Op-Ed: Google Advisory Group Must Reflect San Jose’s Diversity

Sergio Jimenez| San Jose Inside| Link to Article

As a member of the San Jose City Council, I believe that the core of our role as public officials is to listen, gather information, and make informed decisions. For this to take place, we must make every effort to include and consider diverse public sentiment.

Last Tuesday, my colleagues and I discussed the role our community will play in the nascent Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG). This newly formed group will advise the city administration and Council on actions related to future development at Diridon Station and the eventual MOU with Google.

City staff proposed to council a membership of 35 entities to serve on the SAAG. In reviewing the list, I found some gaps in representation and felt it important to fill those gaps. There is no magic number as to how many entities should be part of this group. Creating the group is more art than science. My intent was never to remove members from the SAAG, but rather make certain we were inclusive of all groups that should be part of the conversation.

Faith-based entities and advocacy groups with a track-record of understanding the deep issues at play were missing from the SAAG. For example, of the several business groups on the list, none represented the interests and perspectives of small minority-owned businesses. Additionally, the SAAG lacked representation of our homeless community. Both Councilman Raul Peralez and I recognized the need to have a homeless or formerly homeless person on the SAAG.

Ultimately, in a unanimous vote last week—although one council member is trying to change his “yes” into a“no”—the council approved my recommendation to include the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, People Acting in Community Together and the Minority Business Consortium. That brings the total membership of the group to 38.

The reality is that Google is already in San Jose. The hundreds of community interactions I have had over the last eight months have made it abundantly clear that residents from all walks of life have concerns and questions about Google’s planned downtown development. It is not just “ravenous liberals” looking to flip Google upside-down and shake out every last coin—conservatives and residents all along the economic spectrum are anxious and apprehensive.

San Jose residents are not selfishly asking what Google is going to do for them, but rather what impact Google will have on our city.

We are all aware that Google did not create San Jose’s housing crisis, nor did it contribute to the challenges within our school system, and it certainly has not created our homeless crisis. However, Google has the potential to exacerbate these problems if we do not act responsibly and take seriously the concerns of our community. It has been said by some that we must temper expectations.

Though we recognize the exciting opportunity that Google brings to our city, we must not minimize or dismiss the significant impacts of the proposed project, which we can reasonably anticipate.

As the SAAG develops, we need to make certain it reflects broad public sentiment and does not become an echo chamber in which all things Google are accepted without robust debate. I believe there is much good that will come from the Google project, and I will do everything within my power to guarantee that the good is for all.