Measure Q would be absolutely devastating to San Benito County if it were to pass. It would have huge negative impacts that will last for years – Q’s restrictions go until 2050, nearly 30 years from now – and I strongly urge everyone to vote NO on Q. Why? Let’s look at some basic county facts and the consequences of Measure Q:
Revenue: To begin with, we are a very poor county in terms of revenue. This is really for two primary reasons: First, dating back to when Proposition 13 passed in 1978, San Benito County was locked into getting only 11 cents on the dollar from the local property taxes that are collected. This compares to where most other counties in the state stand…anywhere from 20, 30, even 40+ cents on the dollar. Does this make sense or is it fair? No, but that’s what we’re stuck with. Second, unlike most other counties, we are almost exclusively dependent on the property taxes that we do collect, because we have such a small amount of commercial and industrial development in the unincorporated areas of the county. Thus, we receive a relatively miniscule amount of sales tax revenue from businesses, something that other counties have significantly more of to supplement their overall revenue. (And remember, we’re talking about the unincorporated areas of San Benito County. Businesses within the city limits of Hollister and San Juan Bautista provide virtually no sales tax revenue to the county itself.)
So, revenue, or the lack thereof, is a huge issue for our county, and this has major consequences for all of us. Running a county or city essentially amounts to running a large and diverse business, and of course, all businesses need revenue to function properly. Furthermore, it needs to be increasing revenue, because expenses are always going up (especially in an inflationary period like now).
County Services/Infrastructure: Some might ask: “Why should I care about San Benito County’s revenues?” The reason why we all should care very much is that if the county doesn’t have enough revenue, it simply is not able to pay for the level of services and infrastructure that we so badly need here. Fixing our county roads, paying for more sheriff deputies and fire protection, dealing with the homeless situation, expanding our library, building new parks, providing higher wages and benefits for county employees (so we can both attract and retain them) – the list goes on and on – all cost money. And so the county’s overall lack of revenue handcuffs us in virtually everything we do, preventing us from improving our services and infrastructure throughout the community.
Commercial Development: This is why back in 2015 the Board of Supervisors made commercial nodes in the county such a priority in the General Plan – to identify logical locations within the unincorporated areas of the county where commercial development could take place, in order to generate increased sales tax revenue going forward. As required by law, there were countless public meetings, with input from the entire community. The resulting document, developed over a five year period, not only identifies these commercial nodes, but it clearly prioritizes preserving prime ag land as well. As opposed to what the proponents of Measure Q would have you believe, the reality is that it doesn’t have to be “either/or” in San Benito County: we can both support our agricultural heritage and attract more commercial and industrial development in the unincorporated areas of the County.
Vote of the People: The proponents of Q say that they want a “vote of the people” on all rezoning decisions. This may sound like a lofty and worthy goal to some, but the consequences of this approach will be “closing the county for business” for the next generation. Why? Because no commercial or industrial developer in their right mind is going to go through the time and expense of all of the planning stages of a new development – including paying for a full EIR, and passing muster with the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors – and then, after waiting for the next county-wide election, hope to convince the voters to support their project. In essence, the vote in November on Q will determine now whether any commercial development in the County will take place until 2050, because if Q passes, potential commercial development will likely never get to a future “vote of the people.”
Housing: Given some of the concerns about housing growth in our community, if this initiative targeted residential development, it might make a bit more sense. But it does not. Instead, for reasons unknown, Measure Q is targeting commercial development. This initiative really has very little to do with housing; it’s all about eliminating commercial nodes and making it all but impossible to attract new businesses to the county. If the proponents of Q were serious about reducing housing growth, they would have made their initiative apply to not only the unincorporated parts of the county, but also to the City of Hollister, where the vast majority of new housing has been built in recent years.
Jobs: Certainly, providing more jobs in our county would seem to be a worthy goal, but apparently not to the proponents of Measure Q. And we’re talking about a lot of jobs. The impartial “9111 Report” that the county commissioned to look at the fiscal impacts of Q, as provided for under state law, states “If voter approval is not granted for (commercial) nodes development, the county would lose the opportunity to create as many as 4,300 jobs by 2035…”. Just think what these jobs – many of them good-paying ones – would mean to the residents of San Benito County, in terms of a better quality of life.
Traffic: With so many more jobs potentially provided by future commercial development, fewer residents would have to commute out of town to work. This in turn would mean much less traffic in many parts of our county, certainly less on Highways 25 and 156. But if this initiative passes, all of these job opportunities will go away – and instead, we will continue to see increased traffic as our community inevitably grows and there are more and more commuters on our roads.
Agriculture: We’re told that Measure Q will somehow protect the county’s ag community – our farmers and ranchers – and they’re all in favor of Q passing. But I can tell you that the vast majority of them are strongly opposed to it. That’s why the San Benito County Farm Bureau, which represents all ag people within the county, has formally endorsed a “No” position on Q. Farmers and ranchers see the initiative as taking away their property rights, while eliminating their potential for ag technology, vegetable packing, and agritourism expansion. They also see Q as gutting the county’s ability to build and maintain the infrastructure for roads, water, and other services that the ag community relies on to be successful.
Who’s Against Q?: Don’t take my word for the huge negative impacts Q would have on our county. Just take a look at the people and prominent groups within our community that are strongly opposed to Measure Q: Sheriff Eric Taylor, Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo, San Benito High School District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum, the aforementioned Farm Bureau, unions and working families, the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council, the San Benito County Democratic Party and the San Benito County Republican Party (when was the last time that Republicans and Democrats agreed on anything?!), the list goes on and on.
There’s a reason why: they all know that Measure Q will absolutely devastate the county’s ability to fix our roads, provide proper law enforcement and emergency response funding, cause a major reduction in revenue for our schools, hurt our farmers, ranchers, union workers and businesses, while increasing traffic and destroying local job growth. It will worsen our quality of life in San Benito County for a generation.
I urge everyone to Vote NO on Measure Q!
San Benito County Supervisor, District 4
Longtime Resident & Business Owner