Americans love a good redemption story, and Gilroyans are being asked to draft a new version of this parable by electing Craig Gartman to City Council in November.
One of eight candidates who are vying for three council seats, Gartman served on the council before, from 2001 to 2010. However, it is not his long tenure on the dias—Roland Velasco has served longer—that is raising eyebrows among Gilroy’s electorate, but his misdemeanor grand theft conviction in 2011.
Gartman did not want to speak on the record about the conviction for illegally withdrawing money from a local Memorial Day parade committee, which he chaired.
Reports from 2011 said the majority of a special fund was used for Memorial Day activities, but a two-year investigation by the District Attorney’s office found that Gartman had misused a portion of those funds, totalling $8,632.00.
Gartman was ordered by the court to perform 200 hours of community service and to pay restitution, which he satisfied in December 2011. He also received two years court probation.
Gartman paid $6,500 to the Gilroy post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in addition to a previous payment of $2,500 in November 2010.
The monies were paid to the VFW because the parade fund was pretty much defunct by that time, according to a former prosecutor on the case.
Gartman’s community service was completed at the Goodwill of Silicon Valley.
For Gartman today, this episode is in the past and he wants Gilroyans to focus on his ideas for the city he represented first on the Planning Commission, then for nine years on the City Council.
“I want to talk about issues that are important to the election,” said Gartman, who advocated for the Sunrise fire station and the sidewalk repair program when he was last on the council, during an interview outside Fifth Street Coffee in downtown Gilroy.
Among those issues are increasing communication between the council and the electorate, prioritizing more infill, small-scale development and bringing ideas to Gilroy that he gleaned from other communities in which he has lived.
“I would love to see Gilroy get into the 20th century [sic] with a lot of the automation that is available via the internet,” said Gartman, explaining that residents should be able to use technology to do things such as easily report a pothole or a city light that has gone out.
Being off the council and living elsewhere—Gartman returned to Gilroy in 2014 after moving with his family for his wife’s job to Portland, Maine, then to Dallas—has also given him a unique perspective on the relationship between a city council and the community it represents.
“I know what happens when you do policy and plans,” said Gartman, who more recently has been able to observe and appreciate the community’s side.
Recalling the furor that erupted over the 721-acre Rancho Los Olivos housing proposal that was approved by City Council last December after it had been rejected by the Planning Commission, Gartman said while he understands the frustration of those who started the urban growth boundary campaign, he does not support Measure H.
“Encasing the city for 20 years is dangerous,” he said, “Because you are very limited in what you can do.” He said the measure, which allows for open space, schools, affordable housing, and an allotment of 50 acres per year of general industrial to be brought into the boundary or redesignated, is too restrictive.
“You are kind of tying your hands,” he said. Plus, he added, holding an election to get the boundary amended by voters would cost the city each time.
Gartman would like to see the Downtown Specific Plan updated, which was adopted while he was on the council in 2005, and get the city to prioritize small-scale development and infill.
“We need to establish what that policy is and pass it down to the community development department so when someone wants to develop five or less housing units, they get fast-tracked. We’ve had fast-track before and it worked real well.”
He added: “Local developers hire local plumbers, electricians, tradesmen, to come in and do the work. Where large developments from big corporations bring people in from all over California.”
Overall, Gartman said he wants to bring his ability to listen to all sides of an issue to a third term on the council.
“Someone needs to be on the council who is actually turning an ear to the people,” he said.