Former San Jose planning commissioner and foster kid John Leyba has two issues at the top of his list: health and human services.
Running for termed-out Supervisor Dave Cortese’s seat, Leyba said he decided to join the race after watching the homeless population grow, whether in camps spread across downtown San Jose, along the Guadalupe River Trail, or creeping into neighborhoods nestled in the hills.
“It’s not just that we’ve lost an amenity or that this is unsightly, but what you have to realize is that most of the people in those camps are living lives of despair and experiencing diseases of despair,” he said. “The cities can’t be doing this one by one. We need to think more holistically about the county solving these problems.”
Health and human services
Leyba said addressing homelessness needs a bigger-picture approach. If elected, he’ll push for access to health care and better training for county officials who work with people in the criminal justice system.
“(Correctional officers) need to know how to handle mentally ill or drug-addicted people, so we don’t have a repeat of Michael Tyree,” said Leyba, referencing a mentally ill man who was beaten to death in 2015 by Santa Clara County jail guards. “I believe we need to utilize all parts of our county government to basically have a forcing function to get people in, to help get them to rehab and to get them to know health care.”
He cited a recent county Behavioral Health Services report that found patients had to wait up to 10 days to be seen for mental health services that were listed as having no wait times.
“Imagine if you have a mental health situation that requires you see a doctor or a counselor. Is 10 business days good enough?” Leyba asked. “I don’t think 10 days means no waiting, but the county defines it that way.”
According to recent financial disclosure forms, Leyba’s campaign raised nearly $141,000 in contributions.
Leyba also said county government overspends on frivolous items, such as millions of dollars on new county offices, feasibility studies and policy analyses.
He said he would bring more focus to effective spending and fiscal accountability. Leyba criticized the county’s $4.5 million valet parking program at its W. Hedding Street campus. The program contradicts how county residents are encouraged to live, he said, with fewer parking slots and more transit-oriented design.
Leyba added he’ll examine the management of county task forces, programs and money flow — one of his strengths since he studied public economics and finance at Dartmouth College, and uses those skills as an electric business operations manager at PG&E.
“Right now, I’m not hearing the questions go quite as deep,” Leyba said. “I feel like we have accepted a lot of the status quo around being under-resourced or things are really expensive. Well, why does it cost so much? What positions are you stacking up first?”
Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he first met Leyba about 15 years ago and followed his work on the city’s planning commission. Reed said it was the combination of Leyba’s fiscal background and roots in the community that earned his endorsement.
“Santa Clara County government is a really large spending machine with a lot of fiscal issues. So that combination of community work and fiscal abilities is uncommon,” Reed said. “And we’ve had 10 years of good times, but hard times will come. It’s important to have somebody on the Board of Supervisors who can make the tough fiscal decisions and protect those who need the help from the county the most.”
While Leyba’s never been elected to public office, he said his stance as a fiscal conservative sets him apart from his competitors. “The fact that somebody was previously elected to something is not a job qualification,” Leyba said. “The results of what they got done is a job qualification.”
Name: John Leyba
Family: Wife Marisol Andrade Leyba, and two daughters, ages 8 and 10
Political affiliation: Republican
Education: Dartmouth College, public economics and finance
Profession: PG&E electric business operations manager
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: San Jose planning commissioner
Top 3 priorities: Address homelessness now, provide affordable housing, reduce traffic congestion
Top 3 endorsements: Former Mayor Chuck Reed, former Congressman and State Sen. Tom Campbell, former Milpitas Councilmember Debbie Giordano
Special talent: Vocal Jazz, Alum Rock Jazz Band alumnus
In one sentence, why vote for you? “I’m the most fiscally responsible, the most results-driven, the most qualified and least compromised by special interests.”