For the first time in Sunnyvale’s history, the city has elected Councilmembers to represent districts instead of the city at large. November’s election was an attempt to bring diversity to the City Council and Russ Melton, who now represents District 4 couldn’t be happier.
“The theory of district elections, I believe proved to be correct. The theory is that by going to district elections, you increase the diversity of the membership of the governing body, the City Council, to be more reflective of the city and did that ever turn out to be true,” said Melton. “I’m super excited for the increased diversity and perspective of representation from the community. I think we’re going to see some ideas floated that might not have otherwise bubbled to the surface and I’m tremendously excited.”
Melton has served on the City Council since 2016 when he was elected as a representative for the whole city. While he now represents District 4, he understands that there must be a balance between the needs of his district and the city as a whole.
“Having been a city-wide Councilmember for four years, I get the fact that we have one budget for the city, [one] Public Safety Department, one roadway system, one park system. So, it’s still one city and that sort of mind frame I think is critical,” said Melton. “What I realized during the campaign, since I was able to focus so deeply on District 4…[is] that you really attenuate to the hyper-local issues. A gap in sidewalks on street X, or a traffic signal issue on intersection Y. So, I think you can’t help but attenuate to the local issues.”
City-wide, Melton knows the budget will be the biggest issue moving forward. The loss of sales tax and hotel revenue because of COVID-19 closures has hurt the city’s budget, but he’s hopeful current cuts will help the city make it through. He’s also focused on more housing and the city’s bicycle and pedestrian network now that the city has ratified its active transportation plan.
“I want to focus on implementing things like a stress-free bicycle and pedestrian network to compliment the roadway network,” said Melton. “Let’s see if we can get the percentage of people getting around walking and bicycling up from today’s number of 1.5 percent to maybe 10 percent in 10 years.”
As a parent, Melton is well aware that distance learning is hard on families. He is worried about the level of social interaction his two middle schoolers are getting and he is hopeful that schools can safely open soon. As a city Councilmember, he’s willing to do what he can to help schools.
“If [districts] ever reached out for help with any sort of infrastructure or put things on city poles or whatever [for Wi-Fi], I would be a huge advocate for that,” said Melton.
When schools are able to reopen, Melton knows that rebuilding the city’s crossing guard program will be essential.