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Cereans frustrated over lack of choices

There is a growing frustration among Ceres residents about the lack of variety in shopping and that new development seems to be repetitive of what is already offered in town.

Lots of folks are perturbed that we had a Walmart since 1993 and now have a bigger store and an abandoned building to boot. While the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center is sure to see more development in the future, nothing is proposed at the moment. No word if Applebee’s is still interested as they were years ago when the project was stymied by a bunch of anti-Walmart folks.

Residents seem to be unhappy that another car wash and conveniece store is planned for the southwest corner of Mitchell and Roeding roads. That’s the same corner where Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant & Bar was approved in 2009, got locals excited yet it was not constructed.

They’re not especially thrilled that the old Kmart will be turned into a Public Storage and that the other uses for that property include a coffee shop (Dutch Bros.) across the street from a Starbucks and a Quik Stop very close to the revamped 7-Eleven. And, yes, another car wash.

On the west side of Ceres, where commercial is scant, is coming yet another 7-Eleven with gas pumps at Blaker and Whitmore.

It’s feeling like Turlock and Modesto get the cheesecake and Ceres gets the crumbs.

There are even mixed feelings about the new Ceres Gateway Center. Some are not happy about a new Ono Hawaiian BBQ since Ceres has an L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

April Holton posted on our Ceres Courier Facebook page: “Hopefully the people who approve this crap read these comments! The community members are telling you….. we do not want another gas station or another car wash! There are 2 of each just across the street from the new Walmart! Why would we need another one, especially in that area??? We leave Ceres to go to Target, craft stores, Lowe’s, family entertainment and basically ANY sit down restaurant. Try adding those things to our town.”

Like I said recently, the city has little control over what businesses decide to invest in Ceres – or picking and choosing which ones get built. The city has tried to entice businesses but if they don’t want to come, they won’t. Cracker Barrel is an example. The city has reached out to Cracker Barrel to open a restaurant in Ceres but so far the company hasn’t responded with anything but a “no thanks” or two.

The city creates zoning for all kinds of uses, including residential, commercial, industrial and professional offices. If an applicant decides he or she wishes to build a business that is acceptable under those specific uses allowed by the zoning, the city cannot reject them, unless it’s under a Conditional Use Permit process. A CUP is mostly about determining if the building design and circulation of the parking lot are acceptable.

Lots of people also seem to be operating under the illusion that the city can force Walmart to turn their old building over to Target or another competitor. That is not any more the case the city telling you that you have to sell your house.

I still like former City Manager Tom Westbrook’s idea that the old Walmart be turned into a Sam’s Club, which is like a Costco.

If you’re frustrated about lack of retail, ask yourself how many times have you ordered from Amazon and that explains why retail has shrunk in our communities. It used to be if you wanted something you had to head over to Sears, Ward’s, J.C. Penney, Mervyn’s, Kmart or the myriad of other chain stores which are either gone or disappearing. Now it’s delivered to your door – along with your hot meal. Life in America has changed vastly in my lifetime.

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What’s going on in San Francisco? Leadership there has finally realized that the liberal utopia isn’t working out so well with the brazen robberies?

San Francisco’s black mayor, Democrat London Breed, is talking like a conservative now, much to the chagrin of her liberal supporters. She says she’s tired of criminals overrunning her city and wants it to end. She told the media that she will be updating policies to be “less tolerant of all the bull---- that has destroyed our city.”

Breed was one of those mayors who pushed to slash her police budget in response to Black Lives Matter and Antifa demonstrations in 2020. She’s now felt the backlash from average law-abiding citizens who are not happy about street thugs taking over shopping malls and stores.

Last week Breed called for more aggressive law enforcement and a range of new public safety initiatives such as giving police access to surveillance video in certain situations to deter thefts. Furthermore, she said her proposals will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but she doesn’t care. She meant liberal folks.

Some of her ideas sound downright zany. Things like disrupting illegal street sales of stolen goods by creating exclusion zones where street vending will be barred and regulating the number of street vendor licenses that are issued. That won’t do squat, Madam Mayor.

What will work is getting rid of woke prosecutors who believe that punishing criminals and sending them to prison is wrong.

Of course, Breed held fast to the liberal mantra that there are “underlying systemic problems that plague our society – such as the need for housing, health care and equity.” Why do liberals believe that equity is something to be desired? Where does effort and hard work come into play? Overtaxing the wealthy to give up what they earned to finance the lifestyles of the ones who are lacking is no better than robbing jewelry stores, sorry.

Getting ahead in America always required sacrifice and hard work. Pioneers didn’t settle California after taking Amtrak; they faced a grueling six months of arduous travel in which they risked their health and lives.

If you can’t make it in the big city, move. Get an education. Think about what it takes to live in California and make a plan. Stealing from stores to sell on the streets is a detestable and horrible way to survive – and likely will end when you go down.

Most folks know it’s not right to steal. Most Americans work for what they want. They get up, they go to work, put in long hours and save up to buy jewelry for their woman. They resent the one who feels entitled to walk into the jewelry store with a crowbar, smash the glass and take thousands of dollars of goods which their sorry backsides could never afford. Besides, they know that businesses – indeed our very society – as cannot be sustained with those kind of losses. Because of they can get away with stealing from a store, they are more than justified in coming to your house and taking what you have!

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It’s almost incomprehensible that so many American voters were willing to dump President Trump for his mean tweets, despite his great economy, so we could have a miserable presidency under Biden.

Biden won New Hampshire with 53 percent of the vote. Now there is significant buyer’s remorse. In that state, 56 percent have an unfavorable view of Biden’s first year in office and 70 percent said the United States has “gotten off on the wrong track.” Fifty-five percent of those surveyed in NH believe that $2 trillion in federal spending would increase inflation, a major concern.

This means Democrats are in for a trouncing in November 2022.

* * * * *

I wasn’t expecting 60 years old to feel like this. No, I’m not talking about my physical body because I’m doing great. I don’t take a single medication, which amazes each new doctor that I get cycled through as insurances change. What I’m talking about is this down feeling now that the family I grew up with is gone, with the exception of my father who is now 81 and two brothers I rarely see.

You may feel the same sense of loss. While I haven’t had anyone in my family die of COVID, I know a lot of you have lost friends, co-workers and family.

When I was a kid the Christmas gatherings were large and warm, surrounded by all kind of family – great-grandparents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Those who shared in my Christmas experiences are gone or scattered. I lost my paternal grandmother in 1992, my maternal grandfather in 2007, my wife in 2013, my dear grandmother in 2015, my mother in 2020, my Uncle Roy this year and a far-too-young half uncle and his wife within days of each other this summer. 

So when I hear the nostalgic Christmas music sung by the likes of Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Gene Autry, and the Carpenters, the child heart that beats within me lights up but is dimmed by the sadness that comes with thoughts of those who celebrated with me earlier in life having all passed away. When I hear Elvis’ “Blue Christmas,” I remember how my mom played that LP a lot in the 1960s. With timing that now seems divine, I was able to take my Mom to Graceland in September 2019 – before COVID hit – and she saw Elvis’ grave and lamented how she never got to see him in-person.

This year I’ve not felt much like Christmas despite having family including my children and grandchildren. Even my favorite Christmas movies seem to be all too familiar to enjoy.

I see the frenetic pace of everyone in gift buying and planning parties and realize more and more that it’s a perversity of what the holiday was intended to represent. If we believe the commercials, pampered Americans are focused on giving their wives a dog which magically begin running toward her in a remote snowbank on the command of a whistle, or wife responding with a whistle of her own that brings an overpriced GMC pickup. The babe in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes that saved humanity has been replaced by worry about coming credit card bills.

Don’t get me wrong. Giving and receiving gifts is fun but we need to just stop and reflect on the gift God gave us out of his love. It’s really the only gift that matters in the scheme of things.

Merry Christmas all!


This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at