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Local leaders boast of lipstick on a pig solution to blight, homeless camps

One of the memories from my childhood was the view coming into Modesto along southbound Highway 99. At the time my youngest brother was born in January 1967 and my grandparents watched after my brother and me. I remember driving from their house in Livingston up Highway 99 back to our home in Modesto. I was six but have a vivid memory of seeing the very unsightly wrecking yards and trailer parks just south of the river from our passing car on the elevated freeway.

In recent years the blight has grown worse with graffiti slapped on the fence containing stacks of wrecked cars and homeless encampments – which were not around in 1967 – mixing with the wrecking yard blight. I vocalized about the need for local government to work toward abandonment of those uses and treat the Tuolumne River corridor with respect it deserves. That solution was to relocate the wrecking yard and relocate the mobile home parks in order to treat our river like Sacramento and Natomas treat their river.

But no. Instead, local officials are today praising the addition of a concrete barrier with decorative metal plates to obstruct the ugliness that is still there. They’re pleased as punch that you can’t see this vidual assault from a passing vehicle. It’s aking to putting lipstick on a pig.

Modesto City Councilwoman Rosa Escutia-Bratton praised the new barrier as “great results on a team effort.” Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez shared her posting and said he likes the way it looks too.

I don’t often agree with John S. Osgood III but I think he was spot-on by asking “why do these elected representatives always exaggerate and praise servants?”

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I was happy to hear that Vince Fong was elected last week to the 20th Congressional District seat being given up by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Kern County Republican Fong, 44, has been representing the deeply red 32nd Assembly District for years and the Courier has published his guest opinion pieces a number of times. He’s a great conservative who was endorsed by Donald Trump.

Fong will serve out the rest of McCarthy’s term through January of 2025. Fong and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux are set for a rematch in November since no candidate achieved a 50 percent plus one majority. Whoever wins that race on Nov. 5 will serve a full two-year term.

If anything, the Central Valley has another big advocate for Valley interests and farming in the halls of Congress.

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Governor Newsom has been irresponsible with the spending and now it’s biting him in the butt. Faced with a massive budget deficit after being flush with COVID cash from Uncle Biden, the governor is coming to terms, slashing and delaying programs and despite what he says, raising taxes.

A breakdown of Newsom’s budget proposal reveals multiple tax increases that will make doing business in California even harder.

Newsom’s tax hike plans include:

• Cutting the net operating loss deduction, increasing taxes by nearly $16 billion;

• Overturning a decision on how foreign earnings are taxed, netting the government an extra $1.3 billion;

• Adding new costs for California energy producers;

• Forcing companies to pay taxes on bad debts they’re owed;

• A higher fee on household cleaners and farm supplies.

And don’t forget the higher payroll taxes to pay down the state’s massive unemployment insurance debt.

Combine all those and what do you get? California hanging onto the highest unemployment rate in the country for the foreseeable future.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher harshly noted: “Whether he’s cooking the books to make the budget deficit look smaller or insisting he’s not raising taxes while sneaking backdoor tax hikes into the fine print, Newsom just can’t be straight with Californians. Newsom’s mismanaged budget is going to close businesses, kill jobs and continue to damage out economy.”

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In business unfriendly California – only so because of the officials who Bay area and LA voters keep electing to state offices – we have all noticed how insane fast-food prices have become.

A new survey shows us how bad things are in California.

If you go to McDonald’s in Mississippi – spare me the jokes about how unhealthy folks there are – you will pay $3.91 for a Big Mac. In California you’ll pay $5.11, $1.20 more! In two other blue states, Hawaii and New York, you’ll pay $5.31 and $5.23 respectively. New Jersey is also high at $5.19.

The bottom line is that California ranks fourth out of 50 states of the most expensive fast-food prices. Minimum-wage hikes are mostly to blame.

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I don’t need to remind you how expensive housing in California has become.

While California ranks third out of 50 states with an average household income of $131,504 per year and a median income of $91,551, buying a home is an evaporating dream for most young people.

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) said this month that the statewide median home price exceeded $900,000 for the first time ever.

Only 17 percent of California households could afford to purchase the $814,280 median-priced home in the first quarter of 2024, up from 15 percent in fourth-quarter 2023 and down from 20 percent in first-quarter 2023.

A minimum annual income of $208,400 was needed to make monthly payments of $5,210, including principal, interest and taxes on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a 6.86 percent interest rate.

Twenty-four percent of home buyers were able to purchase the $655,000 median-priced condo or townhome. A minimum annual income of $167,600 was required to make a monthly payment of $4,190.

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While Newsom is busy traveling with his wife to Europe aboard a carbon-spewing jet for the purpose of playing world leader and attending a climate summit and cozying up to a Pope who demands America keep the southern border wide open and allow the flood of illegals, his homeless progress, continues to suck.

With a homeless crisis as bad as California’s, you’d think the governor would be working overtime to address the crisis. But if there is anything the governor is good at, it’s making a splashy promise, then completely failing to deliver.

Remember his March 2023 promise to send 1,200 tiny homes to cities hard-hit by homeless persons? Not a single one has been delivered.

The state has suggested the delays are the fault of local governments. However, tiny homes have failed to materialize even when local leaders moved quickly to approve a project site.

Oh, and how much are these tiny homes?

The cheapest Pallet Shelter tiny fiberglass cabins approved by the state contract sells for $18,900. Add an en suite bathroom, and the price jumps to $55,350. While that’s still considerably cheaper than other housing options, a tent is a lot cheaper until Mr. Homeless & Drugged Out Dude can get his act together and get off the drugs and become productive.

What Newsom has been good at is throwing $24 billion of taxpayer dollars at the problem and only have it worsen.

Good going. Yay, Newsom for President 2028. Over my dead body.

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I try to be an optimist but I see California with no hope of getting better. Crime is already bad but it might be getting worse because of something our Legislature passed in 2020 under the radar, the Racial Justice Act signed by Gov. Dippy-Dosome. It led to a sentencing reversal in California v. Windom and could bring the criminal justice system to its knees.

The act will enable any prisoner to challenge his conviction and sentencing retroactively on the ground of the myth of systemic racial bias. Here’s the kicker: the act allows for the reversal of their conviction (read that as a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card), EVEN IF THE BIAS DID NOT AFFEC THE TRIAL OUTCOME!

There are more black folks in prisons than any race not because of racism but because they are committing the greatest majority of crimes. Get that through your heads, progressives!

The authors claim it’s too hard to prove such bias in the case of individual arrests and prosecutions so it does away with the concept of individual fault and individual proof. From now on, stats about past convictions are enough to invalidate a present trial or sentence.

Look for a challenge to this law because I understand the U.S. Supreme Court ruled about this before, saying individual cases must be evaluated for specific examples of bias and not covered by carte blanche examples of racial bias.

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State Senator Scott Wiener who I despise probably more than Gavin Newsom, wants Nancy State to dictate how fast we can drive.

He is authoring a bill that would force auto makers to install a device that makes an irritating beeping noise or flashing light whenever you drive 10 mph over the speed limit.

He made a quote that bothers me: “Research has shown that this does have an impact in getting people to slow down, particularly since some people don’t realize how fast that their car is going.”

If people don’t know how fast they are going, where are their heads? Is the motoring public that stupid? Maybe. Maybe not. I say most know exactly what speed they are traveling because we’re all afraid of getting ticketed by an officer. And really if you consider how many cars are on the road and how many traffic deaths there are, most of us drive safely. We all want to get home in one piece.

Wiener’s SB 961 narrowly passed the Senate and goes to the Assembly.

Remember, the libs always want to punish the masses for the sins of a few.

Senator Brian Dahle (who ran against Newsom) voted no, suggesting it’s just another Nanny State proposal and that people sometimes need to exceed the speed limit during emergencies and such.

If this passes, the rest of the country will follow.

And when this incessant beeping noise doesn’t eliminate deaths, Wiener types will want to put a speed governor on your car.

Wiener’s progressive mindset is revealed by his justification for this bill, saying these deaths are preventable “because of policy choices to tolerate dangerous roads.”

It’s not about tolerating any policy. You know and I know that out of millions of drivers, there will always be the reckless driver, the drunk and drugged driver, the tired driver, the emotionally preoccupied driver who causes mayhem and deaths. It’s an unpreventable aspect of a fallen world we live in and no law will stop that. 

When is this guy going to be termed out of office? When are voters going to quit voting for control freak idiots like him?

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More Nanny State updates for you. Sacramento Democrats have approved a bill that would make it illegal for stores to offer you a plastic bag – pay for it or not.

Senate Bill 1053, introduced by Democrat State Senators Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), was approved by the chamber in a 30-7 floor vote on May 21. It will now move onto the State Assembly, who also just passed an identical bill — Assembly Bill 2236 introduced by Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) — in a 51-7 vote.

There you go, more control and stripping us of choices courtesy of the Democrat Party.

I’m expecting the day when Sacramento will ban the sale of garbage can liners because don’t you know they are filling up our landfills too. That way we’ll have to endure the stench of kitchen trash cans reeking of last week’s food – or take it outside and rinse it off with water which we may or may not have and which the state might outlaw that practice too.

Where does this control end?

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Gotta love the way the left-leaning McClathy newspapers shade their coverage in racial tones.

Friday there was this Modesto Bee headline: “Horchata vape juice? Modesto group worries big tobacco is targeting Latino communities.”

I suppose Latino groups only become concerned when Latinos are involved? Where was the outrage when it comes to efforts to sell vape supplies to young people of any ethnicity? How come we don’t see headlines of groups feigning outrage about Gansito pushing up obesity rates in the Latino community?

Underneath the Bee headline was this quote: “Their goal is to make as much money as possible.”

Well that’s news to me – a business trying to make as much money as possible. That’s a mind-blowing concept, now isn’t it? And I thought tobacco companies, or any business, was in it to lose money. (Recognize the sarcasm, please.)

Making a profit is what runs the free enterprise system. All of us employees are also “trying to make as much money as possible.” So is the thief that breaks into your house. Greed runs deep through our world.

There are plenty of industries that sell products that aren’t good for our health. Gallo, Budweiser, Marlboro, cannabis, Skittles, McDonald’s, Mars, you name it. But gosh darn it, it’s our choice – not the government’s role to tell us what we cannot eat.

It’s unfortunate that we have McClatchy, the purveyors of “white guilt,” ready to remind us how we’re not doing things right but most of us enjoy what being an American entails and that’s free choice. Free choice doesn’t necessarily mean we overindulge in things that taste great but may not be good for us so quit trying to take it from us. It’s part of enjoying life.

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Now that Troy Arrollo is out of the mayor’s race the big question is: will anyone give Javier Lopez a run for his money? Stay tuned.

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