Chair’s Remarks on the Year Ahead

The Council chair (aka mayor) traditionally offers thoughts on the year ahead when he or she is appointed. I chose not to do that last December because three Council members were stepping down, and three new Council members were being sworn in, and I didn’t want to shift the focus off that unprecedented change. Instead, I made my remarks at last Monday’s Council meeting.

Someone once described legislative bodies as a group of people wearing blindfolds, locked in a room with what turns out to be an elephant, trying to identify, and deal with, what was there.

What I want to talk about tonight is a rather large elephant coming to San Carlos, and what it will mean for the Council over the next few years.

Today San Carlos has about 1.4 million square feet of office space. That’s impressive, and a sign of a healthy and vibrant community. That development provides jobs and opportunities for our people, and tax revenues to help fund public services.

But in the next couple of years, we will see the start or completion of an additional 2.4 million square feet of office space. And that’s just the ones we’ve heard about so far.

Think about that for a second. That’s almost double all the office space that was built since the city was founded almost a century ago! And it’s all happening in just a few short years.

Last November saw a lot of turnover in the Council, with three new members joining this body. I’m excited to hear the fresh perspectives and ideas that will come out of that change.

Because we will need every bit of creativity we can muster, to deal with this elephant, and all its implications. Housing. Traffic. Parking. Mobility. Quality of life. Not to mention all the other things we must do that don’t directly involve development.

We may choose not to allow all the potential growth to happen. We may require what we do allow be done differently than was the case in the past.

But however we move forward, let’s not just apply yesterday’s thinking to today’s opportunities. Unprecedented challenges demand unprecedented thinking.

That’s particularly true when you are a small city like San Carlos. We have been and always will be impacted, often dramatically, by regional, national and global forces that we do not control and must adapt to.

As every single investment pitch you’ve ever heard points out, past success does not guarantee future success. For us to remain the City of Good Living we must be flexible in our approaches, adaptive in our responses, and clever in our decision-making.

To do that, I encourage my colleagues to take nothing for granted. If an expert assures you something must be done a certain way, require an explanation as to why that’s the case. You may find there are hidden assumptions about trade-offs in play, and, while those may once have been valid, it is up to you to make the best choice for today.

If a course of action involves risk, I would urge you not to simply reject it. Understand the risks and get advice on how to manage them. Nothing worthwhile is ever gained without risk, and refusing to ever accept risk guarantees you will create a future that falls short of what we might otherwise have enjoyed.

The future is and always will be an undiscovered country, offering no promises as to what it holds. But we do get to shape it. If we choose to do so.

This Council is presiding over a pivotal moment in San Carlos’ history. I believe it is up to the task of ensuring that those who come after us will enjoy San Carlos as much as we enjoy it today. Even if we can’t imagine how they’ll be living and what they’ll be doing to enjoy life.

I look forward to working with you to help build that future.

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