By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Party politics does shade nonpartisan officeholders

I’ve got to hand it to Channce Condit. He delivered a fine speech at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Ceres Memorial Park. He recalled a member of his family who died in Vietnam.

The entire ceremony was fitting as we remember those who died for our freedom. Condit impresses as a speaker.

* * * * *

Andy Constantinou made interesting claims in his letter to the editor published last week. Andy has written two letters in response to my criticism of Councilman Channce Condit – who continues to take puzzling council actions – and because I praised Toby Wells for doing a good job. Andy has an axe to grind with the city manager; notably because Wells and city staff did not come down hard on merchant Jim Delhart for placing mattresses on the Fourth Street sidewalk while they were gently coaxing him into façade renovations elsewhere on Fourth Street.

Andy accused me of “fake news” when I noted in my column of May 22 that 26.7 percent of the electorate collectively passed on an unopposed council candidate Channce Condit or chose write-ins. Andy wrote: “By the way, your numbers are off regarding Councilman Condit’s results. Just another bit of fake news to downplay someone’s success.” 

It turns out my numbers were off a bit due to a math error. Instead of 26.7 percent it was 21.09 percent.

Here’s how I arrived at my numbers. According to the Stanislaus County Elections Division’s website ( 3,171 voters turned out to vote in Ceres City Council District #1 in November. Condit received 2,502 votes, while there were 122 write-ins and 547 voters who did not cast a vote at all, or “under votes.”

Take the 547 who chose not to vote for Condit with the 122 who went out of their way to write in somebody else’s name and you have 669 who did not vote for the unopposed former speedo model. So take Condit’s 2,502 votes and divide that by voter turnout of 3,171and you see he had 78.9 percent support, with 21.09 percent who either opposed or didn’t vote for him. Granted, some of those under votes may have been from people who thought ‘Why vote? He’s going to win as a shoo-in.’ But you can’t discount a possible disdain for the lack of choice, for the candidate himself or a negative reaction to the name Condit.

So, no, it wasn’t my attempt to downplay someone successful at an election when he was unopposed; it was pointing out there was no groundswell of support to storm the doors of City Hall. If anything, Condit’s chief campaign pledge was making Ceres the “safest” city in county – a factor that goes far behind police force numbers.

Constantinou makes lots of wild claims about abuses of power, which are puzzling. You’d think if that is such an abuse of power was a serious allegation that he might have a grand jury look into it. But it’s easier to take a shot from the cheap seats.

Constantinou suggests that I don’t know local offices are non-partisan. Of course I know local offices are non-partisan! But you’d be a fool to think party affiliation does not color the conduct of those in local government. Republicans, for example, tend to vote for less restrictions and greater freedoms. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to think government is the answer to all solutions, such as adding more committees to take care of blight when you already have a code enforcement team with its own method of blight eradication. Fred Allen once said: “A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.” 

Government cannot beat people into pulling weeds, painting their houses, putting their trash out of view and refrain from displaying mattresses on the sidewalk. When there is a system already in place working on blight, why not let it work instead of try to reinvent the wheel? At least four members of the council didn’t see the need.

* * * * *

I’ve heard about school lockdowns a hundred times but never was in one – until Wednesday.

I had an 11:30 a.m. appointment to shoot photos of Central Valley High School’s valedictorians and salutatorians and had just walked in the door. I was waiting for the 16 grads to put on caps and gowns for the photos in the office when this foreboding alarm went off and faces dropped. “What is that, a fire alarm?” I asked. As soon as I said that a voice comes over the loud speaker that it was a lockdown and everybody moved.

I always thought lockdown meant don’t leave campus. I soon learned that it meant quickly go to a room, lights off, blinds pulled, door locked, get on the floor and don’t talk and fear that some evil may be lurking outside. Questions flood your mind. Is this serious or is this the next Parkland High?

I came here for pictures but remained sitting on the floor of an office with the top students sitting in eerie silence. This seemed a familiar exercise to them so I think I was more scared than they were. This was my first lockdown.

I texted a sergeant and found out the campus was locked down for precaution because some dirt bag felon had a standoff with police across the street. I softly told everyone what was going on and they seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and started talking. I exited the room and waited some more.

About a half hour later lunch came and students were allowed to go to lunch – as long as they remained in the quad area. I got my pictures and headed over to the scene of the action at Colony Park Estates.

When I was going to school, we only had fire drills and a few occasional evacuations to the playground during bomb threats made by people who enjoyed making stuff up. What changed in our country between the 1970s and Columbine?

* * * * *

Is Congressman Josh Harder a media hound? Sure seems that way. Apparently when the veterans invited him to the Memorial Day ceremony, his handlers were overly interested in if there would be media coverage.

* * * * *

I watched a Dateline program the other day on the July 2016 murder of Bend, Oregon woman Kaylee Sawyer, 23, by nut job security guard Edwin Enoc Lara. He clubbed the woman in a head with a rock before he raped her and then bashed her head in with a larger rock. The anger in me was boiling. This man surely deserves to not be breathing.

I found it curious what Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel had to say about the death penalty in the case. Hummel noted that if this case didn’t qualify for the death penalty, none would.  He said, “Me, personally, I’m morally opposed to the death penalty but I was not elected by the voters of Deschutes County to impose my morals on our laws.”

Refreshing that he puts the law above his own beliefs.

Contrast that with the con artist governor we have who lied to us all when he said he supported the death penalty and months after becoming governor told us he was suspending the death penalty in California. We should all be outraged to the point that we start passing recall petitions and get him out faster than we did Gray Davis.

Newsom engaged in some political BS jargon when he suggested to the victims and their families that: “We owe you and we need to do more and do better, more broadly for victims in this state ... but we cannot advance the death penalty in an effort to try to soften the blow of what happened.”

It has never been about softening the blow of heinous crimes. It has to do with justice. People who commit heinous murders should not be able to enjoy the very thing they snuffed out of their victims.

Democrats applauded his decision, of course. That’s the party that wants to preserve the life of murderers – to let them vote behind bars – while killing “aborted” babies should they live after an abortion. It’s an evil party and people should be fleeing it in droves.

* * * * *

You may have heard that a video was played at the Fresno Grizzlies game during Memorial Day in which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (better known as AOC) was compared to Kim Jong Un and Fidel Castro.

The left flipped their collective wigs. In response, team sponsors Heineken beer and Sun-Maid pulled their support of the Grizzlies.

Make no mistake, AOC has half the country thinking she is a socialist buffoon who has replaced the stupid blonde jokes. Her Green New Deal has been labeled by many as a grand idea of cost and ridiculousness. She says some pretty stupid things. She is, however, no Kim Jong Un who has executed about 340 people in the first six years as North Korea’s leader. In 2016, Kim Yong-jin, the deputy premier for education, was killed in front of a firing squad after showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a general over the armed forces, fell asleep in a meeting. He was executed with an antiaircraft gun.

But allow me to ask this: Where is the outrage when the left makes reprehensible comments about the president? Such as when Cher just tweeted that she wants to see the president sent to prison and sexually assaulted. Why aren’t concert venues refusing to host her events? Why aren’t sponsors of all these Hollywood music and movie awards programs pulling their sponsorship for the horrible diatribe spoken by Hollywood elite about the president?

These people have lost their sense of civility, no doubt brought to the edge of insanity by the anti-Trump biased CNN and MSNBC.

* * * * *

This quote (attributed to Ben Stein but apparently not his words), is so filled with truth: “Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured … but not everyone must prove they are a citizen. Now add this, many of those who refuse, or are unable, to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens.”

* * * * *

Another great meme I saw depicted a wild-eyes feminist at a rally with the words: “A man can’t talk about abortion since he doesn’t his a uterus!” juxtapositioned with this: “A man can be a woman even though he doesn’t have a uterus!”

* * * * *

I walked out of a McDonald’s recently after I was told by the lone clerk to transact my order at the giant computer kiosk. The employee told me to order on it. I just wanted a human being to take my order and besides I don’t like using touch screens when all sorts of sick people smear their germs all over them. I asked, “What if I don’t want to use it?” He mumbled something as I walked to the counter, expecting him to take my order there but he walked on … and he kept walking away. So I walked out the door. A lost sale – and I vote to never return if that’s how they want to do business.

This is what happens when liberals force government to pay more for low-skill jobs with a minimum wage hike and then companies respond by cutting jobs and make you take your own order. Look for more of that in California, land of the liberals.

Can we go back to the 1970s, when people were willing to work for fast-food wages so we could enjoy decent prices and people could have jobs? Eating out is really becoming ridiculously expensive and we all know who to blame it on.

* * * * *

Channce Condit’s odd insistence for a vote on an apartment complex on Mitchell Road last week – that would not have occurred for lack of a second – left a lot of people scratching their heads.

As you should know, if anyone on the council makes a motion to take action and it dies for a lack of a second motion, then no vote is taken and the proposal or project dies. Condit made it abundantly clear from the get-go that he was against the project. He was so closed-minded about the project that he motioned to deny the applicant his legal due process in a public council hearing; yet when Councilman Bret Durossette motioned to approve the project, Condit offered a second. Why? So that a vote would be taken when it was clear that three others had issues with the project? Condit insisted eight times on a vote, which came close to his demand. What purpose could this possibly serve? Future political campaign fodder should he run for mayor against fellow members?

Condit suggested Ceres needs “housing” but claimed that Mitchell Road was problematic. He also suggested “every single square foot counts” for commercial use.

But Condit’s pointed questions made it appear that he is generally against apartments. What makes me say that? Consider:

• Condit suggested the project may look “great in the beginning” but that it would be run down in five, 10, 15 years. (He might take a drive down nearby Della Drive to see the Rivercrest Apartments are close to 20 years old and in remarkable shape. They also have no vacancy.) Reject a project because it may look bad in the future? Might as well not okay any homes.

• His pointed question about increased service for police and fire fell flat when Police Chief Rick Collins suggested there should be no problem with good management. Fire Chief Kevin Wise gave an answer that didn’t go with his agenda: modern construction standards minimize fire dangers in newer buildings and it’s usually facilities with older residents that result in increased EMS calls.

• When applicant representative Max Garcia suggested there are no places in Ceres to build apartment complexes, Condit eagerly suggested plenty of space in the West Landing Specific Plan. But since there is no infrastructure in place one can only assume Condit would rather wait to see apartments built much later when they are sorely needed today. Remember, Ceres has not built an apartment complex in about 15 years.

And what’s the point in wanting your staff to live in Ceres when you vote against new housing that allows them to live in Ceres rather than force them to go to Modesto or Turlock?

• Mr. Condit suggested that every square inch of commercial land in Ceres be reserved for commercial. However Planning director Tom Westbrook noted that over 100 acres will soon be available at Service and Mitchell roads that more than enough meets the demand for retail. That fact was seemingly ignored.

If the council had a problem with adding more traffic on Mitchell, why did they approve the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center for the Walmart supercenter? And why did most on the council dismiss the fact that the 9.7 acres would generate twice as much traffic if it were to develop as fully commercial/retail as opposed to a mixed use of commercial and multi-family residential?

Policies of Democrat lawmakers in the state house are restrictive and place expensive demands on new housing. As a result, California is sorely neglecting its housing needs. Because their failed policies place “affordable” housing out of reach for many hard working families, many cannot afford single-family homes and must live in apartments.

It’s sad to see that councilmembers dismiss the Planning Commission approval of the project (Couper Condit voted no like he usually does) and adopt a Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude.

* * * * *

You might also want to read the story in today’s issue about Condit being the only one on the council to stymie the surface water project now decades into the planning stages and with the filtration galley facility underway.

It really defies logic.

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