If it were up to the Silicon Valley Democratic Club, former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee would be joining the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
The intellectual property lawyer and former Sunnyvale mayor won the club’s endorsement – earning 72.9 percent of the second round of voting – for the District 3 supervisorial seat, despite being in London for a conference.
Instead, campaign consultant Eric Stroker took his place, alongside San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco and Assemblymember Kansen Chu in a candidate forum Monday night.
Rose Herrera, a former San Jose Vice Mayor and longtime Evergreen Valley leader, did not attend as planned. No reason was given for her absence.
The SVDC met at the Campbell Community Center to hear from the candidates running for the seat currently held by Supervisor Dave Cortese. With only one minute to speak, they discussed their opinions on issues ranging from mass shootings to problematic Silicon Valley traffic.
The panel started off tackling the housing crisis, as the candidates were asked how low-income housing projects in the area fit into the county’s plans.
“We have to find the right spots to get this stuff done,” Stroker said. He said that the focus on placement of affordable housing should be considered alongside sites with density and public transit accessibility.
Carrasco noted while the county “can’t build fast enough,” the new construction needs to consider all income levels in its efforts to create affordable, permanent and supportive housing.
“It’s unfortunate that some cities in the county aren’t doing their fair share, while some are doing all they can,” she said. “It’s going to take a regional effort.”
Chu agreed, saying that housing was a prominent part of his work in Sacramento. He thinks that long-term planning is essential, as opposed to “piecemeal solutions,” even referencing a past opportunity to help develop 32,000 units of housing in North San Jose.
Next, the supervisorial candidates focused on alleviating traffic in the region.
“It’s going to be a big culture shift,” Carrasco said about how California was designed for commuting in cars. Having dropped her kids off at school that morning, she said transit not only needs to get people out of their cars, but also be fast – if not faster – than automobile travel.
Chu combined the issue of transit with housing, arguing that they’re two faces of the same problem. He said traffic is exacerbated because people can’t afford to live in the Valley, and believes multi-mode transit solutions are the answer.
Stroker took that one step further by saying that “sometimes innovative ideas and the answer is right in front of us.” He said that the current options of VTA, light rail and BART should continue to be explored and presented as options to the public.
Jumping to mass shootings, statistics were cited that men with a history of domestic abuse most often commit gun violence. The candidates were asked what they would do, specifically, to address that issue.
Chu’s answer was his voting record; he said that he has a 100 percent record of supporting sensible gun control. He also mentioned that issues with targeting undocumented individuals often leads to a lack of reporting or even cooperation of reporting abuse as witnesses.
Stroker recalled a conversation he had with Lee focusing on how mental health should not be “an excuse for hate, bigotry and violence.”
Carrasco said officials need to look at the root cause of gun violence, referencing her 25 years as a social worker helping survivors of domestic violence. She discussed the benefits of allocating funding to create a specialized unit with police when responding to domestic abuse calls to gauge lethality.
When asked about the “unmet needs” within the county, Chu and Stroker chose health care. Stroker emphasized the lack of care for the unhoused, while Chu said a lack of focus on both physical and mental health care hurts prevention efforts.
Carrasco differed, saying that one of her top priorities would be helping homeless residents until new affordable housing is built.
The panel moderator, Madison Nguyen of the SVO, wrapped up by asking how the candidates would limit environmental and climate disruption.
In addition to referring to a memo declaring a climate emergency headed to the City Council on Tuesday, Carrasco mentioned her commute. While she recently bought a used hybrid van, she has trouble finding places to plug it in. Her answer would be to push for infrastructure accommodations in housing complexes.
Chu said his first effort as a county supervisor would be to electrify the county’s fleet, especially for waste and recycling services, in addition to retrofitting older buildings.
Stroker said Lee was the “Green Mayor of Sunnyvale,” referencing his time in office when the state’s plastic bag ban took effect. He also mentioned that corporate entities should be focused on environmental benefits in building, too.
“We’re being asked to be part of the revolution,” Stroker said, “but we need to have corporate responsibility as well.”