HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION) Rolling green hills and sprawling agriculture fields: It's why current Hollister Mayor, and 2020 candidate, Ignacio Velazquez, feels lucky to call Hollister home. "It's beautiful! People come visit us and tell us how beautiful it is," said Velazquez.
He vows to protect what is left of the natural landscape. "The developers want to tear up a lot of our farm land so they can build more homes. We can't keep going down that path. It doesn't make any sense," said Velazquez.
According to Velazquez, over 4,000 homes have been approved for build in Hollister and San Benito County. It's a plan he said could be destructive. If done too fast, he believes it will lead to crowded schools and heavy traffic.
"If we're going to do any growth we need to make sure it's more in the commercial or industrial area so we have more jobs for our residents. I want them living and working here and enjoying our beautiful community," said Velazquez.
Mortgage loan officer and Santa Clara County juvenile corrections officer, Sal Mora, thinks growth can be good if done in the right way.
"I don't want to see 10,000 homes built next month or next year, but we can do it in a responsible manner and implement those policies in our growth management program," said Mora.
Mora believes the city first needs to restore civility among elected officials. If elected, he said he will encourage residents to share their ideas, without fear of backlash.
"That's one of the biggest issues we're having right now. There's a lot of people, when I speak to them and when I canvas in the city, that are afraid to speak out. They see what elected officials do to others," saidMora.
The next mayor of Hollister will continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Velazquez said he will strive to keep case numbers low and encourage safety. "I carry and wear my mask everywhere I go. I encourage everyone to do it. This little thing makes a difference for all of us," said Velazquez.
Mora vows to stand behind local businesses through, what he predicts will be, a difficult Winter. "We need to come up with really good solutions, and push the state, if our numbers are doing well, to open up sooner rather than later," said Mora.
The 2020 race for Hollister Mayor has been a controversial one, thus far.
A voice message sent to some Hollister residents asks them not to vote for Velazquez. The speaker accuses Velazquez of "bullying and smearing anyone who opposes him" on city council.
"One of the things that's happened here is the divided community because of the developers and all the dirty tactics they take to get their people elected. It's divided our community," said Velazquez.
When asked about the message, Mora said he has no involvement. "I do not believe in that sort of campaigning. When I speak, I have facts, I don't have just opinions. I'm facts based. I do not engage in that sort of negative campaigning whatsoever," said Mora.
Velazquez said he plans to report the message to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and file a lawsuit.