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Ceres is in deep trouble with this new City Council

Elections have consequences.

Since coming to the Ceres Courier in September 1987 I’ve never seen the likes of the you-know-what show displayed at Tuesday’s special Ceres City Council meeting.

The Javier Lopez led council – minus a member and likely to be so until this summer – was deadlocked in a 2-2 tie in attempts to appoint any of the four who applied for the seat. It’s likely anyone will change their views – for they would have done that last week – which will force this vacancy to be filled by special election at a cost of $40,000.

It’s obvious to even the casual observer that while all four applicants who threw their hat in the ring have noble intentions of serving their community, nobody has the knowledge and experience that Laurie Smith does. She is a “no-brainer” but the new mayor and vice mayor boldly dismissed all her experience. Yet, Lopez and Condit insisted on picking a member who has lightning years of study to get up to where Smith is. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Condit comes off as hollow in his praise of Smith – saying he learned a lot from her during his five years on the Planning Commission – while stubbornly blocking her appointment.

I’ve watched Smith at Planning Commission meetings for years. She has a great deal of pose and common sense. She would give the council stability and balance for right now the council is performing in wonky fashion.

The conduct of the mayor was a bit condescending and off-putting. After hearing Bret Silveira say repeatedly that Laurie Smith was the most qualified and best choice, and hearing Mrs. Ryno say the same thing, he sat back and threatened to let the meeting go on all night until somebody flipped. That somebody wasn’t going to be the mayor.

The mayor talked a good game of compromise while refusing to acknowledge the institutional knowledge that Smith would bring. His dead-set opposition to Smith makes one wonder who has gotten ahold of him. If anyone should have capitulated it would have been the inexperienced mayor who could benefit from the schooling a mature and experienced member would bring. After all, wasn’t it the mayor naively asked if the members could all take a break and talk about it behind closed doors – a clear violation of the Brown Act?

Hopefully the new mayor isn’t part of what appears to be the Ceres cancel culture.

I’m not the only one who sees it that way. Upon learning about the results of the meeting, former councilman Ken Lane posted this on Facebook:  “In my opinion Laurie Smith is the right choice the only one with any experience and obviously this Council needs that right now. I don’t know how Councilman Condit and the Mayor would not be able to support this. I don’t understand if they really care about our city and don’t have their own agendas, then I would think they would be able to support someone with 12 years of experience on the planning commission and understand truly what’s going on more so than any other candidate that was before the council tonight.”

Lane packed a lot of punch in that one … “if they really care …and don’t have their own agendas.”

Condit sycophants can’t disregard Lane’s view considering how he’s been a Condit family supporter in the past and he lives in Ceres. Lord knows how they’ve tried to delegitimize my opinions for not physically residing in Ceres. (Tom Westbrook doesn’t live in Ceres either but runs the city). And for the record, I was not the one responsible for moving the Courier offices to Turlock back in 2012.

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The most laughable quote of Monday night’s council meeting was when Couper Condit said, and I quote: “Not being on the Planning Commission is also a valuable experience to have.” Repeat and let that one sink in.

Apparently Condit thinks the only thing that makes one qualified is to “having to pay your water bill, having to pay your mortgage, having to raise a family – that’s the experience I want on the council.”

Ironic statement given how Condit is renting a house in District 3 a month prior to filing his candidacy.

Condit then exposed his real antipathy toward Laurie Smith when he uttered: “I know firsthand that anyone that wanted to stay on the Planning Commission after getting appointed during the Toby Wells days had to vote his way or was removed.”

The truth, countering to Condit’s Twilight Zone take on things, is that he was the antagonist on the commission and that his votes against projects left Mayor Chris Vierra seething. Vierra had enough of Condit’s posturing on the commission (much like he is doing now on the council).

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The council apparently did no vetting of their council applicants. Condit motioned to appoint Parminder Singh Bahia and it was supported by Mayor Lopez. Maybe they did not know about Bahia’s known run-ins with the law in Ceres. In April 2008 then 28-year-old Bahia was accused of driving drunk when he struck a woman’s car as she was exiting the Smyrna Park parking lot. As the two drivers exchanged information the victim suspected Bahia – manager of Corona Liquors in Modesto at the time – was intoxicated. His brother Surinder Bahia drove up and suggested the matter could be handled civilly without a police report. Surinder told his brother, Parminder Singh Bahia to leave the scene and was evasive when Sgt. Pat Sullivan pressed him about his brother. Parm was later tracked down and identified from a photo line-up.

On Jan. 19, 2011 Parminder was arrested for DUI after he drove his 2001 Ford Expedition recklessly westbound on Hatch Road and caused two injury crashes. Bahia rear-ended a 1999 Dodge Caravan mini-van, causing it to roll over. Bahia lost control and then rear-ended a 1996 GMC pickup. Three persons inside the mini-van were injured with the driver ejected and suffering fractures to ribs and arm. A woman and child were also injured.

Maybe it’s those “life experiences” Condit mentioned  that make Bahia uniquely qualified to serve on the Council.

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It seems like Fresno, our neighbors 80 miles to the south, is being overrun by a bunch of radicals.

I caught a bit of the Cary Trevor Show on KFIV a number of concerning things.

1). A church there, Adventure Church, wants to buy the Tower Theater for services but some in the community don’t like the idea. The mayor tried to offer renting the church a Veterans Memorial Building but the church doesn’t want to rent – they want to buy the theater.

The city of Fresno had the audacity to fine the church for holding indoor worship services.

Reportedly opponents of the church’s plans to buy the theater were outside yelling obscenities at church-goers on their way to worship.

2). Councilman Garry Bredefeld told Cary that new Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer is butting heads with Newsom over homeless persons who are overrunning highway corridors. Newsom wants homeless persons to stay put while they drag in couches and chairs into the oleanders and has tied the hands of Caltrans to remove bums from along the roadsides.

3). A Fresno Councilmember commented that the American flag to be a symbol of racism.

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It’s apparent that a number of radicals have infiltrated our circles of government. Did you hear about Michigan state lawmaker Cynthia Johnson, who in early December threatened Trump supporters through a video? Johnson videotaped herself saying: ““So, this is just a warning to you Trumpers: Be careful. Walk lightly. We ain’t playing with you. Enough of the shenanigans. Enough is enough. And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay.”

Because the video went viral, the Michigan Speaker of the House, Lee Chatfield stripped her of committee assignments and said, “Threats to either Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official.”

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We received a press release on Friday in which Caltrans publicized that it will use boats to clean up garbage from the water and shored of the San Francisco Bay. The release read: “It’s not what usually comes to mind when you think of Caltrans, boats navigating the waters of the San Francisco Bay Area.”

I’ll say. Sounds like Caltrans prefers to clean up waterways while being derelict in duty of cleaning up the eyesores and squalor that plague the Highway 99 corridor in Ceres, Modesto, Turlock and all up to Sacramento and all the way down to Bakersfield.

Talk about misplaced priorities! But then again, Gov. Newsom has tied their hands and thinks we should all put up with the visual assault on our senses.

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Some of you may remember Joe Wren, who was a sergeant with the Ceres Police Department in charge of code enforcement before he departed and Jason Coley took over. Joe was a top notch sergeant and one genuinely nice guy.

Joe has been doing good things in Placerville where he was hired as a police commander and then made chief of police last year. He made news last week when his department announced the arrests of Jordan and Lindsay Piper in connection with the death of her son, 11-year-old Roman Lopez more than one year ago. Lindsay was the stepmother. They were charged with child abuse, poisoning and torture.  The boy reportedly went missing on Jan. 11, 2020.

It’s good to see a good man working against evil in the beautiful community of Placerville.

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