Mayor aids fight against GHS II site

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GILROY
– A recent mass mailing by a grassroots group trying to derail
plans for building a new high school on Day Road drew on the
political expertise of Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer.
GILROY – A recent mass mailing by a grassroots group trying to derail plans for building a new high school on Day Road drew on the political expertise of Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer.

The already-teeming political fray over where to build Gilroy’s second comprehensive high school went postal – literally – late last week when 4,000 Gilroy residents received bulk-mail flyers from a group calling itself Neighbors for Responsible Development.

The mailers use slogans such as “Stop the sprawl,” “Say yes to a centrally located high school” and “Say no to gridlock” to drive home arguments against locating Gilroy’s next public high school on Day Road. The issues mirror those brought up in recent weeks by Mayor Tom Springer, and they figure to be the key arguments opponents will use Thursday in a last-ditch effort to convince school board trustees to build the new high school somewhere else.

Springer denied being a member of Neighbors for Responsible Development and said he did not fund the group’s recent bulk mailing, which may have cost the group up to $1,500 based on regular postage rates.

But he acknowledged meeting recently with the group to answer a variety of land-use and development questions. Springer also consulted the group on bulk mailing and reviewed the flyer before it went out, he said.

“They came to me as the mayor to ask some questions and get some answers,” Springer said. “I’ll meet with anyone in the community who wants to meet with me and ask me questions about issues in the community. I have done that, and I will continue to do that.”

School board trustees were cautious with their comments about the mayor’s most recent involvement.

“The mayor needs ot do what the mayor feels he needs to do,” Trustee Bob Kraemer said. “It just needs to be clear he’s doing it as a member if the community.”

“I look at it more as people being citizens, not him being the mayor. Anyone as a citizen can speak to a project. I don’t see any problem with that,” Trustee David McRae said.

Trustees have found themselves in the middle of a political tug of war in recent weeks since Springer began advocating for the new high school location to be at Vickery Avenue between Wren and Kern avenues.

A site selection committee for Gilroy Unified School District has recommended that a 50-acre parcel on Day Road be home to the comprehensive 1,800-student campus. Trustees seem ready to approve that recommendation and move forward with plans to purchase the parcel at their meeting Thursday.

Springer has staunch allies in a group of Day Road residents who oppose school district plans for the high school in their now-rural neighborhood. The group is already represented by a lawyer and has now branched out under the name Neighbors for Responsible Development.

“What happened was the group morphed,” spokesperson Cammie Brown said. “People realize this issue is bigger than Day Road.”

Brown said broader community support emerged after a recent petition effort that collected 150 signatures from residents who want a more central location for the high school. Brown said 60 people now make up Neighbors for Responsible Development.

“The big concern out there is the traffic issue. This impacts all Santa Teresa commuters and anyone who lives in the Northwest Quad,” Brown said.

Neighbors for Responsible Development sent the 4,000 mailers mainly to residents north of Sixth Street in Gilroy.

“We just thought the flyer was a reasonable way to make people aware that it’s not too late to oppose the school district’s plans,” Day Road resident Chris Messmer said. “It’s a way for people to become more informed. I think the community needs that.”

Brown and Messmer firmly denied claims that the mailer was a mean-spirited hit piece. The flyer urges people to contact school board trustees and provides the home phone numbers of the five trustees not on the site selection committee.

“The numbers on the flyer are the numbers you get from the school district when you ask for contact information,” Brown said. “I didn’t even realize those were home numbers when I put them on the flyer.”

At least some trustees were not offended.

“It’s just politics. It’s not shocking; it’s not unexpected,” McRae said.

Trustee Jaime Rosso agreed.

“I personally don’t have a problem with it,” Rosso said. “People should voice their opinion.”

Both McRae and Rosso said they received more e-mails than phone calls after the flyer was mailed. Sometime this week, McRae will hold an informal session over coffee with Neighbors for Responsible Development to hear the group’s concerns.

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