The Bigger Picture . . .with Marty Cheek: Leadership Gilroy class travels to Sacramento to learn about making laws

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A political science teacher during my college years once described how a state or federal capitol building serves as a kind of factory site. The elected officials are the “hired help” responsible to serve their bosses and customers — also known as the citizens. These workers clock in for their governing job and work with staff and lobbyists to craft new laws that, hopefully, will make the world a better place.

This year, I’m a proud member of the Leadership Gilroy class of 2017. May 9 we boarded a bus to take a day-trip to Sacramento to visit the California State Capitol. Many of our class members had never set foot in the Neoclassical structure built between 1861 and 1874. The architecture is based on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with fluted Corinthian columns lining the portico and a dome 210 feet high supporting a lantern with a smaller dome. The park grounds leading up to the magnificent building’s front steps provided a place for a photo ops.

We passed through security in a side entrance and wandered the marbled halls of the addition built behind the original State Capitol building. The sterile modern architecture is far less exciting than what the Victorians built to showcase the bicameral legislators’ place of business. Each county in California has a display built into the walls, allowing citizens to proudly showcase the unique elements of their regions of the Golden State. Some county’s took the task of branding themselves quite seriously and provided displays that were colorful and detailed. I and several other Leadership Gilroy class members felt a bit disappointed at the lackluster quality of our own Santa Clara County’s display. We’re known as Silicon Valley, the high-tech center of the world. But our own county was represented by a series of boring postcard-style photographs failing to convey any excitement for the innovation coming from our region, not to mention our most famous association with garlic. I mentally made a note to discuss with Supervisor Mike Wasserman an idea for a display design contest to vastly improve our county’s image in these Sacramento halls.