Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Steve Madison”

Last Night’s Local Agency Formation Commission Meeting (LAFCO)

By Emerson Drake

Last night’s LAFCO was sparsely attended, short and bitter sweet.  All of the  Commission Members were in attendance.

English: This map shows the incorporated and u...

English: This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Stanislaus County, California, highlighting Modesto in red. It was created with a custom script with US Census Bureau data and modified with Inkscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They started out by discussing the letter from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce where the Chamber “mistakenly” used the official Modesto logo.  The letter had blasted LAFCO for conducting interviews out of the public’s eye. The letter’s last paragraph complained about the direction LAFCO has been going in favor (Ag Mitigation) hence my  concern about the possible confusion of using Modesto’s official logo.  It’s the way LAFCO has been doing business for a long time and it’s similar to the way the City and County interview potential Committee members.  The Board as a whole Chairman O’Brien and Supervisor Jim DeMartini took exception to the Chambers expressed opinions.

Chairman Bill O’Brien and Vice Chair Amy Bublak met and interviewed the four finalists before the meeting started (okay technically they interviewed Brad Hawn by phone) and they were Ron Freitas, John Mier, Annabel Gammon, and Brad Hawn.  Commissioner Mayor Charlie Goeken made the nominations for both Public member and Alternate public member.  Successful candidates were required to receive a vote from both a city and a county member.

After each nomination a vote was taken.  Brad Hawn, former Modesto City Councilman and a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors was chosen for public member and Annabel Gammon was chose as the alternate. Ms. Gammon’s vote was unanimous and  Commissioner DeMartini voted against Brad Hawn.

It was somewhat interesting to see Steve Madison builder, former BIA Director, and Chamber of Commerce member not only attending but speaking in support of the Chamber.  Sitting directly  behind me was  land use attorney and who is also sometimes portrayed as political kingmaker and Chamber campaign fund facilitator  George Petrulakis.  While George  and Steve were sitting separately,  they  left huddled in conversation together very soon after Brad Hawn who is also on the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors nomination.

Did the letter have the desired effect and help Hawn get the position?  I couldn’t say.  But I do know the past practice with LAFCO is to take the alternate public member who has been observing and participating as necessary and bringing them onto the Board as the Public member. Ron Freitas would have been my first choice for the position of Public member but the public doesn’t get to vote and since he had already served a term as Alternate he wasn’t eligible for the position. The public and the candidates were given the opportunity to speak in behalf of themselves or any of the candidates but since Commissioner Goeken wasn’t part of the interviewing process and was the one making the nominations I don’t believe any input at that point would make a difference.

So does Brad Hawn being chosen place Ag Mitigation in jeopardy? I spoke to several of the Commission members after the meeting and they assured me changing their Ag mitigation policy was a long and arduous process and that particular conversation wasn’t even on the distant horizon.

Now the flip side.

We all know the Modesto Chamber of Commerce has been actively planning and has started using Modesto’s General Plan Amendment process to campaign to completely destroy not only Ag land preservation but also Ag Mitigation utilizing the current election cycle as a tool and that Steve Madison and George Petrulakis were there for a reason last night.

.Lobbyists, real estate agents, and home builders fill their action committees and with no direct concerted opposition mounted by the citizens of Modesto I’m afraid there are dark times ahead.

I’m looking forward to next Monday’s “On Watch With Athens Abell”  on local cable television KBSV 6:00 PM Comcast 15 also on streaming video.  I’ll be the guest hosting  and  talking with  Stanislaus County Board member and LAFCO Commissioner Jim DeMartini.

Now that’s one conversation  you won’t want to miss.

Advertisements

Modesto’s Chamber is Trying to Undermine Ag Mitigation

By Emerson Drake

Once in a while I have one of those moments where the curtain lifts and “understanding of the big picture” is achieved.  I

parking lot

parking lot (Photo credit: liikennevalo)

had one of those when I read the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s letter to Stanislaus County’s Local Agency Formation Commission or  (LAFCO ).  The letter complains that not enough of their members were aware of Citizen openings on the Commission and they protested the way LAFCO  interviews and chooses the appointees.    Here is the pdf of the letter:

Chamber04022013

Now I find it disingenuous when they say “despite some knowledge of this in the business community, we recently received feedback from some of our members who were not aware of the openings.”  Strange since Brad Hawn, who is on the Chamber Board of Directors is one of the finalists.  And with lobbyist Cecil Russell on the payroll shouldn’t the fault have been his?  But it actually gets worse. Of the three signers from the Chamber the first is real estate agent Craig Lewis who, by his statements,  has misled the planning Commission during the last two meetings.  The second ,  Steve Madison,  recently of Stanco fame but was on the Building Industry Association (BIA) Board of Directors when they sued Stanislaus County to remove Ag Mitigation and lost in State Court costing the taxpayers  over $300,000 in legal fees. And of course Chamber lobbyist Cecil Russell is the third signatory.  Their obvious intent is to do away with LAFCO’s Ag Mitigation policy. An aside here, you will notice Modesto’s logo on the bottom of page one of the letter.  While speaking to Councilman Dave Geer at a recent Council strategy session, this logo is copy-written and can only be used by the City of Modesto.  So I called and emailed the City Manager’s office to inquire.  But Gregg Nyhoff was too busy to get back to me. The fact Mr. Nyhoff’s  called an ex-officio on the letter head probably doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Why is this organized attempt to game LAFCO a concern?  Well it follows a Modesto City Council meeting where Councilman Dave Cogdill seconded by Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside, passed a resolution disallowing Modesto the opportunity to have an Ag Mitigation policy of its own.  Mayor Marsh was the only person to vote against the motion. The Councilwoman after the meeting said she wanted to vote for the Mayor’s proposal of 1-1 mitigation only on prime farmland but failed to explain why she didn’t. This was the second of two votes.  The first vote was a special interest give away to Mike Zagaris and the Trombetta family involving Tivoli.  When Tivoli, a housing development, was first discussed, land mitigation was required.  But thanks to Councilman Cogdill’s “deal” all land inside Modesto’s city limits will be given a free pass for Ag Mitigation.

If the Chamber can undermine LAFCO’s determination to mitigate farmland by stacking the deck then we’ll be planting driveways where we now plant crops.  Remember an acre of farmland brings in about $25,000 worth of positive cash flow for the county.  It costs cities after taxes and fees  between $3,000 and $5,000 for each acre of housing every year. And what is Mr’ Madison and Mr’ Lewis’ specialty?  You guessed it HOUSING.

After hearing Brent Sinclair mouthing the exact same words that Mr. Lewis used at the last meeting, it has become apparent the General Plan Amendment meetings are just a dog and pony show.  Otherwise Modesto would have made sure the GPA meeting was advertised as well as the recent City Plaza sticker fest.  We have to hope the council appointees on the Planning Commission will listen to the desires of our citizens.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting citizens should give up. We need to redouble our efforts to retake Modesto from the same developers who brought us the housing debacle in 2008.

Post Navigation