Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Stephanie Burnside”

The Cuts the Finance Committee Refused to Recommend for Political Reasons

By Emerson Drake

On Wednesday August 15,2013 the Modesto Finance Committee met to discuss the budget reductions recommended by

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

the City Manager Greg Nyhoff in the event the one percent sales tax doesn’t pass. The committee which consists of Chair-Stephanie Burnside. Vice-Chair David Cogdill, and Joe Muratore (absent with Dave Geer standing in) had made prior arrangements with Nyhoff and Mayor Marsh to withhold discussion because of Councilwoman Burnside’s unwillingness to voice her opinions due to  her up-coming re-election bid.  Of just as much concern was Nyhoff having not placed his recommendations on-line (they still are NOT on the city website.

All of the Department heads were there to discuss and or answer questions regarding the potential cuts but because of the previous behind the scenes agreement to help Burnside, no give and take took place.  As a matter of fact Nyhoff told the Dept. heads they could leave.  This article isn’t meant to be a discussion of the right or wrong of the sales tax or of the cuts, we’ll do that in another article.  It’s about disdain and the lack of  transparency by Modesto City officials towards the public. The room was full with Chamber of Commerce members,  a couple of members of the public and one candidate, Bill Zoslocki. Of potential interest were the only three people in attendance with color printouts in white folders, Brent Sinclair, lobbyist Cecil Russell, and candidate/developer Bill Zoslocki. Everyone else had the black and white copies from the table at the door.

Then there was the single page Nyhoff handed out during the meeting containing the cuts.  It was noted the potential deficit this year was $11.8 Million and much is expected to be the same next year.  If they don’t fill positions again this year in the Public Safety and Non-Safety Departments the deficit will be only about $8 Million.  Yet the goal for the day’s exercise was $6 Million.

Here is the list of recommended reductions.

The City Manager’s Dept.  ……………………………………………………….$141,000                                                                                                                    Eliminating lobbyists contracts, eliminating dues, memberships, supporting Alliance, CA League of Cities, Conference of Mayors, eliminate CM and DCM conference attendance.

Human Resources Dept.  …………………………………………………………$209,000                                                                                                                  Position reductions (slow recruitment and hiring, reduced HR assistance to departments regarding personnel matters, delayed response to labor group inquiries.

Finance Dept. ………………………………………………………………………..$450,000                                                                                                                  Downsize budget division (annual budget process, cannot expand to 2 year budget, minimal forecasting and pro forma updates, slower responses to operating dept inquiries) downsize purchasing division (formal RFP’s will go from 120 days to 240. master contracts will expire and require delay in renewals), downsize grant section (grant compliance will shift to operating depts. causing a greater potential for errors in regulatory grant reporting, internal controls weakened significantly)

Parks Recreation & Neighborhood Services ……………………………….$1,000,000                                                                                                              Close Centre Plaza, Closure of Dryden Golf Course, eliminate GF subsidy for John Thurman Field (impact to Modesto Nuts). eliminate support for parades, recreation  programs and Leisure Bucks Programs, eliminate graffiti abatement.

Community and Economic Development ……………………………………$400,000                                                                                                               50% reduction in code enforcement services and complaint inspection, elimination of planning activities of 50% reduction in service (eliminate support for CIP Task Force, 50% reduction in response to customers, developers, City Manager, City Council, inquiries), eliminate participation in Regional Rail. regional transportation and sustainable communities, Eliminate long-range planning (General Plan, ag preservation, housing element, Urban Growth Review), eliminate Downtown Hospitality Program, (parking study, policing and security, entertainment and nightlife)

Total non-public safety …………………………………….approximately $2,200,000

Public Safety Departments–Police and Fire

Modesto Regional Fire Authority (MRFA)…………………………………..$1,400,000                                                                                                      Brown out one fire engine / station

Police …………………………………………………………………………………$2,500,000                                                                                                      Reduction in patrol, reduction in Animal Control Services, elimination in STAN CATT participation, withdraw from Auto Theft Task Force, reduce office hours in customer service, eliminate participation in Federal Gang Task Force

Total Public Safety–Police and Fire …………………………………………$3,900,000

TOTAL PUBLIC SAFETY AND NON-PUBLIC SAFETY ……………………..$6,100,000

Council Comments from the Residential Urban Limit Meeting

By Emerson Drake

At Tuesday’s 4/23/13 Modesto City Council meeting regarding Denny Jackman’s Residential Urban Limits or RUL, we

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

listened to new talking points being aired by the Chamber of Commerce and Building Industry Association through their close friends/mouthpieces on the council.

Denny’s RUL  recommends boundaries beyond which no residential development under 10 dwelling units per acre could occur without a majority public vote.  A very much similar version of RUL had been presented to the Economic Development Committee last year but was temporarily shelved due to upcoming elections. I believe what Denny expected was a reasoned conversation regarding farmland preservation. Unfortunately Lobbyist Cecil Russell’s response was a personal attack on Mr. Jackman instead of a conversation about RUL.

Council comments were even more interesting.  Several members of the public at the meeting pointed to the five Measure “M” votes  (the five were about sewer extensions after annexation) as the people having spoken about NOT wanting uncontrolled growth or  “Sprawl.”  The public rejected these votes by 60.05, 61.66, 63.66, 64.7, and 69.78 percent.  Councilman Dave Lopez decided to try and undermine five Measure “M” votes with spin.  He made the claim “voter fatigue set in.”   His comment was attempting to invalidate 65,974 votes.  The “spin” he was basing his comments on was the fact the voters turned down what he termed “easy money” for the general fund when they could have at least voted for the Hetch/Hetchy Measure “C” which included the car dealerships on North McHenry Avenue.  He specifically sited their use of Modesto’s water and sewer.

While he suggests this  invalidates the five measures the public voted on,  I believe he’s reaching.  Doesn’t this match up almost exactly with the Council’s decision to allow Beard Industrial Tract a  “deal” to avoid paying Modesto utility user fees for the very same services (water, sewer, electricity) they wanted to charge the car dealerships?  It’s all about the utility tax any business building in the Tract would have been required to pay.  This “special arrangement” he wasn’t willing to give the dealerships will cost Modesto Taxpayers MILLIONS of Dollars every… single… year after the businesses move in.

So if  the five decisions by the voters area are a case of voter fatigue,  was the Beard decision voter fatigue or a payout to special interests by the council ?  Charging the car dealerships is good while charging Beard is bad?  Councilman Lopez, no matter how hard you try you can’t have it both ways because we’ll call you on it.

Councilwoman Burnside has been on a roll herself.  At the March 26th  meeting she gave the council the credit for Modesto being one of the “most dense cities in California.”  She cited a figure of 8.8 people per acre. While our math suggests the figure is closer to 7.9 per acre, in this case it just doesn’t matter.  Her 8.8 puts Modesto somewhere around 108th in density of  California cities.  We would be 8th in a list of cities starting with the letter “M.”  Maybe that’s what she meant.

She also said “it cracks me up when people say” smart growth, your smart and my smart may be completely different” she went on to say, so that’s very subjective. There needs to be responsible growth in the manner in where we are building. As dense as we are I think we can do it through the General Plan, not through Ag Mitigation.”

Ranking at 108 and not being among the most dense, I believe shows many things are subjective and if this is an example of their reasoning we had better utilize Ag Mitigation through the ballot box rather than trust our council to do the right thing.

The good Councilwoman’s other remarks, “I don’t believe in leadership by ballot box.  I believe that’s why we were elected.”  She also said “I despise the individuals that stand up here and say I represent the people like farmers aren’t people “, and “I’d like to know where all of those lobbyist are, I haven’t seen any.”

Lets look at her first two comments. Her district encompasses about 34,000 people and has about forty farmers. The farmers she’s really discussing are about the 6 who would like to sell their farms to home builders because that’s the only people RUL would affect.  What she’s actually saying is she wants to provide taxpayer assistance so a few farmers and her developer friends in the Chamber of Commerce can make lots of money while leaving us taxpayers to pay the bills.  Taxpayer assistance?  Yes, conservatively speaking for every acre of homes that are built the taxpayer is on the hook for between $3,000 to $5,000 yearly for services. That’s right year after year, after year, $3-5,000 dollars just so her friends can be wealthy.  Taxpayer’s  paying  developers welfare money.

Councilman Cogdill’s comments covered a wide rages of topics.  He suggested in the last twenty years councils had planned effectively.  He said “Village I was planned responsibly.” I’m not a big proponent of urban limits or ballot box planning.” And “You don’t have to scratch a farmer very deep to find a developer.”

As Mayor Marsh later commented, Village I as originally designed was a marvel but by the time the council back then was on their eight change amendment it was no longer recognizable. It’s also understandable for these politicians to be resentful of ballot box measures.  It’s obvious the people of Modesto no longer trust their elected politicians to follow the will of their constituents  and because of past and current history who can blame them.

I encourage everyone to go online and listen to the council debates and see for themselves what is going on in the Modesto City Council. Here is the link to the city agenda and meeting archive. Click on the video of the week you want to see and while it’s loading you can choose the agenda item you want to watch discussed by clicking on it. The video will advance to approximate  location. http://ci.modesto.ca.us/ccl/agendas/

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