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Chahal and McColloch Vie for Santa Clara District 2 Seat

Editor’s Note: In election coverage, we make every effort to give equal time to each candidate. During the forum for Santa Clara’s District 2 City Council seat, many of Larry McColloch’s answers were brief. As a result, a majority of the quotes included in this article are the entirety of Mr. McColloch’s answer on a given topic.

Incumbent City Council Member Raj Chahal and challenger Larry McColloch sat in Santa Clara City Council Chambers on Sept. 29 to tell District 2 residents why each of them was the best person to represent the district over the next four years. The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of San Jose/Santa Clara.

In his opening statement, Chahal spoke about endorsements from Congressman Ro Khanna and Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg and his accomplishments in his first term. He highlighted the recent $8.5 million shuttle program grant, his work distributing rental assistance, small business grants and food during COVID and the addition of affordable housing in his district.

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McColloch promised to deal with two C’s if elected, “cash and corruption.”

“My specialty is making cash. And that is what I’ll be doing by landing new business for Santa Clara,” said McColloch. “My other C is corruption as in getting rid of corruption…If we want a better Santa Clara, we need more cash and less corruption.”

Housing and Development

Growing the City’s stock of affordable housing and dealing with new development in Santa Clara are two of the issues the next council will have to deal with.

When asked about affordable housing, McColloch’s answer was short.

“I’ll return to my opening statement where the plan for me to apply my specialty about being an innovator and bringing in cash from new business. That means cash available for low-cost housing assistance. Cash [is] usually the limit of how much we can do,” said McColloch.

Chahal pointed to the affordable housing that’s already in the process of being built both in his district and the City and promised more in the future.

“On top of that, in my second term, I’ll try to pass an ordinance that instead of 15%, we should be increasing affordability to 25% of all new dwellings,” said Chahal.

Both candidates were also asked about how they would reinvigorate the downtown.

Chahal gave credit to the grassroots movement for keeping the issue at the forefront and says he is committed to doing whatever the Council can do to bring the downtown back.

McColloch said he’d leave that to the Planning Commission and that “money” is his “main theme” for the night.

The candidates were also asked about what they would like to see happen at the Great America site once the theme park shuts down.

“Great America right now is a private property. The City does not play a direct role into what we can do with that. But the City has the land use zoning, which we control,” said Chahal. “The City Council can decide about what land use they want on that particular land.

“I wish we can still continue the entertainment district for that, one way or the other,” continued Chahal. “That would be my first preference. Because this has been a very iconic amusement park for the City, which none of the surrounding areas has it. And our teenagers, our younger generation they go there for their summer jobs. And so, this is very important if we can maintain that as an entertainment district.”

Again, McColloch kept his response brief.

“We should continue it as the entertainment zone. And we’d also like it to be complimentary to the stadium and relevant in Santa Clara,” said McColloch.

49ers Influence in Santa Clara

When asked how the City and Levi’s Stadium management could work together. McColloch once again kept his answer brief.

“I’ve had the suggestion that the City needs to learn how to deal with sharks and getting back to that it infers things like the interface to the 49ers even through attorneys, attorneys who don’t have a conflict of interest,” said McColloch.

Chahal said while he didn’t want the 49ers stadium, it’s here and he has worked hard to rebuild a relationship that soured in 2017.

“Me and Karen Hardy, we started building the relationship. And this will be the first year after 2017 when we will have some revenue, multimillion-dollar revenue, from the stadium to our general fund,” said Chahal.

McColloch used his rebuttal to point out that the City’s still dealing with the stadium debt.

“I’d like to refer to it as the stadium debt,” said McColloch. “When the stadium was sold to the City, we were expecting to have $50 million in the general fund by now and we only seen $15 [million], leaving a stadium debt of $30 million that’s being unanswered.”

When asked about 49ers money getting involved in local politics, Chahal said it’s the federal government that needs to deal with campaign funding reform, but he vehemently rejects any money from the 49ers.

“I myself, have pledged and I will publicly declare that I do not want any independent expenditure on my behalf, by 49ers or by anyone,” said Chahal. “This is the third election I’m running. I have not accepted any special interest money. I have returned checks. And I will not accept any special interest money.”

McColloch said it’s up to the voters.

“The money has been influential, and it’s only getting torrential. It is this vast amount of money,” said McColloch. “Again, it’s money that the Chronicle referred to as complete and total fealty to the 49ers.”

When asked by the moderator how he would change that, McColloch said, “I’m not sure how to deal with their free speech and we need the voters of the City to reject the messages and the negative TV ads that they place.”

City Budget Deficit

Santa Clara is facing a $27 million budget deficit and the candidates have two very different ways to go about tackling that deficit.

“To make the immediate money, I would follow the mayor,” said McColloch. “The mayor has laid out a plan for the City for the next year and I support that entirely. It would be the plan for immediate cash. In the long term. As I said, I’m a prolific innovator. And I presume that I could bring in new business to balance the budget.”

Chahal says Measure H, the business tax proposal currently on the ballot can help with the deficit. He also pointed to the $6 million lost in the CVRA lawsuit and the Related contract, both of which happened prior to his election to the City Council, as reasons for the current deficit.

“The Related project…what type of contracts we sign…We gave away our golf course. We gave away everything over there, and we are not given a single dime. The contract you sign has to be very instrumental towards our City,” said Chahal.

Council Divisiveness

Both candidates were asked how they would improve the current mood of a council that is often seen as “divisive.”

For his part, Chahal says he has always maintained his demeanor and has never allowed differences to get in the way of a professional relationship with his colleagues.

“I do maintain my demeanor. Unfortunately, the council is not coalescing and I have tried my level best. We need to go for a retreat or something so that we all seven can sit together, find out the differences and not make personal differences as issues,” said Chahal. “When you make personal differences an issue, there’s a problem. We can differ on decisions what we make but we should never make that personal. I have been on Planning Commission. I have differed with my own colleagues. I have never made that an issue. So, the first thing, don’t make it personal.”

“I’m going to return to my C’s. Corruption is at the core of the disagreement. Corruption that we believe has extended from private meetings of some of the council with the 49ers that have been disclosed,” said McColloch. “Corruption where donations seem to correspond very close to 49er favorable votes, and it’s going to be up to the voters to end the corruption and the acrimony on the council.”

Chahal used his 30-second rebuttal time to respond.

“So, this so-called corruption…We have very much declared in 2018, myself and Karen Hardy, that we’ll sit together with the 49ers. And we always declared it on our calendar that we will go there,” said Chahal. “Since 2017 [we’ve had] $0 coming from the stadium, and here we are, we will be making multimillion-dollar this year. So, I don’t know what corruption my opponent is talking about. But if we try to mend our relationship and bring revenue for the residents, that would be great. And I think, Raj for Residents, I will bring revenue for the residents.”

City Manager Search

Santa Clara is without two of its top City positions, a City Manager and a City Attorney. The moderator asked both candidates what their ideal qualities for a City Manager would be.

For his part, Chahal could not elaborate on the City’s search because he has attended closed-session meetings on the issue as part of his role as council member. However, he did point out that the former City Manager was one of the highest paid in the state in her position.

“I was the one council member who did not support a revised contract which will increase her salary by around for this $40,000 with perks included,” said Chahal. “So, this is a problem. And that’s one thing. Our top few management are one of the highest [paid] in California again. We need to work on it [to] solve this budget deficit. And we want to hire the best talent, but it should be a competitive salary that we can offer.”

McColloch said he’s not worried about the pay as much as the competence of the next person.

“I’d be looking for competence. First, we’re talking about a billion dollar city that’s growing at one of the highest growth rates in California,” said McColloch. “I would consider competence more important than the pay that we’re talking about. The pay that we referred to as too high is not too high for a competent manager. Maybe there’s one available cheaper but I would be looking for competence over price.”

City Parks & Closing Statements

Both candidates agree, the City needs more parks.

“As finances allows,” said McColloch. “Again, one of my core C’s is cash and I anticipate that cash is available for everything including parks.”

“Parks are one of the very important places which our residents always try to go to and I will not hesitate to spend whatever extra dollars we have to maintain the park, improve the park and add more parks to the city of Santa Clara,” said Chahal.

In their closing statements, the candidates reiterated what they would do for Santa Clara if elected.

“I’m not a politician, but I am a prolific inventor with 63 patents, and I’ve made a career of $20 to $40 billion,” said McColloch. “I spoke here tonight, of my two C’s of making cash and getting rid of corruption. We’ve heard how many on the council focus on spending and not on earning and I would spend my time on the council focused on the earning side of the job.”

“From day one. My goal has been to improve the quality of life of our residents and just like my tag line, ‘Raj for Residents,’ I stick to that and always think of you before I vote,” said Chahal. “I’m a very independent decision maker. Like the past elections, I’m not taking any special interest money, I have publicly declared and declaring again, I do not want any independent expenditure on behalf.”

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7 Comments
  1. Buchser Alum 2 months ago
    Reply

    Erika,

    Thank you for another unbiased and fair summary of a candidate forum. I think this sort of recap with full quotations is useful for those who could not or did not want to watch the forum on video.

    I did and if anyone questions it Erika is correct that McColloch gave brief responses multiple times.

    I wish he was a much stronger candidate. I want to see all of the candidates who have been getting fortunes spent on them by the Forty Niners and who vote in ways the Forty Niners want to be challenged by strong candidates to replace them. But McColloch did not show anything to win votes other than speaking about how he wants to be a force against corruption.

    He seemed to think or was counseled poorly that notable brevity would win him points. And that creating a little slogan of “two c’s cash and corruption” would be seen by voters as snappy and appealing. Maybe it will be but to me it just seemed silly. I have a hard time taking him seriously when he did not show detailed familiarity with specific issues facing our city and did not talk about specific ways in which he would improve our city.

    Holding a lot of patents is not a qualification for city council. Being able to bring in new revenue streams is but he did nothing to show us that he actually can except proclaim that he can. Most of us do not know him and cannot just simply trust that he is a whiz at finding ways for a city to generate new revenue. The forum was his chance to let us get to know him and all he is capable of and show examples and accounting of that. But instead of really doing this he gave notably brief responses.

    I do not like how Raj Chahal has been voting on stadium issues. I do not like the seeming quid pro quo of that and the Forty Niners spending a few hundred thousand bucks to help him get reelected. I do not like his endorsement of Anthony Becker for mayor. I would rather see Raj Chahal as mayor than Anthony Becker. But I have a hard time wanting to see McColloch as councilperson for district two because Raj Chahal has been working for the city for many years and clearly understands the nuts and bolts of how the government of Santa Clara works for the city.

    He seems to be the much stronger candidate. I just wish he was much stronger when it came to standing up to the Forty Niners.

    • Davy L 2 months ago
      Reply

      Although Lisa Gillmor may not have been present, I suspect McColloch was personally picked and requested to run for this office. She’s just hiding behind the curtain.

      • Buchser Alum 2 months ago
        Reply

        It may be true that McColloch knows Gillmor or that Gillmor encouraged him to run. It would not surprise me as it is very normal for candidates for council to know people in the city government because we have a small city and everyone who is active in the community knows each other.

        Anthony Becker for example was encouraged to run for mayor in 2018 and endorsed by Patty Mahan and John McLemore. Those two have been “hiding behind the curtain” in city politics since they left their government positions. Working for PAC’s funded by Forty Niners money. Along with Mike Honda who you noted is another prominent endorser of Becker.

        Mike Honda was ousted from his congressional seat by Ro Khanna who was endorsed by Lisa Gillmor and who has endorsed Lisa Gillmor.

        In his 2018 mayoral bid Anthony Becker was also supported by Kevin Park before he became a councilperson and also Suds Jain.

        I have objections to their behavior and voting when it comes to stadium and Forty Niners issues but the rest of the council are serious people and mostly with many years of community service in Santa Clara. It does not seem consistent with their personalities and values to endorse someone like Becker to become our mayor. But I am sure they know they can count on his vote in council and not just when it comes to the stadium or the Forty Niners.

        And when Becker ran for mayor in 2018 and then for council in 2020 and for the past two years they have had an attack dog to go after Gillmor. He is more than happy to get down in the mud and make all the attacks that they know would make them look bad. So they endorse him to become mayor and oust Gillmor. Let him take on what to him is the glory of being the mayor in exchange for his reliable vote on council. And replace him with someone they all agree on and who will be an improvement as the district six councilperson.

        See how it works?

        • Davy L 2 months ago
          Reply

          I am not familiar with Patty Mahan and John McLemore. Doesn’t matter. I am familiar with Lisa Gillmor. So, whomever she endorses, I would have a natural tendency to oppose.

        • Davy L 2 months ago
          Reply

          As you know, there’s a big difference between an endorsement and recruitment. I believe Mahan and McLemore only endorsed Baker and did not recruit him. Usually when you recruit someone that person is an associate. I do not believe Mahan and McLemore had any prior association with Baker. They only endorsed Baker just to spite Gillmor. However, in the case of McColloch, he is an associate of Lisa, and was recruited by her. McColloch doesn’t really seem interested, and appear anxious for this forum to end so that he could quickly leave and go back home.

          • Buchser Alum 2 months ago

            Davy,

            You have said that you did not pay attention to Santa Clara politics until 2020 because of the district election measure.

            So you would not know it that Becker was recruited and endorsed by Mahan and McLemore. You are right that Becker had not had prior association with Mahan and McLemore. That is what makes it obvious that they recruited him.

            This does not even matter. There is nothing wrong with people recruiting or encouraging others to run for public office.

  2. Davy L 2 months ago
    Reply

    I am not a resident of District 2. However, if I were, my vote would go to Raj Chahal.

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