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Councilman continues to go about recklessly

I’ve covered the Ceres City Council for over three decades – from the Jim Marshall era of city managers to Gary Napper to Brad Kilger to Tim Kerr to Art deWerk to Toby Wells; from mayors Jim Delhart through Chris Vierra. I’ve seen councilmembers and mayors and candidates come and go for 32 years. So I have an unparalleled perspective. Ceres had been known for councils that got along and escaped controversy when other local City Councils were going sideways in the media.

It’s obvious that the cohesion of the City Council is now fractured. Some on the council are now into micromanaging city staff and tying up their time instead of being visionaries.

Let me segue right into some developments that have occurred since Channce Condit entered the picture five months ago. Condit has raised eyebrows and certainly not because he’s doing any championing of the little man over bureaucrats. His breech of protocol could be chocked up to lack of experience; but a more cynical view is that he’s posturing himself for political ladder climbing – rather recklessly at times. In short, trying to fix things that are not broken or just can’t be “fixed.”

It started when he insisted that all department heads be asked if they would consider moving to Ceres – an action that could wind up sending the city to court to defend a discrimination suit. Condit went so far as to vote AGAINST the hiring of new Fire Chief Kevin Wise – presumably because he lives outside of Ceres and not because of a medical history of cancers. In a wild inconsistency, Condit didn’t dispense the same treatment for Rick Collins in his vote for police chief, even though Collins resides in Modesto just as does Wise.

Condit threw a monkey wrench in the General Plan update by asking for something to be added that made no sense. Pressing for greater public safety funding – although that means some departments get decimated – is one thing, but making it a part of the elements of the General Plan is not only unnecessary but most unorthodox. After all, the City Council sets priorities on public safety allocations through the budgeting process, not the planning document. In other words, if something is a priority, spend more for it. But that could be difficult given that Ceres already spends about 80 percent of its discretionary revenues on police and fire.

Another Condit episode: At the end of the April 22 council meeting Condit tried to publicly open a discussion of a personnel matter before he was shut down by Mayor Chris Vierra. Condit announced that councilmembers had received a “serious” weekend email from Finance Director Suzanne Dean and wanted her to spill the beans. Condit should have known that personnel matters are not discussed in open session and if it doesn’t concern you that Dean is married to an attorney it should.)

Then there’s the matter of the latest constituent newsletter which Condit has taken up the practice of sending out – he calls it “Fighting for a Better Ceres” and emails it. Some feel that while the newsletter is veiled as updating residents for reasons of transparency, it’s self-promoting. For example, he notes throwing out the opening pitch of CYB and how he attended the “Every Student Succeeding Breakfast.” That’s politics. I get it. But the April 25 newsletter was weaponized against City Manager Toby Wells. In it, Condit throws Wells under the bus.

In a nutshell, Condit was critical of how the council was asked to approve a retirement annuity agreement with Police Chief Brent Smith (originally set to retire June 30 but left at the end of March to increase his retirement compensation.)

The March 25 agenda item was made at the behest of Smith, not Wells. Apparently Smith told Wells that he wanted to tie up some loose strings as Rick Collins transitioned into the job between April 1 and May 31. Wells recommended the action and waive the exception to the 180-day wait period in the Government Code to allow the city to contract with Smith to serve as the interim police chief pending the transition of Collins. Condit, Linda Ryno and Mike Kline ultimately voted down the idea while Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilman Bret Durossette supported it.

In his newsletter, Condit asserted that Collins was fully prepared to take the department. (It must be noted that Condit put then Lt. Collins on the spot at a council meeting by asking him if he was ready to take over. What else could he say?) So in his newsletter Condit wrote: “Putting this item on the agenda did a disservice to Chief Smith and was a grave miscalculation by the City Manager.”

That’s a strange statement given that Smith asked for the item on the agenda because he was bailing out of his job three months before planned!

Condit needs to marinade in the process of being a councilman and quit trying to make change for change’s sake; to quit fix what ain’t broken. His first six months of a four-year term have shown he has maturing to do – unless, of course, he’s on a fast track to the mayoral race next year and believes that “bad press is better than no press.”

Wells has been a good city manager and he’s ushered in much improvement under his watch. Downtown is thriving like it hasn’t in decades, major projects are being accomplished, Ceres streets are in far better condition than Turlock’s, parks are being built and city revenues are the healthiest they’ve been in years. Does Wells come across as agitated sometimes when he is needled by a citizen or when a councilmember continues to press a personal agenda? Sure, but you must look at his performance and conclude that Toby Wells knows his stuff – even if a councilman just 21-and-a-half weeks into the job thinks he doesn’t.

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The whole lot of Democrats in Sacramento should to be impeached for violating their oaths of office and introducing cheap-shot bills that are against the Constitution.

Their latest chicanery was the state Senate passing a bill to deny Trump’s name on the California ballot if he doesn’t release tax returns. Their attempt to smear him on the Mueller Report so now they think they can find wrongdoing in his tax returns.

A similar bill was passed in 2017 but Jerry Brown vetoed it as unconstitutional. At the time Brown said “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

The two chief lawbreakers are Senators Mike McGuire and Scott Wiener. They authored SB 27, the so-called “Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act.” It’s the second time a California official state body has sought political retribution on a duly elected president by illegally interfering with the election process far more seriously than any Russian interference operation. A more appropriate bill titles should be the “Dammit, We Can’t Find Anything on Trump So Let’s Root Through His Taxes” bill. Or better yet the “Worthless Legislators Violate the Law in a Desperate Attempt to Take Out a President” bill.

Among those worthless senators voting for this unlawful bill was none other than Anna Caballero. Yeah, she’s the one who is so in touch with her district that she referred to the Sierras as the Rockies in her Ceres appearance and who had to check her notes to recall her own two three priorities. What a phony. I say impeach Caballero and all her other cohorts.

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What does a city run by liberals look like? The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city spent more than $70 million – $70 freaking million – cleaning up human feces and drug paraphernalia off the streets and it’s still not a safe place.

Hey, instead of trying to milk corporations for more money and condemn them for raising rents because of the Democrats’ housing shortage, start citing people for urinating and defecating on public streets and sidewalks. They do have control where they go.

For crying out loud.

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I’ve been saying it for years. Obama was not good for our country and apparently The Quinnipiac poll announced that a poll indicates that more Americans consider Barack Obama to be the worst president since World War II than they do any other president.  The Quinnipiac poll said 33 percent of Americans see Obama as the worst post-war president, while just 8 percent consider him the best. Another 28 percent see former President George W. Bush as the worst. Richard Nixon, the only American President ever to resign in disgrace, was picked the worst by 13%, according to the poll.

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I believe Gov. Gavin Newsom is sadly out of touch with the average Californian. I think he’s the typical government-is-the-answer-to-all-your-problems scam artist. He sells tax increases like they are the only way to get his priorities accomplished.

He’s also a proponent of letting all Death Row inmates escape the very punishment they delivered to their victims. I think most people understand that if you take a life unjustly then you should not enjoy the privilege of living.

In 2016 California voters upheld the death penalty and accelerate the appeals process. Newsom lied when running for governor saying he was for the death penalty when he knew damned well he didn’t. Like I said, a slick scam artist (and I warned you about him). He, of all people, needs to face impeachment.

The District Attorneys of multiple counties are upset with his refusal to follow the law. But what’s new? He’s a sanctuary state and city advocate, thumbing the state’s nose at the federal government.

You understand that’s how a Civil War started.

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CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reported that Assembly Democrats are upset that their bills are being killed without a committee hearing.

Don’t feel bad for them…they voted for the rule allowing committee chairs to quietly shut down bills they don’t like. Despite Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte warning that the rule was “a violation…of the principles of democracy,” Assembly Democrats happily signed off on the change with a party-line vote. Now they’re getting a taste of their own medicine.

The power to kill GOP bills without any kind of debate must have seemed great. Now that they have to live by their own rules, we’re seeing an abrupt change of heart.

Republicans believe that lawmakers go to Sacramento to debate bills to improve life in the Golden State. By refusing to do that, Democrats are refusing to do their jobs.

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Did you hear about former Obama speech writer Ben Rhodes who tweeted about Republicans being the party that killed off the Earth? The blowhard answered President Trump when he quoted Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore who said “The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science. There is no climate crisis, there’s weather and climate all around the world, and in fact carbon dioxide is the main building block of all life.”

Rhodes replied: “How on Earth will we explain to our children and grandchildren that an entire political party denied the existence of something that is irreversibly changing our planet.”

So Rhodes effective just told us that there is no reason for the Green New Deal because it’s all irreversible.

Can’t folks see through this sham? It’s all a government tax revenue and control issue. Don’t believe me? Why then are restaurants in California allowed the option this fall of joining the Restore California Renewable Restaurant program, which adds 1 percent to your tab?

The program is optional for restaurants and consumers alike. Funds from the initiative go to help farmers make changes in their fields that would help capture carbon dioxide. CO2 is considered among the chief contributors to climate change.

This idea came from a young millennial skull of mush who owns a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.

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Josh Harder sure spent a lot of time convincing the 10th Congressional District voters how much of a Valley guy he was. Meanwhile the truth was leaking out that San Francisco Bay Area interests were bankrolling his campaign and supplying all the ballot harvesters.

So it comes as no surprise that he went to the Bay Area last Friday to thank all of those young liberals who foisted him on our conservative district.

Harder raised roughly half of his funds from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose metro areas in the 2018 congressional campaign.

Remember that when he wants your vote next year. Another political charlatan and most of you got snookered by him.

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It’s just like radical liberal State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to twist an issue to where it’s completely misrepresented when it comes to President Trump. Becerra foams at the mouth with hatred of the Trump White House.

Becerra’s office sent out a distorting press release on Thursday condemning the Trump Administration for what he said was to allow Americans to be denied healthcare. The state AG said “The final ‘refusal rule’ would allow broad, sweeping refusals of care based on religious or moral objections, even in emergency circumstances. It would also jeopardize crucial funding for California’s healthcare, education, and labor funding and threaten access to care for women, LGBTQ individuals, and many other Californians.”

Get real, dude.  The refusal rule isn’t about doctors not treating gay people. After all, they take the Hippocratic Oath to protect life. The Trump rule is about giving healthcare workers leeway to refuse to provide services like abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide, if they cite a religious or conscientious objection. News flash: abortion and assisted suicide is nothing but state sanctioned homicide.

The rule is issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, and designed to protect the religious rights of healthcare providers and religious institutions. It also affirms existing conscience protections established by Congress. Roger Severino of the DHH’s Office for Civil Rights said the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the healthcare field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.” He added that it protecting “conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”

But you see, Becerra is not a friend of the faith community in any way, shape or form. In fact, the Catholic Church should consider excommunicating him because his political positions are an affront to his church.

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