When the issue gets hot, government takes time out

Always interesting to see how government operates when the kitchen gets hot – and the proposed Cordoba Islamic Center in San Martin is a scorcher. Santa Clara County planning department staff, after beaucoup studies and years of back and forth with the project’s backers recommended approval. Percolation tests were done, the regional water board said A-OK, concluding flood issues were phantom and … and then came the flood of public opinion. Three meetings were set – all lined up in a row this week. The San Martin Planning Advisory Committee, the South County Joint Planning Commission and the Santa Clara County Planning Commission. But the flood came. And it wiped out the staff recommendation for approval – at least for now. More tests are needed to address the latest concerns voiced by the public is the official government word. Really? Years going through government bureaucracy and “more tests are needed”? Wish I could say I was surprised. Can say that I feel for the project’s backers like Hamdy Abbass, a Gilroy Rotary Club member, and Sal Akhter, a Morgan Hill resident for 20 years. Five years ago – way back in 2007 – the Muslim community, which meets regularly in Morgan Hill’s community center, held an open house to reach out to the community. Said Akhter at the time, “We’ll talk a little about our membership, who they are, how long they have lived in the community. We are people who have been here 20, 30 years, and not immigrants who just came and started something new. … I guess (the project) is controversial, but I don’t understand the controversy. We have our principles we go by that we are a tolerant nation and so forth, but I think sometimes that tolerance gets tested. And then trying to bridge those gaps and create better understanding is the best thing to do.” Well, the court of public opinion is the harshest of all and getting beyond it to the point of true understanding can be a very tough thing to overcome even if you’ve been working at it for years.
For years, Miss Jenny has tolerated my sports talk radio listening while travelling in the truck. Tuesday, when yak about the big Giants trade heated the air waves, she woke up after a car nap and piped up after a bit. “Is he saying Under Pants, they traded for Under Pants?” “No darlin’ that’s Hunter Pence.” Announcers beware.
Beware incoming Garlic Festival Volunteer President Dennis Harrigan. The streak of charmed-weather fests is getting really lengthy. Seems like it’s been foggy in the morning, 85 degrees with a slight breeze in the afternoon forever and a garlic bulb day. Hope it holds in 2013. The 2012 Fest just hummed like a perfectly tuned machine. Even the scumbag who stole the Garlic Festival tickets hardly made a blip on the screen. No stinky tickets up at the entrance booths. Great job handling the problem by Executive Director Brian Bowe.  Volunteer President Hugh Davis, focused on back-to-basics and smoothing operational details, really pulled it together. One of Hugh’s quotes said quite a bit about him and his approach. “I’m a little bummed it’s over. But it was a great year. And that’s not because of me, but because of the 3,999 other people that made this event happen.” That’s why the Garlic Festival continues to be such a long-running smash hit. It’s about giving unselfishly to the team to accomplish the goal, and Gilroy pulls together in amazing fashion every year to do just that. Imagine a Broadway play with an ongoing wildly successful 34-year run.
Run is what Father Time continues to do. Our youngest, Mariah, is about to turn 20 in a few days. Happy Birthday Root Beer! Lucky to have such a sweet, smart and strong young woman as a daughter as time marches on.
Time seems to come to a sort of standstill in our little garlic hamlet every year post festival. Temperatures climb and there’s this collective community sigh, or perhaps a tired malaise, that signals it’s siesta time before life’s hullabaloo starts with school openings and then elections and then … just like that it’s Christmas. It’s early August now though, so enjoy it.
Enjoy the pungent scent of peppers coming from a ripening field this time of year. Driving by with the windows down, it’s a pleasant reminder that our roots are deep in agriculture which is something we still have yet to find a way to preserve long-term. Do your part, by shopping at places like LJB Farms (there’s Raquel Bonino’s snazzy, well-edited gift boutique shop there now, too), and Rocca’s Market where you can get local produce and honey. Someday it’s going to be important that our food can be grown close to home.
Close to home, we’re under tax-and-spend siege. On our comment board,  larryjohnson wrote: “Federal taxes will skyrocket next year when the Obamacare taxes start taking effect. State taxes and fees have been going sky-high with another state tax increase on the ballot. San Jose wants to raise sales taxes. Santa Clara County wants to raise sales taxes.  Saint Louise hospital wants to raise sales taxes. Morgan Hill School wants to raise taxes. Santa Clara Water District wants to raise taxes. And this is probably not a complete list of all the tax increases that could affect this area.  
“And I had no idea I was being under-taxed before this.
“But maybe, just maybe, politicians could start being more careful how they spend our tax dollars and start working out a way to meet their goals AND stay within their budget.  You know, like every well managed company and every successful family has to do.” At this point it has to start with turning every defined benefit public employee pension plan into a 401(k) plan managed by the employee. Otherwise the taxpayers will be swimming against the pension tsunami until the whole system is drowned in a sea of shameful red ink.

Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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