On the evenings of Oct. 6 and 13, BenitoLink and the San Benito County Farm Bureau hosted public "Use Your Voice" election forums at the Hollister City Hall chambers. The forums were intended to offer locals a chance to become more informed about bond measures, a proposed tax extension and the candidates running for a number of public offices this election cycle, including Congress, Mayor, City Council, Assembly, Hollister School District, and San Benito High School Board.
Candidates answered questions, gathered by BenitoLink from the public, about their platforms and stance on various issues and presentations were made to the audience about measures that will be on the ballot in November, including bond measures for San Benito High School and the Hollister School District, and the extension of the Hollister sales tax.
After each forum, attendees were asked to complete a survey that BenitoLink created for the purpose of gauging the helpfulness of the forums, and the opinions of those who were there. To the right are the visualized results of the post-forum surveys.
The first question posed to the attendees of the Oct. 6 forum was “Which candidate were you most impressed by?” Those filling out the forum survey were given the option to “check all that apply,” and out of 37 completed surveys, the candidates ranked from most favorable to least favorable were: Casey Lucius (Republican Congressional candidate) with 28 votes, Anna Caballero (Democratic State Assembly candidate) with 20 votes, Jimmy Panetta (Democratic Congressional candidate) with 18 votes, Ariel Hurtado (Hospital Board candidate) with 18 votes, Rachel Perez (Gavilan College Board of Trustees candidate) with 14 votes, Karina Cervantez Alejo (Democratic State Assembly candidate) with 8 votes, Gordon Machado (Hospital Board candidate) with 4 votes, and Danielle Davenport (Gavilan College Board candidate) with 3 votes.
When asked about the issues facing San Benito County about which they were most concerned, certain issues were marked more frequently than others by those who answered the survey. In the order of most-marked to least-marked, these issues were: Education (23 votes), Roads and Streets (22 votes), the Economy (21 votes), Healthcare (17 votes), Housing (16 votes), Agriculture (16 votes), Transportation (16 votes), Leadership (15 votes), the Environment (15 votes), Parks and Recreation (11 votes), Public Safety (10 votes), the Homeless (10 votes), Taxes (7 votes), and Business Climate (5 votes). Other issues that were added to the write-in section of this question were, in no particular order: Youth Programs, Water, Pollution, Organic Agriculture, Solar Energy, and Recycling.
At the end of this initial survey, attendees were asked “How helpful was this Forum in educating you on issues that affect our community?” Of the 51 surveys collected, 30 people answered this question; 27 individuals (or 79 percent of this group) answered “very helpful,” while and 7 individuals (21 percent of this group) answered “somewhat helpful." No one gave the answer “not helpful."
In the second forum, held on the evening of Oct. 13, candidates running for seats on the Hollister School District and San Benito High School Boards were present, and questions were answered about Measures U, V, and W. In the survey after the final forum, attendees were asked again which candidate had most impressed them, and were again instructed to “check all that apply,” though the candidates present on the sheet were divided by the positions for which they were running. Of the 51 filled-out surveys that were returned to BenitoLink after the second forum, 48 people voted for one of the two mayoral candidates; 38 individuals (or 79% of these) voted for Ignacio Velazquez, and 10 individuals (or 21% of this group) voted for his opponent, Keith Snow. There were also 48 people who voted for one of the two City Council candidates present; 34 (or 71% of these) for Roy Sims II, and 14 (or 29% of these) for Tim Burns.
The following six candidates who are running for San Benito High School Board are listed in order of the number of votes they received for “most impressive” in their respective category, from most votes to least votes: John Corrigan (28 votes), Patty Nehme (26 votes), Ray Rodriguez (17 votes), Jennifer Coile (16 votes), Mary Encinias (4 votes) and Frank Muro (2 votes). Ellen Miller, who is also running for the SBHS Board, was a last-minute cancelation and did not attend the forum that evening.
The three candidates who are running for Hollister School District Board were given the following amount of votes for “most impressive” in order from greatest to least: Elizabeth Martinez (with 28 votes), Mike Baldwin (with 24 votes), and Robert Bernosky (with 12 votes).
Attendees were also asked how they intended to vote on Measures U, V and W after the night’s presentation. They responded with the following answers: of the 50 people who indicated they were planning to vote for Measure U, a San Benito High School District bond, 27 people (or 60% of those who answered) marked that they would vote yes, 13 people (or 29% of this group) marked that they would vote no, and 5 people (11% of this group) marked that they were undecided.
As for Measure V, the Hollister School District bond, 45 individuals indicated that they would be voting on this measure in the following ways: 30 individuals (or 67% of this group) marked that they were voting yes, 10 individuals (or 22% of the group) marked that they were voting no, and 5 individuals (11% of this group) marked "undecided."
Results for the Measure W question, an extension of a Hollister sales tax, mirrored that of Measure U: 27 (60%) of the 45 people who answered marked they were voting yes, 13 people (or 29% of this group) marked that they would vote no, and 5 people (11% of this group) marked that they were undecided.
Attendees were asked their opinions on laws regulating “citizen’s oversight committees” for bonds. Mainly, did attendees think these laws should be tightened, to prevent committee members from being selected by the same entities they oversaw? Of the 37 people who answered this question, 20 (or 54%) answered “yes,” there should be tighter rules; 6 people, or 16%, answered “no,” there doesn’t need to be tighter rules regulating committees; 11 people, or 30% of this group, indicated they were undecided on this issue.
The final question of the second forum’s survey asked if the attendees of the event appreciated having an online news source enough to support it. All 33 people who answered–100 percent–indicated yes.
Thank you to all those who came out to this event. BenitoLink estimates that there were almost 90 people at each forum, a wonderful turnout for an important informational opportunity. Your support gives life to BenitoLink, and makes events like this possible.
Watch videos of the two forums by clicking here.
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