(Editor's note: Upon reading Jeff Benziger's Nov. 4 column, titled "Battling Ceres' bad perception held by outsiders, former Ceres mayor Louie Arrollo decided to provide us his thoughts where the mark his been missed. He outlines his views in 10 specific statement that follow.)
1). For the past number of years Ceres was under the leadership of personnel who presented a façade of professionalism and dedication to duty. That included a façade of commitment to community and the people they served. Having personally witnessed the fragmentation of a city government from cohesiveness and complete dedication to the people and community to an attitude of strictly personal aggrandizement has been heartbreaking.
2). I have personally witnessed dereliction of duty by some and abuse of leave time that precluded sound management and supervisory practices. That absence put a level of stress and strain on subordinates that ultimately resulted in less than desirable outcomes and affected the direction of the city.
3). I have limited knowledge of the current city administration except for a few current longtime employees. There are a number of excellent employees who bring a family atmosphere to the city of Ceres and that includes Fire Chief Bryan Nichols and Police Chief Brent Smith. Both longtime employees have devoted themselves to making Ceres a greater place. Both have been involved in many civic events in Ceres and are active in service organization outside of the city family. There are others that also excel, however, for some years the theme of recent employees appears to have been "What can the city do for me?"
4). Being a part-time city resident for some years, I am not familiar with the current City Council; however past councils have lacked the vision and perhaps needed energy necessary to raise the city of Ceres to a level of efficiency and respect.
5). An example of poor vision is the Mitchell Road Corridor Plan approved during my time on the council. That plan would have provided sensible development with maximum financial return. However, future councils would tweak that plan which would include storage facilities on the most highly visible thoroughfare in Ceres. I was absolutely dismayed. I'm not sure what that plan includes at this time.
6). Prior to my leaving the mayor's office I requested - and it was approved - to install entrance signs on the main points in Ceres. A couple of years after leaving office a city official called me to inform me the signs had been installed. When I saw that what was installed was the ultimate letdown - they were activity bulletin boards. Talk about having their head in the sand. Even today those signs generally have outdated information on them. What a waste and no vision whatsoever.
7). As one wanders through the city of Ceres we can see unkempt areas. One area of my contention, not the fault of the city, is the Ceres Post Office. Generally the post office looks uninviting with debris lingering, grounds usually needing attention, generally the outside trash cans are spilling out or completely filled, glass doors that look like they have not been cleaned in weeks and a number of employees who forgot how to smile. That's what the travelling public sees. No wonder we get a bad rap.
8). I could go on and on with uncomplimentary comments about Ceres. However, I must say that although the demographics have significantly changed over the years, after 58 years of being a resident I would not leave to find utopia.
9). Development, at times, is held hostage by certain groups who hold a minority view of what the city should look like. Walmart, a store of apparent contention by some, if built could spark the development of the entire corridor which would make city revenues soar. It appears to me the detractors are doing the community a disservice by standing in the way of a project that would benefit not only Ceres residents but residents throughout the region. Those folks, if truly interested in their community should rethink their priorities.
Unfortunately Ceres is situated between the #1 and #2 largest cities in the county, which puts us in the backseat as far as attracting new development. This means our city leaders and elected officials must work all the harder to bring in new development both business and commercial; therefore all concerned must be up to the task.
10). Lastly, since I can remember, the city has been trying to improve the downtown area, which I must say does have great potential, however all the great plans or ideas have generally been stifled by one landowner. This particular person owns a number of properties on Fourth Street and has refused over the years to perform any significant improvement. I often thought what a great bistro the old Bank of Ceres would make, lot of history and great atmosphere, instead however it houses mattresses for a local business. What a waste!
The downtown could become an attraction for travelers on the freeway and others within and out of Ceres, However the people who own the property will have to have a change of attitude. If they want to leave a legacy with their good name, do something about it now. Help the city improve. Think community, not dollars.
The improvement of Ceres is a long-term project that requires the buy-in of not just the city but of its residents as well. The city must strive to employ not only the best qualified for the job but those who have a strong sense of community and commitment to the residents they will serve and when those serving fail to meet our high standards the powers to be must be strong enough to replace them. I believe that leaders lead by example which surely would filter down through the community and instill a lost sense of pride.
My comments are not intended to diminish the dedicated employees of the city and the residents who actively participate in various programs that include beautifying the city, sponsoring adult and youth activities and generally being cheerleaders for the city, they are to be applauded.
Lost, but not forgotten, is the city motto established during my term as mayor, "Together We Achieve." Let's all get back to basics and make Ceres a city of pride.
Louie Arrollo, a retired Ceres police officer, served as mayor of Ceres from 1987 to 1990 and 1999 to 2001.