September 23rd, 2017
On July 28th, 2015, the Stanislaus Board of Supervisors met (agenda B-5) on what was marked a routine matter. The “routine matter” was nothing less than the end of Modesto as we knew it.
This was the formation of a square mile block situated downtown where property owners would be forced to pass a special assessment fee to be included in the one square mile bright, shiny “New Modesto” – DoMo or Downtown Modesto Partners or Community Benefit District.
Stanislaus County mentioned this pig-in-a-poke by listing “Consideration of the Establishment of the Downtown Modesto Community Benefit District and Authorize
the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors to Sign and Submit Property Owner’s Ballot”
It gets weirder – The City off Modesto had to send a red-faced letter to the affected property owners, indicating that the ballot send out for the creation of the district was faulty. In their own words:
“It has come to the City’s attention that the ballot, due to technical problems, may have not provided you with the opportunity to cast a vote reflecting a “yes” or “no” position regarding the assessment and establishment of the District. In addition, the calculation of some of the individual parcel assessments may have been incorrect.
Please disregard the notice and ballot package that you received on or around June 27, 2015. This serves as an updated notice and ballot. Enclosed, please find an updated and corrected ballot that will allow you to vote on the district formation.
Please disregard the original ballot received and complete and return the enclosed ballot instead. Due to the error, all original ballots received by the City Clerk will not be counted. If you have already submitted a ballot, you will need to complete and resubmit the updated ballot enclosed herein.”
On the corrected ballet, with 214 property owners within the proposed district, only 125 ballots were cast, with 49 voting for the district and 76 voted against it. Since the voting was weighted by the size of the property, the City and Stanislaus County tipped the scales as they owned a large majority of the properties in the new district. So much for “one person, one vote.”
Speaking to the property owners trapped within DoMo, you probably have noticed that all the services they promised were things you already received (trash pickup, police services, tourist information). If you are feeling burned, you should. It gets worse.
The DoMo management plan allows for the same individuals who created this “New Modesto” to be reimbursed for their costs in forming it – in addition to paying $37,000 for a template to a nationwide consulting company. (you can’t make this stuff up) I quote:
The Government, individuals, businesses, and groups that contributed to the investigation and formation costs of the Downtown Modesto CBD shall be entitled to be reimbursed within the first five years of the adoption of the CBD by the City Council. Costs that can be recovered include:
- The costs of preparation of the management plan and engineer’s report required by state Law;
- The cost of circulating and submitting the petition to the City Council seeking establishment of the District;
- The costs of printing, advertising and the giving of published, posted or mailed notices;
- Compensation of any engineer or attorney employed to render services in proceedings associated with formation of the Downtown Modesto CBD; and
- Costs associated with any ballot proceedings required by law for approval of the CBD assessment. Contributions to the investigation and formation effort shall be reimbursed fully in the amount contributed upon receipt of appropriate documentation of the contribution to the new management corporation Board of Directors.
What a load of nonsense.
- First, your vote in creating this money pot for “the people of power and means” was meaningless as the City and County had a built-in majority vote.
- Second, because our government is also being assessed fees for “New Modesto”, they pass those costs right onto you AGAIN in the form of taxes (as well as the rest of the citizens of this 50 square-mile city.)
- And finally, the City who always claims budget issues, is considering buying (annexing) an entire block of Modesto ($3.1 million) to add to their grand plans. (see above map.)
You have a choice.
You have the legal right to end this. It is called disestablishment:
California State Law, Section 36670 provides for the disestablishment of a District. Provisions for annual disestablishment of the CBD are provided for in the local Modesto CBD ordinance. Property owners dissatisfied with the results, management or quality of the services may petition the City Council to disestablish the CBD, in the same method in which they petitioned the City Council to establish the District. In a future edition of the Back Story, we will detail the good, the bad, the ugly and the processes to end the shameless raiding of your pockets by the “People of power and means”.
If you would like to the details of DoMo and disestablishment, feel free to drop by for a cup of coffee.