This opinion was contributed by Hollister School District Trustee Rob Bernosky. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
Reading about the behavior that is going on with the Hollister City Council and the mayor, and to a lesser extent, the lunch break issue with the county supervisors, hurts. I know most of the people involved and although I clearly disagree with some of their votes, I respect them immensely, and clearly can call some friends. I have been (as a minor elected official) in their shoes. Emotions can run high over issues and left unchecked, does hurt our community.
At least for me, where the emotions come from is the type of office the elected individual holds. When elected to a board, one is a representative, not an executive leader. The difference is that the solo leader can speak whenever he/she wants. The representative leader speaks from a dais and their ability to have their voice heard in an official capacity can be limited by the others on the dais. That limiting, when intentional, is where we get into a lot of trouble.
While it is true that majority rules on board-type entities, the emotions run high when those in the minority get shut out of being able to express their opinions. What many forget is elected people get their jobs because of their opinions. It is important to the Republic that everyone’s opinion is allowed to be heard and fellow board members take into account what each member says. This situation gets exasperated when the tactics of some is to shout, attack, and block (and many times) is not accompanied by any facts of their own. So those in the minority get shut down, and the facts they have often are not brought to light or even discussed. Valid questions the minority pose oftentimes do not have to be answered by the majority because they know they already have the votes.
What I have observed is that some elected lose their individualism and become part of a clique. With their majority, they block items from the agenda, assist in the causing of those in the minority not being able to state facts, and just do things that shut out the minority from participating. While today the behavior of the legislature (House of Representatives, US Senate, State Assembly, State Senate) is pretty low, there is still a modicum of decorum and individuals are seemingly given ample opportunity to speak.
Considering my own elected position, so many problems lingered for years, and I believe it is because the culture of the Hollister School District was not unlike that of which I described above. Things are getting better, but for the first two years it was an uphill fight for me personally. I think our board president today is more agreeable to me being heard, our new superintendent is a calming presence, and I think the Hollister School Board is poised to be a positive educational force in San Benito County as a result.
I would think that the citizens of San Benito County would be better served if all of their elected debated honestly, with facts, and for those that shut others down, to be called out for it. Does the mayor have valid points, especially about the 400 Block and how nefarious people are using fake social media accounts to manipulate the caricature of him? Absolutely. Is the growing of marijuana and smoking of it a source of obnoxious odors to many? Of course. Do most controversial agenda items take longer than 10 minutes? Yes they do. Are developers influencing our elections? I don’t know because all I have heard is shouting.
A final thought: If the meetings of city councils, county supervisors, and school boards are held in such a way that those in the minority are shut out, it is not inappropriate for those elected who cannot speak from the dais to turn to social media or the news media to get their opinions stated. We elect people because of their opinions, and we would all be better off to honestly consider what the minority has to say. They just may be right sometimes.