Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Stanislaus County”

Public Comment Delivered to MID and Modesto City Council

By Joan Rutschow

The need to produce and deliver safe and nutritious food is a fundamental human concern.  We will have to produce

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a on...

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a one acre area with a depth of one foot. This is equivalent to a 66 x 660 x 1 foot volume since an acre is defined as 66 x 660 feet. NOTE: the drawing is not to scale! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more food in the next 40 years than we have in the last 10,000.

California farm revenue was $43.5 billion in 2011, making it the nations’ top ag state.  California produces more than 400 commodities, employing 800,000 workers on 81,500 farms.  U.S. farmers are among the most efficient in the world.  Over the past 30 years, California has increased production of milk by 44%, processing tomatoes by 69% and almonds by 122%.  At the same time, new production methods have helped growers save 100,000 acre feet of water a year.  Our farmers are excellent stewards of our land and our water!

Letter to Editor, 5/31/13

It is very encouraging to see Adam Gray and Anthony Canella supporting farmers in Stanislaus County and Merced County, location of the most prime agricultural land in the world.  We do have a water storage problem.  We need more facilities to capture and store our water.  Currently, because of 2 year drought conditions, and low water levels in our reservoirs, I feel San Francisco needs to seriously consider desalinization plants if they want more water and not take our water here in the valley (whole Pacific Ocean; technology for 50 years in the Mideast and Japan).

Bee Article, 6-23-13

The Water Advisory Committee stated that farmers get credit for replenishing our underground aquifers which have a value of $600,000/year.  However, our resident farmer and hydrologist, Vance Kennedy, has stated that the value of aquifer recharge by our farmers is $2 million + per year.  Concerning garden head accounts, which is property of less than 5 acres, homeowners are permitted to flood their property.  The great majority of these small user accounts are urban homeowners and are maintained by families and elderly people who grow their own food in their back yard.  Human survival by growing your own food, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency should not be penalized financially by raising the rates of the garden head accounts to sky high levels.

Remember – water + food = life itself!

By Joan Rutschow

Don’t Forget to Vote…!

Official seal of County of Stanislaus

Tomorrow, Tuesday,  is election day. Already 72,927 votes have been cast in Stanislaus County according to Head of Elections and Clerk Recorder Lee Lundrigan. This equates to 35% of the eligible voters having already cast their votes. 

It’s important for you to remember to vote and remind everyone you can to get out and VOTE.

Thank you Lee Lundrigan for keeping us informed as to the early balloting and for the job you and your people do.

Now stop reading this and GO VOTE.

Never Doubt that a Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens can Change the World, Indeed, it is the ONLY thing that Ever Has.

Margret Mead

“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/

The County’s Response to Seven Questions Regarding the Salida Annexation

By Emerson Drake

Following the Hammett Road Interchange  meeting held on 7/31/12 between county residents, StanCOG, and County officials, seven questions had been brought up or came to mind  regarding the possible annexation of Salida California. Supervisor Terry Withrow was extremely helpful in getting these questions answered, since several of them are not just looking for documents but explanations of legal positions.  I wish to thank Supervisor Withrow, County CEO Monica Nino and all of the people involved in answering this extensive request.

Now obviously these aren’t the only questions but I thought these might be a good place to start.  Ground zero so to speak.  Here are the question made to the County Board:

1. Is it possible for Salida to have a referendum and vote to refute the County Boards’ Salida Now land use vote from 2007?

2. Are Salida citizens guaranteed by law a vote in any annexation attempt by Modesto?

3. How much is left in the account the County says developers contributed to in order to push the Hammett Road Interchange?

4. Exactly how many years are remaining from the Salida Now vote regarding land use designations?

5. Exactly how many years will remain on Salida Now land use rules if Modesto annexes them?

6. Will Modesto citizens get to vote on annexing Salida?

7. For the sake of openness, exactly which companies and their owners  were the land use guarantees made to?

The following pdf is the County’s response.


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!

A Little Salida Now Background: California Planning and Development Report

Pro-Growth Salida Initiative Wins Without Going To Voters


By William Fulton on 29 August 2007 – 11:00am


Stanislaus County supervisors and developers have beaten farmland preservation advocates to the punch. Supervisors adopted a developer-written growth plan for the unincorporated community of Salida six months before voters are scheduled to decide on a slow growth/farmland protection initiative that actually was written first.

In response to the “Stamp Out Sprawl” (SOS) initiative, scheduled for the February 2008 ballot, developers drafted the “Salida Now” initiative and appeared to qualify it for the November 2007 ballot. However, the Board of Supervisors in August voted 3-2 simply to adopt the initiative. Supporters say the plan is very similar to a community plan update that has been in the works for years, provides infrastructure funding for industrial and commercial development, and moves Salida toward financial self-sufficiency.

Detractors say the quick drafting and adoption of the Salida Now initiative was a brazen political move that could backfire. “It’s such an obvious, in-your-face flaunting of power,” said Denny Jackman an (SOS) organizer and former Modesto councilman.

County Supervisor Jeff Grover conceded that the SOS initiative created a “feeling of real urgency.” By adopting the Salida initiative, supervisors simply speeded up what had already been a long process. The Salida Now plan “is exactly what we’ve been working on and exactly what we’ve been planning in Salida,” Grover said.

With a population of about 14,000, Salida is by far the largest town in unincorporated Stanislaus County. Salida’s location along Highway 99 at the far northern end of the county puts it within long-distance commuting range of the Bay Area. County officials, however, have long wanted to see Salida grow as an employment center (see CP&DR Local Watch, May 2000). That has not happened and county officials say Salida is an approximately $3 million-a-year drain on the county.

Since 2000, advocates of farmland protection in Stanislaus County have been trying to get something on the ballot that resembles Ventura County’s SOAR initiatives (see CP&DR Insight, May 2002; CP&DR, December 1998). Previous efforts failed, but in June 2006, farmland advocates presented the county with signed petitions on the SOS initiative. If approved, it would require voters to decide on the rezoning of unincorporated agricultural land. Supporters wanted to place the initiative on the November 2006 ballot. However, county supervisors ordered an analysis as allowed under the Election Code. By the time the analysis was completed two months later, the deadline for getting an initiative on the ballot had passed. Therefore, supervisors scheduled the SOS initiative for the next general election — February 2008.

The move bought Salida growth proponents time. Within months, the Salida Now initiative was on the streets, and in June supporters submitted an extraordinary number of signed petitions — enough to force a special election. The $400,000 signature-gathering campaign was financed almost entirely by developers, primarily Pacific Union Homes, Bates Properties and The Stringer Co., all of which have substantial interests in Salida. (An interesting twist in the initiative calls for development fees to reimburse the cost of preparing the initiative.)

Again, supervisors ordered an analysis. But when that analysis was presented to the board in August, supervisors somewhat unexpectedly adopted the initiative, a decision permitted by state law.

The decision studded some people. In an editorial under the headline “Maybe The Developers Really Do Run The County,” the Modesto Bee opined: “In a single vote, three supervisors amended the county general plan, adopted the Salida Community Plan as firm for the next 25 years, and OK’d a development agreement with developers. And the three supervisors did all of this without giving the public any time to comprehend it all and to comment.”

From a political standpoint, Jackman said, the supervisors’ actions have been great for SOS supporters. First, supervisors delayed an election on the grass-roots SOS initiative, then they adopted the developer-funded Salida initiative with virtually no warning. SOS supporters could not have asked for better campaign material, Jackman said.

But Supervisor Grover, who represents Salida, makes no apologies. State demographers predict Stanislaus County will add 350,000 people and need at least 100,000 new jobs by 2030, Grover pointed out.

“We need areas to provide jobs all over the county,” Grover said. The SOS initiative would “block everything in the unincorporated areas.”

The lack of infrastructure in Salida is often cited as one reason for the lack of economic development. According to an analysis by county staff members of the initiative, “The proponents envision … the residential component subsidizing the initial infrastructure of the industrial and commercial areas and in later years the industrial/commercial area generating adequate revenue to maintain the infrastructure of both the residential and industrial/commercial area.”

Grover said the initiative is very similar to a community plan update — in process for years — that was presented to supervisors in April. Adopting the plan simply keeps the decision-making in the hands of elected officials, he said.

In the Turlock-based Farmland Working Group’s most recent newsletter, President Jeani Ferrari expressed doubt. “The supervisors’ action gives the project to the developers, with no right to say ‘no’ to the project as a whole, no matter what the environmental impact report and financial feasibility studies show,” Ferrari wrote.

The initiative covers 3,383 acres, of which about 60% is designated for industrial, business park or commercial uses. Proponents say as many as 27,000 jobs could be created there. In addition, the plan permits up to 5,000 housing units in varying densities and sets aside 100 acres for a riverfront park.

The initiative contains no entitlements, said Stanislaus County Planning and Community Development Director Ron Freitas. The next step is for developers to prepare “development plans” that would be similar to specific plans. While the initiative did not undergo California Environmental Quality Act review, all development plans are subject to CEQA, Freitas said.

“We’re stepping back and saying, ‘It’s your development plan, you prepare it.’ We will still retain the EIR consultant,” Freitas said.

Loss of farmland is a significant issue. About 3,000 acres in the plan area are in agricultural production, and most of the territory is prime farmland. The initiative calls for housing developers to offset loss of farmland by buying acre-for-acre preservation easements on similar farmland elsewhere in the county. However, the mitigation requirement does not apply to non-residential development.

The initiative also calls for developers to contribute $150,000 to a Salida incorporation feasibility study.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover, (209) 525-6560.
Ron Freitas, Stanislaus County Planning and Community Development Department, (209) 525-6330.
Farmland Working Group, (209) 247-2503.



And a Comment  by the Farmland Working Group

Correspondence A

Wisconsin Shooting Victims Memorialized

By  Emerson Drake

Last night at the Sikh Temple outside Turlock a cross-section from the community embraced those from the local Sikh Temple, reminding everyone all Americans hold Religious Freedom dear to our hearts along with Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness. 

People from all walks of life were in attendance. From County Supervisors, local Mayors , Police Chiefs to us regular citizens all partaking in the candlelight vigil.  Representatives of the Sikh Temple thanked both Wisconsin police officers for their efforts that fateful day, and local Police and Sheriff’s deputies  for their continued concern and support. While several community groups were mentioned, the Latino Community Roundtable was especially noted for providing extraordinary assistance in organizing the observance with Maggie Mejia and Rosealinda Vierra being singled out for special recognition.

Several hundred people attended and all were made welcome. Everyone was invited to partake in the evening meal.  It was heartwarming to see so many people  honoring the dead while celebrating life.

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

Tonight we’ll be discussing the Bee’s inability and John Holland’s unwillingness to convey what is happening at local meetings,  Our County Supervisors view on the Water sales, what’s happening in New Hampshire regarding freedom of Speech and local authorities trying to stifle it, and last but not least how Women’s Issues are playing out on the national stage.  It’s starts Wednesday night at 7:00PM Pacific time.

You can call in and just listen to the show or join in the conversation by calling 1-347-215-9414

You can always catch any of the shows in the archives.

And of course a big Thank You to Brad over at  104.9 FM K-GIG who broadcasts Central Valley Hornet Shows.


We Followed up the Email Bomb Shell with a Public Information Request

By Emerson Drake

After reading today’s article about the alleged bogus email by Bill Lyons we sent a Public Information Request to County Council requesting the “entire email including the IP information.”  This afternoon the county responded with the email but no IP information.

We’ve done a follow-up request but I’m sure we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a response. 

This is a copy of the allegedly  “Bogus Email”

—–Original Message—–
From: bill lyons
To: <gstapley@modbee.com>, <boggsk@stancounty.com>, <obrienw@stancounty.com>
Subject: West Park
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2012 08:49:56 -0700

I think an interesting story would be why supervisor Terry is able to vote on a project where his family and their partners own surrounding land. Del Mar and Maring and their affiliates own land around and near the naval base. In Terry’s own words “his is an accountant and can work figures”, I think anyone that can do basic math can figure when surrounding properties are developed, the undeveloped values increase significantly.

Kari Abbey Prelim Summations the Long Version

By Emerson Drake

District Attorney Dave Harris

The afternoon started out quietly with D.A. Harris sitting at the table softly reciting the events of last week’s hearings.  He started by describing the various ways Rita Elias had made the world aware of where she lived over the summer.  How her ex-common law husband had brought her children over to visit about ten times and always to the 1708A Donaldson address.

And how, when arrested in August, Rita had given the 1708A address to the Probation Department including providing them with a diagram of the apartment and where her bedroom was in relationship to those of others.  She even had a cable bill in her name at that address since cable service was part of the overhead she paid.  Just three weeks prior to the shooting she had told Deputy Hooper that she lived there as he documented in a report.

James Abbey had told the officers the night of the shooting he and Kari were there to collect the rent or evict them that night.  He also had admitted to Officers Kari and Rita had gotten in a fight with Kari ending up on top of Rita, pummeling her until James Abbey told her to stop. Harris reminded the court another witness had related how Elias said if she hadn’t been wearing heals Abbey wouldn’t have won.  James Abbey’s response to her was “bring it on.”  He then he told Elias “if you don’t leave I’ll sick Kari on you again.”

We were reminded of the times where Abbey had used her relationship withModestopolice and her badge to remain in control of situations when police were called. Kari and James Abbey and Bennie Taylor sometimes used ‘self help’ up to and including violent acts against tenants as Harris called it to perform illegal evictions of tenants behind in their rent payments.

DA Harris sited Daluiso vs. Boone, a Supreme Court decision that when performing unlawful evictions anything that came afterward was illegal.

Harris then pointed out the 106 plants were many times more than the Compassionate Act allowed and while acknowledging James Abbey had a recommendation, it didn’t cover this many plants and that James Abbey had admitted to investigators he had sold some of his harvested buds.  The second recommendation from someone in the foothills didn’t count since there was no evidence that James was the other persons’ caregiver. The third card was expired and wasn’t valid.

Harris went on to the embezzlement charge, reminding the Judge of the statements of two co-workers who had complained to her supervisor that Kari was spending 50% of her time on non-work related business.  The supervisor works in another location, so direct supervision was impossible.  The co-workers complained that she spent 50% of her time on her property management, and that there was a “for sale” and a “for rent” sign in her county issued car.

Harris also points out that ‘flex time’ excuse given by the defense doesn’t hold water.  And that Abbey had used her professional relationships to get fellow Officers to perform evictions for her with out Abbey having to pay the fee the Sheriff’s Office charges landlords.

Harris’ delivery through out his summation is calm and deliberate and he remained seated the entire time.

Defense Attorney Michael Rains

Now it was Defense attorney Michael Rains’ turn.  He said he felt the need to educate the people in the courtroom about prelims and what they were for but to be honest it seemed like he was addressing the judge through, or should I say instead, of  the observers in the courtroom. He reminded everyone of how his specialty is defending accused police officers and he had tried cases in many different counties but his experience here was limited and he hoped this county was like the others. He was concerned that this case might be a public relations ploy for the District Attorney’s office. 

Defense Attorney Rains’ style is to pace and apply histrionics (exaggerated expression or emotion) to his delivery.

He tells the court most times at prelims the prosecutor is smug and confident and while he doesn’t accuse Harris of this it reminds one of the act in Julius Caesar when Anthony says Brutus is an honorable man but means the exact opposite.  Defense attorney Harris says that most if not all of these charges should be thrown out and claims it was self-defense.  He also says that “cops will be charged with murder all the time if this is allowed to continue”. 

Rains uses the phrase “crafty claims” by the prosecution and denies that the facts the DA is using are real.  He actually suggests that just because she had a cable bill in her name at this address, doesn’t mean that she lives there.  Rains quotes Sally Pantoja saying that she didn’t see a fight between Abbey and Elias and he claims that the autopsy shows hair was pulled out of the scalp, but no hair was found at the scene, suggesting that the fight took place somewhere else.  

According to testimony the autopsy stated there was bruising on the scalp, suggesting that hair was pulled.  It was never suggested that hair was pulled from the scalp.  He suggested that the autopsy evidence of Rita having blunt force trauma to her hands and face could have been Elias hitting Abbey, not the other way around. 

Rains then tries to work in some hearsay that the judge had not allowed in hearings last week.  Harris objects and is sustained.  Rains says that Sally Pantoja was a credible witness despite the fact that she wouldn’t answer her door twice when police were trying to find witnesses to what happened.  Presumably she didn’t answer because she was on probation and under the influence of an illegal substance. 

 He actually claims that Kari Abbey was obligated to shoot Rita Elias as a police officer, despite her not being there in an official capacity.  He says the DA is waging a smear campaign against his client.  He also says the conspiracy case is a “wobbler”, meaning it could be a felony or misdemeanor.  He tries to make the claim that Bennie Taylor wasn’t there at all three instances of illegal evictions, so how can it be a conspiracy? 

He calls Quantana, who was assaulted by Bennie Taylor during an attempt to collect past due rent, a professional squatter. In the attempt to evict Quantana, the Abbey’s refused to supply a rental agreement despite his having paid about $1200 as a deposit.  As a result, Mr. Quantana was forced to generate a false rental agreement in an attempt to obtain electricity.  This would be the third time the Abbeys have been shown to either turn off the electricity as they did at the 1708 Donald home, the night of the shooting, and during the attempted eviction onWiley Drive.  

Rains reminds the court that he introduced eighteen rental agreements where the renter was required to pay for the electricity and had Investigator Hermosa read where the renter was required to provide the electricity in all those instances.

As far as the embezzlement charge is concerned, he suggests they have nothing but hearsay, with disgruntled co-workers alleging that she was only working a50% of the time.  He actually says the law language in the embezzlement charge is ambiguous at best and one is required to use the “rule of reasonableness”.

Once again, Rains accuses the DA of a smear job and tries to blame Abbey for the marijuana grow and tries to play it off as a medical grow, despite the fact log books and scales were found and James Abbey told police officers that he sold it.

Rains says that Kirk Bunch perjured himself by saying the MID bill found in Abbey’s bedroom was for the house and shed.  Rains pointed out that TID services that area. 

When he talks about the child endangerment charge, he reminds the court of the two pictures of the shotgun found in the couch with the child’s toy found near the trigger in one, but it was moved in the second one. 

I smell a rat.

Defense attorney Rains suggests the evidence was planted and said quite dramatically, “I smell a rat”.  Defense Attorney Rains’ presentation seemed more like a stage actors dramatic portrayal that’s been over-dramatized and filled with hyperbole. 

District Attorney Harris’ rebuttal.

DA Harris discussed the two pictures of the shotgun, pointing out to the court, the first one with the toy next top the trigger was taken to show how the weapon appeared when they found it.  The second one shows that the four shotgun shells had been removed from the gun, so obviously the movement of the toy was inconsequential.  Harris points out “to have guns where a six year old can reach them is inherently dangerous”. 

Concerning the marijuana grow, three cards were found.  One was expired and the second gave no indication that James Abbey was a caregiver to the card holder, the third was James Abbey’s, but the Compassionate Care Act doesn’t allow that quantity of plants and never allows sales.   The court is reminded that James Abbey admitted to investigators that he sometimes sold marijuana. The path that leads to the horse trailer in back that held sheriff’s posse tack and saddles, is where the three potted marijuana plants were found by investigators and where they noticed the strong smell of marijuana.

Mortgage paperwork for the house and shed, although in Kari, James and Denise Abbeys name, was found in Kari Abbey and Bennie Taylor’s bedroom, showing that Kari Abbey had been paying the mortgage for the house and shed and the electricity bill for both the house and the shed.

If you count the properties owned by Kari Abbey, James Abbey and Bennie Taylor, along with the company PLM, and now the recently introduced 18 more properties, it’s possible that Kari Abbey was managing 31 properties.  Deputies found a rental and a for sale sign in her county issued car.  Kari Abbey had been using her professional relationships with fellow deputies to deliver eviction notices and wasn’t paying the county mandated fee to the sheriff’s department. 

On the night of the shooting, James Abbey told investigators “we were going to get the rent or we were going to evict them”.  

Conspiracy is defined as an unlawful agreement to perform an unlawful purpose or act, so by James and Kari going to “get the rent or evict them”, it shows there was a conspiracy.  Defense attorney Rains had made claims that a landlord can go into a home at anytime, so therefore, there was no “trespass” that night.  DA Harris pointed out the law Rains quoted was from 1946 and there have been many changes regarding rental rights since then.  When a renter is in the home, they have the same legal rights as if they were the owner.  Kari, James or Bennie entering any rental property where somebody was already in the home is trespassing.  He says the law has to protect “lesser individuals” and that Abbey never identified herself as a police officer in the performance of her duty and as such, never gave Rita Elias the chance to surrender. 

He reminds the court that Jose Flores, Kari’s apartment manager, stated to investigators that Kari said to Rita, “come on, if you want to fight me, come back up here”, when Rita was in the street preparing to leave.  Kari goaded her into returning.  Its Rita returning back to the duplex that Judge Ricardo Cordova says justifies the self-defense.

After the hearing Rains spoke to observers, and mentioned he was concerned the DA would re-file the murder or manslaughter charges.  He plans to continue preparing a defense in case that happens.

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