Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: Politics of Fear clouds the issue

District 2 Supervisor candidate Wayne Norton writes about staying focused on attracting local jobs and rebuilding the economy rather than the politics of fear.

This community opinion was contributed by Wayne Norton, candidate for San Benito County District 2 Supervisor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

The politics of fear has begun. It did not take long for a public campaign that preys on our insecurities to raise the specter of industrial disaster as a tactic to curry political favor.

And that’s unfortunate. Our county is hurting from high unemployment, the daily sight of business closings, and the prospect that the end of rent and mortgage payment protections will force evictions. We need elected leaders—and prospective leaders—to give us hope by seizing the opportunities to provide jobs and economic stability for our families.

The politics of fear is manifested in the release of an environmental report done by the county as part of the Strada Verde voter initiative. The report’s focus is on a business, TriCal, that borders the site of the proposed Strada Verde project. The report notes that TriCal deals in chemicals that could pose a serious risk if there was ever a major event on the property—a risk of such magnitude that damage would extend to the Highways 101-25 interchange. The anti-jobs political faction wants to use the report to say voters should reject the Strada Verde initiative and the 5,500 jobs it will bring at full build-out.

Here is what the report does not say:

  • TriCal has been here for decades without a significant safety issue.
  • TriCal currently has commercial neighbors that have not been subject to dangers caused by TriCal.
  • TriCal is in a heavily regulated industry and must comply with rigorous state safety regulations and inspections.
  • Whatever safety issues exist can be mitigated by TriCal.

The report centered on practices at TriCal, but the anti-jobs faction wants voters to believe Strada Verde is the problem. If they genuinely believe TriCal is a danger they would be advocating to close all the businesses within the purported 3.5-mile danger zone. They would also be lobbying state representatives to immediately close and reroute Highway 101.

As the anti-jobs faction knows, that sort of hysterical advocacy would be a gross over-reaction and would not be tolerated by the public. Instead, they have seized on this as an opportunity to paint Strada Verde as a “hazard.”

There is plenty of anxiety among county residents already. The damage to our economy from COVID-19 is causing many of our friends and neighbors to lose sleep wondering how they are going to make ends meet as we lose jobs, health insurance, and businesses.

Our leaders should be talking about how our families and businesses are going to navigate this economic downturn that experts say is only going to get worse.

Strada Verde has significant potential to provide good-paying local jobs. Let’s set the fear mongering aside and give Strada Verde a chance to prove its value to our county’s families.

Wayne Norton

Wayne Norton lives in Aromas. He is a member and past President of the Rotary Club of San Juan Bautista. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.