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COMMUNITY OPINION: 100 Million Good Reasons to Oppose the Gavilan Bond

“A fool and his money are soon parted.” – English proverb

This opinion was contributed by community member Marty Richman. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Marty Richman is a candidate for Hollister City Council, District 4.

The proposed $248 million Gavilan College capital bond on the November ballot is likely to cost the residents of San Benito County almost $100 million when you add interest and fees. This money, we are told, will go to fund an Education Center in Hollister, you know the same one we paid for with the 2004 bond, just don’t go looking for it.

That $100 million is 100 million good reasons to vote no, not that the Gavilan Board of Trustees cares. They are counting on Santa Clara County, the big beneficiary of the diverted funding from the last bond, to drag us into this one.

The Hollister Education Center is the one we were promised would be built with the $27 million (without interest) we put in the pot 14 years ago, most of which ended up in Santa Clara’s Coyote Valley to build a far-away campus occupied by a police training academy that was never even mentioned on the ballot. That academy services eight other community colleges you can’t even name that, as near as I can tell, were all thrilled to let San Benito help pay their capital costs. Who could pass up a deal like that?

Meanwhile we have an empty piece of land. You have to follow this very carefully because Gavilan, which refuses to offer up any guarantee, is as slippery as an eel.

The original proposal was that they would use our bond money to leverage state funding of a Hollister Ed Center, you know get some state investment. The new proposal is if we give them $62 million (pre-interest) they will use $51 million of it to build us an Ed Center with no state funding. Not only do we get to pay again, but this time Gavilan offers us the privilege of paying for it all.

Are our city and county leaders going to quietly allow Gavilan to take $100 million from county residents to pay for something we bought once before but never received? This violation of the public trust is red meat and a perfect bad example for those opposing the sales tax to improve the roads.

While the cities and the county cannot spend public funds to promote or oppose a ballot measure, it is permissible for them to take a position on a ballot measure in an open and public meeting where all perspectives may be shared and they can certainly relay their personal opinions to their constituents. What are they waiting for?



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Marty Richman (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. You can follow Marty Richman on twitter @Marty_Richman. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.


Full disclosure: I moved from San Benito County to New Mexico in late April of this year. Even so, I invested 23 years as a community activist in Hollister and supporter of higher education, the arts, served as a county planning commissioner, economic development, and voted to support Measure E hoping for the best that Gavilan College would build a new campus that would complement the local economy, prepare students for new jobs. Frustrated - and growing old - I left San Benito County to retire elsewhere. 

I have opined extensively in the local press against Gavilan College and its tone deaf board of trustees who systematically failed San Benito County, robbing taxpayers of a tangible and legitimate campus NEAR THE EPICENTER OF THE SEAT OF THE COUNTY IN DOWNTOWN HOLLISTER. That's really important, IMHO.

I don't agree with Mr. Richman on many issues, but I support his opinion here 100%. San Benito County cannot trust, support or find credible the proposed Gavilan College bond to build a new campus at the location where it purchased property against the will of local community leaders years ago.

Don't be fooled by the Utopian promises of college administrators who have failed to make good on financial promises that indebted taxpayers/voters continue to pay for with effectively zero results of Measure E. 

Vote No on any and all proposed Gavilan College bonds because they failed to deliver results AND recognize such failures and institutional malfeasance that ripped off the community of San Benito County in the recent past.  


John Freeman's picture

Michael,  Miss the days when talked about water issues in San Juan and San  Benito County.  And thank you for Guitars Not Guns, it is going well here in San Juan.  Have fun in New Mexico.


Mike congrats on your retirement. You have enlightened me on many subjects.  I wish you for you no more frustration and more relaxation. The Gavilan bond will be getting a big fat NO from this household unless an ironclad deal is proposed for our county. 

Please take a look at the Facilities Master Plan and District Project List.

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued the final environmental clearance required for development in August. Phase I of campus development will create a 33,619 square foot multi-purpose building with classroom and lab space, student services and support; it will bring utilities to the campus, add a signalized intersection at Fairview Road, build an access road, and install the central plant and maintenance facility for the site, plus parking and roadways needed to operate Phase I.

Please contact me with any questions you may have about District Planning, student performance, and Gavilan College programs and services.


Jan Bernstein Chargin

Director, Public Information, Gavilan College

(408) 848-4724


Submitted by John Noble on

I suggest our community initiate contact with other Jr. Colleges and start looking into a relationship.  We'd enjoy and benefit from an involved partner and by sensibly not voting for the bond- would otherwise seem not interested. 

Let's let Monterey and Santa Cruz County institutes of learning know we'd welcome a dialog towards their presence here.

I agree with Mr. Noble, the community leadership at the cities and at the county, aided by the county Office of Education, needs to take the bit in their teeth on this subject.  It is not enough to just say no to the Gavilan bond, we have to find a reliable, top-notch partner to bring first class post-secondary education to San Benito County.

It is unfortunate that Gavilan's performance statistics are so poor, let's see if we can do better, it never hurts to move up in class.

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Whew, 100 Million seems like a lot of money, can we get a breakdown of where all that money is meant to go. Maybe there's a more cost effective way to build a school. I believe I could build a heck of a building for that kind of money.

I was recently informed by someone who should know, but have not confirmed, that the primary funding of $51 million (without interest and fees) is for ONE, count it, ONE building.  This is ridiculous.

Marty Richman 

Submitted by John Noble on

That depends on the size of the building, how its equipped and most importantly- how many students it educates per year.  That said, they aren't even building an outhouse in San Benito- so no one with any sense will vote for this second run at picking our pockets.  Let's find a great school that is honest- and we'll partner with them!

Phase I of campus development will create a 33,619 square foot multi-purpose building with classroom and lab space, student services and support; it will bring utilities to the campus, add a signalized intersection at Fairview Road, build an access road, and install the central plant and maintenance facility for the site, plus parking and roadways needed to operate Phase I.

Please contact me with any questions you may have about District Planning, student performance, and Gavilan College programs and services.


Jan Bernstein Chargin

Director, Public Information, Gavilan College

(408) 848-4724

Didn't you promise to build all of that last time 14 years ago?

Didn't you take the vast majority of the new campus funding and divert than to Coyote Valley?

Can we get an honest answer for once?

Why is the take permit also issued to Dividend Homes?  Isn't this all about a housing deal you made with Dividend Homes?

Here, for our sharp readers, are the actual words from the 2004 bond measure -

"Establish Gavilan College Education Center in San Benito County to Accommodate Growth and Increasing Student Enrollment: Provide permanent classrooms, labs, library, job training and college transfer counseling and partner with a 4-year university to allow residents to obtain a bachelor’s degree without commuting. Improvements in the San Benito County campus will be made with a combination of bond monies and State matching funds."

Gav did not do any of that, instead they diverted the funding to do that to Morgan Hill to save the Academy a Joint Power Authority not even mentioned oin the bond text.  Now you want us to believe that it never happened.

We won't be fooled again.

Please vote No on the Gav bond, they can't be trusted.

Marty Richman



Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I do hope there is a copy of this letter in the Free Lance.

Check out the Gavilan College Facilities Master Plan and District Project List.

The Incidental Take Permit for San Benito County property was issued in August, making it now possible to move forward with development.

Please feel free to contact me for more information about District planning, performance, or anything else you'd like to know about Gavilan College.


Jan Bernstein Chargin

Director, Public Information

(408) 848-4724



Fro thr public, Ms. Bernstein Chargin is a Gavilan employee:

I realize that Gavilan's new strategy is to blame it all on the environment, but both you and I know that is not true.  If you had spent the time and money in Hollister you spent getting environmental clearance at Coyote Valley that issue would have been taken care of a decade ago.  It does not take 14 years to get an Incidental Take Permit and if it did then buying a property without preparing for that would fall under definition of gross incompetence.  I guess "due diligence" in not a term that means anything.

Now, I have the ballot language from 2004 and the proposal was to leverage state funds to help build a campus, but Gavilan sent the funds to Coyote Valley instead.  So where are those funds?  Our county was left without for 14 years,now you come asking for another $100 million?

Gav has been unreliable, irresponsible and totally dishonest.  We need to find a partner we can trust.  You're not it.

p.s. Many, many months ago you promised to send me the details of the loan that Gav was giving the Academy, remember?  Well, you never sent it.  Just another example of Gav's openness and honestly. 

Marty Richman 

I believe the requested documents were emailed to you on 3/13/2018 at 1:37 pm.

I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, I've been busy.  Several times you, representing Gavilan,  had promised to send me the full lease agreement with the Academy as soon as it was available, but failed to do so,  It was formalized 13 December, 2016,  Finally, more than 2 months later I was forced to file a formal request under the California Public Records Act to obtain the document.  At that time you, representing Gavilan, had no choice but to send it to me.

You certainly did not fulfill your verbal commitment to me.  Now you want credit for following the law after I had to pry the document out of you?

I'm sorry, that is not my idea of coopertion, it's more akin to stonewalling.

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I do hope that this article has been printed in the Free Lance and anywhere else that voters read to get as much info as they need to make an informed decision. I for one am taking Marty's advice on this one, and I'm deeply insulted by the way SBC has been treated. People treat their dogs far better than Gav. has treated us and I'm not taking it anymore. I've already paid for no school once I'll be damned if I'm gonna do it again. Hell no, on more money to Gavilan without a guarantee that we get our school. No guarantee, No money.

Gavilan College can't build a new campus in San Benito County BECAUSE IT CAN'T BUILD TRUST based on its past failures and fiscal malfeasance of Measure E funds with which it was entrusted more than a decade ago.  Without the trust of the commonwealth of taxpayers to support a new vision - one which admits to learning from its failures - and developing a campus design and location that will benefit everyone who will pay for it, Gavilan executives, administrators and trustees will not succeed in serving its customer base of students and families in San Benito County.


Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

It sounds like one thing is very clear, that Hollister needs a college, badly. I wonder if there have been any proposals and what the student capacity should be, etc. This would be the kind of new construction I could get fully behind, instead of just warehousing people, which we're doing now and leads to no future. I think Hollister can produce a practical facility that can educate our people at a reasonable cost without the worry of outsiders stealing our money, if I understand that correctly. And if Marty can make that happen, I'll support him 100%.

Mr. Dunn,

Yes, San Benito County needs a community college badly. No, it doesn't need a community college IN THE WORST WAY, which is what Gavilan's proposal will be. Gavilan executives/trustees dictates terms, ignore feedback from partners, county supervisors and Hollister City Council. They can't be trusted with taxpayer dollars based on their collective history of poor judgment, financial malfeasance with SBC Measure E bond funds and irresponsible abuse of jurisdictional authority.

The idea to work with a different community college to finance, build and operate a new campus has some merit, but will probably fail due to political resistance and lack of community leadership to execute such a strategy. In my experience, San Benito County doesn't value higher education enough to commandeer a viable partnership strategy with Gavilan, and Gavilan trustees/staff don't want to work with community partners.

So SBC taxpayers voting no to proposed Gavilan College bond funds is the only safe alternative to getting burned by the same folks who plundered Measure E funds and delivered essentially nothing in return, in my opinion. 


Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I'm told that there is a new construction technique that builds with concrete, good buildings at a fraction of the time and cost of the present system. And I've heard that we already have a space, so let's use the money that would be wasted on widening the road to The Congested H101 and use it to educate our illiterate locals who are unproductive and just waiting for the economy to collapse and dump them on the sidewalk. What's wrong with this idea?

I posted some Fall 2013 head-count  / enrollment figures for SBC abd Morgan Hill for you, but I had to edit them so they automatically went to the moderator; they should be up shortly.

Marty Richman



One of the reasons that the failure of Gav to honor the project described in the 2004 ballot is so infuriating is the enrollment and and use data.  In the fall of 2013, the last data I have, San Benito County residents had  significantly higher headcount and enrollment numbers than Morgan Hill residents.

Headcount at Location:  SBC 1,980 29.8%; Morgan Hill 863 13.9%

Number at Main Campus: SBC 2,994 26.7%, Morgan Hill 1,539 13.7%

Across Campus / Distance:  SBC 5,898 30.3%  Morgan Hill: 2,864 14.4%

So we have almost twice the students and more students traveling farther and they build a new campus at Morgan Hill - that's nerve.

Marty Richman


Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Thank you. One benefit of a San Benito College is that it would take some of the student traffic load off H25, and it would get us matures back in school, where we belong. I stopped going to Gav. and Hartnell mostly because of the traffic, here we could ride our bikes to school. I haven't used that phrase in decades. Can't get greener than that. If I was a professor, I'd take a pay cut to teach in a  place like Hollister rather than the congested city where they likely are now.

Enrollments by area for Fall 2013:

……………………………………………SBC; Gilroy; San Martin; Morgan Hill; Other; Total

Number across campus/ distance ……. 5,989; 7,491; 531; 2,864; 2,956; 19,831

% across campus/ distance …………….30.2% 37.8% 2.7% 14.4% 14.9% 100.0%

Number at main campus ..…………….. 2,994; 5,185; 292; 1,539; 1,191; 11,201

% at main campus ……………………....... 26.7% 46.3% 2.6% 13.7% 10.6% 100.0%

Headcount ………………………………. 1,980; 2,212; 172; 863; 1,413; 6,640

% Headcount ……………………….. 29.8% 33.3% 2.6% 13.0% 21.3% 100.0%

And San Martin gets the aeronautical program and Morgan Hill gets a campus??  We had twice rhe students.

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

This chart is not the easiest to read, but I think one thing we can bet on is that many more folks would attend College here because we'd have access to classes that we don't have now. A round-trip to Gilroy can take more than 2 hours with traffic. We Hollisterites can be at the Marty Richman San Benito College in minutes. It seems so very clear that we need this far more than we need a fatter H25 which does NOTHING to relieve the congestion on H101. And it will cost less than we might think, esp. since computers have become so much more instructional recently. Seems like a good time to build a school, to me. There's my Sunday Morn. 2 cents worth.

BenitoLink does not have a layout option, so I did it in word.  The key point was that SBC easily the second most populous source of students for Gav altogether (main campus and distance students in their home location).  We had 30% of the students total, Gilroy 38% and Morgan Hill only 14%.  Some from Aromas and SJB will go to the Gilroy Campus anyway, but that is a small number those locations just do not have a lot of population. 

At the main campus - which means a bad commute for us - we had 27% of the enrollment, Gilroy had 46% and Morgan Hill had only 14% and Morgan Hill is a 4-lane freeway commute to Gavilan.  So we had almost twice the students commuting and a far worse commute - how did Morgan Hill end up with a campus?

A post-secondary Education Center run by a productive and Gavilan untrustworthy the Community College report from the state shows that they have a very low graduation and transfer rates in key areas and the federal report shows that they do almost nothing for earning potential compared to other local CCs.

"Salary After Attending: The median (midpoint) earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school. Foothill $45,700, De Anza $40,000, Gavilan $27,300, Cabrillo $32,100 Monterey $31,300, and Hartnell $31,200"  That's 12% less than Hartnell and 31 percent less than De Anza.

Why isn't the local education and political system moving heaven and earth to get a reliable partner?  There is no trick to offering us a campus with OUR money, what happened to the money we gave them 14 years ago?

Marty Richman . 

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Has anyone offered an answer as to where and why our money went. There must be someone high up enough to explain how and why we got cheated. I'm not sure how many high school graduates Hollister produces each year but the thought that all they have to look forward to is a bad drive to Gilroy will surely put many of them off the idea of going to college, and the whole community will suffer as a result. If we don't get a college soon, we are being foolish. Traffic on Hi 25 will be lighter and it will be a win win. We need to start on this immediately, really.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Doing some quick math here using 3000 students/week @ 2 classes/wk ea. yields at least 6000 trips to Gav. per week or 12000 uses of H25 per week counting round trips, I believe that comes to 216,000 trips over H25 per semester. That sounds like a lot of traffic to me that would no longer be on H25 if we had our own campus, not to mention the reduced carbon footprint the environment would thank us for. And this is the count from 5 years ago, plus I don't know if the M.H. students are in this #, I spoke to Gav. and they promise to update the figures. I'm now looking for a realistic amount it would cost to widen H25 so drivers can reach the congested 101 Hiway sooner.. A minimum of 216,000 gallons of gasoline would be saved per semester if my numbers are correct. We will likely build a college one day, it will cost less if we do it now.

Enrollment versus headcount has me a little confused, but one thing is for sure, whatever the number is, it's a lot of trips and a lot of time that could be spent doing something else - studying, working, playing.  When I commuted to CC nights while I was in the service in the mid 60s (from Camarillo to Ventura) the trip was a major hurdle in time and money and soaked my energy, especially the return trip late at night.  Make it easy and more people will participate.

Somewhere online is an old study of the environmental impacts of the CC commutes throughout the state done for a GIS mapping masters, it is enlightening.  We need a post secondary facility, but it has to be a fair deal, this new Gav proposal is not.

Marty Richman 

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Marty, can we give Gav. a proposal that we like better and are more likely to vote for. I speak with folks every day that say they don't further their education mainly because the school is too far away, they would love to return to school if it was in Hollister, otherwise, no go. Hollister is crippled without a post secondary campus. Try to imagine Gilroy or Salinas or Monterey, or Santa Cruz  without a Community College, good grief. The vibrancy it brings to those places, we could have here. Whom do we contact in Hollister to get this idea moving as soon as possible? As you say, we are decades behind the curve on this and we should waste no more time piddling, we need to start building today. And thanks so much for bringing this to our attention, what you're doing here is invaluable.

Submitted by John Noble on

When I brought up this idea of finding another dance partner, we knew there wasn't sufficient time for that and this election cycle.  What's important today is to vote NO.  Then we work out a complimentary agreement for both San Benito and the education partner without a gun to our heads.  Once that's done, clean and makes sense- come back to the community and share the details and look to move forward.  

Doing this as a fire drill begs to put us right back in the jam we seem so adept at getting into...

I agree that Marty's doing great work holding Gavilan College accountable, but I fear that the college board of trustees, California Community College Chancellor's office, and California State Assembly committee on higher education are deaf to the ongoing issue of Measure E malfeasance to even address the issue. Worse, county supervisors, Hollister City Council and SJB fail to take a position in favor of or against the Gavilan College issue so that their respective constituents are ill-informed about the prospects of a new campus or the consequences of taxing themselves and trusting their hard-earned tax dollars to the same institution that screwed San Benito County out of millions of dollars.

The only message that voters can deliver to Gavilan College that it will understand in no uncertain terms is: No to its bond offering in November. 

I made a personal proposal to Gav to support the bond if they would put something on the ballot to guarantee that if for any reason they did not spend the funds on a local education center here they would spend it on education in the county.  One of their key administrators told me they could not do that.

I took it as an insult, it seems that can do whatever they want, but will offer nothing in return.  I'm afraid that they are in too deep, I bet you can't find one person in a hundred who can explain the relationship between Dividend Homes, the former property owners, and Gav.

Gav tried to sneak a housing development into the county under the guise that is was entitled to use their special EIR entitlement.  I believe when that was rejected is when it all went south.  I now note that the Take Permit was not just issued to Gav, the housing development is a co-permitee.  It is my belief - although I cannot prove it  - tht there was an under the table deal to get that housing development in here by going around the county.  When it stalled Gav had to find a way to stall too.  Now they are re-aligned.

You tell me, who is this day and age buys a $9 million piece of property without doing environmental due diligence?  As I read the law we had 1 year to force Gav to live up to the ballot measure via lawsuit and we did nothing,   Tell me, if it goes bad do you think we would do any different this time?


Complex case, but the basis is clear - you have to live up to your Prop 39 promises on projects.

Marty Richman

Submitted by John Noble on

I took a look at the published timeline Ms. Bernstein linked.  It clearly lays out the expected income streams ("funding") and while that is important, nowhere does it indicate when the first shovel goes in the ground... or the last. 

At this point, I still don't trust Gavilan for a second- they are simply tone deaf to San Benito's needs and remediating the error of their ways- yet have no reservations in collecting more money from us. No thanks, we'll find a better partner.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I just had an interesting thought about the different types of construction and it occurred to me that a big difference between sprawl and educational building is that sprawl has a negative impact on the  energy of an area, while educational construction has clearly a positive impact. Sometimes the clouds clear away and we can see stuff.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I believe Measure X is the name of the proposal in question, if one wants to vote it up or down. But I have a question, It sounds like a construction date has been set to build our new college at the Fairview site, so should we still vote no on Measure X, or would we just be hurting ourselves at this point?  If someone could clear this up before the election that would help us all. Thanks much to whomever has this info.

Ken, First, you're assuming something not in evidence - that Gavilan will actually live up to their proposal.  They made a detailed proposal to build an Education Center in 2004, the bond passed and they did not build it, they diverted the money - our money - to build a campus in Coyote Valley.  That proposal was to use the funds as a matching grant to leverage state funding, but they put no money aside as promised - none, zero, nada, not one thin dime, a tenth of a dollar.  Now they want us to pay $51 million for an Ed Center lock, stock and barrel.  No state help.  There is no trick to that, anyone could do it, the state is not putting in a penny.  Shouldn't we get our money back from the original bond?

Their new story is that it was all an environmental problem, but isn't that incompetence?  Who buys land for top dollar with an environmental problem?  Besides, isn't it you who oppose new housing, I guess you didn't know that they were teamed up with Fairview Corners (189 unit single family, high priced, housing development) that they tried to sneak iin under their special CEQA exemption.  That is the real reason they waited 14 years, for the housing deal to catch up, you will see the incidental take permit is actually issued to Gavilan AND Fairview Corners as a joint permit.  Are they in the education business or the housing development business?

What, exactly, is the financial arrangement here and why did Gavilan try to get a CEQA pass for a housing development?  No one has ever gotten an answer to that question.  There is an under the table deal here, you cannot trust Gavilan College.

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

I'm recalling all that now and it's even more clear than before, so I hope that others less familiar with the subject are reading this and will not be fooled into voting for yet another sprawl scheme disguised as an Education Project. I will Proudly Vote No on Measure X and strongly urge everyone else to do the same, and to vote for Marty in the coming election. Thanks so much.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

And Gavilan needs to give back the money they stole from us many years ago.

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