Friday, April 10, 2015

The Modesto City Council's water extortion policies on Salida

It sounds unbelievable that the 18th largest city in California would resort to extortion tactics in 21st century America, but that is exactly what they do to their neighboring community of Salida. Water for land, is the name of Modesto's game.

I've written about Modesto's water extortion in the past, but it helps for you to see it in action for yourself to truly comprehend it. Because its not like if you decided to call Modesto City Hall and ask for their water extortion policy, they'd have a handout ready to give you.

City of Modesto Del Este map illustrating Modesto's
refusal to provide water connections in undeveloped
areas of Salida. See full map here.
As a resident of Salida since 1993, I remember when Del Este was our water company. But I don't think that anyone in Salida realized how bad it would turn out for our community when the City of Modesto purchased the Del Este Water Company in the mid-1990's. Salida is the ONLY former Del Este community that the City of Modesto uses to leverage land in exchange for water. To put it more simply, Modesto will not supply water to any new development in Salida unless they can annex the land into the City of Modesto. The land that Costco, Save Mart, and Lowe's is on was formerly part of Salida's tax base. The land that Modesto Kaiser Permanente is on was formerly part of Salida's tax base. No one tried to stop them. No one in Salida knew what was happening until it too late.

That each new council member allows themselves to be indoctrinated to accept this hostile policy towards their neighboring community is outrageous, abhorrent and shameful! EVERY SINGLE CURRENT Modesto City Council member has cast their vote in FAVOR of continuing a policy of water extortion against Salida as recently as Tuesday, November 25, 2014. Item #6 on the consent agenda that day, was an amendment to allow the Modesto City Manager to approve water connections in former Del Este communities EXCEPT FOR SALIDA. Watch the video, beginning at 51:03 and you will see Councilman Bill Zoslocki request that land contained within the boundaries of the Salida Community Plan be removed from the area and sent to council for approval. This same man has announced that he's running for the 12th California State Assembly District seat in 2016. This same man has voted against removing Salida and Wood Colony from Modesto's General Plan despite a huge public outcry. And this same man would be REPRESENTING SALIDA in the 12th Assembly all the while he VOTES AGAINST SALIDA while serving on the Modesto City Council! I don't know about you my fellow Salidans, but I for one, certainly don't want someone who consistently votes against my community to represent it!

After Zoslocki's request, Mayor Garrard Marsh chimes in to ask if additional taxes like User Utility Tax and other taxes can be added to water connections in the undeveloped Salida area (59:19). Again, the ONLY DEL ESTE COMMUNITY THIS REQUEST IS FOR IS SALIDA.

And last, but not at all least, the councilman who would represent us if Salida were annexed into the City of Modesto, John Gunderson asks if all of the "purple area" can be removed (1:00:08). Brent Sinclair advises against this based on prior agreements made when Del Este was purchased. Councilman Gunderson has a particular fixation on Salida. He writes about Salida often as you can read in many of my 2014 posts. It just completely boggles my mind that for someone who would potentially represent us, to display such an utter disregard for what we think. But then again, we would be in that same situation too if Zoslocki wins the 12th Assembly so why should I be surprised?

As long as the Modesto City Council continues their water stranglehold, there's no hope for an independent Salida as long as Modesto is our only option for water.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lending a voice for SB 25

2013 seems to be the pinnacle of the most recent battle against the annexation of Salida by the City of Modesto. That's when Salida resident, Nanette Spyksma, reached out to several newly incorporated cities in Riverside County to gather information on incorporation. In doing so, she established communication with Verne Lauritzen of Jurupa Valley. 

Jurupa Valley was the last of four new cities to incorporate in Riverside County between 2008 to 2011. The new city's incorporation took place just two days after SB 89 eliminated vehicle license fee revenues which had been allocated for newly incorporated cities. This stroke of fate put Jurupa Valley at risk for disincorporation.

We learned from Mr. Lauritzen that Riverside legislators were working on a bill to restore that funding source to the four new cities. Several Salida residents wrote letters in support of the legislation which passed in the state legislature but ended up being vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. Several similar bills have since been introduced and all have failed to be enacted. The latest bill is SB 25 - VEHICLE LICENSE FEE ADJUSTMENT FOR CITY INCORPORATIONS authored by Senator Richard Roth.

Public comment on SB 25 with  Michael Kusiak.
A public hearing for the bill was held on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 9:30 am before the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance at the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. I was invited to attend the hearing by Michael Kusiak and Michael Baldwin of Castro Valley. Michael Kusiak was the first public member to make a comment, and he was very eloquent. I hadn't planned to speak, but ended up jotting down a brief public comment on the back of the agenda copy. Following is a summary of my comments (not verbatim, but close):
"My name is Katherine Borges and I am the chair of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council in the beautiful agricultural county of Stanislaus. Salida is the largest unincorporated community in Stanislaus County with a population of nearly 14,000. It was founded the same year as the City of Modesto in 1870 by the railroad. Since Modesto has grown and sprawled to our borders, we have been under the threat of annexation by Modesto which the majority of Salida residents are against. We are hoping to incorporate the community as a city which would be greatly assisted and may even depend on the reinstatement of VLF fees. We ask for support of SB 25 to help Jurupa Valley and the other cities, and any future bills that help to reinstate VLF fees."
At the close of the hearing, we exited room 112 and Senator Richard Roth made a point of seeking us out to shake our hands and thank us for our comments. 

It's important to help other communities and newly incorporated cities in their self-governance efforts. Helping them can help Salida.