San Jose planning commissioner is running for City Council
San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla is running for the District 5 seat on the City Council. Photo courtesy of Rolando Bonilla.

San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla isn’t a stranger to City Hall—he used to work on its 18th floor for years. This time around, Bonilla wants to have his own council office.

Bonilla filed papers Monday to run for the District 5 City Council seat, which covers East San Jose. He’s served on the Planning Commission since 2019 and was named commission chair in July. He plans to officially announce his campaign next week.

“I am absolutely the only candidate who understands that public safety must be a top priority for our community,” Bonilla told San José Spotlight. “I am the only candidate who has a track record when it comes to that and the only candidate who understands that this is about having convictions. This is about doing what’s right for our community and not what is politically expedient.”

Bonilla has tried to keep a high profile in recent months. In February, he opened a grant program to help East San Jose small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, he asked the City Council to spend millions in East San Jose for economic recovery. In April, he pressured the council to increase illegal dumping fees. He pushed to reopen the Mexican Heritage Plaza as a mass vaccination site in July, and in October he explored a parking permit plan for East San Jose.

Bonilla is the third candidate to join the race for the District 5 seat, after Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Peter Ortiz, who announced in June and former Councilmember Nora Campos, who held the seat from 2001 to 2010. Ortiz declined comment.

“It’s a crowded, extremely competitive field,” Terry Christensen, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University, told San José Spotlight. “(Bonilla’s) been making decisions that have been affecting the community, and in a way that should be helpful to him.”

Bonilla and Campos are former allies: Bonilla served as Campos’ communications director for three years while she sat on the council, and he has served in consulting capacities for Campos throughout her career.

“Rolando worked for me and I know that at the end of this campaign we will have a good working relationship,” Campos told San José Spotlight.

The incumbent councilmember for the district, Magdalena Carrasco, terms out next year. She was not immediately available for comment.

“There are businesses that are still without support from the city. That is unacceptable,” Bonilla said. “That is precisely what is wrong with how East San Jose is being treated by City Hall. We need someone who doesn’t see this job as an opportunity to become famous, but rather an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and do the work.”

The council primary is set for June 2022.

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

Editor’s Note: Rolando Bonilla is married to San José Spotlight board member Perla Rodriguez.

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