The Santa Clara Weekly is running a series of profiles on political candidates in the November election — this article focuses on city council seat six incumbent Kathy Watanabe.
Kathy Watanabe wants to represent you on the Santa Clara City Council.
Back in March, the city council voted unanimously to appoint Watanabe to Lisa Gillmor’s seat after it appointed Gillmor to mayor following the sudden resignation of Jaime Matthews. Watanabe is a legal assistant at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in Palo Alto. She is a member of the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association and has served on the Santa Clara Library Board of Trustees.
She said voters can trust her because she realizes “there is something about Santa Clara that is very special.” Also, that the council appointed her is a reflection of how the community perceives her, that Santa Clarans — and by proxy the members of the city council — know she is “trustworthy,” “committed,” “works hard” and “doesn’t give up.”
“In this day and age, there is so much distrust in government people need to feel like there is a ray of hope … someone who will stand by what they say and do what they say,” she said. “My priorities are to the people, that means spending time with your constituents, hearing what is on their minds, attending events.”
Watanabe is the first resident of Santa Clara’s northside to have a seat on the Council, something she said she takes pride in because it ensures that those residents “have a voice.” Her commitment is to citizens. To show voters she is “someone they can trust,” she vowed to reject campaign donations from “special interests” and has capped her individual donations at $100 per benefactor.
If re-elected, Watanabe said she would like to see the city revise how it develops. For instance, she said if the city could “keep traffic close to home,” it would help mitigate how bogged down the roads get with commuters and would allow the city to add more of the types of businesses it needs.
“We are retail-starved in Santa Clara,” she said. “We need to incorporate smart development into our decision-making going forward.”
Continuing to foster the “diversity” that the relationship with Santa Clara’s sister cities — Coimbra, Portugal; Izumo, Japan and Limerick, Ireland — brings is also important, she said. The program helps people “respect each other’s cultural backgrounds” so they can “live and work together.”
Two other areas on which Watanabe said she would like the Council to focus are jobs and education, which she said “go hand in hand.” The city can work with the school district, community college and university through its liaison commission to ensure people get the right training, specifically in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Educating young people in highly skilled, high-demand fields helps them avoid being priced out of living in Silicon Valley, which has some of the highest rents in the country.
“We are educating students but not with the right skill set,” she said. “We’ve got all these wonderful jobs coming into the area, but we need to make sure we have proper training, that students are receiving the proper training to be able to get those jobs.”