There is a reason Mike Fox Sr. and his wife Mary Ellen are revered in this valley—their generosity seemingly has no bounds. Their latest endeavor, which featured former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, raised money for Habitat for Humanity, a project started by Carter after his presidency.
Silicon Valley politicos showed up in force. Some people who you would never expect to see together worked side by side, including labor progressives Ben Field, Steve Preminger and Assemblywoman Nora Campos, along with Chamber types Mike Fox Jr. and Bob Kieve. County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who should declare his run for mayor of San Jose any day now, was there along with another unannounced candidate in Councilmember Rose Herrera.
Herrera actually sat next to the political consultant who ran the campaign of her opponent. The conversation was civil and pleasant despite our political differences.
The Fox home is the Geneva of San Jose politics.
Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has been a model for how ex-Presidents can use their influence in making a huge difference on the world stage.
Along with Carter and his wife, the third person to get a standing ovation was Adriana Resendez. A recent master’s degree graduate from New York University, Ms. Resendez gave a remarkable speech about how Habitat for Humanity provided her family with not only a home, but also an opportunity to succeed.
The daughter of a hardworking family, who often lived out of a car or a remodeled garage, earned their home by putting over 2,000 hours of sweat equity into building a house. This dream would never have been possible without an affordable housing component provided by Habitat for Humanity.
The home was more than a shelter. It provided stability for a family intent on pursuing the American dream. The Resendez family is an example of what can happen when people are given a hand up.
Today, Habitat is completing a house every four minutes around the world. But the affordable housing community, of which Habitat is a part, is struggling with the recent demise of redevelopment agencies in the state.
Carter noted that Gov. Jerry Brown has “cut” all funding for affordable housing in the state. The dig was not lost on those of us who remember the bitter primary fights in 1976 and 1980, when a younger version of Brown ran against Carter for the Democratic nomination for President.
While technically correct, Brown is not antithetical to affordable housing as a policy. But a major portion of affordable housing funding did come from redevelopment agencies, and Brown eliminated them. So, for now, what Carter said is not a fact in dispute.
San Jose is currently studying impact fees for developers to recreate a fund that could be used for affordable housing. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Working Partnerships and local governments have identified the lack of affordable housing as a major issue for economic growth in our community.
While statistics can tell the story—homelessness is increasing even as job growth takes place—it is people like Adriana Resendez and her family who show what’s possible when working families are provided a secure environment.
Now it is time for Brown to provide a mechanism to create affordable housing throughout our state. If he succeeds, he might even be able to win the support of Carter. They might even have dinner together over at Mike and Mary Ellen Fox’s house. As noted, it would be the appropriate venue.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.