The circus

This week here in Merced we got into our drama about the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park. RMP chief, John Condren held informational meetings in Atwater and Merced and the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the comment period on the project draft environmental impact report, but not as long as opponents wanted it.

On Tuesday night, a group of track opponents expressed their passion with boos, hisses and catcalls when Board of Supervisor Chair Jerry O’Banion, whose district is across the Valley from the project, said the only reason he voted for any extension was because the applicants had already agreed to it. The comment period for this project, O’Banion reminded the crowd, is now longer than it was for the DEIR on the UC Merced Long Range Development Plan, and the track EIR is about half the size the UC document was. O’Banion, the Westside’s hereditary supervisor, had a lot of fun, I thought.

Condren made the same point during his pitch at the Boys and Girls Club in Merced on Thursday evening. Both O’Banion and Condren challenge track opponents for their hypocrisy of supporting one huge anchor tenant for growth, UC Merced, while opposing another, the racetrack.

Everyone followed their passions in a well-orchestrated manner. High quality rhetoric swirled in the storm of this absurd project, a Temple to the Automobile in the nation’s worst air quality basin and richest farming area. One teacher opposing the project noted that Tuesday was a critically bad air quality day and children were asked to stay indoors at school. On Thursday, one teacher in favor of the project said the racetrack brings hope to her students, who do not see UC in their future. Both statements are true.

O’Banion and Condren made much of the fact that racetrack opponents were in favor of UC Merced. In other words, after the university should come the circus. In fact, both projects are all about outside corporate investment for outside corporate profit. Merced was ripe for it. From the standpoint of local government, this is all good.

I oppose both projects because the east side of the San Joaquin Valley was where I learned the intrinsic value of nature as it is and because the doctrine of Public Trust is one of the oldest Western legal principles.

Bill Hatch