We invited all Santa Clara City Council candidates to speak directly to the voters through The Weekly’s print publication and on the Silicon Valley Voice website. If you don’t know what District you’re in, please check the City’s District map on their website.
Candidates had a week to reply. We asked candidates to answer the following questions in 100 words or less:
- What’s your position regarding the City’s continued appeal of the voting rights lawsuit it lost in 2018 and what course of action would you advocate for?
- What do you think is the City’s major challenge and how would you address it?
- What do you think is the major challenge in your district and how would you address it?
- What is your view of Santa Clara’s current Council dynamics?
- What’s the first motion you would make as a Councilmember?
Here are the candidates’ answers, unedited. We note candidates who chose not to respond.
- I served as the Chair of the last Charter Review Committee. I voted against the committee’s 3 district proposal that became Measure C and I also helped with the ballot statement to oppose Measure C. I am disappointed that Santa Clara has wasted so much money fighting the CVRA lawsuit, including an appeal after losing the lawsuit. When Santa Clara went to single member district elections, Santa Clara elected its first minority councilmember in 70 years. Santa Clara should just drop its appeal and cut its losses.
- Santa Clara was looking at budget deficits before COVID and now we’re expecting a deficit of $33 million. We need to trim expenses but we also need to look at increasing revenues. We should consider relaxing the 10 PM curfew at Levi’s Stadium which could generate $500K per large event. We should also reconsider the moratorium on Cannabis sales since residents passed Measure M with a wide majority. I have consistently opposed wasteful spending. As an MIT graduate, I am all in favor of adopting new software and technology to improve productivity and to provide higher quality service to residents. Post-COVID the biggest challenge will be building more affordable housing since far too many people are housing insecure.
- The major challenge in District 5 is getting the downtown built. There have been many attempts in the past to rebuild the downtown but “Reclaiming our Downtown” is the most dedicated advocacy group. A major breakthrough occurred when the Old Quad Residents Association led by Adam Thompson was able to negotiate a street swap with Prometheus to get Franklin street back. I helped with the discussions on getting Franklin Street back so, as planning commissioner, I recused myself from voting for the Prometheus project at Benton and El Camino Real. I have attended most of the Downtown Task force meetings.
- There were many 4-3 votes before Patricia Mahan resigned and there have been many 4-2 votes afterwards. The two factions are very apparent to anyone who attends a council meeting. The toxicity is also quite apparent. Much of this started when the City engaged with the 49ers to build Levi’s stadium. I believe that Jamie McLeod and Will Kennedy were mistreated by the other councilmembers when they challenged the deal that became Measure J. I believe that Patricia Mahan and Pat Kolstad were attacked unreasonably for their votes to not appoint anyone to Dominic Caserta’s vacant council seat.
- To dismiss the appeal of the CVRA lawsuit and to pass 6 single member districts by ordinance. Only Santa Monica has prevailed against a CVRA lawsuit but Santa Monica already had two self-identified Latinx minorities on their Council and Latinx residents comprised only 16.1% of Santa Monica’s population. By comparison, minorities are the majority population in Santa Clara. Then I would work on figuring how we will redistrict after the 2020 census and then I would initiate a discussion of some type of ranked choice voting which has been proven to be a fairer system.
- The City’s appeal was partially based on the fact that Judge Kuhnle errored in the methodology he used in determining if racially polarized voting was present in prior city elections. The Judge lowered a reliable percentage of confidence level used in other CVRA lawsuits dramatically to a level which when now applied would lead one to believe our elections violated CVRA. If this is found to be true at the appellate court level, it must be ruled that our election system had not violated the CVRA law and the City would not be liable for any monetary judgments or court fees. I support the appeal and would agree with any decision rendered by the higher court.
- Current budget deficit and future fiscal responsibility. I would ensure that there was a detailed and verifiable plan to recover from the previous proposed budget deficit and the greatly enhanced deficit as a result of covid-19. I would work with the entire council, the City Manager, staff and the employee bargaining units to implement sever cost reductions and use strategic monetary reserves to lessen the impact to core essential services provided to our community. While continuing to move forward with a transparent, sound and proven strategy to ensure all future financial obligations are met including but not limited to pension liabilities.
- Proper Zoning Code regulations. The City is currently conducting a comprehensive update to our entire zoning code including commercial, retail, industrial and residential zoned areas. I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for maintaining safe family (single house keeping units) oriented neighborhoods through proper zoning enforcement. Not allowing high density developments or boarding house type dwellings to encroach into R-1 residential zones, thus protecting these areas for future generations. Building high and ultra high density housing only in areas that make sense such as true transit hubs (transit villages) taking full advantage of public transit, VTA, CalTrain, and future BART, thus giving these residents transportation options and lessening the impact of vehicle traffic on our already congested roadways.
- I have the highest respect for all members of our council. I believe that the council although made up of seven individuals needs to act as one cohesive body. In that body each member should passionately advocate for their position on each issue, the council as a whole should fully engage in conversation with each member and respect their individual ideas. After fully vetting each member’s stance and with public opinion the council would hopefully come to a consensus as which way to proceed with a motion and finally vote on the matter, it doesn’t matter if an individual member is in a majority or minority viewpoint only that the process was fair, democratic and respectful. I think all members of council should frequently take a moment and reflect on these ideals.
- That’s easy, To Adjourn! Seriously, it would be which ever item appears on the given council meeting agenda first. It could be building a wonderful new downtown, protecting our family neighborhoods, ensuring financial security, working with Santa Clara University, management of Levi’s stadium or many more of my city wide and district 5 specific priorities. But more importantly I think my last motion would be the most important. If I have the honor of being the District 5 representative and I was one day able to look back at my tenure in office, I would hope that all my visions and priorities were to have come to fruition, including my last motion, which would be ensuring Santa Clara remained a great place to live, work and raise a family.