The Hollister City Council tabled two agenda items Aug. 16 that dealt with flying flags on the “unity” pole in front of City Hall. Despite the unity designation for the pole, the council was anything but united when it came to deciding to fly either the LGBTQ Pride flag during the month of June 2022, or the Thin Blue Line flag in October, even though the applicant for the flag to honor law enforcement officers had completed the required paperwork.
Saying on Aug. 16 he wanted to vote “yes” to fly the LGBTQ Pride flag, Councilman Rick Perez objected to doing so on a technicality. He said the application submitted by Councilman Rolan Resendiz did not include a photo of the flag. Perez insisted that the council follow the new flag policy it had approved, which requires a photo.
On April 23 the council agreed to spend $40,000 to accommodate more flags. The final cost was $12,500.
City Clerk Christine Black told BenitoLink on Aug. 18 that the flag resolution was approved May 3, after which the city created an application (see PDF below), but it has been pulled and is not being offered to the public at this time.
Resident Tony Avilla told the council that the other flag applications were being discriminated against.
“The LGBTQ flag did not go through the same process,” he said. Hollister did not have a policy before the council approved flying any flag.
Councilman Tim Burns made a motion that the agenda item be continued to the next meeting on Sept. 7 because of Perez’s comments. Resendiz voted against the motion, and it failed to pass. The council tried one more time for a motion with the stipulation that a photo would be added later. Perez did not concede, and it was tabled.
Black said the application for the Thin Blue Line flag was submitted by “concerned citizens” through Perez to honor law enforcement officers. Black said October was normally the official month of recognition for breast cancer awareness and that the applicants for the Thin Blue Line flag had been contacted to see if they were willing to change their date, but they refused.
Burns, a retired police officer, objected to the October timeframe, stating it would be more appropriate to fly a breast cancer awareness flag instead. He suggested an amendment to the flag policy to allow for more than one flag to be flown at the same time.
Perez maintained the applicants for the Thin Blue Line flag did everything asked of them under the policy. He said the request was to honor and support the police, “past, present and future,” which is not the same as the May event that honors fallen law enforcement officers. He also pointed out that no one had submitted an application to fly a flag honoring breast cancer month.
Avilla said he followed the policy in applying for both the Thin Blue Line and the Christian flags, and wanted to know why neither had been approved. He reminded the council when the program was set up to fly flags in front of City Hall it was on a first-come-first-served basis. He said no other flag application for October had been submitted and that if the process is not followed “we may as well not have a unity pole and not fly any flag other than the United States flag.”
Sandy Patterson-Jamark, a former sheriff’s deputy-coroner, chastised Burns for his stance, saying she was “appalled” and “disgusted” that the flag was not being approved after the applicant did all that was required.
“It offends me because I’ve been in law enforcement a long time,” she said. “Don’t say ‘it’s not the right month, we’re not going to fly it.’ That’s ridiculous. Do your jobs as council members.”
Stephany Castro accused Resendiz of receiving preferential treatment.
“When you get preferential treatment that kind of makes all the other groups look like they’re not important,” she said, “and that your cause and flag is more important than everyone else’s. Just because you’re on the council doesn’t mean you should get special privileges. You have to follow your own procedures.”
After public comment, Burns seemed to rethink his objection against flying the Thin Blue Line flag in October, but with reservation that more than one flag could be flown at the same time. He also questioned the rationale behind the flag policy, even though he voted to approve it. He suggested it should be rewritten.
Resendiz suggested the policy be scrapped altogether and used San Juan Bautista as an example.
“They do things right,” he said of the SJB City Council. “They are leaders within our county. They decided not to have a flag policy. We were elected and there’s a diverse group of people here to represent the constituents. I don’t think we need a flag policy to prove that. Any one of us can bring a flag to be considered to hang from that unity pole.”
However, following Hollister’s example, San Juan Bautista did pass a flag policy.
Then he added, “That is not a unity pole. This has been politicized and it’s causing division. This is a road we don’t want to go down.”
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