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Hunches about intentions of councilman spot on

Channce Condit fans who have criticized me for “unfairly” criticizing the new councilman owe me an apology. It turns out I was right in calling out what appeared obvious to me – Channce Condit has been posturing himself to climb the political ladder – and quickly.

He’s now running for a new office and he hasn’t even served a full year on the Ceres City Council.

Last year Condit asked voters to send him to the council for four years. He took his oath on Dec. 6, 2018. Less than one year into office, he apparently feels he’s served long enough. Voters have a right to be upset that running for a county supervisor seat shows he’s really not all that concerned about focusing “on being the best council member I can be for Ceres” as stated a year ago. Voters can assume that his political ambition is more important now that he’s willing to bail if elected to a county seat. That’s the epitome of the typical politician.

As I wrote on Sept. 3: “If he doesn’t run for higher office – like mayor or county supervisor – I will publicly apologize for my suspicions. But to be fair, it’s okay to seek higher office once you’ve completed the term that one so desperately sought and pledged to serve.”

For sure, Condit’s flaky voting record and flap after flap after flap will give opponents plenty of ammo to call out his inexperience and immaturity. 

* * * * *

I was hoping to go through the Ceres City Council meeting last week without seeing another puzzling Channce Condit vote but they continued to pile up.

Things were going well at the Sept. 23 meeting. Condit joined with Linda Ryno to support keeping the current restrictions on garbage container placement. Theirs was a good call because honestly Ceres needs a lot of help in the aesthetics department.

But hence the head-shaker of the night: During the public hearing on the developer agreement for the proposed cannabis testing lab on McKittrick Court, Condit played outright political games.

The developer agreement for Tri Valley Labs, Inc., calls for Hiram Cueto to pay the city a monthly fee of $2,000 or 3 percent of gross receipts for the first year; $4,000 or 4 percent of gross receipts each month, whichever is greater, for the second year; and $5,000 or 5 percent of gross receipts per month, whichever is greater, for the third year.

Condit indicated that he could support the lab as long as the revenue – or a majority of it – is earmarked for public safety. (Never mind considering the merits of the project, he’s only concerned about how we’re going to spend the revenue from it).

But keep in mind that in the first year, the city’s expected revenue of $24,000 comes far short of the fully burdened cost of a police officer of about $100,000!

But hold on though. It was pointed out by Councilmen Bret Durossette and Mike Kline that fees from the lab will go directly into the city’s General Fund, which is the ONLY pot of money out of which police and fire operations are funded. In fact, about 79 percent of the General Fund goes to police and fire. It wasn’t necessary for Condit to stipulate that the majority of those funds be used for public safety. Indeed, the allocation of tax funds is made during the budget process, not during a talk about developer agreements. Even Finance Director Suzanne Dean noted if the council wants more bodies in police or fire, it adds new positions at budget time. A direct quote of Dean’s: “Rather than earmark money, it would make more sense to me to allocate another position to the police department.” (That is a budgeting function.) Condit replied, “I’d be in support of that.”

Durossette suggested that council members should not micromanage staff.

The three other council members, realizing Condit’s motion was most unnecessary – a side issue altogether that was likely crafted for a bullet point in his next campaign flyer as being an untiring advocate for public safety funding because that always plays well to the voters – refused to offer a second. When Durossette made a motion to approve the developer agreement as written, Condit took his toys and went home, so to speak, and voted no.

This begs some questions. Why would a councilman put an applicant in his cross-hairs because he didn’t get his way about where the council may spend the revenue from it? If the project was worthy of approval, why wouldn’t he approve it and then engage in a discussion next year at budget time of where to spend the extra money? Suddenly the lab wasn’t worthy of consideration, even though it is helping to ensure the safety of cannabis products, much of it being for medicinal purposes?

Had another council member sided with Condit, the application would have failed as a 2-2 vote and there would be lost opportunity for safe testing for cannabis products — and the city would have failed to realize ANY additional general fund dollars for public safety.

If you don’t want to be seen as a politician engaged in political gamesmanship, try practicing the city’s motto, “Together We Achieve.”

I predicted before the council vote that Condit would vote against the lab. My clue was that brother Couper Condit on the Planning Commission voted against it and they tend to vote identically.

* * * * *

It’s disconcerting how people deflect issues they don’t consider important.

The way it works is this: If somebody doesn’t like an issue being discussed, they’ll bring up another issue they consider more important as a way of ridiculing the issue at hand.

Especially when talking about garbage cans left in view six days a week.

Case in point: Patricia Torres Coverick commented: “Bigger issues to tackle, for example, looking out my window to see people shooting up at Redwood Park while children played. But hiding trash cans are more important.”

Nobody said trash can storage was more important than drug abuse but it doesn’t negate the fact that any neighborhood that leaves cans out has an aesthetics issue.

Most of us – if we’re honest – would agree that giant blue and green plastic garbage cans detract from the looks of a neighborhood and it’s preferable not to store them in public view. Yet, a vast number of people commented on our Facebook that they’re okay with the practice. Perhaps they don’t know that failure to comply can result in a $100 fine.

My personal feeling is that people who leave their cans in public view are lazy. Those cans are often literally right in front of the gate to the side yard. How much effort does it take to open the gate and wheel the things behind so neighbors don’t have to see them six days out of seven? How about taking a little bit of effort in consideration of your neighbors?

Ceres is not the only city with the restrictions on leaving cans out. Such laws are in place everywhere including Modesto, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, San Diego – in short, any place that cares how it looks.

Relaxing those restrictions – as Bret Durossette and Mike Kline suggest – would be a huge mistake and a step backward.

* * * * *

High schoolers routinely attend City Council meetings. No doubt it’s part of a school assignment to see local government at work.

I couldn’t help but notice during the Sept. 23 Pledge of Allegiance that the three sitting in the back row weren’t participating by holding their hands over their hearts and no recitation.

That’s sad to me.

I don’t know if Colin Kaepernick or the school system is to blame for the shift in lack of respect for the country and its flag but in the 1970s you were expected to show respect – and it was deserved.

Call me old fashioned but I love my country. I hope that the three in back do to but were just not minding their manners.

* * * * *

Gavin Newsom sure has a big heart – for murderers. It’s just one of the things that goad most Californians about our far left liberal governor. Did you hear that he granted clemency to Marcus McJimpson, 52, who murdered two Fresno people in 1988? That action makes him eligible for parole now.

Newsom also granted clemency to 20 others, three of which murdered others, including:

• Andrew Crater, who was 21 when he participated in a Sacramento robbery in 1995 that left a victim dead.

•  Jacoby Felix, who was 18 when he blew away a man in Sacramento while stealing his car in 1993.

• Crystal Jones, then 20 years old when he was involved in a 1999 Sacramento murder.

• Luis Velez, also from Sacramento, was 26 when he killed an armed transport guard during a robbery, and has served more than 28 years in prison.

Quickly making enemies of law enforcement and the family members of murder victims, Newsom already did away with the death penalty despite voter support for it. Recall petitions are being circulated and can be downloaded online from This guy has got to go.

The goal is to collect 1.49 million signatures by Feb. 13.

* * * * *

A headline in a local paper asked: “Stanislaus seniors are forced out by crushing rents. Is rent control the answer?”

Well, no, it has never been the answer and I wrote about this a few weeks back. In fact, some landlords saw rent control coming and jacked up the rents even higher before they could take effect.

Why are rents so high? It’s all about supply and demand. There is a lack of enough housing because of state policies crafted by a Democrat controlled Legislature. CEQA creates a terrible drag on building in California and jacks up the cost of projects. There is no such thing as build inexpensively in California.

* * * * *

Ever wonder why there are fewer people to help you inside a store or restaurant and more homeless people outside? I think there’s a correlation.

While the state Legislature makes it hard on businesses to make a profit – chiefly by artificially raising the price of labor through minimum-wage hikes – there are fewer jobs and more homeless.

Have you been in a McDonald’s lately and seen all those self-order kiosks where people once took your order? Minimum wage goes up, jobs go bye-bye. Easy to see why this is bad policy.

* * * * *

It’s unfortunate that the politically conservative native of Stanislaus County politics has been infiltrated and contaminated by Bay Area values due to its close proximity. Stanislaus is one of eight counties with a borderline edge of Democrat voter registration – 37 percent Democrats and 34 percent Republicans. Compare that to San Francisco which has 6 percent GOP and 57 percent Democrat; or Oakland that has 4 percent GOP and 65 percent Democrat. So that’s where the busloads of liberals next year will jump on the “Make It Harder on the Valley Express” to knock on our doors and lie about Republicans and the president and try to collect ballots just as they did last year.

Harder may not have it so easy this next go-round because of this thin margin. In 2019 Harder collected 115,945 votes to Jeff Denham’s 105,955 – a difference of 9,990 votes. Stunned at the loss, Republicans now realize that to win they may have resort to the aggressive ballot harvesting tactics that got Harder elected. While it should be illegal to harvest ballots – some states have outlawed it – as long as California allows it the GOP might as well take a cue from their deft opponents. There were reports that some LA skid row voters were encouraged to cast ballots for Democrat candidates in exchange for gift cards and cigarettes.

* * * * *

Harder – who has been pretending like he didn’t favor impeachment all these many months – couldn’t wait to jump on the latest Ukraine whistleblower charge. Before the transcript even came out – which the Washington Post admitted contained no quid pro quo pressure on Trump’s part – Harder must have been giddy to suggest, yep, let’s look into impeachment.

Bring it on Harder, but be honest. Your party has been on a witch-hunt ever since Hillary was denied her throne.

The move could back fire on you, Josh.

If this is not a political witch-hunt and Democrats like Harder are truly concerned the president is working with foreign agents to rig elections even though their Russian colussion investigation led to nothing, why are they not concerned at all that Joe Biden openly admitted pressuring Ukraine when he was vice president? Why is Harder and his party not interested at all in digging deep into the origins of the now debunked Russia collusion episode? 

Many people see Nancy Pelosi’s call for impeachment inquiry as a way of appeasing the radicals like AOC in her party. Harder has swallowed the Kool-Aid and it should come back to bite him.

* * * * *

California lawmakers, (ahem, Democrats) really get punitive when they dislike what other states do. Their motto of “Do as we do and say or you pay the price” qualifies them as governmental bullies.

I’m not surprised they have picked on another conservative state. First it was Georgia for standing against abortion. Now California Democrats have banned state travel to Iowa. Why? Because Iowa doesn’t want its taxpayer money being spent on genital hacking, i.e., gender reassignment. And why should taxpayers be on the hook? Gender reassignment should be optional like cosmetic surgery, which means if you want cosmetic surgery, you pay for it out of your own pocket.

I have to think the average Californian would really be upset about these policies if they were only paying attention.

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