Thank you to everyone who turned up for the first-ever rally for Coyote Valley last Tuesday. In the afternoon on January 22, over 200 people–San Jose activists and residents of all ages and backgrounds–joined us at City Hall. In a sea of “Protect Coyote Valley” signs and t-shirts, we came together to demand that funds from the recent Measure T go towards the protection Coyote Valley. The event featured a full program of community members and officials who rallied the crowd before we joined the City Council’s special study session on Coyote Valley.
Community activist Jeremy Barousse served as the rally’s emcee and kicked off the program with a call to “protect Coyote Valley for future generations.”
Our Executive Director Megan Fluke was the first speaker, and started with a shoutout to the over 5,000 people who already signed the petition to protect Coyote Valley, while encouraging newcomers to do the same. She was excited to be handing the petition over to councilmembers during the study session to follow. She also made our request to city councilmembers clear “use the full $50 million dollars to protect Coyote Valley.”
Next up was Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Val reminded us that it’s not only the benefit of people and nature today that matter, but, following the way of the Tribal Band, the city’s “decisions made today must be good for the next seven generations.”
Mother of four and member of Mothers Out Front South Bay, Kirsten Heaton also spoke about the importance of protecting Coyote Valley for future generations. Self-described as “new to the environmental protection and climate change work,” she reminded us that it’s never too late to get involved, and that if we harness the “power of working together,” real change is possible.
Poncho Guevara, Executive Director of Sacred Heart Community Service, shared another important perspective when he spoke about the impact of flooding, especially on our most disadvantaged communities. He reminded us that “developing upstream floodplains in Coyote Valley threatens to increase the impact of natural disasters such as the ones visited upon us in 2017,” while “Coyote Creek’s conservation can slow the waters in a storm event.”
After Pancho, League of Women Voters’ Director Gloria Chun Hoo took the mic. Gloria said that the League supported Measure T because of the benefits it provides, not only to San Jose but to the entire region. She also stated that “as stewards of good government, the League of Women Voters is here today to remind our city leaders the promise they made in asking us to support Measure T, and the need for our government to live up to that promise.”
San Jose City Councilmember Sergio Jimenez of District 2 was next. As he put it, he represents the “thousands of residents that want to see the lands of Coyote Valley preserved in perpetuity.” He suspected that during the study session his colleagues would discover what we already know to be true, “that Coyote Valley is a true treasure, a gem of the City of San Jose, and it must be protected.”
Former Congressman Mike Honda followed, and spoke about the importance of thoughtful advocacy as we navigate this process. He reminded us that we should aim for “government by the people for the people,” and that we “need to put our name on whatever come out of the study session.”
Another public figure who’s been vocal about the importance of protecting Coyote Valley, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, then took stage. He declared that “here in San Jose we fundamentally get it…We don’t do this because we think we’re smarter than anyone else. We do it because we suspect that future generations are smarter than us.”
Last up was Shay Franco-Clausen, newly appointed Director of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. As the final speaker, Shay called on the crowd to make our voices heard and to take a stand by joining her in making public comment during the study session. Her message to councilmembers couldn’t have been more clear as she declared, “When we put measures on the ballot and we approve it, there’s no question. Show us the money and help protect Coyote Valley.”
After the rally, dozens of attendees flooded city hall and joined San Jose city councilmembers for the special study session on Coyote Valley. Supporters filled the chambers, held “Protect Coyote Valley” signs, and gave public comment reiterating our request that councilmembers to use all $50 million from the recently approved Measure T to purchase and protect Coyote Valley once and for all.
Tuesday was just one step in the ongoing battle to permanently protect Coyote Valley. On behalf of everyone at Committee for Green Foothills, thanks to all of the people who came out and joined us in speaking up. We know city councilmembers heard our demand. Time will tell if they will listen.
We expect councilmembers to vote on the issue in February, and we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, make sure you’ve signed our petition, and share it with your neighbors and friends. You can also support our ongoing work to protect Coyote Valley by making a donation to Committee for Green Foothills today.
Special thanks to all of our amazing partners who helped made the rally happen, including: Greenbelt Alliance, Northern California Mothers Out Front, Santa Clara County Leather Association, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sustainable Agriculture Education – SAGE, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Green Party of Santa Clara County CA, South Bay Progressive Alliance, Sierra Club – Loma Prieta Chapter, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, 350 Silicon Valley, San Jose Parks Foundation, League of Women Voters, California Native Plant Society – Santa Clara Valley Chapter, Sacred Heart Community Service, and American Farmland Trust.