Fully consolidate county, Hollister: If San Francisco did it—merged city and county governments to foster a more efficient, combined entity—why not Hollister and San Benito County? Last time I checked, I didn’t need a passport at Fairview Road.
Consolidate Hollister, San Benito districts: Hollister directly feeds students into San Benito High School, and both districts’ schools already work together. Each district also employs separate, expensive administrative staffs. Here’s an equation: Less money on administration equals more money in the classroom.
Build academic/vocational high school: It’s great for individuals to have dreams and it’s fine to ride college hopes on athletic abilities, but academics are exponentially more important for a vast majority of local students’ futures. Naysayers have pointed to the $100 million-plus cost traditionally quoted for a new high school. Incidentally, it’s all the expensive sports facilities, which aren’t needed with an academic-focused campus, largely inflating the expected price tag.
Form new college district: San Benito County must explore breaking away from Gavilan College altogether. Gavilan’s poisoned political culture, along with San Benito County’s geographic separation from Gilroy and Morgan Hill, inherently work against local interests to a point where it’s worth the investment to start all over.
Build new college on the west side: College leaders—defiantly planning to build a local Gavilan campus next to Ridgemark Country Club—are targeting the most socially unjust, offensive location they could choose for a local community college. What a slap in the face. Most of the poorest students who need accessible college more than most—a largely Latino population on Hollister’s west side in a Latino-majority San Benito County—would have to travel farther than many affluent locals near the country club. Gavilan Trustee Kent Child can frame it how he wants. It’s unadulterated discrimination.
Make west side economic priority No. 1: If Hollister wants to advance its broader economy, city officials should answer a longstanding, deafening alarm bell on the poverty-stricken west side. Giving first priority to economic plans on the west side would signal a commitment to building a strong economy from the bottom up.
Execute gateway revitalization: We must immediately implement a plan to completely revamp visual features and add community promotions, like planning official Mary Paxton’s idea for a Pinnacles National Park monument on the west side, at all gateways into the city.
Launch Pinnacles Marketing Cooperative: Why in God’s name are we sleeping indefinitely on the gold mine called Pinnacles National Park? Wake up, San Benito County. Where’s Danny Tanner when you need him? We should have colorful, obnoxious signs all over the place and along regional highways wherever possible, and as soon as possible. Where are all the Pinnacles and condor-themed businesses and events? Where are the souvenirs and guided field trips? We have a national park. I’m baffled.
Thwart Hollister Hills leakage: To a lesser extent, the same goes for Hollister Hills. Hundreds of outside off-road vehicles cruise through Hollister every weekend. Yet, not a single group or government entity has a structured plan to fully capitalize on the potential economic benefits. Gas stations and cheap eateries are making off pretty well, but not so much for most others. Local nonprofits could do more to partner with the state park.
Offer incentives to the right developers: Implement a Development Incentive Program—for fun, we’ll call it a DIP—to entice developers whose projects offer net positive benefits, as weighed on the DIP Scale, pertaining to clean energy; permanent job creation; and specific recreation opportunities such as building a racetrack or casino, or setting aside substantial open spaces.
Implement term limits: Plenty of this county’s nearly 60,000 residents are fully capable of serving in locally elected seats. Agree or disagree with a person’s politics, 16 years feels too long for any county supervisor (Anthony Botelho/Jaime De La Cruz) or school board member (Bill Tiffany) to serve. I mean, President Obama gets to serve just eight years. Why should we so desperately need Botelho, De La Cruz and Tiffany to serve twice as long?
Merge Economic Development Corp. with chamber: The nonprofit has been floundering since the early 2000s. Like any other business interest that’s barely treading water, the group should seek a merger with the revitalized chamber of commerce. An expanded chamber/EDC could then oversee promotion of existing businesses, as it does now, and also recruitment of new industry.
Agriculture museum: Work with the county’s farm groups and agriculture interests, particularly Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, to develop an agriculture museum in the area.
Motorcycle museum: Do the same with motorcycles. Tourists love museums. Let’s capitalize on our heritage and give outsiders a reason to come here, on their way to Pinnacles or Hollister Hills, and actually stop while they’re here.
Pick a fight with Hollister Co.: Who do they think they are with their outdated “beachwear”? They stole our city name and that of our beloved Col. Hollister. In the name of the colonel, we should battle in court to take it back. A highly publicized legal fight could teach those bullies at Abercrombie & Fitch from sending their threatening lawyer letters every time someone from town tries to use our own name. And who knows? Maybe we’ll make a billion or two from it.
Build public/private aquatic center: If all goes well, perhaps the city could convince Abercrombie to take part in a public-private partnership on a new aquatics center. Fitch or no Fitch, a public/private partnership makes sense. We don’t need the government trying to run a business operation, though.
Manage traffic flow: It’s great that city leaders are willing to finally invest in Hollister’s mangled roads, but our government engineers also have to start paying more attention to the stoplight technology and long, unnecessary delays. There’s no need to harp on the importance of efficient traffic flow to an economy, especially one with a commuter-heavy workforce. So why can’t we install working sensors at all the major intersections and adjust timing on the ones where sensors already exist so vehicles aren’t idling senselessly all over town, every day?
Rename the farmers market: We’re in the heart of Cesar Chavez country where he and many local residents fought for the rights of farmworkers. We should honor them at the seasonal, weekly event—where we already celebrate our agricultural heritage—and rename it as the Cesar Chavez Farmers’ Market in Downtown Hollister.
Organize music events downtown: If Hollister ends up keeping the grassy plot at Fourth and San Benito streets—are you feeling queasy yet about the idea of handing it over to a developer?—the city should work with nonprofits to get more community use out of it. How about an Open Mic on the Lawn or Friday Night Live event where local artists are encouraged to perform?
Where did all the parks go? We live in a beautiful area, so it’s a shame that San Benito County doesn’t maintain more parks. Aside from the historical park, there are basically no other traditional public parks maintained solely by the county. That’s embarrassing. The county should use all dedicated park funds, and they should’ve used tobacco litigation funds, toward developing new neighborhood parks or open spaces like those in Santa Clara County. Let’s also please stop obsessing over a lavish horse trail for the wealthy that will end up using all local park funds beyond the foreseeable future. Or maybe we can redirect the horse trail so it stops at Gavilan College next to the country club.
Team up on franchise ban: We as a community simply can’t sit back and allow a group of anonymous residents, representing the openly held views of developer Frank Leal, to bully San Juan Bautista City Hall into allowing an insane ban against franchise businesses. Where is the county in all of this? Where is Supervisor Botelho? Sure, it’s a city matter, but the repercussions greatly affect the broader San Benito County economy. In simple terms: What does a good big brother do when his little brother is being bullied? He steps in and pulverizes the bully.
Restrict leaf blowers: This community has become infatuated with leaf blowers. Sure, they’re convenient for individuals who use them but they also come with many downsides that government leaders should recognize and address. They’re dangerously loud and obnoxious. They’re basically dirt distributors, blowing it from one spot to others’ properties. And they throw a bunch of unhealthy particles into the air that disperse throughout neighborhoods. Some communities have banned them or limited their use. We should limit their use and regulate it. There’s a reason, after all, why landscape workers using leaf blowers wear face masks and earmuffs.
Ban plastic bags: We don’t need to go over all the facts about waste and harm to the environment. Implement a responsible copycat ordinance now so we can all stop harming the environment and start sending the right message to our kids.
Propose San Benito County Sin Tax: Use proceeds from a Sin Tax on tobacco, alcohol and marijuana sales to help pay for the new library.
Call it a Tech Center: I’m not sure what a Tel Center is—that’s the adopted, confusing name chosen by government types for the new 21st century library—but Tech Center sounds pretty good to me.
Let’s loosen up a bit (bonus idea): We need to let loose around here, myself included. I’ll offer a few random ideas, and you can take it from there. Adult spelling bees are always fun. Maybe the chamber or HDA could run it. Kickball league, anyone? Local gamers tournament? What about Flash Mob February (use your imagination)?