Some smells just won’t go away. One such stench is hanging over city government like a cloud of sewer gas belched from the deepest recesses of old Modesto—it’s the bad odor surrounding the city’s involvement in the selection of the new courthouse site.
Despite complaints by the Modesto Bee to the contrary, the State of California has assured everyone that CEQA rules were indeed observed during the courthouse selection process. That much understood, the city ought to wash its hands of the selection process as soon as possible. If the City of Modesto persists in trying to force the 10th Street location, opponents of Measure X will seize on the issue as a reason to vote against the one cent sales tax.
The courthouse location process, mainly because of the involvement of Paul Draper and a laundry list of Modesto’s movers and shakers, had been inextricably tied to the Archway Commons debacle. Now that Draper has bowed out, the city should bow out too.
The city is said to be justifying the 10th Street location because of a “master plan,” but when the ship of state is taking on water, no one’s interested in master plans. Modesto should save itself now and worry about master plans later. And most close observers agree the best way to begin the rescue process is with the passage of Measure X.
Of course it was amusing when the Bee developed a sudden affection for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Heretofore, the Bee has either ignored CEQA altogether or portrayed it as an obstacle to progress. But when it seemed as if the Bee might be negatively affected, CEQA suddenly became necessary.
While the Modesto Bee obviously wants the courthouse on land now occupied by Bee offices and formerly owned by the McClatchy Company, the Bee argument will be evaluated thoroughly enough by the public and the State of California. There’s no need for the city to chime in.
It’s clear that the 10th Street venue is attractive to the state, and the Bee is trying to promote a switch. Most people realize the Bee is speaking from a position of self-interest. The biggest problem with the 10th Street site for the city is the lingering odor of cronyism and secrecy. Best to let the Bee take the lead in the old game of arm-twisting and back scratching. People know what’s going on
With Paul Draper out of the mix and the State of California following the rules, the city can focus on restoring public safety, resurfacing substandard streets, and replacing broken sidewalks—assuming Measure X passes.
Modesto residents have pressing needs that should have been addressed years ago. The courthouse will be a boon to the city no matter the location, but unless we have the money to restore public safety and infrastructure we can only look forward to an even faster decline in quality of life in Modesto. It’s time to focus on passing Measure X and get the city moving forward again.