COMMENTARY: Measure J’s approval by vast majority of residents served notice to local politicians

Local politicians failed their constituents one more time on important issues

The outcome of the 2014 midterm election marked the beginning of the 2016 electoral campaign cycle for true constituent-responsive leadership.

Measure J, a grassroots referendum placed on the November 2014 electoral ballot, through the volunteer efforts of a long list of locally-concerned residents, was overwhelming supported and became the law of the county. The measure called for the prohibition of the high-risk process by which oil is extracted from the earth’s shale rock. Known as hydraulic fracturing and its two cousins, cyclic steam injection and matrix acidizing, the process forces high volumes of precious water and injects highly toxic chemicals into the ground and our water table. It's hghly dangerous to all living things and risks pollution of the air, soil and aquifer, and as a result, the contamination of livestock, fruits and vegetables grown in the “Salad Bowl” that is the Central Coast.

Although the majority of local politicians (county and municipal) failed to support and endorse Measure J during the 2014 campaign – the residents were able to see through the confusion, false claims and outright misrepresentation of the oil and gas industry. These same politicians who failed to support the measure, make up the majority of our county’s so-called “leadership” and are currently and supposedly “objectively” negotiating in closed executive sessions with Citadel lawyers, in an attempt to settle a proposed $1.2 billion lawsuit – in an effort to undermine and undo the voters' will. Although clearly out of step with their constituents’ wishes and loud voices, we are to expect that this “leadership” will do the bidding and will of the majority of county residents – 59 percent to 41 percent in favor of Measure J.

This is the same Board of Supervisors that voted to issue a permit allowing oil drilling near Pinnacles National Park. In the Monterey Superior Court's harsh decision, in a lawsuit brought against the board for its action, the judge criticized the board for its unlawful action and failure to consider and properly analyze critical elements of the California Environmental Quality Act before issuing the permit.

The official vote count clearly illustrates that the number of voters who turned out and supported the measure (in a mid-term election) was most impressive. The fact is that San Benito County delivered one of the largest county voter turnouts, in the state of California – 58 percent – is in large measure due to the support behind Measure J. The failure of our elected officials to correctly read the constituent tealeaves clearly indicates how afar they are in truly representing the best interests of county residents. They, however, deserve a re-examination as to their loyalty and commitment to you – their bosses, who renew their job contract.

“This disparity, between constituents and the positions taken by their respective elected officials, is very telling and boldly signals an early sea wave”

By comparing the official election results (yes vote to the no votes and the turnout) in the following chart, one can clearly see and appreciate the level of support Measure J received (ranging from 51 percent to 81 percent) and a voter turnout (ranging from 50 percent to 71 percent). More importantly, it highlights the gulf between the voters' position and those of their elected officials on the measure.

Part of the County                                    Yes                        No                        Turnout

San Benito County                                     59%                        41%                        58%

Hollister                                                     64%                        36%                        54%

San Juan Bautista                                      70%                        30%                        64%

Unincorporated                                            52%                       48%                        64%


District 1            M. Barrios                        54%                        46%                        58%

District 2            A. Botelho                        63%                        37%                        60%

District 3            R. Rivas                           62%                        38%                        53%

District 4            J. Muenzer                       51%                        49%                        64%

District 5            J. De La Cruz                   73%                        27%                        50%


Aromas Precinct                                         81%                        19%                        65%

Rancho Precinct                                         60%                        40%                        56%

Portug. Hall Precinct                                   72%                        28%                        51%

Cienega Road Precinct*                              49%                        51%                        69%            Paicines, Bitterwater

Tres Pinos Precinct*                                   44%                        56%                        71%            Santa Anita

San Benito County Official Election Results

The entire county overwhelmingly supported Measure J with only two sectors of the county – the Cienega and Tres Pinos precincts – voting against the measure, with their respective subdivisions by a vote of 51 percent and 56 percent respectively.

The only two county elected officials who supported Measure J, out of the five supervisors on the county board, were Robert Rivas in District 3 and Anthony Botelho in District 2. The figures not only reflect a major divergence of positions on the measure, they show the complete disconnect between the positions taken by elected officials and their constituents’ wishes and interests (the lowest "yes" vote was 51 percent and the highest was 73 percent).

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors and some local municipal political leaders who outright opposed Measure J and stood on the sidelines or straddled the fence on this important, national issue, were served political notices by the voter turnout and the sizeable vote for Measure J. This disparity between constituents and the positions taken by their respective elected officials, is very telling and boldly signals an early sea change.

If your constituency voted well over 70 pecent in favor of Measure J and you, as their elected representative, failed to appreciate the voters' sentiment and took a noncommittal position on the measure, something is amiss and clearly in the wrong. Either the politician is out of step with their constituents' thinking, wants and needs; not listening; or just does not care what they think. More disturbing is that they seem to serve a “deity” or different interests.

Measure J, more than banning hydraulic fracking, cyclic steam injection and matrix acidizing in the county, gauged the political landscape – attitudes, opinions and feelings of the greater population of San Benito County residents. By a countywide vote of 59 percent to 41 percent in favor of Measure J, it sent a clear message of “no confidence” to those politicians who failed and continue to fully not appreciate their constituents’ decision.

If your constituents supported and voted for the ballot initiative by such large margins, several things were at play before the election: One, the politicians have no idea what their constituents think or want; two, they misread the winds regarding important issues affecting their lives on a daily basis; and three, they don’t really care what constituents need, want or desire. In any case, it is not too early for a period of reflection on the part of voters as to who deserves to be re-elected, deposed (recalled) or outright voted out of office.

The 2014 mid-term elections and countywide vote on Measure J is a lead up to the 2016 elections for those politicians who have lost touch with their constituents' needs, wants, desires and demands – instead these politicians are serving vested interests.

Luis Burguillo

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.