Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “War on the Homeless”

A Message To All of Modesto From Dave Thomas

Good afternoon, I hope you have time to read the attached.  It pretty clearly outlines my personal thinking and is generally supported by the STA.  Some of you might find some of my comments controversial.  Well, that is me, I am willing to step up and say what I believe is the truth.  I am far more interested in saying and writing what I believe is the truth, than sparing someone discomfort over their own actual public actions. 

        If you think something I say in the attached .pdf is wrong, please message or phone me and I will provide you the document(s) or other material that will tell you why I said it.  You might not want to believe some things that governments do to you, but there is plenty of documentation that is readily available in the BEE and on line.

        If you just do not like what I say, tell me why.

        If you think this information is worth sharing, please send it on to your friends.

        Thank you very much, Dave

My dear friends:

After reading this morning’s BEE, I am disheartened. Our

governments are no longer even remotely responsive nor responsible

to you and me. What is it that makes good friends and neighbors

mindless rubber stampers who grovel in front of a government staff.

Why do most elected officials become zombies after being elected?

Their peers vilify the ones who continue to think after being elected

when they try to inject common sense into an issue.

Today’s BEE challenges even the most cynical amounst us with

3 stories. The first page tells us that now, the City government is

going to regulate camping out. That is not restricted to illegal

camping out, or squatting, but even your children’s back yard fun. I

can understand vagrants who invade and ruin public property. But,

no, the City “leaders” had to make your children felons if they leave a

tent up in your back yard for more than 5 days. Apparently, your

kids cannot camp in your backyard unless the property owner goes to

the cops and gets a permit to erect a tent for no more than 5 days.

Councilman Dave Lopez told us that we desperately need a law

to “safeguard the public” against “illegal camping”. Well, Dave, if it is

already illegal, did what you voted for last night make it even MORE


Councilman Joe Muratore told us, “We are not creating a police

state.” Really? When you support a new law that allows the cops to

come into your backyard and arrest your children for having a family

Tee-Pee in it?

Councilman Dave Geer promised us that he “…trusted police

officers to enforce the ordinance with common sense…” Really.

REALLY? If illegal camping is already illegal, and the cops are not

enforcing those laws, why would he trust the cops to enforce this law

with common sense? The BEE says, “These campsites are often

strewn with trash, are a health and safety nuisance, and are occupied

by parole violators and others with criminal records..” Well, do the

cops not have a reason to arrest parole violators, other criminals, and

address health and safety violations ALREADY??

You know, it just occurred to me; this deal may be just like

Kristin Olsen’s sophomoric demand for a dumpster diving law – which

I understand has never been charged against anyone. Could it be

just another payoff to some complaining friend of a Councilperson?

Could it be a way for a Council crony to get even with a neighbor for

noisy kids in a nearby back yard? Hummmmmmm.

Well then, if that does not make your day, read the story on

the first page of Section B, “Council votes to raise rates.” Now HERE

is a remarkable story about your neighbors spending $400,000 on

something that may never happen. The deal is to double or triple

your water rates so the City can fix the MID’s water treatment plant.

You read that right, the MID build a water treatment plant, owns the

water treatment plant and screwed up the water treatment plant. It

does not work; it is a pile of useless concrete and steel junk. It must

be torn down. The City has no rights to that plant, and absolutely no

authority to trespass on it or fix it. The City has no rights to do

invasive testing of materials, or any other diagnostic work.

Does it matter that no one alive today knows how much it will

cost to fix? Several people have told me that it will cost more than

$40 MILLION dollars and as much as $65 MILLION. It is not a

remodel; it is not wallboard and bathroom fixtures. It is CONCRETE

and STEEL that does not work!! MID engineers have already found

over 100 “deficiencies” in this plant, and they are not known for

being thorough. There could well be 300 deficiencies that will be

found only after the fix gets started. MID General Manager Allen

Short promised me with his very own lips that this plant would come

in for less than $30 MILLION dollars. It has cost us about $85

MILLION to build so far, and no one knows HOW to fix it, let alone

how much it will COST to fix it.

The final act of insanity is that the CITY has sent MID a

demand letter to give the City permission to fix the plant, take over

all the legal battles that will go on for 3 to 5 years, and when the

plant is fixed – at an unknown date or cost – they want MID to simply

“hand over” the property ownership to the City…for free. And this

Council (except for Council Woman Burnside, who actually gets the

insanity of this all) is charging over the cliff as if MID has already

agreed to the Mayor’s demand.

The catch is, MID has not even read the demand. The City told

me it is not a public document, and refuses to release it to the

Taxpayers Association. The MID will not even begin to discuss this

ridiculous demand for 2 weeks, if then. Please tell me, what would

make the MID want to give away profit-making assets for nothing?

They make a huge profit (relatively speaking – ask me for details)

selling water to the City. They support plant employees with HUGE

salaries and benefits. They control the water and they control the

price of water. MID is broke, wallowing in debt and it NEEDS those

profits. What are the odds that they are going to bend over and give

away these assets?

Finally, read the Op/Ed piece by Tom VanGronigan on page A-

13. Full disclosure requires me to tell you that Tom and I have

served on several Boards and committees since the early 1990’s. We

know each other. I rarely agree with Tom. His politics and ideas are

not similar to mine. Nonetheless, we have remained cordial if not

friendly for a long time.

The comments contained in Tom’s piece simply are not

germane to the discussion of selling our precious water. Remember,

there are reasons to do things, and there are ways to do things.

Tom, in my opinion, confuses the two issues. Tom’s comments all

relate to the fact that MID is broke. It needs money, and it needs it

ASAP. OK, MID really IS broke, and that is a REASON to fix the being

broke part. But the WAY to fix the broke part is NOT to sell the most

important, precious asset we have, our water and attendant rights.

The WAY to fix the being broke problem is to get real with the

unions. MID cannot continue to pay average employees $140,000,

with bloated benefits. MID overhead consumes most of its massive

profits from electricity, and its enormous debt service eats the rest.

MID must renegotiate with the unions, get salaries in line with

reality, get its huge law suit problem solved, raise irrigation rates

from $10 per Acre Foot to at least $25 per Acre Foot, fix the water

plant and sell the water it has already contracted with the City to the

City. Selling the water will not fix the real problem, which is very bad


Thank you for your attention. If you think this is worthwhile

information, let me know, and send it on to your friends.

Dave Thomas

Modesto’s War on the Homeless Continues

By Emerson Drake

Last night by a vote of 6-1 one of the most poorly written ordinances in Modesto’s history was enacted (okay, it takes 30 days to be in effect).  Mayor Garrad Marsh was the only council member to support Personal and Private Property rights of individuals.  Councilman Gunderson almost stood to be counted.  He anguished over his vote for a few moments, then he bowed his head, acquiesced, and went along with the herd.

Councilman Lopez is the Chairman of the Safety and Communities Committee this poorly considered ordinance came from. NONE of the Council or Committee  members were aware of the home camping limitation of the  “one consecutive night” provision that would have made you and your children criminals if you allowed them to campout two nights in a row. It seems that the Modesto Police Department conveniently over looked that sentence in the provision during its Committee presentation.  This was exposed when I went to the agenda meeting Monday afternoon, which is in preparation for the Tuesday Council meeting.  Otherwise it is very likely the three alternate versions of the proposed ordinance would not have been made available.  This ordinance  also made a sleeping bag  illegal paraphernalia, which Chief Harden tried to deny until they ordinance was read to him from the podium. Unfortunately this portion was not changed. At least  now you are allowed to let your children camp out 5 nights in a row.

As bad as this unnecessary intrusion into your personal life and family decisions you might choose to make is, there is a larger cause, and that is Modesto’s War on the Homeless

A little Background is in order

 Councilman Joe Muratore’s main platform plank when he ran for office in Council District 4 was  to remove the scourge of the homeless.  He said the homeless needed to be “eliminated” in a campaign speech he made which was since removed from his campaign website. Notice Muratore wanted to eliminate the homeless not homelessness which in my opinion  provides some insight to the man. You can find a breakdown of the BRCH members in an earlier article here on EyeOnModesto.

Councilman Muratore went to this same Safety and communities Committee (pre Councilman Gunderson) for permission to create a  the so-called Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless. This commission was composed of, according to the words of Chairman J. David Wright, “people who had been effected by the homeless.”  This was true but he failed to mention effected in a negative way.

Councilman Muratore’s particular appointee was La Loma Neighborhood Association President Mike Moridian who, since his involvement in the “association, which is not officially recognized as a nonprofit because of its advocacy of Muratore for Councilman during the council race, has been an outspoken critic of the homeless and has publicly professed a desire to chase them out of Modesto.

Last Night’s Council Meeting and Criminalizing the Homeless

I met many extremely thoughtful and generous people last night who spoke out for the homeless who were not there to speak out for themselves.  From former Council candidate Jenny Kenoyer who is also an advocate for our mature citizens to Annette Mott from the Angels for the Homeless and many more who spoke passionately in defense of the homeless. All questioned the council’s desire to make the homeless criminals in these dire times.  Ed Brearden Modesto’s Poet Laureate Emeritus was strident in his concern.  I’ll thank them and provide more of the names of those good people when the council video is posted to help with accuracy.

Brian Du Bois spoke and questioned the Council’s sworn committment to the U.S.Constitution regarding our allegedly protected personal rights and freedoms. He also questioned why the Council overlooked the fact Council member, Joe Muratore, took $62,500 illegally on a NSP2 scheme with his business partner Ryan Swehla.  Councilman Muratore returned the money and some how avoided potential charges from the U.S. Department of Urban Housing (HUD).

Homeless advocate and Mayoral and Council candidate Robert Stanford took Councilman Muratore to task calling him ‘Nazi Joe Muratore’ as was noted in Ken Carlson’s story in the Bee. He reminded everyone of Muratore’s spoken desire to raze the airport district’s homes and level the ground with heavy machinery.  Hopefully, then candidate Muratore meant after the people had been thrown out of their homes and into the streets and not before.  Muratore never made a distinction of his preferences in that regard.

Modesto’s Reality

We have a serious homeless problem but criminalizing it won’t make it go away. We need effective programs to combat homelessness and several were proposed last night.  But unfortunately the council (lead in this instance by Muratore, Cogdill, and Lopez) has its own ideas on the subject and instead of offering a helping hand up,  their plans seem to involve a right cross to the jaw followed by a kick to the groin.

What we as a society do to the least of us we do to all of us.

And we need to do better if we want to improve Modesto’s  image around the County, the State, the Country, and around the World.

No Dancing Ordinance and No Camping Ordinance – Could There be a Connection?

By Emerson Drake

Just a few short years ago the Modesto Police Department (MPD) wrote an ordinance against dancing in public  without a permit and it was so poorly written that an Officer suggested if three patrons in an eating establishment were nodding their heads or tapping their feet in time to the music it could be called dancing and the establishment closed and the owner fined.  Now the MPD is proposing a no camping ordinance supported by the Council’s own Safety and Community’s Committee which is just as misguided.

I recognize this ordinance change is an attempt to provide another tool for law enforcement in Councilman Joe Muratore’s WAR AGAINST THE HOMELESS.”  Unfortunately, just like the original “anti-dancing” ordinance, it is poorly written.  It can’t be evenly enforced without making criminals out of every child who carries a sleeping bag to a friends house for a sleepover.

The Ordinance invades our personal rights and our private property by saying we can’t allow anyone, including our children, to camp or sleep outside on our private property for two consecutive nights without buying a permit from the city manager.  It even make criminals out of visiting relatives who might sleep in an RV either in our driveways or parked in front of our homes for two nights.

According to the ordinance if you take a blanket to a city park for a picnic you can be charged with a crime. The list they refer to as paraphernalia sounds like everything a boy scout might take on a camping trip. And he or she could be criminally charged if they walked down the street carrying any of the equipment necessary for a camping trip.

I’m not exaggerating, please read the ordinance for yourselves. It is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday June 5, 2012. Here is the link to the agenda, it’s item #20:   http://www.modestogov.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=449&doctype=AGENDA 

Please email our city councilpersons and tell them to either send it back to committee to be written better or vote it down!


Is there anyone who doesn’t think we have enough laws intruding on our right to privacy and invading our personal freedoms?

Is there anyone who thinks we’ve had enough of the “nanny state”  ?

Write your emails. Make those calls,  And consider coming down to the city council Tuesday night and tell them in person enough is enough.

Because when they come for you, it’ll be too late.

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