Community Columns

Stanislaus residents getting pretty ticked off at supervisors

Every so often there is a convergence of anger that shakes up local politics. Some feel this is happening now, with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors being the subject of the anger.

There has long been an undercurrent of frustration and anger over the supes' arrogance in making decisions affecting West Side residents, such as the infamous effort to expand the Fink Road landfill into a megadump by importing garbage and medical waste. The odor of that fiasco still hangs in the air since the county still owns a $14 million piece of land with no discernible purpose.

In February, the board made a decision that seemed to defy logic. On a 3-2 vote, the supervisors decided to hand over development of the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station to a Sacramento company called PCCP West Park, which insisted it needed 4,800 acres -- or 7½ square miles of prime ag land -- to make its industrial and business park profitable.

Texas-based Hillwood Co., owned by Ross Perot Jr. and with considerable experience building similar business parks, offered a competing proposal that would have confined development to the 1,500-acre base.

It quickly became clear that the decision was based on behind-the-scenes politics with large donations to the election campaigns of some supervisors and pressure from political allies. It became planning by politics rather than logic or common sense.

Apparently the majority of supervisors didn't find it strange that a short-haul rail line down the West Side was being proposed 25 miles south of the nearest rail intersection with a projected cost of close to $200 million just to fix the tracks into Crows Landing. Nor did they consider the indications that this intermodal concept seems to make little financial sense, according to local shippers who know the economics of such a scheme. The West Park plan is highly speculative at best.

It is being sold as important to the Port of Oakland. When the supervisors approved the West Park proposal, were they aware that the Port of Oakland isn't "ready to commit money to Crows Landing or any other potential inland port"? How could the supes approve a project that appears to be based on illusion or guesswork over a clear offer to construct buildings starting in 2008, as proposed by Hillwood?

I could fill this column with unanswered questions about the supervisors' choice. But it's clear they made a political decision.

Now, again, the supervisors have made a planning decision based on blatant politics and the setting aside of the public's right to vote on the Salida growth initiative. To prove it was all about politics, they made sure the initiative's proponents (developers) will be reimbursed the almost $400,000 it cost to get signatures for the initiative.

When will we ever begin to hold our supervisors to account? Indications are that an effort against the supervisors is being considered, so maybe the time has come.

Delphia, a Patterson resident, is vice president of WS-PACE.org, a West Side group opposed to the PCCP West Park development proposal.

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