By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Trip to Disneyland made life seem normal again

Apparently some readers who opened the paper last week were disappointed that I had no column. Sorry about that but that’s what happens when you take off three days to spend with the kids and grandkids at Disneyland.

It had been 10 years since I last visited the Happiest Place on Earth and it seemed that little had changed about the park, except the prices of admission. I don’t understand how families can afford it. A two-day park hopper – it lets you go between Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure – costs $315.

The crowds were moderate; not like in the summer time when you could faint and not fall down because you’re shoulder to shoulder. Even the weather was perfect but a bit breezy at night. The best part, aside from reacquainting with the rides, was being with family to have fun in a fun place. There was a sense of normalcy to life that I enjoyed. We even didn’t mind being stuck on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the spot where the jailed pirates are whistling for the dog to bring over the key to the cell hanging in his mouth.

I came in close proximity to literally thousands of folks in lines without masks and walked away totally fine. Must be my natural immunities that work better than a shot.

* * * * *

Redistricting can change a lot of things in the world of politics.

Folks were probably surprised to see Juan Alanis abandon his pursuit to become sheriff and seek the state Assembly seat with the new 22nd District.

But I think even more folks were surprised to listen that Chad Condit is emerging from his living room to throw his hat in the ring as well.

Condit has maintained a low profile for years, at least since his unsuccessful run for Congress in 2012 as a No Party Preference candidate. In that primary he collected under 14,000 votes out of 92,976 cast. Incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham collected the lion’s share.

This race is different. There is no incumbent.

Chad has only been interested in higher office without first seeking lower level offices. He has not run for City Council or county supervisor – the route that his dad, Gary Condit, took to Congress. 

Is Chad Condit – the son who in 2001 stood by his embattled congressional father by appearing on CNN’s Larry King’s show and referred to him as Gary, not Dad – electable? Who knows? I never believed that Javier Lopez would beat Bret Durossette for mayor. We’ll see what happens as the candidate field widens. Reportedly the Condit announcement sent Turlock real estate agent Paul Danbom bailing out of his campaign.

Alanis remains a strong GOP candidate and could appeal to the Latino community and law-and-order conservatives.

The Condits, with their political connections, know how to tap into the campaign funds. We’re almost certain that Chad is the one who helped son Couper raise his war-chest to carpet-bomb Mike Kline in the City Council race with attack slick mailers.

Candidates aside from Alanis are Republicans Sean Harrison, Joel Gutierrez Campos, Guadalupe Salazar and Democrat Jessica Self. Campos, an planner with the San Joaquin Council of Governments, was defeated in his run for the 21st Assembly District against Adam Gray in 2020.

We’re not even familiar with Harrison, Salazar and Self and doubt any voters are either.

Harrison, a black Republican, is coming into the race with a troubled past that will come back to bite him. In an effort to be transparent, Harrison posted a YouTube video on Feb. 2 jumping in front of a list of personal problems: tax problems and tax liens from 1994 and 2004, falling behind on child support; a “nasty divorce” and associated domestic violence restraining order against him despite – he was not arrested – and his dismissal as a police officer.

Potential supporters have already backed away from endorsing him.

* * * * *

Ye Old Nanny State is at it again.

The Democrats in Sacramento are doling out more goodies to their labor union cronies. As you know, labor unions feed millions of dollars in campaign donations to Democrats with the expectation they will get a lot in return.

Last week the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) applauded the California Legislature’s passage of AB 84/SB 114, which provides up to two weeks of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave benefits, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022.

California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave policy expired on Sept. 30, 2021.

The unions are always pushing for more and more. Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California said: “Supplemental paid sick leave will help stop the spread of disease and keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe.”

Does anyone believe that?

Schoonover also said that COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave will “protect workers, their families, and communities by allowing workers who are sick or whose children are sick to recover from COVID-19 without missing a paycheck or endangering their co-workers and the public with whom they interact.”

The leave policy applies to all employers with more than 25 employees.

The legislation spares employees from first using the paid sick leave given by employers and putting the taxpayers on the hook. For example, if a worker has 10 sick days a year and gets COVID-19 he or she can use the supplemental paid sick leave and will not need to use their sick days first. How convenient.

And besides, isn’t the quarantine period now five days and not 10?

Janitor Carolina Rocha said: “No one should be forced to choose between their family’s safety and a paycheck.”

Tell that to a man who had to work while his wife was dying of leukemia; but then again Democrats don’t think anyone needs to work to get greenbacks in their hands either.

One Democrat state legislator now wants us taxpayers to pay poor college students $500 per month to pay their bills. Did it occur to Democrats that the old way of going to college was you also had a job? And there are plenty of jobs out there that need to be filled!

 AB 84/SB 114 provides for up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for full-time workers who are sick, must quarantine or self-isolate, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a diagnosis, must care for a sick or quarantining family member, or caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19 on site. The leave may also be used for if a worker, or a family member they are caring for, is getting a vaccination or is experiencing side effects from a vaccination.

I can’t see anyone abusing this freebie, can you?

That was sarcasm in case you missed it.

* * * * * 

State Senator Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, a huge fan of “universal basic income,” or “taxpayers being forced to hand over their money to people who don’t work,” is ready to roll out a new plan to pay $500 per month to up to 14,000 CSU students who are from low-income families. It would only cost the state about $57 million to run the program for a year on three campuses and about $84 million for five campuses.

When Cortese proposed universal basic income last year to youth aging out of the foster care system and transitioning into adulthood, Michael Tubbs, the former Stockton mayor, said: “No one should live in poverty.” I don’t enjoy seeing anyone live in poverty but doesn’t everyone have the ability to WORK their way out of poverty? Isn’t knowledge and hard work essential to getting out of poverty? When has handing anyone free money motivate them to work harder to achieve advancement? It seems to me that government is only robbing people of their self-esteem and sense of worth that only blood, sweat and tears can offer. Work is not a dirty word. Besides, expecting people to always give up the money they work hard for only to be handed over to someone who might need it will only impoverish both.

While I think the state’s surplus means give it back to the taxpayers, progressives see it as an opportunity to push the accelerator on socialism.

Thomas Harnisch, vice president for government relations at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, said: “The budget surpluses provide policy makers with a unique opportunity to test new approaches to raising educational attainment, closing equity gaps and growing the economy.”

* * * * *

Our esteemed governor who had about 30 counties voting to dump him last September, continues to baffle those of us who believe in law and order. At a recent Los Angeles photo-op, Newsom apologized to criminal gangs for implying they were responsible for the surge in train robberies, saying “forgive me for saying ‘gangs,’ that’s not a pejorative.”  

The Newsom administration followed that with something even more stunning, proposing to turn death row, home to California’s most vicious murderers, child rapists and cop killers, into a “positive, healing environment.” That seems an affront to the families of all their victims.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) said, “The men on Death Row callously raped, tortured, and murdered. Frankly, they do not deserve a reprieve or a place of positive healing.”

* * * * *

What is going on here? Things have been so slow in Ceres that the last three meetings of the Ceres Planning Commission have been cancelled! Hopefully, there will be some new developments on the horizon.

* * * * *

Why does it seem that only Republicans care about expanding our water storage?

State senators Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) and Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) have introduced SB 890 to ensure millions of acre-feet of water is stored during wet years instead of being flushed out to sea.

In 2014, California voters approved funding to build large, aboveground water storage yet due to bureaucratic red tape and a lack of sufficient funds due to increasing costs, there hasn’t been a shovel turned on the Sites Reservoir project. Nielsen said it’s “unconscionable” because “we have the money to fully fund that reservoir and now’s the time to do it.”

But then again, progressives under the dome don’t like dams. They don’t give a damn if farmers in Ceres get water because they get campaign payoffs from the Sierra Club.

SB 890 advances the goals of Proposition 1 passed in 2014 by making significant investments in California’s water storage and conveyance infrastructure. Specifically, SB 890 will provide $2.6 billion to complete the funding of Sites Reservoir in Colusa County which would ensure an additional 1.5 million acre-feet of water stored for use during dry years. It would also allocate $685 million to repair the Friant-Kern/Delta-Mendota Canals and the San Luis Field/San Joaquin Divisions of the California Aqueduct. The Valley’s canals are in severe need of repair. For example, the southernmost third of the Friant-Kern Canal has lost 60 percent of its ability to carry water. Farms, cities and communities that rely on that water are losing up to 300,000 acre-feet of water per year in deliveries. Similarly, the diversion capacity of the Delta-Mendota Canal has decreased from 4,600 cubic feet per second to 3,211 cubic feet per second at the terminus.

Never forget the words of former state Senator Anthony Cannella, a Ceres Republican, at an August 2013 town hall event in Ceres: “We’ve got to have more storage. There’s like a Holy Jihad against water storage. I don’t understand it. I really don’t get it.”

Cannella made that statement nine years ago and we still don’t have additional above-ground water storage!

* * * * *

I think Florida gets it.

Schools should not be pushing the notion that gender is fluid because, well, it’s not. The Florida Senate Education Committee passed the Parental Rights in Education bill on Feb. 8 that would bar school districts from encouraging discussion in the classroom about sexual orientation or gender identity. It would apply to such topics in primary grade levels, as well as in cases where the discussions are deemed not age-appropriate.

The intent of the bill is to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, supports the bill and said he’s heard of instances in which students were told in the classroom:  “Oh, don’t worry. Don’t pick your gender yet.” He also said parents aren’t being told about these discussions. The governor said “That is entirely inappropriate. Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write. They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics.”

I couldn’t agree more. Schools have become race and gender obsessed.

* * * * *

On Monday the Ceres City Council held a public hearing about whether a property owner can develop his own property despite what the neighbors are doing on theirs.

Problem is that it was delayed again for the ninth time.

Surjit Singh bought the property sandwiched between the southern end of the driving range of River Oaks Golf Course and Hatch Road. The site is zoned Mixed Use (MX)-2 and through the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan to allow limited commercial like professional offices. Singh won approval from the Ceres Planning Commission to rezone his property to Community Commercial (CC) to allow more of a wider range of commercial uses. He wants to build a little shopping center.

A knee-jerk reaction might be, oh my, they shouldn’t build anything there because so many golf balls are shot over the fence and people and cars will be peppered by golf balls. But consider: During the 2018 update of the General Plan, the City Council approved the changing of the General Plan designation from Commercial Recreational to Community Commercial. So without any changes, Singh could still build, say, offices for doctors or dentists or any other professional office. Those users would be subject to those same wayward golf balls.

If River Oaks hoped the land would remain a vacant field so their golf balls could freely drop on the other side of the net, why didn’t they buy it?

In a 2020 conversation I had with golf professional Greg Silva, I asked why the golf range couldn’t be reoriented to face the north. His reply: it’s not possible because the balls would hit the golfers and cars. Well there you go. Sounds to me like River Oaks acknowledges a problem with golf balls going places they shouldn’t. They expect to use somebody else’s property to catch the balls that their nets don’t. 

Nobody wants balls hitting people or vehicles but apparently the nets aren’t high enough to stop errant golf balls. I once was traveling westbound on Hatch Road in front of the driving range when I saw a golf ball bounce in front of my car.

* * * * *

It looks like somebody with the city of Ceres has some explaining to do with regard to the low water pressure that hampered the ability of firefighters to battle Monday evening’s blaze at American Recycling on Morgan Road.

That facility is on the east side of Morgan Road and is right on the border of where Ceres meets the Modesto city limits. Ceres’ water pressure, I understand, was too low. Apparently the city of Ceres Public Works Department could not be reached to change water pressure in that area so eventually – hours later – fire crews tapped into the Modesto water system on the west side of Morgan Road.

The Ceres City Council will need to address that as it sounds like a problem that could spell disaster in the future.

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