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Common sense seems in very short supply

Every year there are always a bunch of short-sighted idiots who herald the New Year by shooting their guns. It’s a stupidly reckless and dangerous practice – not to mention illegal.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to celebrate by shooting a bullet into the air in Houston, Texas, ended up senselessly robbing a 61-year-old nurse of her life. Deputies said Philippa Ashford, 61, and her family had been discharging fireworks with their neighbors in the cul-de-sac when she suddenly cried out that she had been shot, hit by a bullet fired from an unknown location. She died at the scene from a single gunshot wound shortly after EMS arrived.

The story reminds me of the time about 28 years ago when an elderly Ceres woman living in Voyager’s Cove called to say a bullet had penetrated her mobile home roof and shot into her mattress, just inches from where she was lying in bed. I went over there and helped her fish out the bullet through a cut in the side of her mattress. It could have killed her if it had hit her.

I know that common sense is in short supply among some segments of our population but think, folks. Bullets come down with terrific velocity and people are all over the ground.

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Sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s really tough to make the grade to become a police officer. That’s why it’s more than disappointing to see young sworn officers who make the grade do immature things. I’m talking about the officer in Junction City, Kansas who lied about someone at a McDonald’s writing “f---ing pig” on his coffee cup. While such an incident did happen at an Oklahoma Starbucks in November, this time the cop was guilty of faking the incident. The unnamed 23-year-old officer had only been on the job for two months and resigned after the it was exposed that he, not a McDonald’s employee, wrote the slur on the cup. His police chief, Brian Hornaday, was right when he stated: “«I hope he understands the magnitude of the black eye this gives the law enforcement profession from coast to coast.”

Indeed, respect for police is sorely suffering in our country but this incident just makes matters worse.

The public needs to be on guard all the time against fake news, whether perpetrated by so-called victims (Jussie Smollette) or by the national news media.

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The trolls came out last week – like they often do – in response to our Facebook posting of my last column. It was prompted by a comment from Salida resident Penny Williamson who posted some drivel about Trump helping his rich cronies and setting off Trump supporters. Andy Constantinou, a staunch Democrat who lives just outside the Ceres city limits, displayed more of his contempt for me when he suggested I was spewing “hatred towards Democrats” and suggested I was getting my marching orders from on high. He then went on to take a subliminal jab at city management by suggesting “We can never hire educated, experienced staff if they look and see this in the local paper. SAD!!!”

David Eckhardt rushed to my defense when he told Constantinou: “It is abundantly clear that you think that any opinion other than Democrats is ‘hate.’ There is not a single unbiased newspaper in existence today. Just because an opinion does not align with your own does not make it uneducated nor inexperienced as you would suggest …”

We are entitled to have opinions and disagree with one another. But I miss the days of debate, when points were made and countered. It seems today that you can make brilliant and logical points and the opposing side comes up with terms like “hateful” while ducking the points the original thinker made. It underscores that they cannot defend their position.

And for your information, Andy, nobody in my corporation or the city tells me what to write. They are my opinions based on my experiences and my observations. In fact, at the end of my column is this: “This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.”

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I read the opinion piece by LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino in which he addressed homelessness in California. He suggests that fixing the homelessness should not be a partisan issue. But what if the problem is being caused by the party in charge in California? Does it then become a partisan issue? I think so.

While nobody wants people to shiver in the cold on the sidewalks of Sacramento or Modesto or LA, you must admit that California’s poverty is partially to blame on state policies. I still believe that many homeless persons are on the streets not just because they lost their jobs but because they lost their jobs because of their personal drug abuse or mental illness.  In fact the Los Angeles Times found two-thirds of L.A. County’s residents living on the streets suffer from a psychological or substance abuse disorder, far more than what’s been reported in official statistics that exclude mental disorders that aren’t “long-term.” Meth use is a cause and so is domestic violence.

I see this as a spiritual problem. This is what you get when as a society we get far from the film foundation of a faith. And I think churches and faith-based organizations have been overlooked in the conversation on solutions.

For Buscaino – a Democrat – the solution is wrapped up in millions of more taxpayer dollars and government agencies and services thrown at the problem. But Buscaino acknowledges the real root of the problem is that “the rent is just too damned high.” Ain’t that the truth in California, which has been saturated in an onslaught of environmental policies and fees that make affordable housing nearly impossible to build.

Rents are high because supply hasn’t kept up with demand. Part of the reason is a monstrous impediment known as CEQA, the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act. It costs developers a lot of money and time to satisfy CEQA. Neighborhood projects are often dead on arrival, not because of construction costs, but because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars and months and years for the environmental review process. The litigation that follows city approval, even if frivolous, (like the Walmart Supercenter project proposed for Ceres), can delay a project for years.  Many developers won’t even bother building affordable housing because the investment doesn’t pencil out because of CEQA preparation and litigation costs.

The Democrats will want you to think the end of CEQA would mean environmental catastrophe that surpasses homeless pooping in the streets. But over 80 percent of the construction projects challenged under CEQA are infill projects in already-developed areas, not sprawling new suburbs tearing up hills and riparian wetlands.

As I have stated before, let’s start with either watering down or eliminating CEQA.

Busciano hints throughout his piece that the solution is at the federal level. But if we’re honest, you need to ask why California’s homeless rate has kicked up 16.4 percent since 2018 according to HUD. Ask yourself why roughly one in four homeless Americans live in California while one out of nine Americans lives in California. Ask yourself why Mississippi has the highest poverty rate of any state yet its homeless rate is among the lowest.

Busciano wants more funding. But are you aware that:

• In 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown directed $500 million to emergency homelessness funding.

• That in 2018, voters passed Prop. 1, a $4 billion bond that funds affordable housing construction. They also passed Prop. 2, a $2 billion bond to fund supportive housing for people with mental illness.

• In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom designated a record $1 billion of his budget to one-time investments combating homelessness, on top of $1.75 billion to expand California’s affordable housing stock. The largest chunk, $650 million, went to cities and counties to build more emergency shelters, medium- and long-term housing and motel conversions.

• Counties and cities also shell out significant funds to address homelessness. For example, the Los Angeles city budget for 2018-2019 included $426 million for homeless outreach and services, largely financed by Prop HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure passed by voters in 2016 to fund 10,000 new units of supportive housing over 10 years.

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It must be hard being an ill-informed young person today whose head has been filled by MSNBC and CNN style of hatred for the president. Over the weekend a bunch of minority students belonging to the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.), Indigenous Students in Activism (I.S.A.) and Our Revolution CD10, held a rally at Graceada Park to protest Trump’s bold strike on Iran. These poor confused skulls of mush – who I might add sound nothing like Americans – suggested that Trump “assassinated” Iran’s most powerful military commander Qasem Suleimani in a targeted air strike “without congressional consultation or approval.” Never mind that Soleimani has attacked Israel. Trump restrained himself when Soleimani downed an American drone, attacked western oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and in the Arabian Sea and launched a wide-scale cyberattack on Saudi Arabia. In May Trump said Soleimani is the personification of the “chaos and terror” Trump denounced in May when he accused Iran of fueling conflicts in the region and supporting “terrorist proxies” that have “bombed American embassies and military installations, murdered hundreds of American service members, and kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured American citizens.”

Just think, if FDR had a Congress that hated him as much as this one hates Trump, we’d all be speaking Japanese today waiting for authority to declare war. But aside from that, presidents don’t need Congress to make a military strike. The weekend’s protestors weren’t even alive when Bill Clinton bombed an aspirin factory in 1998 in retaliation for al-Qaeda bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The local students tripped over their own thoughts by suggesting the commander-in-chief’s actions were deserving of “immediate removal.” Nice try, leftists. Stay in school and learn some American history, please. You’re embarrassing the education system of this country, if that’s indeed where you got your education.

In their press release issued Friday, the students had a decidedly racist tone when it suggested “If a war occurs … the ones most affected and killed will be black and brown folks.” They then denounce the “imperial, colonial, and white supremacist bombing by the United States, a settler colonial state.”

Did you catch that? White supremacist bombing?

Are these the same kids smoking bag fulls of marijuana purchased at the Angie dispensary? Who warped the minds of some our young people? And you wonder how Josh Harder and AOC types get elected to Congress!

Maybe the protestors would feel better by renouncing their American citizenship – if indeed they are – and fight for Iran.

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About 20 years ago Oakdale Leader publisher Bill Camp got tired of being a pawn in the PR campaigns that candidates were engaging in with self-serving letters to the editor, many written by friends of candidates and even candidates themselves submitting letters under nom de plumes. So he struck upon the controversial idea of charging for political letters because he saw the campaigns were buying no ad space but enjoying plenty of free ink in the letters column.

We realize some candidates employee friends to write letters on their behalf. We’re not there yet but ... we will be severely limiting the publishing of political letters this year – especially the ones that bear outright falsehoods. 

Candidates, if you want to get someone to vote for you, buy ad space. It’s that simple. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to see few letters printed.

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Ron Lawrence, the police chief of Citrus Heights, is no fan of our governor. Speaking in his role as president of the California Police Chiefs Association, Lawrence called recent comments by Gov. Gavin Newsom about closing a state prison “a reckless idea.”

Newsom said in Fresno months back ’s that his administration has been moving forward on “re-imagining a 21st century criminal justice system,” with a focus on rehabilitation.

Lawrence said recent state prison reform efforts in California have led to the overcrowding of county jails, which he said has subsequently led to more violence in jails and more criminals being released on the street. He argued that closing a prison will only add more problems.

Lawrence is kind of “old fashioned” by the governor’s progressive standards in that he believes those “who commit crimes to held accountable for the crimes they commit, get treatment for any addictions and rehabilitated while in jail or prison, and ultimately become productive members of society.”

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