By Velva Rowell
Bruce Karney and I met for a cup of coffee on Saturday morning so we could talk about his history of involvement in Old Mountain View. Bruce is the person who first got me involved on the OMVNA board as co-Newsletter Editor, and he has also served over the years on the board and as a de facto historical resource for the members of the board.
Bruce and his wife, Twana, have lived in Old Mountain View since they first purchased their house in 1987 shortly before the construction of the new City Hall and the renaissance of Castro Street. His perception at that time was that this house was a bargain because people really had little interest in living in Old Mountain View, preferring to settle in southern part of the city in the Los Altos Elementary School District.
Bruce became involved in the community in 1992 when the City Council unexpectedly voted to sell Fairmont Park in order to raise money to purchase the land where Mercy-Bush Park is now located. As he put it, “I got very angry and discovered OMVNA.” In order to fight the actions of the council, he helped to form the Friends of Fairmont Park in an effort to get the council to reverse their decision and to recall the members who voted to sell the property. He also determined that the best way to measure park usage would be to weigh the garbage produced at the park.
The Friends of Fairmont Park came close to unseating one member of Council in the April elections of that year, however the increased attention to the situation caused the newly elected Council to reverse their decision unanimously and the funds for Mercy-Bush Park were ultimately found elsewhere.
He got to know the founders of the Mountain View Voice and Steve Lewis and Jeff Farmer who were in charge of OMVNA at that time. His actions regarding Fairmont Park also led to an invitation to join Leadership Mountain View.
He was the first OMVNA Chair to be elected after the group adopted their Bylaws in 1992. He has served as Chair, Vice-Chair, Newsletter Editor and At-Large. He has also been a frequent member of the Nominating Committee which is formed and disbanded every year. He also enjoys moderating our candidate forums every election.
He feels that his most significant contribution to OMVNA was to get the OMVNA Newsletter to print advertisements and be used as the financial engine of OMVNA. He also expanded this publication to eight pages during his most recent tenure as Editor. Ever the gentleman, he apologized for any stress that this might cause me when I am trying to fill those eight pages.
Outside of OMVNA, he is the current chair of the Environmental Sustainability Task Force and a member of the board of Directors of the Community Services Agency (CSA). In the past he has also served on the Downtown Committee and on the County Registrar of Voters Advisory Group on Electronic Voting.
He is very pleased with the longevity of OMVNA and credits two factors. First is the group’s ability to find multiple positive things to rally around. His thought is that most neighborhood associations (including OMVNA) are founded in protest against something, but only coming from a place of confrontation can lead to stresses that tear an association apart. Second is to find a source of funding that doesn’t depend on large individual contributors.
Of the neighborhood, he says “In general I think our neighborhood has been the opposite of NIMBY.” He cites examples such as interest in becoming a Baby Bullet stop and willingness to have low-income housing built in the neighborhood. As he puts it, “we understand what’s different about being a downtown neighborhood.”