San Jose councilmember raises concern with survey
Councilmember Matt Mahan speaks about his Smart Growth San Jose Plan on Aug. 4. File photo by Lloyd Alaban.

National Night Out was one of the first opportunities for San Jose councilmembers to meet voters face-to-face since the pandemic started. But for one lawmaker, it might have been time to get a leg up on his mayoral aspirations.

District 10 Councilmember Matt Mahan used some of his office employees to hand out flyers across the city, including at a National Night Out event in District 3 represented by mayoral candidate and Councilmember Raul Peralez.

The flyers, which bore Mahan’s name and official title, asked people outside his district to fill out a confidential survey sharing concerns with quality-of-life and neighborhood issues. Mahan, who is flirting with the idea of running for mayor, claimed the effort was part of his work to recruit new neighborhoods commissioners. He is the liaison to the commission.

Commissioners are typically appointed by their respective neighborhood groups, but the council began appointing them during COVID-19. Neither the survey nor the flyer mentioned the recruitment process for the commission — raising questions about whether Mahan was using the platform to gather input and emails for a mayoral run.

“It doesn’t really fit together well if that’s the complete story,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “Eyebrows are raised to think there may be something else going on here.”

It all started when Peralez encountered three of Mahan’s employees, including chief of staff Matthew Quevedo, passing out the flyers at his event in the Roosevelt neighborhood. When Peralez approached them, the group said they were there on behalf of Mahan—an unusual claim considering the group was miles away from Mahan’s district.

San José Spotlight obtained a flyer distributed by Mahan’s staff.

“I immediately thought that was odd because councilmembers don’t recruit for the Neighborhoods Commission. It’s the only commission in the city where you have to be nominated by neighborhood leaders,” Peralez said. “And even if he was recruiting for the Neighborhoods Commission, why would he be recruiting in downtown?”

Unlike other city commissions where the council has direct control over who lands each seat, the Neighborhoods Commission’s members are nominated by residents involved in neighborhood associations across all council districts.

Quevedo lives in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood in District 3, and Mahan confirmed to San José Spotlight that he did send his office workers to the event.

Mahan insisted the flyers aren’t for any campaign. Instead, the freshman councilman said he was concerned that the commission had so many empty seats, and his flyers were meant to recruit residents to serve on the commission.

“The survey is exclusively related to the Neighborhoods Commission,” Mahan said. “The Neighborhood Commission was concerned they were not going to be able to meet because of a quorum concern a couple of months ago.”

According to the commission’s latest agenda, the body has 20 seats—two from each council district—with five seats currently vacant. The Neighborhoods Commission makes recommendations on policy concerning neighborhoods and neighborhood safety.

“If a staff member of mine who lives in another part of the city makes contact with another community member in another district, I’ll make an introduction to their council office if they want to learn more about the Neighborhoods Commission,” Mahan said. “We do often do things that cross district boundaries.”

The commission’s chair, Jim Carter, told San José Spotlight that it had some legitimate concerns filling some of its seats and getting business done due to a lack of quorum.

“Councilmember Mahan has been very proactive in recruiting, which I really do appreciate,” Carter said.

Mahan denied mixing any campaigning with city business, and said he printed the flyers at home with his own printer—and noted that at the bottom of the flyer. He also said he consulted with the city attorney’s office before handing the flyers out. Mahan promises any information gathered in the survey will stay in his office.

Mahan told San José Spotlight he hasn’t ruled out a run for mayor. If he runs, he’d be the second business-aligned candidate, offering an alternative to Councilmember Dev Davis who kicked off her campaign last week. The councilman could have big support from some of the business sector’s heaviest hitters, including Mayor Sam Liccardo who has declined to endorse Davis and is reportedly holding his breath for a Mahan announcement.

Peralez has already snagged endorsements from downtown business owners and labor leaders, including four of his council colleagues.

Peralez would not say whether he’ll bring the issue with the flyers to the city’s ethics commission, but said he’ll get in touch with Mahan’s office as a first step.

“Even just on a basic level … it’s still a bit disrespectful to go into your colleague’s district and pretend to be recruiting for a commission like this,” Peralez said.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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