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Chamber frustrated over Kmart reuse plan

Ceres Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Renee Ledbetter was not happy that she was out of town and let slip by the opportunity to protest plans for the old Kmart property, which were approved by the Ceres Planning Commission.

At Thursday’s special Chamber community meeting she spoke about the need for a full-time Chamber manager to keep on top of such issues. Ledbetter expressed her disappointment about plans to turn the Kmart building into a Public Storage, saying the corner of Hatch and Herndon is a prime location for retail. She acknowledged that there were no retailers interested in the busy corner but bemoaned the fact that the corner will have “a Quik stop and gas station and car stop next to a 7-Eleven that has a gas station. We’re getting a Dutch Bros right across the street from a Starbucks. And we have seven car washes already? Why do we need another car wash? We’re getting another fast-food chicken restaurant, which is great but I would like to see …a sit-down restaurant.”

The reality is that the Kmart building has attracted zero retailers in the past three years since the chain retailer closed.

Frustrating yes, but this is now Ceres in the Amazon era.

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Don’t get me wrong. I support our police officers and always have. They have a difficult job to do and it’s an honorable profession – despite what the Left says.

Never in a million years would I support defunding police. However, giving bonuses from federal ARPA funds to city employees because they showed up to work through the pandemic and government-contrived shutdown is an affront to the private sector employees who didn’t get such bonuses. You didn’t see Taco Bell, McDonald’s, grocery store employees, etc., get bonuses for working while others were sent home by our governor to sit on the couch, gain 20 pounds or go stir crazy with the kids while agreeing to this insidious introduction to Socialism  101 with its “free money” gifted by the government. Only the money wasn’t – and isn’t – free.

It was wrong for the government to declare some workers as “essential” and “non-essential” employees. It was a demeaning practice. All jobs are essential for they allow people to feed themselves! When I told people that I didn’t stop working once during the pandemic, they’d say, “Oh, because you’re an essential worker.” I always replied, “No, I’m no more essential than the guy selling gas and sodas.”

I was so angered that the government paid folks to stay home while running the nation’s money printing presses at full speed ahead while the rest of us dutifully showed up every day. Their policy encouraged laziness that is still biting us in the butt today. People are still staying home! Look at how many jobs are available with no takers!

They tell you not to feed wildlife because it makes them lazy and dependent on people. Likewise, the government has fed people and made them lazy and dependent on the government. When that happens, the cost of everything goes up. Ten dollars for a quick McDonald’s meal? Really?

Because of that government-induced laziness there are disruptions to our supply chain, businesses have closed or not maintained constant hours of operation and because workers are hard to get businesses have paid more in wages and prices have climbed.

People are getting tired of this nonsense. Last week Virginia elected a Republican governor who defended parents who are upset that liberals have introduced Critical Race Theory – that’s where they teach white people to feel guilty they were born white – into the minds of impressionable children.

As soon as Biden became president he shot down the Keystone XL oil pipe and our energy independence status defaulted back to the whims of OPEC. The price of gas today in California today is directly related to the policies of Joe Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his party.


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I have been editor of the Ceres Courier since Sept. 12, 1987. That’s over 34 years.

Hands down the Walmart Supercenter has been the one story that I have done the most coverage on. The application was filed April 2007 and here we are, 14 years later and the Supercenter is ready to open next week.

I’ve been covering this project every step of the way.

I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen. It would have happened a decade or so ago if it weren’t for the anti-Walmart forces who operated behind a veil of secrecy. There was a front group who called themselves Citizens for Ceres who seemed to have unlimited resources to pay a high-priced Stockton attorney named Brett Jolley who had a reputation for fighting every Walmart project in California. Lots of folks believe Save Mart bankrolled the fight because they saw the Supercenter as a threat. The fight was lost but the battle wasted a ton of cash on both sides of the issue.

The issue brought out the best and worst of debaters. I sat through five hours of testimony on Feb. 23, 2011 approximately four hours on April 4, 2011 and between four and five hours on May 23, 2011. I recognized some expressions for the basic elements of propaganda which I learned about in college – such as glittering generalities, demonizing the enemy, half-truths, obfuscation, and use of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Much of the opposition was based on the “touchy feely” aspects of Walmart and not a detached intellectual discussion of the project itself.

Jasmine Perez, a Save Mart employee back in 2011, said she didn’t see a need for another Walmart in Ceres. Apparently Walmart officials do see a need otherwise they wouldn’t be investing millions of dollars to close the existing store and build a larger one closer to the freeway.

The local leader of the fight, Sherri Jacobson went full bore against Walmart. Unlike the Don Pedro residents who raised legitimate concerns about not wanting extra traffic and noise, Jacobson raised every issue imaginable, starting with her ludicrous in 2007 that the property owners had no right to tear down old dilapidated buildings on the site despite the city insisting they did have that right. Hers was a desperate and wasteful exercise in futility. Perhaps the new Supercenter should dedicate their restrooms in her name.

I’m not a huge Walmart fan but I’m not opposed to the business either. We live in free enterprise and Walmart played by the rules and paid a heavy price to open their new shopping center. I resent how bullies can fight projects ad nauseam thanks to the CEQA process. If you ask me, the opposition group should be paying Walmart for the ridiculous delay of 14 years they caused.

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I know I’ll catch someone’s ire but this really ticked me off in two ways.

The politically correct Modesto Bee ran a story on its website last week entirely in Spanish. My thought is that the Bee has always been an English language newspaper so why are they catering to folks who haven’t bothered to learn English? Also, what a disservice to the English only reader who might want to know what Becerra is giving away on their dime this time.

Further, why would any immigrant bother to learn the nation’s official language by emersion if businesses offer Spanish?

Not having learned Spanish since high school – because English is used in the United States – I had to use the online translator to see what was reported on Becerra. I copied and pasted the Spanish article and it spit out: “Message from the Secretary of Health, Xavier Becerra to Spanish speakers: “This is the time to take advantage of the services that there are for everyone.” Becerra visited California on November 1 to begin the 2022 open enrollment period.”

Ah, Becerra, the former AG who Biden appointed as Health and Human Services whose only real concern is ushering government freebies dispensed to the underclass. The same guy who sued Trump 20,000 times because he hated the guy. The same guy who fought against border security. The same guy who helped shield border jumpers so they could come into our country and have us taxpayers take care of them.

I think there are a lot of Latinos who are conservative and realize the Democrat Party is obsessed with race baiting, ushering in immigrants with nothing to offer the country but only desirous of taking advantage of Uncle Sam’s generosity so they can win the voter.

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We continue to be hammered with “Oh my God the world is doomed because of climate change” fake news stories. It’s annoying. Just stop it MSN.

No wonder our kids want to kill themselves. MSN makes them believe the planet really is in peril. News flash: it is not.

The latest story was titled, “From space, astronaut sounds the alarm about climate crisis.”

Well, he ought to know, he can see the whole planet broiling like a Big Whooper. What a load.

The poor sap, 

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, a poor sap who has swallowed a gallon of the doomsday Kool-Aid. He reported: “We see the pollution of rivers, atmospheric pollution, things like that. What really shocked me on this mission were extreme weather or climate phenomena.”

“We saw entire regions burning from the space station, in Canada, in California. We saw all of California covered by a cloud of smoke and flames with the naked eye from 400 kilometers (250 miles) up.”

“Year after year, we also know we are beating records for fires, for storms, for floods. And that is very, very visible. I very clearly saw the difference compared to my mission four or five years ago.

I hate to remind him that forest fires have been occurring naturally before man walked the planet. You mean to tell me that in the 1400s when California was not populated, that lightning strikes did not ignite all of the forests of the Sierra Nevada without a soul to put it out? If you had been in space in 1492 the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue that you wouldn’t have seen a single fire from space, nor seen any sediment floating down the Mississippi from flooding. Give me a damned break.

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There is talk that Josh Harder might be in trouble next year for re-election. Why? Because Tracy, a liberal area of the 10th Congressional District, may be lopped off the district, making the district more conservative than the last time he ran.

Harder is a spend-a-holic in Congress who has consistently supported Biden policies.

Also in trouble is Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, who I think is one of the most traitorous members of the Republican party. Valadao was one of only 10 congress representatives to support Trump’s impeachment, which of course was based on what everyone now knows was a fabricated Trump-Russian collusion story. Valadao unwisely fell for the scam and now I hope he pays dearly for it. He now has a bunch of good GOP alternatives running against him.

Harder won, I believe, because of the liberals from the Bay Area made their way over the hill to campaign. Talk about election meddling. They just wanted to screw Trump by unseating Denham. How do we know this? Well, there was a piece written by an Andy Furillo, former newspaper reporter (liberal, of course) who wrote a piece for Cal Matters in 2018. Our interfering outsider wrote: “Thirteen times from February through election day, I left my lovely little liberalistic cocoon of Davis and drove off to another America, to Modesto and Manteca, Patterson and Tracy, Ceres, and way over yonder to the other side of Oakdale.”

Catch that? “Another America.” Note the condescension of not being like liberal Davis college town swarming with climate control obsessed young skulls of mush.

Furillo is not a college kid. Apparently college was 44 years behind him but he gives us an idea of his political bent: He supported Tom Hayden. 

Furillo admits his Trump Derangement Syndrome, a disease that made them abandon logic in favor of an old white guy who showed signs of mental confusion as he already hit the life expectancy mark for the American male. Furillo didn’t care though; it was about slaying what he called “Agent Orange” when he wrote: “I’ll admit it – I let Donald Trump get into my head, and I couldn’t get him out. Rachel Maddow didn’t help. Neither did downing a couple IPAs and ripping him on his Twitter feed, fun as that was.”

So there you go. Harder was an outsider who brought in the outsiders who pounded on doors without the disclosure that they wanted to foist upon this farmer-common-sense district that we should have a representative cut from the same cloth as Nancy “Been in Congress Too Long” Pelosi. Many of us conservatives find it appalling how most voters have an onion-skin depth of political awareness tainted by CNN and major news outlets, and are absolute suckers when receiving slick mailers funded by Silicon Valley. Harder is no more in sync with this red part of California than is Newsom, who makes us cringe when he talks about his “California values.” Newsom could care less about the Valley and we know it. Harder might care about water for farmers but have you seen any new water storage in California? Nope, because his party won’t let it happen. In fact, they have declared war on our need for water.

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