Time to put up, shut up and take control of Gilroy government

The biggest complaint we hear is that the local government isn’t representing its constituents, and while we agree it’s easy to feel unheard, we suggest it’s also easy to take control of the issues that matter to you in the city.

When we go to a city council meeting, attendance is often sparse, except for a few regulars who show up and talk about every issue, or the people in whose backyards certain issues reside. Then the place is full, as it was over local traffic calming questions or the proposal to build a Great Wolf hotel complex.

There’s a way to be heard regularly and get your opinions on the record–join one of the city’s commissions. The process is simple. Fill out an application and then submit to a public interview by the council. At this point, there are so many openings, it’s easy to get appointed.

Here are some of the openings.

The seven-member Parks and Recreation Commission has two seats opening up for the new year. The commission oversees public parks, urban forestry and recreation planning and programming. It meets the third Thursday of every month at 6pm. The position lasts four years.

The Personnel Commission has two four-year openings in its five-person body. This commission advises and reviews job descriptions and classified recommendations for jobs. It also serves as a neutral body to hear appeals on disciplinary matters. It meets the second Monday of every month at 5:30pm.

The Physically Challenged Board of Appeals discusses enforcement of public accommodations of matters for people with physical challenged and helps set city policy. Meetings of this five-member board are 10am on the second Tuesday of January, April, July and October.

There are two openings on the seven-member Planning Commission, which advises the city council about land use, zoning, use permits and variances. The position lasts four years and is hugely important to planning Gilroy’s future. Meetings are the first and third Thursday of each month at 6:30pm.

The Public Art Committee has four of its seven seats open. It advises the Arts and Culture Commission in the development of public art. It meets the fourth Wednesday of the month at 5:30pm.

Applications are available at www.cityofgilroy.org. Applicants will be interviewed Dec. 11.

The fact that it’s so difficult to find people to serve on boards says a lot about who is governing the city. We know it’s extremely difficult for younger family people to serve and that’s one of the biggest problems we have.

Considering half of the local population commutes to work in Silicon Valley and gets home, hopefully, in time for dinner with the kids, there isn’t much time for public service. So end up with a lot of retired people on boards who don’t see the same issues in their lives that those with young families, or those who are single and young, will see.

So what’s the motivation to take the time out of a busy life to work for the public?

One thing is that you will have influence over what’s to come. So many people complain in tweets or Facebook posts are the Alexander Street housing complex and some say they were never alerted to it. They were, but they missed it in all the other information traffic of their lives. That said, being on the planning commission would give one of seven votes about whether a project like that has a place in Gilroy. You don’t have to pay anything or protest. You just volunteer and have your say.

Another thing for those young and ambitious, a commission is the first step toward elected office. If you dream about any political office, this is the best way to start. You get experience and something for your resume, which could lead you to higher office.