We San Joseans are a schizophrenic bunch. We’re all for economic development, but we consistently complain about noise generated by the airplanes, traffic, and sporting events that come with it. We’re pro-environment, but we’ll drive our Hummers to shop in Campbell or Milpitas, so we can have plastic bags to pick up our dog droppings. We’re pro-innovation, but we do very little to attract the startups and R&D projects that form the backbone of our region, and we add insult to injury by embracing the misnomer “Capital of Silicon Valley.”
We’re reluctant to spend public dollars supporting local CBOs and nonprofits that provide for the public health, but we’re also averse to providing adequate pay and benefits for our public — and private — employees to keep them out of the Emergency Room at Valley Med — which we subsidize with our tax dollars.
Most tragically (at least to a communications guy): We spend oodles of money every year advertising the benefits of San Jose to the rest of the country, but mere peanuts promoting our City to its own residents.
I’m reminded of the seminal line from Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange: “What’s it going to be then, eh?”
Transposed to our dilemma: “Are we going to embrace the role of urban metropolis, or will we forever be known as a bedroom community?”
Simplified even further: “In which Century do you spend most of your time?”
Let’s face it, San José, we’ve reached a crossroads in our history. Over the next decade, we’re going to learn a lot about who we are and where we want to live.
Will we have the will to follow the thoughtful and sensible development outlined by the Envision 2040 General Plan Update and become a true 21st Century city? Or will we abandon its worthy ideals at the first sign of a new shopping center or additional flights at the airport or — god forbid — a downtown baseball stadium?
It’s very likely that this battle will fall along generational lines. If so, it’s those of us in our 30s and 40s who will be the final arbiters of our City’s future. Our youthful exuberance tempered by aging bodies gives us a unique perspective. We can see the struggle from both sides.
I’m a second-generation San José native. The “Biggest Small Town in America” has grown up right alongside me. I feel tied to its future, like Spock to the planet Genesis in Star Trek III. And I’m ready to forge the City we all deserve out of the remnants of the town some of us seemingly can’t leave behind.
Peter Allen is an independent communications consultant and a proud native of San José — Willow Glen to be exact.