The pursuit to find who will fill two San Jose City Council vacancies is on, and time is short.
Councilmembers are tasked with appointing two people to fill the Districts 8 and 10 seats by the end of January. Applications for the seats will open this week, and those appointed will serve until the end of 2024.
The seats are opening because District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas won her election for county supervisor and District 10 Councilmember Matt Mahan was elected mayor. They will start their new terms in January. In a fiery debate Monday, the city council narrowly voted just before midnight to fill those seats through an appointment process rather than a special election. A council with four new members will ultimately decide who fills Mahan and Arenas’ seats.
Applications will be open for three weeks, with a tentative deadline of Jan. 2. Councilmembers will then hold a special meeting before the end of January to interview qualified candidates, and by a two-thirds vote the winners will be appointed.
The applications will be similar to how residents apply for seats on the San Jose Planning Commission. Questions include an explanation of their interest, qualifications, what they believe are the biggest challenges the city and their respective district face and whether they plan to run for the open seat in 2024.
Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, who co-wrote the process with Councilmembers Dev Davis and Arenas, said while the turnaround is quick, he anticipates it will work. He also believes it’s still an avenue for residents to be heard.
“The process, even though it may not be exactly what (those in support of special elections) desire, doesn’t preclude them from lifting up a particular person or continuing to lobby the new councilmembers that are coming in or the existing councilmembers like myself,” Jimenez told San José Spotlight. “I’m going to be helping make sure that their voices are heard.”
Mayor-elect Mahan was a major proponent of special elections. Before the Monday vote, Mahan said he worried January will be too soon to find a replacement. He hopes to make residents central to the appointment process.
“It needs to be a pretty robust interview process and frankly, I think that we should have as much public scrutiny on it as possible,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “(Appointing someone) just feels really wrong to me, but we’ll make it as open and democratic as we can within the confines of the process.”
City Clerk Toni Taber said she anticipates the application will go live on Thursday. Once live, the application can be found on the city clerk’s homepage. Taber hopes to make the names of applicants public so residents can participate in the vetting process, but needs to confirm if that’s permissible with the city attorney.
“I’d like to treat it like a nomination period and publish the list every day, but I need to make sure there is no issue with that,” Taber told San José Spotlight.
So far, two residents have told San José Spotlight they are interested in applying for the vacant seats. Kalvin Gill, who sits on the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, previously said he’s eyeing a District 8 appointment. Maylyne Ho, an insurance agent at Farmers Insurance, has expressed interest in the District 10 seat.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana Kadah on Twitter.