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Throwing others under the bus for political gain

The thinking and actions of some elected officials is kind of hard to fathom.

You know the old saying accredited to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

The first example of “insanity” was how Mayor Lopez scheduled a special meeting on March 4 to talk about, for a fourth time, an appointment to the vacant council seat after seeing the steely resolve of Linda Ryno and Bret Silveira to appoint only Laurie Smith. Did the mayor honestly expect anyone to change their mind on March 4 after the continual deadlock of 2-2 during three prior meetings?

Another exercise in futility came on March 4 when Vice Mayor Couper Condit made the same motion three times to get the council to come up with a second councilmember choice after similar motions failed numerous times on Feb. 28! Condit tried again to suggest the only way to pay for the special election by getting the council to give up their council pay and medical insurance benefits. He tried the motion again (the third time that night) after City Manager Tom Westbrook noted that the city has money in the General Fund to pay for the election because the city received COVID-19 related grant funds and saved of medical benefits not paid to certain councilmembers (who obviously didn’t need it because their regular employers supply it).

At the regular meeting of March 8 Condit played the same violin, trying twice – seemingly for the hundredth time – to force Ryno and Silveira to give up their benefits and stipend.

Those are the optics he sought. Why else would you need those optics unless you need them for future political ambitions?

Someone give Condit a football helmet the next time he wants to run his head into a brick wall again.

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Ironically the easy solution to avoiding an election would have been for Condit or Lopez to back a solid pick in Laurie Smith. It would have been a far reasonable move than expecting Ryno and Silveira to opt for any one of the others who have no clue what running a city involves. Instead, Condit played political games out of the process, trying to throw his fellow councilmembers Ryno and Silveira under the bus in his attempts to draw attention to those who take councilmember benefits. Would Condit have been pressing for such action if, let’s say, he was retired and without benefits?

If Condit was really interested in having the responsible party bear the cost of a special election it would have been to ask brother Channce to donate $40,000 out of his Board of Supervisors’ salary since he is the one who created the vacancy when he bailed out of his council seat midterm. I’m betting Channce would say “nay” to that vote.

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The vice mayor played additional politics last week. Because the council was hopelessly deadlock during four meetings and unable to appoint someone to the District 1 council seat, he knew the council is legally bound to call a special election. But what did he do? He went out of his way to have the language of the resolution changed from “the council wishes to call a special election” to “the council calls a special election” and after getting a consensus, voted against the resolution! Even Mayor Lopez knew it had to be approved!

What a mess.

* * * * *

The council got a verbal tongue lashing – most of it directed at Condit and Lopez – from a number of residents who phoned into the March 8 City Council Zoom meeting.

Lee Brandt accused Lopez and Condit of leading the city “nowhere.”

Dave Pratt, siding in favor of the appointment of Smith as “someone who knows what they’re doing,” accused the council of “bringing up the same stupid things ... you’re not going to accomplish anything.”

An “angry” Albert Avila called in to verbally admonish the entire council for failing to come together and working as a team and flushing money – half of a police officer’s salary – down the toilet for a special election. He predicted that the voters will hold them accountable.

Ceres resident John Osgood expressed the rare opinion that the council should never have tried to appoint and instead immediately order a special election, and called the $40,000 was “chump change.”

Renee Ledbetter, one of the most respected citizens of Ceres, expressed how she cannot wrap her brain around the unwillingness of Lopez and Condit to appoint Smith who could step in and hit the ground running. She expressed dismay how Condit tried to change the ground rules in filling the vacancy. The agreed-to process called for an interview of all candidates and the council picking their top candidate, not naming the top two so that Lopez and Condit could do an end run around Smith.

Couper even went to great lengths to dredge up from the city of Turlock documents showing how they selected a council appointee and waving it in front of the Ceres council’s face, even though that wasn’t the process chosen.

* * * * *

More Democrat lunacy.

I was always under the assumption that we had Zoning laws is to minimize conflicts of uses. You don’t put residential in commercial because of noises and other problems.

Unless you’re State Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, who is proud as punch to offer Senate Bill 6 the Neighborhood Homes Act. It allows cities and counties the authority, without conducting a costly and time-consuming general plan update, to develop and build housing on commercial office and retail spaces.

The Democrat said that the shortage of housing “stems from a variety of root causes,” one being a lack of available land to build housing without promoting urban sprawl.

The shortage of housing is due to the state’s unfriendly attitude toward business. No Democrat ever talks about undoing the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) law that kills a lot of chances to build affordable building. 

* * * * *

It looks like we’re going to try recalling the worst governor of all 50.

The recall petition effort against Newsom has garnered over 2 million signatures of registered voters.

Seeing the hand writing on the wall, Newsom is ever so slightly taking his foot off the brake of his control. I think he’s afraid – and he should be. He has angered many Californians.

Even if the schools reopen and the stupid color-coded tier system is eliminated, Newsom is still deserving of recall. As I wrote in August 2019, Newsom deserves to be recalled for:

• Proposing a new water tax for all Californians to pay;

• Suspending the death penalty after saying he favored the death penalty as a candidate;

• Shielding illegal aliens from deportation by federal ICE agents;

• Fighting efforts to build a border wall with his buddy state AG Xavier Becerra;

• Signing onto legislation to have taxpayers fund free healthcare for people who are illegally here;

• Causing residents and businesses to flee to other states because of business unfriendly policies and taxes;

• Announcing his attempt to remove Trump from the 2020 ballot, which was unconstitutional.

Add to those reasons this:

• Not allowing kids to attend school because of his lockdown policies.

• Destroying small businesses because of his COVID-19 lockdown policies while states like Texas and South Carolina are free-wheeling it.

• Passing countless new gun and ammunition laws.

• Supporting sanctuary city policies to harbor illegal aliens.

• Enacting policies that only exacerbate the homeless problem.

• Making it legal for illegal aliens to sit on state boards.

• Giving California the highest sales tax and income tax in the nation.

• Supporting the assault on Proposition 13 protections against out of control property taxes.

• Presiding over the highest poverty rate in the nation.

• Implementing vaccine requirements for children or face fines.

•  Constricting the ability of law enforcement officers to do their jobs to keep us safe from criminals.

• Supporting a policy that teachers cannot discipline of disruptive students.

• Granting clemency to some horrible people behind bars.

• Endorsing Prop.  47, which reduced many thefts from felonies to misdemeanors.

• Failing to act on a report that the EDD was sending $40 million in unemployment checks to prisoners.

• Adopting COVID policies while violating them himself (French Laundry restaurant).

If you don’t think it’s possible to recall Newsom with so many Democrats in California, consider that there are five million registered Republicans and seven million voters who are NPP, or No Party Preference. That’s 12 million out of 18 million voters in California who are not Democrats!

* * * * *

Make no mistake about it, Gavin Newsom will not want to relinquish his control over the lives of Californians, even though he may appear to let up a bit in an effort to save his skin from the impending recall effort.

Most Democratic governors and even the president won’t let us return to the day prior to mid-March 2020 and the start of “stay at home” or “stay in place” orders, which are the complete opposite of the Declaration of Independence’s call for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I was very alarmed to hear Biden say on Thursday evening that “we will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do once fully vaccinated to lessen the confusion, to keep people safe, and encourage more people to get vaccinated.”

Sounds like a threat to me. Sounds like a “we will punish and control you if you don’t get a vaccination.”

The federal government has no power to tell us what we can and cannot do.

The liberals in power have used the pandemic crisis to get their way on so many issues. They include stopping utility shut-offs and releasing thousands of incarcerated from prison and, with the $1.9 trillion a boatload of pork spending that will indebt our country for years with an infinitesimal amount actually going to the pandemic purposes, going hog-wild with the debt spending.

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