Government / Politics

Hollister Mayor Velazquez heading for a third term

Mayor faced off against challenger Keith Snow for the third time

Incumbent Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez vanquished his challenger Keith Snow for a third time, returning to his spot on the City Council by earning 68.68 percent of the vote with all 22 precincts reporting. Snow earned 30.56 percent of the vote.

Velazquez said from the Registrar of Voters office on election night that he was excited about the early numbers and hopeful that the trend would continue through the night as votes continued to come in.

“I just want to thank those who voted for me and I’m looking forward to continuing on down the road we’ve been on to improve things in Hollister,” he told BenitoLink.

Snow did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment prior to publication time Tuesday night.

Snow has long put himself before the voters as their champion, promising to reign in what he termed an ineffectual and corrupt city government. During a recent phone conversation with BenitoLink, he accused Velazquez's supporters of stealing his campaign signs and repeatedly called the sitting mayor “a crook.”

Velazquez has often wrangled with his opponent during city council meetings, telling Snow that he repeatedly misstated the facts on various issues, most particularly the decision of a previous city council to move 9-1-1 call center functions to Santa Cruz. On more than one occasion, Snow stated that Velazquez was responsible for the city losing $2.3 million; Velazquez has always asserted that the move has, in fact, saved the city $300,000 annually, totaling $10 million in 10 years.

Snow and Velazquez most recently traded facts and claims Oct. 13, during the “Use Your Voice” forum, hosted by BenitoLink and the San Benito County Farm Bureau. Velazquez is an entrepreneur of 30 years who owns The Vault and other businesses. Snow, is a a retired civil engineer and owner of Central Maintenance Paving Construction Co., and regularly participates in city council and Board of Supervisors' meetings to voice his opinions.

Snow’s comment about what he would do if Measure W (the continuation of the city one-cent sales tax for 20 years) failed to pass was, “My plans create revenue. Multiple companies I’ve dealt with means millions of dollars for miles and miles of roads. My opponent over there and the council gave 911 calls to Santa Cruz. We lost $2.3 million.”

He went on to say that he supports local police and firefighters, and then criticized how grants are handled. He claimed the city lost grant money and that there has been a lack of communication and he can create revenue.

“I know about grants,” Snow said. “I’m a paid professional to make our city self-sufficient and create revenue. I’ll put all the city out there to do their job.”

In answering the same question, Velazquez did not say what would happen should Measure W fail to pass, but cautioned that everyone should realize that sales tax dollars are important for the city. Without them, he maintained, the roads would not be repaired, parks would not be improved, and plans to bring more businesses to the city would suffer.

“We need to make sure we keep (going) down this path so we can have a successful city. With the cut, there will be some pain felt, but I can guarantee you we will not go bankrupt. We will work well as a city.”

When asked about the rapid growth the city is experiencing and the negative impact on traffic, Snow claimed that unlike the present council, he would work with CalTrans to create revenue and widen roads. He said he has a traffic control plan, and would meet with the city manager, Caltrans, and the city council, with him as the leader.

“I’ll lead with a clear path and the right direction,” he said during the forum. “I have good plans for that aspect.”

Velazquez, who has been a consistent opponent to “uncontrolled growth,” said he hoped, if elected, he could work with the other members of the council to slow the growth down.

“We need time to look at what we’re trying to accomplish as a community,” he said. “Are we trying to become a big suburb of San Jose, or are we trying to become a community that we can be proud of?”

When asked what distinguishes the mayor from the other four members of the council, Velazquez said, “The mayor does present a vision for the community, but it’s really about a team working within the city, within the county, within the community to do what we can to make our lives better. It’s not as though the mayor as the power. I’m just one member of the team.”

Snow's response to the same question was, “When you have the power being mayor, you use that authority. I’ve been going to council meetings years. This council is like a circus … I’ll not let you down. One thing that gets me, our mayor over there makes these contracts that we cannot afford. You, the taxpayers pay for this. Me, I pay taxes like everyone else.”

Snow said he would work with the planning department before bringing an agenda item to the council.

“We cannot afford mistakes, and I will not make mistakes, because I work for the people’s best interest,” he said.

In an email Q&A session with BenitoLink prior to the forum, Snow and Velazquez answered questions concerning their ethical standards, specific goals and why each considered themselves a better choice for mayor.

When it came to why each thought voters should choose them, Snow responded, "I am honest and loyal and want that for the city. There is too much dishonesty and no trust. I am a solid man and a strong, focused leader. I represent the people and the best interests for the community.”

Velazquez stated, “I believe I have much more experience in solving problems and creating a vision for the entire community. I also know how government works and the importance of getting input from the public.”  

Each had specific goals in mind, if elected. Velazquez responded, “My first goal is to slow growth in the community before we fall into the same infrastructure problems that we experienced in the late 90s and early 2000s. I also would like to continue cutting costs in the city so that we can begin investing in our roads, infrastructure and quality of life projects.”

Snow wrote: “Number 1, I will get started immediately on all the unfinished capital projects that are lingering over our head and costing us too much money. I will cut wasteful spending. Organize the budget and get back on track. Create great revenue. I want to create a self-sufficient and prosperous city for all. I am definitely ready to start working on great things for the kids, bringing them the highest and best education and programs we can possibly get for them. The kids are the future. Public safety and crime prevention are also at the top of my list. We need to be more involved and have a better control of these two main issues.”

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]