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Gilroy, CA
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Don Christopher wears a crisp, dark shirt embroidered with a 60-year medallion over the pocket. It commemorates a proud achievement for a business, but dresses a walking portal to history with a encyclopedic recall, a window into an how the global agricultural revolution underwent transformation during the second half of the 20th Century, and in Don’s case, transformed a community.
Pro: Marc Perkel You know you're in a Free Country when you can burn the Flag. President Elect Donald Trump says the people should lose their citizenship if you burn the Flag. Unfortunately Trump doesn't know enough about America to understand what free speech is all about. Trump doesn't have the right to summarily override the Constitution and rule by fiat that America will have reduced rights once he becomes King. America is a country of the people, for the people and by the people. The people are the fourth and most important branch of government. Some say that our Second Amendment right arose out of the need to overthrow the government by force should the government forget that its job is the serve and not rule the people. Our right to burn the flag comes from those same principles but had the advantage of not killing people in the process. When the people can burn the flag it signifies the dominance of the people over the government. When we can't it signifies the dominance of the government over the people. Russians can't burn the flag but we can because we are a free nation. Having said that, I encourage people to not burn the flag in response to Trump. Trump is just being a troll and he wants to create division between people to distract attention away from the fact that his buddies in Russia helped get him elected. So even though you have the right, don't burn the flag because Trump wants you to. If you are a patriot and you love America and you believe Americans are better united than divided then go hug a liberal and give a conservative a big wet kiss on the mouth and show the Donald that we the people understand the American dream, even if he doesn't get it. Gilroyan Marc Perkel has become a national voice for protecting people’s rights, even the right to burn an American flag. See him debate FOX News’s Tucker Carlson here: http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/11/29/flag-burning-advocate-donald-trump-marc-perkel-government Against: Mark Turner My father was a United States Marine. He was proud of his military service and of his service to his countryman.His service helped shape his view, his values and his pride in this great nation. He instilled those values and that pride in his three boys.Growing up I can remember my Dad proudly flew the American flag in front of our house every day. He taught us to have a deep abiding respect for America's veterans and military personnel and his actions showed us to have high regard for the flag.   Throughout our history brave Americans fought to gain or to defend freedom and liberty. In each of those conflicts the American flag was either carried in, raised in victory, worn on the uniforms of the soldiers, or on the minds of those defending the Stars and Stripes, the Banner of America. Yes, I believe America is, as President Reagan used to say, the last best hope of man on earth.This, “great experiment,” which was birthed in a small dusty hall in Philadelphia nearly 240 years ago, launched a nation with immense faith, incredible responsibility and a position of high calling.Our position in the world didn't just happen, but was fought for by brave soldiers throughout our history. The same hallowed flag that men and women willingly go to battle for, drapes the casket of those who laid down their lives defending her.  Just because protestors have the ‘’right’’ to burn the flag, doesn’t mean burning the flag is right. Some see the flag as a symbol to burn, as for me, it’s a symbol that ignites a fire within me for a great nation that John Winthrop referred to as “a shining city upon a hill.”To those who take pride in exercising your free speech right as you light the flag on fire, men and women in our armed forces will continue to fight for that right, protect the homeland and make incredible sacrifices on your behalf. That in itself deserves some respect and appreciation. Although he hails from Morgan Hill, Mark Turner spends most of his life in Gilroy as President of the Chamber of Commerce and formerly, as a pastor. The Gilroy Dispatch seeks your editorials, comments and letters. Send them to [email protected]  
Here’s how bad the sidewalks in Gilroy are: People in wheelchairs are using the streets to get around, threading through dangerous traffic and risking their lives.Some streets have sidewalks that start and stop with no logic and no ability for people to use them consistently. Businesses—including the towing company owned by City Councilman Dion Bracco—have no sidewalk in front of them. A developer shorted the width of a sidewalk it built and the city inspectors missed it. The same developer moved a soundwall, cutting six inches of space from the public which it gave it to its residents.These were some of the complaints the city’s bike and pedestrian commission brought up before the City Council last week in a stinging report that should be a wake up call for city residents. Sidewalks are like the canary in the coal mine. If a city doesn’t take care of something seemingly small, but so important to the quality of life, how can we depend on it to take care of our other needs?Leo Gonzalez, the vice chair of the commission, who has stepped up to head it, took a huge leap last week, outlining the problem and complaining about the city’s lack of response. The previous year the report was a whitewash, he says, talking about how much progress the city has made. Gonzalez is fine with the progress, but he wants residents to realize how much still needs to be done.He wants the city to be more active in requiring businesses and residents to pay for and maintain sidewalks and the city to be more strict in what it allows.For example, the city is allowing new developments without enough visitor or resident parking spaces, so that developers profit more. The result is four-bedroom homes with two spaces for cars, but more drivers. Cars end up double-parking in their driveways and blocking sidewalks or parking in cramped streets, which blocks access to bikers and endangers passengers when car doors are opened.Then there are older parts of the city, such as Ronan Avenue on the northside, which were unincorporated and brought into the city without sidewalks and are an obstacle course for people on foot, bike or wheelchair. The city never stepped in to build sidewalks there.The city is being sued by the developer of low-income housing on Monterey Street, who claims that because it is a nonprofit, it shouldn’t be required to pay for sidewalks. Gonzalez salutes the city for fighting it. How else are senior citizens in the project supposed to get around, he asks, crossing the “freeway of Monterey Street?”There aren’t even sidewalks leading up to the Monterey bus and train transit center, which is supposed to be a hub for those who want to give up their cars!“Sidewalks are very important, but they are one of the things you take for granted,” says Gonzalez, a sheriff’s deputy who lives in Gilroy.“The majority of people who use the sidewalks are younger kids, elderly people and people with disabilities,” he says. “It’s not until you are in a position like that when you can’t step over steps that you realize how important they are.”We agree with Gonzalez that a city which likes to bill itself as a white picket fence, residential area, needs to make sidewalks and bike paths a much bigger priority than it is doing.As Gonzalez says, you pay for it now, or you pay more later, when someone walking along a street with no safe area dies in an accident and the city is sued.To see the full commission report on sidewalks, go here: http://gilroy.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=16&clip_id=1466            
It’s hard not to think that Gilroy and the state of California are in a different country than the one that swept in a strong Republican, anti-government agenda.Gilroyans took a hard liberal bent and chose to cut sprawling growth out of the city limits and focus on downtown development. It elected a slate of slow-growthers and tossed out those who tried to sneak by a 4,000-house project that would have increased traffic, raised public service expenses and made its developers $3 billion.County voters favored Hillary Clinton by 73 percent. They beat back the “no tax” trend by  increasing fees on cigarettes to fund health programs and increased sales tax to improve transportation. They raised money for the homeless. They funded schools. They pushed back on the exorbitant prices charged by drug companies.Those are huge positives in a national election that seemed to rip the fiber of the country apart.California’s voting trend this time around suggests that if you want to return to a time when America was great, you can look to the 1950s to the 1970s, when people were proud to pay taxes to improve their country. Tax rates on the rich were as high as 90 percent. The rich were still incredibly rich, but they were willing to do their share. Then came the trickle-down theory, which never quite trickled down. This week local voters took bold steps back to the days when people were far more willing to take responsibility for their circumstances and were willing to pay to make thecounty and state great again.Americans may never again experience a campaign season like the one that ended Tuesday—or might they all be like this from now on?The historic nature of the election, the first one where Americans got to vote for a woman as the presidential nominee of a major party, was almost lost during 16 months of daily scandal and insults.News outlets on both ends of the political spectrum, from Fox to MSNBC and innumerable blogs in between, kept Americans hooked, transforming those who were never politically expressive into keyboard pundits, posting their thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.While Barack Obama’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 were touted for their use of data and technology, social media came into its own during election 2016, invigorating the electorate like never before.Sure, some Facebook friends were lost in the shuffle, but now as the dust settles, Americans should look to harness some of that energy and enthusiasm and continue to find ways to participate and engage with our nation’s brazen and brow-beaten democracy.Here’s one suggestion: start attending your local City Council and municipal commission meetings. Make it a habit. Usually, the only time people go is when they have a problem, a mission, or are on the agenda. A crowded council chambers says something to elected officials: We are here, we are watching, we care.Better yet, take some time and join local commissions. Become the solution. Get involved. Take control of your government.Both Trump and, during the primaries especially, Bernie Sanders decried our nation’s “rigged” system, basically saying that ordinary citizens have no hope whatsoever of changing the course of their own lives let alone the country’s.Don’t get fooled, get involved.
The bizarre events of December 2015 will be long etched in Gilroy’s political history. Mayor Don Gage stunned the city by resigning without warning a year before his term ended, effectively handing the reins to his political ally, Perry Woodward. The handoff allowed Woodward to run as an incumbent—but not before the duo pushed through approval of a massive farmland annexation that would have, along with other planned developments, made Gilroy one of the Bay Area’s biggest cities—a sprawling urban mass of 120,000 residents, more than double the city’s population today.
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.”    
What a difference a mile makes.

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