It would be interesting to see Don Cool – the guy with the gray hair flowing from below his broad-brimmed hat – join the successful football coach and the college basketball referee on the Ceres City Council. After all, it was a good mix as the three met with The Bee’s editorial board.
But there are only two seats open, and Ceres voters would be best served by returning incumbents Mike Kline and Bret Durossette to the council. Both have a strong grasp of the city’s most pressing issues; both are open to new approaches; neither is dogmatic, and they get along well. Chemistry counts on city councils. There’s no reason to mess with the chemistry in Ceres.
Retired truck driver Melvin Yeakley is also running, but his comments to a Bee reporter about “people here who just don’t want to assimilate” were troubling. Whether he was talking about immigrants in a city in which 56 percent identify as Hispanic, or the growing homeless population that has little opportunity to “assimilate” into the economic mainstream, the comment would not be helpful for solving problems. Yeakley declined to speak to The Bee’s editorial board.
Kline is a salesman and part-time referee. He feels his town is headed in the right direction. He wants to add more retail businesses so Ceres residents “don’t have to go to Turlock or Modesto” to shop.
Durossette agreed with Kline about adding retail, saying Ceres must offer opportunities that “Turlock and Modesto” don’t. He also emphasized that Ceres residents must feel safe in their neighborhoods and homes. Cool emphasized increasing Fire Department staffing and code enforcement. All three would like to ease congestion on Mitchell.
Durossette and Kline are optimistic about plans for the West Landing Specific Plan west of Highway 99, once they’re assured infrastructure demands can be met. It will take time, said Durossette, which isn’t a bad thing – “because with time we have time for great planning.”
Both Durossette and Kline have deep community ties and both have given issues such as homelessness a lot of thought. Durossette has seen homeless students in his Ceres High classroom; he believes a spark can be ignited in those who haven’t given up. Kline feels the homeless need greater opportunities, not just a shove out of the way.
If Ceres needs any bragging rights, the drought has given them to the city. Ceres is the only city in the region meeting the state’s water conservation goals. Part of the reason is that goals for Ceres are lower than for most other cities, but the reason for that is that Ceres residents were already using less water than those living elsewhere in the county.
Kline said Ceres got a jump on conservation six years ago when the council voted to install water meters “throughout the whole city at one time. ... That’s really helped us in the long run.”
Durossette points out that computer tracking allows city staff to stay on top of leaks. “I think we’ve saved more than anybody else,” he said.
Ceres should keep Durossette and Kline on the council, but if voters need a pinch-hitter, Cool will likely be around.