Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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?"

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