A San Jose lawmaker failed to read the room when she set up a branch office in a local library, upsetting some residents who felt blindsided by the move.
East side residents fumed on social media after learning Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who represents District 5, is setting up a second office at the Dr. Roberto Cruz Alum Rock Branch Library, displacing volunteers from a room that has been used for various classes.
Resident Peter Carey shared a photo on Facebook of the room, which is called the Family Learning Center. Carey told San José Spotlight he used to teach citizenship classes in the center before the pandemic struck.
With Carrasco’s office moving into the space, Carey’s class and others will be forced to move to another part of the library that is not set up for teaching. Carey, who has taught volunteer classes at the library for about five years, doesn’t necessarily mind moving, but he’s disappointed with the lack of communication about this change, and he feels uneasy about a public official commandeering community space.
“Everybody wanted to go back to using the room as soon as we were able,” Carey said. “Personally, I don’t think an elected official has any business moving into the library—there’s something about it I choke on.”
The satellite office is the first of its kind in San Jose, where each councilmember has traditionally had a single office located in City Hall. Carrasco proposed the idea of creating a separate office in Alum Rock when the city finalized its budget in June.
She told San José Spotlight her district is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, with many constituents struggling with evictions, housing insecurity and food scarcity. She believes the most vulnerable residents may have an easier time accessing resources through the local library than by taking a bus downtown or trying to navigate the city’s websites.
“Given all the challenges our residents are facing, they deserve to have a council office providing services directly to them face-to-face,” she said.
Carrasco added she deliberately chose a public building in San Jose to avoid shelling out thousands of taxpayer dollars to lease a private space.
“I’m the person who has my team taking paper clips off the paper before we recycle so we can reuse them,” she said. “We’re literally moving bodies from one place to another, and it will have huge cost savings.”
Carrasco’s term is up next year, and she says whoever replaces her can eliminate the office if they wish. Among those jockeying for her seat is Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla, who told San José Spotlight investing in a second council office is a waste of resources.
“The dollars to run that particular proposed district office are better spent going directly to the community to further support it economically, rather than wasted on additional bureaucracy,” he said.
Peter Ortiz, a Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee running for the District 5 seat, told San José Spotlight he’s spoken with Carrasco and is confident she will find a solution agreeable to all the stakeholders.
“This satellite office is about equitable access to city services,” Ortiz said. “Our working families of East San Jose should not have to drive all the way to City Hall to gain access to small business support, renter assistance and essential COVID-19 resources.”
Editor’s Note: Rolando Bonilla is married to San José Spotlight board member Perla Rodriguez.