As mayor of Morgan Hill one of the most enjoyable aspects of my
job is meeting with kids.
As mayor of Morgan Hill one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is meeting with kids. Whether it’s a group of Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts or a third grade class from one of our local schools, kids have a way of asking questions and making comments that reveal the essence of issues that we are all facing. Often the questions start off with something like; “What do you like most about being mayor?” and sometimes end with “What’s the hardest part about being mayor?”

I’d like to take a few moments to tell you what I tell the kids and build on that to my vision for the coming year and beyond.

What I like most about being mayor is being able to make a positive difference and to focus on making Morgan Hill a better place to live. I tell the kids that my goal is to make our city a safe place to live, a place where we can all live in peace and harmony, without fear of being hurt by the careless or malicious act of an individual or group. A place where we can raise our families, where there is an abundance of things to do, not just recreational activities but academic, intellectual, spiritual, and artistically challenging activities as well.

That’s why I and many others as well, have focused on building our new Community and Cultural Center, the Community Playhouse, our new Aquatic Center, and soon our new Library, Senior and Youth Centers (The Indoor Recreation Center) and our Soccer and multi-sports complexes. All of these projects are the result of a vision that was created by citizens of Morgan Hill nearly 10 years ago. We have focused on building quality and affordable housing and strengthening our police and fire department services as well, and the list goes on. These are the fun and enjoyable aspects of being mayor.

On the other side of the spectrum, what about the more difficult question: “What’s the hardest part about being mayor?” One of the hardest parts is the necessity to deal with the difficult situation in which two seemingly good ideas are in conflict.

An example of this is working to achieve the good goal of building the city’s economic base while at the same time protecting the quality of life in neighborhoods that might be adversely impacted by such development. In situations like this, it is important to involve the community in the decision-making process and to work to build a solution that works for both the greater Morgan Hill community and the nearby neighborhoods. Such is the case with proposed auto dealerships in Morgan Hill.

In the early 90s, after a very bitter City Council recall election, repeal of the utility tax and an economic downturn, the city was forced to layoff nearly one third of its employees including police officers, firefighters, recreation department workers and many others. This was one of the hardest and most difficult experiences that I have had serving as mayor.

I learned then that to be healthy, the city must build its economic base, especially retail businesses that bring in sales tax dollars. We have been partially successful in building this base and have actually built up a significant reserve in our General Fund. Despite this success, because we have had to help bail out the state, and because of declining sales tax income, revenues have not been sufficient to meet our expenses, even after we have made significant cuts in our spending. The City of Morgan Hill has one of the lowest per capita sales tax incomes of all of the 15 municipalities in Santa Clara County. We must do better.

I am often asked questions about Morgan Hill schools. My response is that the schools are under the jurisdiction of elected School Board members and that the Morgan Hill School District has its own management team. Having said that, I truly believe that a community is not healthy if its schools are not healthy. We’re all in this together. There is much that a city can do to help its school districts. Teacher, principal, and school recognition programs are an example. After school programs and facilities are another as are affordable teacher housing projects.

The city partnered with Gavilan College to build a satellite campus at the Community Center site. This has benefited, students, the college and the city; truly a “Win-Win-Win!” These are a few examples of what we have done and need to build on. Over the next year, I will be presenting recommendations to the City Council for additional programs to support our schools, students and teachers.

The “Big Gorilla in the room” that I have not mentioned is the development of Coyote Valley. As mayor, with the support of the “South County Stakeholders Group” I have actively participated in the Coyote Valley Task Force meetings and process. Not unexpectedly, our concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Recently our City and Stakeholders group presented a letter to Mayor Ron Gonzales, the San Jose City Council and the Task Force, essentially rejecting the proposed plan for Coyote Valley. The proposed plan creates horrendous traffic congestion problems for South County, incredible demand for housing to the South, school sites that are not conducive to learning and a host of unmitigated problems. We must and will take all necessary action to protect Morgan Hill and our South County partners.

As mayor, I recognize that to move our community forward in a positive direction it takes the support of the entire Morgan Hill community. We need to find out what is working well and do more of that. The Community Visioning Process which was initiated nearly 10 years ago is an example of that. It’s time to bring the community together and renew our vision.

Finally, as I answer the questions of the kids, I point to the pictures of the five council members on the wall of our Council Chambers and tell them that it takes all five of us to get something done. Fortunately, we are blessed with a council of dedicated professionals, who truly have Morgan Hill’s best interest at heart. I am confident that, with their support and all of us working together, we will continue to make Morgan Hill an even better place to live.

Best wishes for a blessed and prosperous New Year.

Previous article2004: Sprint to the finish line: Sports year in review
Next articleMH community is a true gem
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here