Tim Byrd’s response to our last essay deserves a more prominent position than in “Comments,” so we’re posting it below, along with our reply. For those who don’t know, Mr. Byrd is Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow’s campaign manager. He is also a resident of Wood Colony and a graduate of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law. To get a better understanding of the context of our remarks, please read our previous post here.
Eric, as a life-long democrat who encouraged my friend Sue to run for Mayor [of Modesto] and supported Josh Harder early on, you and I agree on almost all of the issues you cover. But I was very surprised to read your piece on the Withrow/Madrigal race.
As a member of the Stanislaus Homeless Alliance, I agree with you that we, like every community in California, have not solved our homeless crisis. There is no question that the problem persists. However, nobody has worked harder on the homeless issues than Terry and the numbers would be worse if Terry were not on the Board.
Just a couple of examples:
Last month Governor Newsom called together the state’s leaders on homeless issues to discuss his Care Court proposal to address our homeless who suffer from mental illness. Out of the 290 county supervisors in the State of California, he called on two county supervisors: a Supervisor from San Diego and Terry Withrow. Terry has advocated for years for a system to provide services to the most challenging portion of our homeless population: the folks who are defecating on themselves, who are yelling at nothing and who face the most risk of dying on our streets. The Governor’s Care Court proposal, which Terry wholeheartedly supports, is our best chance of getting the severely mental ill off the streets and into services.
When Terry tried to use a building within the City of Modesto next to a nice neighborhood to house the homeless. he stood up in front of a very hostile crowd of neighbors to try to convince them that we needed to do something. His mother used to live in that neighborhood, and even her long-time friends were attacking Terry. I’m sitting there thinking why is Terry doing this? This is in the City of Modesto. It was not even in his district. This is political suicide. Terry didn’t care about the political fallout. He only cared about getting folks off the streets.
As I looked around I wondered where is Mayor Brandvold and his close colleague on the city council, Tony Madrigal? I have never seen Madrigal engage on the homeless issue at any of our many meetings with stakeholders. As usual, he was a no show. Yet he takes credit for the Kansas House. He had nothing to do with the Kansas House. The incredible Barbara Krause of the Stanislaus Housing Authority was the driving force behind the Kansas House.
Madrigal also claims that he brought the Downtown Streets Team, a great program, to Modesto. That is false. The concept about the Downtown Streets Team was presented to us at the Focus on Prevention Stewardship Council, which Terry created. Terry then drove to Sacramento to meet with the Downtown Streets Team leaders and asked them to come to the City of Modesto. That is the reason we have the Downtown Streets Team.
As a person who lives, raised his family and farms in Wood Colony, this race is very personal. We know that Madrigal’s financial backer is the Wood Colony developer. The only Madrigal signs in Wood Colony are on the properties owned by the corporation that wants to pave over the best farmland in the world. As the folks in Salida can tell you, one supervisor can make a significant difference when it comes to local land use issues. Terry literally saved a Salida neighborhood on a split vote this last March.
I’ve known Terry since first grade and I know that Terry has always rejected Trump’s misogyny and racism and strongly believes that the criminals who stormed our Capitol should be prosecuted. Terry’s own son protected our embassies just like the Capital police who were attacked.
Terry advocated for COVID vaccinations and COVID relief funding for our small businesses and non-profits. Like the democratic mayor of San Francisco, Governor Newsom and others, Terry did not always wear a mask in public. I think he was wrong. But to paint him as a MAGATrumper who supports Trump’s sexist and racist behavior and the invasion of our Capitol because he did not always wear a mask is ridiculous.
You need to talk to the people who work closely with Terry. Both of the democrats on the Board of Supervisors endorse Terry. The longest serving democrat on the Modesto City Council and the City’s leader on homeless issues, Jenny Kenoyer, endorses Terry and not Madrigal, her colleague on the City Council for 8 years. That speaks volumes. The democratic chairperson of the Salida MAC endorses Terry. Democrat Perfecto Munoz, CEO of the West Modesto Community Collaborative, endorses Terry. They all personally know Terry and work with Terry on important District 3 issues. None of them would support Terry if what you say is true.
Like my dad always said, you vote for the person and not the party. I hope everyone remembers to do that.
Response to Mr. Byrd
Thank you for your comments Mr. Byrd.
You appear to occupy a paradoxical position here. Your recommendation to “vote for the person and not the party” seems not to have influenced Mr. Withrow. He voted for Donald Trump twice.
I have several disagreements with your reading of my remarks, as well as with your (re)vision of Mr. Withrow’s history of public support of Donald Trump, beginning with your claim that, “nobody has worked harder on homeless issues than Terry.”
Frank Ploof has worked much harder. He’s not the only one.
I did not, as you say, “paint him [Mr. Withrow] as a MAGATrumper who supports Trump’s sexist and racist behavior and the invasion of our capital because he did not always wear a mask.”
Rather, I characterized Mr. Withrow as a hypocrite with double standards for suggesting Mr. Madrigal is unfit for office because of crude remarks made a quarter century ago. Mr. Withrow has never publicly repudiated Trump’s “sexist and racist behavior” (your words). I stand by my characterization. It is hypocritical to argue your opponent should be disqualified for behavior far less harmful and odious than that of a man you support for president. Such an argument reflects a double standard.
Your claim that Mr. Withrow has always “rejected Trump’s misogyny and racism” would be more persuasive if Mr. Withrow himself had not (1) voted for Trump twice and (2) had publicly rejected Trump for those reasons (misogyny and racism), among many others.
Mr. Withrow has not rejected Trump, he’s supported him. I repeat, it reflects hypocrisy and a double standard to reject a man’s values and then support him for president. It’s even worse when you attempt to disqualify an opponent for missteps far less significant than those of the man you support for president.
Your claim that Mr. Withrow “strongly believes that the criminals who stormed our Capitol should be prosecuted” is undermined by Mr. Withrow’s comments immediately after the January 6 Insurrection. In an eerie echo of Trump’s “good people on both sides” remarks about the Charlottesville demonstration, Mr. Withrow said publicly, “Sincere people on both sides.” That statement is documented history. He’s never repudiated it nor shown any signs of remorse for defending violent insurrectionists who invaded the nation’s Capitol with the intention of overturning the vote of the American people. If you need to refresh your memory about Mr. Withrow’s defense of the insurrectionists, read Reggie Rucker’s response here.
As for local Democrats, you surely know as a graduate of Boalt School of Law that your claim, “None of them would support Terry if what you say is true,” depends on the assumption that I have written falsehoods. Where are those falsehoods? Please point them out. Assuming Mr. Withrow’s endorsements from Democrats originate from regard for his efforts on homelessness ignores a multitude of other more likely motives, not least of which is the desire to curry favor with the local version of the Galactic Empire, to which his and your connections are widely known.
None of the Democrats you mention as supporting Mr. Withrow has taken any significant action in defense of homeless people. Channce Condit was part of a Ceres City Council that bragged about pushing homeless people out of its city limits. Mani Grewal’s term on the Modesto City Council did not include any interest in or advocacy for the homeless and he’s shown no such interest since becoming a supervisor. As for Jenny Kenoyer, she endorsed Republican Doug Ridenour over Democrat Sue Zwhalen. So much for her Democratic leanings.
The only local elected in Modesto who has taken a public stand in favor of safe ground for the homeless is Councilmember Chris Ricci. Bravo to him and much appreciation for his courage in speaking out when no one else will.
Mr. Withrow’s endorsements by his fellow supervisors may be one reason there is such a mass exodus of Stanislaus County employees of late. How would you like to work for bosses who endorse behavior that defies the recommendations of your own public health officer and endangers the health of the entire region?
Mr. Withrow also pushed to keep public schools open during the height of the pandemic. It’s nice to know you “disagree” with such behavior, but it is more than discomfiting to know you are willing to enable it with your advocacy.
There could be no better reason for voting for Mr. Madrigal than Mr. Withrow’s endorsements from his fellow supervisors, not one of whom has ever spoken publicly in favor of safe ground for homeless people, nor taken a stand in favor of public health by censuring Mr. Withrow’s dangerous behavior. Whereas the Turlock School Board actually sued a member for refusing to wear a mask during public meetings, Stanislaus County Supervisors not only meekly tolerated it, they have endorsed it. No wonder county staff are leaving.
Your claim that Mr. Madrigal’s “financial backer” is a would be Wood Colony developer is at best disingenuous. While he may indeed have support from a developer, his most generous supporters include labor unions. Working people have had more than enough of Mr. Withrow’s opposition to living wages, not to mention his resistance to inexpensive housing options for the very poor, including Pallet Shelters, Conestoga Huts, and Boxable Homes.
It’s no coincidence that these issues and hazy memories have come up at campaign time. Nonetheless, the history is clear. You say, “The Governor’s Care Court proposal, which Terry wholeheartedly supports, is our best chance of getting the severely mentally ill off the streets and into services.” In fact, several years ago, Mr. Withrow and Stanislaus County rejected Lonny Davis’s offers to take in the homeless and severely mentally ill at a considerable savings to the county. The county’s response was that he was trolling for business. The county had a chance to help the severely mentally ill years ago and rejected it. Please read Mr. Davis’s comments at the preceding link.
One such severely mentally ill person was the late Alan Davis, who found comfort and volunteer assistance once he was brought to the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter after homeless people were moved from Beard Brook Park. Then the shelter was closed and Mr. Davis went back to the streets.
Mr. Withrow’s role in moving homeless people from Beard Brook Park to MOES was a major factor in excluding Beard Brook as safe ground for homeless people. So it is that Beard Brook Park has stood empty and abandoned for three years, no longer an option for safe ground because the City of Modesto is “negotiating” a sale with Gallo Winery. Meanwhile, the physically and developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, the people without money enough to afford rent and recent victims of the new economy are thrown into the dirt, cast aside like refuse in a county with a $250 million budget surplus and an ideal city property location for safe ground conveniently eliminated from use.
Mr. Withrow is indeed fortunate to have as his friend and advocate a Wood Colony resident and graduate of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.
Homeless people have humble friends like Frank Ploof, Joseph Dean Dodd, Pastor Dan Lempenau, Steven Finch, Raven Partida, Christi Z Zent, Richard Anderson, Leng Nou, members of our smallest and most humble churches, and groups like “Feeding Modesto.” I will be the first to admit they need better public advocates than me, but right now I’m almost all they’ve got.
I plan to keep on.