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Some are brazen in contempt of U.S., laws

Illegal fireworks were going off all over Ceres on the Fourth – on both sides of the freeway. Scratch that. Illegal fireworks were going off all over the Valley. I saw them going off in Turlock, in Keyes, in Ceres and in Modesto, some as late at 11 p.m.

There are definitely two camps on the illegal fireworks issue. Some say the city is being a governmental kill-joy about the patriotic display and the state being a “nanny state.” Others suggest that it’s dangerous and inconsiderate of neighbors. It’s really about common sense and courtesy.

Ceres Police cited 53 violators of fireworks laws and Ceres Fire another six. If they all pay the $1,000 fine, that’s $59,000. I hear through the grapevine that some say they are innocent and will be fighting it.

Apparently Jorge Hernandez didn’t like the concept of neighbors reporting the use of illegal fireworks on the city’s hotline. He posted this on the Ceres Police Department website: “Go inside your house. Nothing worse than a nosey neighbor.” To which Veronica Phillips answered, “…or nothing worse than an inconsiderate, disrespectful law-breaking neighbor with little regard of others.”

I might add that it is also quite disrespectful to leave the debris from so-called “safe and sane” fireworks in the street or gutter.

Isn’t it amazing how brazen some people are in defying the law in today’s society?

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Our nation is in perilous times. I’m talking about the destruction of American culture being waged within by the left.

George Washington is now under attack. The San Francisco school board voted to spend $600,000 to remove an iconic mural that has graced the halls of George Washington High School since 1936. Why? Because someone is “offended” by the slaves picking cotton on the plantation and dead Indians on the field in the background.

The fact that the mural even contains those “offensive” images was because the artist, Victor Arnautoff, wanted to show the world a different version to the white-washed version of history. Art is meant to challenge and provoke, is it not?

I agree with New York Times letter writer Rocco Landesman who said: “When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed, how do this desecration differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”

Leftists are working full-time at dummying down generations of students and telling them they should be offended at everything in this country’s past – even a pathetic Starbucks telling cops to leave because some snowflake of a customer didn’t “feel safe” in their presence – telling them the country is racist, so they can tear down the very foundation that has made it solid and great. They want to engineer a new socialist country where everyone gets everything for free at the expense of the successful and hard-working, the government tells you what to do and think and how much soda you can have and an immigration free-for-all that will bankrupt the nation.

There is a solution and that’s to reject any notion of electing anyone who supports policies that subvert the United States, its history and its law. And, unless anyone can offer up a good exception, that appears to be most who have a ‘D’ behind their name or Republicans who act just like them.

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Apparently some Border Patrol agents who have posted on social media comments, countering the lies that Congressional bartender Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez is spreading about treatment of illegal immigrants on the border, are being investigated. Cortez is a public official, and a ridiculous one at that. She grandstanded in west Texas along with other Democrats screaming and crying about a federal immigration policy started under Obama – all because they have been on a seek and destroy Trump mission.

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Speaking of ridiculous public officials, the cowboy hat-donning, makeup-encrusted Democrat congresswoman from Florida, needs to get herself acquainted with the Constitution. Frederica Wilson now thinks people who make fun of Congress members online should be prosecuted.

Mrs. Wilson, it’s long been an American tradition that we have and it’s called freedom of speech. You should get a copy of the Constitution and read it. It should be required that a candidate has to pass a test on it before becoming a candidate for office.

The same kind of immaturity and ignorance is reflected in comments routinely made by the bartender turned Congresswoman Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez. She recently said that “They had to amend the Constitution of the United States to make sure Roosevelt did not get reelected.” The amendment wasn’t introduced and passed until after the Republicans took control of the House and Senate in the 1946 elections. It was introduced in February 1947 and passed the following month. Roosevelt died  two years earlier on April 12, 1945. The 22nd Amendment was ratified on Feb. 27, 1951, and was certified as part of the Constitution on March 1, 1951.

The reason low-IQ public officials like Wilson and Cortez are able to get elected is because we have low-IQ voters; which makes me wonder if we should put the same Constitution test to the voters and if you don’t pass, you don’t get to vote.

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Gov. Newsom sure has his priorities straight, doesn’t he? He signed a $215 billion – with a ‘B’– budget that included $3.5 million for dog parks in San Diego and Rancho Cucamonga and $4 million to relocate a food bank in Elk Grove. Yet he would not fund a replacement for El Dorado County’s aging courthouse. The 106-year-old building is so small that inmates are kept in public hallways before trial, there is no jury assembly space and attorneys don’t have conference rooms to meet privately with clients, victims and witnesses.

It’s been pointed out that the courthouse lies in a Republican district. Newsom found it important to give himself and lawmaker a 4 percent raise, however. All this comes at a time when only 39 percent of Californians approve of the job state lawmakers are doing – likely so low because they just suggested $15 billion in new taxes while the state has a gargantuan $21.4 billion budget surplus. How about giving cities back their redevelopment funds that they stole under Jerry Brown?

It’s time for a part-time Legislature and to limit the continued damage they are doing to the state – and to lower their pay in reciprocity.

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That fearless awesome leader that he is, the guv’nuh decided to punish cities with fines if they don’t meet HIS housing goals. Those fines range from $10,000 to $600,000 per month. Gee what do they do if they go bankrupt? Have the state bail them out?

If I were on a City Council I would tell Newsom to scrap CEQA which is making the cost of development too high and the process too cumbersome. 

Newsom had threatened to cut money raised from the state’s gas tax, sometimes referred to as SB 1 funds after the 2017 law that increased fuel taxes. He proposed withholding the money starting in 2023.

Wasn’t this same governor screaming that Trump couldn’t withhold federal funds for thumbing their nose at immigration law and FEMA funds for not properly managing forests in California? Newsom can dish it out but he can’t take it.

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Speaking of low IQs, there’s Colin Kaepernick. He suggested that Nike needed to pull the plug on a limited edition brand of shoes with the Betsy Ross American flag with its circular 13 stars because some racists may have used the flag at rallies. But you could probably have seen Nike shoes at such rallies so what? Ban them too?

The Betsy Ross flag was flown high on the U.S. Capitol in 2013 when Barack Obama was president – and the left was silent as crickets.

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It’s draining sometimes at how a social media post will go down negative bunny trails. Take, for example, our link to our story on the fireworks crackdown and the issuance of citations and $1,000 fines. Andy Constantinou had to go political and attack the council with his remark: “That halfway pays for council medical insurance.” Gin Turnbow said Constantinou’s “wisecrack” was “totally uncalled for” and asked “why not praise CPD and CFD for doing the best job possible for our community?”

Andy, a former councilmember who served in the 1990s, told Turnbow to “lighten up” and regurgitated back his animosity toward City Manager Toby Wells, insisting that he “is mismanaging the city funds … I may be sarcastic but I’m dead serious about the problems at City Hall. The council is turning a blind eye to a budget deficit which falls squarely on the city manager and there is 3 of them that just keeps saying what a great job he is doing.”

Actually then City Manager Art deWerk – Constantinou’s friend – didn’t do much to deal with the Community Center deficit (which was about $185,000 per year) during his tenure other than a questionable “sale” of the Daniel Whitmore Home to the Ceres Redevelopment Agency to access RDA funds. Wells only inherited the problem.

I haven’t seen Constantinou at a council meeting in decades and wonder who is feeding him this idea, which appears to be hollow and rooted in city staff response to his complaints about a certain downtown businessman.

Like I’ve said, if he believes there is so much malfeasance perhaps he should put his money where his mouth is and send the grand jury on another investigation. Or is it all about blowing smoke?


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Since I’m armed with the facts (32 years’ worth of stories I’ve written in our archives) and some people only pretend to know, let’s revisit the council compensation issue. In August 2006 the late Vice Mayor Rob Phipps brought up the issue of increasing council pay for the first time in 21 years. The vote was 4-1 (Anthony Cannella voted no) to raise council pay from $250 per month to $500 and the mayor’s pay from $300 to $600. Phipps, Ken Lane, Chris Vierra and the late Guillermo Ochoa also opted to rescind an ordinance banning councilmembers from taking both pay and insurance benefits. The increases and bennies took affect the following year. Ochoa specifically felt that the increased compensation would help as an “incentive” for future residents to “leave home and come to meetings and study hard.”

This brings me to a letter in today’s edition in which Angela Smith charges that I wasn’t “over the moon” at Condit’s recent suggestion to do away with council insurance benefits because I’m just so filled with “disdain” for the Condits. She said it is well documented that I have it in for the whole family. I’m sure she doesn’t remember that on Aug. 30, 2006 I published an opinion piece, “Ceres City Council pay increase not out of line.” In it I stated why it wasn’t out of line – the amount of time many members spend on the job and state law that allowed such compensations at even higher rates.

If Smith notes, I didn’t take issue with his proposal but at the rashness of it without the courtesy of a discussion before he was “ready to make a motion.”

Condit suggested ending the practice of offering councilmembers health benefits, saying that’s not why he ran for office. It was a painless suggestion for him, perhaps, because he doesn’t take the benefits, which come to about $94,000 per year. Curiously, Condit didn’t volunteer to eliminate council pay, which he does accept and which costs the taxpayers $6,000 annually for just him. Doesn’t he want to save $31,200 annually in forfeited council pay?

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