It’s a question that has been taken up, sometimes quite offensively, on social media sites recently. We’ve watched some attacks against Mark Turner, president of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, because he is against Measure H, which would put voters in charge of limits on growth rather than leaving it to elected officials.
They condemn him for being from Morgan Hill, as if suddenly, a man who has put his life into Gilroy for 14 years doesn’t qualify to have an opinion.
In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more involved in the community than Turner. Try going to any city event, weekday or weekend and not seeing him. It’s almost impossible.
He was a pastor at South Valley Community Church starting in 2002 and took over the Chamber in 2013. He’s been a fundraiser and auctioneer who has raised $250,000 for Gilroy nonprofits.
He started the Bread of Life program to distribute food from local grocery stores to needy locals. He received a Community Hero award in 2007 from a Glenview neighborhood group and the Community Leadership Award in 2016 from the local American Legion Post. He’s the head of the Gilroy Police Foundation. He eats most of his meals in Gilroy and does most of his shopping here.
The online attacks on Turner beg a question: with 80 percent of residents here commuting to work in Silicon Valley and spending 40, 60 or 80 hours a week there and others, like Turner, spending most of their time here, who qualifies as a real Gilroyan?
We asked Turner for his opinion and we’ll be asking others. We’d like to hear from you as well on this issue.
Here’s Turner’s answer:
“One’s community is not necessarily confined to where one lives, but it has a lot to do with where one invests their time and effort. Every day 15,000 people commute out of town headed north for work in order to support their families and enjoy their lifestyle in Gilroy.
“At the same time, there are those who don’t live in Gilroy but choose to work here, invest their time and resources here and do all they can to make Gilroy a better place. Are those who work here but don’t live here any less committed to Gilroy than those who live here and vice versa? “Of course not. All contributions to improve Gilroy and making it a better place for future generations should be welcomed.
“The exchange of ideas, thoughts and opinions only advance the opportunities for a better community. Gilroy is fortunate to have dedicated community leaders who support local charities, serve on boards of local nonprofits, contribute financially to local causes, assist the underprivileged, patronize local businesses and invest their time right here in Gilroy. Many of those individuals don’t live here but have adopted this town as their own.
“In the current debate about what’s best for Gilroy’s future, let the discourse occur in the public square or on whatever social media platform one chooses. But let that discourse be civilized. When those on either side of an issue choose the lowest form of expression by name-calling, belittling, intimidating and indicating one has no credibility because ‘one doesn’t live here,’ they simply discredit themselves and the cause they represent.
“As Rick Warren once said, ‘We’re better together.’ When the dust of Measure H finally settles, we still have to work together for a better Gilroy. It will be much easier if we haven’t offended one another with vicious attacks and attempts to disgrace and dishonor each other.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve Gilroy, its people and its businesses and will continue to do so in the community I love and call my own.”