Q&A With Margaret
Q: Why do you want to run for Town Council?
I have been involved with town government in one way or another since I moved here almost 30 years ago. I have served in a number of official Town roles such as the Planning Commission and as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations that work hand-in-hand with the Town for the betterment of the community. I have spoken up as a private citizen on issues of importance, and now I would like the opportunity to bring together more voices in Los Gatos to find common sense solutions to the decisions that come before the Council. I believe I have the experience and commitment to hard work that is needed for election to Town Council.
Q: What are the three top priorities for municipal government in Los Gatos?
The most important decision made by the Town Council every year is the annual budget. It has the biggest impact on daily life in our community. What kind of police staffing do we have to keep us safe and provide quick response times? What is the condition of our streets and sidewalks? Are our parks taken care of? Is our library open enough hours and with programs for everyone? Can we quickly get permits for routine home improvement projects? About 80% of all of Town resources are allocated to these basic core services. They may not be sexy, but they are the backbone of our quality of life.
The next priority is planning for our future. The pace of change keeps accelerating in Santa Clara Valley and the Bay Area, and Los Gatos is not immune to it. We are growing, although at a slower rate than the rest of the county. We are diversifying, again at a much more modest rate than other cities but still about one in four of our residents are foreign born and speak a language other than English at home. It only takes a walk through Lunardi’s to hear the variety of languages in our cosmopolitan community. Town government must anticipate the future and prepare for it in every way possible – financial, changing service needs, environmental impacts, emergency preparedness and technology.
The third priority is closely entwined with the other two and that is protecting the unique aspects of our town that makes it one of the most desirable places to live. Our charm comes from the natural beauty of our setting, the historic character of our downtown and neighborhoods, and our beloved small-town traditions – the holiday parade, summer outdoor concerts, Friday night football, Screen on the Green, carriage rides, Oak Meadow egg hunts, Cat’s Hill bicycle race, Sunday morning farmers’ market, Halloween block parties. The list goes on and on. Town Council must make sure that resources are available to protect these intangible assets.
Q: How will you approach decision-making as a Councilmember?
Public decision-making must first be based on the rule of law. What regional, state and/or national laws pertain to this issue? What Town ordinances are already on the books? What guidance is offered by the General Plan or by other specific plans or published guidelines? After this analysis is done, then comes the listening. What are our residents and businesses saying pro and con about the issue? Their different perspectives are important to really understand what is at stake with every decision – the immediate impact, the long-term impact, the potential unexpected consequences.
Q: What are your views on housing in Los Gatos?
What I have always appreciated about Los Gatos is our variety of housing stock. Not everyone wants to live the same way and it is important that we have rental properties as well as owner occupied, new construction and historic Victorians, hillside and flatland, large and small.
Given the ever-increasing value of housing in our region, and certainly in Los Gatos, it is more difficult to ensure a variety of price points for housing. It requires positive actions by town government and nonprofit organizations working together to increase housing options that people of modest incomes can afford. Los Gatos has had success in incorporating below market housing homes throughout town, but the numbers are small. We need to be more proactive in looking for opportunities to add affordable housing components when considering commercial and housing projects. For example, I am a big fan of residential above retail when the location is right.
The Housing Element, which has to be updated every eight years, has been of concern to many people. It is a required document that must be submitted to the state outlining how every city and town in California is set up to meet housing needs in the next decade. It is a planning tool that considers what is possible, not an edict of what will actually happen. I am unhappy with the communication about the Housing Element, from both the town and strong advocates (for and against) who have not effectively educated our residents about what the Housing Element really means. The conversation has caused unnecessary anxiety and distracted from the realistic approach that Los Gatos can take to slowly and carefully expand our housing inventory.
Q: What are your pet peeves about life in Los Gatos you’d like to solve?
As someone who is frequently in Oak Meadow Park with my grandchildren, I’m embarrassed by the condition of its restroom. It needs to be remodeled and maintained in pristine condition.
Our downtown draws visitors from near and far, and it should sparkle. Sidewalk cleaning needs to be increased, especially now that there is so much outdoor dining.
Q: Do you have a big dream for Los Gatos?
I actually have two big dreams, and both are projects that we could accomplish in a relatively short period of time.
I am a big fan of community gardens and I am pleased that our schools are starting to add community garden classrooms where students can learn how to grow food and flowers. I’d like to see at least general public community garden opened in Los Gatos that would not just be a place where residents without access to yards could plant fruits and vegetables, but would also provide volunteer opportunities for seniors and teens while acknowledging the agricultural heritage of our town. One potential location is a parcel of empty land on Winchester Boulevard at Highway 85 that calls to me every time I drive by. It is owned by the water district and is grossly under-utilized. The Town should negotiate with the water district for access to this land and then hold a charrette workshop to gather resident ideas about its use and design.
My second dream is not original to me, but an idea that has never been seriously pursued. Our town could greatly benefit from a continuous loop electric trolley service that would provide free transit along our main corridors to link neighborhoods, the downtown and other commercial centers. I would like Los Gatos to conduct a feasibility study that lays out costs, potential funding sources such as grants from the State Department of Transportation, partnerships with nonprofits, possible routes and hours of operation – all with lots of input from residents so that it is designed to serve their needs. As we encourage people to walk and bike to reduce congestion and our carbon footprint, an electric trolley would add another option for convenient, environmentally-friendly transportation.