Suds Jain is a familiar face at Santa Clara City Hall, but now the retired engineer, high school robotics coach and city Planning Commissioner has filed paperwork to run for the City Council, with hopes of filling the District 5 seat vacated by Patricia Mahan in February.
Mahan resigned in February due to medical reasons. Jain unsuccessfully ran for the council seat in 2016, but he’s feeling hopeful this year because of Measure C, an imitative that divided the city into six districts and allows candidates to raise less money. He’s still figuring out how a pandemic-age campaign should be run, however, with COVID-19 closures and health orders still underway.
Jain said his five years on the commission – in addition to time on the Charter Review and Chief of Police Citizens’ Advisory committees – will lend nicely to a seat on the council, where policy decisions are made overseeing design plans, construction and land use.
“As a 20-year resident of the Old Quad, I’m deeply invested in the city and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Jain told San José Spotlight. “I feel that I have the experience, and being on planning commission, I know land use – the biggest decisions councilmembers make.”
If elected for the four-year term, he would also represent the Mission City’s downtown, where work is underway to transform the city’s lackluster core back to its former hustle and bustle in the 1960s, before it was demolished from failed attempts at urban renewal.
While living within 1,000 feet of the downtown renovation site, Jain pledged to push projects to improve the entire city, not simply his own district and neighborhood. He dispelled the idea that he’d practice pork barrel politics, especially since at least four councilmembers have to approve designs. Going one step further, he said he believes the city should push for a quality – and economically viable – downtown renovation that’s approved by the entire City Council.
Jain has already received an endorsement from Mahan and mapped out his priorities, including tackling climate change, improving education, bolstering fiscal responsibility and public safety. He said he’d bring creative problem-solving to the dais at City Hall, especially as tension often mounts at meetings because of two competing political factions.
“I’m disappointed with the vitriol and the hostility on council,” Jain said, “and I’d like to change the tone.”
But his candidacy doesn’t come without controversy. The District 5 seat for which he’s running was left vacant after Mahan’s resignation because the City Council in March failed to reach a consensus on who to appoint in a heated hour-long public meeting.
Councilmembers Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy voiced support for skipping applicant interviews and appointing Jain, saying he’s the best candidate and a short-term appointment would give an advantage on the November ballot.
This contention is proving to be a trend, as the councilmembers also failed to reach a four-fifth consensus twice on appointments for vacated elected positions, including the seats of former Councilmember Dominic Caserta and Police Chief Mike Sellers.
But Jain isn’t focusing on the controversy that hangs over the District 5 seat. Instead, he hopes to continue giving back to the community he’s called home the last 22 years.
“I think that I’ve been lucky; I’m an immigrant who came here when I was two, but I’ve had so many opportunities because of the United States,” Jain said. “That’s built on having good government, and we have to have good institutions to be able to have a good society.”