This opinion was contributed by Rob Bernosky. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
One of the most painful political decisions I have made is not to support Measure G. As a daily commuter, I can attest to the horrible commute, whether on Highway 25 or the back roads. I feel for the farmers and ranchers who are trying to move equipment and product among the commuters rushing to get to and from work. More importantly, I am going against many of my friends who are active proponents Measure G.
The issues are:
- We are being sold a widened highway 25, but not all the way to 101.
- The County has a bookkeeping problem that does not give me comfort that $500 million in funds will truly only be used for roads.
- Overstated emphasis is being placed on the abilities of the Citizens’ Oversight Committee by Measure G Proponents.
- Debate on the issues have not included direct responses to direct questions made to proponents of Measure G and inquiries from skeptics have come in the form of attacks.
- There has been some nefariousness in the promotion of Measure G.
Let me explain.
Measure G funds can only be used in San Benito County, therefore Highway 25 could only be widened to the county line. What good does that do? While there are claims that others will widen the portion of 25 that is in Santa Clara County, we have not seen those promises in writing. My understanding is that while Caltrans District 5 (includes San Benito County but not Santa Clara County) is in favor of widening 25, but Caltrans District 4 (Includes Santa Clara County but not San Benito County) has no interest in widening 25.
The end result will be a huge bottleneck at the county line, so that problem is not solved.
Even though I see and appreciate County elected officials working on the current accounting problem with the Hollister School District funds, it just appears to me that there was not enough resources and attention put on the County’s bookkeeping for many years. Until the past problems get rectified and safeguards are put in place where every government agency gets the funds they are due when they are due, and accounting will always be “ticked and tied." I do not feel comfortable handing over $500 million today and expect we will know exactly where it will go.
Proponents have argued that the oversight will be “unprecedented." A review of the documents reflect a standard Citizens’ Oversight Committee, and my experience has been they do not provide much oversight. Committee seats are filled with proponents of the measure or have individuals who do not have experience in or the appetite for being skeptical, so they spend time talking about what is being built, but not about the appropriateness and details of the expenditures. Reports, especially audit reports, are as dry as can be for reading and written for sophisticated parties. Oversight Committee members have no authority and only have what is given to them. My experience has been asking for additional information is overt frustration of the effort.
True oversight would be requiring that funds be segregated in separate bank accounts. No check or transfer could be made to another government entity, but only to vendors that build roads, insuring that Measure G funds only went for roads and not secreted to the general fund or other non-road purposes.
The personal attacks against those asking questions have to stop. Asking hard questions should not be responded by a County Supervisor with “There you go again, spreading mis-information” when one is simply asking honest questions.
At the Benitolink/Farm Bureau/Youth Alliance Candidates' Forum, it was announced that both [political] Parties had endorsed Measure G. I know that one Party took two votes at two monthly meetings, and each time the result was to stay neutral. The spokesperson for Measure G was simply fed wrong information by bad actors.
I recommend voting NO on Measure G, then do a re-write that gives taxpayers the truth and guarantees what will happen with their funds. Include a provision if Highway 25 is not widened, the monies will be returned to the taxpayer, have listed steps as to how the public can be assured that funds will not be transferred to another government entity or general fund or used for boondoggle projects.
Let there be no doubt that I support fixing our roads. However, having insight into the accounting of public funds in San Benito County, I want the maximum protections possible before we hand over $500 million to those who are still (in good faith) trying to figure out where we are with school funds.
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