San Jose City Council to debate moving mayoral elections

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones on Tuesday will implore their City Council colleagues to make no changes to the mayoral election cycle and instead explore alternative ideas to increase voter turnout.

Liccardo previously told San José Spotlight that he wouldn’t support an initiative to align the mayoral election year with the presidential election due to the noise and distraction of national politics. Last year, Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco, Sergio Jimenez, Don Rocha and Jones – who has now flipped his position to align with the mayor – co-authored the initiative that would create a ballot measure to swap the election year.

To support the shift in mayoral elections, the councilors expressed concern over low voter turnout, citing data from the city that shows 13 percent more voters on average participated in the presidential general election from 1980 to 2018 than the gubernatorial general election.

“Infrequent voters – those who vote only (in) presidential elections – are disproportionately people of color, Iess educated and closer to the poverty line,” wrote Emma Greenman, the director of voting rights and democracy for the Center for Popular Democracy. “Supporting this amendment will help to maximize voter turnout and ensure that our democratic institutions are truly representative of the wide range of communities that make ours a remarkable city.”

But Liccardo and Jones said the change could come at a cost.

“Shifting the mayoral election date will likely increase voter turnout for the mayoral contest, but will do so at the cost of making orphans out of five council district races,” wrote Liccardo and Jones in their proposal. “Odd-numbered council districts in San José will be unfairly disadvantaged by remaining on the gubernatorial cycle, while a high profile mayor’s contest that would likely help voter turnout shifts two years away.”

To increase voter turnout across all elections, Liccardo and Jones propose creating a working group with community organizations, the County Registrar of Voters and city agencies like the Office of Immigrant Affairs to return to the council with a list of ideas in 120 days.

Liccardo and Jones listed 18 ideas that included identifying apps or other social media tools to deliver pro-voting messages, promoting voting by mail and developing a street banner program to remind residents to vote.

Just in time for the 2020 elections, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to roll out all-mail ballots and create vote voters instead of precinct polling.

But with Jones siding with the mayor and Rocha no longer in office, it appears proponents of the change might be outnumbered. Councilmember Maya Esparza joined Carrasco and Jimenez in support of placing the initiative on the 2020 ballot.

“While there are many methods to increase voter participation, including traditional voter outreach campaigns, these methods have proven less effective in non-presidential years,” Carrasco, Jimenez and Esparza wrote. “We need to meet people where they are, and the reality is that people are already more engaged during presidential elections.”

The group said the switch can happen by either extending Liccardo’s current mayoral term by two years or holding a special election for a two-year term. Carrasco, Jimenez and Esparza did not note which option they supported.

Councilmember Lan Diep encouraged his colleagues to make no change to the mayoral election cycle.

“People who care vote,” Diep wrote. “While there are certainly systemic barriers to voting in many parts of this country, those barriers have been greatly reduced in California. To the extent such barriers still exist in Santa Clara County, they exist equally in both midterm and presidential year elections.”

Diep, who was elected during a presidential election year, has previously referenced the noise of national politics that often muffles the conversation at the local level. In his proposal, he encouraged the city to help voters understand the role that local politics and elections play in their day-to-day lives.

Solar4American ice expansion

Sharks Ice is looking toward its fourth expansion of its Tenth Street ice rink, Solar4America Ice.

The complex, which is the second largest ice venue west of the Mississippi, serves as a recreational hub for everything from ice dancing to curling. It’s also the practice facility for the San Jose Sharks and its AHL team the San Jose Barracuda.

The City Council on Tuesday will vote to allow City Manager Dave Sykes to execute an agreement with Sharks Ice over the expansion.

When completed, the project will add about 200,800 square feet to the facility. The expansion is currently slated to include an additional community/practice rink and a competition rink for the San Jose Barracuda. The project will also require the demolition of the adjacent gun range.

The council is scheduled to vote on the finalized concept in August or September, with Sharks Ice planning to start construction by January 2020 and completing the expansion by the end of 2021.

Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Dev Davis and Esparza suggested, the city manager to come to an agreement for an arena ticket distribution program. The public-private partnership, which already operates via the San José Arena Authority, oversees the SAP Center, San Jose Municipal Stadium and the existing Solar4America Ice facility.

If approved, the arena ticket distribution program would include the expansion.

“The over 100,000 tickets that the SJAA has distributed for a variety of community purposes serve as a testament to the impact of the ticket distribution program,” Peralez, Davis and Esparza wrote. “In some instances, tickets are provided to individuals who otherwise would not have access to the entertainment.”

The City Council meets 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chamber at City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

Contact Grace Hase at grace@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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