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Resolutions on medical marijuana, motorcycle rally on agenda for Dec. 19 council meeting

Plenty to discuss at the final Hollister City Council meeting of the calendar year
One resolution, if passed, would give Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo another firefighter.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has voiced his displeasure with his council colleagues on Facebook.
Councilman Raymond Friend accused the mayor of airing his complaints over housing because of council opposition to a marijuana resolution.

The Dec. 19 Hollister City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. promises to be of interest to at least two groups of residents—those for and those against marijuana dispensaries and the motorcycle rally. Both items are returning to the agenda after heated discussions at city council chambers and on Facebook.

While both issues are buried relatively deep within the regular agenda, if past meetings are any indication, they may work their way up to the beginning of the meeting. This has been the case whenever a capacity crowd has showed up to hear the latest and speak their opinions on medical marijuana. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has, more than once, bumped an agenda item up in order to hear as many opinions as possible before the evening grew too late.

As for the rally being one of the two topics on which residents have repeatedly and loudly expressed opinions, it’s a wonder why it is the last regular agenda item, particularly if Roadshows LLC President Randy Burke is present, as he told BenitoLink he would be, to give a presentation to the council.

The resolution to approve the 2017 rally was presented at the Dec. 5 council meeting only to be delayed to Dec. 19 because Burke had countered the original contract, coming in $16,000 under the asked-for amount of $180,000. Additionally, he recommended extending the rally from three to four days, and wanted a guarantee that the 400 Block (at the corner of Fourth and San Benito streets) would be available for the following three years. None of the options were acceptable to the council.

City Manager Bill Avera wrote a letter to Burke explaining that the city must have a minimum payment of $180,000 from the promoter, as indicated in the original contract, to cover costs and noted that the status of the 400 Block was uncertain. When BenitoLink contacted Burke, he said that he had not received word from Avera yet, but he said that he intended to make a presentation at the Dec. 19 meeting.

On Dec. 15, Avera told BenitoLink by text message that Burke had proposed a payment of $164,000, and that the other terms being discussed were minor. He responded to BenitoLink on the possibility that the city council would not accept the counter offer.

“I tend to agree that it appeared after the last meeting that there isn’t a lot of support for it in general,” he wrote. “Plus, our workers' comp liability is always going to be an issue.”

Burke did not respond to BenitoLink about whether he still intended to show up at the Dec. 19 meeting.

Consent items address city spending

Before the second reading and possible adoption of the ordinance concerning medical marijuana facilities, the audience and council will wade through a number of consent items. It’s typical for most of the consent items, in this instance, ranging from approving the minutes of the previous meeting to a pilot program to utilize the service of a deputy fire marshal to hiring an arborist company to a tax-sharing agreement with the county.

People are often surprised at just how much money the city spends through items listed on the agenda as “warrant registers.” On the Dec. 19 agenda, warrants total $1,542,042.10. As to where the money is going, all anyone has to do is go online and read the agenda packet. But they might be forgiven for not drudging through the entire packet that tops out at 445 pages. Supposedly, though, each of the five council members has already read every page before the meeting.

Unless one of the council members or someone from the audience requests that a consent item be pulled for discussion, the entire list will be voted on as a block to be approved. In this instance, there are only nine, which is small compared to many previous meetings.

For those in the audience not paying attention as the consent items are approved, a considerable amount of city business and monies spent goes by all but unnoticed. During this meeting, in particular, the council will vote on whether to approve $60,000 to fund the installation of way-finding signs within and near the city limits. Another item would authorize the fire chief to staff a temporary deputy fire marshal. Still another $30,000 will be up for considering for city-wide tree trimming and related services. Then there is the agenda item about the city and county being embroiled in litigation over the tax-sharing agreement. Councilman Raymond Friend told BenitoLink that the county has no incentive to change the agreement, which affords it 75 percent of mitigation fees, whereas the city receives 25 percent. Friend said the only leverage the city has to possibly force the county to change its position is to deny annexation of building projects located in the county.

There will be a number of reports from the city manager and other city officials. Often, buried in the mundane details of governmental machinations, surface revelations that can evolve into full-blown deliberations, often to the surprise of those in the room who have not heretofore been exposed to the topic at hand.

Finally, the one topic that most often fills the room, will be medical marijuana, for which discussions have been ongoing since June. Those opposing marijuana in any form in the city or county have been the most vocal at council meetings. Those supporting marijuana took to Facebook in droves. The two groups were diametrically opposites in the beginning, but came closer to an understanding by the last council meeting.

By all appearances, it looked like the resolution might pass, but then council members Mickie Luna and Karson Klauer questioned the wording in the document, including the number of potential dispensaries. Even Velazquez seemed to switch his position. After a lengthy discussion that included comments from the usual participants in the debate, it was decided to make more changes and bring the resolution back to the Dec. 19 meeting.

If adopted this time, the ordinance would provide direction for cultivation, dispensing, manufacturing processes, and other ancillary services provided to medicinal cannabis businesses. Again, for those who have strong opinions on medical marijuana, they will have at least one more chance to stand up and state their case.

There will also be a second reading and possible adoption of ordinances to amend the city’s General Plan regarding 81.01 acres on the north side of North Street between the terminus of Buena Vista Road and the west terminus of North Street. After the first reading of this ordinance on Dec. 5, the public reacted after BenitoLink’s accounting of it the day after. Once again, social media went wild as Velazquez took to Facebook to air his displeasure with the rest of the council. Residents took the opportunity to blast all sides of the debate and Friend accused the mayor of calling out his fellow council members because he was unhappy that they also opposed him on the marijuana issue.

Another resolution, if passed, would authorize the administrative services director to amend the 2016-2017 fiscal budget in order to hire another temporary full-time firefighter, at a cost of $84,166, who will be used to minimize overtime created by the Panoche Valley Solar Project, for which the fire department has agreed to provide coverage.

Other agenda items 

The council will be asked to approve the annual accountability report on voter-approved special taxes issued subsequent to January 2001; approve the subdivision improvement agreement for Orchard Park; approve the subdivision improvement agreement for The Cottages; consider various street closings for annual events in 2017; and lastly—if not already moved up the agenda—the approval of the agreement with Roadshows LC regarding the 2017 motorcycle rally.

Toward the end of the meeting, each council member will report on any meetings or activities in which they have taken part since the previous meeting.

In other news, the Jan. 3, 2017 council meeting has been canceled.

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John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to:


The medical cannabis debate in Hollister is basically over. A statistical majority of voters - and even anti-cannabis activists who were originally opposed to medical cannabis in Hollister - now agree that Hollister should provide safe access to sick, injured and dying patients in its jurisdiction.

The remaining question is regulation and zoning control. Anti-cannabis activists lobbied the medical marijuana ad hoc subcommittee for very restricted regulations on zoning; they attempted to dictate their preferred terms about where medical cannabis operations may and may not be located artificially restricting commercial property locations thus subjecting the cannabis operations to monopolistic real estate pricing.

It's not exactly a coincidence that two local realtors took charge of this strategy in the anti-cannabis activist campaign. Who better to manipulate and exploit a real estate price-fixing strategy that would either potentially personally enrich themselves or drive cannabis operation rents so high that the cost of doing business might become cost prohibitive?


Yes, and the Russians elected Donald Trump, lol.  Whatever conspiratorial theory fits is sure to surface.  

In the first place, if there's one thing there's no shortage of, locally, it's realtors and others involved in the real estate business.  While it's a necessary profession - especially in our litigious society - it is one in which you are selling someone else's asset in many cases.  Therefore, you can go in with little money and work on commission.  It's California, everyone thinks they are in the real estate business or wants to be.

Second, for every realtor who would want to restrict zoning there is at least one realtor who wants to open zoning and those who own land or other assets who think they are going to hit the jackpot are in their pitching along with everyone else.  Why aren't we questioning their motives?

Finally, no one is as money-hungry as the folks who believe that they are going to get rich quick in the marijuana business and it is pure chutzpah for those folks to be implying that anyone else is doing anything for riches.  The truth is that when the mania hits, and it's in full bloom IMHO, very few people are immune.

So, now that we have imputed everyone's motives, we're even.  Oh, I forgot, I sure hope that those posting are not intending to go into the marijuana business and forgetting to mention it.  For the record I'm not in either the pot business nor the real estate business and I don't have any plans to go into either - and I'm not caught up in the mania - yet, lol

We shall know the truth and the future in the fullness of time....

Marty Richman

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