Reader Panel: San Jose voters discuss election priorities

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San Jose voters have a full plate of decisions to make locally and countywide, when casting their ballots in the June primary.

Residents will have the opportunity to vote for mayor, sheriff, county supervisor, five councilmembers, district attorney and assessor. Each candidate can appeal to voters by addressing hot-button problems like homelessness and housing, but also by touching on overlooked issues, according to a panel of readers. hosted a panel of six readers on Wednesday to discuss their priorities and some of the elections taking place next month. This is the first of several election panels will host between now and the general election in November. The panel included registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters, ranging in age from 24 to 60. Members have served as community advocates, attorneys, professors and landscape architects.

“For me, the issues that matter the most are one, housing; two, housing; three, homelessness; and four, housing,” said Alex Shoor, 40, who lives in District 3 near Diridon Station. “I think that in itself is connected to so many issues in our community.”

Shoor, executive director of pro-housing organization Catalyze SV, said he’s most interested in the mayor’s race. The issues he wants the winner to prioritize are sustainable development, police reform and improving San Jose’s government.

Carmen Brammer, 60, a Democrat who lives in East San Jose and works as a political strategist and community advocate, said elected leaders need to take bolder actions to reduce racism in San Jose. Brammer believes funds should be diverted from the San Jose Police Department to help people in the community. She also wants the City Council to adopt recommendations advanced by the Reimagining Public Safety Community Advisory Committee and suggested the community’s patience is wearing thin as it awaits meaningful reform.

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The committee was formed following protests over the murder of George Floyd and police violence. The members recently submitted recommendations to the City Council on police reform. This included the establishment of an independent office to investigate police misconduct and drug testing officers involved in use of force cases.

“The next mayor and City Council that’s going to be formed needs to understand (we’re) no longer going to sit back and wait,” Brammer said. “We’re going to push for this stuff, and it must happen.”

Vicente Lovelace, 24, a Democrat and immigration law practitioner, said he is most interested in immigration and police reform, and he is closely watching the district attorney race. He wants the next mayor of San Jose to pay more attention to working class families in East San Jose that have suffered from redlining and neglect by city leaders.

“Being friendlier (as a city) to tech companies and friendlier to small businesses is all well and good,” Lovelace said. “But that should also include the small businesses of those working class families and working class residents… or we’re going to see people move to Tracy, we’re going to see people move to Fresno, Los Banos—we’re going to see that flight.”

Several panelists complained that candidates for local office are not addressing the existential threat of climate change.

“My biggest concern is climate,” said Lisa Charpontier, 52, a Democrat and landscape architect who lives in downtown San Jose. “Pretty much everything is going to be affected by climate (change) if we don’t come up with a good plan.”

Charpontier suggested the next mayor and councilmembers should receive training on climate issues so they can understand the scope and urgency of the problem and take measures to address it.

There was also some anxiety about how elected officials will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as cases rise again in Santa Clara County. Donald Gagliardi, a 58-year-old attorney and independent who ran for City Council eight years ago, is worried about the return of COVID-19-related restrictions and lockdowns, which he characterized as a human rights issue. He noted a friend who works for VTA recently received notice that he’s being terminated for not getting vaccinated.

“The number one issue that we face is respect for our human rights, and that relates to the COVID mandates (and) the lockdown we experienced over the last two years,” Gagliardi said. “Most of those (mandates) have gone away, but we have not been assured they will not return.”

Democrat Ellen Middaugh, 47, moved to San Jose five years ago from Oakland. As a professor at San Jose State University who specializes in youth civic engagement, Middaugh wants city leaders to support teachers and invest in green spaces. As a resident of downtown Spartan Keyes, she’s closely following the District 3 City Council race and is concerned candidates view it as a mere springboard to higher office.

Like other panelists, Middaugh is concerned with the lack of civility between city leaders, and she’s looking for this quality in candidates.

“The City Council meetings I’ve witnessed have not been great in terms of how they work together and talk to each other,” Middaugh said. “I’ve been paying really close attention to the different District 3 candidates and how they’re going to work with other folks, as well as the mayoral candidates.”

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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