Straight talk; keep costs in check

With 2004 fading in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look
forward and make a few New Year’s resolutions for our local board
and officials.
With 2004 fading in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look forward and make a few New Year’s resolutions for our local board and officials.

Resolve: The Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees will use less bureaucratic language and insist on more real action in their efforts to improve the district’s stagnant level of achievement. The community hears a lot of utterances such as, “We plan to implement a series of steps while consulting with a number of task forces to steadily diminish the achievement gap the district is temporarily experiencing,” and not enough of, “Teachers, students and parents: We’ve identified the problem here and how we can fix it?”

resolve: Gavilan College officials will do more to brand the college as THE place for South County residents to attend college, play sports and become involved in the community. Let’s pump up the marketing effort to recruit local students and athletes, instead of watching them scatter to other schools.

resolve: The city and contractors will finally fix the mess that is called Santa Teresa Boulevard from First Street to Sunrise Drive. Navigating the stretch of road is a experience all its own, especially the intersection of Santa Teresa and Longmeadow Drive. It’s a wonder there hasn’t been a major injury crash.

resolve: Work diligently toward filing for a successful library grant so patrons can use the library daly. In November, the city lost out on the third and final round of library grants from the state, despite a 30-year-old building that is bursting at the seams with both patrons and materials. The good news is that while Gilroy lost out, it may have priority on grants if voters in March 2006 approve an additional $600 million for library construction projects. Better yet would be a creative expansion plan.

resolve: To fix the snake on Monterey Road that has perplexed and frustrated drivers for decades. Earlier this month, the city received a $2.5-million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that will allow the city to revamp sidewalks on both sides of Monterey Street between Fourth and Sixth streets, as well as remove the much-reviled snaking median. Other improvements will include 10-foot-wide sidewalks, decorative lamp posts, and tree plantings – a continuation of upgrades that began two years ago. Let’s hope by this time next year navigating downtown will be much easier, and more residents will be strolling around visiting downtown. merchants.

resolve: Face up to tough decisions and craft a Williamson Act policy that is transparent and equitable and doesn’t force the Santa Clara County Planning Department to become de facto policy makers. The Act was passed in 1965 to preserve farmland in California. Landowners who enter into a contract receive significant tax breaks in exchange for maintaining an agricultural enterprise. In August 2003, the planning department proposed an ordinance to enforce the Act that was met with such enmity from the public that the whole process was tabled. Supervisor Don Gage said he was trying “to let the dust settle” and he believes that now that the county has committed to work with the public to set a new policy that will avoid the fury that foiled the last attempt. The dust has settled. Now it’s time to set a firm policy.

resolve: Find ways to boost Caltrain ridership to and from Gilroy to make the deal with Union Pacific look like a bargain. The $47-million agreement grants the Valley Transportation Authority right of way on the tracks for 20 years. When the VTA completes construction on a second track, it will be able to run 10 daily commuter round-trip trains to Gilroy, instead of the current four. “What we’ve done is lock in our ability to add trains as we have the money and the ridership to do so,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said.

resolve: The Gilroy Police Department will keep costs on the new $28-million police station in check and come in on or below budget. The city first opened bids in 2003, and was unpleasantly surprised to find that the low bid was $8.3 million more than their engineers had led them to believe. They were expecting $17.8 million but got $26.1 million. That prompted a redesign that trimmed the bill by $5.4 million, including eliminating the clock tower and the second parking level. Then in April, Council members were disappointed to hear that the rising cost of construction materials, particularly steel, had added about $2 million to the engineer’s estimate.

resolve: Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage should find a way to extract himself from a few of the 33 boards and commissions on which he now sits. Can he really devote his full time and energy to 33 boards and commissions, in addition to his regular duties?

resolve: The police department continues to solve tough cases and send the bad guys to prison, such as convicted killer Paul Zapata and child molester Kevin Bonilla. Zapata, who was arrested two years after the shooting by Gilroy detectives who doggedly pursued the case, was sent to prison for killing a man outside a 7-Eleven store in a 2001 gang-related shooting. Bonilla was sentenced to 32 years in prison for sexually molesting a girl dozens of times over a five-year period beginning when she was 10. Keep up the exemplary work.

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