San Jose District 8 candidate wants to curb city vices
Surinder Kaur Dhaliwal is running for the District 8 San Jose City Council seat. Photo courtesy of Surinder Kaur Dhaliwal.

A neighborhood mom with a background in tech is hopping into the District 8 San Jose City Council race on a platform of fighting for the most vulnerable residents.

Candidate Surinder “Suri” Kaur Dhaliwal says she is being catapulted into this race by her deep-rooted faith in Sikhism and love for her community. District 8 represents neighborhoods including Evergreen, Silver Creek and the Lake Cunningham area. Dhaliwal, 48, moved into the Evergreen area as a teenager, graduating from Mount Pleasant High School and then Heald College with an accounting degree. She worked for tech giants such as Meta and Google before leaving last year to focus on her faith and family.

She is challenging incumbent District 8 Councilmember Domingo Candelas for his seat. Sukhdev Bainiwal, a former San Jose airport commissioner, and San Jose Police Department Sgt. Tam Troung are also running against Candelas.

“If nothing changes (or improves), it’s time for change,” Dhaliwal told San José Spotlight. “I’m hoping this will bring more of a voice to a lot of the parents that I’ve now created a network with (who) are going through a lot of the same things I’m going through as well.”

Dhaliwal’s life hasn’t been easy. She said she is still dealing with the ramifications of leaving an abusive marriage and is fighting to get her son back into her custody. But her struggles also inspire her to invest in her communities, she said, especially those facing similar hardships.

If elected, Dhaliwal said she wants to focus on public safety, curbing vices she claims is plaguing the city—like smoking and gambling—as well as addressing unsheltered homelessness. To do this, she wants to increase the number of temporary supportive housing sites and eventually move people into permanent housing.

When it comes to public safety, Dhaliwal said the police department needs to be reformed. She said she has seen officers violate laws they are hired to defend like speeding through city streets or running red lights, which makes residents like her feel unsafe.

“I’ve had several instances of police officers almost hitting my car going double the speed limit on Quimby Road and have reported those for internal investigation,” Dhaliwal said. “We need to weed out some of the officers that are supposed to be there protecting us, but they’re not.”

Dhaliwal said she also wants to restructure the rules around liquor and smoke shop licenses. She said not only would she like to decrease the number of smoke and liquor shops in San Jose, but also increase the distance between them and schools.

Smoke shops are under fire at City Hall because some councilmembers say they are hubs for illegal marijuana sales. Councilmember Peter Ortiz said he wants to implement a moratorium on smoke shop licenses—something Dhaliwal said she supports.

Dhaliwal also wants to carve out time to work with school leaders in Santa Clara County to curb vape and alcohol usage with the city’s youth.

“I want to also focus on is helping parents deal with their children who have a (video) gaming addiction,” Dhaliwal said.

Liz Chaboya, a retired physical education teacher and sixth generation San Josean, said she is supporting Dhaliwal because her honesty and candor on issues the city is facing is refreshing. Chaboya has known Dhaliwal from when she taught her as a freshman in high school.

“She’s a real honest person and she tells you how she feels and she doesn’t try and blow smoke anywhere,” Chaboya told San José Spotlight. “She’s forthright and does a lot of volunteer work. We need more of that (honesty) in council and government everywhere.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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