A new group has emerged in San Jose politics just in time for a consequential election with an ominous message to “take back” the city—but no one seems to know who is behind it.
It started two months ago when signs with a QR code began lining San Jose neighborhoods like Naglee Park. The signs were also spotted at public places like the Tamien VTA station.
When the code on a sign is scanned, it leads to a blog called Take Back San Jose. The group says its goals are to find solutions for neighborhood problems, prevent wasteful government spending and encourage residents to be civically engaged on a local level. The site says it’s nonpartisan and educational, claiming no affiliation with any candidates or initiatives.
But the site appears to have strong conservative leanings and contains six blog posts written in October sharply criticizing progressive San Jose mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez.
Several sources told San José Spotlight that Take Back San Jose is founded by John Davis, a local business management consultant, owner of car museum Club Auto Sport and a trustee with the Silicon Valley Biz PAC—a political action committee that supports business-leaning candidates. Davis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Others point to Jim Salata, owner of Garden City Construction in downtown San Jose, because the businessman has long used the phrase “take back San Jose” when airing frustrations about the homeless crisis and other challenges facing San Jose. On another anonymous, blog-like website focusing on San Jose issues, Salata is quoted using the term “take back San Jose” when referring to clean up efforts around the city. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Take Back San Jose Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages have a total of seven followers. The Facebook page has three friends including Davis and two other residents. The Twitter page has two followers including Tracey Enfantino, who is also involved with the Silicon Valley Biz PAC. Enfantino told San José Spotlight she is not affiliated with nor a founder of the site.
Victor Gomez, executive director of the Silicon Valley Biz PAC, denied any affiliation with the group.
“Our PAC has no involvement in it. I don’t know if my PAC even knows about it,” Gomez told San José Spotlight. “There could be members that may be connected to it, but not that I’m aware of.”
The Take Back San Jose website says it’s run by a group of volunteers “dedicated to bringing truth and light to the public regarding a failed and feckless government that has in part destroyed our beloved San Jose once known as the Valley of Hearts Delight, and has diminished the quality of life in California as a whole.”
The posts attack Chavez for her voting record and tenure as a San Jose councilmember, and appear to be submitted by anonymous followers of the site. Take Back San Jose launched in September, and initially only had a San José Spotlight op-ed that claimed Chavez is mischaracterizing her opponent San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan‘s stance on abortion rights. That post has since been deleted.
Take Back San Jose deleted all of its content on its site for a couple of weeks before relaunching with a new design and content in mid-October.
“The reporting we do is aimed at motivating people to take action, either collectively or politically, on the issues that affect them and the wider community,” the website reads. “We believe a change for the better can only happen if people have the knowledge, awareness and sustained enthusiasm to make it a reality.”
San Jose resident and local realtor Steven Barkley, who follows Take Back San Jose on Facebook and Instagram, said he found the site after his neighborhood association in Naglee Park complained about signs cropping up everywhere. He started following because he’s frustrated with how the city has dealt with crime, trash and homelessness.
“It’s the way they’ve been going on here for several years now,” Barkley told San José Spotlight. “The drug problems, the homeless situation going on, the lawlessness, so I wanted to hear more about that.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Victor Gomez is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.