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Lopez’s own words will be his election undoing

On Friday, Sept. 11 mayoral candidate Javier Lopez went on a live KBSJ Voice of San Joaquin Community Radio show livestreamed on the Stockton Media and News Facebook group. It was an hour long with little specifics and a lot of chit-chat about taco trucks and things like that.

Lopez uttered some wildly inaccurate statements. About four and a half minutes into the show he suggests that we “could have already had some economical (sic) development there off Mitchell Road.”  He was alluding to the delays in building Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center and Ceres Gateway Center, saying “I don’t know if it been more of … the city/county dragging their feet and/or a lot of red tape.”

Apparently he hasn’t kept abreast of local news for the past decade for he would have known the project was blocked every step of the way by objections and lawsuits filed by Brett Jolley and “Citizens for Ceres,” a front group for anti-Walmart interests.

He also thinks the county is involved in city planning.

Fifty-three minutes into the interview Lopez brings up the topic of Bret Durossette’s campaign signs being vandalized and torn down, saying some of his own signs have come down. Lopez condemned the destruction of signs, finally, and launches into a tirade against me and explained why he ignored my request to comment on the Durossette sign matter when preparing an article.

Javier Lopez said: “Now I did, most definitely, I received an email from the Ceres Courier and the gentleman, the editor, the way he came across I felt like he was trying to bait me. And I’ll tell you right now he’s not a big fan of mine and everybody’s entitled to their own opinion but the reason why I didn’t respond to that was because I felt that he wasn’t, from my personal opinion, was what I called, you know, a real, real, real journalism. Um, you guys heard the term ‘fake news’ and not a lot of people are big fans. Even the superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District had to tell him, you know, his opinions on young people voting was wrong, he shouldn’t be talking about our students like that. I thought it was very disrespectful. So there’s some people from the community on that side wondering why didn’t you respond to the local Ceres Courier. Well, number one, at the end of the day, that’s my choice. So I went ahead instead – I was contacted by Central Valley TV and I gave them my comment.  I wanted people to understand that the Ceres Courier is a great newspaper but unfortunately, um, the person who is writing that opinions article not a lot of people are really fond of him. And at first you know I thought he was the type of person that I could talk to but then it just became this weird thing where he was just, um, making up things and I thought why am I going to go stoop down to his level and so I decided to take a step back.”

Wait a minute. How can the Courier be a great newspaper when, in the words of Javier Lopez, the man running it is engaged in “fake news”? Keep in mind that I’ve been in the newspaper business since before Javier Lopez was born and I’ve been at the helm of the Courier since 1987 when Javier was three years old. As far as his charge about me “making stuff up,” I ask him to put up or shut up. I have listened to the recordings and I’ve made up nothing.

I’ll let you be the judge if I was “baiting” him by releasing the full text of my email to him that was not returned or answered:

“Hi Javier,

“As you may have heard, a number of your opponent’s signs have been vandalized with the word ‘racist’ and some have been stolen.

“Many believe this damage was caused by some of your supporters. I’m wondering if you believe this was the work of your supporters and what would you tell them if they were responsible?

“Have you publicly condemned this behavior?

“To what do you attribute these blatant attacks on Mr. Durossette’s character?

“I’m just reach out to you to see if you will comment for an article I am writing in the Ceres Courier.

Jeff Benziger,


The Ceres Courier”

In the past I ran for office and won – at the highest vote. I’ve also seen politicians at work a long, long time, dating back to the days of John J. McFall and Tony Coelho. Instead of snubbing the Courier and leaving lingering doubts as to why he couldn’t condemn the vandalism of his opponents’ signs, Lopez could have seized on the opportunity to take the high road of which he speaks. I would have issued a statement like: “I condemn these acts of vandalism in our community. It would be natural to assume that this is the work of some of my supporters. I hope that’s not the case. I have no knowledge of who did this but I call on them all to stop immediately. I also resent the cries of racism being used to malign someone who has served the Ceres community for nearly three decades, Mr. Durossette.”

But that wasn’t done.

And just a word about my comment about young people and voting. In my Aug. 5 opinion column, I wrote, rather tongue in cheek, that perhaps it’s time to raise the voting age to 21 from 18. I clarified on Aug. 19 it was because “we have some young people in Ceres who feel threatened by the American flag, the very symbol of our nation’s founding.” Does Mr. Lopez think young people fearful of the American flag to be “disrespectful”?

* * * * *

At the end of last week’s very long council meeting, in the Council Comments section Councilman Channce Condit opined that he would like the city to name the new park in Eastgate after the late Councilman Guillermo Ochoa who died over five years ago. He asked the city manager to bring back the matter to the council for consideration.

Vice Mayor Linda Ryno noted that for the process of naming the last two parks – Marie Neel and Sam Ryno – the community offered suggestions and that she recollected that it involved a committee or contest. Condit said he was fine with that process but urged that Ochoa’s name be among those considered.

Mayor Chris Vierra asked for staff to research how the names were selected before.

Javier Lopez, the next morning, posted a comment that said the council “immediately shot down” the idea. Talk about fake news!

Ochoa’s daughter set the record straight saying “we need to do our best to not spread fake news and create unnecessary turmoil in our community, especially for my family who continues to grieve the loss of my father.”

Lopez later corrected the post.

* * * * *

The Ceres Police Officers Association has endorsed Ted Howze for Congress over Josh Harder, the incumbent.

I have a feeling that officers didn’t appreciate Harder kneeling at a Modesto protest earlier this year conducted by people who are more concerned about criminals than they are about dead cops and who support the defunding of police to support social causes.

* * * * *

Speaking of Harder, I was watching a program through AppleTV and I saw a Josh Harder attack ad slamming Howze. The photo of Howze looked familiar. Indeed, when I got back to the office, I confirmed that it indeed was a photo taken by a reporter at our sister newspaper, the Turlock Journal.

When I checked with Editor Kristina Hacker, I learned that the photo was not authorized by use in the attack ad.

You’d think the Democrats could come up with their own camera and initiative.

* * * * *

I’ve railed on CEQA for years. CEQA stands for the California Environmental Quality Act and it’s helped to squelch the California economy for decades. Apparently it’s a killer as well.

The North Complex Fire has swept through Berry Creek, killing at least 15 people and destroying about 3,000 homes, garage, barns and other buildings. 

Two years ago, Berry Creek was determined a high-risk fire area and a $836,365 grant was secured to cut back 120 acres of vegetation in the area and create fuel breaks to reduce fire danger. According to Calli-Jane DeAnda, the executive director of the Butte County Fire Safe Council, CEQA delayed the work.

After the devastating Camp Fire two years ago that destroyed Paradise, Calif., Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City worked with the Butte County Fire Safe Council to craft a bill seeking to ease environmental restrictions to help make communities more fire safe. Guess who denied Gallagher’s bills – AB 431 and AB 2444 – from being heard in the state Assembly? Democrats! So when people like Marilyn Zumstein of Ceres says she’s tired of hearing me harp on Democrats, just know this is why. 

Strict environmental regulations are delaying fuel reduction projects across the state. California must streamline the CEQA process so that towns such as Berry Creek, are better protected during wildfire season.

* * * * *

Everybody running for office seems to toe-tap around the issue of homelessness. Bottom line is politicians have no solution. It’s time to get serious on homelessness.

I took a drive down South Ninth Street and could not believe the utter mounds of filth where the road intersects with the Highway 99 overpass. We’re putting up with this crap like nobody on the TV show Hoarders would. That’s the show where they have intervention with people who are mentally ill and let their homes be filled with cat feces, dead rats, five-feet-high stacks of flammable newspapers and magazines, household filthiness to the point the house has to be bulldozed.

I have ideas to take care of the homeless problem but it’s going to take sheer political will at the state level. Ready?

1). The first thing Californians must do is clean house – I’m talking at the State House, i.e., the party in power. Quit electing the people who appoint the liberal judges who decide court matters for us that homeless can set up camps in our parks when they aren’t set up for overnight camping. I mean, the Idaho court case said cities can’t tell the homeless they can’t sleep in our parks. Try that in a national park and see how far that goes.

2). After you get rid of the liberals and start electing those who won’t put up with this, demand that they dismantle the regulations that are causing our housing shortage. Also have them make it illegal for anyone to camp along a freeway, under any bridge, along the river, along any road, etc. Caltrans will be directed to clean up camps as soon as they are reported.

3). Because we do have a heart, the alternative for those being “arrested or evicted” have the option of finding a place to stay with relatives or friends, going to jail for trespassing or vagrancy or living in a state-funded homeless camp. Bus them directly to it. Not a concentration camp like Manzanar (where Democrat FDR  jailed certain Americans because they came from Japan, but a humanitarian homeless camp.) Public and private partnerships can provide housing, whether tents or mini houses – which the homeless will be required to participate in the building of. Church and parachurch organizations could help feed these camps, along with the government which is already in the business of feeding students who should be fed by their parents. 

If the state can churn out bond after bond after bond for stupid projects like high-speed rail, we surely could support for a Get Homeless Out of Sight bond.

The camps could be set up with offices to get people off of drugs or direct them to mental health programs, should they want to get help, which I bet most won’t.

You don’t leave the camp unless somebody will take you in and you have work.

Oh, and you will work at the camp. Jobs will be available to make you share in the work load and give you self-esteem of actually have a job. 

If you think this is too drastic, take a look to see how much control the state has over facilities where senior citizens live. We have that control to protect them. Likewise, the mentally ill and drug addicted people making your freeways look like a neglected landfill need some protection too – protection from themselves.

And so do the taxpayers.

* * * * *

If UFW labor union leader Dolores Huerta is against something, I’m for it.

She is the labor union leader who is for every liberal cause under the sun. That’s why she’s against Uber and Lyft.

She amuses me with her rhetoric against these two companies which fell victim to California Democrats.  Thousands of Uber drivers lost their jobs this summer because of what state lawmakers did to them trying to get them to pay benefits for part-time contract workers. Prop. 22 reverses the damage! And of course she’s against it, always in the framework of class and race warfare!

Here’s what she said last week: “Latinos and communities of color have always borne the brunt of predatory business practices like the ones Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have used to rake in billions off the backs of their drivers – and Proposition 22 will be no different.” Predatory business practices as in offering people a way to make money. Do you know how many Latino drivers got screwed out of part-time work as drivers?

You see, anybody in California wanting to make a profit is an enemy of Democrats. But yet they have no problem skimming bennies off the people themselves by fleecing the taxpayers.

It’s enough to make a person sell and move to Nevada or Idaho or Texas or Wyoming. 

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