Editorial: Two citizens stand up for their neighborhood

San Benito Foods cannery in downtown Hollister.

Delia Gutierrez and Virginia Ramos showed what civil, proud citizens could do when they recognized a neighborhood in steep decline. They took their complaints directly to the city’s top brass and they did so in an open forum.
The two residents in April spoke during the public comment period at a Hollister City Council meeting and complained about the Hazel Street block’s increase in gang activity, drug use, other general crime, loitering and threatening activities. They said much of the bad behavior came from people who didn’t actually live on the block. They explained that most of the residents are original homeowners and senior citizens who felt scared to leave their homes. At that April meeting, Gutierrez and Ramos asked council members and the police chief for help in their effort to take back the neighborhood.
In particular, as an idea to eradicate Hazel Street’s growing, negative reputation, the two requested that the city change the name of the block running from Sally Street to Prospect Avenue in the San Benito Foods cannery neighborhood.
Their grass-roots effort already has paid off. Police patrols have increased in the neighborhood – Police Chief David Westrick followed through on a verbal commitment made to the women at the April meeting – and city leaders announced Monday they are narrowing options for an official name change to the street. Hollister officials expect to christen the new name at a mid-June meeting.
While city officials responded appropriately and expeditiously, Gutierrez and Ramos serve as great role models for other residents who might be fed up with the deterioration of their neighborhoods – and examples of what can be accomplished when citizens speak up.

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