Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 5, 2004

Puh-lease: Gonzales, flood control

It’s time again for my periodic round-up of current events that make me roll my eyes and utter a sarcastic “please.”

Topping my list this time is San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales. He thinks Morgan Hill and the Morgan Hill Unified School District are “appropriately represented” on the task force that’s planning the development of the Coyote Valley.

That’s reassuring, I guess, until you realize that not a single elected official from either the Morgan Hill City Council or or the Morgan Hill Unified School District school board serves on the 20-member Coyote Valley Planning Task Force.

Yep, you read that right. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Then, if you’re like me, your eyes will roll and a dramatic, two-syllable “puh-lease” will escape your lips.

When you realize that Coyote Valley, all 6,800 acres of it, sporting at build-out 80,000 residents, 50,000 workers and 25,000 homes, lies within the Morgan Hill Unified School District’s boundaries, the reaction gets more severe. For me, it tends to include words that might make FCC Chairman Michael Powell blush.

How on earth Gonzales can justify not having a single school board member from the school district that will have to educate the children of Coyote Valley serving on the planning task force is beyond me.

My eye-rolling and sarcastic “please” reaction are not sufficient for our local governments. Although they’re making nice in public (Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy characterized Gonzales’ cold shoulder as “disappointing”), I hope that behind closed doors our elected officials and civil servants at both the city and the school district are leaning hard on Gonzales to change his mind. I wouldn’t even mind if a few of those blush-inducing four-letter words escaped their lips if it helps to make their point and alter Gonzales’ parochial point of view.

The development of Coyote Valley will have a huge impact on Morgan Hill’s infrastructure, business climate, traffic, noise and pollution levels, housing market and especially on its schools. Morgan Hill’s elected city and school district representatives not only deserve a place at the planning table, they should have been there since the beginning.


According to a recent staff report, a Santa Clara Valley Water District director praised changes in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approach to flood projects.

“In the past, the Corps has generally proposed straightening out creeks and lining them with concrete, which is pretty much how flood protection projects used to be built,” Greg Zlotnick told a U.S. Senate subcommittee. “And we’ve had to say, ‘Wait a minute. Our community values the environment here and this is how we want it to be.’”


Morgan Hill values its environment, and this how we want it to be: Dry. But despite the fact that a plan to fix the chronic flooding of Little Llagas Creek has been in place for more than 50 years, work stopped at Buena Vista Avenue in the mid-1980s when it ran out of money and hasn’t been able to get started since.

That’s ridiculous – it’s as ludicrous as Gonzales’ “appropriately represented” assertion.

I first became aware of the aging flood control project, known as PL566, when I was a reporter for the Morgan Hill Times … that was nearly four years ago. There were plenty of places to point fingers of blame: At the feds for not funding their share of the project, at environmental regulations that require re-doing out-of-date environmental impact reports at a hefty price tag, at gerrymander-style redistricting that diluted South County’s political voice and changed its representatives in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento.

Of course, the longer the politicians and bureaucrats twiddle their thumbs, shrug their shoulders, point their fingers and throw up their hands, the more expensive the project becomes.

But there’s seemingly no one in a position of political power willing to take responsibility for getting the work done. Meanwhile in Morgan Hill, homes and businesses repeatedly flood.

It’s enough to make even a die-hard voting advocate like me begin to understand why some people throw up their hands in disgust at the political process and opt out of spending any time at the ballot box.

I hope it doesn’t have that effect. I’d much rather it drive citizens to anger, to judicious use of some four-letter words and a “vote the bastards out” frame of mind. If we can replace voter apathy with some righteous voter anger, I might see Little Llagas Creek’s flood control project completed in my lifetime.

And you cynics out there, stop rolling your eyes.


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