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Ex mayor missed my entire point(s)

In our Christmas edition, former Ceres Mayor Louie Arrollo took me on for my opinion piece, saying I was “inflammatory” that “stepped over the line of fair play” in my criticisms of Councilman Channce Condit. To be honest, though, Arrollo didn’t address any of the points I made about Condit’s puzzling votes, only suggesting Condit was “honorable” and how Arrollo has supported the Condit family all his “adult life and am proud of their accomplishments.”

I’ve respected Arrollo and can remember the two nonconsecutive terms he had as mayor. But he completely misconstrued a part of my remarks.

Arrollo wrote: “One of your statements in this article says he plays ‘dirty’ and you even bring his family into the article; I wonder what that’s all about.” He later concluded his letter with: “I am a strong supporter of the Honorable Channce Condit and wish him well in all his endeavors and pray those who own the ink will give him a fair shake based on merit, not past issues that did not involve him.”

I have taken great pains to outline my criticisms of Condit as it refers to the past year of council actions – nothing to do with any events of his family’s past.

I believe I was pretty clear that my comment about Condit “playing dirty” related to the way he dispensed innuendo that somebody on the council was going to benefit financially from the surface water project. Condit has cast a number of objections that haven’t made any sense to vote against the water project. On May 28 Condit voted against a water facilities easement and a temporary construction easement to allow work on city property at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. While claiming the plant is “necessary,” he has thrown every excuse in the book to be able to say he opposes it as he plots a political course. It was a tactical political calculation that we’ve seen play out over and over in the past year.

Let’s review other Condit controversies:

• He wants all new city leaders to be asked if they would be willing to move to Ceres despite being told it’s not legal in the hiring process.

• He voted against the appointment of Fire Chief Kevin Wise after making hay about him living outside of Ceres, yet voted to appoint Police Chief Rick Collins even though he lives outside of Ceres.

• Perhaps because of his inexperience, Condit failed to understand that his demand that the General Plan – which is a planning document – reflect that public safety be a priority was essentially lip service and that bolstering police and fire staff is done through budgeting. When it was explained that he was off on his request, Condit didn’t say “Oh, my mistake,” and move on but insisted on the same meaningless demand. All members of the City Council have made public safety as a priority but you don’t get more police and firefighters through a General Plan. You get it through budgeting and spending priorities – and even then you are limited by your revenue.

• He voted against the marijuana testing facility that he said he liked but didn’t support it because the council didn’t stipulate that “a portion” of revenue would go to public safety. Never mind that the revenue would entirely go into the city’s General Fund where 79 percent is spent on police and fire. His demand for an earmark was unnecessary.

• He was the lone vote against keeping Steve Hallam on city staff for another year. Hallam works part-time as the city’s Redevelopment and Economic Development director and has been credited with attracting new businesses to Ceres, including Ross Dress for Less when Staples abandoned its building on Hatch Road.

• Voted against an inflationary increase in the special assessments of the Community Facilities Districts designed to make new housing to pay for the operations of police, fire and parks. Condit asked a few questions about the districts and assessments – which exposed his lack of understanding of the issue – and without so much as an explanation, voted no on the increase of the existing tax. He was the only one of the five who voted no. It was a strange vote given how Condit has suggested that new growth pay its own way.

My column of Dec. 18 suggested Condit plays “dirty.” It was a reference to how he recklessly tried to create drama for political expediency while it backfired. Condit irresponsibly cast aspersions on the integrity of fellow council members, insinuating that he heard “someone in Turlock” suggest some “elected official” was financially benefiting from the surface water project. Mayor Chris Vierra confronted the accusation and denied he had a conflict of interest. He asked others if they had and nobody said they were conflicted either. The fact that this was done at a council meeting was purely political posturing.

Any reference I made to Channce’s ability to work a room like his political father and grandfather was to point out how he is being groomed for a fast track to higher office. 

No, Mr. Arrollo, my references had nothing to do with the past scandal involving another Condit family member and bringing it up was nothing but a way to deflect every legitimate concern I have about the voting record of an elected councilman.

* * * * *

The younger generation is disturbing at times. Last month a Maine teenager was sentenced to 33 years in prison for killing his mother when she confronted him and two friends about them stealing her marijuana. Apparently getting a high was more important to 16-year-old Lukas Mironovas than having his mother around. He and a friend choked and stabbed her to death.

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If you want an example of Trump Derangement Syndrome – which is an inexplicable and rabid hatred for all things Trump which clouds a person’s ability to think logically – look no further than local Democrat Andy Constantinou. He defended Josh Harder’s vote to impeach Trump despite there being no evidence of any high crime or misdemeanor was committed. Andy Constantinou posted on the Courier’s Facebook page: “The reason Josh Harder (a local Turlock boy) won in this predominantly Republican district is because enough people are not falling for the BS coming out of Emperor Marmalade. He was elected to stop a criminal in his tracks. Trump will be in prison soon. THANK YOU Congressman Harder!!! Trump and all his criminals will face justice. 8 of his men already are doing time. Lock Trump up!!”

Andy, your party is in peril for these trumped up articles of impeachment, which Speaker Pelosi rushed through but for some reason won’t execute her office by forwarding the articles to the Senate for a trial. The American people won’t stand for this and I hope Harder loses his seat for this irrational partisan attack on the president. 

Democrats are desperate people because they know the real criminals are within their party. The truth will come out. Trump will be re-elected and the nation will continue to prosper.

Reserve your place in a local mental health facility if you fear you’ll be on suicide watch come Election night in November.

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As I editorialized two weeks ago, it’s sad that a young man lost his life for his stupid actions but it’s a shame that his parents were paid out $2.1 million in a wrongful death suit.

The district attorney’s office has ruled it was a justifiable shooting given the fact that the Mendez, 15, was running with a gun.

The DA’s report contains new information. Mendez stole liquor from the Liquor King before the shooting. One of his homies pointed a stolen gun at someone at Smyrna Park. Mendez ran from a stopped car and picked up the stolen gun as he ran. He was intoxicated and had marijuana in his system. He died for being stupid.

So many people rush to his defense, which kind of tells you how far society has slid. Such as Trump hater (I say that because of the classless posts he made about the president and first lady) Danny Arias who called the officer’s actions “straight BS.”

I agree with comments posted by Tim Helbling” “The kid had a gun, dropped it and then picked it up again before running to possibly hide and do who knows what. He made some awful choices that night and it cost him his life. I’ve been plenty mad at police actions before, but this one feels justified. You don’t go to a cop fight with a gun in your hand.”

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