A large audience of seniors sit in an auditorium in chairs.
Residents of The Villages Golf and Country Club listen to San Jose City Council District 8 candidates at a political forum on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

The four candidates running for the District 8 San Jose City Council seat recently debated issues ranging from homelessness to public safety in the Evergreen neighborhood.

Incumbent Councilmember Domingo Candelas, Surinder “Suri” Kaur Dhaliwal, Sukhdev Bainiwal and Tam Truong spoke to about 50 residents at The Villages Golf and Country Club Wednesday in a forum hosted by the community’s democratic club. The campaign stop in the district — which includes neighborhoods like Evergreen, Silver Creek and the Lake Cunningham area — precedes the March 5 primary election.

The candidates fielded audience questions, which included issues such as public safety, homelessness and how candidates would balance their supporters’ needs with the community at large.

Barbara Nilson, a 33-year resident of The Villages, said she’d like to see the next councilmember focus on homelessness, public safety and road maintenance.

“There’s so many potholes around, it’s getting dangerous to drive around,” she told San José Spotlight.

The four candidates for San José City Council District 8 sit at a forum table.
Domingo Candelas, Surinder “Suri” Kaur Dhaliwal, Tam Truong and Sukhdev Bainiwal, candidates for San Jose City Council District 8, speak to residents at a political forum on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Domingo Candelas

Candelas, who grew up in the Evergreen neighborhood, said some of the major issues facing the community include public safety, housing and parks. Councilmembers appointed him to the city council in 2023, after voters elected Sylvia Arenas to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

As a councilmember, he has hosted more than 15 community cleanups and secured $35,000 to improve Fernish Park. He said if elected, he wants to continue prioritizing housing the homeless, supporting the police force and meeting with residents regularly. Candelas helped obtain $1.5 million for the restoration of Lake Cunningham last summer.

Candelas said even though he is the only candidate to receive endorsements from the San Jose Police Officers’ Association and San Jose Firefighters Local 230, he will put the community’s needs first.

“I put District 8 residents first, that’s my job. I reject the premise of owing anybody just because of an endorsement,” he said. “I have my values and people support me for my values.”

Surinder “Suri” Kaur Dhaliwal

Dhaliwal, who moved to the Evergreen neighborhood when she was a teenager, comes from the tech industry and is a practicing Sikh. After leaving an abusive marriage, she is still fighting to gain custody of her son, who she hasn’t seen in years, she said. Dhaliwal said her lived experience informs her decision-making when helping vulnerable communities.

If elected, she aims to address crime, how the police department uses its resources and the effect social media has on children’s mental health.

“We need to start thinking about 20 to 30 years from now so our children are not turning into criminals,” she said.

Sukhdev Bainiwal

Bainiwal, who raised his children in the district, is an engineer, former airport commissioner and the long-time director on the board of the Sikh Gurdwara of San Jose. He lost the District 8 appointment to Candelas last year.

If elected, Bainiwal wants to focus on crime, parks and homelessness. He wants to see more neighborhood watches to improve public safety and more interim housing as a solution to homelessness.

“If we leave our homeless out there in the creeks, No. 1 it’s causing blight, No. 2 (it’s causing) security (issues),” he said. “We need to get our unhoused indoors as soon as possible so they can begin treatment.”

Tam Truong

Truong, who is a District 8 native, has been a police sergeant for more than 15 years. He emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. in 1991 and said his experience with homelessness and pursuing the American dream will add to his expertise on council.

If elected, he wants to prioritize police morale and retention, homelessness and job loss. He said the solution to public safety is a boosted police force.

“Without police officers you don’t have public safety. Without public safety, guess what, people will not put money in San Jose, no economic development,” he said. “No economic development, no jobs. No jobs, we’re sleeping out there on the sidewalk.”

Bob Dando, a 12-year resident of The Villages, said after hearing the forum, he is leaning toward Candelas.

“He knows the district, and he’s done well for District 8,” Dando told San José Spotlight.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter

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