, and faith based or religious, there doesn’t have to be a religious affiliation.   To most of us it sounds like we’re arguing the meaning of the word “is”. Okay,  it’s a Clinton reference for those too young to remember.  The bottom line is organizations requesting grants don’t have to be religiously affiliated BUT they do have to have a religious or faith based segment in their hierarchy and action plan.  From my point of view he’s playing politician and parsing words and to my way of thinking in the end you get the same result.  Since there wasn’t an audio recording of the meeting this will have to suffice since there are people on both sides that remember the wording differently.  But you do get to decide if there is really any meaningful difference in their intent.

Three separate times during the meeting John Ott a County paid facilitator from the Center of Collective Wisdom, used the phrase “every proposal will include” then a variety of ways to say someone from  faith based communities.

Delay on decision to include the public

I imagine the reason for postponing a decision on whether or not  to include or exclude the public, is to hope the indignation over the Stan Risen’s and John Ott’s insistence for for secrecy subsides. They like to point out the Board of Supervisors gets the ultimate decision on who gets the  money.  The real truth is the Board would be hard put to deny Terry Withrow and Stan Risen their “Focus on Prevention” at that late date.  In for a penny in for a pound, or should I say $1 Million Dollars.

The next meeting is July 31st.  Believe it or not they went through the entire month of July, except for the Fourth, and this was the day that they fewest would be absent.

 

County Wants to Spend $1 Million of Taxpayers Money in Secret

By Emerson Drake   stanislauslogo

County CEO Stan Risen has hand picked a committee to oversee spending $ 1 Million dollars of taxpayer money and he claims the best way to do it is in secret.  This committee is comprised of Gallo Center for the Arts director Lynn Dickerson; Modesto Nuts general manager Mike Gorrasi;  CEO of the Economic Development and Workforce Alliance Dave White; Stanislaus Surgical Hospital CEO Doug Johnson; county Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon; Modesto City Schools Superintendent Pam Able along with Rev. Marvin Jacobo of City Ministry Network; Jeff Pishney of Love Our Cities; Cle Moore-Bell of Christ Unity Baptist Church; and Mark Vasché of Pinnacle Forum of Northern California among others.

No offense to any of the people on the Committee, but if you placed these people in the old fable “The Emperor’s New Suit”, they would be admiring the cloth and the tailoring.  Most of these people have no experience or expertise in homelessness other than to say we need to get rid of it.

The Reason For The Secrecy

According to Stan Risen in an interview with Ken Carlson and from his article in the Bee,  “we don’t need someone looking for every quote to make us look bad.”   So basically he’s saying we don’t want any accountability for what we say and do.   You’re trying to justify spending Taxpayer money in secret and you’re worrying about someone else making you look bad?  Stan Risen, CEO of Stanislaus County, paid with County funds, hand picks a group and demands total secrecy? Risen is his and their, own worst enemy.

Maybe Another Reason

We had the opportunity to listen to CEO Risen make his pitch to the City County Liaison Committee which meets monthly.  While his plan is interesting what concerned us at the time was the mandate, “any group that wants to apply for money MUST have a religious affiliation.”   Risen refuses to consider anything else.  Taxpayer money tied to a religious mandate doesn’t seem right or legal.  Should a religious connection preclude a group, no, but requiring one reeks of foul play especially considering the affiliations of four of the members.

What needs to Happen

Meeting in public  isn’t something you leave to an appointed board.  The County Board of Supervisors needs to insist that ALL meetings be held in public and in a  room that accommodates everyone interested in attending.  Hiding behind closed doors , whispering in secret, and spending taxpayer money isn’t what the people of Stanislaus County expect or will tolerate.

Don’t be shy, they like to hear from their constituents.   Feel free to contact the Supervisors and tell them how you feel about spending $1 Million dollars of Taxpayer money in secret.

Here are their email addresses.

William.Obrien@stancounty.com   vito.chiesa@stancounty.com   withrowt@StanCounty.com   MonteithD@StanCounty.com   DemartiniJ@StanCounty.com

The meeting will be held Monday from 8:30 a.m. to noon in a conference room at Greens on Tenth, at 953 10th St. in Modesto.

Birgit Fladager’s Response to a Public Record Request

By Emerson Drake  ladyjustice

On May 6, 2014 we attended the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors (BoS) meeting and witnessed a strange occurrence during the public comment portion.  Modest’s former Mayor  Carmen Sabatino had just finished making some interesting points regarding the D.A.’s office and investigators.  In recent weeks he has been vocal in his objections regarding the DA.’s 25 wire taps and the ensuing 25,000 intercepts in 2012 and the expense involved.  Most of his time this week was involving an interrogation  in Turlock of a 13 year old girl and alleged misconduct by two D.A. investigators Kurt Bunch and Steve Jacobs. these can be heard at 9:30 seconds into the meeting.  Sixteen minutes into the meeting Birgit Fladager interrupts the meeting by rushing the podium out of turn to attack Carmen  Sabatino and her opponent Frank Carson.

Mayor Sabatino’s earlier allegations and Birgit Fladager’s out of control behavior  involving the wire taps and her investigators  intrigued us.

Recently we made three Public Record Requests from District Attorney  Birgit Fladager.

We requested the number of requests by year 2011, 2012, 2013.  We requested any documents regarding which agencies made the wire tap requests.  And finally we requested documents which would indicate if any of her investigators were working for the agencies when the requests were made. We also made it very clear we weren’t interested interfering with any investigations just who made the requests.

Here is the official response from the D.A.’s office.

Mr. Drake,

I am informed that the District Attorney's office has no documents
containing the information you described in your May 12 request.  The
records containing the information you seek are court records that are
in each case sealed by order of the judge.

Ms. Fladager has informed me that she happens to know herself that in
2012 there were 4 intercepts by MPD on homicide cases that resulted in
arrests in 3 of those cases (the fourth involved the deaths of Deputy
Paris and Glendon Engert and the suspect committed suicide); there were
two intercepts by the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency that resulted
in arrests (one case was prosecuted federally and the other case by
Merced County); and there was an intercept on a Sheriff's Office
homicide case that has resulted in one arrest.

If you have additional questions please let me know.



Thomas E. Boze
Deputy County Counsel
Stanislaus County Counsel
1010 Tenth Street, Suite 6400
Modesto, California 95354-0882

 

Now I don’t know about you, but for the District Attorney to claim she has not ONE single piece of paper tracking over 25 wire tape requests she made in 2012 alone, we find to be not only extremely questionable, but likely disingenuous in the context of her upcoming reelection bid, especially if you take into consideration how few wire tape requests (3 – 5) other counties have made.  According to her she doesn’t have the ability to show how many requests were made in any single year.  Is this any way to run an office?  Or is it just another way to hide from the public excesses by government agencies and/or potentially corrupt individuals with the help of her office?

 

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