Updated: Dec. 18, 3:30pm

The thunderous claps could be heard throughout the city of Hollister as the City Council voted against a proposed “Urgency Ordinance,” which would’ve allowed city enforcement officers to cite individuals and businesses for violating the state’s stay-at-home orders.

The city council voted, 3-2, not to adopt the new ordinance during an emergency meeting on Dec. 17. Had it passed, those in violation would’ve received penalties of up to $1,000, while business owners were threatened with a possible revocation of city-issued business licenses.

Council members Honor Spencer, Rick Perez and Tim Burns voted against the ordinance, while Rolan Resendiz and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez were in favor. There were plenty of mixed views and emotions during Thursday’s meeting.

“This decision will affect lives, it’ll affect our community,” Spencer said. “I have looked at the numbers from our community and I’m not taking light. This is a very serious virus and I understand that.”

However, Spencer went on to question why are places such as hair salons, gyms and restaurants being targeted as hubs for spreading the virus when the “local evidence” she researched shows that four percent of transmitted cases have been traced back to small businesses.

She didn’t understand why the meeting was called in the first place and said there’s no need for a strict ordinance if most of the businesses are complying with the state orders. 

“I won’t, in good conscience, vote for this ordinance,” she said. “This ordinance is the worst thing that has ever been brought in front of me in the two years that I’ve been on this council. I will not ever be a part of killing Hollister.” 

Several local community members of Hollister turned out to the Dec. 17 city council meeting, in-person or virtually, voicing their concerns on a new order that could’ve left business owners without a licence to operate. Some stood outside of City Hall during the entire 2.5 hour meeting.

They also expressed concern on how large gatherings and ongoing indoor events are the biggest factors for transmitting the virus. Resendiz mentioned that the new ordinance was drawn up to help crack down on those issues. 

He spoke with other elected officials in the area and they feel like San Benito County is not supporting them when it comes to enforcing the rules that they set.

“I honestly have so much faith in our community, I know that we can promote safe operations of businesses and of gatherings,” Resendiz said. “And if we do this then we can beat this thing in no time but we’re not going to get there until we have some type of compliance and some rules and regulations in place if and when it’s needed.”     

The California Public Health Department implemented a regional stay-at-home order and a supplemental order on Dec. 3 and 6, respectively. Hollister and San Benito County are part of the San Joaquin Valley Region, which has an ICU capacity of below 15 percent.

Regions with an ICU capacity of less than 15 percent are required to close all nonessential businesses for in-person operation. 

The meeting’s agenda stated, “Violations of these stay-at-home orders in the City of Hollister present a threat to public peace, health, safety and welfare, whether the violations are committed by businesses or individuals.”

Both Perez and Burns were sworn into office on Dec. 14 but they were already faced with making a big decision for a community struggling to keep their small businesses alive.

Perez doesn’t believe the city of Hollister or San Benito County have the adequate staff to begin cracking down on those in violation of the state mandates. Instead, he wants to wait until the newly elected supervisors–Kollin Komsicki and Bob Tiffany–are settled in so they can come up with a better way to handle the situation.  

“I was quite surprised also that we were having an emergency meeting,” he said. “It might have been a better way to go if we could’ve sat down with our local officials.”     

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