To the editor, On the surface, most cities are governed by a council and a single mayor who are sensitive to and directed by the wishes of voters. Beneath the surface, most would admit, there are other forces pressing upon elected officials. Primary among these pressures is money—money for campaigns, money to line pockets, money, money, money. Money from a wealthy few can speak louder than the voices of many voters and can blind officials to the needs of a community.
What can citizens do in an attempt to counterbalance the pressure of big money? They can make small donations, ask tough questions of candidates, rally friends and neighbors and vote! Four city council seats are up for election in November; the opportunity to make Gilroy’s government more democratic is coming up soon.
A recent issue that has some of us scratching our heads is how common sense was shoved aside in order to approve the Apartment Complex Masquerading as Agri-Tourism (ACMAT) to be built across from the Gilroy Golf Course. Citizens cried out about safety, noise and light pollution, high levels of traffic, immense size, a gargantuan parking lot and the introduction of apartments (I’m sorry, “live-work units”) that many suspect will eventually occupy the entire complex as businesses proposed for the site turn out to be unprofitable. Brave and ethical representatives on the Planning Commission (Tom Fisher, Sam Kim and Rebecca Armendariz) and City Council (Roland Velasco and Dion Bracco) listened to the people and voted to send the project back to the drawing board, saying even if it fit the letter of the Hecker Pass Plan, it did not fit the intent. But at the Planning Commission other interests brought the vote to a tie, and at the City Council the project was approved.
Questions have swirled about why some officials voted for approval. One theory is that Gilroy has, in effect, three mayors and that two of these lobbied in favor of the ACMAT project. Both of these two now-unofficial mayors have long favored housing developers, even a project north of town that would have created a bipolar city.
One of these mayors resigned after voters rejected his proposal to give him a blank check for shaping up the city as he saw fit. There were rumors he was so stung by this rejection he wanted to move out of state—so much for devotion to Gilroy.
The other now-unofficial mayor was appointed to complete his compadre’s term but was rejected in the next election, as was the giant project north of town (if you want an example of citizens gathering to defeat special interests, look to Gilroy Growing Smarter’s successful campaign to create an Urban Growth Boundary that foiled the bipolar city project). One council member said her vote was to protect the city from the lawsuit someone suggested would come, presumably from a lawyer working for the project.
Who really decides the future of Gilroy?