San Benito County has immediate economic, education, public safety, and budget problems; none of these are addressed by the emotional issue of a proposed total ban on enhanced oil recovery. I admit to falling into that trap myself – I should know better, I do know better – but when emotions take over, reasoning is often left behind.
The voters will decide the future of Measure J on Election Day and no matter the outcome the five-year impact of that decision will likely be zero. However, the day after the election the city and county governments will be facing the exact same problems they faced the day before and have faced for at least a decade.
Every budget update at the city just reconfirms that they cannot live without the 1 percent Measure E district sales tax or the revenue it generates from gasoline taxes paid by our commuting workers. The county’s situation is worse – they don’t make enough sales to even justify a district sales tax and no one trusts them to make a tax sharing deal. The county is trying to find a new actuary to put a smiley face on their long-term healthcare obligations; no matter, the debt is still enormous in face of their meager revenues.
The Board of Supervisors is blowing through one-time money as fast as they can, tobacco money, Teeter Fund money, landfill closing money; these should be buying badly needed extras, but they are being soaked up by basic infrastructure and debt. The poor eat their seed corn. It’s so bad even the union has tired of picking over the bones looking for a neglected dollar. If the county government was not acting as a pass-through for many millions of federal and state dollars it could just disappear and no one would notice.
As the decades go by the promised sunrise always recedes, forever “just around the corner.” The political will to address the education issues that determine the future of generations to come does not exist; only good news is accepted, the bad news is just left to the County Office of Education. Time and again I have asked the board how the Sheriff’s Department can function effectively with a skeletal patrol section and corrections staff, but they do not seem to care and won’t until they are on the wrong end of a significant lawsuit.
Collecting out-of-county garbage is not a viable long-term economic solution. Without real economic development that incudes decent jobs, our best and brightest will continue to drive to work in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties – and that is where they will continue to leave a good part of their paychecks.
As we saw with the Pinnacles highway naming fiasco, some of our rural residents will do little or nothing to promote tourism if it will cause them any level of discomfort or annoyance.
Those are just some of the critical issues that face us; unfortunately, they are all standing in the shadow of Measure J because it has become the hot button issue. Put into perspective the measure is nowhere near our most important concern – it’s not even in the top 10. As many people have said – “if you don’t manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you.” Now, if I can only take my own advice …