COMMUNITY OPINION: Stop personal attacks, let project stand on its own merits

SBC Supervisor candidate Wayne Norton writes about proposed development at Betabel.
Wayne Norton, candidate for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. Photo provided by Wayne Norton.
Wayne Norton, candidate for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. Photo provided by Wayne Norton.

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

It has been hard to witness the level of personal attack and vitriol directed at the owners of a proposed commercial project at the Highway 101/Betabel Road interchange. Opponents of economic development have accused the property owners of lying about profits being used to fund pediatric cancer research.

One might think that deeding the property to a charitable trust would be a compelling demonstration of good faith, but that hasn’t stopped the insults. One might think that losing a child to cancer would be a convincing explanation for why the property owners would be motivated to do something extraordinary, but that hasn’t quieted accusations that a child’s death is being used as a cynical ploy.

A press release put out by Sanford Burnham Prebys researchers discusses a breakthrough in pediatric cancer that was funded, in part, by the charitable trust created by the Highway 101 property owners. A link to the press release is here.

To better understand the value of the research, I spoke with my good friend Dr. Laura Stampleman, who lives in Aromas. Dr. Stampleman retired as a much-respected practicing oncologist on the Central Coast, but remains active in her field.

“It’s really important,” Dr. Stampleman told me, “it potentially changes the landscape of treatment. Pediatric cancer research increasingly depends on private donations because it is not the focus of traditional funders, such as government and pharmaceutical companies.”

The researcher’s release credits the McDowell Charity Trust as a major funder for this breakthrough research. This should offer us all a moment to be proud of the contributions of our community to an important public health issue—and its shameful that this has been used as a pretext to throw more mud.

With the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis affecting every community and putting millions of Californians and thousands of our residents onto the unemployment rolls, we literally cannot afford to continue appeasing the half-truths and misrepresentations of the self-interested. This is a time to come together as a community and chart a path forward, not attack one another.

I support responsible commercial development on Highway 101 that will add to our quality of life. I support economic development not just because profits will go to cancer research—that is a bonus—but because sending away jobs and eliminating sales tax opportunities during this historic economic crisis is simply irresponsible. Too many of our fellow citizens are struggling to weather this economic storm, and many still aspire to attain the living standards and comforts as those who continue to oppose this project.

Ultimately, any development will have to stand on its own merits as it goes through the rigorous approval process already in place. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the details of the project’s pros and cons. However, issuing a blanket “No” to any form of development before the process can even begin is not only irresponsible—it completely ignores the historic nature of the economic challenges we face, and the human cost that inaction will take.

Please, stop the hate.


Wayne Norton

Recognized by the State Assembly in 2019 for protecting the environment, Wayne Norton is a two-term elected Aromas Water District director and candidate for San Benito County Supervisor in District 2. A Vietnam veteran and former political reporter, Wayne was the managing editor of the daily Hollister Free Lance. He is an active advocate for quality public education and was a founding staff member of Anzar High School, a California Distinguished School. As a former Ombudsman, Wayne protected the rights of residents in nursing homes and investigated elder abuse. He currently serves as a director on the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, and has consistently led and volunteered for a variety of public commissions and community organizations since moving to the area in 1985. Wayne can be contacted at (831) 227-3530, [email protected], waynenorton.com or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.