Suds Jain targets traffic, pollution, housing in bid for Santa Clara City Council
Santa Clara City Council candidate Suds Jain takes a stroll through a local farmers market. Courtesy Suds Jain.

The planet’s changing climate disturbs Suds Jain so much, he says, that more than a decade ago he retired so he could have more time to fight it.

A former electrical engineer, Jain is seeking election to Santa Clara City Council’s District 5 seat, competing against retired CHP lieutenant Robert “Bob” O’Keefe.

Jain has been an active member in Santa Clara politics, having run for the same seat unsuccessfully in 2016. He serves on the Planning Commission and most recently on the city’s charter review committee.

Jain said he is focused on reducing traffic and the pollution it causes within Santa Clara, as well as affordable housing. One of his main priorities now, he said, is helping the city recover from its budget deficit, including $10 million for the remainder of this year and about $23 million next year.

Background

Born in Delhi, India, Jain, whose first name is Sudhanshu, moved with his parents to Davis in 1963 when he was two years old. He called Davis home until going to college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That’s where he earned his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering, as well as the nickname Suds.

Suds Jain, candidate for Santa Clara City Council’s District 5 seat. Courtesy Suds Jain.

In 1999, he moved with his wife, Lori, to the Wilson House on Santa Clara’s Old Quad, across from Santa Clara University. His proximity to city’s downtown district is what disqualifies him from advocating or voting for development if he should be elected.

While Jain said he is disappointed he won’t get a vote on the issue, he doesn’t think that it should keep the downtown project from taking shape.

“The downtown project is going to take a lot of city resources and the project should be good enough to get a unanimous vote of the council,” said Jain, regardless of his recusal.

Jain retired as an electrical engineer in 2009, freeing up time to volunteer and tackle climate change. He joined the Planning Commission in 2015 and helped support the Measure A affordable housing bond in 2016.

By creating more affordable housing in Santa Clara, Jain said, fewer workers would have to commute from outside the city to work there. Fewer cars on the road would reduce vehicle emissions.

“In the old days, a plastics factory could set up and dump all their toxic waste into your river. And the justification was its bringing jobs and money to our community so we have to let them do this,” Jain said. “Then we had the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act say ‘This isn’t acceptable.’ I see traffic as a form of pollution.” Not only do emissions contribute to climate change, he said, they impact air quality and thus the overall quality of life.

It’s like robotics

District 3 Councilmember Karen Hardy has known Jain from serving on the Planning Commission together, as well as from their time founding and coaching Wilcox High School’s robotics team for the past several years.

She said she knows Jain will face a new challenge if elected: Helping the city recover from COVID-19 and its harsh impact on small businesses. She says the two are both fiscally conservative as well as resourceful, which she thinks the city needs.

“The reality is, you have to be able to put the time in and work with people,” Hardy said. “You have to figure out ways to get what we want to have happen and how we can make it happen. It’s the same thing with robotics.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all of Wilcox’s extracurricular activities, Jain and Hardy tried to find a way to keep the group going.

“Some groups just gave up,” Hardy said. “Suds, true to form, he looked at me, we looked at each other, and said ‘We’ll figure it out.'”

Since then, the robotics team has begun building again, and its one of the only activities on the high school’s campus allowed to continue. Students work on all of their projects outside, distanced, with masks and shield on. For competitions, instead of traveling, they’ll film their robots doing tasks and submit those to judges instead.

“Suds looks at things with the perspective of ‘What are the limitations? What are the boundaries? Let’s make this work,'” Hardy said. “He has that attitude of ‘What do we need to do to make it happen?'”

According to campaign finance reports, Jain raised $24,700 and spent $7,117 this year until Sept. 19.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

AT A GLANCE

Name: Suds Jain
Age:  58
Family:  Married, one child 21 years old
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education:  BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from MIT
Profession: Retired
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: Santa Clara Planning Commission (5 years), Santa Clara Charter Review Committee (2019)
Top 3 priorities: Financial health, affordable housing, traffic
Top 3 endorsements: Mike Honda, Patricia Mahan, Karen Hardy
Special talent:  U.C. Certified Master Gardener
In one sentence, why vote for you?: I have years of relevant experience serving Santa Clara in leadership roles, a track record of serving our community.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese.

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