Perhaps the San Ramon-based political action committee known as California Future Fund should step up its campaign to make Lathrop safer and pressure the City Council to find a way to shut down Joe’s Travel Plaza if they really believe truck stops are massive crime magnets.
The PAC from west of the Altamont Pass claims a city-approved truck stop that Flying J wants to build at Roth Road and Interstate 5 will severely impact Lathrop’s quality of life by bringing in seedy elements like prostitution, drug dealing, and human trafficking.
Their argument is simple. Truck stops shouldn’t be built anywhere near decent, god-fearing people. And in order for crime to fester at truck stops either the operators somehow benefit from it and encourage it and/or the primary clientele which are truckers are no better than gang members and thugs.
That is a pretty heavy theory to lay down on a city such as Lathrop that is working to ease the financial pain of accommodating endless rows of new homes to help address the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis by building a strong economic foundation on the back of distribution centers.
The 1,100 plus Lathrop voters who signed petitions that will essentially force Flying J to send tens of thousands of dollars in sales and gas tax each month to San Joaquin County instead of the City of Lathrop will accomplish nothing. If the land where Flying J wants to build isn’t annexed into the city they will simply go ahead and develop it as a concern outside Lathrop’s city limits.
The so-called crime wave they fear will still come while Lathrop won’t see a single dime.
Let’s talk about the crime fears that are driving the campaign to try and stop Flying J not from building per se at Roth Road and Interstate 5 but from not opening as a city taxpaying entity as opposed to a county taxpaying entity.
A search of crime reports connected with Flying J locales in Lodi and Ripon as well as Lathrop’s existing truck stop — Joe’s Travel Plaza — shows there isn’t much difference between the three in terms of calls for service. The big difference is that Flying J’s Ripon and Lodi locations much like their proposed Lathrop site are at respectable distances from residential neighborhoods. Joe’s Travel Plaza isn’t. The existing truck stop is closer to neighborhoods and schools than the two existing San Joaquin County locations that Flying J operates as well as the third they are planning for Roth Road and Interstate 5.
Let’s cut to the chase. Trucking is the economic lifeblood of Lathrop. If you live in Lathrop and doubt this look around. You don’t see employers like Oracle, Facebook, Apple, Google, or even back office regional operations for banks and such. You see distribution centers. Lots of huge distribution centers. You see truck orientated services and sales up and down the I-5 corridor from French Camp to the 120 Bypass.
And almost all other employers of consequence from Simplot and California Natural Products to Tesla rely on significant truck movements day in and day out.
Lathrop is also home to a lot of hard working men and women who drive trucks with many being independent operators. The large number of independent truckers prompted Lathrop a few years back to crackdown on big rig parking within the community.
That trucking-distribution center employment complex has made it possible for Lathrop to do a lot of nice things such as install water play features and help finance municipal services.
By buying into an argument originating either from San Ramon — a Bay Area town jammed with white collar jobs and virtually devoid of blue collar endeavors such as trucking and distribution —or else being advanced because a firm running the PAC is a hired political hit organization advancing the arguments of the highest bidder, those signing the petition are making some horrid sweeping generalizations about some of their neighbors.
In order for truck stops to be any worse than let’s say allowing a stop and rob to be built in or near a neighborhood when it comes to crime, you would have to assume truckers have a greater tendency to be Johns, drug users, and kidnappers. Some may argue that isn’t the case but that truck stops attract the criminal element. But here’s a problem: There can’t be illegal drug sales and prostitution unless there are customers for such goods and services.
The question also needs to be asked is if any of those signing the petition lived in Lathrop when Joe’s Travel Plaza was going through the approval process and why they didn’t voice any objections. At the end of the day Joe’s Travel Plaza is a truck stop and it is far closer to homes and schools than any Flying J — existing or proposed — in all of San Joaquin County.
Former Lathrop Mayor Bennie Gatto hit the nail on the head. This is all about competition or more aptly the fear of competition.
But given the fact the Flying J truck stop will be built regardless whether the land where it is proposed is annexed to Lathrop, the entire exercise is akin to loading up a gun and then yelling at elected leaders to do the irresponsible thing and change their mind or else you are going to shoot yourself in the foot six times.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.