Appointing new members to the San Jose City Council is in the best interest of the city, can provide unity of government and is more in line with the reasoning of our national founders than an expensive special election.
The simple facts are these: A special election will cost around $10 million of taxpayer dollars and can’t happen until May leaving Districts 8 and 10 unrepresented.
We note the irony of Pat Waite, who is the leader of a group called Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, calling to waste $10 million of taxpayer dollars on a special election. This is what people hate about politicians. It is akin to Mitch McConnell holding up a Supreme Court nominee of Barack Obama because a new election is close, to rushing confirmation of an unqualified, bigoted woman in Amy Coney Barrett simply because he has the power to do so.
In a consistent political universe, my friend Mr. Waite would take a more prudent fiscal approach. As a current resident of District 8, he does not speak for us.
In addition to the public cost of special interest money, tremendous amounts of money will be spent on a very small minority of the population who would participate. This is not democracy. That is buying an election—and, really, people are tired of the negative political environment that is thrust upon them every election, special or otherwise.
In a special election about 15% of the people will vote, meaning 7.6% of the voting public will choose the next councilmember. Who are those 7.6%? Those with a vested interest, potentially at the expense of their neighbors and certainly not a majority of the community.
The founders of this nation hated democracy and despised the idea of mob rule. They formed a republic. The Senate was to be chosen by state legislatures. The Electoral College was created as a buffer between the masses and the presidency. In the beginning, the electors were supposed to represent the people, not simply reflect the popular vote. Presidential candidates didn’t even run for office in our early republic, it was considered undignified.
Now we elect almost every office and few people can name their own city councilmember, let alone their school board members, Water District representatives or Open Space board members.
Recently, the County Office of Education replaced Rosemary Kamei who won the District 1 San Jose City Council race with former Councilmember Don Rocha. There was no hand wringing. They appointed a qualified person. No fuss, no muss, no waste of $10 million of taxpayer money.
Finally and this is a sincere plea: This gives the new mayor-elect a chance to unify the council. If he can work with a majority of people who opposed him in the recent election, if they are willing to work with him to find qualified candidates for these districts, if the process is open and transparent—maybe he can start to unite people instead of dividing them.
The task of governing is hard. Having a qualified candidate who is independent and is accepted by all sides of the governing political spectrum would be a huge advantage for moving San Jose forward. We have many such candidates in our city. People respected by all sides.
If the new mayor and council can come together on the appointment of council candidates and remove the rancor, distrust and political gamesmanship that will come with a fight over process and a further fight in a political campaign.
That would serve the city of San Jose well, would be a nod to the founders of our republic and the citizens of our city will thank you for the respite of not enduring yet another political campaign at their expense.
San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.