Snide under-the-breath comments, eye rolling, whining and ultimatums – no, this is not the behavior of a 5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, this is the behavior of your local elected officials.
Wednesday evening’s monthly Stanislaus Council of Governments policy board meeting seemed more like a scene from a reality TV show than that of a boardroom full of supposed professionals, as the board decided which cities would receive State Transportation Improvement Program funds for regional transit and highway improvements.
Granted, most individuals may get a little competitive when millions of dollars are on the line. But bringing up Civil War references is a bit much when the discussion should have been about what projects actually benefit the county as a whole.
Let me be clear, I’m not trying to stir the pot in this north county versus south county debate. I am simply saying the conversation should not have even gone there. The StanCOG policy board is the decision-making body for most county-wide transportation matters, comprised of 16 elected officials from Ceres, Hughson, Modesto, Newman, Oakdale, Riverbank, Turlock, Waterford, and Stanislaus County. These elected officials may have been wearing suits and ties, but their childish behavior on Wednesday left me wondering if bibs might have seemed more appropriate.
Even StanCOG staff jumped into the battle, heatedly addressing certain members of the board as “those in their big-fat-comfy chairs.” Charming.
But enough with the drama, I want to discuss what StanCOG staff and board members failed to acknowledge when they readily dismissed Turlock’s Highway 99/Fulkerth Interchange project – jobs. With 2,000 acres of ready-ground for new businesses to take advantage of, the City of Turlock has developed an industrial park that will stimulate job growth and economic recovery in this region.
For those on the StanCOG board who said that these businesses only help Turlock and not the region as a whole, do you really believe the new Blue Diamond almond plant has only hired from Turlock? Of course not. In fact, the multi-billion dollar company has hired from all-over Stanislaus County, and Merced and San Joaquin counties as well, providing hundreds with jobs.
With California State University, Stanislaus located in Turlock, thousands of graduates are entering the often-frightening world of job hunting each year. These are not students from Turlock alone, but from all around the county. If doors continue to be shut on opportunities to bring new businesses into Stanislaus County, the trend of recent graduates moving out of the county and taking their knowledge elsewhere will only continue, and subsequently make this region less alluring for employers seeking qualified workers.
Saying that Turlock is only “looking out for itself” when the incentive is to bring in thousands of jobs to the county shows that interest lies in jurisdictional competition rather than regional support. There should not be scornful rhetoric of north versus south, or Modesto versus Turlock. Instead, there should only be fruitful discussions of how to benefit the whole county and everyone that lives here, including those who need work.