By Tom Ovens
The big picture for me is how to create an ever improving quality of life for those of us living in Vallejo.
Unfortunately that vision is not necessarily shared by some of the powers that are trying to shape the future of our city.
The big picture for outside money interests is simply how to make more money and they see Vallejo as a vulnerable and lucrative opportunity. The big picture for bay area politicians is how Vallejo fits into the larger picture of what is good for northern California. Local politicians often see Vallejo simply as a piece in their puzzling personal hidden agendas. The big picture for union bosses is solely jobs for their members.
The problem is that what is good for corporate profits, northern California and unions can be a disaster for Vallejo. Such is the case with the ORCEM project. It is an outright health hazard of major proportions to those living in southwest Vallejo where the plant would be built.
The vulnerable and voiceless population in that neighborhood, with a high concentration of children, is 51% poverty and 79% minority without friends in high places. They happen to have the highest incidence of asthma in the entire state – already! Can you imagine effect on their health of fumes from over 200 trucks making round trips daily, ships with dirty on-board generators operating 24 hours a day, trains with as many as 70 car lengths and dust from a cement factory?
The only way ORCEM meets pollution standards is by utilizing cap and trade – which, of course, does nothing to alleviate the health hazard for local residents. Advertisements from ORCEM say that all transportation elements will operate within pollution standards. However, even if every truck, ship, train and the plant itself were to operate within standards, there would still be a tremendous amount of pollution. Every vehicle on the highway pollutes, even if within standards. ORCEM labels such problems unmitigated problems.
From a quality of life perspective, this project is a no-brainer, an absolute disaster. Besides pollution there are a myriad of other red flags. If we have several drought years, where will the thousands of gallons of water need daily for the cement plant come from? Will the general population be required to ration to keep the plant in operation? Where will the money come from to repair the roads that will be destroyed by the constant truck traffic? How will local residents deal with the constant noise from 200 trucks making round trips past their homes? Who will compensate them for the loss of their property values?
How will the city pay for lawsuits filed against it when someone dies on the way to the hospital while forced to wait for a 70 car length train to clear an intersection? How do we encourage waterfront tourism with a cement plant in a prime location that interrupts the long planned pedestrian walkway along the river that is written into both the old and new, soon to be adopted, general plan? How would we stop coal and garbage from being shipped in since transport of “aggraget” would be permitted?
All this for the creation of jobs!??? At full capacity the plant would need only 28 employees, with no requirement that they will be Vallejo residents. There will be 200 permanent truck drivers hired but not necessarily from Vallejo. Likewise, the temporary construction workers hired to build the plant need not be from Vallejo. Good for the bay area? Perhaps. Good for Vallejo? Not a chance! The estimated tax revenue from the plant’s operation is listed at under $350,000. Not enough to even repair the roads!
Why is this plan even being considered? Reread paragraphs one and two and prepare yourself for a massive, big-dollar campaign by ORCEM to win approval. It’s all up to our council members. Tell them how you feel. Hopefully, they will listen and vote to protect the quality of life of Vallejo residents!
Note: All opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.