"You've heard about the wall along our southern border," said Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf during his recent State of the City address, as he presented a picture of the city surrounded by a black border. "This is the wall around Cupertino. We have a big problem with all these Teslas coming through our city from Saratoga, and other people from other cities, so we came up with this proposal. San Jose will be mainly paying for it. It's not going to come out of our own taxes."
The apparent joke, which came as part of a discussion on housing, was made in reference to President Donald Trump's promise to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it.
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Supporters say the comments were meant to lighten the mood, but others say it fell flat.
"Moving here is so expensive and it's unrealistic for us to be living here long term," said Erika Del Pozo, who recently relocated to the area from the East Coast.
In recent years, cities such as Cupertino have come under fire for failing to add enough housing. Critics say the stalled re-development of the mostly empty Vallco Shopping Center is an example of the city's inability to make progress on the housing crunch.
"We really need every jurisdiction to step forward and do their part to building housing for everybody," said Leslye Corsiglia, Silicon Valley at Home executive director.
San Jose City Councilman Lan Diep, who is known for injecting his humor into council meetings, wasn't all that amused by the Cupertino mayor's comments.
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"We are connected. We may be in different cities, but we are all part of the South Bay, and our residents live in one city, work in another, and money goes between city lines," said Diep.
With our politically charged climate, some say it's important to think twice before speaking.
"When people joke about it, especially when people in positions of power with the ability to potentially do something about it, feel like the system is working against them, not for them," said San Jose State political science professor Garrick Percival.
Scharf did not return multiple requests for comment.
Building a wall around Cupertino? Mayor says it was a joke, but others aren't amused... especially housing advocates who say the city hasn't built enough homes, as more jobs are created via tech companies like Apple, etc.— Chris Nguyen (@ChrisNguyenABC7) February 7, 2019