City Hall

Councilwoman Pauline Valdivia tainted the debate last week about an affordable housing proposal by not only veering the discussion and making a ludicrous claim that there is no proof of illegal immigrants living on Hollister’s west side, but also spuriously painting others as discriminatory in the process.

She certainly wasn’t alone in the disrespectful department, either, as Mayor Ray Friend showed a stunning level of unprofessionalism in scolding public speakers – almost all of them were neighbors near the approved site – because they had not attended prior meetings and spoken up until that point.

Tensions were elevated most of the night at the council’s public hearing over a proposal for the two building, three-story, 15-unit project at 560 Line St.

Friend led the charge in talking down to the public speakers, about a dozen of them, who had taken time away from their busy lives to show their discontent with the project on an array of matters such as lacking public notice, parking, traffic, the buildings’ lacking cohesiveness with the neighborhood, concerns over segregation and the general decline of the west side. The mayor on four separate occasions crossed the line and carried on an extended dialogue with residents during the public hearing, which is barred by law because the setting is intended solely for residents to share their views.

All of those oppositional points were legitimate, yet Friend maintained that the residents somehow didn’t have the right to express their views so late in the game. Astonishingly, he and other council members indicated those critics should have attended meetings prior to the 2005 general plan adoption if they had problems with zoning there that allows for high-density residential. Friend should know it is unrealistic for everyday citizens, who are leading busy lives, to continuously stay up to date on mostly menial government matters. That is, in fact, why they elect representatives such as Friend – to do the people’s business and make the best decisions possible for the electorate.

Valdivia’s problem is that she appears content merely pandering to one segment of the electorate. Her statement during that hearing – intimating it is possible there are no illegal immigrants on the west side of Hollister – showed she is willing to put aside reality in exchange for shallow political points.

Valdivia knows illegal immigrants live on the mostly Hispanic west side. She doesn’t need U.S. Census data or the Public Policy Institute of California study released in July – placing San Benito and Monterey counties together as having the largest proportion, 13.5 percent of the population, of undocumented residents in the state – to confirm the facts. 

More bothersome, perhaps, is that the controversy was self-created by Valdivia. Her statement came in response to two speakers, one an R.O. Hardin School educator, Angela Hagins, who noted that many nearby residents will be leery to apply for such housing because they are “probably” illegal immigrants; and another, Free Lance columnist and editorial board member Marty Richman, who repeated Hagins’ statement while contending officials have ignored creating a suitable, citywide housing plan.

Hagins made a reasonable point without any hint of racism or racial undertones. She said the people who likely need this affordable housing the most might not even end up applying. What in the world is wrong with such reasoning? What is wrong with someone else repeating it?

Valdivia chose to perceive it as some kind of attack on illegal immigrants. By narrowing the larger debate into something racial, the councilwoman proved once again that she takes the same, narrow view in her decisions while shunning broader responsibilities – namely, representing the entire electorate.

Marty Richman has recused himself from commenting for this editorial.

Previous articleMarty: Time for CalPERS 101
Next articleLetters: Reader sees good in RDA demise
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here