As fall approaches, campaign season in San Jose is beginning to heat up and Friday, the City Council candidates in two competitive races faced off in one of the first forums since the June primary.
In a repeat of the 2014 runoff, sitting Councilman Tam Nguyen will face Maya Esparza, who lost by only about 200 votes, for the District 7 seat west of downtown, while Pam Foley and Kalen Gallagher are both vying to replace outgoing Councilman Don Rocha in District 9 along the southwest edge of the city.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for voters is finding policy differences between the candidates, who agree about a number of major issues the city faces, including the need for affordable housing and the challenge of revitalizing the area around Diridon Station west of downtown without displacing current residents.
In the District 7 race, some differences are emerging around how to solve one of the city’s most persistent problems: homelessness.
At the forum hosted by the San Jose Downtown Association, Esparza touted her background working for “anchors of the community” like the Second Harvest Food Bank. She currently serves as director of the nonprofit Destination: Home’s campaign to end veteran homelessness and supports moving people into permanent supportive housing.
Nguyen, who arrived in the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee and forged a legal career before losing his license to practice law last year after failing to pay clients settlement money, twice said the district was full of “homeless and trash” and that some people are beyond being helped by permanent supportive housing. And while he’s not against such housing, Nguyen said, he’d also like to see what he dubbed “alternative” housing, including a possible sanctioned encampment in a specific area. (The infamous and now-disbanded Jungle encampment was in District 7.)
In the District 9 race, Gallagher, a mid-30s former middle school teacher, and Foley, a longtime small business owner, also broadly agreed on most issues, including building housing for formerly homeless people and the need to address property crime — package thefts and break-ins — in their district.
But the two, who both serve on school boards, differed somewhat in their views of how the build out of the Diridon area — expected to host a massive Google project — should move forward.
Gallagher, who left teaching to become one of the first employees at the education tech startup ClassDojo, said city leaders need to be aware of ever-evolving new technology as plans for the Diridon area move forward. How will something like Hyperloop, an idea initially conceived by Tesla’s Elon Musk to move people at quick speeds using pressurized capsules that increasingly appears plausible, or flying cars affect those plans, Gallagher asked.
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Source:: The Mercury News – Politics