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Police & fire reps politicize Ceres growth projections
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Seems like a lot of people are weighing in on Ceres' future.

Specifically, they've been commenting on the Courier Facebook page regarding the Planning Commission's choice of a land use alternative that has the potential - though not likely - to add 50 percent more homes and population to Ceres by 2035. It also may also result in four times the amount of existing office space, six times the commercial space, and two times the industrial space currently in Ceres for a 400 percent increase jobs.

The City Council will consider the commission's recommendation on Monday, March 27 at 6 p.m.

It's not the jobs and increased local tax revenue that upsets some. It's the idea that Ceres should grow at all. They suggest Ceres already has a shortage of police and fire and with water being a valuable commodity in short supply, growth may not be a good idea.

While I understand people not desiring growth with its increased congestion, it's not realistic. You can't keep having babies and expect no more building of houses - or at least all the houses being built in other places while Ceres stagnates under a cone of building silence. If you're thinking you want a quiet place to live, you want to think about Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Oklahoma where cattle outnumber people. The tradeoff is you won't have weather as nice as California but isn't that one the key reasons so many people want to be here?

Of course, all this growth talk is being used as leverage by police and firefighters who are in the middle of contract negotiations and want more money. Firefighter Jeremy Hackett opines that "City leaders should figure out how they will serve this growth they want to create. No money for employee salaries and significant budget cuts coming. How will the city be able to service these new developments?"

Let's be honest. What development in California doesn't pay its way these days? On top of Mello-Roos Districts, Public Facility Fees for infrastructure, special landscaping and lighting districts and now operations fees on new housing, aren't those taxes supporting city services? Of course they are.

Police Officer Matt Berlier writes: "The city can't budget the tax revenue they get now. The only way they were able to balance the budget this year was on the backs of the Police Department and the officers working there. City Council and the city manager froze eight police officer positions. That's eight less officers on the street. There aren't any officers in the gang, drug, or stolen vehicle task force. The city Street Crimes unit, which is supposed to combat narcotics and gang activity, has been disbanded. I wonder where all this Measure H money is going? It's crazy how during the recession the city had more officers on the streets then they do now."
He goes on to say that it "Sounds like a huge mismanagement of money."

That's an odd statement given that roughly 80 percent of the general fund is spent on police and fire. If you include Measure H monies, it's 83 percent.

And rest assured, Measure H is all going to police and fire. If you'll remember, Measure H is a sales tax so since sales are lagging, so is the revenue.

Alisa Herrmann-McLelland writes: "The city has so much opportunity to be more of a family oriented bedroom community to sell those vacant homes, populate those newly built elementary schools. Quit approving Dollar General & discount crap stores. Fill the vacant strip malls, police the parks so my kid doesn't have to ask why there are needles on the picnic benches. The gang presence is sabotaging this town's growth."

Alisa, we get what you're saying about low life thugs who are rife in Stanislaus County. I had my home broken into and ransacked in 2014. Even Ceres Chamber President Renee Ledbetter had her car ransacked this month. But the reason Dollar Generals are popping up here is because of the demographics of Ceres and neighboring towns. Cities cannot arbitrarily say no to a Dollar General if it's being proposed for a commercial zone. I don't like shopping at discount stores - and usually don't - but this is not Tiburon where the median household income is $130,661 annually. This is Ceres, where $46,132 is the annual household income is. You won't attract a Macy's or Dillard's with that kind of income strata. And when you have low- and very-low-income, you get a lot of riff-raff with the needles in the parks and gangs driving by shooting up houses.

If anything, like Mary Jane Scheuber said, Ceres needs more in the way of upper-scale homes to counterbalance the lower end housing stock.

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There has been great interest in the recent City Council meeting where marijuana growing was discussed.

I've never smoked pot and have no desire. I voted against Prop. 64 and I think pot smoking is just an all-around bad idea unless you're sick and benefit from it in a medicinal way. I think there's far too many people who sit in a haze of pot smoke and dull their ambition and let getting high get in the way of their economic and health prosperity. But after hearing of the concerns of firefighters and code enforcement officers who have to deal with indoor pot grows, I believe there are no redeeming qualities to our new law that allows people to grow up to six marijuana plants in their home.

It just doesn't seem like a good idea knowing how many morons already inhabit the planet.
Fire Engineer Joe Spani talked last week about the increased car wrecks, accidental ingestion by kids, and the fires that will be coming from electrical overloads and bright lights.

Police will likely be dealing with residential break-ins as well as growers who end becoming sellers.

Code enforcement officer Paula Redfern spoke about exposure to spores and chemicals, honey oil lab fumes and fires, neighbors being offended by the odors, toxic waste flushing into the city sewer system. In Calaveras County pot growing has proliferated.

All this so people can get high? What a tradeoff, huh?

A highly controlled commercial operation seems more justified if it will help the severe medical conditions of the ill. And by ill I'm not talking about the guy who feels the need to smoke pot for a hangnail, but people like the son of former coach Mike Reynolds.

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The death of Royal Robbins was a sad occurence for me.
I was a child when I heard of the rivalry between mountain climbers Warren Harding and Royal Robbins in climbing both El Capitan and Half Dome. A TV documentary on Netflix, Valley Uprising, touches on this competition as well as the foolhardy craziness of climbers of yesterday and today. To think people are climbing the face of Half Dome or El Cap without ropes throttles my mind.

You may know that Robbins lived in Modesto and had his own clothing shop in the McHenry Village. In 2005 I met a very distinguished looking Robbins in the store and took a photo with him (I think I lost it forever though because it was in the infancy of me playing around with digital photos).

As an autograph collector I asked him to do something probably nobody else asked him to do: Draw Half Dome from his memory and sign it. He was a good sport and suggested drawing it to where it would do it justice might be more difficult than climbing it. I told him that I had climbed it "the easy way" - up the back cables - and he replied, "There is no easy way to climb Half Dome." I felt honored that he didn't discount my "weekend" climbing effort of a rock he mastered in such a difficult way for the first time in 1957.

I shall treasure his signed drawing of Half Dome even more now that he has passed.

I'll be thinking of him the next time I hike the famous rock - this summer if I am lucky enough to win the cables lottery - like we were last June.

Do you have any feedback about this column? Let Jeff know by emailing him at He will read it, promise.