Every once in a while it is critical to step back from the sound and fury of the day to day happenings and take stock of who we are and where we live. I have read a great deal this week, but mostly fiction and, of course, Sanjoseinside. Pass the straight line because the two are definitely different.

Lately, it seems like baseball and stem cell research are the predominant and dominating issues and topics of concern facing our City. Interesting. Both are significant for different reasons and each has a mighty hill to climb before we get near the summit.  However, difficulty should not dissuade pursuit. Only judgment should do so.

Now here is where the perspective comes in.

What “is” important to San Jose?

Well, answering that involves knowing what is necessary to our citizens?  What has great value?

The answer is certainly not our “greatness”, a meaningless word uttered by leaders with low vocabularies or bad speech writers.  In the minds of many it is but an abstraction.

For my money, I think serenity is a higher goal.  It is one of transcendent importance. It covers a distinct combination of prosperity, self confidence and a feeling of peaceful enjoyment of one’s life.  Although, it is most elusive, its components are readily understandable. 

In San Jose, our mix of economic riches, imagination and hope and a respect for others make serenity well within our reach.  But we must reach for it.  While we may disagree vehemently with some of the goals and methods of our leaders at City Hall, we must never discourage the longing, working, and reaching for the highest of goals.

As was once said quite well, “ A man’s reach must exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for.”  This is a very laudable goal.

San Jose is not heaven, but our corner of the world must always be nutured and fought for if we are to achieve that special place that we wish, need, and can provide us with some serenity.


  1. I think our drive for greatness in this city has taken on too much of the fluff and not enough substance. 

    I feel that Tom has hit it well with the serenity issue and how that must be a goal to achieve before we start to reach for material things (Baseball, etc). 

    We might be the 10th largest city and the first in crime prevention, but it encompasses more than that.  We need to be comfortable with our neighbor and our neighbor needs to be comfortable with us first.  Then as a community we can begin to build that stadium for Baseball and leave the in fighting to another city (San Francisco would be one place to start).

  2. San Jose is a place where we can realize the triumph of ethical government, if we want to.

    I have an ethical question for the blogger experts:

    A)  Your organization has obtained email addresses for marketing and research purposes.  The head of your organization is angry about the political agitation being fostered by a group of citizens.  She asks for the email addresses collected by a brance of the organization for marketing and research.  This organization is a public agency, and is also a non proft.

    B)  Has this leader used material of the organization for private purposes, is it unethical?

    C)  The organization’s legal counsel wisely asks the ethics group to decide the issue, but before they make a ruling, the executive director is quoted in the newspaper claiming the ceo of the organization, which is not the executive director, has every tight to the information.

    Your ruling:

    a) has the executive director made a serious error going against the process?

    b) if any agency or non profit, or local agency gets email addresses for marketing, should the leadership leave them alone??


  3. San Jose is a place where people from all over the US and the world come to … work.

    It’s a haven for worker bees trying to make enough money, quickly so they can enjoy a nice life … some place else.

    People are here with a short term mindset (until I make enough money, until my work work visa expires, etc).

    Changing these attitudes and converting people into long term stakeholders is a challenge. 

    But if you make SJ a great, top tier, place to raise a family and educate your kids, it can be done.  This should be SJ’s focus.

  4. Getting back to the subject, I think historic preservation needs to be more of a priority.  The council approved the KB Homes project on the old Del Monte parcel over the objections of the Planning Commission and the Preservation Action Council.  This could have been a great urban loft type of development along with the standard townhome fare that has become the housing product of choice for developers in recent years.  Just over the weekend I drove home from OSH down Auzerais and could see the buildings on that property that definitely have historic significance for this valley and the potential for reusing much of what’s there was obvious.  It’s clear the council is bankrupt when it comes to maintaining any sense of heritage at all for this town.  Downtown was ruined by the urban renewal fad of the 60’s but the current council isn’t interested in preserving what’s left of this valley’s historic buildings.  They are bent on making this a city without a heart, as was mentioned regarding the Del Monte development.  Ken Yeager should be ashamed of himself for selling out to KB Homes and settling for a token nod towards the valley’s history with a few replicated architectural pieces.  Why not preserve the real thing?  A shameful example of a city that is on the wrong track.

  5. Tom,

    An interesting choice of ” serenity ” as a ” higher goal ” for San Jose.  As with many words there are multiple meanings and interpretations. One of which is in the

    The Serenity Prayer

    God, grant me the serenity
    To accept the things
    I cannot change,

    Courage to change
    the things I can,

    and the wisdom
    to know the difference.

    Are you implying those who comment on the San Jose Inside Blog,  local residents and San Jose’s political leaders should adapt the ” Serenity Prayer ” as our personal or city motto ?

    A historical note this prayer is used by AA and other 12 step programs because of the ” power and wisdom contained in the prayer’s thoughts ” 


    Or is your choice of ” serenity a subtle attempt to upstage John as San Jose Inside’s humorist ?

  6. Tom – I’m stunned. 

    Heaven?  Serenity?  A prayer?!  In the name of holy diversity and Barbara Boxer – what on earth could you have been thinking?!

    Readers, rest assured, I’ve alerted the ACLU – they’re on their way to jackhammer this blog off of the internet.

  7. Our strip mall heritage is much more significant than any other historical influences.

    Convert Cesar Chavez park into a strip mall and be done with it.  It’d be the *perfect* location for a long lane of back to back to back drive thru windows. 

    A donut shop selling “Quetzies” can’t miss!

    We must embrace, not shy away from, our strip mall heritage.

  8. I find the idea of the big thought a good one, but I find the ‘serenity’ theme too passive. When I first arrived in San Jose, it was fairly accurate to say that people were here until they could take their land profits and run.  But it was also true for corporations that were being created here and then gobbled willingly by companies based elsewhere.  More of our leading companies are planting deeper roots here and with them come the prospect of a population who sees this as home more than just a financial opportunity.  We are a long way from being a mature city in terms of civic resources, but we have moved many miles from where we were when I first returned to the Bay Area.  As we lapse into being America’s tenth largest city I wish to see us set goals that reflect that status.  Size is not what matters, services do.  There are many fine cities not in the top 10.  Why not be a fine city rather than an extended real estate boom? Let’s return to the efforts made to stimulate our core and ask the electorate to support filling in some of the gaps.  Why have one great theatre in San Jose? Why have one sports franchise? Why are we not filling the week with life rather than just the weekends? We have much to shoot for, but we also still have substantial retained wealth.  It ought to be used now while it can do the most good.  San Jose should not be passive about its present.  We need to shoot higher.

  9. The most important thing for SJ should be downtown. The city is in suburban shamble.
    Density, density is king, and San Jose stinks in that department.  Stack the highrises in downtown to make it better.

  10. Mark T,

    I couldn’t agree more. But then, as the Executive Director of the Preservation Action Council, I would say that. This city needs to respect its heritage, and to make that heritage central to the development decisions it takes. And particularly in cases where it is economically feasible to adaptively reuse the buildings, as it was here, the City Council should show leadership in requiring that adaptive reuse.

  11. It is hard to be serene in San Jose.

    We’ve just received word about a $26,000 fine levied by the Fair Political Practices Commission against the campaign treasurer for two bond campaign committees (1998 & 1999) for Berryessa Union School District.

    This certainly raises the bar for FPPC fines.

  12. Some thoughts from a San Jose Native.

    I grew up on the Alameda, and then White Road, and then Reed Street and then Stockton, and then 14th and St. James and then Reed Street again, and then more.  I attended seven elementary schools in downtown and one in Santa Clara. 

    San Jose has always meant struggle and survival for me.  I lived in a trailor park on South 1st. street for a time and looked up and saw the green light of the old Bank of America Building. There were orchards around me. 

    I moved to 14th street, near the old Roosevelt Jr. Hr. school and I looked up and saw that green light again.  And once again, by Stockton and Julian, between the canery buildings you could see that green light shining.  That one building and one symbol of a real downtown always meant something to me.

    Shining shoes, or selling papers on a street corner in front of OJs or Sears, San Jose was One to me, San Jose was magical, San Jose was my Universe.  I owned this town, weather by foot or bicycle.  The Rose Garden, Willow Glen, or Boys Town in Japan Town where just day trips.  Hitching a ride on rail to Morgan Hill or riding the creeks to the Bay – nothing was impossible then. 

    But in growing up, I’ve learned that San Jose was not so nice during those same years.  San Jose was the LA of Northern California.  Grap as much land as you can as qickly as you can.    Where five cities should exist, we now have one.  That one city, in all its complexities, distorts the politicis in everything the county and sometimes the state does.  Cities like Cupertino and Saratoga where created just so as not to be swallowed by the monster.

    My heart always resides in San Jose, while my mind and free-will always repels against the empire and central authority that San Jose represents.  My San Jose, represented by a boy’s bicycle ride, became a sprawling freeway driven monster.  No wonder there are problems.  What does Prospect and De-Anza Blvd. have in common with King and Story Road?  Nothing.  Nothing that is City oriented around.    Yes, we all want good roads and a good police force, but the shared sense of community is just not there. 

    I love and hate San Jose at the same time. 

    How to move forward?  There is no easy answers.  Changing political structures is always nearly impossible.  But the extremes can always be tamed.  It is hard.  It is difficult, but the alterntive is always worse.

    Sometimes I think the struggle is futile.  But then I attend some public meetings and I see all these very young and energetic ‘kids’ who are amazing at there ability to present good ideas.  And then I say, its ok. We’ll be fine.  We’ll have our low moments, but these kids and their unbelievable energy will sustain us. 

    In the end,  my heart always wins.  I always root of San Jose and know that I always will.


  13. Dutch Hamman was always praised for his expansion of San Jose but maybe Norm was right.  maybe that was part of what destroyed San Jose.  If we had keep it small it might still be a beautiful city where kids sold papers on street corners.  If only they still could and we could get rid of all those stupid newspaper holders on the streets.  Why do they get to litter our sidewalks with those stupid things.  I can’t use the sidewalks to see whatever it is I have to sell.  Get rid of them they are a blight on the city.

  14. Balance:

    God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day. He inquired of God. “Where have you been?”

    God sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction, and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “Look, Michael. Look what I’ve made.”

    Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, “What is it?”

    “It’s a planet,” replied God, ” and I’ve put Life on it. I’m going to call it Earth and it’s going to be a great place of balance.”

    “Balance?” inquired Michael, still confused.

    God explained, pointing to different parts of earth. “For example, northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor. Over there I’ve placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things.” God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be extremely hot, while this one will be very cold and covered in ice.”

    The angel, impressed by God’s work, then pointed to a land mass and said, “What’s that one?”

    “Ah,” said God “That’s Washington State, the most glorious place on earth. There are great rivers and small streams, forested hills and a barren basin. The people from Washington State are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent and humorous, and they are going to be found traveling the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as diplomats, and carriers of peace.”

    Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then proclaimed, “What about balance, God? You said there would be balance.”

    God smiled, “There is another Washington…wait until you see the idiots I put there!”