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Sprouts: Post-Mortem Look at Measure J

This election cycle was no different from past campaigns, in that the national races overshadowed local and state ballot initiatives. On Nov. 2 voters in Santa Cruz, CA handed a crushing defeat to the controversial Measure J. This county-wide initiative would have created a half-cent sales tax to finance transportation projects, primarily a 30 year plan to widen the Santa Cruz portion of California Highway 1. Issues of growth and traffic congestion would only compound if the highway were widened, oppponents said, and more than 60 % of voters agreed. Sprouts contributor Vinny Lombardo brings us this post-mortem look at Measure J.

[ Sprouts - radio from the grassroots I SCCRTC (Yes on J) I No on Measure J I Campaign for Sustainable Transportation (No on J) ]

12913_sprouts_meas_j_piece.mp3
sprouts_meas_j_piece.mp3 (5595 k)
IF YOU BROADCAST THIS STORY, PLEASE READ THE LEDE ON THE AIR, ITS PART OF THE STORY!
This election cycle was no different from past campaigns, in that the national races overshadowed local and state ballot initiatives. On Nov. 2 voters in Santa Cruz, CA handed a crushing defeat to the controversial Measure J. This county-wide initiative would have created a half-cent sales tax to finance transportation projects, primarily a 30 year plan to widen the Santa Cruz portion of California Highway 1. Issues of growth and traffic congestion would only compound if the highway were widened, oppponents said, and more than 60 % of voters agreed. Sprouts contributor Vinny Lombardo brings us this post-mortem look at Measure J.

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Jan Beautz is Supervisor for the First District, which includes the mid-county commuities of Live Oak, Soquel, and Branciforte. She's held her seat on the Board for more than 16 years. Since 2002, Beautz has chairred the Regional Transportation Commission, and was influential in drafting Measure J. Beautz feels since its a state highway, the state should pay for improvements. But state budget shortfalls have left the county searching for other revenue to deal with the traffic congestion.

JB:"We have one highway that travels the length of the county, it was built in 1950 and never been improved since, and In the meantime the population has grown by four times what it was when it was built. So what we have is really bad grid lock where it can take you 45 minutes to an hour to go 3-4 miles to go down to the other side of Capitola and obviously people have complained because of a variety of reasons....'

Aside from the normal concerns of slow moving traffic and delays, Beutz says the gridlocked streets have become a public safety hazard.

JB: "all the hospitals are located in the mid and south county, so when you have this kind of congestion and you don't have an extra lane, you don't have much in the way of shoulders, its dangerous."

MP: "They said, 'we gotta do something, people are stuck in cars!'"

Micah Posner is director of the bicycle advocacy group, People Power, and a spokesperson with the Campaign for Sensible Transportation, which organized to defeat Measure J.

MP: "'well, they're stuck in cars because the corporations drafted this type of transportation and development system in the 50's and screwed you over. So, do you want more of the same?' So our question was, do you want more of the same? Because they tried to say we have to widen the highway to fix the system and we said widening the highway is the system. that's exactly how we got into this mess."

Financial backers of Measure J included large firms, like Granite Construction Co, and Granite Rock Co, who outspent the opposition by more than 4-1. Another big donor was a group called the California Alliance for Jobs representing more than 1,700 heavy construction companies and 50,000 union construction workers in the state.

MP: "The big corporations that would benefit directly from widening the highway all got together and teamed up with their politicians to try to get this through.........and we stopped them dead in their tracks, this time they did'nt get a chance to manipulate the transportation system for their own economic benefit.

While many environmentalists, bike advocates, and community acticvists, lined up in opposition, some progressives, were vocal supporters of Measure J. Paul Marcelin-Sampson has never owned a car, and uses the Santa Cruz Metro bus system as his primary mode of transportation. In 2001, Paul started the Metro Riders Union, a billingaul group which advocates for ordinary bus riders who are oftentimes disconnected from the politcal process.

PMS: "For me it is about getting somewhere faster, and for bus riders, lets be specific, getting somewhere faster means being able to get somewhere. when you face a 1 hour 15 minute trip from Watsonville to Santa Cruz, which is the norm now .... its not possibe, its just not something you want to be doing everyday. So the faster travel time is the enabler that makes it possible for people to make the south/north connection that is so vital to their advancement."

Despite, heavy campaigning from police, fire and other public safety and officials, Measure J, needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and was defeated, 61%-39%. The results showed a clear geographic divide. In South County areas like Watsonville, where the population is primarily Latino, there was a majority in favor of Measure J, while most of the No votes came from the City of Santa Cruz.

PMS: "it was a case where people who do not have a pressing need for the highway, as in the people here in Santa Cruz successfully killed a project that would have benefitted folks who are not able to vote on it, not allowed to vote on it, so that's I think part of why it failed......"

Again, Micah Posner.

MP: ".. its good it got on the ballot, because it really opened up this opportunity for communication for community education and community debate so we really go to think together as a community whether it really made any sense to widen highway 1."

The voters of Santa Cruz County have spoken, Posner says, and want to begin discussions on a new transportation strategy, outside the automobile. He thinks it should focus on bicycling, but others ideas, as well.

MP: "that includes really making ammenities for walking, it includes enticing people to have high density housing it includes putting in very firm greenbelts.....and it may include some train service to tie those things together, because peole are still gonna wanna participate in the national economy, whethe you and I might like it or not."

While County Supervisor Jan Beautz thinks Posner's ideas are too idealistic, she concedes there aren't easy answers.

JB: "I don't think most people that live in the mid and south county are gonna ride their bike if they have to get into N county.. , 20 or 15 miles whatever it is. I don't think that's too likely. I think people talk about mass transportation alot but i think what happens is because our lives are complex, if you have to pick up you child form school, you have to got to the grocerey store, you have to go to work, I mean most people I don't think just go back and forth to work I think they do a whole lot of other things in the meantime, and I think that makes it less likely in a county like this to see that mass transit will work."

For now, the idea of widening Highway 1 is effectively dead. But at the rate of growth Santa Cruz has experienced in the last few years, congested streets, gridlock and angry drivers will be the norm for many more years to come. For Sprouts Radio, I'm Vinny Lombardo

 
 


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Comments

Re: Sprouts: Post-Mortem Look at MeasureJ

Thanks for the balanced story. I sure would like to see Beautz, Posner, and Sampson on a panel to discuss ideas for moving forward. No measure J bickering allowed, just more ideas toward a comprehensive solution. Package deals aren't easy to reach consensus on but piece by piece I am confident our county can make great strides in our transit woes.
 

Re: Sprouts: Post-Mortem Look at MeasureJ

It's really interesting to pick apart the arguments for Measure J/Highway widening. Look at who the pro people are trying to have us emotionally sympathize with: the working moms. But, look a little closer: is mom driving across the county to pick up her kid and go shopping? Wouldn't the kid be somewhat close to home and isn't there a store close to home, too? I think people in Santa Cruz are sympathetic to low wage workers coming to Santa Cruz to work, but it is not at all apparent to me that these folks are going to be helped out any more my widening the highway than having an extensive bus, train, and bike system.
We need think hard of who is being served most by these highway ideas and see how much responsibility Santa Cruz has to getting people to their high paying jobs in San Jose, using Santa Cruz as a thoroghfare to get there.
peace
 

Big Business Boner For Santa Cruz

We were incredibly fortunate to have Jerry Brown as governor when plans had been made for a nuclear power plant at Davenport, offshore oil drilling, and cities visualized to connect us with San Francisco. Jerry pissed them all off, as big corporation/business had a large erection for this area. Every inch of greenbelt/marine sanctuary was fought for by alot of good people, along with a power shift in local government. You would think folks would know by now that we're not selling out for what has happened over the hill, or down south. Widening highways has not solved anything in either aforementioned places. If people don't like it, they have the option of moving closer to their work, back where they came from, or where citizens conform to the wants of pushy business people. It's also great Mardi Wormhoudt is working to impede unchecked university growth.
 

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