Farmers, ranchers move to force voter decision on ordinance

Angered by the Board of Supervisors’ decision to adopt the San
Benito County Growth Control Initiative Tuesday, a number of
farmers and ranchers have organized to force a public vote on the
measure.
Angered by the Board of Supervisors’ decision to adopt the San Benito County Growth Control Initiative Tuesday, a number of farmers and ranchers have organized to force a public vote on the measure.

“We are outraged and disappointed that the San Benito County Board of Supervisors chose to ignore the democratic process by enacting the land control measure this morning without referring it to the voters,” said Tom Tobias, a third-generation farmer who is chairman of the newly formed committee Farmers and Citizens to Protect our Agricultural Heritage.

Tobias, also president of the Sam Benito County Farm Bureau, will head the new coalition that will attempt to bring the growth control initiative to a vote by referendum.

“The Supervisors could have put the measure on the next election ballot, but instead they took matters into their own hands. There was no emergency that required acting without an election vote,” Tobias said.

The group could force a referendum vote on the measure by collecting 1,271 valid signatures of registered voters in the county, County Clerk John Hodges said.

“You’d want to get about 2,000 just to be safe,” Hodges said, taking into account that some signatures may not be valid or verified.

Hodges said to bring a referendum to a vote, the group must submit a notice of intent and a list of who the proponents are in a notice of intent to circulate a petition to his office.

“As soon as they give me the notice of intent, I will deliver it to the county counsel,” Hodges said. “The county counsel will have up to 15 days to deliver the title and summary back to me.”

They then must publish the intent to circulate the petition in print, he added.

From the day the intent to circulate appears in print, Hodges said the group will have 180 days to collect the required signatures and return them to his office for verification.

“We, as the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are threatened by this measure, will not allow the supervisors’ action to go unchallenged,” Tobias said. “We will launch a signature drive to do what the Board of Supervisors refused to do.

“We will collect signatures and make sure that the people of San Benito County have the right to vote on the land control measure.”

Registered voters who want to sign the petition or contribute their time or money may contact Farmers and Citizens to Protect our Agricultural Heritage at 530 San Benito St., Suite 201, Hollister, CA 95023 or call (831) 637-4929.

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