Members of the public brought up matters relating to Ceres' aesthetic appearance at the Monday, Jan. 22 City Council meeting.
Gene Yeakley, a former candidate for Ceres City Council, called out members for past placement of campaign signs on private property without the permission of owners.
"It seems that many individuals or groups have taken it upon their own agenda to place signs for selling items to political and social purposes at different times of the year here in Ceres," charged Yeakley. "Some of these individuals are here tonight and sit on the City Council."
He cited how some political signs were placed "in the not-so-distant past" in private properties, notably the corner of Service and Mitchell roads.
Yeakley also took aim at the Ceres Lions Club for posting a sign advertising its annual breakfast, which was held Saturday.
"Why is it that when individuals or groups that are supposed to have the best interests in our city continue to go beyond the code of the city of Ceres and violate them?" Yeakley added it was a "type of being above the law that creates a money-see, monkey-do mindset."
Yeakley said he called Walmart Corporate offices in Bentonville, Ark., and was told signs are not allowed on their properties regardless if vacant or in use.
"No signs should be posted in Ceres unless the guidelines of the city are carried out," said Yeakley, "as those violating those codes should be punished with a fine of at least $100 for each sign on said properties that do not have permission for legal property owners."
He followed up saying "shame on those people who continue to use others for their own game."
The council did not comment.
Parking lot ‘a mess'
Also speaking to the council on Jan. 22 was Ceres resident Lee Brandt who brought up the issue of how some retail parking lots are looking. Brandt said he visited the Home Depot on Hatch Road weeks prior and saw the lot was "atrocious - just a total mess." He contrasted that with the Food 4 Less center which had a cleanup crew keeping tabs on things.
City Manager Toby Wells said most big-box retailers have contracts with companies to sweep their lots in the evening or early morning. He said the city normally gets response to code enforcement concerns by speaking to the managers.
Vice Mayor Mike Kline noted how the landscaped areas of Hatch Road look bad and said, "We need to do something, I believe, as a city, to do something to clean that up but ultimately it goes back to them because it's their expense.
Councilwoman Linda Ryno said the city has control over some of the newer retail developments that are required to maintain landscaping as part of their approval.
She said she misses the smart phone app that allowed citizens to report abandoned shopping carts for quicker roundups. However, Wells pointed out that the developer of the app stopped supporting it.
"Maybe if we can just get people to take a little pride in their own area, whether it be a private entity or commercial, just take a little pride," said Brandt who dreamed of Ceres becoming "the cleanest little city in the west."
Ryno suggested that people began voicing concerns to store managers.
Mayor Chris Vierra said he would go speak to the manager of Home Depot but said prior contacts with other managers have "fallen on death ears." He talked about how he contacted the manager of the Dollar Tree store about the condition of the area behind the store.
"The first comment I got was, ‘Who the hell are you?' and then when I said who I was and how I'd like it cleaned up, it fell on deaf ears," said the mayor.
He said the city followed up with a letter, which produced no action. The city eventually threatened a fine which resulted in a short-term remedy that later slipped back to deplorable conditions.
"We will do what we can but again it is a private business," said Vierra. "We'd love to be able to do as much as we could with as many code enforcement people as we have to just stay on top of it but it's more of an episodic deal where we deal with them as they come up. And some people respond and some people don't."