I am writing today to provide my perspective on Measure Q. Measure Q would remove almost all the commercial nodes from the county’s General Plan and force any projects which seek to rezone agricultural land for other uses to be subject to a countywide vote after they have gone through the normal planning approval process and spent potentially millions of dollars on architectural and engineering plans, planning fees, consultant fees to prepare an environmental impact report, and, under Measure Q, the election costs. If the project is voted down for any reason, the money that was spent will all go down the drain as a complete loss.
This obviously raises the cost and risk substantially if you are a business looking at locating within San Benito County, which creates a significant barrier to job creation and economic growth, and opportunities within San Benito County.
The City of Davis passed a similar measure more than 20 years ago. Its effects should be noted when considering Measure Q. In the past 20 years, there have been seven proposed projects on agricultural land directly adjacent to the city; only two have passed. As a result, the City of Davis has lost out on more than 10,000 jobs, $5 billion in investment, and millions of dollars in annual net revenues for the city and the schools.
The city’s roads are deteriorating rapidly, its school district is considering closing a school and the city is finding it difficult to continue funding services like fire, police and social services. This is a glimpse into what is likely to happen if Measure Q passes.
San Benito County already struggles to maintain its roads. School districts like Aromas-San Juan are already facing major financial challenges to upgrade and maintain infrastructure. The county’s sheriff’s office is severely understaffed which threatens public safety.
Without commercial development to provide new revenues, the county and other agencies will have to implement a combination of service cuts and tax/fee increases to maintain services. This will continue to raise the cost of living, hurt those at the lowest end of the income distribution and decrease the quality of life for San Benito residents who drive on the roads, rely on public safety, send their children to local schools, or make use of any other public services.
Without new jobs, where will the next generation of San Benito residents work? For that matter, how will traffic ever improve if the substantial number of commuters who live in San Benito have no other options other than to drive to Santa Clara County or beyond on roads that have no new revenues for upgrades and repairs?
Change is hard and it needs to be managed in a thoughtful way to ensure multiple concerns and perspectives are taken into account, but it is also true that stasis is death. In the dynamic world and economy we live in, economic development is not only a fiscal necessity for local agencies, but a moral imperative. The future generations of San Benito County deserve the opportunity for human flourishing here in San Benito County.
For most, the future of work will not be in agriculture, which means we either need to create new jobs here in San Benito County or else they will be forced to move elsewhere to pursue lives of meaning.
Measure Q is opposed by the San Benito Democratic Party, Republican Party, Chamber of Commerce, and Farm Bureau, local labor unions, fire fighters, Sheriff Eric Taylor, farmers, ranchers and many more. I urge you to vote No on Q.