Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why we loved Greg Perry

So it has come to this for Greg Perry. The local paper can not find a single person to offer a comment in its farewell article. A more likely explanation is that the Voice never bothered to ask, but it doesn't take much imagination to see Perry's colleagues invoking the "if you can't say anything nice" rule.

In his one term on the seven-member city council, Perry was alone on the losing side of so many votes that my coworkers and I began using the phrase "6 to Perry" as a shorthand description of council decisions. Perry proposed more ordinances than anyone else, falling just short in two of his most controversial attempts -- proposals to eliminate the prevailing wage requirement for city construction contracts and the affordability taxes on new housing developments. He accused council candidates of ethical misconduct, questioned fellow members' motives and commitment, and criticized city staff more often than others. He exposed the free VIP tickets city council members receive for Shoreline Amphitheatre concerts, and took his job so seriously that he once reported $6.25 worth of buttons as a campaign contribution.

At one point or another, Perry antagonized pretty much every interest group in the city. His behavior and outspokenness alienated his colleagues, who often trashed him in the elevator or even on the dais. But it made him popular with reporters (whom he was always quick to call back). The Mercury ran a biographical story about Perry in which it embarrassingly dubbed him "Mr. Fight City Hall, From Within." And, after this story, a jealous colleague of his introduced me to a city staffer as "the reporter from the Mountain View Greg Perry."

But it wasn't just that Perry was always good for a quote or a story idea. He was also the kind of diligent public servant society needs. He more than once put his political career on the line when he cared about an issue, and frequently paid a price for it. Admirably, though, the losses never seemed to discourage him from trying again.

And in looking back at his four years on the council, it's important not to lose sight of his victories. At a time when few public officials had the courage to oppose VTA's push for a BART extension, Perry was calling attention to serious concerns about the agency's funding plans. And long before neighboring condo owners organized an effective opposition to the location of the city's child care center, Perry was speaking up on behalf of Rengstorff Park. And he was a constant force pushing the council towards its defining achievement (or sin, depending on whom you ask) -- the significant increase in the number and density of new housing projects.

Sure, he may have lost more votes than anybody else, he may have been distrustful at times and politically tone-deaf at others, and he may have more than occasionally made a mountain out of a molehill, but the people of Mountain View should thank Greg Perry. They were lucky to have someone so dedicated to serving the community.

5 comments:

Alicia said...

I will miss him, but did find it interesting that there were no "farewell" quotes. I wonder if they will do Kasperzak this week. If they do, I have a feeling his story will be just slighty different.

I'm going to their "farewell" party next Monday. I'll let you know if anything interesting happens.

pogblog said...

'Earnest' is a kucinichy attribute in a politician. Rare.

Alicia said...

As predicted, Kasperzak's story is just slighty different from Perry's.

Nemesis of Evil said...

Alicia,

I asked a high-ranking city official about this last week, and he said, "I'm happy they didn't ask me, and I'm sure Nick [Galiotto] is happy they didn't ask him."

How was the party?

Alicia said...

Party was lop-sided, for lack of a better word. They did these video tributes for each of them, and Mike's was much more "engaging" than Greg's. I nearly choked during greg's presentation they credited him for helping with the BMR...the same man who agendized getting rid of it.