Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 20, 2005

Puh-lease: Coyote Valley, community conversations, ATM fraud

It’s time for a periodic roundup of things that make me roll my eyes, shake my head and utter a dramatic, two-syllable puh-lease.

***

I shook my head as I read Matt King’s recent article about the reaction of Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force members to Gavilan Community College’s plan for a campus there.

I was irked by San Jose Councilman Forrest Williams’ claim that “we just want to work together” with Gavilan officials, while complaining that the site that Gavilan has chosen is interferes with the task force’s plan for Coyote Valley.

Pardon my dramatic eye roll.

If San Jose officials really want to work with Gavilan officials, why did they fail to include anyone from the college on the task force planning Coyote Valley development?

But the comment that really peeved me came from task force member and Shapell Industries representative Dan Hancock about one facet of Gavilan’s Coyote Valley campus design: “Twenty acres of parking is so incongruous with everything we’ve been doing in that plan.”

That simply means the task force’s precious plan is faulty, because Gavilan is complying with state requirements by including that amount of parking. These are not suggestions, they’re mandates with real teeth. College officials say that if Gavilan ignores the state’s regulations, it will lose state funding.

Before Hancock criticizes college plans that comply with state mandates again, he ought to ensure that someone – perhaps himself, or if he’s a few million dollars short, maybe the deeper-pocketed folks at Shappell – is able, willing and contractually committed to replacing any state funding Gavilan would lose by reducing parking.

Puh-lease.

***

I’m shaking my head about “community conversations” that Morgan Hill officials are planning to talk with residents about tax increases versus service cuts. City officials are proposing holding private meetings with residents to get their opinions on this question: Should City Council members raise taxes, and by how much, or should they cut services to close a $1.3-million budget gap?

My understanding is that city staff and perhaps a consultant will attend these meetings, who will then pass the information to City Manager Ed Tewes, who will then recap it in his public reports to city council members.

The city’s plan reminds me of a game of telephone, where one person whispers a message, who whispers it to someone else, and so on down the line, but by the time it’s relayed to the last person, the message is usually significantly distorted.

City Council members need to hear directly from the public, in public. Residents’ opinions shouldn’t be filtered through or manipulated by consultants or staff members. The subtext of body language and tone of voice shouldn’t be diluted or removed through multiple retellings and in written reports. Residents should be able to observe elected officials reactions to those opinions.

If location is a problem, hold real, noticed, agendized City Council meetings away from City Hall. If awareness is a problem, find new, creative ways to invite the public. If process is a problem, find ways to hold less stuffy but still legal City Council meetings.

But private community conversations? Puh-lease, that’s an oxymoron.

***

Finally, I’m shaking my head because I was just the victim of what seems to be the perfect crime. Last weekend, my bank’s fraud department called to ask if I was purchasing books with my ATM card in London that morning. No, I told them, I was at home in Morgan Hill in my PJs and my ATM card was snug in my wallet.

They checked several other London-based purchases totaling more than $2,400, all fraudulent.

After I jumped through lots of bureaucratic hoops, the money was credited to my account six days later. But what has me shaking my head is that no one thinks that whoever stole my ATM card number and whoever used it (they might be two different people) will ever be caught.

I’m told that the only real possibility of catching the creeps rests with the merchants who bear the financial brunt of this crime. The bank maintains a fund to replace the money stolen from account, but it will recoup it from the merchants who accepted the fraudulent ATM card.

One of the merchants victimized in this case would have to press charges if the local police can identify a suspect. In the meantime, we all pay higher retail prices and bank fees while the criminals who traffic and use stolen ATM card numbers apparently have no reason to fear being caught.

And, in addition to causing me to shake my head, I’m also seriously reconsidering if I really need the 24/7 money access convenience my ATM card gives me.

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