“The learning curve is very steep,” said Daniel Harney, regarding his first 100 days as a member of the Gilroy City Council.
Selected to fill the vacancy following former mayor Don Gage’s retirement in December, Harney stepped up to the dais Jan. 25.
Not one to sit back and watch everyone else at work, over the course of the last three months the eBay executive, husband and father of two helped select new City Administrator Gabriel Gonzalez as a member of the selection subcommittee and supported the city’s move to join the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority, becoming Gilroy’s representative on that initiative’s governing board in the process.
“Gilroy is the fourth-largest energy consumer in the county and joining the SVCE authority provides our city the ability to purchase electricity from a higher percentage of renewable energy sources, helps lower Gilroy’s greenhouse gas emissions and gives our residents more consumer choice—versus PG&E,” said Harney.
“More importantly, it sends a clear and direct message to other Silicon Valley cities that Gilroy will be a leader when it comes to sustainability and resolving shared problems in our county.”
Messaging is a major concern for Harney, who feels the city suffers from a problem of misperception based on misinformation.
“When I’m out speaking with people, they tell me they don’t go downtown because of the crime problems downtown. Some of the lowest crime rates are downtown,” said Harney.
“There is a ton of misinformation out there and there is a lack of dialogue. People have a perception of something; they hold on to that perception and then it becomes a reality. Communication, different channels of communication, can change all that.”
Harney said he would like Gilroy residents to be excited and proud of their city.
“Gilroy is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Our population is becoming more diverse, culturally and demographically. Our wine and tourism industry continues to grow; our downtown and industrial vacancies are much lower than in recent years.”
While there are problems—“our roads may not be in the best condition and our growth plan is not resolved,” Harney stresses that Gilroy “is heading in the right direction” and that residents must not lose focus on the fundamentals, to “remain financially sustainable, grow our economy, upgrade our city infrastructure and create a livable community for all.”
Many of the issues Gilroy is currently grappling with are not unique to the southernmost city in Santa Clara County.
“Many neighboring Silicon Valley cities face the same problems that we are facing, including water, transportation, deteriorating road conditions and planning for high speed rail,” he said. “We need to ensure that we are properly positioned and represented in many of the Santa Clara County cooperatives that help resolve issues with growth.”
As for the debate over the proposed urban growth boundary (UGB) initiative brought by the citizen action group Gilroy Growing Smarter in reaction to the contentious 721-acre Rancho Los Olivos housing project formerly proposed for land north of the city, Harney admits the “community remains divided on how and when to grow.
“Understanding the key issues of the UGB is important and is why I supported the decision to fund an independent analysis of the impacts to schools, housing, traffic and the fiscal impact this change may have on the city.”
At the April 18 City Council meeting, the council approved a further $75,000 to fund an independent report on the impacts of the citizen-led UGB initiative, bringing the total approved funding to $150,000.