By Rhoda Shapiro
The forum ventured into the topics of public health, education, immigration, and housing.
The candidates present were Magdalena Carrasco (current San Jose councilmember), Otto Lee (attorney and former Mayor of Sunnyvale), and John Leyba (San Jose Planning Commissioner). Here’s a rundown of where the candidates stood on some of the issues:
Leyba mentioned that he’d like to devote some resources to reaching out to marginalized communities, so people know what options are available to them. Lee spoke of crowded emergency rooms and long wait times, and said he thought there should be more outpatient and urgent care available to ensure that everyone gets quick access and coverage. Carrasco spoke of how the City of San Jose has satellite libraries, and brought up the idea that satellite clinics, throughout places like schools or community centers, can be used to offer the community more public health services.
Education (and the protecting of social services and mental health resources)
Carrasco spoke of how complicated life can be nowadays for the average student, stating, “What we’re seeing over and over is we’re in dire need of mental health services and more support.” She also mentioned that advocating at the state level is critical, and that supporting schools and getting nonprofit organizations to partner with them is essential as well. Leyba also stated that he “would make a point of advocating at the state and federal level so it’s supported and potentially integrated in with the various school districts.” Lee mentioned that mental health and social services are vital for students, and that trained mental health counselors are important when it comes to spotting issues with students early on.
Lee mentioned that e-cigarette companies target kids, and that the education component is therefore critical: “In so many ways, I think it takes a village. The school needs to do it, the family needs to do it. We need to do a much better outreach program to make kids realize the danger of e-cigarettes…” Leyba spoke of how the dollars from cigarette taxes should be spent on advocating against e-cigarettes, just like we do against traditional ones. Carrasco said, “I’ve been thinking of putting up an ordinance to ban it from the city of San Jose, if my colleagues would allow it.”
Candidates were asked about their stances toward the Sanctuary City Policy and individuals who commit violent crimes. The murder of Bambi Larson in San Jose by an undocumented immigrant with a previous criminal history was mentioned.
Lee said that the idea of the Sanctuary City Policy is a great one, as we need to protect people in our community. However, he noted that some elements of the Sanctuary City Policy must be worked on, especially in regard to those with violent criminal histories: “For specific cases, we need to change policy to make sure those criminals aren’t thrown into our community,” said Lee.
Leyba said he supported what it took at the county level to fine-tune the policy and maximize safety and security: “We can’t have a situation where those vulnerable communities can be subject to violent predators. So we need to make a point of fine-tuning whatever the policy is…”
Carrasco mentioned her frustration over the heavy focus on the immigration issue, when we need to also be looking at mental health, public safety, and homelessness. Later, in speaking about ICE, she stressed the need to stand firmly by the state’s No Cooperation policy, by which none of California’s resources reinforce ICE’s jurisdiction. “I consider that agency to be one of the laziest federal agencies and I consider that agency to be one of the most unscrupulous and unethical agencies, when you think of what they’ve done to children and families at the border, separating them from their parents,” Carrasco said.
Non-Market Driven Solutions to the Housing Crisis
Carrasco spoke of how she sits on a Policy Link Committee made up of elected officials, lawyers, CEOs, and housing directors from across the country. “We’re trying to push our legal limits to understand why we’re bound by so many laws when it comes to housing…and how we can build faster, how we can build more densely, and how we can build more cheaply, so we can tackle the housing crisis that’s happening in the entire country…” She spoke of publicly owned land and community trusts, though she’s not yet entirely convinced there’s an answer there.
Leyba said he was open to land trust and publicly owned facilities, and also mentioned: “I personally prefer that we have all options on the table across the spectrum.” He also said he was a big fan of nonprofit developers, like Charities Housing, which act like private developers and partner with entities such as the city, state, or county, as well as other nonprofits, to pull together funding.
Lee mentioned that the most expensive aspect of building housing is land. “Who is the biggest landowner in this county?” asked Lee. “The county. If the county can step up and put up the land it has for the good of our community, there are so many things we can do to solve the problems that we’re facing.” Lee also added, “We need a lot of stakeholders to come together to do this quickly. The traditional way of doing things is a little too slow for my taste.”
The Milpitas Democratic Club plans to host more forums in the future, as the March, 2020, election grows more near.
Days after the forum was held, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, representing the 25th California Assembly District, also stepped into the race for Board of Supervisors. Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran, who had announced his candidacy for Board of Supervisor in 2018, pulled out of the race and will now be running for Chu’s seat.