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Little to decide in local election
Few get to vote for council, city measures are low key

Depending on where they live in Ceres, voters could be weighing in on two or three decisions in the municipal election.

All registered voters in the Ceres city limits will get to cast a vote for local Measures W and X. But only those living in City Council Districts 1 and 2 will be able to vote in a council race. This is the first year ever that Ceres is not deciding its City Council on an at-large basis.

Measure W is on the ballot to ask voters for approval to impose a business license tax of up to 15 percent of gross receipts on cannabis businesses and dispensaries should any court action strike down three developer agreements the city has in place with three cannabis businesses in Ceres. City Manager Toby Wells said the measure is a backstop in case the agreements have to be ripped up and will allow the city to keep collecting a portion of marijuana sales.

The three cannabis agreements now produce about $1.7 million for the current budget. Ceres officials don’t want to see that disappear for a general fund where 80 percent goes to public safety.

Measure X will seek approval to appoint a city treasurer or if it should remain elected. The city believes appointment is better since the current city treasurer, Harry Herbert, won’t be running again and given how the position hasn’t been challenged in decades, it’s possible nobody will want the job when it comes again in 2019.

It seems that nobody wants to be city treasurer as it doesn’t entail much responsibility or pay. That’s why city officials want voters to weigh in on the matter of an elected versus appointed position. Current city treasurer, Harry Herbert, said he isn’t running next year when his term expires and given how he hasn’t been challenged in decades, it’s likely that nobody will want to run.

The California Government Code requires cities to have an elected or appointed city treasurer despite that most all of the city’s finances are managed by the Finance Director. The treasurer acts as an oversight, many times just providing a signature to documents. Since Finance Director Suzanne Dean does most of the budget work, City Manager Toby Wells is recommending she take on the role as city treasurer.

Voters living in District #1 have only one choice for City Council – Channce Condit who is unopposed to replace Ken Lane. Lane is retiring from council service. 

Despite having no opponent, Condit’s name will still appear on the ballot by law. That gives anyone a chance at a write-in candidacy. Any voter may write in any name but state law says only votes for qualified write-in candidates will be counted. The Stanislaus County Elections Division reported no qualifying write-in candidates against Condit but the deadline for that is Oct. 23.

Two candidates are running for the District 2 seat on the Ceres City Council currently occupied by Linda Ryno. She is being opposed by Melvin “Gene” Yeakley.

Ryno was elected to the council in 2013 in an at-large race with two other candidates, amassing 1,573 votes. Yeakley, by contrast, ran an unsuccessful campaign for City Council in 2015 – the last at-large ballot year in Ceres – and finished last out of four candidates with 375 votes, or 8.23 percent.

Ryno said she is running for re-election because she believes she has done a “good job of representing the citizens of Ceres.

“I study every issue brought before the Council and make informed decisions based on facts, not personal bias,” said Ryno.

Ryno feels that the most important campaign issue should be code enforcement and parks maintenance. “My record the last five years shows that I have shared my concerns with the council and city staff on the unsightly appearance with our city and our parks,” said Ryno. “This budget year, we are finally able to increase staffing for both these divisions, which I believe will show positive results.”

Having served the past five years on the council, Ryno said she is proud of the council “finally being able to have a truly balanced budget and not a budget balanced using deficit spending. Every budget since I was elected, I have pushed for living within our means and this year, we are finally accomplishing that.”

Before she was elected to the City Council in 2013, Ryno was an administrative assistant for the Ceres Planning Department for 29 years. 

Yeakley, 67, a Ceres resident since 1989, regularly attends council meetings where he has expressed concern about blight and illegal signage. In the past he has charged that the city has done little to correct problems. He recently called out candidates for past placement of campaign signs on private property without the owners’ permission.

“I want to see some change and for years the pace of change has been very slow compared to others cities around Ceres,” said Yeakley. “A big part of which is city revenue. I do believe sometimes change of what some call the ‘old guard’ is good.”

Yeakley said he wants to see funding for more police, fire, and code enforcement. He also wants to lure “some type of industry in Ceres to generate large amounts of revenue for all our needs, some industry that will put us on a map and a good route to success.”

He also wants to see Ceres cleaned up and part of his tactic would be have the city reach out and educate “those who do not understand what it is to live in our city.»

Ultimately, Yeakley acknowledges, “it is up to the citizens and only the citizens to clean up what we call home here in Ceres. Too much time has passed in Ceres with little neighborhood involvement. If the movement to clean up Ceres does not happen and we do not see our city getting cleaner and more individual pride in our weak areas of Ceres, then what we know as the norm will continue.»

If you wish to vote on Nov. 6 but aren’t registered to vote, you have until Oct. 22 to get things in order.