Op-Ed: Action on Little Things Can Facilitate Major Change

Over 25 years ago my neighbors had an emergency, but because our street was not evenly lit, the ambulance passed by their house. Thankfully we were outside waiting for help to arrive and we quickly turned the ambulance around to help a child receive urgent care.

My heart was moved to prevent such chaos and trauma again for my neighbor. I took action. After a few meetings and phone calls, a new streetlight was installed on a pre-existing telephone pole.

I learned a valuable lesson: you can makes changes in your neighborhood. You need to roll up your own sleeves and get involved. Determination and vision are the cogs that drive neighborhood improvement.

My experience working and collaborating with neighbors all over our district, with all city departments, and with state legislators, Santa Clara County supervisors and our businesses gives me the ability to start work for you as your new council member on Jan. 1.

My vision for San Jose is to revitalize our strengths and channel Silicon Valley innovation into solutions to address our weaknesses. Every neighborhood deserves a park and safe recreation options and our homes should be secure and stable.

As the largest city in Northern California, we should be a national leader in taking on some of society’s biggest challenges. Action on some little things can facilitate change so our community vision for San Jose becomes a reality. Sometimes simply turning on a light can make the biggest of impacts for our neighbors.

While on the Shasta/Hanchett Park Neighborhood Association board we acquired land for a new park and play area for our children.

As a Parks commissioner, and time as chair, I helped enhance our green vision and saw Newhall, Hummingbird and Buena Vista parks open. We also upgraded the Parkland Dedication Ordinance to bring in millions of dollars for our community. This gave us the money that has been used to see Del Monte park completed and with an areas for dogs. We rolled up our sleeves and got it done.

Vision takes big leaps, and when we work on little things, our impacts can be even bigger. In 1996 we developed the first public-private partnership for San Jose with the completion of Hester Park.

When we invest in parks, libraries and safe spaces, we are investing in our future and adding real value to our community. We can do this while protecting our fiscal security.

I know together we can do great work for our city of great neighborhoods. From working families that do the essential work; with community businesses that drive local commerce; to the nonprofits and community organizations that go above and beyond; we all have an interest in seeing our issues resolved.  At City Hall I will help lead the charge and bring people together.

Among many ideas, I want to see expansion of VTA’s Dash shuttle down West San Carlos Street. Our children, seniors and low-income residents would greatly benefit from this expansion of service, but more, everyone will have increased and a greener access to more businesses in San Jose. So many of our neighbors make up the 65,000-plus businesses in San Jose. The more we can do to get residents in the door, the boost can be shared by everyone.

We need a vision and the willingness to get the work done for our neighborhoods. No longer can we settle for leadership that is simply reactive instead of proactive.

I didn’t become involved to help my neighbors because I wanted any glory. I am involved because I want all of our neighbors to thrive and not worry that their calls are not heard.

We have been working together for over two decades for San Jose. I would appreciate your vote this November so I can continue working for you—this time at City Hall.

Helen Chapman is a longtime community advocate and candidate for San Jose’s District 6 City Council seat. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. I just love it when someone starts throwing words like green zone and safe places around.
    Green zone seems to mean we will charge one a couple of hundred bucks to have a birthday party for 10 kids in the park. Safe place is library where your dump those screaming kids off for an hour to go have a pedicure, because it’s not safe to leave them alone in a sanctuary city.

    But thanks for getting the bulb changed in our street light last week!
    What can you do about the 2 competing street gangs, mail thieves, car break in’s, and home invasion.

  2. Empty, I think she got an actual street light installed. Not just changed the bulb.

    I don’t much like those catch phrases either. However, what it sounds like she is saying is that we need more parks. That is not such a bad thing. What we really need is our parks to be maintained. Some parks are a dump.

    I agree that parks don’t address the “mail thieves, car break in’s, and home invasion” issues. On her web page she acknowledges and addresses the “critical public safety problem”. (http://www.helenchapman2016.com/issues/making-san-jose-safer-a-working-plan-of-action/)

    While her plan of action doesn’t appear to be a panacea for all the City’s ills, it appears to be far better then her opponent who suggest we get a computer program to predict crime (her opponent is also endorsed by Chuck Reed, Pete Constant and big business)

    I’m impressed that Helen Chapman has been involved in her neighborhood for such a long time. A longtime community advocate.

  3. Ken Colson, Retired community college instructor, community activist, Director BSD

    Helen is spot on. It is evident that she sees and hears the needs of neighborhoods. Everything she has done has been for improving and preserving the quality and safety of neighborhoods.

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