Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What about Salida's Farmers?

One of the biggest ironies of the Salida annexation issue is that while what's driving the issue is control of Salida's farmland, the owners of that land will have the least amount of say in the issue. Other than possibly wielding political influence, Salida's farmers have nearly no voice in the issue. I'll explain why.

There are only two options at present: that Modesto annexes Salida or it doesn't. The annexation is likely to proceed because there are powerful political forces and entities behind the scenes that are pushing for Salida to be annexed. Its mostly a mix of politicians, developers, and farmland preservationists propeling it, and Salida's farmland is the pawn that's being bartered around.

Ratto Bros. land near Toomes and Bacon, Salida
Specifically, the farmland that's the pawn is the land contained in developer agreements in the Salida Community Plan. If Modesto annexes Salida, those developer agreements are shortened from 25 years to 8 years. From comments made by Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh at the Beyer High and Senior Citizens Center Town Hall Meetings, Modesto plans to wait out those 8 years so they can change the zoning of the land. All of the land on the west side of Salida - north of Toomes will be put into "agricultural preserve". Some farmers might not mind that. But some farmers will mind, because what this new land designation will do is affect their ability to sell the land they own and the price they can get for it. Modesto is planning an initiative like Measure E, where the farmers' land cannot be sold for residential development without a vote of the people. Will they be able to sell for commercial or industrial development? I don't know because the initiative doesn't exist yet, but that would seem to defeat the purpose of "agricultural preserve" if they allowed that, wouldn't it?

Now this wouldn't affect all of Salida's farmers because with Modesto calling the shots on where development in Salida occurs, some farmers east of Freeway 99 will still be able to sell their land for light industrial development and a proposed 110-acre sports park. Yet note that I wrote "some farmers" because according to Mr. Marsh, some with land north of the irrigation canal between Kiernan and Ladd will also be subject to their land being designated "agricultural preserve".

If Modesto's politicians decide to proceed with annexing Salida, the only way to stop the annexation is a majority protest and/or petition by Salida's registered voters. If the annexation goes as far as a LAFCO vote, landowners only get one vote each. This is why Salida's farmers have so little say in the matter. The future outcome of what they will be able to do with their land will rest solely on what the majority of Salida's registered voters decide.*

*From "Stanislaus LAFCO Policies and Procedures Manual" page 17:
"NOTE: Although both landowners and registered voters may submit a protest against annexation, the ultimate outcome of an inhabited annexation is decided on the basis of registered voter protest or votes cast in a special annexation election.  Thus, the most that can be accomplished through landowner protest in an inhabited annexation is the scheduling of an election wherein the voters–whether they own land or not–will decide the issue."

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Modesto's Got Salida's Goat"

Photo credit: Central Valley Memes Facebook Group
Today is the big 100th birthday bash for Modesto's iconic "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health" arch. A little history lesson about the arch which few people know, is that the words on the arch were the result of a contest held in 1912 and the words chosen were the second place winner. The first place winner was "Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat". Then Mayor of Modesto, a Mr. Sol P. Elias, and the Modesto Business Men's Association were "outraged over the judges' choice" and successfully lobbied for the second place runner up.

One hundred years later, another Mayor of Modesto, Garrad Marsh, has suggested another arch - but this time, its for Salida. Several weeks ago, when Salida's sense of community was brought up at a meeting while discussing the potential annexation, Mr. Marsh replied, "Well then, Salida could have an arch that says "Salida", but they'll still be Modesto".

An arch is THE icon of Modesto. An arch in Salida would be a constant visual reminder for Salidans of what Salida has lost - our independence. And if Salida capitulates to the taxpayer boondoggle of annexation, and accepts an additional frittering-away of taxpayer dollars on an arch when Modesto is in dire need of more police and firefighters, then we should at least right a one-hundred year wrong and give James Hanscom's tossed aside first place (slightly edited) entry its due on Salida's arch with, "Modesto's Got Salida's Goat".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Patience, please, on Salida" - Why?

Every few months, elected officials from the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County meet for a City-County Liaison Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is for selected politicians and public officials who serve on this committee to discuss various projects or other things that the city and county need to work on together. 

'The Brown Act', allows the public to attend and comment on the meeting proceedings. On Sunday, the Modesto Bee ran a wonderfully informative history of the Brown Act by William Broderick-Villa, "Modesto's Gift to Democracy? The Brown Act". So one day before this meeting, we learned that thanks to a Modestan who crafted the Brown Act back in 1953, Salidans in 2012 can attend a meeting of Modestans who are plotting to decide Salida's future. Ironic, isn't it?

Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh points to an unincorporated area
as Modesto City Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside and
Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien look on during the
City-County Liaison Meeting
And the irony doesn't stop there. Myself, along with a couple of other Salidans, attended this City-County Liaison Meeting yesterday because the Salida Annexation was on the agenda. Salida was the second item on the agenda. The first item was regarding the annexation of Stanislaus County's unincorporated county islands within Modesto's sphere of influence. In other words, county pockets surrounded by the City of Modesto which were never annexed into the city for one reason or another; most likely economic reasons. And they still remain county islands today due largely to economic reasons because it would cost the city A LOT of money to construct the infrastructure (e.g.: sewer) to annex these islands into the city. Which brings us to the second glaring irony: we Salidans sat listening to a discussion about county islands who want to be annexed by the city, before reaching the agenda item for Salida which isn't asking to be annexed by the city. If that isn't the epitome of irony, I don't know what is.

When they reached the Salida Annexation agenda item, the Deputy Executive Director for Stanislaus County, Keith Boggs, gave an update on the financials of the fiscal feasibility study contracted to Goodwin Consulting. He then opened the door for comment by directing it to Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh about whether this is something that Modesto and Salida wants.

So during the public comment portion, I shared with them that the overwhelming majority of Salidans who have voiced their opinion on the subject are against the annexation. I asked if they could not waste any more taxpayer money on this as its likely to be a repeat of the previously failed annexation attempt. And I relayed to them what I hear all the time in Salida, and that's the people want "Salida to stay Salida."

But this isn't what Mr. Marsh wants to hear. He responded with several of the political talking points he's used before. I replied that several Salidans are already asking to petition and that's when he began promoting an Advisory Vote.

One really big problem with an Advisory Vote is that its non-binding and could leave Salida vulnerable to be shafted again as happened in the 1996 Salida annexation attempt by Modesto. Then Modesto Mayor, Dick Lang, was quoted as saying regarding the Advisory Vote, "I'll listen to what Salida wants but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it." The reason I know that story is because Mr. Marsh told that story just last week, which made its way to me; and I repeated it back in reply to Mr. Marsh at yesterday's meeting. Now it may be inferred that this is what Mr. Marsh plans to do with the Advisory Vote, but in a roomful of city-county officials, Mr. Marsh said he would abide by Salida's wishes on an Advisory Vote. -HOWEVER- he stuck an additional hurdle in there - he said we would need SIXTY PERCENT (60%) of Salida to vote "no" on the annexation whereas with a petitioned vote, we would only need FIFTY-ONE (51%) to stop the annexation.

There was also a Modesto Bee editor who attended the meeting and so on today's Modesto Bee Opinions page, the editor gave an opinion under their regular "Our View" titled, "Patience, please, on Salida" stating that, "Salidans do deserve a chance to weigh in but we do agree with Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh that there's no reason to hold an advisory vote until reliable financial information is available."  Why?  Why should Salidans have to wait for that? WHY SHOULD SALIDANS OPINIONS PLAY SECOND FIDDLE TO WHAT A MAYOR OF MODESTO WANTS? ITS OUR COMMUNITY - ITS NOT MODESTO'S YET SO OUR OPINIONS SHOULD BE A PRIORITY ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE!!  

And the financial information that they are asking us to wait for is NOT FOR US - ITS FOR THE CITY AND THE COUNTY TO DETERMINE THEIR COST-SHARING AGREEMENTS for annexing Salida. The only sense where this applies to us is for how much this current boondoggle by the city and county is going to cost us taxpayers. 

I know my words fell on deaf ears as far as Mr. Marsh goes. But I know that at least one politician in that room heard me and hopefully, there were others. Please Modesto and Stanislaus County Politicians, think long and hard about all of this and don't waste our precious tax dollars on an annexation that the Salida community is not asking for.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What you can do about the annexation

Now I know that with the annexation wheels already in motion, Salidans might feel helpless or powerless to have any say or do anything about it. I felt that way too at first. But trust me, we're not helpless. We have our voices and we need to make ourselves heard. And there are several ways to do this:

Write LettersIf you subscribe to the Modesto Bee, you may have noticed a few Letters to the Editor regarding the annexation which are starting to appear:

September 10, 2012 - "Modesto is bad business for Salida"

September 18, 2012 - "No to the Salida annexation

Keep them coming Salida! Every little bit helps to make our voices heard and our opinions known.

Attend Meetings - Except for December (because it falls on Christmas Day) the Salida Municipal Advisory Council (aka Salida MAC) holds monthly meetings on the fourth (4th) Tuesday of each month at the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library Community Room at 7 p.m.  The annexation has been added as an agenda item until it is no longer an issue, and the public is welcome to attend and ask questions or make comments. Stanislaus County Supervisor for District 3 (which includes Salida), Terry Withrow, usually attends and addresses questions regarding the annexation. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can always call or e-mail Mr. Withrow.

Another meeting you should mark your calendar for to DEFINITELY attend is Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh's Town Hall Meeting.  The next meeting will be Saturday, November 3 at 10 a.m. at the Senior Citizens Center, 211 Bodem Street, Modesto. Call Kathy Espinoza 571-5597 for more information.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, contact Mr. Marsh directly with your comments and concerns.

Lastly, if your schedule allows, attend any Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and Modesto City Council meetings where the Salida annexation issue is an agenda item. These meetings allow for public comments to be made regarding agenda items. Unfortunately, some of the meetings occur in the daytime during working hours or there may be very short notice when the issue is added to the agenda. The Modesto Bee usually lists a review of the agenda items on the day prior, or on the day of the meeting.

Radio Show - Emerson Drake hosts "What's on America's Mind" on BlogTalk Radio on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. Mr. Drake has been covering the Salida annexation regularly for several weeks now and he welcomes callers to call into his show. You can listen to the show online and if you set up an account, participate in the chatroom. You can also listen to the show over your phone by calling (347) 215-9414, and if you wish to comment, press '1'. The show is re-broadcast throughout the week on a local Salida radio station 104.9 FM

Petition (Binding) - The "loudest" and most effective tool we have to make our voices heard to the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County is through a petition. If 25% of Salida's registered voters sign a binding petition, the annexation will go to ballot for a vote. If over 51% of Salida's registered voters sign the petition, the annexation is killed altogether.
Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh has said he wants an Advisory Vote for Salida. The problem with an Advisory Vote is that its not binding, which means, no matter the number of votes, the Modesto City Council can opt to ignore the wishes of Salida's citizens and proceed with the annexation. 

Many Salidans are not registered to vote and have no intention of registering for whatever reason, but still want to voice their opinion against the annexation. For that purpose, I've established a petition on A copy of any comments you make will be sent to Mr. Marsh, the Modesto City Council and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. 

We don't have much time left before the city and county proceed with the annexation. This is your chance to say, "WE ARE SALIDA! HEAR US ROAR!"

NEXT POST: "Patience, please, on Salida" - Why?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Secrets of Salida

Photo: Sunrise in Salida by Katherine Borges
There's something about Salida that the Modesto politicians don't know or realize, and that's our valued autonomy and identity as Salidans. Just because we're not incorporated, doesn't mean we don't have a sense of identity as a community.  We're not just some bedroom community north of Modesto, nor a commuter community for the Bay Area. Sure, we do have commuters who live here, just as Modesto does, but many have come to love the quiet, small-town life in Salida and they've put down roots here. My next door neighbors are a prime example.  They moved here from Oakland in 2002 and commuted for awhile, but eventually found local employment.

Salida also has many 'secrets' that contribute to our sense of identity and community that Stanislaus County and the rest of the world don't know about, and I'm about to spill some so it may get busy around here! The best, and quite possibly the biggest chicken-fried steak in Stanislaus County, or even the Western Hemisphere can be found in Salida at Salida's Kountry Kitchen. Also, I don't know why providence has shined on Salida like this, but Salida has "stolen away" the best Chinese restaurant in San Joaquin County and that's Golden Bowl; which used to be located in Ripon. Now I know that may be a heavily contested statement I just made since everyone has their own favorite Chinese restaurant, but I'll tell you now, don't even think about debating this with me until you've had Golden Bowl's Honey Walnut Shrimp. Once you've tried it, then we'll talk.  

Another big 'secret' of Salida is the Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library. If you haven't been there, then you don't know how nice of a library it is. Housed in the old Brunners furniture building, the library is large with a bright and cheery atmosphere. The library has many offerings like "date night" for adults and reading times for the little ones among much more.  

On Sisk Road
And Salida is home to Salida Veterinary Hospital whose veterinarian makes house calls!  Where else in Stanislaus County do you know of a vet who makes house calls for dogs and cats?

The last secret I'll share for now and one of the best kept ones, is how marvelous Salida Rotary Club is. You cannot walk any stretch in Salida without seeing the imprint of Salida Rotary's good works for the community.  Salida Rotary isn't the kind of club that will "fee" you to death either and there's nowhere else that I know of where you can go at 6:45 in the morning and be guaranteed a laugh.  A great way to start the day!

When I read this "Secrets of Salida" page to Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow, he asked, "What would change about any of this?" My reply was, "We would be Modesto and not Salida." I do see what he's saying though, that at least initially, most of these things probably wouldn't change if Salida were annexed by Modesto.  Maybe over time, the name of the library might drop the name Salida and become something like "Nick W. Blom North Modesto Branch Library".  But even if Terry's right, I was saddened that the words I've written here failed to convey Salida's individual identity to him because that was my goal. I guess you have to live in Salida to understand it.

If Salida is annexed, I would guesstimate it would be within a generation, possibly two, that Salida's individual identity would fade into history. Perhaps the Estanislao Chapter Clampers will erect a plaque commemorating where the town of Salida once was so its not completely forgotten when "old timers" like myself have long since passed.

But we haven't faded into history just yet.  There's still time to save Salida.

NEXT POST: "What you can do about the annexation"

What would annexation to Modesto mean for Salidans?

If you hear a blood-curdling scream coming from Salida anytime soon, that's just me the next time I hear someone say that "we have to wait for the study from Goodwin Consulting before we'll know what annexation means for Salida". That statement is intended to pacify us and is a fallacy. I will be crystal clear about this - THE FISCAL FEASIBILITY STUDY CURRENTLY BEING CONDUCTED BY GOODWIN CONSULTING IN SACRAMENTO IS NOT INTENDED TO TELL WHAT ANNEXATION WILL MEAN FOR SALIDANS. The purpose of the study as paid for by our tax dollars ($30,000 of county residents' tax dollars and double that amount for Modesto City residents since they are also county residents) is a FISCAL FEASIBILITY study for Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto to look at the costs associated with annexing Salida into Modesto.  

Due to the fact that there's a contingent of influential politicians in Modesto supporting the annexation, I quite expect that when the study is returned, discussed, and negotiated upon, that it will go before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and Modesto City Council and be voted upon and approved. This process may even occur before the end of the year or in early 2013.  

Since the Goodwin study is NOT intended for informing Salidans what it would mean to be annexed into Modesto, I will share with you what I know it will mean for us - and that's more TAXES and more LAWS.

The Modesto politicians advocating annexation say the benefit for Salida being annexed is the increased services we'll receive as City of Modesto residents.
July 2012 MID bill of a 2251 sq ft Modesto home
But increased services comes at a price - AKA taxes. City of Modesto residents pay a user utility tax of 6% on utilities, cable, and landline phones. The amount of tax you pay is dependent upon the amounts of your monthly utility bills.  For most Salidans, the utility taxes may not pose much of a noticeable economic impact since they are spread among your utilities and might only add up to a few hundred dollars a year for most people. However, there are quite a few people in Salida like Connie Wright, where these additional taxes may create an undue and insufferable burden upon those struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, Salida is said to have one of the "highest tax rates in Stanislaus County" due to the many homes with Mello Roos taxes. So if you're a Salida homeowner with Mello Roos taxes on your home, you will get double taxation. At least through 2030 when most of the Mello Roos taxes in Salida are scheduled to end.

To me, annexation means a loss of freedoms that I currently enjoy. That loss of freedom would come through the adoption of Modesto's laws, otherwise known as ordinances.

For example, I don't have a tree in my front yard. We had the tree removed in 2000 because when the builder planted the trees in our neighborhood, they did not utilize a box to train the roots to grow downward which resulted in a shallow root system that was creating the risk of lifting the foundation of our house.  Our action to remove the tree was additionally justified last April when the same type of tree with a shallow root system toppled onto my neighbor's house after heavy winds and rain. Modesto has an ordinance (Title 12, Chapter 5 of the Modesto Municipal Code) that requires at least one tree per residential lot. Several years ago, a friend who lives in Modesto cut down the tree in her front yard that she didn't want and City of Modesto workers came by and planted a new one. Recently I've heard that Modesto has temporarily suspended their tree-planting program during these tough economic times, but either way, I currently have the freedom to choose what's planted in my front yard and I'm not eager to give that up.

Another loss of freedom that would affect many Salidans is Modesto's ordinance regarding portable basketball hoops placed on the street or sidewalk which are subject to up to a $500 fine. On one of our nightly one mile walks through our neighborhood, my husband and I counted $6,000 worth of fines. Modesto could rack up quite a payload of fines since nearly every residential street and cul-de-sac in Salida has at least one if not more of these portable basketball hoops. While I acknowledge that many Salidans may be in favor of having the hoops removed from streets and sidewalks as they can be inconvenient to walk or park around, I want you to think about this: with a nation that sees higher rates among obesity from sedentary youth who spend hours on video games instead of exercising, isn't this inconvenience a small price to pay for the health benefits that basketball gives to our neighbor's children? Now I realize that an argument may be made in favor of moving the hoops to the driveway but let me share with you the disadvantage of this idea. Nearly all the residences in Salida have sloping driveways, and its much more difficult to play basketball on a slope than it is on an even surface.

A few more loss of freedoms for Salidans would be Modesto's limit on dogs and yard sales which are both at 2. Two dogs per household and two yard sales per year. I shudder to think how many hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs would flood the area's animal shelters if Modesto enforced that ordinance in Salida! Additionally, while most Salidans likely do not have more than two yard sales a year, there are some who do as a means of supplementing their income.

I've only covered a few but there are many more ordinances that would apply to us if we become residents of Modesto which you can view on the City of Modesto Municode website. As it generally goes, Modesto does not have a code enforcement detail roaming the streets looking to cite people for ordinance infractions. They don't have the staff or the funds for such an undertaking. However, all it takes is for you to have a disagreement with or upset one of your neighbors who then decides to retaliate upon you by turning you in to city code enforcement as happened last May to a Modesto couple.

For the nearly twenty years that I've lived in Salida, I've enjoyed and appreciated the freedoms afforded us as county residents. And if the day ever arrives to where Salida can incorporate, I think Salida can do a better job than what's being offered by Modesto to maintain and continue the freedoms that's been a part of our lives as citizens of Salida.

NEXT POST: "Secrets of Salida"

Politispeak - Addressing the talking points

The Modesto politicians who are pushing for the annexation of Salida by the City of Modesto have several "talking points" which they use to promote and support their agendas.  Following is a review of the talking points that have already been put forth so far and I'll share what information there is and my take on them.

Justifying the Land Grab - At the August 4, 2012 Town Hall Meeting at Beyer High School, Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh began his comments regarding his plan to annex Salida with:
"For Modesto, we need the land to bring jobs. We have an inadequate supply of ready to build light industrial areas here."
"My desire is to pave it for business and use it for job attraction. Not building a whole bunch of new McMansions all over our farmland.  So if we bring it into the city, we will have a say on how it develops.  If its not in the city, we will not have a say."
Now after hearing this rather frank and to the point assessment by Mr. Marsh as to why Modesto "needs" this land, you might think this justifies his plan to annex Salida. But does Modesto really "NEED" this land, or is it just that they "WANT" this land? Thanks to Emerson Drake, who has researched this exact question and learned that according to the 2009 Urban Growth Report, Modesto has 5,700 acres of land available to develop. This report even foreshadows the present annexation attempt on Salida by Modesto's backroom political machine on page 2:

"In an effort to address economic development, staff met with local commercial real 
estate professionals on February 2, 2009, for the purpose of identifying the best potential sites for commercial and industrial (includes business park) development. The conclusion from that meeting is that the City of Modesto needs more commercial and industrial land inventory that is close to State Highway 99 and that is comprised of large tracts of land. In addition, it was generally agreed that more Regional Commercial land is needed on the east side of Modesto."

Something I'd like to point out here as well, note that the report says "east side of Modesto" because when you drive north on Highway 99, you will see farmland on Modesto's west side of 99 beginning at Briggsmore exit and stretching up to Pelandale exit.  When I first moved to Modesto, I had thought that it was preserved because there had been a moratorium on building. I have since heard that the lack of sprawl is due to a prominent family who buys up large amounts of land on the west side to prevent development.  (You, and the rest of the world may guess their name from the wine they produce.) And a big kudos to them for saving so much of our prime farmland! Somebody's got to since you can't count on the politicians to stop the sprawl.

Brent Sinclair, who is the Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Modesto has said, "For land inside Modesto's sphere of influence, development is inevitable".  So it may take 50 years, maybe more, maybe less; but you can expect all the farmland on the east side of 99 currently between Modesto's northern city limits and up to the Stanislaus River to be paved over.  Brace yourselves Del Rio, they're coming!

Increased Police Coverage - Also at the Beyer Town Hall, Mr. Marsh stated,
"I can guarantee you that they'd (Salida) have a much superior police coverage than what they have today."
"Modesto has about one-half of the police officers per thousand people that the national average is."  
On my fourth call to the Modesto Police Department, I finally reached a live person to ask how many sworn officers they had on staff. The reply was "less than 200."  So I'll use the number from the Modesto Police Officers Association website which lists 198 as the number of sworn officers. Based on the "national average" quoted by Mr. Marsh, Modesto should have 500 police officers and Salida would potentially have between 25-28 police officers patrolling Salida's streets. Or, you can half that number in consideration of the economic woes that Modesto is suffering when he said that Modesto has half the national average.  

So let's say Salida will receive 12.5 officers in the annexation deal which is a superior number to the amount of sheriff and CHP officers we currently have patrolling Salida. At the September 25, 2012 Salida Municipal Advisory Council (aka MAC) meeting, the CHP reported that in the prior month, Salida experienced 7 auto collisions and 2 DUI arrests.  With between 12-28 officers patrolling Salida's streets, I'd expect those arrest numbers, as well as citations to go way up as no one should be able to get away with anything with that kind of coverage!  Heck, with that superior coverage, I'd have them stake out the people who steal my curbside recyclables who then in turn scatter what they don't take all over the street.  My neighbor stopped doing curbside recycling because of them.  Yes indeed, 12-28 officers could really clean up the streets of Salida, figuratively and literally speaking! 
Photo credit: Modesto Memes Facebook Group
Used with permission

And if Mr. Marsh really wants to stand by his words about giving Salida a "far superior police force" then he should model it on our neighbor Ripon's police force which has 26 sworn officers and 4 community service officers, for a population that's about 1,000 more than Salida's.

Duplication of Services - In his "On Watch!" interview with Athens Abell, Garrad Marsh uses a "duplication of services" talking point to justify the annexation. Mr. Marsh says, 
"But Salida, you don't need two City Managers, you don't need two of everything. They are our neighbor". 
Ok, to start...if Salida were to incorporate, it wouldn't have "two City Managers" nor "two of everything" in regards to city administration.  And "they are our neighbor"??? Yeah, and Ceres is your neighbor too.  Does Ceres have two City managers or two of everything?  Of course they don't.  Or is he saying that because Salida is "our neighbor" that it justifies the takeover to prevent Salida from having its own City Manager merely because we are "neighbors"?  My next door neighbor has two cars; do you think they'll mind if I just arbitrarily decide to take one off their hands?  All I've left to say on this for now is: Ceres, good thing you incorporated when you did. But you might still want to watch your back!

A "Voice" In Modesto - In the same "On Watch!" interview, Mr. Marsh says that Salida,
"...would almost have a council seat. When we would realign the council, they would be over half of the area for a council seat. So it would be like they kinda have a voice on the city council." 
Let's start with "like they kinda have a voice"...ummm, is "like they kinda" supposed to get Salidans to buy into this?  Does "like they kinda" work for you? To me, "like they kinda" means "no, we wouldn't" because we would be sharing a council district with Modesto which would be represented by a Modestan. If an issue came up where Salida was on the opposing side of an issue against North Modesto, what are Salida's odds of winning with "like they kinda have a voice"?  At the Beyer Town Hall, Mr. Marsh also hypothesized that annexation would provide the future opportunity for a Salidan to run for the council seat which would cover Salida and even run for Modesto Mayor if they wish. Two points to make here: first, this could be accomplished right now if a Salidan moves to Modesto. And second, what kind of voting odds would a Salidan council member have on an issue regarding "the Salida District" against a council composed of five Modestans? The voting odds makes "like they kinda" a very apropos statement.

Water - Also in the "On Watch!" interview, Mr. Marsh states, "We already provide the water there" which is partially true.  In 1994, the City of Modesto purchased the Del Este Water Company which provided water to Salida as well as other Stanislaus County communities.  Salida's water comes from wells through the existing Del Este system.  There are three pipes that run between Salida and Modesto, but surface water from Modesto is only mixed with Salida's well water when needed.  

The biggest water issue at stake here lies with the future development. When the City of Modesto purchased Del Este, they agreed to maintain the water system for existing residences and commercial development already in place in Salida. However, the City of Modesto has refused to provide a "Will Serve" for the expanded development in the Salida Community Plan so the developers will need to come up with a way to provide water.  Obviously, Modesto would provide the water access if they successfully annex Salida, and they've already been using the "water carrot" for years now to annex chunks of Salida's land like they did with Costco and Kaiser. 

Sewage System - Salida's sewer system is one of the talking points that Mr. Marsh has brought up several times and he feels that the State of California will eventually require Salida to adopt a tertiary sewage treatment system as Modesto has had to do.  Tertiary is a final treatment stage to raise the effluent quality before its discharged into the receiving environment. Source: wikipedia  Quite understandable that Modesto would be required to adopt a tertiary treatment system since their sewage is discharged into the San Joaquin River which not only is a wildlife habitat and source of human recreation, but provides a drinking water source for Southern California cities through the State Water Project. However, since Salida's sewage is not discharged into a river or other drinking water source, its unlikely at this time that the State will require Salida to adopt a tertiary system. If the State does require Salida to adopt a tertiary system, Salida Sanitary District is currently in a good position to do so according to officials.

An Unincorporated County Island - This is a point that Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow raised at the August 28, 2012 Salida MAC meeting. Following are excerpts from Mr. Withrow's comments regarding the potential for Salida's residences to become an unincorporated county island within Stanislaus County:
"Modesto has always looked at Salida to take it over. And that goes back long before I was ever around. Modesto has always wanted it, because they look at it as their last option for business parks; to bring businesses, to bring jobs, all these things with this area north of Kiernan.  And its always been that way for years; that's how they ended up with the Costco.
"My thought is rather than let Modesto continue to take pieces of Salida, and kill us by a thousand cuts, and that's what's going to continue to happen."  
"But the problem is, they're just going to annex what's revenue generating; tax generating; income generating; job generating things for Modesto. They're not going to want to take the houses, the costly side.  Where the houses are, there's no money generating from houses. We get a little bit of property tax revenue."
"Modesto will continue to annex. And they'll probably get the approvals for the annexations and they'll take what they want, and then we'll end up being left with county islands. They are areas where the City of Modesto, the City of Turlock, and City of Ceres have annexed everything around but they haven't taken a little neighborhood because the neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, sewer and water. And they don't want to take it because they'll incur all these costs to bring it up to grade so it ends up being left to the county."
If the current full-scale annexation attempt fails, Mr. Withrow fears that Salida will end up becoming the biggest county pocket in Stanislaus County. In at least one respect, Mr. Withrow does have a point, and that's if Modesto continues to annex away all the land around Salida except for the residences, that Modesto may never end up trying to annex Salida's residences again. But what will set Salida apart from other unincorporated pockets is that Salida already has its own sewage system, water service, and sidewalks (except in the older sections of Salida). But many of the older homes have fenced yards so they may not necessarily want their fences ripped out or their front yards altered for sidewalks. If Salida does eventually end up as a residential county island, because it does have an existing sewage and water infrastructure, residents aren't likely to suffer as much as other county pockets in Modesto like Parklawn; see the Modesto Bee article, "Stanislaus County's unincorporated areas face harsh realities". And even if it did come to pass that that Salida's residences became a county pocket surrounded by Modesto, its not unheard of for Modesto to annex such pockets into the city. A recent example is Shackelford, which took 8 years to incorporate into Modesto. But something that most definitely would occur if Salida became a county pocket, and that's that it would kill any chance of Salida ever incorporating into its own city.

Annexation is a Long Process - Yes it is, -IF- it proceeds. In the previous talking point, I gave the example of Shackelford and how it took 8 years to annex that unincorporated county island into the City of Modesto. Hmmmm...8 years it took...8 years is the same length of time that the Salida Community Plan's developer agreements would be shortened to if Modesto annexes Salida. How convenient. So yes indeedy, annexation is a long process, but its a much shorter process to kill it. The Modesto politicians could stop the process if they wanted to, but its unlikely they will since there's the Highway 99 access and lots of prime "shovel-ready" land at stake. So to stop it, the registered voters of Salida will need to petition it. 25% of registered voters will place it on a ballot to be voted upon, but if over 51% of voters sign the petition, that will kill the annexation all together.

If any other annexation "talking points" surface to be addressed, I may list an update here if they are brief, or compile a part 2.

NEXT POST: "What would annexation to Modesto mean for Salidans?"

Monday, October 1, 2012

Joe Muratore and "the low-hanging fruit"

During the last attempt by Modesto to annex Salida in 1996, Joe Muratore was a 17-year old junior at Grace Davis High School. Like most teen boys, his biggest worries then were likely girls, grades, and fighting acne so he may not have even been aware the annexation attempt had occurred.

In the interim time, Mr. Muratore graduated college, worked for several different companies, and was elected to the Modesto City Council representing District 4, which covers the La Loma area of Modesto. Its his position as a council member and his current employment as a Principal at a commercial real estate brokerage company that has coalesced into an agenda to push for Salida's annexation by Modesto.

You see, Mr. Muratore represents clients who have land holdings in Salida. His name is on a real estate sign located on Pirrone Road in Salida for a tract of vacant land listed for $1.7 million. (see below)

Now Mr. Muratore has a right to be of the opinion that Salida should be annexed by Modesto. And he has the right to represent clients that have land holdings in Salida. But what he SHOULD NOT be doing is voting in his capacity as a member of the Modesto City Council on ANYTHING involving the annexation of Salida as its clearly a conflict of interest, yet this has already occurred!

At the August 8, 2012 Modesto City Council Meeting, Mr. Muratore declared a conflict of interest on Item 20 which was "Consider approving loan documents in the amount of $1,000,000 for Habitat for Humanity...etc." but he did not do the declaration and recuse himself from voting on Item 27 which was approving the Salida annexation feasibility study. Since his business stands to benefit by Salida coming into Modesto's sphere of influence, Mr. Muratore should be recused from all issues regarding the annexation just as Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow has recused himself from all West Park votes because his family owns land within West Park's footprint.

To elaborate more on how Mr. Muratore's business dealings would benefit as a result of Salida being annexed, it goes back to the land surrounding Mr. Muratore's current listing on Pirrone Road. As it stands right now, the land surrounding that area that is part of the Salida Community Plan is bound by developer agreements for 25 years. If Modesto annexes Salida, those same developer agreements are shortened to 8 years. It would clearly behoove Mr. Muratore's clients to have that term shortened by the transition of Salida into Modesto's sphere of influence.

The lackadaisical attitudes of Modesto's officials regarding Mr. Muratore's conflict of interest are just shocking.  At the September 11, 2012 Modesto City Council meeting, a Modesto resident, Mr. Emerson Drake, raised the issue of Mr. Muratore's conflict of interest during the public comments portion. As reported in the Modesto Bee by Ken Carlson in "Modesto replies to report on NSP", Modesto's City Attorney, Susana Alcala Wood replied to Mr. Drake that, "...she had advised the councilman he could vote because of the general scope of the study." Ms. Alcala-Wood needs to define just what she thinks exactly "general" means in regards to the scope of the study. I see nothing general about it!  Its scope is the fiscal feasibility of the annexation of Salida, not the fiscal feasibility of annexing the general land surrounding Salida!

Furthermore, what's rather appalling regarding Ms. Alcala Wood's response and Mr. Muratore's lack of recusal is that Mr. Muratore already has a precedent for voting and personally benefiting from a previous incident of conflict of interest! Mr. Drake raised this issue at the board meeting and has written about it on his "Eye on Modesto" blog which you can read here. In the previous incident of conflict of interest, Ms. Alcala Wood had given Mr. Muratore the "ok" to vote on the issue as well. Mr. Muratore may wish to seek a second legal opinion on whether voting on Salida annexation issues is a conflict of interest before he lands in trouble again thanks to Ms. Alcala Wood's approval.
Photo source: Modesto Memes Facebook Group. Used with permission.
Character from HBO's series 'Game of Thrones'

Modesto's backroom politics machine has been lobbying for Salida's annexation for some time now. As Mr. Drake reported in 2011, Mr. Muratore and his business partner, Ryan Swehla, who is a board member of Modesto's Zoning Adjustment Committee, have publicly stated that they desire "the low-hanging fruit" of land in and around Salida. With obvious business interests here, these two men need to be recused from everything involving political processes and decisions affecting Salida. 

Its time for Salidans to decide the future of Salida; and not more politicians from Modesto!

NEXT POST: Politispeak - Addressing the talking points 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The New Politico - Garrad Marsh

As often is the case, history is repeating itself.

Sixteen years after Salida successfully fought off an annexation attempt by Modesto Mayor and Fresno-native, Dick Lang, we're right back where we started with a mayor of Modesto wanting to annex Salida. The name of this new player with a plan is Garrad Marsh.

Photo credit:  Modesto Memes Facebook group
Used with permission.
Frankly speaking, Garrad Marsh befuddles me.    

When I attended the August 4, 2012 Town Hall Meeting that Mr. Marsh held at Beyer High School, one of the primary reasons he gave for wanting to annex Salida into Modesto was to get control of the land in the Salida Community Plan to develop it.

Imagine how stunned I was when I learned that Mr. Marsh was a co-author ON THE OPPOSING INITIATIVE to what evolved into the Salida Community Plan! That's right, he co-authored "SOS - Stamp Out Sprawl" (aka Measure E) with Denny Jackman.  

To put it another way, Garrad Marsh now embraces the "sprawl" that he once opposed on a ballot initiative. If your thinking is anything like mine, it will take some effort to wrap your head around that. Even more so when you hear someone refer to Mr. Marsh as a "farmland advocate" considering that the Salida Community Plan will pave over 3,000+ acres of farmland.

Now I don't personally know Garrad Marsh. I have heard plenty of nice things about him from others; I have neighbors who bowl with him. I've heard he owns a great BBQ joint. But as the saying goes, "You don't get a second chance to make a first good impression", and as a Salida resident, I don't have a first good impression of him. Why? Well because for someone who is striving to annex our town into his city, he doesn't appear to care very much about what we potential new citizens of Modesto think about the whole issue.

I found it particularly galling that in an interview with Athens Abell on her cable show, "On Watch!", referring to the annexation, Mr. Marsh says, "...we would have to figure out how it doesn't hurt the citizens of Modesto." Ms. Abell follows his comments with the questions, "How does Salida feel about it? Have you talked to them?" To which Mr. Marsh replied, "No, I have not, I have no idea of how Salida would feel". Watch the video here.

His statement about not wanting to "hurt the citizens of Modesto" is like a slap in the face to Salida as he then acknowledges that he doesn't know how we feel about the issue. What about hurting the citizens of Salida? Is that ok with him? What I take away from that is that as long as Modesto gets it land grab, who cares what Salidans think or feel about it! 

And Mr. Marsh still does not know how Salida feels, because he's not come out here and asked us. So I will share how I feel as a citizen of Salida. And considering that the interview was conducted BEFORE MR. MARSH WAS EVEN ELECTED, I feel that he's had plenty of time and opportunities to ask Salidans' opinions on annexation. That says to me that he doesn't care what we think, he only cares about progressing with his agenda. He's demonstrated this by approving $30,000 for a fiscal feasibility study on annexing Salida WITHOUT ever finding out what Salidans feel about it! Is his plan is to spend first, ask later? If he ever gets around to asking that is. I just want to close with a final thought and question for my fellow Salidans:  If we do end up being annexed into the City of Modesto, would you vote for the re-election of a mayor who valued your opinion so little?

I recently learned about a new politico who is driving the annexation behind the scenes, and that's Modesto Councilman, Joe Muratore.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Now? Its "Salida Now"

WHY NOW???  Why is the annexation of Salida by Modesto even a topic right now?  It's not like there are any Salidans over here jumping up and down yelling, "Hey Modesto, annex us!"

There are lots of reasons "why"; some are known, and there's likely some that will never be publicly known. 

But the biggest and most prevalent reason "WHY?" is Modesto wants Salida's land. Namely, the land surrounding Hammett and Freeway 99 which borders the Stanislaus River.  Modesto has been slowly "cherry-picking" land away from Salida for years now; the land that Costco and Kaiser Hospital were built on used to be part of Salida.  These land grabs were easy pickings for Modesto because its easy for them to justify adding land to their northernmost border with the carrot of "water and infrastructure".  With its unincorporated status, Salida has no municipality; and essentially no voice, to defend itself against these smaller annexations.  

Which brings us to why Modesto is now looking at a full-scale annexation of Salida.  The land that Modesto politicians are after is namely the land contained in the Salida Community Plan. Since that land borders the Stanislaus River and is part of Salida, Modesto can't justify the leap over their city limits and to the river and Highway 99 otherwise.  The jewel in the crown for them would be the freeway access.  Its our convenient freeway access that put Salida in Modesto's cross hairs to begin with.  Think about it, this is the second annexation attempt on Salida by Modesto in the last twenty years.  You don't ever see Modesto trying to annex Empire, an unincorporated community on their southeastern border which is not anywhere near the freeway.

Now if you read my previous post, "August 7, 2007 - A momentous day in the history of Barry Bonds and Salida", you'll know that in 2007, I didn't support and was planning to vote against an initiative called "Salida Now" which calls for the development of the land surrounding my home stretching north to the river.  On August 7, 2007, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors pulled "Salida Now" from our ballots and passed it with a 3-2 vote.  The passage of the initiative replaced a previous development plan that had been in place for Salida, and thus, "Salida Now" became the new "Salida Community Plan".

There are still things about the Salida Community Plan that I'm not crazy about; like paving over prime farmland.  However, I'm no longer against the plan because I've accepted that its inevitable.  Whether that land stays in Salida or its annexed by Modesto, it WILL be developed.  The landowners have signed agreements with developers.  They WANT to sell their land; they are NOT fighting the development of it.  They are just waiting for the economy to turn around for the developers to begin building.  Mr. Emerson Drake of Modesto has shared a public information request he made to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors regarding the developer agreements and to whom the land guarantees were made to.  You can read the document here via his Eye on Modesto blog.

Where I especially support the Salida Community Plan is that $150,000 of the plan is earmarked for the incorporation of Salida.  This money, and the future development, could give Salida the needed tax base providing the ability to become a municipality and not have to thwart annexation attempts by Modesto every decade.  Salida just needs a chance.

After all, it is called the SALIDA COMMUNITY PLAN - and NOT - the Modesto Community Plan!

NEXT POST: The New Politicos: Garrad Marsh and Terry Withrow

Thursday, September 27, 2012

August 7, 2007 - A momentous day in the history of Barry Bonds and Salida

I remember the Summer of 2007 well.  I remember the signs all over Salida for two initiatives that were slated to be on the ballot come November - "Salida Now" a developer-authored growth initiative which would bring over 4,000 new homes and combined with commercial and industrial development across 3,000 acres, and an opposing initiative, "SOS" short for "Stamp Out Sprawl" which evolved into Measure E, a farmland protection initiative. 

To be honest, back in 2007, I didn't know very much about either initiative.  I was against Salida Now from the moment I heard "over 4,000 new homes".  Mainly because 2007 was the beginning of the downward spiral of the housing market.  I had neighbors who could previously sell their homes in a day or two, have their homes sit on the market for weeks or even months.  If the existing homes we had in Salida weren't selling, who needed more?

The other thing I remember about that initiative battle were the signs.  Salida Now had flashy looking signs all over town and everywhere you looked, while SOS had mostly homemade looking signs with a sparse distribution.

Besides the tension of the initiative battle, I remember the tension surrounding whether today would be the day that Barry Bonds would break Hank Aaron's home run record.  In those days before we owned a DVR, and being that we're diehard San Francisco Giants fans, my husband and I would rush home to glue ourselves to the TV in hopes of witnessing history.  
Photo: Barry Bonds by Katherine Borges
August 7, 2007 was that day. Barry hit #756!  As we celebrated that day, little did we know that a vote had taken place that very day which stole our votes and the votes of thousands of our fellow Salidans.  

At their board meeting that day, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors pulled Salida Now from our ballots and passed it with a 3-2 vote.  Jeff Grover, then Supervisor for District 3 which covers Salida, was quoted as saying that Salida Now, "is exactly what we've been working on and exactly what we've been planning in Salida."  The two other Supervisors who voted in favor of Salida Now were Dick Monteith and Jim DeMartini, and they currently still serve on the board.

When I heard the next day about what the Supervisors had done, I was shocked and furious!  How could it be legal that three men, who don't even live in our community, can steal our votes from us and arbitrarily decide our futures?  

And now here we are in 2012, and its happening again.  

A new set of politicians, WHICH NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM LIVES IN SALIDA are once again politicking to decide the future of Salida.  And rather ironically, five years after its passage, Salida Now is exactly what's at the heart of the current annexation movement.

NEXT POST: "Why Now? Its Salida Now"


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A brief history of Salida and a past annexation attempt

The largest unincorporated community in Stanislaus County, Salida was founded in 1870 (the same year that Modesto was founded) by the railroad.  In "The Story of Stanislaus" by John T. Bamhall, Salida is described in 1914 as being, " the richest section of the irrigation district, Salida, with its big alfalfa mill, its grain and hay warehouses and its heavy shipments of vineyard and orchard products, is a town of great promise."

But unlike Modesto, Salida never incorporated as a city and has thus been subject to past annexation attempts and annexed portions of land that once belonged to Salida. For example, the land that Costco and Kaiser are on was annexed away from Salida and into the City of Modesto.

Read the Modesto Bee article below regarding the most recent full-scale annexation attempt upon the community of Salida in 1996:

The Modesto Bee

February 1, 1996
Edition: Final and Second
Section: A
Page: 1
Author: Michael Cabanatuan,
Bee staff writer 
Modesto's plans to grow north and swallow Salida were stopped at the city limits Wednesday night.
The Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission, ending 10 hours of public debate at two meetings, voted 3-2 to deny the major part of Modesto's 30-year growth plan. The vote scuttled the city's bid to grow northward, all the way to the south bank of the Stanislaus River.
Another 3-2 vote rejected another part of the growth plan, sending city officials away from the meeting in a doubly somber mood.
Modesto sought approval from LAFCO, an independent agency that determines city boundaries, to include 12 square miles of land, most of it undeveloped farmland north of the city, in its sphere of influence -- its ultimate growth area -- and designate it to eventually become part of the city.
County Supervisor Tom Mayfield made the motion to "deny it all" -- meaning the proposed northward expansion, taking in the land between the city limits and the Stanislaus River. Joining him in voting yes were fellow Supervisor Paul Caruso and Patterson Mayor Tim Durbin. Oakdale Mayor Pat Kuhn voted no, as did Ken Entin, who represents the public on LAFCO.
Audience members applauded and quietly cheered the decision, while Modesto City Council and city staff members seemed shocked and dejected.
Entin, a Stanislaus State University political science professor and LAFCO chairman, pleaded with his fellow commissioners to reconsider the decision, which was passed without debate.
"This rejection is just not right," he said, arguing that the commission should at least discuss some of the areas in the Modesto plan.
"We should have had a discussion about Salida," he said. "We should have had a discussion about the northern areas. We should have had a discussion about Kiernan Avenue."
But Mayfield, who made the motion, refused to reconsider.
Modesto Mayor Dick Lang, however, did convince the commission to deny the city's proposal "without prejudice," meaning that the city can come back to LAFCO within a year. Without the exemption, the city would have had to wait a year to bring back any part of the plan.
Caruso, Kuhn, Entin and Durbin voted to allow Modesto to come back in months; Mayfield voted against the motion.
The decision to allow Modesto's return within a year seemed motivated by support for theModesto A's stadium plan being considered by the City Council. The stadium is proposed for a site bordering Highway 99 off Beckwith Road and Highway 99.
The commission also rejected that area for the city's sphere of influence. Again the vote was3-2, but the roll call was different. Mayfield, Caruso and Entin voted against allowing the site bordering Highway 99 into Modesto's growth area, while Durbin and Kuhn voted for its inclusion.
Entin, the swing vote on this motion, said he believed that allowing development in the Beckwith area would interfere with the lifestyle of Wood Colony residents, many of whom are German Brethren, a religion that values privacy and separation.
"I think it is one of the strongest communities of interest in Stanislaus County," Entin said. "It is more of a community than Salida."
Commissioners never even considered including the whole Beckwith area, as requested by Modesto, because of the emotional testimony by Wood Colony residents at last week's six-hour public hearing.
The commission voted unanimously to grant Modesto two small pieces of new territory for its growth plan -- an area south of the Tuolumne River, bounded by Whitmore Avenue, Vivian Road and Carpenter Road, and an area to the east, bounded by Parker, Church and Garst roads, and the Santa Fe Railway tracks.
Modesto officials were clearly dejected by the commission's denials, filing out of the Board of Supervisors chamber with sullen faces.
"I'm disappointed," Lang said after the meeting. "I feel our recommended general plan was very well thought out, very well planned. It reflected 31/2 years of hard work by the public, the Planning Commission and the City Council.
"We're very disappointed with the denial of the industrial areas. The residential areas we can live with that, but we need prime locations along Highway 99 if we are going to compete for new industry and jobs."
Modesto will "re-evaluate our proposal and perhaps modify it so we can get three votes from the commission," Lang said.
The mayor also said the city expects to continue discussing the Modesto A's stadium, shopping center and recreation complex proposal, and may return to the commission with a request to annex that land.
"I think the chances of getting that through are good," Lang said.
As one of two city votes on the board, many had expected Durbin to side with Modesto and vote to include at least some of the area north of the city in the growth plan.
But Modesto was reaching for too much, Durbin said after the meeting.
"My feeling was Salida is a community, a small town. I relate it to Patterson. I am a sheriff's deputy in the Bay Area (Alameda County) and understand that small,unincorporated communities can work, too."
While he said he understood Modesto's need to plan for both industrial and residential growth, Durbin said, "I thought it was too bold for adequate planning. They incorporated too much land too quickly."
City-county animosity was clear throughout the 10 hours LAFCO debated the Modesto growth plan. Durbin and Entin said they were disappointed in the dispute and urged the county's nine cities and the county to negotiate a master sales tax agreement and work out their differences.
Modesto Growth
Copyright 1996, 2002 The Modesto Bee
NEXT POST: "August 7, 2007 - A momentous day in the history of Barry Bonds and Salida"