One of the more amusing pastimes when reading Modesto Bee political endorsements involves spotting the tortured attempts at “objectivity” and the consistent employment of double standards. When both elements combine, the dedicated reader is rewarded with a “twofer.” And every once in a while, the elements combine for a trifecta, which includes an additional laugh bonus.
This season’s trifecta came about with the Bee’s endorsement of Bill Zoslocki, candidate for City Council in District 4. Zoslocki was described as, “by far the most knowledgeable about city issues,” and that he is. Zoslocki gained his knowledge years ago, as a major player in the Village I fees shortfall scandal that has since become an object lesson for anyone wishing to understand how and when Modesto started down the path to unsustainable growth.
Despite Bee reports that Zoslocki, “had a minor interest in a partnership that built fewer than 200 homes in Village I,” he was a central figure in the Village I saga. Zoslocki was the “go-to” guy for the developers’ point of view, and he provided consistent opposition to those who pointed out fees shortfalls in the tens of millions of dollars. That story is well told in the California Planning and Development Report from September, 2002.
The Bee also failed to note that during the last campaign for Mayor of Modesto, Zoslocki made it perfectly clear that he was opposed to urban boundaries of any kind. One would think that this position would be a point of keen interest for Modesto voters who have consistently expressed a strong commitment to protecting prime farm land.
But instead of focusing on Zoslocki’s prior history of political commitments and positions, Bee news reports focused on jobs and liens. Yes, the bulk of the Bee news story consisted of the predictable candidates’ statements favoring job creation and a laundry list of opposing candidate Randy McGill’s liens.
The laugh came when the Bee also included Zoslocki’s history of liens and payments. This was the “we’re always objective” portion of the report that enabled the Bee to avoid reporting on Zoslocki’s political history.
The double standard was invoked when Bee editors wrote, “We will fault him on one thing in this campaign: not publicly stating his position on Measure X.” This from a newspaper that not only didn’t take a stand on the 2012 Presidential Election, it wouldn’t even endorse a candidate in the very race when Zoslocki ran for mayor. The always fearless Bee didn’t take a position on the mayor’s race until the runoff between Garrad Marsh and Brad Hawn.
But the punch line in this year’s campaign trifecta of laughs came when Bee editor Judy Sly responded to a reader’s query in the Facebook “comments” section that now appears below all Bee stories and editorials. In response to a reader’s wish to know Zoslocki’s position on Measure X, Sly wrote,
Dana—As the editorial noted, Bill Zoslocki is not making public his opposition on Measure X. He didn’t take a stand during the Bee’s meeting with him and also did not share his view at the League of Women Voters forum.
As most close followers of Measure X know, the Chamber of Commerce and Bill Zoslocki are opposed to Measure X. They would much rather have a stand-alone road tax that would promote growth. They won’t take a public stand because they fear a backlash.
Judy Sly knows Zoslocki’s position, and she revealed that knowledge in a casual response to a Bee reader’s query. Instead of writing, “is not making public his position,” Sly, in what was doubtless a classic Freudian moment, wrote, “is not making public his opposition.”
The only thing that will make the comedy even richer is when the Bee prints yet another of its, “Government must be transparent,” homilies. It’s pretty hard to achieve government transparency when neither candidates nor media see a need for it in their own cases—but that’s just Bee-isness as usual.