San Jose officials lambasted for honoring mayor’s opponent
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez receives a commendation for International Women's Day on March 7, 2023. San Jose Councilmembers Dev Davis, Pam Foley and Rosemary Kamei and Mayor Matt Mahan stand in the background. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    A move to honor Cindy Chavez for International Women’s Day is ruffling feathers at San Jose City Hall, with some saying it was politically motivated.

    Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmembers Dev Davis and Pam Foley gave a commendation to the Santa Clara County supervisor for her 20-plus years of public service at the San Jose City Council meeting on Tuesday. Chavez ran against Mayor Matt Mahan last year and is rumored to be eyeing another run in 2024.

    Several City Hall insiders, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the move is political—and to deny it is laughable.

    “There are so many community leaders that are deserving of recognition. Cindy’s been around forever, she’s received so much recognition for so many different things,” one source told San José Spotlight. “This sounds like a political maneuver for maybe a run for office.”

    Davis, who led the effort to honor Chavez, said the decision was not political. She’s one of 10 councilmembers who endorsed Chavez for mayor over Mahan last year.

    “It’s important for us to put politics aside outside of elections and work together on common issues between the city and the county, of which there are many,” Davis told San José Spotlight.

    Kamei also said politics was not a consideration. She thought Chavez would be a good choice because she has focused on women during her time as county supervisor—highlighting the annual women’s summit Chavez hosts. This year’s summit is April 29 at West Valley College.

    “I’ve known Cindy for a very, very long time. She’s done so much in our community,” Kamei told San José Spotlight. “She’s a mom, a mentor, she exemplifies what young women and girls look up to in terms of the accomplishments that she’s had.”

    Another City Hall insider from the 18th floor told San José Spotlight that Chavez’s commendation was the main topic of discussion on Tuesday.

    “Everybody’s phones were blowing up because it was such a juvenile move,” the source said.

    A third source inside City Hall said it’s interesting the women councilmembers chose to honor Chavez instead of Susan Ellenberg, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

    “If they wanted to highlight collaboration with the county, why not honor the woman president?” the source told San José Spotlight. “Cindy is worthy of recognition, but the reason why she was chosen I don’t think was for her public service alone.”

    At the meeting, Mahan thanked Chavez for her years as a former city councilmember and vice mayor, along with her years at the county as he handed her an honorary plaque. Mahan did not respond to a request for comment. Foley declined to comment.

    Chavez didn’t respond to requests for comment, but said at the meeting she’s honored to receive the commendation. She highlighted the women who came before her like Janet Gray Hayes, San Jose’s first female mayor, Suzanne Wilson, who served on the council and board of supervisors, and former Councilmember Shirley Lewis.

    “If you’re watching this, I’m asking you to think about running at a local level,” Chavez said at the meeting. “So much change has happened at a local level because women really have bound together and thought differently about public policy.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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