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San Jose Spotlight: Matt Mahan would bring a data-driven approach to San Jose City Hall

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Matt Mahan says he’s knocked on more than 7,500 doors and hosted more than 500 people at house parties in supporters’ homes since his San Jose City Council campaign launched last spring.

While working to win the open District 10 seat Councilmember Johnny Khamis will be vacating at the end of the year, Mahan said he’s hearing the same frustration from residents – not knowing how tax dollars are spent, never seeing police patrols and wondering when infrastructure repairs will happen.

Mahan said he would look to increase performance standards in all city departments to tackle these challenges. He says reviewing key performance indicators – such as rates of permit application decisions and building inspection wait times would help bolster City Hall’s reputation and responsibility as a whole.

“I think it matters because if we do that and we’re radically more transparent with the public about where we’re spending their dollars and how we’re performing as a city,” Mahan said, “I think we’ll start to rebuild trust – even if the performance isn’t very good.”

That direct connection with the public is why Chuck Reed, a former Mayor of San Jose, endorsed his campaign.

“At the council level, it’s really important for the candidate to get out and meet people, especially somebody who has never run for public office before,” Reed said, noting that he knocked on more than 8,500 when he was running campaigns. “I think Matt’s the kind of guy who will stay connected to the district and focus on the problems that face San Jose.”

Council priorities

Mahan said he would use this data-driven approach to make decisions at City Council, if he gets elected.

While a registered Democrat, he said he considers himself as more of a pragmatist in how he approaches issues. Mahan said he’d rather look at the facts and data of a situation instead of relying on emotion that’s seen on the current council – often perpetuated by the business and labor divide, which he doesn’t think is beneficial for the community.

“I worry that our politics in general is falling into this tribalistic, ideologically driven rhetoric that isn’t willing to acknowledge that the ‘other side’ might have a point,” he said. “Let’s try to be a little dispassionate and take a little bit of emotion out of it. We are where we are, and without blaming somebody and starting from a position of attacking, let’s say, ‘What’s the best way we can go forward from here?’ and try to bring people together.”

Community representation

Some of the most common concerns from residents have become his priorities: public safety, roads and homelessness. When it comes to homelessness, he shares the common interest of building accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny units,” and creating sanctioned encampments.

For the working poor, he said the area cannot continue to add jobs without adding housing. But in addition to simply adding to the housing stock, Mahan also said long-term mental health facilities could help the small homeless population with severe mental health problems.

“I don’t buy the civil liberties argument that it’s more humane to just let people die in the streets,” he said. “Sometimes, we’ve got to intervene.”

But Mahan said balancing the needs of the entire community will happen when San Jose manages its economic growth effectively, without demonizing those economic drivers that created Silicon Valley.

“You can’t have that kind of dynamism and growth without an equal amount of innovation and investment on the other side,” Mahan said, pointing to low rates of investment in housing and infrastructure. “We need to be honest with the public about what it’s going to take to scale up our region.”

Mahan faces contenders Jenny Higgins Bradanini and Helen Wang in the March 3 primary election. Look for their candidate profiles soon.

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

Name: Matt Mahan
Age: 37
Family: Wife Silvia and two children, a 2-year old and a 10-week-old
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: B.A., Harvard University
Profession: Tech entrepreneur, former public school teacher
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: District 10 Leadership Coalition, San Jose’s Clean Energy Community Advisory Commission and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Board of Directors
Top 3 priorities: Public safety, roads and homelessness
Top 3 endorsements: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former Federal Elections Commissioner Ann Ravel
Special talent: Matt likes to garden
In one sentence, why vote for you? “I think I’ll work harder to serve the community and connect with every member of the community.”

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