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October 5, 2022

Hollister flag-flying policy draws criticism

Council again tables decision on thin blue line flag at City Hall

The handful of applications to fly a commemorative flag at City Hall have yet to be approved or denied by the Hollister City Council three months after a policy was adopted, leading some councilmembers to suggest revising it or scrapping the newly minted guidelines altogether.

On Aug. 16, the council agreed to table two applications for different reasons, but based on technicalities of the policy. The application for the LGBTQ+ flag for June 2022 was tabled to the next council meeting because it did not include a photo of the flag, while the thin blue line flag was again tabled due to questions surrounding its timing and lack of affirmative votes.

With only three councilmembers present at the meeting, each flag needed a unanimous vote to move forward or be denied, according to City Attorney Jason Epperson. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez was absent, while the District 3 seat remains vacant.

In May, the council adopted a policy that allows residents to petition the city to fly a flag at City Hall. The application must receive 100 signatures in order for the council to consider it, and be submitted no more than 12 months and no less than 60 days prior to the proposed flying date.

Shortly after, Councilmember Rick Perez submitted an application to the city requesting the flying of the Christian flag in April 2022, gathering 120 signatures. The council is awaiting a response from Attorney General Rob Bonta regarding the legality of flying a religious flag on government property.

On Aug. 2, the council delayed its decision on flying the thin blue line flag, citing the need for more background on the significance of the timing. The flag is considered by advocates as a way to represent support of law enforcement, while opponents argue the flag has ties to hate groups, citing the flag’s usage in rallies alongside the Confederate and Nazi flags, as well as during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Perez said the application for the LGBTQ+ flag was incomplete because it didn’t include a photo of the flag.

A motion by Councilmember Tim Burns to approve the flag pending the addition of the photo failed 2-1, with Perez dissenting.

“I would vote yes for this, but there is the process,” he said. “There needs to be a picture of the flag.”

When the council began discussing the thin blue line flag, Burns said he wasn’t sure why the petitioners, a group called “Concerned Citizens,” asked for October to fly the flag, saying that month typically recognizes breast cancer awareness. National Peace Officers Memorial Day, he gave as an example, is held in May.

“This puts me in a difficult situation as a retired law enforcement officer myself,” he said. “I would absolutely support it if they wanted to do it in the month of January, May or August, which are more law enforcement-relevant in my opinion.”

Perez pointed out that the petitioners followed the application process, while no application has been submitted for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Sandy Patterson-Jamarck, a longtime law enforcement member in San Benito County, said she was offended by the discussion the council was having about the flag.

“They’ve gone through all the procedures, you made them jump through all the hoops, and for somebody to sit there who’s retired law enforcement say we’re not going to let it fly because it should be in May, it’s pretty disgusting to me,” she said.

Councilmember Rolan Resendiz, who voted against establishing a flag policy in May, said the process has been politicized and caused division in the community. He added that the city should allow community members to come forth with flag proposals without the policy.

“My advice would be to scrap it,” he said. “This is what happens when we overdo something. We need to step back and do it the right way.”

Epperson said the policy allows the council to approve the flags at its discretion. Both flag applications are expected to be considered again at the council’s Sept. 7 meeting.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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