Milpitas mayoral candidates promise cultural change from above

MILPITAS — Although Milpitas may live in the shadow of its glitzier and better-known Silicon Valley neighbors to the west, its city council and mayor have drawn their own attention to the South Bay for rowdy meetings that have sometimes turned into shouting and personal attacks.

It’s time for adults to lead the way, say candidates vying for the city’s top job.

Three municipal councilors are in the running, Karina Dominguez, Anthony Phan and Carmen Montano. The winner will lead a city of 80,000 people with a budget of around $200 million that is trying to establish itself as an alternative, more affordable option for tech companies in the Valley. It also faces a growing homelessness and housing crisis, causing consternation among residents who are pushing city leaders to enact tougher and more robust policies.

Mayor Rich Tran dropped out of the race for a council seat in August after finishing in November, although he plans to try to win back his first seat in 2024 after a mandatory two-year cooling-off period.

“We need to change the culture inside City Hall,” said Dominguez, an outspoken critic of Tran and who has previously held administrative positions at various nonprofits. “(We need) an ethical, responsible and respectful mayor.”

Phan, who has also been critical of Tran and sometimes aligns himself with Dominguez on the board, made similar remarks. “A lot of times it gets personal,” he said of the environment within City Hall. “I want to change that. I had to lift my spirits.

Phan, who runs a land-use planning consultancy, recently made headlines when it was revealed he hired his 14-year-old cousin to be his campaign treasurer in 2016, leading a watchdog group of the state to impose a fine of several thousand dollars. He also found himself in deep water after the district attorney’s office warned him to mistake Montano’s full name for a campaign website domain and redirect it to his own.

Even Montano, a trusted ally of Tran and a longtime teacher, made it clear that decorum would be a priority if elected. “We’re here to do people’s business,” she said. “Without any drama and any sideshows.”

Along with cultural shifts, the candidates’ priority is what to do about homelessness and a lack of affordable housing — issues from which, until recently, the city was largely isolated, unlike the rest of South Bay. This month, council members narrowly passed an ordinance in a 3-2 vote that bans people from pitching tents and sleeping in public spaces during the day.

Dominguez and Phan, who oppose the new law, say it won’t do much to help the city’s roughly 120 homeless people and called for more systemic changes like increased collaboration with government officials. Santa Clara County housing. In previous comments, Dominguez said the rule “reminded” him of the Nazis, while Phan said he “didn’t see how it was a solution at all.” Montano raised the importance of public “right of way” spaces and said she was prepared to change the ordinance if issues arose. She also called for more resources for the homeless population, including a navigation center and a secure parking program.

Just weeks before the ordinance was passed, parents in Milpitas with children in the city’s school district were asked to find an extra bedroom in their home to help accommodate teachers, as many have moved out of the area. to find more affordable options with their relatively low wages. Dominguez, Phan and Montano agreed that the situation requires a housing project specifically tailored to city teachers and other low-income public sector workers.

During this time, each board member carved out their own piece of the approval pie.

Montano was able to enlist the support of the city’s current power brokers, including the current mayor, councilwoman Evelyn Chua, as well as officials like District 3 County Supervisor Otto Lee. It has also received endorsement from the police and fire unions.

Phan steered his endorsements to be more regional, with Assembly members Alex Lee and Mike Fond providing support, as well as former Milpitas mayors Jose Esteves, Bob Livengood and Henry Chang Manayan.

The region’s most progressive bloc is behind Dominguez, including District 4 County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, Santa Clara Young Democrats, Democratic Activist for Women Now and South Bay Labor.

Other candidates include local businessmen Franco Perez and Ola Hassan, as well as retired geologist Voltaire Montemayor, who is seeking the fourth time to be elected mayor. Perez and Hassan also spoke about the importance of building affordable housing for the city. Montemayor did not respond to an interview request.

As Dominguez and Montano’s terms expire in November, a slew of candidates are trying to fill their seats. They include planning commissioner Dipak Awasthi, attorney Garry Barbadillo, school board member Michael Tsai, Vice President of Vector Fabrication Isaac Stringer, former planning commissioner Demetress Morris, entrepreneur Hon Lien and Chamber of Commerce board member Juliette Gomez.

James C. Tibbs