Support democracy with your vote
The argument against Measure Q that bothers me the most is something I have heard from people I know and love and respect. They say they don’t trust the voters to make good decisions.
The first time I heard it I was shocked, but that person was not alone, so I started to think about why friends of mine were planning on voting against giving the power to decide about the future development of our county to the citizens of San Benito.
What I realized is that the scare tactics from conservatives are working, even on folks who I always thought of as progressive. People are not trusting their neighbors to be smart, educate themselves on the issues, and vote responsibly.
What I don’t think my friends realize is that this is a step on the road to authoritarianism. If we don’t trust people to vote, if we don’t trust the voting process, then we don’t trust democracy. If you don’t like democracy, you might ask yourself what better form of government you would put in its place.
For the 20 years I have lived in San Benito County, I have seen several citizens’ initiatives put on the ballot that were intended to protect our prime farmland from sprawl development. The arguments against them are always the same: it will increase traffic and taxes, our schools will lose money, our county will go broke, and the big one—“it will hurt our farmers.” A disingenuous claim at best.
The men and women who farm the San Juan Valley mostly lease the land from a handful of large landowners. It’s those big landowners and their friends in government who fight any attempt to protect the productive farmland they own because they want to preserve, instead, their right to kick out the farmers, turn those row crops into housing developments and cash out, leaving the rest of us with the increased traffic and the cost of servicing all the new residences.
Farmers aren’t hurt when we protect farmland from development—they’re hurt when they are pushed aside so it can be paved over.
These are all boogeymen arguments that scare people and rile up the negative vote, despite the fact that under the current system the traffic and roads get worse every year and the county gets deeper in debt.
Measure Q is about who controls the future of San Benito County—the five supervisors, who are our elected representatives but who can be swayed by big campaign donors? Or the people who live here? It is also about whether you believe in democracy or if you have given up and would prefer to leave your power in the hands of leaders who are clear about continuing the status quo.
For me the answer is simple: I still believe in America, I still believe in democracy. I trust the people, and I’m voting Yes on Measure Q.
Question pro-growth motives
Measure Q is a big question. Q means question. The big question seems to be money. We are told that we need money. The city needs money; the county needs money. That is why we need to grow and spread out. However, it seems to me that we have already grown and spread out. Believe your own eyes; we have spread out. So where is that growth money?
Growth money is called Impact Fees by the supervisors when developing contracts for growth. Records show that in 2010 the supervisors reduced impact fees basically from $24,000 to $12,000, or by half. That can encourage growth but hurt the county by neglecting roads, water and sewer and schools. So then we are told that we need to grow for more money.
It’s like riding a horse on a merry-go-round. We go up for increased fees then down for reduced fees. Round and round we go on an ever larger merry-go-round lulled by the music of more growth.
Why do some want growth? Landowners can sell agricultural land for higher prices, provided zoning is changed. Supervisors and those running for elections can change zoning and receive campaign donations from developers. Construction trades can profit from growth. Transportation and fuel businesses can profit from growth. Do the people, the taxpayers, really profit from growth?
People have increased road use and disrepair, more traffic and more intersection lights, higher maintenance costs for water and sewer, more air and water pollution, threatening space and resources for our agricultural economy. Climate change is impacting agriculture by making weather conditions difficult for crop growth and by reducing abundance. Geographical and benign weather make San Benito County unique for agriculture and must be preserved. San Jose sprawled over prime agriculture; do we want the same?
Only those believing that growth supplies more money oppose Q. It is possible the majority of all people—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—support Measure Q. Those wanting “off” the merry-go-round want thoughtful slow growth that will benefit all the people. That means a “YES” on Measure Q.