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Hollister
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May 21, 2022

Community Board: Logic goes up in smoke with fee idea

An attempt to charge additional “Rescue Fees” when residents need help from the Hollister Fire Department should go up in flames. It is nothing more than a cruel money grab and could do serious harm to families throughout the community.
Hollister officials didn’t just wake up one day with concerns over residents’ negligence leading to an extraordinary spate of accidents costing the city vast amounts of money. Almost by definition, just about every accident involves some level of human negligence—unless, of course, something falls out of the sky.
This idea has nothing to do with negligence or accidents, though. It has everything to do with politics and the city’s apparent willingness to toss fairness and livelihoods out the window at any chance for additional revenue. It is a more of a scheme and, curiously, comes on the heels of tensions among firefighters and city brass about a recent tug of war with overtime costs, which led to the former fire chief’s retirement after a quarter-century in the department. The mayor and others want to cut the cord on the Overtime Giveaway Program at the fire department, so someone is apparently trying to refill the cookie jar.
The bottom line is that taxpayers already pay a hefty price for adequate fire services, with $3.4 million for employees alone in 2014 and an overall annual budget of about $5 million in a city with a general fund of $18 million. Additionally, everyone has accidents. So everyone would be at risk to owe these bills that could total thousands of dollars.
Perhaps city council members and staff officials don’t get it: Most families in Hollister don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to pay out penalties based on some city official’s subjective judgment. This could really cripple a family’s finances and devastate lives.
City officials were wise to pull back on their original, hastily devised ordinance that was so sloppily drafted that it would have allowed the city to bill innocent citizens thousands of dollars anytime firefighters have the gall to leave the firehouse and do their jobs. It didn’t even mention the negligence threshold touted by Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and others during the discussion before an initial approval.
The mayor has talked about coming back with a honed version of the ordinance that would narrowly define negligence. It’s a slight improvement in logic but still a bad, potentially disastrous, idea.
It would inevitably involve some level of subjectivity from the city. This type of ordinance could lead to prickly legal encounters, a bloated legal bill for the city and financial ruin for some residents.
The only negligence involved in this ordinance is from the person who cooked it up.

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