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Editorial Board Endorsement: Richman is the right choice for mayor

Signs point the way to the polling places at Ladd Lane School in this file photo.

As many voters did earlier this year, we supported electing an at-large mayor. In these financially calamitous times for Hollister – defined by lacking accountability, passive management, neglect of economic foresight and irresponsible deficit spending year after year after year – it was well past the point of desperately needing a true leader and a new direction.

With voters choosing to elect an at-large mayor in a landslide election this past June, it underscored they wanted a serious leader who is willing to make tough decisions and redirect the chaos that has been Hollister politics for the past decade-plus. Because nobody in city circles had been willing to step onto the pedestal, voters understood the only way to create that prospect of a structured, clear line of accountability, of command, was to choose the leader themselves – an elected mayor who, for the first time in Hollister’s history, would answer directly to the entire electorate.

Among the four candidates for mayor, Marty Richman is the right candidate to make that prospect a reality and to steer this troubled city in a prosperous direction.

Richman gained near unanimous support from the Free Lance Editorial Board, which interviewed the four candidates before making an endorsement. Overwhelmingly the best candidate for the job, he understands the severity of Hollister’s financial and economic crises – that they weren’t created solely by the recession as council members and other city officials will claim – while he has the management experience, knowledge and fortitude to enact necessary, bold reforms to right this sinking ship.

After hearing his ideas and seeing his genuine conviction, here are some of the primary reasons why voters should choose Richman:

• He has broad insight on the workings of city government through his near perfect attendance, as a concerned citizen, at council meetings for the past five years and through his extensive research on the budget and other city matters. Richman has been the most outspoken critic of city officials in recent years, a good sign if we are going to change the current direction, but he also has consistently shown a pragmatist, fair side and given credit when credit is due.

• Richman talked as if he has no intention of making a career out of politics. Frustrated in the lack of progress, he believes his job is to implement a system that does not depend on one person such as himself. Combined with a clear absence of outside agendas driving his run for office, his lacking political aspirations show that Richman has motives inspired by the voters’ best interests.

• Rightfully, he has been highly critical of lacking transparency in city government. He pointed out that staff reports for public meetings are “hollow,” often one word. He wants to change the mentality of restricting public access. He wants the public to get more involved and he wants the city to be more open with the taxpayers about how their money is spent and what they are getting in return.

• He would act as a bully pulpit to get other council members on board, to make progress and set the tone for the city staff. If you have read his column in the Free Lance for the past four and a half years, you know that Richman understands that – along with wages – pension, health and other benefits are largely responsible for Hollister’s fiscal collapse and that those costs must be reduced to fit more in line with private sector compensation. He emphasized the most poignant problem with the city budget is its enormous unit cost for employees, and that overhead should be reduced through such creative means as consolidation with the county or other departments within the city.

“If there’s no reason for the government to be in that business, and it’s costing us money, we ought to get out of that business,” Richman told the editorial board.

He is absolutely right. Local government’s sole purpose is to serve the public, not to act as an employment factory.

Richman, who brings decades of management experience in the private and public sectors, has the appropriate understanding of Hollister and San Benito County’s standing in the broader economic context. We are a poor city and a poor county. There is no comparison to Monterey or Santa Cruz or any other coastal cities with coastal economies and coastal demographics. The affordability of our services correlates directly with the revenue that this economy – and the city’s many unemployed, foreclosure-riddled residents – can generate.

Richman fully comprehends that Hollister voters deserve to get more from their investment, and that the only way to create structured sources of revenue, and prosper well into the future, is by improving the local economy.

Richman would demand staff accountability, responsible budgeting and a focus on business growth in Hollister – reasons among many to elect him as Hollister’s first at-large mayor.

Editor’s note: Richman is a former columnist and Free Lance Editorial Board member who resigned to run for mayor.