About MATT MAHAN
Matt Mahan ran for city council in 2020 because he knew it was time to give local government a “wake-up call.” Between a crisis of homelessness, crime, dirty streets and dysfunctional government, Matt knows we deserve better – and we can do better.
Matt comes from the business world where he founded and grew companies dedicated to empowering neighborhoods and communities and holding government accountable. Now, he’s running for Mayor of San Jose to give us a voice – and to make sure our city government is working for us.
Matt was raised by working-class parents: a school teacher and a letter carrier. He was taught to value hard work, the importance of education and the power of community. Growing up in Watsonville, Matt’s interest in local politics was sparked by his curiosity about the challenges of crime, unemployment and poor education that his hometown faced. He avidly read the local newspaper and when it came time for high school, he decided to make the long, often four hours a day commute to San Jose to attend Bellarmine College Prep, which offered him a full work-study scholarship as a low-income student. There, he was active in community service and student government, joined the wrestling team and worked on the grounds crew in the summers to pay for his education. Matt went on to Harvard where he was an honors student and student body president. He also co-led the first successful campaign to end the university’s investment in companies supporting the genocide in Darfur. This experience deepened his passion for civic engagement.
After graduating from Harvard, Matt spent a year in Bolivia building irrigation systems with family farmers to increase their economic opportunities. Matt returned to San Jose to teach middle school English and History in Alum Rock through the Teach for America program for two years. There, he worked long days, coaching the girls soccer team and keeping his classroom open after school as a safe space for his students to learn.
After teaching, Matt joined Causes, a startup and early Facebook app that enabled people to raise awareness and funds for their favorite nonprofits. Over the course of five years, Matt worked his way up from Director of Business Development to COO and eventually CEO. Causes ultimately grew to 190 million users in over 150 countries, and helped individuals fundraise over $50 million for nonprofits in the U.S. alone. In 2014, Matt co-founded Brigade along with a few colleagues. Brigade built the world’s first voter network: a nonpartisan platform for voters to discuss issues, advocate to their elected officials, and vote for candidates who reflect their values. In the 2016 and 2018 elections, Brigade reached millions of voters and empowered them with better information and tools. Brigade’s team and intellectual property were acquired in 2019 by Pinterest and Countable, respectively.
Matt has long been deeply involved in the community. He has served on a number of neighborhood and civic boards, including the City of San Jose’s Clean Energy Advisory Commission, the Almaden Valley Community Association, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the District 10 Leadership Coalition, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and San Jose Rotary. He was also a founding member of the Friends of Guadalupe Oak Grove Park and co-led the effort to save the 63 and 13 bus routes in Almaden Valley.
In 2018, Matt co-chaired the citywide Measure T campaign, which secured $650 million in funding for repaving our roads, building police and fire stations, upgrading our 911 communications infrastructure, and preserving the open space surrounding San José.
Matt ran for City Council in 2020 for District 10 with a focus on improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods by making City Hall responsive and accountable, especially for public safety, infrastructure and cleaning up our streets. Despite having two opponents, Matt won outright in the March primary election with nearly 60% of the vote.
Since his election, Matt has made good on his promises.
On homelessness, Matt put forth memos calling on the City and County to identify land for low-cost, safe and secure shelter for those living on our streets. He has outlined in detail how, with just 50 acres across the county and the amount of money we are already spending through Measure A, we could end street homelessness today. He has also advocated for requiring that people use shelter when it is provided. While fighting for sufficient shelter and common sense laws, Matt has proposed an interim solution to reduce the impact of encampments on the wider community: setbacks and services.
His plan asks the City to establish ‘setbacks,’ or areas where encampments would be prohibited, such as near schools, parks, creeks, and other sensitive public spaces. Alternatively, all encampments not in these areas would receive basic on-street ‘services’ including sanitation and trash pick-up. This approach should better manage the hundreds of encampments in our city as we work to build the shelter and services we need for a long-term solution. The Council chose Matt’s proposal as the number one new priority for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, but City Hall has been slow to implement it. Matt is running, in part, to see through his innovative and cost-effective strategies for ending street homelessness in San Jose.
Matt has also been a strong advocate for Laura’s Law, legislation that establishes court-ordered mental health care for severely mentally ill people, many of whom are unhoused. He led the push in May 2021 asking the County Board of Supervisors to adopt the law, organizing hundreds of residents to sign a petition, speak at the meeting, and attend his press conference. His work was successful, as the County passed Laura’s Law with a 5-0 vote and established a citizen oversight committee thanks to Matt’s efforts. More broadly, Matt believes that our County government needs to do much more to provide in-patient mental health and addiction treatment for those who are unable to care for themselves.
On fiscal issues, Matt has worked hard to overhaul City Hall’s budget and goal-setting process to align our government with achieving key results for San Joseans. In June 2021, Matt secured the City Council’s support in tying the funding of a department or project with the quality of service it provides to residents. This performance-based budgeting approach, while common in the business world, has not been implemented at City Hall. Matt is now working with the city’s budget department to bring real transparency and accountability to how our tax dollars are spent.
On housing, Matt was the first Councilmember to host a press conference opposing the proposal to eliminate single-family residential zoning in San Jose, or ‘Opportunity Housing,’ or the four-plex plan, a policy proposal that would allow developers to build four-plexes in all single-family neighborhoods in the city. But Matt didn’t just reject the four-plex plan. He put forward his Smart Growth San Jose alternative, which builds the housing we need in places where it makes sense: near transit, infrastructure, jobs and retail — not indiscriminately in the suburbs.
On government accountability, Matt has put a special emphasis on making government as accessible and open as possible. In his own office, he pioneered a ticket system to track all incoming constituent questions and requests, tracking internal response times and holding himself accountable for delivering responsive, productive customer service. He also launched the district’s first-ever State of the District event and continues to hold a biweekly town-hall meeting so residents have direct access to Matt to ask questions, share ideas and express their concerns.
Empowering the community to be active in their government, Matt and his office initiated a set of resident working groups on key issues such as street racing, mental health services, residential zoning, and others. This innovative approach connects residents concerned about the same issues to come together and, with his office’s support, pursue legislative solutions. District 10’s working groups have achieved major victories such as securing numerous new speed radar signs and a roundabout experiment in our most dangerous intersection, expanding dumpster days in the district, funding murals to combat frequently graffitied sites, fighting San Jose Water Company’s rate increases, and getting a pilot project for cleaner and quieter leaf blowers into the parks budget.
While Matt is proud of the work he and his team have done to represent the residents of District 10 in a short time, he has become acutely aware of the dysfunction at City Hall that prevents our biggest problems from being solved. Matt has decided to run for Mayor to force the Council and the bureaucracy to focus on the key problems facing our community, such as homelessness, trash, crime and traffic, and to pursue common sense solutions that are both affordable and effective.
Matt, and his wife Silvia, live in the West Santa Teresa Foothills neighborhood, where they are raising their two young children, Nina and Luke. They are members of Holy Spirit Church.