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City leaders may want to watch the expensive trips

Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez has been doing a lot of traveling this year courtesy of the taxpayers.

Normally a luxury that most small city mayors don’t get to enjoy, Lopez attended the United States Conference of Mayors held Jan. 17-20 in Washington, D.C.

As chairman of the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) Policy Board, Lopez attended an event in Riverside in early March, staying at the Mission Inn and posting photos on his social media account.

Lopez then flew across the country again to D.C. in April to meet as a member of the StanCOG team with Rep. John Duarte and Senator Feinstein’s office. (Don’t they have local offices?)

But last week’s Ceres City Council meeting was cancelled owing in part to Lopez and Councilmember Rosalinda Vierra attending the pricy May 21-23 ICSC conference held at the Wynn and Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas – again, funded by taxpayers.  ICSC stands for International Council of Shopping Centers, essentially a group that promotes shopping centers.

Lopez and Vierra attended with Economic Development Manager Tamra Spade and Community Development Director Christopher Hoem. The city covered their expenses as well.

News of this last trip did not sit well with some citizens who keep a watchful eye on what the new mayor and council are doing. Newly elected Councilwoman Rosalinda Vierra posted the trip on her Facebook page – complete with a photo of the snowcapped Sierras snapped from her airliner window and a video of Mayor Vierra in a parking structure holding an “energy drink” and standing next to a red Charger, saying, “Everybody wonders where’s Ceres? Now you know. Red Charger – that’s where Ceres is.”

To some who saw the posts, it smacked of a junket for small city officials with Michelle Rocha asking, “The corporation paid for you folks to party in LV?”

Vierra didn’t reply to Rocha. But the question opened up criticism from John Warren, an outspoken Ceres retiree, who answered: “I believe the City of Ceres did. The budget is not balanced and has a big shortfall.”

For the record, last year the City Council used $1.1 million in one-time ARPA funds and $618,943 of General Fund reserves to fill a $1.7 million hole in the 2022-23 budget.

Former Ceres City Councilwoman Linda Ryno later commented to Warren: “Let’s see: Registration of $1,325 x 4, Airfare x 4; Javier’s orange Charger rental $$? And cancelling a council meeting so they could attend?”

Councilwoman Vierra then turned off all commenting on her posting – but not before someone took screenshots and shared them with me.

Ryno later questioned why two elected officials were going to the Las Vegas conference, saying, “If anyone’s going it should be the Economic Development director because what are two council members going to be doing to lure business to Ceres? And if that’s part of their job, they shouldn’t be paying the economic development director.”

She has a point. I didn’t hear of any councilmembers during the Chris Vierra-led council day going to the annual conference with Steve Hallam when he was the economic development director. Keep in mind that besides Hoem and Spade, the city also pays The Retail Coach to actively assist in marketing efforts to retailers, developers and brokers at retail industry conference and trade shows as well as provide ongoing coaching and support. So why did the two councilmembers feel they needed to go to Las Vegas?

Registration for the conference was $1,325 for members so registration fees for the four came to $5,300. Add to that the airfare, dinner and hotels.

I wonder if any other mayors within Stanislaus County attended the ICSC premier event series which was advertised as the “annual global gatherings of the Marketplaces Industry’s networked community of dealmakers, negotiators and moneymakers.”

* * * * *

I’ve never been one who believed in the fairly recent concept of “hate crimes” for it is already illegal to physically attack or kill anyone regardless of color. It’s also been hateful to assault, kill or maim anyone. Thus the concept of “hate crimes” is all about getting inside a person’s head to determine motive when only the perpetrators knows what that is.

The left has broadened “hate” to mean speaking out against so-called protected classes. So the progressives want to ultimately make it a “hate crime,” for example, if a pastor speaks out against homosexuality or condemns the practice of letting kids undergo trans surgery.

Now our ridiculous governor has set up a hotline and website for Californians to report “a hate crime or hate incident and talk to a trained care coordinator in any of more than 200 languages.” Keeping 200 linguists on the phones can’t be cheap.

Get this: you can lob a complaint against anyone and remain anonymous.

If you are physically attacked or threatened, that’s a crime and it’s a police matter. Thus, let’s say that a Chinese person gets attacked on the streets of San Francisco by a black perpetrator – as we have seen on TV – then call police, not some bureaucratic hotline. I mean, if it’s really a true crime, you don’t call a hotline. But the governor’s hotline smacks of trolling for ways to silence foes or critics of the LGBTQ community.

“Here in California, we are sending an unequivocal message that hate will not be tolerated,” said Governor Newsom in rolling out the hotline. That’s odd coming from a governor who just returned to California after lambasting every red state governor as enemies of freedom. His speech sounds pretty hateful to me, but he does have a right to free speech – or does he now?

If you want to know why the state of California is billions in budget red ink, just consider how Newsom has been spending money. Last year he announced the distribution of $14 million in grant funds to organizations to provide direct services and support to victims of hate incidents and to facilitate hate incident prevention measures. This funding was approved as part of the Governor’s California Comeback Plan in 2021, which included $166.5 million dedicated to combating bias-motivated attacks.

While nobody wants to see hateful acts committed, spending millions of dollars is sheer waste that won’t put a dent in the horrible acts that stem from the darkened hearts of some. Liberals are good at spending our tax money for programs that produce zero results. Just look at California’s homeless problem as an example.

I’ll likely die of old age before Newsom admits that most of what contributes to societal ills and crime is the sickness of the soul and unhealthy family units. You’ll never hear Newsom suggest that families go to church nor hear him cite the virtues of faith. You’ll never hear this Woke governor extol the importance of kids being raised in a two-parent, father-mother household. What you will hear him do is vilify a lot of religious conservatives and their policies – and dole out an ever-ending series of multi-million programs that buy the short-lived happiness of his voting bloc without solving any problem.

* * * * *

We all know what happens to any Republican candidate for president. They get the Trump treatment. And so it’s started with Ron DeSantis.

Prior to his announcement of his candidacy last Wednesday, the NAACP had the audacity to issue an urgent travel advisory for black people to avoid DeSantis’ Florida, claiming that it’s hostile to black people. Perhaps the NAACP feels the need to set up a phone bank to warn the 3.381 million blacks who love Florida and don’t see anything hostile about living there.

The NAACP is nothing but a fear-mongering arm of the Democratic Party which only knows how to harken back to the long-absolved days of 1964 when motel owners in St. Augustine poured acid into the motel pools to run out the black folks.

Their “racist charging” modus operandi is engrained in the Democrat Party. Remember how Joe Biden offensively suggested that if you voted for Trump, “you ain’t black” and how he stated the Republicans were going to “put ya’ll back in chains.” 

* * * * *

Gavin Newsom continues to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Last week he blasted the Target retail chain of participating in a “systemic attack” on LGBTQ after they came to their senses and yanked so-called “Pride” products. Newsom said the store is giving in to extremists!

Let me understand the twisted mind of Newsom: Selling clothing to children with tags celebrating those confused about what’s between their legs not being an indication of their gender is normal and those who think this is sheer lunacy is “extremism”?

Yes, governor, you are evil.

Target may have been onboard with the Pride collection before Bud Light regretfully celebrated Dylan Mulvaney on a can and thus enraging its entire customer base. But I suspect Target envisions moms boycotting their stores (in a similar Bud Light backlash) over peddling a perverse line of clothing to impressionable children. There is something very sick with anyone – Newsom included – who pushes this ideology reflected on greeting cards sold by Target that say: “Glad you came out” and “I’m so happy that you’re queer.”

It doesn’t surprise me that the “Pride” clothing lineup was designed by – you can’t make this up – a Satanist fashion group. The collection features clothing and tote bags with such verbiage as “Live, Laugh Lesbian,” “Cure transphobia not trans people,” “Too queer for here” and “We belong everywhere.”

The UK-based company Abprallen also sells apparel that includes satanic imagery including pentagrams, horned skulls and references to the devil. They even printed this message on some T-shirts and pins:  “Satan respects pronouns.” 

Correction on that: Satan respects wrong pronouns because, as the Bible says, he is the “father of lies.”

If you’ve been a lifelong Democrat because you always believed the party had your best interests at heart, you must realize how the party has embraced evil.

Corporations are being coerced into supporting Woke causes because they will be harmed economically. It’s fascist in nature.

Corporations are being graded on how Woke they are and using that to come up with a CEI (Corporate Equality Index credit score. Who is behind that CEI? A group called the HRC Foundation, a massive political lobbying group. If corporations get a bad CEI score, then Woke investor funds dry up and activists are mobilized. You may not be surprised that George Soros’ Open Society Foundations are funding the HRC.

Soris is also the billionaire who is helping to elect all these Woke prosecutors who go easy on criminals.

* * * * *

I’m shaking my head over remarks Newsom made about people wanting to see an improvement in the homelessness which has plagued the country. He said, “It’s not just about sweeping things under the rug or kicking people off the streets and sidewalks and claiming a job well done. That doesn’t do justice to the injustice that is perpetuated because our inability to reconcile the larger issues of wealth and income inequality and all its forms and manifestations, the most acute, of course, the issue of homelessness.”

Since Newsom is a socialist and wants the government to take more from successful people and give it to those who aren’t, I suggest he practice what he preaches. Instead of pay lip service, he needs to give away his wealth and distribute it to some who won’t work and also open up extra bedrooms in his ritzy Marin County home to get some of these unfortunates off the streets.

The federal government was never started to be an instrument to steal from those who have to give to those who have not. Herbert Hoover, before he became president, said something profound: “America’s ideal is not only that all men shall be equal before the law, but that we create a system where every individual shall have an equal OPPORTUNITY to attain that position in the community to which his character, ability and ambition entitle him. If we are to finally succeed, this ideal must dominate every act of our public institutions and of our government.”

Get that? A person is entitled to have the opportunity to get to a station in life based on his ambition, ability and character – but no guarantees of being rich. Sadly, many Americans feel they are entitled to something for nothing.

* * * * *

Have you noticed that the rise in socialism has correlated to a rise to organized theft rings? All the progressive talk about income redistribution and income equality has some folks thinking they should have any right to walk into a store and take whatever they want. It’s the ultimate sense of entitlement.

That mentality was in action on May 23 when four Bay Area women in their twenties decided to steal $5,000 worth of goods from the Ulta store in Riverbank and leave westbound on Kiernan toward home. I’m sure these stupid individuals felt robbing an Ulta store in what they perceived as the hayseed part of California would be a pushover but the store staff gave a good description and the car was intercepted in Salida before it could hit 99. Of course they didn’t pull over but decided to flee and crashed a short distance later. Because of their foolishness, they thought they could run from police and all went to jail and lost the car that could have taken them to work every day like the rest of us.

A great ending indeed!

Charged with organized retail theft, grand theft and criminal conspiracy were Zekoya Jackson and Kimayah Ratliff, both 21, and Samia Florence and Ahniyah Shans, both 22. The driver was charged with evading police.

Too bad they didn’t stay in school and learn how to be successful people instead of drains on society.

* * * * *

Can you believe this? The Democrat governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, declared a state of emergency because Republican lawmakers want to give parents the choice between sending their kids to successful private schools or the failed indoctrination centers we call public schools. He called their voucher system as a scheme. Not very politically astute since nearly 70 percent of residents there support school choice.

* * * * *

Video showed us last week just how off the rails some left wing educators have become. A black female professor at Hunter College in New York named Shellyne Rodriguez, 45, walked up to a table of information hosted by pro-life white college students and went crazy on them. She said the display “triggered” her students (when she was the one triggered) and after she cussed them out she shoved the pamphlets off the table.

Then a New York Post reporter went to her apartment to speak to her and she held a machete to his throat and threatened to chop him up. After the reporter and a photographer quickly exited the apartment building, video showed Rodriguez — still armed with the machete — chasing them down the street, saying, “If I see you on this block one more f–king time, you’re gonna …. Get the f--- off the block! Get the f--- out of here, yo!”

The deranged professor sported tattoos of “FTP” which means F--- the Police.

This is an example of why you may not want to send your kids to college.

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