Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors”

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?

 

Dave Lopez is Hiding Campaign Donations from YOU..!

By Emerson Drake  fingerspointing

When reading Dave Lopez’s 460’s, which is a list of campaign donors of  $99.00 or more,  one thing jumped off the page at us.  Of sixteen donors who gave $1,000 or more, only five were completely filled out.  The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)  requires candidates to list the employment or business type of donors.  And not surprisingly most of the missing information is from developers, real estate, and home builders. Why is he omitting the necessary information?  We can guess, can you?

Maybe like the rest of the Modesto City Council he’s willing to lie to our faces (Zoslocki “I’m not a developer”, Kenoyer “I support farmland” , Lopez “I don’t want to develop Wood Colony”) to get elected and afterward he or she will  do whatever or vote for whomever he or she feels like.

And yes the Modesto Bee is well aware of Lopez’s transgressions.  But they choose to remain silent on the subject.  Hmm, it appears Joe Kieta has turned the Modesto Bee into a Humble Bumble without teeth.

Dave Lopez Lies and the Bee Plays Along

By Emerson Drakepetesegerspeakup

The Bee Editorial Staff consisting of Joe Kieta and Mike Dunbar have hit a new low I didn’t think possible after the Judy Sly & Mark Vasche era.  The following is an article by Katherine Borges which delineates the Lopez misrepresentations.     Salida Annexation

Dave Lopez: The truth behind his spin

Modesto City Councilman Dave Lopez, who is running for Stanislaus County Supervisor Dick Monteith’s seat in District 4, is the latest to join the political spin club with talking points on why Modesto should annex Salida.

He first revealed his three supposed annexation-justified talking points in an April 22, 2014 interview on The Dave Bowman Show. The second public forum where he used the three again nearly verbatim was the League of Women Voters candidate debate as reported in the Modesto Bee.
Please go to the Salida Annexation site to read and understand Dave Lopez’s lies and wonder if he would lie to the people of Stanislaus County about this, what else would he lie about?  If you want to call and tell Mike and Joe how you feel about their playing fast and loose with the truth,  Mike’s number is 578-2325 and Joe’s is 578-2356.

State of the County, 2014 – Challenges and Opportunities

By Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Jim DeMartiniJimDeMartini

Good morning my fellow members of the Board of Supervisors, CEO Risen, County Counsel Doering, those who are in the chambers today and those who might be watching on television or over the internet.  It is a privilege to present the state of the county address for 2014.

Stanislaus County is a big place, over 1500 square miles.  More than 520,000 of us live in our nine cities and unincorporated communities.  Two of California’s three major north/south transportation corridors, Highway 99 and Interstate 5, come through us.  Three rivers, the San Joaquin, the Toulumne and the Stanislaus, give us drinking water, allow our crops to grow and contribute to our recreation and relaxation.  We have a California State University, a community college and several private educational outlets.  And of course, we are close neighbors with UC Merced.

Stanislaus County’s government itself is big.  We have 3900 employees, 26 different departments and an annual budget of more than 1 billion dollars.  Because of the recession, we do the same amount of work, if not more, than in 2008, but with 750 fewer employees.  And those who work for the county have seen their wages reduced as we have tried to meet the new fiscal realities.  We owe them a debt of thanks for their dedication and commitment in trying times.

The employees of Stanislaus County continue to be our greatest asset.  Over the last few years County employees have been asked to do more with less and have responded.  Everyday our employees are out on our roads, in our neighborhoods and working in our departments providing services to the members of our community.  On June 30, 2014, labor contracts for all represented County employees will expire.  Over the next six months, the County will be working to complete negotiations with all twelve County labor groups.  Our goal will be to recognize the value of our employees while ensuring the County remains fiscally viable in light of the uncertainty surrounding the long term economic recovery.

We have big, and at times, daunting challenges.  Our unemployment rate is too high.  We have a water crisis.  We need to improve public safety for our residents.  Most importantly, we need to restore hope.  Too many of our neighbors believe that the avenue of opportunity is closed to them.  It isn’t, but they remain to be convinced.

The foundation of Stanislaus county’s economy is agriculture.  I want to speak a bit about this not just because it is my profession, but because it is so important to all of us, and because it represents the foundation upon which hope and opportunity can be built.

We sometimes take agriculture for granted.  We shouldn’t.  In Stanislaus County, it is a multi-billion dollar business.  The value of agriculture commodities produced in Stanislaus County is over 3 billion dollars.  With the multiplier effect the impact in Stanislaus County is 11 billion dollars a year.  Ag related business such as E & J Gallo Winery, Del Monte, Foster Farms, Seneca, Stanislaus Food and ConAgra are some of the county’s largest employers.

My family emigrated from Switzerland and has farmed in Stanislaus County for more than 100 years.  I am my family’s third generation and I’ve been a farmer for over 40 years.  The San Joaquin Valley and Stanislaus County in particular, is the most productive and bountiful farm ground in the world.  The Mediterranean climate that we enjoy is extremely rare in the world.  Couple that with our productive soils and an extensive irrigation system fed by the Stanislaus, Toulumne and San Joaquin Rivers, and we have the ability to grow more than 200 different crops.  This is unique n the world.  Today this valley leads the nation and the world in production of almonds, walnuts, peaches, apricots and milk.  It is the envy of other agricultural parts of our own country.  In the national and worldwide agricultural community, California is known more for its agricultural products than for Hollywood, our beautiful coastline or the Silicon Valley.

Through the years we hear of Stanislaus County becoming an economic engine for industries other than agriculture, but much of that is unrealistic.  We will never be a tourist mecca like the coast.  Nor are we going to attract the California film industry here or become another Silicon Valley.  I am not suggesting we shouldn’t diversify and look for other opportunities, but we need to lead with our strength.  Our strength is agriculture.

Unemployment is chronic in our county.  According to a report from California State University Stanislaus, employment in the valley lags behind the state in employment growth.  In order for there to be growth in employment, we need diversity in our economy that will provide jobs that complement our economic base.  The medical industry is one example of this, and it employes over 10,000 people here.  Warehousing and Distributing have added many good paying jobs with the Patterson area gaining the most.  We can add jobs in Riverbank at the ammunition plant.  Turlock has developed its job center area with the Blue Diamond plant as its foundation.  Hilmar cheese plans an expansion there also.

We need to take advantage of our fine educational institutions and partner with UC Merced, CSU Stanislaus and MJC.  The new leadership at these educational institutions is poised to work with business leaders and others to assist in not only sustainable job growth but economic growth.  We need to be more aggressive in attracting more companies that will bring “core jobs” to our county.  We need our cities and the county to work more closely together to better coordinate these efforts.

Many years ago, when I was a student in a high school ag class, our teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up.  Since all of us were from farm families, each of us replied that we wanted to be farmers.  Our teacher then explained that our agricultural economy is like an hour glass.  The top part of the hour glass represents all of the inputs to agriculture, the things needed to make farming work:  the tractor and irrigation companies, the people who provide the fertilizer, fuel, trucking and nursery stock, the bankers, accountants and repair shops needed by farmers.  All of these occupations fill the top of the hour glass.

The farmer and the farm worker is the narrow part of the hour glass, where the fewest amount of people are employed.  This was where all of us in that class wanted to be.  The bottom part of the hour glass represents the people and suppliers involved in the processing, distribution, sale and transportation of the farm products:  the canneries, wineries, truckers, packaging companies and grocery stores.

The point my teacher was making was that you don’t have to be on a farm to be employed by agriculture.  It is something I never forgot.  Agricultural inputs, production and processing account for 38% of Stanislaus county’s employment.   That doesn’t include the teachers, doctors, accountants, plumbers, auto mechanics and others who serve and work with those who are directly engaged.  Agriculture truly is the “big tent” that shelters all of us.

We have the most productive and abundant agricultural industry the world has ever seen.  In the United States in 1900, the average family spent 43% of their income on food.  In 1950 that percentage went down to 30%.  Today only 9% of the average family’s income is spent on food.  When the United States Department of Agriculture expanded its activities in the Great Depression, our leaders said the purpose of our agricultural policy was to provide Americans with a health, inexpensive, abundant and varied food supply.  It is fair to say that California, and our valley, have been instrumental in achieving that purpose.  We ought not, and we will not, risk this resource.

Agricultural land should not just be considered the inventory for the next housing tract or warehouse.  Ag land is an important and irreplaceable natural resource that is responsible for employing more people than any other industry in this county.  It is time we recognize this reality.  We will not improve ourselves by paving over our most productive agricultural land or by simply becoming a bedroom community for the Bay Area.  It is important that we recognize the uniqueness of what Stanislaus County has and build on that strength.

No one understands agricultural policy and its importance like people from Stanislaus County.  That is why our county has produced two United States Secretaries of Agriculture: Ed Lyng and Ann Venemen, and four California Directors of Agriculture: Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill, Anne Venemen and Bill Lyons.  Much of the national and state agricultural policy has been driven by Stanislaus county citizens.  Agriculture is in our blood.

The Stanislaus County Supervisors have addressed some of the challenges facing agriculture.

*  We adopted the Right to Farm Ordinance, which recognizes the right to farm in a manner consistent with accepted customs and standards.  This has protected our farmers from frivolous law suits and unrealistic demands.

*  We extended the Williamson Act to protect agricultural land and open spaces.

*  We passed the Ag Element which recognized the importance of our agricultural sector and set goals and objectives that include enhancing the marketing and promotion of agriculture, protecting food safety, soil erosion prevention and water conservation.

*  We passed the first agricultural preservation requirements in the San Joaquin Valley, stipulating one acre of land be set aside in perpetuity for every acre of land taking out of production for construction of residential housing.  Although Stanislaus County was sued by the Building Industry Association, we prevailed.

*  Citizens adopted a measure requiring countywide voter approval of any new residential developments in the unincorporated areas.

*  The Stanislaus Local Agency Formation commission (LAFCO) now requires cities without our county to adopt a Plan for Agricultural Preservation.  CaLAFCO recently awarded our Local Agency Formation Commission two of its highest honors:  Most Effective Commission and Project of the Year for its Agricultural Preservation Policy.

*  2014 marks the 100th year of the establishment of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and the UC Cooperative Extension.  Both organizations have done much to benefit our agricultural industry.  The UC Cooperative Extension provides research, education and technical assistance that helps our farmers develop best management practices and makes them more competitive in the world market.  The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau represents farmers and ranchers at all levels of government and consistently is a strong and positive voice for all sectors of agriculture.  Both organizations have given Stanislaus County 100 years of outstanding service.  We look forward to their continued leadership in meeting the challenges of the next 100 years.

But despite these successes we still have further to go.  We face serious challenges in two major areas:  transportation and water.

TRANSPORTATION

Evey industry in this county, including agriculture, relies on a sound transportation system to move its people, goods and services.  Counties with a local transportation tax, which we refer to as “self-help” counties, are able to use local dollars to leverage billions of Federal and State dollars each year for improving their transportation systems.  This in turn helps create jobs, expand mobility and enhance local communities.  Currently over 81% of California’s population resides in a self-help county, placing Stanislaus County at a huge disadvantage when it comes to competing for limited transportation funding.  Local leaders broadly accept that we need to be a self-help County.  But if we do ask voters to consider the issue again, StanCOG must develop an allocation plan with the cities and the county, and a list of county-wide projects that we all can agree on.  I call on each city council of our nine cities, as well as the County Board of supervisors to pass a resolution agreeing on the allocation formula and the county-wide road  projects.  This unified focus is essential to gaining the trust of and support from the voters on this important issue.  Unless the County and the cities move as one on a transportation measure, we will not be successful.  The model that nearly passed in 2008 should b the basis of any new proposal.  Partnership and cooperation is the key.

In that election, a change of only 70 votes out of over 160,000 cast would have given us the 2/3 margin we needed.  No one likes tax increases, but we can only move this forward if we act together.  But if we don’t move together, we will not move at all.

WATER

Another major challenge is water.  We are over pumping at an alarming level.  Management of the county’s groundwater is a new arena for us.  Every city in Stanislaus County relies on groundwater for drinking water.  To a great extent, agriculture relies on groundwater.  The current drought conditions have focused our attention on this vital natural resource.  The depletion of the groundwater resources that serve our County is not simply a drought related issue; it is an issue of sustainability.  Recognizing the critical importance of a groundwater policy, this Board took action last year to prohibit its export and sale.  We have now formed a water advisory committee made up of representatives of agriculture, irrigation districts and community members.  This committee has been charged, with public input, to develop a well thought out policy that will provide a sustainable solution to groundwater over drafting.  This policy must be developed using scientific facts and it must provide us with long term solutions.  There is no value in pointing fingers and there is no time for delay.  We need to act.  if we don’t and the problem worsens, the state of California will intervene and we risk the ability to control our own destiny.

The Don Pedro Dam is now coming up for federal re-licensing.   This is a critical issue for Stanislaus County.  We need to partner with the MID and the TID to ensure we retain the water that is ours.  We must work with our local elected officials, with our representatives in Sacramento and at the federal level.  We cannot take it for granted that this will just happen.  Our entire economy depends on this effort.  Giving up any additional water from Don Pedro Dam will have long lasting negative implications for all of our citizens and our agricultural industry.

While I believe transportation and water are critical issues, there are other important concerns affecting County government and the well being of our residents.

StanCERA

The Stanislaus County Employees Retirement Association, (StanCERA) is the agency that governs the pension fund of our county’s 3300 retirees and holds in trust the retirement money of our current employees.

It is made up of public members appointed by the Board of supervisor and members elected by county employee associations.  This board has acted responsibly and with vision in difficult times.  StanCERA took a big hit in 2008 with the recession.  Our fund balance dropped by $874 million in February of 2009.  It is now at $1.7 billion.  In addition to prudent investment decisions that account for part of this gain, StanCERA adjusted its formula that governs how much money needs to be set aside to insure these obligations are met.  The assumed rate of return was lowered to a more realistic level.  We closed the rolling amortization period so debt didn’t just get put off into the future.  We have adopted a policy to reduce the risk inherent with investing in these funds.  We will take measured steps to replace some investments with guaranteed bonds so that the cash flow needs of StanCERA will always be met.  In the 2012/2013 fiscal year StanCERA’s earnings rate, as compared to other public pension funds in the United States, ranked third nationally and second in California.  Our funded ration is now close to 78%.  Our retirees, and our current employees, and county taxpayers can feel confident that their fund is well managed and based on sound financial principals.

In 2007 this Board adopted a metal theft ordinance requiring scrap metal dealers to be licensed and to record information about sellers for every transaction when individuals were selling non-ferrous metals.  Prior to the ordinance, metal theft was increasing at an alarming rate.  This ordinance was so successful that then Assemblyman, Tom Berryhill introduced a bill similar to the Stanislaus County’s ordinance and it became state law.

Today we have similar problems with walnut theft.  There re more than 38,000 acres of walnuts in Stanislaus county with a farm gate value of $220 million dollars.  Walnut theft has increased to disturbing rates.  I suspect that there is hardly a walnut grower in the County who hasn’t suffered losses.  I am generally the last one clamoring for more regulation, but walnut theft is something we must make a serious effort to stop.

As with metal theft, the problem must be addressed at the point of purchase, which in this case involves unlicensed roadside vendors not requiring proper documentation or proof of ownership by the seller.  Another concern is food safety.  Under legitimate operations processors can trace any contaminated product back to the grower.  Having roadside cash buyers mixing any and all nuts, stolen or not, erases the chain of accountability should any unsafe product be introduced.  I call on the Ag commissioner to work in conjunction with the Ag advisory board to draft a reasonable ordinance to address the increasing problem of walnut theft and present it to the board for consideration this year.

PSYCHIATRIC HEALTH FACILITY

Over the past two years, Stanislaus County has had a dramatic increase in acute psychiatric inpatient admissions.  This increase impacts bed capacity and creates a financial burden for the County.  In the past year, County staff and all area hospitals met and began a working relationship that focused on addressing the psychiatric bed capacity issues and the growing need to secure programs to meet the County’s mandated obligations.  As a result, a new 16 bed psychiatric health facility will provide psychiatric treatment services designed to require less staff than an acute psychiatric hospital, and reducing overall cost to the county by $1.5 million while providing better services to county residents.  An existing and now vacant residential facility located at the County’s Stanislaus Recovery Center site in Ceres is currently being renovated and is on track to open March 1 of this year.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Stanislaus County’s health delivery system has always struggled to keep pace with the needs of our community.  The Board has a strong commitment to serve the public interest by promoting a healthy community.  One health issue that merits our attention is the alarming rate of obesity among children.  In Stanislaus County more than 40% of 5th, 7th and 9th grade students are either overweight or obese.  Obesity and physically inactivity can have profound negative health consequences for children.  Increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke are just some of the potential consequences.

Obesity has become second only to tobacco use as the leading preventable cause of disease and death.  If this trend continues, for the first time in human history, today’s children could be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents.  Recognizing the magnitude of this problem and the serious public threat to the health and well-being of children and families, all nine Stanislaus County cities have passed resolutions to embrace policies that facilitate activities to promote a healthier lifestyle and diet.  These policies could provide increased opportunities for physical activity in our parks by encouraging walking and biking.

I call on Stanislaus County to recognize this growing problem, and pass a similar resolution as our nine cities have.  We all need to work together to assure that everyone in Stanislaus County has access to healthy foods and safe places to be active.  Providing health environments and healthy choices promotes healthy people in a healthy Stanislaus.

PUBLIC SAFETY REALIGNMENT

We have read about and many have experienced the increase of crime in our communities.  The security of our homes, neighborhoods, schools and businesses is essential to the quality of life.  If you fear to let your children go to the park, or walk to school, not much else matters.  This County will continue to make the public safety of our residents a priority.

Public Safety Realignment under Assembly Bill 109 continues to be a significant challenge for Stanislaus County.  The effects of this paradigm shift in our criminal justice system have increased our costs and affected the jail bed capacity in our County.  Our correctional facilities are at a maximum capacity and realignment has forced us into early releases from custody.  Additionally, property and drug offenses continue to impact our community.  Despite the challenges of realignment, Stanislaus county has focused on our strong collaborative partnerships and spirit of cooperation.

Our local public safety agencies and the members of the Community Corrections Partnership have taken on the difficult task of leading our local realignment efforts.

Through their leadership and planning, we have developed an effective strategy to deal with complex issues such as recidivism, substance abuse and mental illness.  Efforts have focused on implementing only those programs and services that have the best results and are proven to work.

While the state provides funding to the County, the funding is not adequate to compensate for the costs of realignment.  The number of criminal offenders we house and supervise continues to exceed state projections resulting in increased overcrowding in our jail facilities and in the number of offenders being supervised in the community.  Funding formulas used to determine the county’s allocation of realignment funding are being reviewed.  If the number of offenders sentenced locally continues to increase, and if the state does not increase the funding to Stanislaus County, other resources will be needed to fund realignment programs.

We will continue to advocate for a change in the funding formula, as well as the total dollars available for realignment so that more money can be brought to Stanislaus County.  The County will continue to work together with our public safety partners and community based organizations to effectively deal with our offender population.

WHAT WE NEED IN 2014

Cooperation is the key to meeting our challenges.  City and county government must work better together.  The dispute over the property tax administration fees was divisive.  That is behind us now and we need to come together.  We can disagree and argue, but in the final analysis we need to cooperate.  Our cities are our partners, not our adversaries.  Challenges that face our county and our communities will either be dealt with in a timely manner that results in a positive momentum for our residents or be dealt with in a way that hurts our economy and our ability to succeed.  The county and the cities don’t get a pass.  Stanislaus County doesn’t win if the cities lose and the cities don’t win if this county loses.  There will be no progress on infrastructure, on water or on other important issues unless we learn to work together.

In order for farmers to be successful, they must deal with all kinds of unforseen circumstances, which can impact the bottom line.  They are resilient, innovative and independent.  Our government needs the same approach to its day-to-day business.  Neither Sacramento nor Washington is going to come riding into the Valley and improve our schools, arrest our criminals, build our infrastructure, take care of our elderly or insure equal opportunity for our children.  They won’t safeguard our groundwater or protect our farmland in a way that best serves us.  We are the only ones who can do that.  Finger pointing may make us feel good, but the obligation to make our county more prosperous rests squarely on the 520,000 people who live here.  Events beyond our control will shape our future.  How we handle those events however, is fully in our hands.

These are big issues, but together, we are up to the task.  I want to thank my fellow board members, department heads and all the employees of this organization for their dedication and commitment to excellence.  Together we will pursue our vision of becoming “a county that is respected for its service in the community and is known as the best in America.”

‘We The People’ Modesto Chapter

By Emerson Drake                    honorourheritage

I think it’s time for the people of Stanislaus County to have an organization  of their own representing them.  It wouldn’t be affiliated with any other groups, and is just out of concern for the issues faced by those of us in the Central Valley.  We’ve watched Modesto try to claim land belonging to the residents of Salida and now Wood Colony is being threatened with extinction.  It’s important to understand extinction is exactly what will happen if the majority of the Modesto City Council gets their way.  It’s the extinction of a way of life for the German Baptist Brethren, and everyone else who lives in the area.   Once industry invades Wood Colony it’s the beginning of the end.

Going to the Modesto Planning Commission meetings we heard the Modesto  Chamber of Commerce attempt to extend Modesto’s influence to the river on the West and North.  They were claiming ‘they’ would protect farmland but the reality is something completely different.  This massive land grab they attempted to bring into Modesto’s General Plan (37 square miles) was larger than Modesto proper (34 square miles.)

Individually they can ignore the will of the people but collectively they have to listen.  It’s important for everyone to come forward and speak your mind to the Modesto City Council.  Citizens of Modesto especially.  Why?  Because the Majority of the City Council is preparing to help you surrender your ability to vote on Modesto’s annexations.  We ALL need to protect Measures A and M because they help us to rein in the greed coming from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and being funneled through the City Council.

The people of Wood Colony and Salida need and deserve our support. Only by standing together can we survive the onslaught being perpetuated by the Modesto City Council and Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

Think about it.

Special thanks to the Fly N Dutchman Graphics and Banners for the picture.

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