by Hugh Donagher, III

I met City Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga—who served as Mayor last year—at Savvy Cellar on a recent Sunday afternoon to chat about her public service to the citizens of Mountain View. Margaret moved to Old Mountain View from Rex Manor in 2003. “My parents were having health issues and we needed room to move them in with us.” Margaret and her husband ended up purchasing a home with a “granny flat” for her parents. Their two daughters attend Stevenson PACT; one in the first grade and one in the fourth.

“Old Mountain View is a great neighborhood,” Margaret says. “It’s just gorgeous visually and encompasses a vibrant downtown, as well as Mercy-Bush and Eagle Parks. And we have great neighbors.” Margaret also pointed out that we have a great neighborhood association. She served on the Steering Committee for two years prior to her election to Council. While on SC, she spearheaded the effort to really grow the annual ice cream social, which has since seen a ten-fold increase in attendance. “We were getting 40–50 people a year,” she said. “Then I attended the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association’s ice cream social, where they were getting hundreds of neighbors to come out. I thought ‘Why can’t we do this?’” Today, due to Margaret’s leadership on the issue, OMVNA’s summer social routinely attracts 400 or so neighbors.

As a mother, Margaret’s priorities understandably include public safety and youth services. When she began to notice signs of gang activity, Margaret approached the Police Chief to see what the City and the Police Department could do. That collaboration resulted in the city’s investment in the Police Activities League (PAL), by funding an executive director to oversee the program’s growth.

As a member of the Council’s Youth Services Committee, Margaret has supported other means of engaging our youth as well, including bumping up city funding for the teen center, homework centers, and positive teen activities such as movies and dances. Inspired by her own participation in mock city government growing up in San Mateo, Margaret launched a Youth in Government day during her term as Mayor. Students came to city hall to conduct a mock City Council meeting and interact with city staff to learn about city government.

When we started talking about recent challenges in the budgeting process, Margaret told me about how much work went into this year’s budget. “After we addressed the gaps in last year’s budget, we immediately began work on this year’s. We spent a full year, not the usual six months, crafting this year’s budget,” she said. She went on to say that the result is a structurally balanced budget that maintains city reserves without major cuts in services. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure that residents were involved in the budgeting process and that the community really understood the challenges we faced, and the solutions we crafted,” she said.

Margaret stated that city employees were very helpful in accomplishing these goals, including cancelling scheduled pay increases. “They are doing more work than they were ten years ago, with fewer employees,” Margaret said, pointing out that the city of Palo Alto, which is smaller than Mountain View, employs about 1,000 people to Mountain View’s 600.

Another major project has been the update to the General Plan. Margaret began her term on Council knowing this was important, and needed. She said, “During my two years on the Environmental Planning Commission, we were seeing more and more applications for re-zoning. The city was in need of a much clearer vision for development over the next twenty years.”

Along with these accomplishments, Margaret has also supported the establishment of the Senior Advisory Committee (formerly a Task Force), and the development of a sustainability plan, which begins to address issues like greenhouse gas reductions, green belts, and a pilot project for composting. The recycled wastewater project—a joint venture with Palo Alto—is operating and poised for growth. During her term as Mayor, Margaret signed the Bay Area Climate Compact, which “recognize[s] the need for immediate, coordinated and visionary action on greenhouse gas reductions and progress toward a sustainable society that is resilient to climate change.”

It’s been a busy four years for this “local girl” as she has worked hard to represent the citizens of Mountain View— and her Old Mountain View neighbors. She looks forward to the opportunity to continue her service for four more years.

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