City Council shuts-down request for one more nonresident on new DEI Fee | Los Gatan

Last night, all but one Los Gatos Town Councilmembers voted against allowing another person who doesn’t live in the community to serve on a body meant to make life in town more multicultural and open to people of all backgrounds.

And even Councilmember Rob Moore—the lone dissenting voice, who noted this is the first real ask from the newly-created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission—said his opposition wasn’t that strong.

Unlike other Town commissions and committees, most of which require residency for membership, after a drawn-out discussion last year, Council permitted three members of the DEI Commission to be from other locations.

Town Manager Laurel Prevetti noted that one of these seats has been filled by a faith leader from Saratoga.

“She’s just a tremendous leader in Silicon Valley,” Prevetti said. “I just think we’re really fortunate to be part of a larger community who care about Los Gatos and want to contribute.”

Councilmember Rob Rennie did seem open to the idea of adding a fourth out-of-towner—a businessowner—to the group, which meets on the second Thursday of each month in Council Chambers.

But he said it might be too soon to give up looking for a local volunteer.

“I also think it’s premature,” said Mayor Mary Badame, adding that would mean four of 11 positions would be nonresidents.

Councilmember Maria Ristow suggested there’s a certain logic to considering candidates who may not sleep in Los Gatos but do spend an awful lot of their day in its auspices.

Someone running a company in Los Gatos—who spends their days interacting with Los Gatans—may actually have more to offer than a resident who leaves each day to work and participate in clubs elsewhere, she added.

“The fact that they’re here kind of gives a tinge of residential involvement,” she said. “To me it made a ton of sense.”

Some Los Gatos citizens, however, aren’t exactly fans of people from other places helping make official decisions about the hot-button culture issue—which has become a favorite talking point among right-wing podcasters, politicians and satirists.

Linda Swenberg, for example, said she’s concerned these sorts of actions eroding the voices of locals.

“There is so much to unpack, but my concern is with disenfranchising residents of Los Gatos, setting poor precedent, and opening our town up to undue influence from outsiders,” she said in an email to the Los Gatan.

In a public comment sent in to the Town, she said it makes sense to have an exception for nonresidents for the Youth Commission, because the school district boundaries include unincorporated areas of the county.

“The exception is limited to residents who have a Los Gatos mailing address,” she said. “This…clearly benefits youth who go to schools within the Town of Los Gatos boundaries.”

The Commission Appointment Policy states its purpose is to “encourage participation by the Town’s residents” on Town Commissions, she added.

“This proposed change seems to be in conflict with the stated purpose of the Appointment Policy itself,” she wrote, adding there’s already a seat designated on the DEI Commission for a businessowner or an employee who can be a local or from out of town.

“What efforts have been made to reach out to resident business members in Los Gatos?” she asked “Has every possible effort been made to reach out to residents who are also business owners to fill this vacancy? What is the rush?”

Councilmember Matthew Hudes said preventing another nonresident from serving in place of a Los Gatan could be an important step in making sure the DEI Commission can operate effectively.

For its recommendations (about how to make he community a more fair and equitable place) to actually take root, Hudes argued, it will be helpful for residents to feel like they’re part of the cultural change, “rather than it happening to them.”

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