Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 14, 2005

No representation apparently OK with Williams

Did you read San Jose City Councilman Forrest Williams’ assessment of the distribution of seats on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s board of directors?

Under the current arrangement, Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Milpitas share one representative on a rotating basis. Right now, that representative is from Milpitas. It’s also worth noting that five of the 12 seats on the VTA board are filled by San Jose representatives.

This means that during this critical time when the VTA is still trying to find a way to blow its budget on extending BART to San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill have no representation on the VTA board.

What was Williams’ take on the VTA board structure?

“Everyone wants to sit on the dais,” Williams said, “but the structure is based on size and I don’t see anyone getting less representation than they should.”

Currently, no one represents Gilroy or Morgan Hill on the VTA board. How could Williams not “see” that this situation is patently unfair? Gilroy and Morgan Hill might be smaller than San Jose, but they’re not nonexistent, last time I checked.

For Gilroy and Morgan Hill, the timing of the current rotation couldn’t be worse. Milpitas’ VTA representative supports the BART extension. That’s not too surprising, given the city’s location along the proposed BART extension route, although I’d argue it’s stunningly shortsighted.

On the other hand, many South County residents, because of the impact constructing and operating the extension will have on the VTA’s budget (it will bankrupt the agency), oppose the extension.

Despite the VTA’s own analysis showing it will go bankrupt before it’s done buiding the extension and repeated recommendations against federal funding for the extension by federal transportation policy wonks, the VTA board recently voted not to even shorten the BART extension.

Gee, Councilman Williams, why would everyone want to sit on the dais, I wonder? Maybe it’s because the people at the dais cast votes on whether or not to spend money on a project that will bankrupt our public transit agency.

I’d say zero seats on the VTA means that Gilroy and Morgan Hill residents have no representation, but apparently that’s what Williams thinks South Valley residents deserve.

But really, I shouldn’t be surprised by Williams’ callous attitude toward South Valley residents. After all, Williams recently joined forces with San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales to speed another project that could have dire impacts on Morgan Hill and Gilroy: developing Coyote Valley.

This is another case where no representation for Morgan Hill and Gilroy has been deemed appropriate by a San Jose official. The task force currently developing the Coyote Valley plan doesn’t include any elected officials from Gavilan Community College or the Morgan Hill Unified School District, even though the land falls in both agencies’ attendance areas. It doesn’t include any elected officials from the cities of Morgan Hill or Gilroy, even though these communities will be drastically affected in every possible way by development in Coyote Valley.

Last year, Gonzales said through his spokesman that he believed South County was appropriately represented on the Coyote Valley planning task force.

Williams and Gonzales recently circulated a memo that advocates eliminating at least two of the prerequisites that currently must be met before Coyote Valley development can occur. Williams and Gonzales, who both seem to approve when South County residents have no official voice on issues that dramatically impact them, have teamed to propose abandoning long-standing and sensible promises about when Coyote Valley can be developed.

But it’s not only South County residents who are disturbed by the Williams/Gonzales proposal. Here’s what former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery had to say in his blog on May 11:

“In the sixties and seventies rampant and uncontrolled growth driven by a city government in league with the growth machine, nearly pushed our community to the edge of extinction as a livable place. … The standard of a rational growth policy has fallen in the dust. In all directions and in all quarters there is a demand for leadership and courage.”

McEnery’s position is good news for South County: We’re not alone in our worries about Coyote Valley development. Let’s hope our elected officials are taking note of their allies in San Jose and are working with them to defeat this irresponsible proposal.

Otherwise, the fate of our cities will be in the hands of people like Gonzales and Williams, who apparently think no representation for Gilroy and Morgan Hill is just fine.

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