Santa Clara City Council hopeful Kevin Park hopes to improve collaboration in the Mission City — rather than take the limelight.
Park compared his mindset to that of Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso, his favorite player on his hometown basketball team.
“(Caruso’s) the engineer on the team. He’s not there to make the spotlight plays,” Park said. “He’s there to support his team. And that’s what I do.”
The City Council is divided on decision-making, Park said, and he wants to change that.
“It’s not a city councilmember (who) gets to make all the decisions. Even if I ran for mayor and became the mayor, I wouldn’t make all the decisions,” Park said. “I would be one vote out of seven and I think that’s a key, which is you need to have a City Council that’s willing to work together to come to a consensus, a good consensus, not just arguing all the time.”
Park said Mayor Lisa Gillmor and other councilmembers are draining the city’s coffers by appealing legal decisions on the California Voting Rights Act and battling the San Francisco 49ers over stadium management duties.
Park says he would collaborate and partner with more community organizations and push for the City Council to work as a unified team, rather than divided factions.
Park has scored endorsements from former Santa Clara Councilmember Patty Mahan, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara councilmembers Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy.
Mahan says she has “never seen a more divisive council,” but believes Park can bridge the divide in city politics.
“Kevin is the type of person who does respect others treats others in a kind way,” Mahan said. “And he knows how to talk to people and communicate.”
City leaders should have never appealed the California Voting Rights ruling forcing them to divide the city into six districts, Park said.
“If they want representation, they could have just legislated representation,” Park said. “But they didn’t, and instead, we’re spending even more money, appealing a lawsuit that we shouldn’t have fought in the first place.”
Park said the ruling on California Voting Rights Act lawsuit has improved representation and voting rights in Santa Clara, but he still sees more problems including an at-large mayoral system.
“We still have a mayor that’s at large in the city. And for a mayor, that’s not a strong mayor in Santa Clara, we have a mayor that acts like a strong mayor in the city,” he said. “This is a problem for minority representation, which means there will always be one seat reserved for people who are incumbents that have a long history with the city that aren’t necessarily covered by minorities.”
Chahal, who became the first person of color elected to the Santa Clara council, said he’s confident Park would be an independent voice on the dais.
“He is analytical, he is a scientist, he is an engineer,” Chahal said.
Park said he was initially opposed to Santa Clara being the home of the San Francisco 49ers, but said the best thing to do now is work to find a consensus between the city and the franchise.
The 49ers and Santa Clara have had a history of squabbling over stadium management and public safety debts.
“I didn’t like the stadium, but it’s here now,” Park said. “We don’t just say we don’t like the 49ers, 49ers go home, and the stadium disappears and our loan debts are erased. That’s not going to happen.”
For stadium management, Park said the city should contract with a third party.
“I don’t think anyone on City Council has the background or the wherewithal to manage the stadium,” Park said.
Park said Santa Clara needs to focus more on supporting local businesses and helping them invest in the city.
Huge corporate salaries and skyrocketing housing costs go hand-in-hand, Park said, so he would propose ways for businesses to provide funds for affordable housing.
“I would really like that companies still get the option to pay huge salaries, but for every percentage above the median wage, they also pay towards a fund that supports affordable housing,” Park said. “Like this company has 36% of its employees that make above a certain salary that live in Santa Clara, well, then they pay this much to the city of Santa Clara for affordable housing.”
Park said Santa Clara needs to help establish a local chamber of commerce to support businesses. The chamber rebranded itself as the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce last year, which sparked confusion and criticism from business leaders last year.
In turn, the city could also partner with restaurants to provide food delivery to residents unable to leave their homes or are facing other issues buying basic necessities, he said.
“We could have put something together that says, if you want to support these businesses, here’s how you can do it,” Park said.
Park raised $5,082 this year until Sept. 19 and spent $2,352, according to his campaign finance records.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
AT A GLANCE
Family: Wife and daughter
Political affiliation: Independent
Education: BS from Caltech 1993, MS from Stanford 1995
Profession: Engineer, engineering manager
Top 3 priorities: Fiscal stability reducing costs and unnecessary expenditures, city infrastructure including upgrades to existing neighborhoods, city vision (planning) putting high-density development in areas marked for high density and supporting a vibrant downtown and more affordable housing
Top 3 endorsements: The Mercury News, Assemblymember Evan Low, Senator Jim Beall. That does not go enough to point out the missing endorsements: any special interests and partisan organizations
In one sentence, why vote for you?: “I represent the people, not special interests, and follow through with what I say.”
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.