Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour appeared more than a little miffed at the Bee last Wednesday night during the City Council’s discussion of the SCAP flap. Ridenour kept emphasizing that the issue had to be decided on the facts and according to the rules, not by what people read in the newspaper, as though the facts might be different from Bee reports.
This is quite a departure for a man some are calling the “Stealth Mayor” for his ability to fly under the radar. His one moment close to scandal came when he submitted an impossible time sheet with hours billed to the Sherrif’s Department, for whom he moonlighted. The time sheet featured the mayor in two places at once on several occasions. Both the Powers that Bee and a Grand Jury found no problems and the good Mayor skated. Lucky his last name doesn’t end in a vowel.
According to Ridenour, the Bee had indeed erred in a front page report by saying investigator Moss Adams had been dropped from the SCAP inquiry. Ridenour insisted Adams was staying on and the City was also bringing in outside investigators, including HUD officicals.
The Mayor and Council members are understandably nervous. Councilman Joe Muratore has already been found in a conflict of interest. Two Council members, Brad Hawn and Garrad Marsh, are running for mayor. SCAP is the kind of virulent scandal that could bring on an epidemic of anti-incumbent fever, with the Bee’s front page spreading the contagion. The prospects are so tempting even Carmen Sabatino is considering a run for City Council.
The big winner at this point is mayoral candidate Bill Zoslocki. If the scandal spreads, he’d seem to be a natural for the outsider’s role. Problem is, Zoslocki, a Village I developer, may not want to remind voters of his not too distant past, when politics and development were also entwined in an indelicate relationship.
The real loser here is government itself, and while it’s a significant problem, the SCAP flap is so far mostly a matter of the directors chiseling and skimming for family and friends. It’s conceivable Muratore didn’t realize he had a conflict, but simply profited from his proximity to power, as do so many politicians. As the investigation starts dredging the bottom, don’t be surprised to see familiar names bobbing to the surface. City and county government hereabouts are a network of incestuous relationships, and no one should be surprised when a majority of council members and the mayor are tied to donors who profit from construction and real estate.
And while anti-incumbent fever could be a factor come Election Day, voters should be paying more attention to donors and endorsements than to the Bee’s front page. A quick look at donors’ lists and endorsements tells us that Brad Hawn is running on “Business as Usual,” Garrad Marsh is most likely to protect farmland, and Bill Zoslocki will bring back the Wild, Wild West. Not all incumbents are equal, and not all outsiders are unwelcome to our local political masters.