This community opinion was contributed by Frank Barragan, chairman of Concerned Citizens of San Benito County and financial officer of Vote No on N. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
Ten weeks ago, we witnessed a remarkable display of American democracy at work. Here in San Benito County, and across our country, record numbers of citizens turned out to vote. They exercised the power our democracy provides citizens: the power to self-govern through the election of representatives or to decide directly by voting on initiatives. By design, the voters have the final say.
Our community should be proud of the turnout on Nov. 3. Given the pandemic, the power struggles we see in Washington, and the many other challenges we face, we need to elect leaders committed to community safety and to make decisions that reflect the will of the people. Our elections officials and volunteers deserve our thanks for their hard work and dedication in ensuring our electoral process went so smoothly.
On Election Day, San Benito voters considered Measure N, the Strada Verde project, a massive development that would, among other things, rezone agricultural land for an industrial development next to a dangerous chemical plant. There were robust campaigns on both sides. Proponents spent more than a million dollars. The opposition was a broad coalition of community members, environmental advocates, Latino and business leaders.
The voters listened and their decision was overwhelming. Nearly 60% said no. Strada Verde was rejected across the county, with majorities voting no in all five supervisorial districts.
Voters rejected Strada Verde for many reasons:
- Worries that a commercial project would sharply increase traffic on Highway 25, which is already over capacity.
- Fears the Strada Verde site is simply not suitable for non-agricultural use because it is so close to an extremely hazardous farm chemical plant. In fact, the people’s general plan already prohibits non-agricultural use at this location.
- Opposition to the destruction of farmland at that site, and then likely nearby.
- Concerns about having giant warehouses as the ‘gateway’ to their county.
It is time now for the Board of Supervisors to act affirmatively to respect the clear will of the voters. The Board should remove from consideration any project at this location. (Included in this removal should be the Strada Verde plan that voters so clearly rejected, but is still before the County for approval.) And, the Board should pass a 3.5-mile buffer zone around the chemical plant to protect the public from further attempts to develop non-agricultural uses in that hazardous area.
The voters have spoken clearly. Clearly, theirs should be the final word.