OPINION: Pay attention or pay through the nose

Bad decisions by local elected leaders often last long after they are gone - you end up paying the bill

I’m sure most folks don’t have the time to regularly attend City Council, county Board of Supervisors or local school board meetings. That’s understandable, they’re too busy working, worrying, playing, praying, traveling, texting, raising families and doing everything from volunteering to enjoying their hobbies – all of which come under the general heading of living in America, especially suburban California. 

That’s the description of a full, many would say over-full, life; therefore, I’m not recommending that you kill a couple of days and nights every month sitting in a meeting and listening to what is 90 percent routine administrative gobbledygook designed to make sure the contracts for purchasing paper clips are fairly awarded – every business wants a slice of government pie.

However, I do want you to worry about the other 10 percent, the big money, discretionary long-term commitments that put the taxpayers on the hook for millions in exchange for empty promises and results that are never measured. The basic question is, how do you know the difference? The answer is to pay some attention.

One way is to take a minute or two to read the local news sources, BenitoLink, the newspapers, blogs and Facebook (no, I still do not do Facebook), for example. As you can see from the constant clashing of ideas you’re bound to get at least the gist of the arguments.

If you have email, a second way – one I highly recommend – is to ask your elected representative to regularly send you (and others) emails explaining non-routine and/or big issues coming before the governing body and his or her position on them. In other words, force them to at least think about the issues before voting. Using multiple addressees, the elected official can communicate with many constituents at one time. The problem might come if all the constituents email back, lol.

If people were paying attention perhaps the Hollister City Council would not have agreed to get into the development infrastructure financing business with Award Homes decades ago or borrow $12 million at absurdly high interest rates to fatten retirement checks back in 2009. That cost you almost $15 million, about $3 million in interest alone. At least the current council is addressing those issues.

Not to be outdone, San Benito County might have attached the appropriate road impact fee when it agreed to take 1,000 tons a day of out-of-county refuse at bargain basement prices or not transferred $5 million from the landfill enterprise to the General Fund in 2015; your cost $4.8 million, minimum.

In all of those cases, the elected leaders did not care because you did not care. Try to at least pay a little attention, you may be surprised at the impact it has.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.