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Ryno’s departure is not a good thing for Ceres

Linda Ryno had a reputation for doggedness when it came to spending the taxpayers’ money properly. Say what you will about Ryno, she knew her material coming into a council meeting and she was not easily swayed out of her opinion. She was competent and diligent and unwilling to let staff run the show or let them off the hook so easily.

While I didn’t agree with all of her votes – such as voting against contracting with Modesto for fire service – I have no doubt that every vote she cast was based on what she thought was for the good of Ceres and its residents.

Linda also was an advocate for a cleaner, more orderly Ceres. Among her chief concerns was blight and trash.

She is gone now, having stepped down early last week. Her term was to end in December. In her resignation speech, Ryno cited the stress caused by a list of situations and her health that suffered as a result otherwise I would be just as critical of her as I was of Couper Condit for quitting early. But Condit has yet to offer any reason to his constituents why he quit just eight months into his four-year term. At least Ryno gave a fully detailed explanation.

Throughout her council tenure, Ryno rode the city hard on inadequate park maintenance, the spending of police overtime, and spending she considered wasteful like in 2019 when she voted no against buying new chairs for the Community Center. Ryno recently pressed the city to consider contracting out park mowing to save money. We haven’t forgotten how she pressed the city to deliver a public response in June 2021 for the 11-minute speech made by Ceres mother Sonya Ruiz who made some wild accusations about how Ceres Police mistreated her disabled son. Ryno pushed for a response to be made public “instead of everyone assuming that the allegations were true.” The response never came.

Ryno also voted against the renaming of Eastgate Park as Guillermo Ochoa Park which I believe was nothing more than a political stunt by then Councilman Channce Condit who later bailed on his term to jump to the Board of Supervisors before the vote could even be taken. The city had planned that park for over a decade as Eastgate Park. The last-minute switch came even after the Eastgate Park sign had been manufactured at a cost of thousands of dollars!

In her parting speech, Ryno took aim at many things, citing that one “newly seated” councilmember has been in arrears on his city utility bill and that “he should be treated the same way as all citizens when the city starts shutting off delinquent accounts next month.” Mike Kline has said it’s not him, so that leaves the mayor, vice mayor or James Casey as possibilities. If her allegation is true, it’s concerning that a councilman is making financial decisions with millions of city dollars while not managing his own funds very well.

I called Mayor Javier Lopez for a comment the day after Ryno quit and he didn’t return my call. However, he did send out a press release of relative fluff stating: “Councilmember Ryno has served on the City Council since 2013. I’d like to acknowledge Councilmember Ryno for her time on the City Council and contributions to the City of Ceres. I wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

An April 12 email to Bret Silveira went unanswered as well.

After Ryno spoke for the last time, nobody on the council said anything in response, not even a “Oh gee, I’m sorry that you’re leaving. You brought a lot to this dais.”

Is anyone on the council going to address what she said or just pretend that she didn’t exist?

Ryno’s departure is, in my opinion, a loss for the citizens of Ceres. She was vested in seeing government run correctly. If it wasn’t for Kline being on the council, this council would be comprised wholly of people with little experience. She also took with her a lot of institutional knowledge about the way the city works.

The loss is compounded by the fact that the city has already lost many solid people recently. Public Works Director Jeremy Damas retired on Dec. 31, taking with him a lot of knowledge. City Manager Tom Westbrook also left late last year and trust me when I say I miss his openness and willingness to give us information we asked for. Steve Hallam, the economic development director since 2013 is also gone. They’ve been replaced by folks who seem to have a different approach to transparency.

Council districts haven’t helped in necessarily delivering the most competent council as it did in the days of the at-large system where the citizens picked the best to fill seats. Now a qualified candidate may be forbidden from running because he or she doesn’t reside in the district where the absence occurs.

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Isn’t it a form of racism when you require ethnicity to be the sole factor in whether or not somebody can “represent” you on a political body? If a Latino suggests that he has no representation on a City Council because his councilmember is not the same color as he, isn’t that, in itself, a form of racism?

Yet that’s exactly the expression made recently by a gentleman who weighed in during the redistricting process. He suggested that he had no representation on the council because the member was not Latino like he. He indeed had a representative sitting in that seat but just happened to be Caucasian.

This is the kind of thinking you get when you have liberals driving the narrative in the country. Unless the goal is to procure special favors for one’s ethnicity, I cannot see how race must play a role in the function of a city council.

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You know it. I know it. Politicians are routinely full of it.

Now that election season is upon us, the stench is starting up and should be truly ripe by the time the primary election rolls around on June 7.

Let me dissect a press release from Jessica Self who is proud as punch that the Democrat Party in California endorsed her for the 22nd Assembly District. Running in that race are Democrat Chad Condit, and Republicans Juan Alanis, Joel Gutierrez Campos and Guadalupe “Lupitas” Salazar. Self, who is an attorney –  and we all know the high esteem people have for attorneys – made a statement in her press release on April 11 that reads: 

“I am running because I am dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents in our district, which is lacking for many in our community.”

Stop. Quality of life is an interesting and loose term. I know my quality of life would be vastly improved if the Democrats reduced my tax burden but we all that won’t happen so let’s send another one to Sacramento. Fact: 57 Democrat occupy the state Assembly and only 19 Republicans. Shoot, I mean we don’t have enough of them, right? Republicans can’t get any of their bills passed to make life easier and less expensive.

Self goes on: “I am passionate about bringing good quality jobs to the valley, improving living wages and worker benefits, providing quality education to all students, improving our air quality, providing access to affordable healthcare, and improving public safety.”

Wow, there’s a lot of ambitious goals there. Quality jobs for the valley? Okay, a start is to reduce the tax burden and regulations on business. Is Self for that? I doubt it.

Quality education? You mean state-run schools are not already delivering a quality education already even though the Democrat Party has been in control since Schwarzenegger left? Is that what Self is saying?

If living wages means continue raising the minimum-wage, no thanks. It’s gotten so high that a meal at McDonalds is now over $10 as a result.

Quality air in the Valley? Isn’t that what the Valley Air Pollution Control District and its burdensome regulations on ag and business has been working on for decades?

Access to affordable healthcare? Didn’t Obama take care of that by making healthy young adults buy plans they don’t need to take of those who lead unhealthy lifestyle?

Improving public safety? I’m glad you brought that up, Jessie, because the way we see it letting out dangerous felons from prison early is only getting people shot on the streets and the houses and cars broke into. Are you planning to go up to Sacramento and buck your governor who loves letting criminals out of prison so he doesn’t have to build more prisons? Can we please get an answer to that?

Self finishes up saying: “My belief is that every single person in my district (and California) should be able to wake up in a community where they are valued and where they have pathways to support their families and dreams.”

Pathway … dreams … hmmm, sounds like an appeal to illegal aliens. Goodness knows those who break our laws to get here deserve to feel “valued.”

As far as us legal residents feeling valued, we would feel more valued if government officials kept out of our pocket in creating programs that take more and deliver less to the good honest citizens. We dream too … of a smaller government that quits spending like drunken sailors in port.

The other Democrat in the race is Ceres’ own Chad Condit, who lists himself as a “businessman” while many are wondering what business he’s been in. Political consultant? He recently surfaced after being hidden away for a decade since losing the congressional race as an independent in 2012.

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I should have shared this with you a year ago when I came across this conversation of a black woman on TikTok. She was reflecting on the whole “privilege” discussion. What this young woman had to say was very insightful:

“There are things you’ll never go through because you’re white. There are things you’ll never go through because you’re Hispanic or Asian.  There are things I will never go through or understand because I’m a natural born American citizen. If you grew up with a father and you have a great relationship with your dad, you will never know what it’s like to be fatherless. Everyone on this planet goes through suffering and struggles. Everyone on this planet has blessings and privileges that they take for granted.  The entire ‘privileged’ conversation is basically saying, ‘I suffer and struggle in ways you never will and that’s not fair.’ Welcome to life, you must be new. It’s an empathy killer. ‘Feel sorry for me but I’m going to assume your life is better than mine so I’m not going to feel anything for you, even though I know nothing about you as a person.’”

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Ceres is just way too small to have council districts and the idea floated by Jim Casey and John Osgood to select planning commissioners by district is just ridiculous. Osgood’s assertion that having commissioners from a single district as being a “lack of representation” that is “unacceptable” is nonsense.

Vice Mayor Bret Silveira had it right: If you must pick commissioners based on one per five districts, you might as well count on not having enough members to even hold a quorum. The interest in such a seat is already nominal and then to disqualify some interested members because they live outside of a district is tragic.

Think of Ceres as a 3x5 card. Geographically speaking Ceres is three miles high and five miles wide at its widest. Ceres is home to 49,302 residents.  Being that small, the needs don’t change from district to district. And besides, if we’re really honest, some of the districts carved for the state Senate and state Assembly are drawn in a way that one section has entirely different needs than another. In some of the stupidest redistricting imaginable, Stanislaus County is split into two different congressional districts. So now Ceres is in 13th Congressional District while Hughson is in the 5th.

Commissioners vote on zoning, lot line issues, and development plans, etc. You mean to tell me that a hypothetical commissioner from west of the freeway would vote differently on, let’s say, the architectural renderings of a McDonald’s than would someone living in east Ceres? Really, get real.

Districts, I feel, have been a detriment to Ceres and can reduce the quality of the council by ruling out better candidates because they don’t live in the right district at any given election.

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