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RONIT Byrant

by Carter Coleman & Jack Perkins

As Jack and I approached Mayor Ronit Bryant’s yellow house, we weren’t surprised to see her tending her front yard garden.  With one arm in a cast and the other arm swinging a well-used hoe intensely at a stubborn weed, Ronit didn’t notice our arrival.

From a safe distance from the hoe, I said hello and asked her about her garden, a free-form, drought tolerant, edible garden.  Anyone who walks past Dana and Bush will notice her garden, replete with whimsical home-spun art.  It’s a garden that is loved but maintained only in the mayor’s rare spare time.

We went inside to talk about Ronit’s plans and tenure on the Mountain View Council.  We jumped right into the interview.

“Who’s your favorite author?” I asked.

“Jane Austen,” Ronit said without hesitation.

Jack nodded in agreement with Ronit. “Jane Austen is an author that everyone can enjoy,” he said.

“Jack, are you a Jane Austen fan?” I asked incredulously.

“Lots of men enjoy Jane Austen,” Jack said defensively.  “She writes about people and relationships!”

“Relationships?” I said puzzled. “Jack, I advise you not to let the other guys in the neighborhood know about your reading habits.”

Balancing the Budget

But I needed to get back to issues!  Paul Lansky and I had just talked to Candidate Dan Waylonis the night before, and Dan had focused on salaries and the budget. We asked Ronit for her perspective.

“The budget has grown smaller over the past decade,” Ronit maintained. She also pointed out that the city has an AAA rating, unusual in these hard times.

On the issue of salaries, she said, “Fire and police get a lot overtime because it’s cheaper than hiring another headcount.”

Planning

Ronit has been instrumental in getting the City to update Mountain View’s General Plan, dubbed GP2030, which is the city’s roadmap for the next 20 years. Aren’t the growth assumptions for the plan unrealistic? (See article on population growth on page 8.)

“It’s really about encouraging change to occur in the target areas, for example, the El Camino corridor, the San Antonio Center, and the North Bayshore,”  noted Ronit.  “To achieve significant changes in the focus areas, new land uses will need to be approved, for example, allowing a mix of residential, retail, and office and allowing some taller buildings on El Camino. A concomitant may be to lead to some population growth, but that remains to be seen.”

“Besides, I don’t think we should look at development strictly by the numbers,” she added. “The numbers don’t mean much. Our city is proud of its diversity and we should be able to provide housing options that will ensure we continue to be a diverse city.”

Parks

I turned the discussion to the property at Velarde and Calderon, which became available to be developed as a park in 2007. The 1.3-acre parcel at 445 Calderon is a beautiful plot that was originally part of a black walnut orchard. It’s also the location of the second oldest house in Mountain View built in the 1880s, which is now looking for a new home with the development of the parcel for 20 units of co-housing.

Funds were available in the in-lieu fees from development projects in Old Mountain View, and Jac Siegel and Margaret Abe-Koga voted in favor of purchasing the property. Why did Ronit vote against it?

“I voted against the development of 445 Calderon into a park because it did not seem like the best site for a park nor was it identified in the Parks and Open Space Plan as a future park site. It’s not centrally located in the neighborhood like Mercy-Bush Park.”

Ronit also felt that other neighborhoods outside of Old Mountain View were in greater need of parks. “Some neighborhoods didn’t even have a park,” she said.

Just then Ronit’s husband, Cliff, came home from a long day at HP.  Their 40-pound Portuguese Water dog, Diego, bounded around the room at the joy of the arrival of the man of the house.

“I understand that you broke your arm in a dog walking accident. How did that happen?” I asked.

“Diego wanted to cross the street and fight with a very well-behaved rotweiler and took me with him,” Ronit recounted.  “Now I can see the upside of owning a little dog.” (Little dog owners on Loreto Street, take note.)

I could see that Diego was getting restless.  So was Jack. He was thumbing through Ronit’s copy of Sense and Sensibility.  Time for us to wrap it up.

We thanked Ronit for her time, and for her long service to the community, which you can read more about on her site www.ronitbryant.org.

As Jack and I parted company on Dana Street, a thought occurred to me. “Say Jack, Deb’s in a book club, and she tells me that they read sensitive [read girl] novels. You might want to check it out.”

I chuckled to myself. It would be just like the movie The Jane Austen Book Club, which I’m ashamed to say I saw.

Carter Coleman is the Treasurer of the OMVNA Steering Committee and Jack Perkins is At-Large #2 (whatever that is). The views expressed here are Carter’s and Jack’s own, and do not reflect the views of OMVNA.

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