Diplomacy and Community-Building

San Jose California City Hall, 28 June 2016

Just over a year ago, I was in Salt Lake City as one of the Official Bloggers from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) for the Episcopal General Convention (GC).  At GC, I witnessed remarkable diplomacy and community-building, especially with regard to the historic approval of the very controversial resolutions to create marriage equality in the Episcopal Church.  The way this debate was managed has become my standard for excellence in respectful balancing of sides during heartfelt controversy.  An excerpt from my 1 July 2015 post:

“Marriage equality has been passionately discussed for 39 years in our church and even today there were serious, prayerful, and heartfelt objections raised.  Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the House of Deputies, HofD) asked that the House maintain decorum and respect – as celebrations on one side could only be hurtful to our brothers and sisters taking the opposite view. Chaplain Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie lead HofD in prayer and song before each vote. Over a thousand people were present for this historic decision. We will be processing what is means to us and to our church for many years to come.”

In a highly-local and much less important community debate, on 28 June 2016, the San Jose Mayor and City Council voted to approve that the highly-controversial Road Diet be made permanent in my home neighborhood of Willow Glen.  This final decision was welcomed by many and deeply regretted by as many.  The way the discussion was handled did little to rebuild the community strength that the discussion has eroded during the last year. My husband John Plocher and I were among those who formally spoke against the decision, out of about a dozen citizens who were given one minute each to address the Mayor and City Council.  We only came away with a tiny win: as part of making the “Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project” permanent, the City Council also voted to ban adult bicyclists from riding on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue – a welcome change for the better!

I wrote on 17 June 2016  how the problems with the Willow Glen Road Diet sort into categories, of which one was Community Trust:

“The way that the Road Diet was managed caused anger and mistrust of city government among most of the people I interviewed.  …  Many Willow Glen residents are looking forward to electing a new City Council representative in November 2016.  Of the five problems, this loss of trust has the greatest destructive potential for our community.”

When I compare the diplomacy and sensitivity with which the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings managed the raging discussions last summer with the rough  “take it or leave it” style in which our local Road Diet controversy was managed, I feel that San Jose’s leadership does not shine.  I hope that now the decision is made, San Jose’s City Council and neighborhood groups like the Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA), and Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) will start to rebuild the community peace that was lost to the Road Diet controversy.

WGBA Board meetings are open to the public: 8 am on the Second Tuesday of Every Month, at the Willow Glen Community Center (2175 Lincoln Ave., San José).

The next WGNA Board meeting will be Thursday, 28 July starting at 7 pm at the Willow Glen Public Library (1157 Minnesota Ave., San José). Meeting is open to Members and Residents.

Katy Dickinson speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

John Plocher speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Candidate Dev Davis speaking in favor of the Road Diet, to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Walk Your Bike. Make a Friend. poster, San Jose CA 28 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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