Monday, November 03, 2008

Sign Wars

This last Saturday I managed to get into a "frank and open," high-volume conversation with my pastor neighbor across the street. For the last few weeks he's had a "Yes on Prop 8" sign prominently displayed in his front yard. Just before Halloween his sign went missing (I promise I didn't take it). But on Saturday he managed to get his sign replaced at about the time I showed up with my "Vote No on Prop 8" sign. That's when things got a bit exciting in our somnolent neigborhood. He started with the "you know gays already have domestic partnerships, which are the same as marriage" and I fired back with "that's a separate but equal argument a la Brown vs Board of Education". Then he came back with the 'school kids forced to watch a lesbian marriage', which my wife responded with the kids weren't required to go and only could go with their parent's permission, then I added that the parents of the kids who were there at the ceremony (and I believe the parents were there too) were aghast that their kids were now featured on a Yes on Prop 8 video. Then I asked why did his church have to focus on the gay issue when 99.9% of the bible has nothing to do with gays. He wouldn't stop proclaiming his point of view and my volume had crept up to the point that my wife chose to drag me off the street and that's where we left it.

FWIW, I recommend reading this article which discusses the details of the Yes on prop 8 claims. It is especially worthwhile if you have concerns about how gay marriage might impact religious institutions (it can't). While I don't agree with my neighbor in any way, I would object to his religion to be legally compromised (which it can't be). It may not change your mind, but at least you'll have the facts straight.

At any rate, the real topic of this entry is about the sign wars around town. Every evening, and especially this weekend, clusters of people waving yes on 8 signs have gathered on 4th and San Benito Street, so too have gathered the No on 8 folks with their signs. Around town, the Yes on 8 signs are posted in vacant lots, street corners, and front yards. There's even a truck pulling a trailer plastered with the signs, which gets left at various intersections around town. (I have fantasized about adding a particularly nasty URL to the side of the trailer to highlight the intolerance of the Yes on Prop 8 movement, such that it might shame the proponents sufficiently to quit, but alas never acted on it.) There are a smattering of no on 8 signs as well scattered around town, including the one in my front yard. I pause to wonder if any of the yes or no signs will effect the votes of our neighbors, or are they just managing to annoy. On Wednesday, one way or another, the war will be over and the signs will come down. I look forward to Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Banners for Websites: No on 8

Here are two no on prop 8 banners for your free use. Please feel free to include them on your blog.

Thomas Jefferson would not Approve

Californians are being asked by the Mormon and Catholic Churches to amend the constitution so as to eliminate same-sex marriages from California law. This disturbs me greatly on at least three fronts: (1) any law going out of its way to remove the rights of a law-abiding sub-group of the population is inherently wrong, (2) any out of state entities trying to influence the rights of Californians better have a damn good reason for doing so, and "it offends my bible" is not one of them, and (3) it is mean spirited, it is evil, and I'm pretty sure it's something Jesus wouldn't do.

The forces of religious conservatism are bound and determined to re-create the US as a "christian nation". As a long time Thomas Jefferson fan, this appalls me. Follow that link. You'll quickly realize that the founding fathers were shooting for a religion neutral government. Many of the founding fathers were Deists, closely aligned with today's Unitarian-Universalism. They assiduously avoided creating the U.S. government with a religious orientation because they'ld seen how poorly it had worked in the governments of Europe. Thomas Jefferson felt his greatest work was the creation of the first amendment to the constitution -- creating a separation of church and state. Prop 8 -- removing the rights of gay people to marry for religious reasons -- will undoubtedly cause him to roll in his grave.

If you have any respect for the rights of others, vote NO on prop 8.

Monday, November 06, 2006

District 4 Decision this Tuesday

This Tuesday, we get to vote on who will preside in the district 4 county supervisor's seat. Personally, I'm backing Tracie Cone. Reason being she strikes me as being a sincere advocate for controlled growth here in San Benito County and Hollister in particular. As I stated in my last entry, I have no love for Measure S on the ballot, and one of my concerns is that approximately 70% of the funding for Reb Monaco's campaign chest came from the land owner of the property slated for Measure S and from one of the city's general contractors. Additionaly, Reb Monaco's campaign chest was just about 3 times larger than Tracie's. If he succeeds in this election, it's very likely due to his ability to spend money. In my opinion, it's pretty hard not to notice who's buying what around here.

I admit, my accusations may not be entirely fair, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it has a pretty fair chance of being a duck. Speaking of flying critters, I couldn't help noticing a plane pulling a vote for Reb Monaco banner over the city last weekend. As I watched I wondered how much of Reb's warchest was trailing behind that tail-dragger.


As you may have noticed, Measure R is set to temporarily increase sales tax by 1% for parks, safety, police, that kind of thing. Personally, I'm for it. If my experience calling the parks department is relavant, then I believe this city is in desparate need of some money to keep our parks going. Also there is concern that we are about to inherit a gang problem. Personally, any money that can be raised to prevent the growth of gang activity in the city is fine by me (except proposition S, of course).


A friend of ours found out that Measure S is much more than just the creation of Sun City Hollister. Apparently Sun City Hollister is just one of the projects planned for that land area. Measure S is just a method of getting a foot in the door so the land can be carved up and sold off to developers in general. Beware the fine print on this one and still vote NO on S.

Personally, it seems to me that this election is about Hollister and her future. It seems we have the choice of becoming a southern Napa Valley (a la Tracie Cone's ideas on county development) or becoming the next Salinas (a la Measure S). Personally, I hope people are leaning towards the Napa Valley choice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

NO on S!

We residents of San Benito County have a chance to allow the general plan to be modified by Del Webb Communities/Pulte Homes to allow said same to build a 4000 home Sun City just to the north of our town. Keeping in mind that Hollister has around 7000 to 8000 homes already, this will create about half again our sized city between Hollister and Gilroy. Frankly, I'm not big on that kind of growth. Interestingly, the No-on S people are desperately trying to stave Del Webb off with a $700 campaign budget. Del Webb, on the other hand, have apparently spent something more than $658000 to sell the town that this is a good idea.

It certainly is nice that they have sponsored ho-downs at the local Veteran's community center and they have certainly put up enough Yes-on-S signs around town, and have certainly been calling everyone in the community with so-called surveys, which are more like campaign adds. But I wonder if the local population is aware that this invasion tactic Del Webb is using is typical of what developers are doing these days in communities across the country.

Call me a NIMBY jerk, but I don't care for these kind of tactics. If they get their way, Del Webb will muscle their way in, build and sell their crud, and be off to the next town. Their profits will skeedaddle off to Phoenix or Michigan, and we residents of Hollister will get to adjust to the impact of a 50% larger town.

Not only that, but the productive farmland that currently resides in the parcel Del Webb wants to settle, will obviously be made unusable. This is farmland that, unless I'm terribly mistaken, has a significant earthquake fault (the Calaveras Fault) running pretty much directly beneath it. To my way of thinking, it would be best to leave this land as it is.

Soon, another behemoth project will attempt to muscle into a spot that is roughly adjacent to Del Webb's targetted plot. DMB Associates' "El Rancho San Benito" is a project that is literally the same size as Hollister itself. DMB is again from out of state (Arizona), so similar issues apply. In fact, it also is parking itself immediately to the east of the Sargent Fault, next to a hill with an obvious history of mud-slides. Should disaster strike either of these developments, the city of Hollister will be tasked with picking up the pieces.

Right now, special interests are buying up politicians and creating their own political causes as fast as they can. If the citizens of Hollister don't take action, we'll be looking at a 150% growth rate in our local neighborhood in the years shortly after the election, and we'll inherit all the usual problems that come with rampant growth. I certainly don't want that kind of growth, I'm hoping the rest of the citizens of Hollister don't want that kind of growth either.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Grass Fix-up, Memorial Daze and Secret Codes

Our Park is lovely once again. A few days after talking with the city and posting on my blog, a parks employee, his truck and really huge riding mower showed up to attend to the problem. All better now.

My wife and I had a particularly peaceful Memorial Day weekend, mostly doing laundry, gardening, and watching DVDs. We also saw "The Da Vinci Code". Although the reviews of it have been iffy, especially with reports of laughter during the viewing in Cannes, we enjoyed ourselves very much. Generally speaking, the movie was remarkably true to the book. Of course there were some bits missing, but the main story line remained intact. If you have already read the book (and assuming you enjoyed it), you will probably be ecstatic over the movie. On the other hand, without reading the book first, some of the aspects of the movie will likely be confusing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Being Kind to our Fair Weather Parks

The grass in the park down the street (Southeast Community Park, Hollister's newest park, apparently) is overgrown and rapidly drying out. I felt compelled to call this to the attention of the City of Hollister's parks department. A sympathetic voice on the other end of the phone let me know that the city's park staff had been reduced to something like three people and that their lawn mower had recently died. Apparently, the City of Hollister is nigh unto broke. I think we citizens of Hollister have an opportunity to express our volunteerism and/or charity. If anyone is interested, might I suggest that a donation of a lawn mower to the city might be a wonderful idea?

For what it's worth, apparently the other seven or so parks are suffering as well.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Placing a Price on the Intangible

I recently received survey in the mail from the El Rancho San Benito construction people (DMB Associates), asking where I stand on various issues related to their new project. They would like to build a self-contained community between Hollister and Gilroy that would be a bit larger in area than the city of Hollister proper (that part of Hollister contained within the city limits). The survey's "issues" are such that it's pretty hard to find opposition to them, unless you are either cruel and heartless or that you might actually oppose the project in general, which the survey never addresses. Let's go over the issues in their survey and see how we feel about them.

1. El Rancho is building 6800 homes over 10 years, including 1,360 homes at below-market rate for qualifying incomes. OK, so which part do I vote on? the low income housing or the Hollister sized town? Kind of muddled, but what comes next is better.

2. Long term funding for to aid other housing needs in the county, including Habitat for Humanity, the homeless, farm worker housing, a house for battered women and their children. I mean, why don't they add funding to save cute puppies from being eaten by canibals while their at it? How can you oppose funding for a battered women's shelter? How do you check the "opposed" box without feeling like a degenerate monster?

3. Next is highway and road improvements. They point out that the community will be self-contained and self-managed as far as roadwork goes, except where they hook into the local highways and connections to 101. They say they intend to add a few extra improvements. They point out that "such improvements can(my emphasis) include widening of highway 25", our favorite transportation complaint. I suppose it could include a bridge between Hollister and Hawaii, but I'm not holding my breath. It might be a bit different if their survey said "such improvements will include widening of highway 25", which would be a bit more definite, but on the other hand, widening of highway 25 wouldn't be all that necessary if Hollister 2.0 weren't being added to the landscape in the first place.

4. The next issue is the addition of public facilities, added to keep Hollister 2.0 self-contained. Good idea and difficult to oppose, unless of course the whole idea of Hollister 2.0 is objectionable in the first place.

5. The addition of 1,800 construction jobs (but will they only hire San Benito people? Of course not) and 8,000 long term jobs (I wonder if those long term jobs come with the services and stores within the self-contained Hollister 2.0? In other words, after you create your new town of 28,000 or so, wouldn't it be expected that some of the people might actually work in the town you created? Is this a real point?

"It is projected," they say, "that the the build out project will add $3 billion of local economic activity to San Benito county over 10 years." That sort of works out if they're going to be selling the houses they build instead of just giving them away. Per house, their $3 billion figure equates to $440,000 per house in Hollister 2.0. Should we be inspired that they really intend to sell their houses? On the other hand, am I supposed to stick to my guns and "oppose" economic activity? Again, is this really a point?

6. They are also adding "San Benito Gateway Improvements", which include trails, greenbelts, and historical exhibits that celebrate the county's agricultural heritage -- a heritage which will be more and more historical as the county converts its farmlands and ranches into sub-divisions. Generally, greenbelts are one of those things you don't generally need in the current rural landscape set aside for Hollister 2.0. It seems to me to be a bit redundant to add a greenbelt between the various ranches and farms. It's kind of quaint that the developer intends to preserve a bit of the landscape that they are simultaneously gobbling up into housing.

7. Lastly, they have a long-term legacy fund. This is one of those things which is again hard to oppose. Why? Because they intend to set aside $80 million over 25 years to provide financial assistance to county residents in need of affordable housing and ironically enough, "to purchase and preserve important agricultural lands in San Benito county." Do I oppose helping the poor acquire housing? Of course not! Do I oppose preserving agricultural lands? Of course not! Do I oppose covering 8 square miles of the county in houses? Yeah, I sort of do.

Enough on the Survey

It's obvious the survey is just an advertisement to convince San Benito County residents not to oppose the El Rancho development when it comes before the San Benito County Board, or what have you. The real question of my blog is this: Is it possible to put a value on the intangible things we now have in lieu of Hollister 2.0? How do you place a value on open spaces, or fresh air? Is there a value in having farms and ranches, as opposed to sub-divisions, around Hollister? Is the peace and quiet of an easy commute worth anything? Is having a small, distinct town worth more than being part of a greater sub-urban sprawl? These are things I think the residents of Hollister should consider carefully before accepting the addition of Hollister 2.0. If for no other reason than the path of development is a path down which there is no return.