Thoughts on things that make you say ‘Ow’

By Emilio, on Sep 19, 2011

This is one of Steve Bankhead’s “Historic” Op-Ed’s. Mr. Bankhead was kind enough to give the Fishing Report permission to reprint a Register-Pajaronian Opinion of March 11, 2011.

Thoughts on things that make you say ‘Ow’

Friday, Mar 11th, 2011
BY: STEVE BANKHEAD

 In his March 8 letter to the editor, Elias Alonzo complained of a “duo of City Council members in alignment with an aging old guard and elitist attempt to prevent the development of a 2,000-job business park.”

That would be the proposed Manabe-Ow project. It’s unfortunate that in his haste, Mr. Alonzo neglected to mention the fact he’s a longtime lobbyist for Ow family developments.

Mr. Alonzo’s letter concluded by saying Watsonville will survive the “onslaught” of these two council members and their arthritic allies, saying progress will be made “one funeral at a time.”

That created the disturbing image of a political clique checking obituaries for names of the community’s old guard, eagerly awaiting the day that enough will be gone to leave them free to have their way with the city.

I doubt there are plans for them to speed the dying process. Come to think of it, though, their fluoridation of our water might increase the incidence of osteoporosis. A flurry of broken hips among us old coots might help fast track the new guard’s agenda.

The “duo” alluded to in the Alonzo letter are council members Nancy Bilicich and Emilio Martinez. They’re the same unruly scamps who refused to march in step with other council members on fluoridation. As for his accusation of them attempting to prevent  job development, apparently haste can also cause a person to confuse facts. I doubt anybody wants to prevent this project, except possibly Wetlands Watch or the Sierra Club, due to its location in a slough area. If any developer can conjure jobs from the site, more strength to them.

I suspect the main concern of the two renegade (i.e. non-rubber stamp) council members might be the same as mine: Using $31 million in redevelopment funds to pay for pre-development improvements on the property. That would be the largest expenditure of funds since the $21 million invested in the Civic Plaza building/parking structure in 2003, and we’re still awaiting a return of investment from that. So far, its most apparent job stimulus is for businesses manufacturing “For lease” signs.

At the March 8 council meeting it was announced that $750,000 in redevelopment funds would be freely given Manabe-Ow developers to cover costs of engineering studies, with the only qualification for the grant being that the project create 50 jobs in 20 years. What happened to the 2,000 jobs used to justify the $31 million investment? They might as well have required the developers limbo under the Geiser Field goal posts to get the money.

One unseemly part of the funding effort is the attempt to twist redevelopment rules requiring projects address urban blight, with Assemblyman Luis Alejo trying to convince Sacramento that prime agricultural land on Manabe-Ow is somehow blighted. Such game-playing with redevelopment rules to achieve inappropriate funding for pet projects or preferred developers is a major reason Gov. Brown is attempting to tighten controls or even eliminate redevelopment agencies. After reading about cities shifting redevelopment funds around in order to pay general fund costs, or for projects of dubious or very long-range value, I’m inclined to prefer the governor redirect them to schools and other more immediate community needs.

Also questionable is the involvement of Assemblyman Alejo in the effort to provide redevelopment funds to the Manabe-Ow project, considering his long involvement with George Ow Jr. Alejo co-founded group the Watsonville Brown Berets, which are provided space for their Bike Shack in a downtown Ow property, and George Ow, Jr. has contributed thousands of dollars to Alejo’s past political activities. In hindsight, a less conflicted advocate for the project could have prevented local cynics from suspecting any quid pro quo in the endeavor.

The March 8 meeting also included a group thrashing of Councilman Emilio Martinez by city staff and council members over his recent newspaper opinion pieces. Also included were threats of punishing him under the Council Code of Ethics, which seemed to be specially created to intimidate Martinez or other members failing to conform to the council majority’s agenda. I certainly don’t recall it being used against Luis Alejo when he was spending most of last year abusing his powers as mayor.

We have a council that supports our mayor’s First Amendment right to boycott flag salutes, but threatens a council member for expressing opinions on city issues in a newspaper opinion section, and while scorning local residents who dare make comments during meetings offending the council’s sensitivities. Perhaps the council should establish a free speech zone for such troublesome people, safely outside the council chambers.

I advise placing it on the roof of the parking structure, close enough to the edge that the noisier complainers can (to borrow one councilman’s suggestion) take a flying leap.

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