Radio Show Notes – Canary Skeleton


Canary skeleton’s at the City of Modesto – A shameless pattern of abuse by the elected leadership

Tonight let’s review the “shocking” revelations that once again show that our trust in the Brandvold administration to effectively lead the City has been misplaced.

Once again, a critical issue has been mishandled with the shameless admission to the Citizens – “There were plenty of eyes on it, and we did not catch it” 

How long will the laissez-faire, benefit of the doubt approach by the power brokers, players and pawns last?


If this opening to our show seems dramatic, it’s not designed to be – it is very sad that it is.

The revelation regarding the 13 month vacancy in the City Manager position is the latest case of déjà vu.

Let’s review what happened, and see pattern that makes up the template of dereliction:

  1. PROBLEM: The City has critical issue at the City of Modesto
    1. they are missing at City Manager position for 13 months
  2. PROBLEM: The issue is affecting the City’s ability to fulfill its basic responsibilities
    1. Interim ineffectual management is appointed, with 13 months of critical errors in:
      1. Fiscal
      2. public safety
  • planning
  1. service delivery
  2. citizen advocacy
  3. representation
  1. PROBLEM: The issue is serious enough to have gained the attention of:
    1. Citizens – vocal, concerned and upset citizen show up at public meetings
    2. The press – 8 stories in Modesto bee alone
    3. Government peers – good leaders in other cities do not want to apply for position
  2. PROBLEM: The issue was something that was:
    1. Avoidable & Preventable – the city manager did not quit, he was fired without a replacement
  3. PROBLEM: Disingenuous actions were taken, or not taken, allowing the problem to fester. But the problem was:
    1. Actionable – having created the crisis, they magnified its effect by allowing an interim manager to stumble through massive financial, organizational and legal disasters.
    2. Addressable – having allowed the error to become critical, they did not seek to replace the failing interim city manager
    3. Addressable – having been forced to recruit a replacement after 13 months, they advertise based on 10 year old inaccurate data
  4. PROBLEM: failure to plan and address the issue has manufactured a crisis that can only be addressed by
    1. Allowing unusual, unchecked council authority – they have been sending dog whistles out indicating they want to convert the interim manager to a permanent one.
  5. PROBLEM: the poor solution creates a new problem – the replacement city manager will be a firefighter skillset, not a forward thinking executive.  Will be replaced in 2-3 years
  6. PROBLEM: city manager will be vacant again with replacement – They go back to step 1

How many time does the pattern need to be repeated?

  1. Preventable problem
  2. Address preventable problem with haphazard solution
  3. Haphazard solution creates critical issue
  4. Critical issue escalates
  5. Address red hot crisis by poor resolution
  6. Pat self on back for addressing crisis
  7. Ignore that the poor resolution is pointing to a future preventable problem
  8. Repeat step one

Just think how this institutional behavior affects the city’s ability in

  1. Planning & monitoring
  2. Service delivery
  3. Lawmaking & enforcement
  4. Policy development
  5. Representation
  6. Advocacy

Then look at how many time this pattern has repeated itself in the following high profile issues

  1. Overspending
  2. Pension / retirement
  3. Staff turnover
  4. Financial system
  5. City auditor
  6. City attorney
  7. Village one
  8. Wells Fargo fraud
  9. Email abuse -using personal account s to avoid public records act
  10. Outsource city attorney
  11. Landfill
  12. And on and on it goes

In Modesto, they do not look for a canary in the coal mine – they just walk past the pile of canary skeletons and carcasses and buy another.