We’re giving a lot of attention to the national 2016 election in the United States, but local decisions can have a more immediate and greater impact than those at the Federal level. Elections for five of the ten city council seats in America’s third largest city take place in June.
Most candidates focus on three key issues at the local level: public safety, housing, and traffic congestion. The focus I’ll have on our candidates here at Cyclelicious will be on transportation, and primarily their views on improving cycling for San Jose residents and visitors.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group sent a survey to the city council candidates asking their opinions on issues related to transportation, housing, education, energy and the environment and posted the candidate responses here. For an initial look, I read the responses and examined other candidate information to get a feel for how they might vote on local issues important to people who use a bicycle for transportation. I’ll try to get a more in-depth look at some of these candidates later.
Incumbent Ash Kalra, who currently represents the city of San Jose on the Valley Transportation Authority, terms out. His replacement will represent the suburban region along either side of Highway 101 and Monterey Highway between Senter Road and the city of Morgan Hill.
Steve Brown opposes HSR and says he wants to spend the money on the “$65B infrastructure maintenance backlog.” This is code for “more highway spending. His campaign website lists “traffic relief” as a focus area.
Sergio Jimenez favors improving transit. “For the sake of the environment, reliance on automobiles must change,” he writes in response to a transportation question on the SVLG questionaire. At his campaign website, Jimenez flatly states that “our transportation system is too reliant on cars.
Joe Lopez wants more money for roads to tackle “traffic congestion.”
Eli Portales says “we need to upgrade our public transportation system,” and has several specific ideas suggesting he’s familiar with the issues of public transportation. He’s also concerned that removing a lane from Monterey Highway for HSR ROW will result in more car traffic on other roads through D2.
District 4 is North San Jose. Incumbent Manh Nguyen won this seat in a run-off election after Kansen Chu resigned from the city council to take his seat on the California Assembly. Manh says generic things about improving “transportation infrastructure.” I haven’t followed his voting record but I Walk I Bike I Vote had endorsed Nguyen in the election when Nguyen originally won this seat.
Lan Diep favors the VTA tax because “everyone benefits from excellent public transportation.”
Incumbent Pierluigi Oliviero terms out this session, and several people have entered the race to take this hotly contested council district. District 6 is San Jose just west and south of downtown, down to about Curtner Ave and east of Highway 17. This district includes the Willow Glen neighborhood, the Rose Garden and other historic neighborhoods.
Several candidates make generic statements in favor of the VTA tax but it’s hard to get a read on what they specifically like about it (i.e. if they want money for road building, or for transit).
Helen Chapman, a long time supporter of improved bicycle access towards downtown, writes, “Conversations with residents have raised issues about the interconnectivity of the transit systems, especially in underserved and low-income areas. We need a VTA that is accessible and responsive to the needs of our community.” Chapman served on the Diridon Good Neighbor Committee and recognizes the importance of better infrastructure to serve pedestrian traffic in the Diridon area.
Chris Roth is the former head of the SVLG Transportation Policy Committee, which pushed strongly for BART to the the South Bay. Roth currently heads the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association and has fought strongly in favor of the Lincoln Avenue road diet project.
Erik Nicholas Fong is the only candidate to mention a need for bike lanes in his questionnaire, but he’s also concerned that HSR through San Jose will “interrupt existing traffic flow.” He’s endorsed by former Assemblymember Paul Fong, which makes me wonder if they’re related? You might remember the senior Fong tried to carpetbag his way onto a San Jose council seat in 2014 after he termed out of the California Assembly. The elder Fong famously claimed “I know San Jose very well because I’ve driven by it every day.”
Norm Kline favors the VTA sales tax because “traffic is the lifeblood of commerce,” “Valley Expressways are the main arteries of our transit system” and “There is almost [no] better use of dollars” than expanding the country expressway system.
Real Estate agent Myron Von Raesfeld opposes the proposed VTA transportation tax and he opposes high speed rail. His campaign website lists “We can fix roads” among his important issues.
Incumbent Rose Herrera currently represents District 8, which is roughly the Evergreen area in East San Jose. She was initially ambivalent about bike infrastructure, but took part in the horse-trading that characterizes San Jose city politics and supported bike infrastructure for downtown in exchange for votes that benefited her district. After she saw a San Jose Bike Party ride past her home one night, however, she thought, “That looks fun.” She, her husband, a staffer and her dog then joined another Bike Party ride, and this middle aged mom became a part of the All Powerful Bike Lobby. She’s been a strong supporter of bike infrastructure ever since. Herrera terms out so her district will select a new representative for city council.
Several D8 candidates who answered the SVLG questionnaire (Jimmy Nguyen, Denise Belisle, Josh Barousse) all gave somewhat ambivalent statements regarding their support for the VTA tax, but they seem to favor road spending over transit spending.
On her campaign website, Belisle talks about moving some industry and other job generators into her district in order to shorten commutes for some residents and improve traffic safety, which is a pretty smart idea.
Josh Barousse says he supports Vision Zero on his campaign priorities web page and then lists “jaywalking; not crossing at controlled intersections; pedestrian inattention; pedestrians crossing non-residential, multi-lane roadways” as the key factors in traffic fatalities. Uh huh.
He didn’t respond to the SVLG questionnaire and I don’t know much about him, but perennial candidate Pat Waite once helped promote San Jose Bike Train back in 2014, so thumbs up for that.
District 10 is roughly the low density Almaden Valley and surrounding neighborhoods.
Incumbent Johnny Khamis sees the VTA tax as funding for roads. The other candidate, J. Michael Sodergren, gave a response that I can’t heads or tails of.