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Council needs to step up in wake of Ryno leaving

Linda Ryno’s sudden resignation from the Ceres City Council is not a good thing. She was a lone voice crying in the wilderness and had a wealth of institutional knowledge.

It’s sad that the city’s feet dragging about code enforcement problems and sweeping problems under the rug have caused her departure.

The council needs to answer her charges, chief among them about which councilman has been allowed to be in arrears on his utility bills.

Ceres has significant visual and blight problems that the rest of the council and mayor don’t seem too fired up to do anything about. It’s time they heard the pleas of residents who have been asking about solutions and brushed off every time. It’s time that the mayor and council get serious about dealing with code enforcement -- yesterday.

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Common sense matters in Sacramento and the Democrats have none. Republicans know that the solution to violence is keeping dangerous people locked up while Democrats think the answer is tougher gun laws. Well let me ask you this. How many of the thugs who are shooting guns in Sacramento two weekends ago were violating existing gun laws? I would say with almost relative assurance that none of them had concealed weapons permits so we know they were all in violation of the law. Folks do not care about following the law otherwise they wouldn’t be shooting people. It is time to end the early release program. It is just another failed Democrat policy.

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California continues to slide deeper into a cesspool with Democrat policies.

Our District Attorney, Birgit Fladager, called attention to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) quest to make permanent COVID-era regulations which will result in early releases of thousands of violent offenders and so-called “nonviolent second strikers.”

The CDCR must hold a public comment period but unfortunately we were notified last Wednesday after our paper went to press and the public comment period ends today.

The CDCR wants to reduce prison sentences already imposed by judges by increasing credits awarded on sentences. Violent offenders could have their conduct credit rate increased from 20 to 33 percent. “Nonviolent second strikers” could see an increase from 50 to 66 percent. For example, on a 10-year sentence an individual could be released after having served three years and four months. A felon in possession of a firearm with a prior violent felony conviction will serve less than half his sentence.

So how is that early release working for law-abiding citizens who want to lead peaceful lives without thugs doing their evil deeds? Unfortunately, not well and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has some examples for us to look at. Keep in mind that a recent U.S. Department of Justice study found an alarming 71% recidivism rate amongst prison releases across 34 states, including California. A review of the individuals released from prison demonstrates an alarming trend of serious recidivism including arrests for murder, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, felony domestic violence and hit-and-run with death or injury.

Let’s look at Gary Allen, a car thief who stole more than one of motorcycle in 2015 and 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the judge.  But, the CDCR released Allen after serving only four years and seven months. Apparently he is stupid because he didn’t learn anything. Since his release he has been arrested three times and is currently charged with murder, brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner and drug possession.

Then there’s Akeim McFadden, a pathetic dude who battered his woman, clubbing her in the head with a bike pump. In May 2016, he pled guilty to felony domestic violence. He served a little over half of his five-year sentence. He got out of the pokey in February 2019 and by June he shot someone in the stomach at pointblank range over a dispute about a bicycle. That victim survived but just five months later, McFadden shot and killed a person who was sleeping in a tent in the backyard of a residence. So the CDCR has blood on its hands there.

McFadden is now supposed to spend 98 years and 8 months to life in prison. Let’s see how it takes for bleeding heart Democrats to let him out.

Oh wait, there’s more.

Then there’s Ralph “Revolving Door” Hibbler. In 2002, Hibbler was convicted of an assault with a firearm and went to prison for five years. Once released and on parole, Hibbler was convicted of a drug charge in 2008 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was released in March of 2017 and was once again on parole when he committed the September 2017 offense, holding a loaded stolen gun on someone and not allowing him to leave. He was sentenced to six years in state prison, but, you guessed, got out early after serving only two years and four months.

Hibbler was arrested in February and March of 2021, charged with felony domestic violence, false imprisonment and drug possession. He is charged in a separate case with felony hit-and-run with death or injury, being a felon in possession of a firearm, felony evading an officer with willful disregard, hit and run driving, resisting a peace officer and unlicensed driver.

Need more?

Okay, let’s look at Cordell Jones who in September 2014 attacked a woman with a knife, threatening to kill her and her family members, punched her repeatedly in the face, and strangled her twice before punched her in the face and mouth with a set of metal keys. This nice, upstanding man told his victim, “I’ll kill you,” and “I’ll chop you up into little pieces.” This wasn’t his first rodeo. He previously was convicted of two prior domestic assaults in 2007 and 2013.

A jury and judge in February 2015 wanted to see him locked away and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But the CDCR came to his rescue, releasing this dangerous fool after serving only five years and 4 months, or 36 percent of his actual sentence. And guess what? He is back at his old fun and games, arrested in yet another felony domestic violence case less than a year ago.

There’s more. I could talk about Justin Hicks, another violent thug, and drug dealer Christopher Orgelia. California leaders are FAILING its citizens and yet the citizens keep electing them. I don’t know who is stupider – the thugs who have no lessons learned from years behind bars or voters who empower officials who inflict this cruelty on peaceful people.

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You can’t define stupidity more than this: A mass shooting in Sacramento is played up by the president as the need to further gun control while masking the real problem – Democrats letting felons out of prison.

We now know that one of the shooters had been released early from prison despite prosecutors’ efforts to keep him behind bars.

Last week state Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City) said: “This was a violent felon with a long rap sheet who should have been in prison. If he was, this tragedy might have been avoided. If this violence a few blocks from the Capitol doesn’t serve as a wake-up call to the policymakers in this building, I don’t know what will.”

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I think most folks today realize how the cry of racism is not only hollow but is sometimes used to allow others to deflect from personal failings. Take for instance, Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors who last week lashed out at New York Magazine as racist because they reported that she purchased a $6 million Studio City mansion with funds donated to BLM.

Cullors cries that the reporter, Sean Kevin Campbell, is a racist even though he is black. You cannot make up the stupidity on the left.

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Rebecca Harrington, who sits as an elected member and chair of the South Modesto Municipal Advisory Council, went before the Ceres City Council on March 14 and made a surprising request. Bystrum Road where she lives– just outside the city limits – is part of the Ceres sphere of influence and has been for decades. After complaining that the city hasn’t contributed to the JPA that operates the Mancini Park, she called for annexation to the city of Modesto.

For now, that area is an unincorporated part of Stanislaus County, meaning that area is governed by the county. She complained about paying taxes with no visible improvements to roads. Sounds like a county problem. As a point of departure, I have to ask, have you seen the condition of the roads in Turlock which is an incorporated city? They are horrible! If she thinks roads in her neighborhood would be magically cared for after being enveloped by Modesto, she’s sadly mistaken.

Planning through the ages has never called for Modesto to extend its city limits south of the Tuolumne River on the east side of Highway 99 and I’m not sure Modesto would want it. But Harrington said all of that planning was a “decision in error without regard to the will of the people of our community.” She also spoke out of both sides of her mouth when she stated that the people didn’t feel they had a voice while acknowledging they didn’t come forward. They did have a voice and they did not come forward. Coming forward now is a bit late, don’t you think?

Harrington assured the council that: “It’s nothing personal. But for us we are more attached and more a part of the city of Modesto than we are to the city of Ceres.” That’s interesting given Harrington’s house is approximately 2,000 feet from the Ceres city limits and her neighborhood is south of the river where Ceres is and is cut off from Modesto by the natural boundary of the river.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks with the bias against Ceres. They are the ones who twice voted down a zip code change to change it from 95353 to Ceres 95307 despite the fact that that area would never be annexed to the city of Modesto. The fact that it’s Ceres’ sphere means the region will be annexed to Ceres one day.

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I have some harsh words for state and Modesto city officials.

If I had never before been to Modesto and, let’s say, was coming to Modesto from LA on Highway 99, my first impression is to run, run, run. You leave Ceres and make that S curve as you rise over S. Ninth Street and see a large warehouse covered in wretched graffiti. A little farther and your first view of Modesto is a grove of homeless camps. Up a little farther and you have the wrecking yard with the block wall covered in graffiti butting up next to the only pretty sight – the Tuolumne River. A ways past the Tuolumne Boulevard exit you see the back side of the Sierra Vista Kirk Baugher School marred by graffiti vandals who climbed high enough to give us all a spoiled view that announces you are in a ghetto area. It makes me embarrassed to see it.

I have long believe the local governments should not only assist in the relocation of the South Seventh Street wrecking yards but also the mobile home parks and redevelop the area into something scenic.

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