The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Santa Clara City Council Candidates Accuse City Leaders of Illegal and Corrupt Practices

City Council candidate Harbir Bhatia and candidate Suds Jain call out the Police Officers Association PAC and Santa Clara City Leaders.

“Shame on the Police Officers Association PAC. Shame on the mayor. Shame on the chief of police, Pat Nikolai. Shame on you,” said Santa Clara’s District 1 City Council candidate Harbir Bhatia during a rally near Santa Clara City Hall on Friday, Oct. 30.

With just a few days until the election, Bhatia was joined by District 4 candidate Kevin Park, District 5 candidate Suds Jain and District 6 candidate Anthony Becker to issue the strongest rebuke yet of the current city leadership.

They are especially angry about a recent mailer sent to voters by the Police Officers’ Association PAC. The mailer depicts a brown hand taking a check issued to Bhatia and Jain. It implies that the 49ers and Jed York are trying to buy seats on Santa Clara’s City Council.


“We are brown and we are fine with it. But to insinuate that we took money, because we are brown. Isn’t that the point of this? Why else would you do it?” asked Bhatia. “Until I saw these advertisements behind me, I did not want to believe that there was racism in this city.”

The candidates and their supporters say Mayor Lisa Gillmor and current City Councilmembers Kathy Watanabe and Teresa O’Neill are among the city leaders that continue to try and suppress minority voices. Under Gillmor, Watanabe and O’Neill’s leadership, the City of Santa Clara continues to legally fight a 2018 court ruling that says Santa Clara violated the California Voting Rights Act (CRVA) by using an at-large system to elect councilmembers. To date, the Council has yet to put forth a system of electing city councilmembers that complies with the CRVA and is approved by voters citywide.

“We are almost 40 percent Asian American in this in this city. Together with 25 percent of Latinos and other peoples of color, we are the majority. Make sure we understand that we are the majority. Yet, the City Mayor Lisa Gillmor is appealing the court ruling that came down,” said Wesley Mukoyama, the plaintiff in the 2018 voting rights lawsuit. “These four candidates who stand before you are our courageous warriors who are sticking their necks out and representing all of us who are people of color.”

This latest news conference was called in response to a news conference held on Oct. 22 by Mayor Gillmor, Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai and police union president Alex Torke at Santa Clara City Hall. In it, the trio accused 49ers CEO Jed York of trying to buy city council seats by supporting Bhatia, Park, Jain and Becker.

When the candidates tried to rebut the accusations from the same location, they were turned away.

“We had originally tried to put the setup where the mayor and the Police Officers’ Association, and Teresa O’Neill had their press conference last week,” Park told the audience. “When we said, ‘Well, we’d like to do something right in the same place.’ They said, ‘Well, now we’ve got some new stipulations that say, you can’t do it there anymore.’ So, we had to move.”

Bhatia believes what the mayor and other city officials are doing is illegal.

“It is unlawful, illegal, for city officials of any position, in offices like the mayor, the chief of police, the council members, city clerk to promote a political agenda to promote lies and misleading information,” said Bhatia.


  1. Sam Yodle 4 years ago

    Beauty is skin deep, as is the color of skin, and thus is a SHALLOW measure of a person—such are the qualifications of Ms. Bhatia. I do not know much about Ms. Bhatia (with a lot of time spent researching tonight), and I am not in that district, but her crying about victimization and racial profiling is so atrocious I needed to come forward for the justice of all persons in Santa Clara.

    I have worked and been a citizen of Santa Clara since 1990—and, as an engineer, I worked with peoples of ALL backgrounds, religions, races, etc. That is what made Silicon Valley great! The Santa Clara community welcomed me in (from another state) and others from different countries, and Santa Clara grew and prospered. Yet now I am awakening to find out that ALL Santa Clarans are racists! What?!

    Ms. Bhatia held a “Truth Rally” against “Santa Clara’s Racism.” So Ms. Bhatia rests her qualifications based on her SKIN COLOR. In this article, and on our her web page, she holds herself out as a “brown” person. I guess that is OK, but does she put forward any other qualifications? She claims to have a Masters in Electrical Engineering but does NOT advertise her technical achievements. And she was/is an innovator, marketer, strategist, community activist, and TV producer & host. She sounds like a typical “All-American” story of an immigrant’s child—a person who is wayward and “does not know what they want to be when they grow up.” Most Americans would call it an overwhelming under-achiever story—falling from a great career of engineering to city politician, or hack, like the ones ALREADY serving on the council.

    It is an American story to fail and rise up again. Yet, she does so as a victim, because she is “brown.” I am glad to know her father in the 1990s came to this country and made it as an engineer, and allowed his daughter to grow up it such a great country. Unfortunately, like many daughters (of every “color”), she grew up—spoiled and in search of a cause. Look at the picture. Does it look like diversity? Ehhhh… Nope. Just kids holding up poster boards. Apparently, adults would not be caught dead in this picture. Her webpage didn’t show pictures of the poster boards, nor her FB page.

    I had to go to Ms. Bhatia’s Facebook page to find a copy of the so-called “racist” mailer. Regardless of the originating point source of the light in the picture, which may portray the lower hand as “shadowed” (as a graphic image engineer would know), there are Europeans with DARKER skin than her or that portray. Skin color is just a diversion—desperation and slimy politics are used to get her way.

    Before a final challenge, please note Ms. Bhatia “follows the science” and is wearing a mask during this COVID-19 period. So she, as well as her other engineer collaborators (Suds, Park), must follow the science. What is the hexadecimal representation of “all” colors? What light passing through a glass prism emits light of all spectra? The answers to those questions do not really matter….. Ms. Bhatia will “pick and choose” the science she follows and will continue to use the language of “color” and “people,” which originates in the democratic controlled Jim Crow deep south. Nice.

    I despise some of the current city council members—because of their policies, not because of the color of their skin. We must REFUSE to use RACE as a reason to substitute one political hack for another political hack.

    All Santa Clarans need to stand up to those who wish to ignore Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired us Americans and Santa Clarans to judge children (and people) by the Content of their Character rather than their Skin! Sadly, Jed York has picked the least qualified and most pro-race dividing candidates.

  2. Harbir Bhatia 4 years ago

    I appreciate your sentiments but am sorry to see that you misunderstand me and those of us that are fighting for equality, justice, and inclusion…and more than that fighting against those that abuse their powers. I am glad to say I am not a victim but an advocate for all. You bring up Martin Luther King Jr, but you forget he said the quote you shared to ensure people don’t forget to see him and others of color as equal. If he and the community were treated as such already, then there wouldn’t have been the need to bring it up. It was just mid 1960s ..not so far long ago. So there is still work left to be done. Have you seen mailer and advertisement sent by the SVO with similar use of color? Are you suggesting that it was not the color? Someone has to be strong and fearless enough to highlight the wrong doing. The majority of the people of Santa Clara have been amazing to me, and I love this place, which is why I am running. However that doesn’t mean there aren’t those in our midst who wish to keep diverse members out of office or hold our city back. Unless they are willing to serve them. I will always stand for the under-represented and ensure power is not abused by leaders. And you are absolutely right to look beyond the skin, which is what we should all do, but let’s not deny the wrong doings that are happening.The reason many policies are terrible is because there aren’t enough qualified council members, and yet there are plenty of qualified people all around in the city. But the same families and friends continue to circulate the city leadership for decades and decades. Measure C and the CVRA lawsuit wasn’t about the good people of Santa Clara, it was about the abusers in the system. The controlling faction of this city from the old guard want to keep Santa Clara in the past. How is it ok that over 60% of the population is minority, but yet they are never able to be elected, until the city was cut into districts thanks to the CVRA lawsuit. Yet the current city council already spent the resident’s $4.5Million dollars without their approval to appeal the 6 districts. Why is that acceptable and why aren’t more of the residents screaming at the top of their lungs…”how dare you “. The policies are terrible because people with better qualifications weren’t able to get elected due to the system and there is little to no engagement by the residents, because the city leadership doesn’t reflect the city residents. Single digit participation of minorities doesn’t count as representation, they are just being used as pawns and tokens reps for the world. So these things are symptoms of the deeper problem in this city. The balance is shifting, and I hope it will shift the council. so we can have more sensible decisions in council and increase community participation because more people feel welcomed and encouraged to participate. But I will not be afraid to call out the oppressors and those that abuse their power for their gains and control, as they are now. You may not change your mind, and clearly have made up your mind by a subject that you otherwise feel strongly about. But for someone that says that they hate the policies of the current council, it doesn’t appear you hate them enough to want change in the city because you see everything about my background as an issue. So nothing I will say will change that. However, I am at peace knowing that though it was very uncomfortable to bring out this subject with the other candidates and other advocates, it was still the right thing to do. With that I would have won this election in my heart, irrespective of the outcomes of the election on Tuesday.

    • Sam Yodle 4 years ago

      Ms. Bhatia, thank you for your courteous response, especially during this busy time for you. Your response in view of the slings and arrows, which I still stand behind, demonstrates your mettle.
      While your aims and objects may be worthy, the means with which to achieve those ends is disheartening. You, and others, side with Jed York’s mailers to “add new faces,” without regard of the “brains” behind those faces. Yet you only complain about the offensive SOV mailer and not Jed York’s mailers.
      This is disappointing because of you are collaborating with, in your terms, “oppressor” Jed York who failed to hire “oppressed” Colin Kaepernick. You mention the lack of “qualified” council members. Perhaps. But I offer a “color”-blind, analytic-based reason for your ‘perceived’ diabolical results that “60% of the population is minority, but yet they are never able to be elected.” Taking your principal reason for being elected—color—off the table, consider our great former President Obama as an example. Was he an “engineer?” No! Did he have “charisma?” Yes! Did that bridge the gap across “colors” (your term of preference)? Yes! By contrast, you, Suds Jain, and Kevin Park are engineers (Becker is not an engineer, as a filmmaker). Santa Clarans would likely NOT say an engineer is the “life of the party,” or has the social skills to bring people together, which is necessary to be a leader. Only engineers from elite schools like Santa Clara, MIT, and Cal Tech would be “offended” if their “special” skills are not appreciated…and look down on those with fewer skills and call them “unqualified.” The skills of an elitist engineer alone do NOT translate well to leadership. So what analytical solution do the city council candidates from Santa Clara, MIT, and Cal Tech conclude? Oppression! I wish I was oppressed enough to make it into those schools.
      History teaches us that today’s oppressed will be tomorrow’s oppressors. If your opponent deserves removal, then good luck to you tomorrow. But if you are not successful, remember the following “color-blind” wisdom: “Winners are losers who never quit.” If you keep at it and win a seat on the city council, which I believe you can, please do it without discrimination based on “color,” race, creed, orientation, age, gender, etc.
      Again, I sincerely appreciate your response. Thank you. And good luck.

    • SC Resident 4 years ago

      As a “majority minority” Santa Clara resident, I had several opportunities to vote for Suds Jain and Raj Chahal in the past. Yet, I did not, because they were not, in my mind, qualified, or they did not align with my views. After consideration of the candidate’s qualifications, I will not be voting for the “minority” candidate again this time.

  3. CSC 4 years ago

    Alex Torke is a city employee, that’s it, nothing more. Yet the mayor turns her head and wants to public to view him as an elected official or public figure – he is not! The mayor should not be using W2 city employees for a political stunt, this is like President Trump using the military to close down streets for a photo opportunity. Shameful.

    I hope Bhatia, Park, Jain and Becker are elected to represent their districts and the first thing they do is move to change the city charter to appoint a chief of police instead of the City of Santa Clara being the only city in California to elect one. There is a ton of corruption and incompetence in the City of Santa Clara starting with the City Manager, Deanna Santana, Assistant City Attorney Sujata Reuter, and current Mayor Gillmor.

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