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How the Ceres mayoral hopefuls did in a candidates forum

The Courier is making arrangements to publish a special section on Wednesday, Sept. 30 to profile local political candidates. It will be up to the candidates to participate. It comes out before the ballots do, which is the week of Oct. 5.

Please watch for it!

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Meanwhile, the Modesto Bee invited the mayoral candidates to a forum and it’s worthy of some commentary.

Javier Lopez was the first asked for an opinion on the surface water treatment plant which is in the works and virtually a done deal. Lopez expressed his “smallest concerns” about the cost on ratepayers before handing off the matter to Durossette like it was a hot potato, saying, “Mr. Durossette, you can elaborate on this.” Maybe Lopez hadn’t done his homework and he didn’t want to stick his foot in his mouth as he did in another YouTube interview conducting by Teens for Change when he opined that Ceres’ water needs could be met with more water filling stations around town.

Durossette noted how the City Council, in 2018, passed a five-year series of water rate increases to pay for the plant – necessary because city wells have failed to meet water quality standards without expensive treatment. Those rate increases also cover improvements to the existing water infrastructure.

The Bee’s Garth Stapley introduced the topic of race when he said 63 percent of Ceres is Latino and asked what ideas they have about “reaching out to Latinos.” I’ve always been intrigued by the concept that elected officials must “reach out” to specific ethnic groups, but then again I grew up agreeing with Martin Luther King that we need to quit looking at skin color and look at the individual. Once you do that, there is but one Ceres constituency – not a Latino constituency, a black constituency, an Indian constituency, a white constituency and all-others.

America was intended to be a melting pot, meaning we come together to form one people from all backgrounds and ethnicities and cultures. But the left leaves us with blacks against whites, whites against Hispanics and  what have you. They thrive off identity politics by making overtures to specific cultures to curry their support (votes.)

At least both Javier and Bret voiced the need to represent all residents in issues.

Why is there an expectation that public officials “reach out” to Latinos because they’re a majority? What makes a Latino resident any different than a white resident when it comes to parks, sewer, water, recreation, police and fire issues? Conversely, what responsibility do Latinos have to be involved? 

When asked if Ceres should contract with Modesto Fire for fire service, Lopez was noncommittal: “I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that ... the Ceres Fire Department they want to … hire them but I’m not too sure if I’m the right person to answer that person to be honest.”

Let that sink in. A candidate for mayor states “I’m not too sure if I’m the right person to answer …” Why is he even running then?

Not doing one’s homework – such as reading Courier articles or showing up at council meetings – is hardly a sign of leadership.

When the council took up this issue recently, Durossette was in favor of looking into a fire contract to save money but the council consensus was to hold off for now.

True to the newspaper’s left bent, the Bee brought up the 2018 shooting of a gun-toting Hughson teenager by Officer Ross Bays, asking if a trained professional did the right thing. It was a gotcha question, especially since the Bee knows the District Attorney’s office ruled the shooting was justified. But hey, let’s put non-professional armchair quarterbacks on the spot about the actions of a trained police officer two years ago.

Durossette noted that cops have a tough job and must react at the drop of a dime and how the suspect had a gun, ran towards a house and had a bunch of hoodlums (my word, not his) sitting in the car just chased for miles after brandishing a gun at Smyrna Park. Bret did mention “better training” for officers but did not condemn Bays’ actions either. 

Lopez said it was a sad situation and said the officer made a difficult decision. An honest answer, for sure.

Stapley asked if either candidate would support an independent civilian review board to oversee the Ceres Police Department. Lopez said he’s open to discussing it but also praised the police chief; Durossette said absolutely not, that the council is essentially the review board.

Both men “stepped in it” when asked who they support for supervisor – Channce Condit or Tom Hallinan. It’s probably not the wisest thing for candidates to be endorsing candidates in other races but both replied Condit. The precedent was set, thus the next question was : “Who do you support for Congress?” The stakes were higher with this one at the risk of alienating half of voters. Lopez: “I’m not going to endorse anybody when it comes to that. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest.” Either that was a coy way of dodging a question he didn’t want to answer; or it shows how politically oblivious he is. No opinion? To quote Joe Biden, “Come on, man!”

Even Durossette framed his answer in a cagey way, stating he’s “leaning” Ted Howze but watching candidate conduct in the last stretch of the campaign before deciding. I’d prefer Bret to be more forthcoming. Any Republican considering a vote for Harder might want to reconsider party status.

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What’s happening in the Ceres mayor’s race is UNBELIEVABLE, folks.

This interest in this year’s mayoral race is a great deviation from the apathy that has been hallmark of many in Ceres, especially among the young people. You have a group of young leftists hell-bent on destroying Durossette.

Two weekends ago somebody – at least one young female caught on surveillance video – stole Durossette yard signs. Five signs were defaced with the word “racist” in spray-paint We gave front page attention to the crime last week. That article prompted a Twitter storm from the young people – call them anti Durossette or pro Lopez.

I was forwarded some social media messages which curiously exposed their effort as being rooted in zero substance. One message: “He was the worst teacher I’ve had. Definitely not for the mayor position.” (Odd how nobody said the last time he was elected to the City Council but the writer would have been in elementary school then).

One person using a “Black Lives Still Matter” logo under the guise of “ceresexposing” posted: “If you have stories of Brett (sic) Durossette genuinely being racist or making you feel uncomfortable feel free to Dm (direct message) me. If your (sic) willing I can post your story anonymously so people can be aware that he isn’t the right candidate for this city. This isn’t about race it’s about the candidates actions thus far.”

Note the words: “genuinely being racist.” Ask yourself how any teacher or coach could remain employed for 27 years on a school campus if there was any hint of legitimacy. What this post suggests, to the contrary, is that charges of racism, once again, are being alleged as a club to destroy someone. They’re trolling for “stories” to pass along from anonymous sources, which doesn’t pass professional journalistic muster. To be sure, some faceless, nameless individual could make up any story and this group is willing to take you down for a lie. Kind of reminds you of how Trump is being treated, doesn’t it?

The trolls did unearth a tasteless years-old social media posting made by the candidate’s son – not the candidate! – who then issued an apology for something uttered in his younger, immature years.

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Signs can tell a lot. So can the destruction of campaign signs.

Outside of the new cannabis dispensary in Turlock was a Ted Howze for Congress sign that looks like someone did a Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan on it. Completely mangled. Now I can’t say for sure but I’d be willing to bet the pot crowd might be for the other guy.

This occurred several off-ramps south of where Howze and his volunteers cleaned up a disgusting homeless dump site underneath the marque sign for the Monte Vista Shopping District. Good job guys!

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Before COVID-19 came along, Democrats in Sacramento blocked the drastic measure of cities turning off water service for delinquent bills. Cities generally saw payment after the threat of turning off one’s water service. After all, why should the financially delinquent be given a free ride courtesy of those who pay their bills? But I’ve long asserted that today’s Democrats don’t believe that anyone should face the consequences for being fiscally irresponsible or down on their luck.

However, in August Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would shut the water and power off to any house where large gatherings occurred because of COVID-19. But strange, there was not one peep out of any Democrat to protect them from such draconian measures. It was crickets in Sacramento. Not one legislator said, “Hey, you can’t do that!”

Where is the protective legislation against out-of-control Democrat mayors? Does that not seem to be a bit hypocritical?

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I’m not saying COVID-19 isn’t something to be careful of, but I know the media hype to scare people out of their wits is full bore. You see the media hype when MSNBC reporters stand in front of a camera outdoors with nobody around wearing a mask. The idea here is to not “lead by example” but instill fear.

The mask has become an obsession and symbol of control to the left. If you don’t wear a mask, you’re a heathen deserving of public ridicule and scorn since you rebuff their claims of the science. You deserve to be stripped naked for a flogging in the public court, which, incidentally, is the same way they want you treated if you don’t believe in the hype of manmade global warming, er, climate change.

Personally I take seriously the Declaration of Independence which states we have the right to “life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thus I was stupefied to hear the Modesto Bee’s Q&A of Ceres mayoral candidates include the question: “What is your personal approach to wearing a mask in public?” It was only five minutes and 55 seconds into the forum so they couldn’t have run out of questions yet.

What’s the purpose of that question? If the answer was “Oh yeah, I wear a mask all the time,” you’ll be a good little American who truly cares about others. If you don’t, well, you might be one of those knuckle-dragging conservatives who buck science and the dictates of the all-well-meaning governor who the Bee endorsed. Or, it could be, you want to be free to decide for yourself.

What happened to wearing a mask or social distancing?

Biden wants us all – if elected, and I don’t see that happening – to wear a mask outdoors, even if the closest living being is a groundhog 3.2 miles away. Remember, a Democrat wouldn’t be a Democrat if he couldn’t exact some degree of control over your life even if, say, you’re jogging down the street or hiking in the Emigrant Wilderness.

Perhaps the Bee isn’t satisfied with stores requiring customers to wear masks due to state orders. After all, the Bee takes great pains to rat on certain Modesto restaurants which defy orders against indoor dining just so they can stay in business and offer people jobs. (And I can assure you the Bee missed a few more restaurants but I’ll never tell.)

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Nancy Pelosi is an immensely unpopular figure in American politics. At age 80, she should think about retirement and just enjoy what little time remains in her life. Of course, she created a huge flap recently when she set a hair appointment in San Francisco without wearing a mask. It showed her hypocrisy and also signaled she’s really not afraid of COVID-19 and that it’s really not the big deal she has made it out to be.

I think the GOP is going a bit far calling for AG Barr to investigate her for the crime of ripping up her copy of the State of the Union address. It was, however, a supremely childish move and obviously planned ahead as theatrical. It underscores how she’ll go to any effort to fight the president and his supporters.

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I have a smart friend who has an observation about Newsom’s continued claims that fires in California are the result of global warming. It’s all hogwash for the unthinking masses.

My friend served aboard the USS Enterprise and today has been successful in computer repair in Modesto. What he wrote makes a great deal of sense, which I realize is in short supply in the state Capitol: “Sorry, Governor! According to science, there are three things needed to create fire. They are fuel, ignition source, and oxygen. Air isn’t an issue. Although the ignition source on a couple of our fires was lightning (act of God stuff), many of California’s fires can be traced directly to man (either by accident, irresponsible action, and even arson). Finally, it’s not a major mystery why California has such a high fuel load. It’s been accumulating and is well documented. And if it were managed better, these fires would have been much smaller. Government mismanagement is the cause of the fires, not climate change. 

“I will, however, give credit where credit is due. Growth absorbs CO2 into its structures and returns O2 (that science thing again). By burning the carbon structure of plants and other growth, you release carbon into the atmosphere. you and your predecessors actions, you’ve become the world’s best carbon polluter! You can even see it from space! 

“You might consider spending more tax dollars on fuel load management. You’ll find out that the fires will be less intense, require less tax dollars in firefighting efforts, and won’t take 30 to 50 years to see a result (like climate change legislation).”

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