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Measure H is being spent on public safety, Mr. Casey

At the Nov. 14 Ceres City Council meeting, Councilman James Casey charged that Measure H monies are being spent “erroneously.”

Casey said that when the half-cent sales tax measure was passed in 2007 that voters were under the “impression it was to hire new police officers and new firemen” and that past councils diverted from that principle.

An article that we published on Nov. 8, 2007 said: “The tax is expected to generate approximately $2 million to $2.5 million annually to fund up to six new police officers and six new firefighters. The tax would also buy new protective equipment for officers, implement anti-gang and anti-drug programs for youth, and buy emergency rescue equipment.”

So clearly it wasn’t just about hiring personnel – but it does fund 10 police officers and seven firefighters plus equipment.

The ordinance calling for the Measure H election states: “The Public Safety Expenditure Plan may be amended from time to time by a majority vote of the City Council, so long as the funds are utilized for public safety, police and fire protection services.” It clearly spells out that this includes equipment or apparatus, as well as salaries and benefits of police officers and firefighters. It cannot be spent on department administrators’ salaries or General Fund operating expenses.

That article also quoted then Ceres Police Division Commander Mike Borges as saying the hiring of additional officers would allow the department to form a Street Crimes Unit to proactively go after gang activity and drug peddling. Borges said this at the time: “We’ll have a proactive enforcement unit that’s not just there on an overtime basis or whenever we can put together a Street Crimes Unit on a one-night basis. Right now we’re almost purely in a reactionary mode.”

Well as you know, since 2007 the cost of everything went up and revenues have remained behind the curve, thus the Street Crimes Unit no longer exists.

Add to this the problem of finding police officers. Many are flushed out in the hiring process; in fact about one applicant makes it out of 100. And consider that the pool of those who want to be an officer is much smaller in our post George Floyd world where cell phone video of an arrest gone bad could potentially be an officers’ undoing.

Casey wants the council to refocus on where to spend the money but isn’t that annually scrutinized by the Measure H Citizens Committee?

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On another topic, Councilman Casey continues to suggest that somehow the city needs to “better communicate what’s going on in Ceres."

He wants a council workshop on the matter and tossed around the idea of a mass texting service.

“We work for them and they need to know what’s going on,” Casey stated.

The information is already out there. I take umbrage to that since the Ceres Courier does quite well in communicating what’s going on in Ceres. The Modesto Bee long ago quit covering the actions of the City Council and we have never stopped. The information is there and we provide it. Herein lies the problem. It’s up to the citizens to be interested in their community and get plugged into the local newspaper.

But most folks, let’s face it, aren’t interested in what City Hall does unless an issue arises for which they have great interest – such as an action that could put a damper on their favorite flea market; or an unwanted apartment complex going in across the street; or traffic impacts from a new business.

If anything, city staff could better improve its communication with the Courier so that we can relate that information to readers. Not everybody is on social media. People still do read newspapers.

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When Walt Disney came up with the idea for the “Small World” attraction at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, he was heralded for depicting the world as a small, happy place where children of all colors and customs sang in unison. All were represented in the ride, which eventually became part of Disneyland.

For decades that depiction satisfied everyone – until the ever woke Disney leadership felt it necessary to include two animatronic dolls in wheelchairs on Nov. 11.

Disneyland has a manager of accessibility named Erin Quintanilla, who is disabled, and she told Associated Press this: “I feel seen. I feel represented. It’s a monumental moment to have my community be in an attraction and represented. I teared up when I saw them in the attraction.”

Let me understand this. Two of the 300 costumed dolls are sitting in a wheelchair – you’ll have to scrutinize the dolls intently to even spot them – and Erin feels this is a momentum occasion? 

Let’s be clear, whatever her ethnicity, Quinanilla is Latino and her community was already represented. It’s just that everybody today has their own subset of classification they want represented in order to feel “seen.”

I have nothing against people in wheelchairs, of course. God bless them. I feel for folks who have to spend their lives confined in one. But my concern is that if handicapped folks need to be represented in traditional ride attractions to feel valued, what else might be introduced into the innocuous attraction? So now that wheelchair folks feel represented; when will we see the two guy dolls kissing or two gal dolls in a lip lock to satisfy their communities? When will prisoners get their doll, decked out in prison orange jumpsuits? When do the trans get their representation with maybe a doll going into the surgery room as a boy and coming out a girl while that earworm of a song drills into your brain? Where is that poor disenfranchised voter doll? Where is the amputee doll or the doll that identifies as an animal? And let’s not forget the homeless doll on a park bench.

There were people in wheelchairs when Disney created Small World and he didn’t feel the need to make dolls in wheelchairs or leaning on crutches. But now we live in a different world where inclusiveness has run amok and everybody expects something is owed to them. What happened to being confident in one’s own self-worth as the source of validation?

Disney should quit appeasing the myriad of communities out there and stick to only offering fun and entertainment to families the way it used to be. Not preaching values that are undoing families. If they quit being Woke and having lesbian characters who kiss in a family film like Lightyear, maybe they wouldn’t face financial losses like they have and resort to a hiring freeze.

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This is interesting. The state had a $100 billion budget surplus earlier this year.  Now California is forecasted to incur a $25 billion deficit for 2023-24 according to last week’s fiscal projection by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.

Assemblyman Vince Fong, a Central Valley Republican and vice chairman of the Budget Committee, (R-Central Valley), charged that the one-party rule state leaders have weakened the state’s economy by continuing to “spend and grow government programs without accountability, I have repeatedly warned that California’s budget was on an unsustainable path. Today’s report is another wake up call to those warnings. We must refocus on fiscal responsibility. State leaders must be fiscally prudent.”

“It is time to prioritize precious tax dollars and invest in the critical issues that are impacting all Californians – needed water storage, affordable domestic energy production, a reliable supply chain and improving our business climate – to rebuild a healthy economy.”


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Yes, it’s still stuck in my craw. Gavin Newsom ran for governor in 2018 saying he supported the Death penalty, then when he got elected turned around and placed a moratorium on Death Row inmates being executed. It was the act of yet just another slick “make one promise to get elected only to do a 180 after the election” politician.

I bring this up because Arizona still believes in justice and is now executing prisoners after an eight-year suspension of the lethal injection practice. Two Death Row inmates were executed earlier this year.

Last week the state executed Murray Hooper for killing two in 1980. It’s sad that it took this long, executing the man close to his eventual death date given the life expectancy of a U.S. male is about 79. I hope God had mercy on him.

Lest you feel sorry for Hooper, a 76-year-old black man with grey hair and eyebrows, remember what he did 42 years ago. He and two accomplices broke into someone’s home – their sacred castle – on New Year’s Eve, tied up a husband and wife and her mother and gagged. Each one was shot in the head, with the throat of the man slashed for good measure. The wife survived and later identified all three evil-doers. Hooper’s accomplices went to jail but were claimed by natural deaths.

Arizona has 110 others on Death Row.

For the sake of justice, I hope new Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs doesn’t do a Gavin Newsom on the good people of Arizona.

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When I was a kid living in rural Oakdale I remembered how my parents would go to a private residential garage on River Road to vote. The voters then walked into a large metal box that had a curtain on it and flipped switches to cast their votes. You pulled the lever to not only register the votes but open the curtain.

I thought it was the coolest thing. The results were instantaneously tabulated that night. You know who won that night.

Then we started voting within a flimsy plastic enclosure that had a punch for the card. You slipped them in a folder and then dropped them in a ballot box.

Then we went to mail ballots where you have no excuse whatsoever to not vote because the wait was too long. So convenience went up and voter participation went down. And now we wait for what seems like forever for results.

The 13th Congressional District didn’t know who the winner was as of Tuesday, with Duarte and Gray switching leads several days reminiscent of a merry-go-round horse. The situation was so uncertain that both Duarte and Gray attended the House orientation in D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Talk about awkward.

As of last count, Duarte was ahead by 865 votes, 63,539 to 62,674.

We have to do better with our elections. Voter ID would help.

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Thanksgiving is tomorrow and many are in circumstances far from ideal. Americans are pessimistic about their futures with inflation eating up the household budget. The economy and mismanagement of the country is enough to depress anyone.

But if we view our circumstances differently, it would change our outlook.

There is a fair amount of study to suggest that being grateful has a number of benefits. A three-year study by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley learned that people who are generally thankful enjoy less stress and better moods, less pain and more gain, better sleep, stronger relationships and resilience.

And lest you think that Thanksgiving necessarily has a religious connotation, remember that a broader sense of gratitude – religious or not – comes from learning to take nothing for granted. Thanksgiving was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrim flock died from a rough winter and year. Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.

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