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Council needs to answer concerns about blight

Ceres has a major problem with illegal dumping and code enforcement issues relating to blight and residents Gene Yeakley and John Warren have been holding the council’s feet to the fire.

At a number of meetings the two regularly bring concerns about how the city has dealt – or shall I say not dealt – with the concerns. Yeakley has pushed for answers and hasn’t been getting many.

Recently Yeakley spotted an outdoor tent style peddler’s faire that popped up at Whitmore Avenue and Blaker Road and asked Councilwoman Linda Ryno if it was a legitimate event. She went to Community Development Director Christopher Hoem who said it was in violation of the Muni Code because a special permit was not obtained.

At some point there began an email dialogue between Yeakley and Warren. In his email Yeakely said: “Still interesting what continues here in beautiful Ceres. And what I read from what was passed along to me is that someone knows someone who knows someone who had knowledge of this and was talked to and this was understood this will not happen again. Well, maybe not on this property or lot. But it did happen and there should be something that happens to the violator offenders … Come on, this large of event and nothing happens to those who made it actually take place? Really. Just another slap on the hand. Don’t do that again or daddy or mommy will punish you with a slap on the hand. Cannot believe what continues to go on here. Municipal Codes, Code Enforcement, Law Enforcement, what’s that? You want us to do what?”

In response to the inquiry, Mayor Javier Lopez fired off an email to Warren on Jan. 21 (and cc’ed a number of officials) that read: “Let’s be clear. In no shape or form will I continue to allow you gentlemen to disrespect my city staff, with your comments. In addition, in this matter at hand in which you both seem to believe you are the only priority. Regardless if it’s a pop event ‘local business for whom I support’ the real evidence only shows how negative and anti-small businesses you are. In the end I also support freedom of speech and the right to have an opinion. These are yours. Our city council and city staff work day and day out to move this city forward. I’d suggest you be apart (sic) of the solution not apart (sic) of the problem.

“Thank you and have a blessed day. Javier Lopez, Mayor City of Ceres”

Yeakley brought up the email at last week’s council meeting and said he didn’t appreciate being “silenced” by the mayor. He also said he has never disrespected city staff and he didn’t appreciate being called “negative and anti-small business.”

Mayor Lopez said he stood by his email and said he won’t tolerate city staff being disrespected.

That caused John Warren to stand up and ask how anyone felt they were disrespected. No one but Ryno answered and said she never felt disrespect and clarified that continued pressure for answers about code enforcement does not constitute disrespect.

It is time that code enforcement be addressed immediately by the council – and for the concerns of residents – even if they can be a thorn in the council’s side – to be addressed, not swept under the rug. The city has taken steps, such as adding one more code enforcement personnel, but with millions of COVID relief dollars at the council’s disposal, there is no time like the present for Ceres to set it as a high priority. Hire the staff to clean up Ceres and keep it clean.

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Councilman James Casey made a statement at last week’s meeting wondering if the Ceres City Council received so little attendance or input at meetings is because “they think we’re not listening.”

I don’t believe that is the problem, Jim. In covering council meetings I can tell you that the problem is one of apathy. People don’t generally show up at a council meeting until there is an item they are concerned about. 

One of the last big turnouts was in 2019 with the fuss made about the Aegis methadone clinic opening up on Mitchell Road. Citizens were whipped into frenzy by some social media posts. The city could not legally stop Aegis Treatment Center from operating in the commercial zone because permitted uses include medical offices. Predictions that the center would draw in crime and loitering have not come to pass.

Let’s face it, council meetings are typically about as exciting as watching paint drying and at the end of a day’s work, the average person doesn’t want to sit there for hours and listen to mundane topics. That’s why they elect representatives to do the job.

More attendance and input would be great but don’t expect it to happen.

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There was quite a lot of chatter on the Stanislaus News Facebook page over the weekend about a posting of someone who notified the world that Ceres Public Works Department gave notice to someone about garbage cans being left out. The individual who posted a photo of the notice from the city wrote: “This is what’s going on in Ceres Ca. I don’t live there but wanted to share what I know what someone got in the mail I’m shocked because there home is very clean and practically brand new and a corner house! Figured I share! There (sic) garbage cans are on side of house not visable(sic) by driving by at all only if you get out of car and walk on feet it’s visable (sic)! You really has (sic) to look for them to find them. I think a Neigbor (sic) is nosy and turned them in!”

Actually it’s not the proverbial “nosy neighbor” who prompted the city to notify the resident. The city is beginning to crack down on the eyesore of people leaving their garbage carts out in public view with the introduction of another 11,000 new carts out there.

Some people like that the city has a rule and wants it enforced. Cheryl Weems commented: “I like the ordinance, it keeps people going through the garbage making a mess, carts aren’t all in the streets, etc. It does make it hard making a place to hid (sic) 3 carts.”

Dane Dressler isn’t a fan of the law and publicly commented: “First off, it’d surprise you at what ordinances are on the books, sometimes some pretty stupid ones. I’d take that letter down to city hall/city council meeting and congratulate everyone on the huge balls they have to keep a city the way Ceres is kept yet give out violations to people for petty crap like this...’cause improper trash can storage is a real problem right now.”

It’s ironic that Dressler mentions the “way Ceres is kept” yet doesn’t think the city needs to stop people from leaving cans in view, which in my opinion, contributes to neighborhood blight. They have a way of making even a nice neighborhood look unsightly.

Nicole Perez posted: “I think Ceres has bigger fish to fry then (sic) a trash can in a driveway.”

Seriously, blight is perhaps one of Ceres’ biggest problems.

Perhaps many folks are not familiar with the old broken window concept whereby the appearance of a community either encourages or discourages crime. The broken windows theory states that any visible signs of crime and civil disorder, such as broken windows (blight), vandalism, loitering, public drinking, etc., create an environment that promotes even more crime and disorder. Likewise, the sight of broken-down cars in driveways, houses that aren’t maintained, dead grass or weed-filled lots, trash and trash cans all lower desirability to live in a community and thus lowers property values.

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The supply chain woes facing our country highlight how dependent we have become on foreign-produced goods and the need to return to local products and American manufacturing.

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Oh goodie, one of the least popular women in American politics announced last week that she wants her 19th term in Congress. Nancy Pelosi is 81 and years past life expectancy; shouldn’t she just retire and enjoy what little time she has left on earth? Or does making life miserable for Republicans qualify as enjoying her life.

Likewise for Maxine Waters, 83, who is in her 15th term (each term is two years).

One of our U.S. senators, Diane Feinstein has served well past her time. She is 83 and it’s said her dementia is getting real bad. No lie, but yet she still won’t step down.

Apparently voters don’t have the stomach to turn out dinosaurs.

Of course, nobody can beat Claude Pepper’s tenure in Congress. The Florida Democrat lived from 1900 to 1989 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1936 to 1951 and Congress from 1963 to 1989. Fifty-three years in Congress! Previously he served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1929 to 1931.

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Democrats in office are doing their damnedest to make life difficult for gun owners. San Jose just passed a requirement that gun owners there not only carry liability insurance for their guns but pay a $25 fee, which would be collected by a yet-to-be-named nonprofit and doled out to community groups to be used for firearm safety education and training, suicide prevention, domestic violence, and mental health services.

Look for Sacramento Democrats to play copycat.

The liberal mayor there, Sam Liccardo, seems to think this will curb gun violence – typical illogical thinking. It won’t do anything but make law-abiding citizens pay more to live in their city.

Liccardo complains that gun violence costs city taxpayers $40 million a year in emergency response services. So making peaceful people pay a fee will stop the thugs from shooting each other? Not hardly. It’s another wishful thinking idea that has zero merit.

 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