Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: Caution regarding vehicle initiative

Monterey Peninsula College instructor David Serena writes that there are questions to be answered before making an informed decision about the proposed Strada Verde Innovation Park.

This community opinion was contributed by David Serena, instructor of ethnic studies and political science at Monterey Peninsula College. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

A 139-page Vehicle Initiative “VI” was filed with San Benito County on May 26. County officials somehow read and summarized 139-pages of legal language in less than two days and issued a Title & Summary to accommodate the developer’s plan to place this proposal on the November ballot.

What’s the rush?

The initiative would essentially approve a massive development and rezone hundreds of acres of agricultural lands adjacent to a dangerous hazardous chemicals site.

How can Latinos and others make an informed decision about a 139-page measure without any public hearings, environmental studies, or traffic studies?

There are a lot of questions to be answered before we can make an informed decision about this proposal. Here are a few of my concerns.

As mentioned, a deadly hazardous chemicals plant is located adjacent to this property. Latinos workers and families have been forced to work and live near hazardous sites like this for way too long.

We should not willingly go down the path of putting Latino workers and families in harms way without necessary safety standards and protections. Given the nature of this hazardous site, I doubt if adequate protections are possible.

What will the developer do to protect us from deadly toxic spills? Evacuation plans are too little, too late in the event of a spill. Who is liable for public exposure to these chemicals? The taxpayers or the developer?

Further, why is there no agreement with union leaders to ensure local workers are hired? How does it help the Latino community if this development simply brings more traffic into the county from workers located outside the county?

The developers behind this measure assure us that it will create jobs, protect agricultural lands, and boost county revenues. All of this without any impacts on local residents.

If these professed benefits are real, then why not process this development with the county and go through the regular public and environmental review process?

This measure is 139 pages of carefully crafted public relations materials. And it deserves careful scrutiny before you take a position on it

Perhaps my concerns are groundless. But I’m not willing to take the developer’s word for it. I want to see independent studies and analyses of these issues before expressing a final opinion.

Until then count me skeptical. You should be too!

David Serena