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On city budget issues, election, identity politics
Jeff Benziger
Courier Editor Jeff Benziger paying attention to council proceedings as Leonard Shepherd talks.

There was a big flap at last week’s City Council meeting about fire services. Now I see on social media that the Ceres Professional Firefighters union has embarked on a campaign to rally citizens to show up at the next two City Council meetings.

I suggest reading the article I wrote starting on page A1 to get up to speed on what was said during the 3-1/2 hour council meeting.

The union seems like it hasn’t got over the SAFER grant issue.

Here are the facts:

1). In 2012, Ceres snagged a $1.2 million federal grant to fund six firefighters for only two years. When the grant expired in 2014, the City Council didn’t find the money to keep them and sent the six packing. The firefighters union went on a rampage with yard signs accusing the city of cutting services when all along they knew the grant was for two years.

2). Ceres snagged a second SAFER grant in March 2016 which expired this past March. There was $320,000 unspent of the grant but to keep the six firefighters on until June 30, the city would have had to cough up $25,600. When the council took up the matter in December it was told by its finance director that the “pressures on the General Fund are becoming severe as our next item will be discussed.” She was talking about a cash flow problem with the city temporarily needing to borrow from sewer enterprise funds to pay the city’s bills until the city received its next revenues from local property taxes. In that December meeting, the council made it clear that they felt Ceres Fire needed restructuring. Bret Durossette said: “we have to understand we’re going to have to find some new way of doing business in Ceres because we can’t do what we’ve been doing.” Ken Lane said essentially the same thing: “We’re going to have to make changes. We can’t keep living this way.” Mayor Chris Vierra said: “We just keep kicking the can down the road. We need all the people that you have. We can’t afford all the people and all the services you have.”

On Friday the union presented claims on Facebook that a possible withdrawal from the Pecos station would cause Ceres Fire to lose “half of their fire resources in the span of only four months.” I’m not sure how that happens when the finance director just said on May 29 that the city would need to hire one more person to craft four-man engine companies at two stations (at downtown and Fowler Road).

It remains to be seen if the City Council makes any restructuring changes. The council said it only wants facts and figures now.

* * * * *

I don’t know about you but this last election season I received random texts trying to get me to vote one way or the other. I have no idea how they got my cell phone number but I didn’t appreciate the robotic intrusion.

One text read: “Hi it’s Jane w/ ACLU. Find info about your local District Attorney, a powerful elected, at Will you vote in the DA election June 5?”

I generally disapprove of the ACLU and did not respond. They can go fly a kite.

Texts came from the Delaine Eastin and Gavin Newsom campaigns. I won’t repeat what I texted back the Newsom people but it was not kind but I’m sure a computer wouldn’t bother answering back.

I also got a robot call from the wife of John Cox, for whom I already had cast my mail ballot.

Blah, blah, blah.

I did my homework as a voter and was not swayed by these tactics.

* * * * *

Talk about collusion. There’s no evidence of Russian collusion but there is about the Democrats colluding in our governo’s primary.

This is the day after the election thus we will know who the two candidates are heading to the fall election. At the time I am writing this I don’t know the outcome but suspect we may be looking at a Newsom-Cox race or a Newsom-Villaraigosa race.

There were some dirty behind-the-scenes dealings trying to split the GOP vote between John Cox and Travis Allen so that Democrat Villaraigosa could exclude either Republican from a November runoff election. Millions of dollars was dumped into the race to portray Cox as a millionaire fake conservative to dilute his support and allow the tortoise Villaraigosa to make it past both Cox and Allen.

The California Charter Schools Association Advocates wanted to ensure that Villaraigosa – the only Democrat who supports charter schools – would last until November. So, the association began pouring big bucks into a multi-million dollar campaign lying about Cox. They spent nearly $4 million on two direct mailers that accuse Cox of being a former “Democratic activist” and Chicago liberal. They attacked him as giving money to Nancy Pelosi and had the support of Bernie Sanders and George Soros.

Okay, Cox was a Democrat in his early 20’s (as was I) but he was a Republican by age 26. That’s deceptive and dirty.

The lie about a connection to Soros stems from Cox giving money to a group to help pass a state proposition that never gathered enough signatures to reach the ballot. Soros had also given money to the same group for another cause. So, Villaraigosa and the California Charter Schools Association Advocates distorted the facts to say that Cox is connected to Soros.

Cox is a supporter of the Second Amendment and against abortion – which the association also lied about.

I am no fan of this top-two primary system in California.

* * * * *

I detest identity politics.

Our strength is as one people, not different tribes clamoring for their own interests.

Our country has constituency groups who vote for candidates who only serve their own interests at the expense of the whole. That goes for the transgender community pushing bathroom laws or … what about this jewel that came in my email. It’s from the so-called non-partisan initiative “Mi Voto, Mi Salud,” that aims to educate and mobilize the Latino community to “take charge of their health and well-being by becoming civically engaged.”

Don’t believe for a second that it’s non-partisan. It reeks of anti-Trump all the way. The first clue: “The increased politicization of healthcare has spurred the need for patients to determine and protect access to healthcare by participating in the democratic process.” 

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said “Our community is being impacted by proposed or implemented policy changes in healthcare and we need to … strengthen our community … by electing officials who are willing to … elevate our needs and interests.” In other words, elect Democrats who want to keep pushing Obamacare down our throats.

* * * * *

We really do live in some twisted times.

I was stunned to read a letter in a local paper from Richard Cato of Modesto in which he basically told Sheriff Adam Christianson to quit if he didn’t like the state’s sanctuary laws. Cato obviously was upset that Christianson met with Trump – the same meeting in which Trump reiterated how “animals” (MS-13 gang members) are crossing the border. Cato claimed to be “infuriated and disappointed” because our sheriff believes that law enforcement is unable do its job because of interference by Democrats in Sacramento.

Get over it, Cato. Some people still believe in the rule of law – federal law.

Cato then makes this ridiculous statement: “This pandering to President Trump is a way of showing his loyalty in hopes of being rewarded with government employment.”

Some people do a lot of talking without thinking. President Trump wanted to assemble a group of sheriffs who still believe in doing the right thing when state leaders deserve impeachment for not upholding the Constitution of the United States.

* * * * *

You see politicians pandering to segments that don’t represent the majority.

Antonio Villaraigosa must enjoy dividing people, not uniting them.

I watched his TV commercial featuring cell phone video of Border Patrol agents snatching someone from their family because they snuck across the border illegally. There are screams and cries and lots of emotion. It’s designed to tug on your heart-strings and entice you to believe we should not deport illegal aliens.

But deportation is a consequence of law breaking. (I’m sure you can find cell phone video of someone who robbed a bank being snatched away from screaming, crying family members so what’s the point?) Don’t go after the lawbreaker because the family will be ripped apart?

It’s about perspective. A recent March cover of Time magazine editorialized against deportations with these words: “Ripped Apart: The cost of America’s immigration crackdown.” My immediate response was that the cover should have read: “Ripped Apart: The cost of breaking the law to get here.”

And what about this cost: The Federation for American Immigration Reform says the cost of illegal immigration is a whopping $134.9 billion a year to American taxpayers. States and local governments across the land get socked with a $89 billion cost. But to those who say illegals pay their taxes, only $19 billion was recouped by Uncle Sam.

* * * * *

Billy Graham’s son Franklin was in Turlock last week as part of his “Decision America California Tour.” It was a hybrid of a Christian evangelical outreach and timed right before the election it was a push for Christians to get out and vote. Isn’t it sad that a pastor, of all people, should be imploring Americans to vote?

Ceres pastor Adrian Condit was able to have a brief conversation and handshake with Graham.

It must be noted that Billy Graham conducted a famous 1948 crusade in Modesto at La Loma and Burney streets. Boulevard west of Groveland Street. Billy visited the Ceres home of the parents of ministry partner Cliff Barrows, a 1940 Ceres High graduate. It was on the property at Service and Faith Home where Billy and Barrows and George Beverly Shea developed the famous Modesto Manifesto, guidelines for the ministry to avoid scandal of any kind. (Really it should have been the Ceres Manifesto). It is said Billy practiced preaching his Modesto sermon in the barn still sitting on the property.

It was nice to see Franklin pick up the mantle and include Stanislaus County in his tour given how significant our area played in the life of his dad.

* * * * *

 I know the president stirs up a lot of people with his tweets. But the national media deserves for people to turn them off for their dishonest reporting. They no longer pretend they’re not offering slanted, unfair coverage in their outright attempt to get Trump. No wonder we have half the country turned off by the news media and the other mindlessly repeating their regurgitation of horse crap.

Now if you’re seen with Trump, you’re a target. When we posted a photo of Sheriff Stevenson and President Trump on our Instagram account, blanca_vegan88 posted a reprehensible suggestion that both needed to be “shot in the head.” She noted that we deleted the comment, nd suggested we wanted “AmeriKKKa.”

Where does she and millions like her get this crap? Start with the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Joy Behar, Whoopie Goldberg, Samantha Bee, Wanda Sykes as well as any reporters from ABC, MSNBC or CNN.

I think the majority of us would like to tell Blanca to please feel free to take the next flight out of the USA.

* * * * *

Speaking of misguided, ill-informed people, J.R. Lopez, whoever you are, seriously get with the program. I am not a member of the Ceres City Council.

* * * * *

The great silent majority still holds the power.

The NFL suffered great financial losses when fans were boycotted games and products in response to black players refusing to stand and show their respect during the playing of the National Anthem and disrespecting the flag. The NFL issued a rule that all players must stand at attention but if they so choose can bend a knee outside of camera view.

The left had conniptions to the new rule. Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” commented that the NFL decided with white consumers over black consumers. Honoring the American flag is now racial? Since when is showing American pride a whites-only issue? There are millions of black Americans who love their country and support our flag.

* * * * *

We were the receiving end of a letter-writing campaign from Josh Harder supporters. They were obviously from younger people who liked this young and inexperienced candidate. We didn’t run but a few of them because we’re not especially in the habit of giving free ink to candidates, let alone candidates who like to never spend any money in newspapers. Plus we didn’t have that much space.

One letter in particular made me laugh. It was from a one Emma Fuzie who prefaced the letter by saying she would “love” to submit a letter. She states, “unbiased reasearch (sic) will show you that if you vote for Josh Harder, you will be voting to have a capable, well-rounded, Central Valley local communicating your concerns in Washington D.C. Rep. Jeff Denham has not been working on your behalf, don’t be afraid to do your research— it will bring you to the same conclusion that it did for me: Vote Josh Harder.”

Well, I can’t imagine where to start researching this “unbiased” view of political candidates. This is, after all, politics. I’m sure Josh is a fine young man but my guiding principles would never allow myself to vote for someone with his political ideology.

Do you have any feedback about this column? Let Jeff know by emailing him at He will read it, promise.