Lack of civility, respect in local politics

After Madam Mayor Celeste Sanchez was elected Mayor of San Benito in May 2014, she was confronted with a City Commission who refused to accept/approve her board nominations.

After numerous nominee rejections by the majority of the City Commission, Mayor Sanchez must have met privately with each member of the City Commission to settle the issue because a City Commission who does not work together is doomed to fail.

An off-the-record agreement was reached among the elected officials and all agreed to respect each other’s board qualified nominations. I never witnessed again a well-qualified and experienced board nominee being rejected because someone’s feelings were hurt during a tense debate. Civility & respect had returned to the City Commission.

During the regular meeting of the San Benito City Commission on July 3, I was immediately taken aback by the optics of some current City Commission elected officials. A genuine qualified nominee by one City Commissioner was rejected by the majority. The nominee met and exceeded the four qualifications required by the adopted EDC Bylaws.

The reason given in public by a City Commissioner for rejecting the nominee was because of a “personal slight” by a former Commissioner. The same genuine qualified nominee was again rejected by the same majority at the regular meeting of the San Benito City Commission July 17. The disturbing trend of ego-driven politics has returned.

Commissioner Rene Villafranco, whose nominee was rejected by the majority of the current City Commission, was victorious in his last re-election in 2017 by garnering 53 percent (1,037 votes) of 1,972 total votes amongst three candidates.

A total of 1,037 voters in San Benito voted for Commissioner Rene Villafranco’s re-election because they trusted his judgment in voting in the best interest of all of San Benito citizens. They also entrusted him in nominating qualified and experienced citizens who have the best interest in moving San Benito forward.

Denying a City Commissioner his option to nominate to a board a qualified and experienced voter/ citizen is just downright wrong and disrespectful of the 1,037 voters who exercised their privilege to vote for the City Commissioner; especially when denied for “personal reasons.”

As is common knowledge, “Politics is a dirty business!” Words or comments are made in the heat of the moment during a tense debate. These words/comments should be taken with a grain of salt; they have no meaning and should not be taken personal when deliberating a vote or decision that affects the well-being of the entire citizens of San Benito.

We must bring back an atmosphere of civility, mutual respect and cooperation to politics in general, but especially to the city of San Benito. The concept of the “loyal opposition” seems to have been forgotten or just ignored. The concept promotes that, at the end of the day, we are all in this together and generally all want what is best for our community, even though we may have disagreements and differences of opinion in many areas.

I will continue to advocate zealously for policies and programs and ordinances that I believe to be in our community’s best interests and I will do so with respect and civility. We will have the option to “Agree to Disagree” but again I think it is important to remember – and many seem to have already forgotten – that we are all on the same side.

If we hope to improve the quality of life in our community, if we hope to truly turn things around, then simply bashing the administration (City Commission, City Manager, City Attorney, etc.) every time one gets a chance is counterproductive.

It is no secret that many business owners and many businesses looking for new communities in which to locate review posts and comments on social media, in local blogs, and in local print, broadcast and online news media.

Our community in the past has lost potential businesses because of the negativity that seems to often permeate our community. We cannot afford to lose a single job or business that might locate here. We must remember that we all want the best for our community.

Continue to advocate for your beliefs by all means, but do so in a respectful, civil and non-personal nature. Oppose those policies which you believe to be wrong but support those which you believe to be right. Advocate for policies and programs that you feel will make our community better. Agree to disagree when necessary and, even if you are a member of the political opposition, be generally supportive of the administration recognizing that it truly has the best interests of our community at heart.

Let’s stop being negative (I have been guilty myself of this) and start working for positive change. Let us all rededicate ourselves to our community. Let’s be positive in our approach and overall supportive of our local government and our local government officials, who work tirelessly on our behalf.

Let’s work together to once again make San Benito a great place to live, work, and visit. San Benito has tremendous potential, and we must not waste it bickering among ourselves or lobbing insults or allegations against each other in private or public.

Every member of the City Commission should be allowed to nominate qualified citizens to boards/ committees without rejection because of “personal reasons.”

Remember this quote: “The Ego says: “I’m still mad about yesterday.” The Spirit says: “New Day, New Attitude. It’s not about you, get over yourself.”

Joe F. Rodriguez San Benito