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Where are the sit-down chains next to Walmart?

Things have been so slow that the Ceres Planning Commission has cancelled its last two meetings. That’s not unusual as we’ve seen the cancellation of meetings in a row before, followed by meetings that were packed with projects to decide upon.

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If you had a hunch that Walmart was just making an empty promise to fill its old store building on Hatch Road as quickly as possible, you weren’t alone. I have a historical perspective on the 14 years of proceedings that led to the opening of the Supercenter and I remember how the corporation dangled possible tenants before the city leaders’ ears that were far-fetched and likely to never happen. The store sits empty. 

In 2011 Walmart officials said that in other cities they have re-tenanted closed stores with retailers like Kohl’s, Petco, OSH, Ross, Pier 1 Imports, PetSmart, Sears, Lowe’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hobby Lobby, Marshalls, Macy’s, Office Depot, Fry’s, Jo-Ann, BevMo!, Dillard’s, T.J. Maxx and Cost Plus World Market.

In that time we’ve seen no interest in the building and a number of chains either fold up and blow away or downsize.

I’m also disappointed that Walmart hasn’t proceeded with its second phase to finish out the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center. It’s almost like the corporation dangled that carrot before the city just to get approval to build their mega store which covers acres of ground. Back in the days when they were still going through the approval process, the city had a letter in hand from Applebee’s expressing an interest in building on one of the pads north of Service Road. It’s like that all evaporated into thin air.

Meanwhile, across the street, the Ceres Gateway Center is becoming the premiere fast-food center of Ceres.

It would be nice if Ceres got a little more respect and landed some sit-down establishments. Hello, Cracker Barrel? What is the problem? The city has asked over and over. In the 1990s, their excuse was that California had an energy crisis (Gov. Gray Davis days). The other was that California didn’t have billboards, which is standard method of drawing in freeway travelers. Ceres has billboards and so does Keyes. Decades later now and Cracker Barrel has two stores in the Sacramento area, one in Bakersfield, and restaurants in Camarillo, Victorville, Santa Maria and Rialto. Ceres would be the perfect place to fill the void of the vast expanse of the Valley between Sacramento and Bakersfield.

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Some folks are threatening to go to the School Board to protest the requirement of tickets to attend school graduations. It’s long been a practice for schools to require tickets because of limited seating. While it is upsetting that not all family members can attend because of the limitations, it’s just a reality with no solution.

I’m not sure presenting this to the School Board will be anything but futile.

A more pressing issue might be overseeing the parking problem outside the Central Valley High School campus during graduation where folks were parked way down Central Avenue and crossing a street thick with traffic.

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State Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel is not our representative but for some reason we get his press releases. It allows me to see what a misguided Democrat is up to.

Gabriel participated in a Wednesday gathering to recognize National Gun Violence Awareness Day. We are all acutely aware of violence in America because it makes the news but quit using the term “gun violence” because guns don’t commit violence, people do. But Democrats prefer to vilify and focus on the gun, not the defective human misusing the gun.

Again, the focus is rarely about fixing the spiritual sickness of people but on taking guns away from law-abiding citizens since the criminals ignore gun laws. Gun laws are not effective in keeping twisted souls from possessing guns. Take for example the mass shooting on Hollywood Beach in Florida over the Memorial Day weekend. Nine persons were wounded by a group of gang thugs who used guns they obtained illegally.

Unfortunately, California has a governor who always tries to lay the blame for violence with relaxed gun laws, while ignoring how gun laws are ineffective. Take for example how he pontificated after the Florida shooting, attempting to slam Gov. Ron DeSantis by erroneously linking the shooting with a new bill that allows persons legally allowed to own guns to carry them in concealed fashion WITHOUT A CCW PERMIT!

While DeSantis did sign the bill into law, it hasn’t taken effect yet but Newsom attacked DeSantis anyway, saying: “Until our leaders have the courage to stop bowing down to the NRA and enact common sense gun safety this kind of senseless violence will continue.”

His statement caused Alan Gottlieb, the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to say: “Gavin Newsom’s moronic effort to chastise DeSantis for signing Florida’s permitless carry law shows a level of foolishness I didn’t think was possible. Maybe Newsom was so busy railing against DeSantis he didn’t notice three weekend shootings in Oakland, a triple-shooting Saturday in Garden Grove or shooting incidents in Fresno that left one man dead and another man wounded.”

Newsom was fact-checked on his assertion the Hollywood, Florida shooting was because of laws DeSantis signed. Those laws haven’t yet taken effect, so they had nothing to do with the beach shooting.

Gottlieb went on: “For a man serving as chief executive of a state with horribly restrictive gun laws that haven’t curbed the violence, Gavin Newsom has nothing to brag about. California’s gun laws didn’t prevent two mass shootings in January of this year or the Mojave shooting last month. The laws didn’t stop the Isla Vista murders in 2014, or San Bernardino in 2015. Ten people were killed in San Jose in May 2021. Maybe Newsom wasn’t in town in April 2022 when six people were murdered in a mass shooting in Sacramento.

“Look at any violent crime chart and California always exceeds Florida in the number of homicides,” Gottlieb added. “Newsom can bask in the warm glow of symbolism provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, which incredulously claims California gun policies save lives, even if the numbers disagree. Facts don’t matter to the gun ban crowd.”

“Maybe Newsom is pointing a finger at Florida and DeSantis in an effort to distract public attention from his failures in his own state. More people are leaving California and heading to Second Amendment-friendly states such as Florida and Texas. Maybe all of those people just want to live in a state that allows them the ability to defend themselves and fight back.”

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Are you aware that California’s unemployment benefits are being made on borrowed funds? Like $12 million per day to help pay current unemployment benefits? That’s $139 per second!

As of May 31 the EDD now owes the U.S. government $17.3 billion plus another $200 million in interest!

The EDD has been paying out $130 million in unemployment benefits per week and borrowing about $84 million per week.

The borrowing started during the practice of paying people to sit on their butts as “non-essential workers” during the insane and unnecessary COVID-19 shutdown.

If California was operated by sane individuals – and it is abundantly clear that it is not – then the state would have paid off that debt with the $100 billion surplus it has last year. Or it could have used the state’s $27 billion received in federal COVID aid. Or had the EDD done something about the $40 billion lost to fraudsters early on, there would have been no need to borrow from Uncle Sam.  Examples of fraud include prisoners getting money, those who impersonated children, and even a person impersonating Senator Dianne Feinstein. One household alone had received checks for about 60 separate individuals filing from it!

Of course, the irresponsible Gov. Newsom and his ilk have shoved the debt obligation onto California businesses with increases in unemployment insurance premiums. This ugly truth became apparent when the state recently decided to stop making payments on the loan. When a state defaults on its federal unemployment insurance loan, federal law requires that the state’s businesses repay the loan.

Forty-eight states have no debt relating to unemployment costs stemming from COVID. Newsom’s California is one of only three “states” with debt from pandemic shutdown related unemployment payments. New York’s debt is $8 billion and Virgin Islands is at $90 million. Thus, California has more than two-thirds of the whole country’s remaining pandemic unemployment debt.

Now it appears that the incompetent woman running the EDD, Julie Su, is being rewarded by Joe Biden as U.S. Labor Secretary. You can’t make up this level of insane governance.

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Thankfully, the U.S. Senate put an end to Biden’s plan to forgive $400 billion in student loan debt. It took all the Republicans plus two Democrats and one Independent to side with them.

What is hilarious is how Democrat Senator Patty Murray of Washington forgets who took out those loans – the students – when she said “Republicans are willing to do anything and everything to prevent you from living a life without crushing debt. Millions of Americans find themselves unfairly bogged down with massive debt so often through no fault of their own.”

Unfairly? No fault of their own? Is she delusional? The person with the debt is squarely responsible for amassing that debt. Nothing unfair about that! Who forced those students to apply for a student loan in the first place? But to blame Republicans for being “unfair” by not wanting to hold those borrowers responsible at the expense of millions of others who didn’t go to college truly boggles the mind.

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I must weigh in on this Los Angeles Dodgers situation. You probably know they got in hot water by inviting this band of moral reprobates calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to perform. There was backlash so the Dodgers cancelled. Then the Left pressured them to change their mind.

The so-called Sisters are a gay mockery of Catholic nuns. Did you ever think such a group would be welcomed to the format of American baseball?

A Cleveland pastor had to speak out – and he should. St. Raphael Parish Pastor Timothy W. Gareau said: “Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Look what’s happening. Defaming the name of Jesus Christ. Defaming the name of every Christian here on Earth. It just burns a hole in my heart, angers me and embitters me. And it should you.”

Well, some Newsweek writer had to do his part to offset the righteous indignation of the pastor by digging to find an unnamed contrary former parishioner (that he might as well made up for the story), quoting him as saying, “Queer and trans people also carry the Holy Spirit, and that was really painful to hear. That was really hurtful … I understand that from the outside it looks like they are defaming the Catholic faith...There are queer children here. The spirit of God moves through all people.”

The problem is that God, in Scripture, calls for holy living, not accepting one’s proclivities to go against his rules.

And, yes, the “Sisters” are most certainly disrespecting nuns.

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When you raise children as brats, they feel they are entitled to everything. So whatever they choose to be, we are supposed to accept it or be branded as intolerant.

So what happens when a teacher walks into the classroom in an all-girls school and says, “Good afternoon, girls”? They flip out because one of the confused individuals in the seats identifies as a boy. They not only take off to protest with placards but the teacher issued a groveling apology even though he shouldn’t have.

More examples of the entitlement attitude: Obese woman Jaelynn Chaney is now demanding an extra or two seat from the airlines – at no cost of course – because they spill over into the next.

It’s bothersome to get seated on a plane and a large person sits down next to me and spills over into my seat. It’s not my fault he or she is sitting partially on the seat I paid for, but the rotund “influencer” – she must weigh at least 400 pounds – said: “No one should have to endure the discomfort, embarrassment and discrimination that often comes with being a plus size passenger trying to navigate air travel.”

Neither does the normal sized person have to endure the discomfort. If you require two seats, pay for both of them or fly in first class for the wider seats.

Chaney doesn’t have to stay so obese that it is uncomfortable for herself and the person she is sitting next to. She can gain control of her eating habits and lifestyle so she can fit in one seat.

What next? Getting us all to accept drunk driving because somebody can’t handle their liquor?

The sense of entitlement extends to people like the mother of a robbery suspect who suggested that the death of her son was unjust. Apparently she felt that her son should be able to go into a store and rob it and not face any consequences potentially such as being shot while fleeing the store. That prompted one Facebook user to sarcastically post: “I can’t believe we live in a world where a mother has to fear for the life of their baby every time they go rob a store.”

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Rep. John Duarte is proving not to be as conservative as some believed. At least one Ceres Republican has called to tell me he’s livid that Duarte voted against the Border Bill and also went along with the debt ceiling deal arranged by Speaker McCarthy.

Republicans in Congress deserve the wrath of the Americans who are appalled that Biden got away with another one. The budget and debt ceiling deal does nothing to put the kabash on overspending. According to Senator Rand Paul, the U.S. can take on another $4 trillion in debt over the next two years!

The compromise does nothing to put the shackles on Uncle Sam’s wild and reckless spending spree.

The Ceres man who phoned me up (I didn’t get his permission to use his name) told me: “We were hoping he was of the conservative bent and would have voted ‘no’ on that, try to hold their feet to the fire a little bit but he didn’t. At this point I almost kind of wish I hadn’t voted for the guy. I think Adam Gray might have been a better choice.”

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Newsom has issued a decree from the Ivory Tower that no school shall ban an inappropriate book or answer to the state Attorney General. He, of course, is concerned that smutty books promoting gay, lesbian and trans lifestyles will be yanked from young eyes.

I hope his quest to preserve freedom of speech extends to protecting Huckleberry Finn and the Bible being in public school libraries. I bet not though.

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