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.