The first San Jose City Council meeting of the year feels like the first day of school.
New Mayor Matt Mahan and freshman Councilmembers Rosemary Kamei, Omar Torres, Peter Ortiz and Bien Doan took pictures with loved ones in front of the dais before being sworn into office on Tuesday. Councilmember Pam Foley, who ran for reelection unopposed, also took her oath for a second term.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Foley said before taking her oath.
The newly elected officials smiled and promised to represent their constituents for the next four years. Returning councilmembers and city staff greeted each other after the winter break, with chatter and laughter filling the council chambers.
Kamei, 63, who won her District 1 election outright in June, was joined by her daughter Ellen, a Mountain View councilmember. She fills the West San Jose seat of termed-out Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and is set to be the new vice mayor.
Bringing in 30 years of public service experience, Kamei hopes to build on projects from Jones’ time in office, including a massive transit project in the Stevens Creek corridor. She also wants to focus efforts on public safety and homelessness and work with other agencies to find more comprehensive solutions.
Torres, 40, put his arm around his sister as he took his oath for the District 3 seat. He replaces termed-out Councilmember Raul Peralez to represent the downtown core.
Torres has been part of the San Jose political scene for years, having served as a San Jose-Evergreen Community College District trustee, regional director in the California Democratic Party and the business resiliency manager of the San Jose Downtown Association. His main areas of focus are housing, small business resiliency and job creation. He wants to create a one-stop service center for homeless residents to get emergency medical, mental health and addiction treatment.
Ortiz, 31, hugged family and friends before taking his oath alone. The former Santa Clara County Board of Education president beat out three other candidates to replace termed-out Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco to represent District 5 in East San Jose.
The educator and small business advocate is focused on small business support, public safety and bringing what he calls a “new deal” for the region. The pandemic disproportionately ravaged East San Jose, one of the most heavily Latino districts in the city. Ortiz wants to implement a community benefits package that will include paid job training for the district’s unemployed residents, sanctioned encampments, youth programs and alternative policing, such as community patrols.
Doan, 57, unseated incumbent Councilmember Maya Esparza to represent District 7 in East San Jose. The first Vietnamese fire captain in the city brings back Vietnamese representation to the council, which has been missing the past four years. He took his oath standing next to his father.
After seeing businesses close during the pandemic and homelessness increase, Doan wants to reduce red tape to make it easier to open businesses and approve affordable housing projects by reducing regulations and fees. He believes a public safety-first approach will bring more people to the area, and contribute to the local economy.
Foley ran unopposed to represent South San Jose’s district 9 for the second time. She’s spent the last three years prioritizing solutions for public safety, housing and homelessness and hopes to build on that momentum, while also focusing on fighting blight and improving accessibility for the disabled and seniors.
During her first term, Foley voted on several occasions to expand the number of officers in the San Jose Police Department and increase funding for programs like Hire Ahead. She’s also advocated for development of affordable housing in District 9, which will provide 900 new residences. Foley took the lead in creating the ADU Ally program, which assists homeowners who want to build a backyard home. She has also championed the city’s ban on flavored tobacco.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.