Charles Morales is the longest-serving member of the city’s top
governing body, but he says he still has plenty of ideas for the
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Dispatch ran profiles every day this week on each of the five candidates running for three city council seats Nov. 8. The series ends today with a profile of Charles Morales.
Gilroy – Charles Morales is the longest-serving member of the city’s top governing body, but he says he still has plenty of ideas for the city’s future.
Morales, who will seek a fourth term on city council this fall, has proposed bringing an Amtrak station to Gilroy to encourage tourism, as well as touting the idea of a satellite university campus to train local youths in biotechnology.
But he returns to the basics when it comes to his top priorities.
“Public safety is my first concern because it affects all citizens,” he said. “My second priority is downtown. We have a thriving momentum there and I certainly don’t want to stop that.”
Morales has departed from other candidates in calling for an extension of development-fee waivers and other policies credited for revitalizing downtown. In the next two years, dozens of new commercial and housing projects – sometimes combined in one building – will crop up along Monterey Street as a result of those policies.
“If there’s any type of slowing in the process, that will kill the momentum,” Morales said. “I’d like to see fee waivers either extended or modified to make it still friendly for development. I’d also like to see some more building permits allocated for a targeted area in the downtown.”
Morales, 59, is a former Santa Clara County probation officer who has devoted much of his time since retirement to working with schools and youth. He pointed to his role in creating the Youth Commission, a group of civic-minded high school students, as one sign of his continued involvement in that arena.
Some critics believe, however, that Morales will not weather another election after a third drunk driving arrest in 2003.
“Those particular problems are in the past and I have dealt with those issues,” he said. “Certainly my stressful job was part of that. Now that I’m retired I’m a new person, rejuvenated and doing a lot of good. That speaks for itself. It’s the pleasure of serving the community that drives me. My personal problems – I’ve dealt with them and I think the community has always trusted what I’ve done on the dais.”
Another source of concern at the ballot box this season may be Morales’ recent vote in favor of a higher density housing project on scenic Miller Avenue. While he was one of four councilmen to vote for approval, neighbors opposing the project and their sympathizers focused threats of political retribution on Morales in light of his fall candidacy.
Throughout, Morales justified his vote by stressing that city leaders must balance neighbor concerns with efforts to prevent sprawl by developing inside the city. On a broader scale, Morales frequently touts the importance of cooperating with neighboring cities on environmental and transportation issues.
“I believe in a regional approach, of working with our neighbors,” he said.
Reflecting on the accomplishments of his current term, Morales said the city has made progress on multiple fronts.
“We’ve got a safe community,” he said. “We’ve got economic development going, and affordable housing is coming in.”