Government / Politics

COMMENTARY: Proposed four-point action plan for the county’s response to Orlando tragedy

Resident says Orlando massacre gives county supervisors an opportunity to promote peace and violence prevention

Sunday's Orlando massacre prompted the San Benito County Board of Supervisors to consider how to "embrace our diversity, in ethnicity and orientation" (said Supervisor Anthony Botelho) at the meeting of June 14. I proposed a four-point action plan:

As a community member and Hollister resident since 2001, here is what I said:

"I believe the massacre in Orlando offers the County Board of Supervisors an opportunity for leadership in promoting peace and violence prevention in four ways:

1. Promote acceptance of  LGBTQ community members
2. Promote tolerance and protection of Americans who are Muslim and/or look like their origin is from a Middle Eastern ethnic group
3. Further support for mental health services
4. Promote gun control of AR-15s in our county

1. For me the Orlando massacre is personal. I have a gay brother, I have had gay roommates, I have dear gay friends here and elsewhere. I saw my daughter on Sunday, and she couldn’t stop crying over the idea that someone had mowed down LGBTQ people who were just out to enjoy music and dancing. She was in the Gay Straight Alliance at San Benito High School from 2006 to 2010. We have LGBTQ people among us of all ages and I want to be sure they feel safe. I want to tell my daughter that this Board has taken a stand against hate and prejudice.
2. Pam Rocco, the wife of Dr. Bob Rocco, told me that Dr. Bob is often stopped on the street by people speaking to him in Arabic or Farsi. But his grandparents came from Sicily – and by the way, when I lived in northern Italy, the northern Italians call Sicilians “Africans.”  I’m a member of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), San Benito Chapter, founded in 1935 in San Juan Bautista. Immediately after 9/11, and again last fall after the San Bernardino shooting, the JACL was the first to speak up against any proposals to “round up” or imprison Muslims or brown-looking people en mass. The Japanese-Americans living here in San Benito County were interned in prison camps during World War II – even though 60% were American citizens.  “Never again” – for any group – is the message of the JACL and, hopefully, of this Board.
3. The initial reports of the Orlando shooter is that he was untreated for bipolar disorder.  We have good mental health services here but I urge you to review the County’s mental health services to check that we are reaching the unserved.
4. All recent U.S. massacres were conducted with legally-purchased AR-15s. Perhaps the only physical gun store in the County is Big Five, BUT, if AR-15s are purchased online by County residents, can we prevent deliveries by UPS and FedEx?  We stopped fracking, why not stop AR-15s within our County borders. Margie, you were on the school board a long time and care about children, would you want an attack on Sunnyslope School like Sandy Hook’s Elementary School?

Please consider this four point action plan. Thank you."

That’s all I could say within the three-minute limit. Watch the video of the meeting to see the response of the supervisors.


Jennifer Coile

I moved to Hollister in 2001 because of my husband's local job. I'm a retired commuter/telecommuter working as a consultant in affordable housing, community development/planning, economic development and grant management. My volunteer work is generally devoted to cultural events for youth. I'm a founding board member of the Pinnacles Partnership in support of Pinnacles National Park. On November 19, 2012, Governor Brown appointed me to the Board of the 33rd District Agricultural Association/San Benito County Fair.