By Matt Mahan
With the pivotal vote for San Jose Mayor just days away, Supervisor Cindy Chavez and I have finally found one point of agreement – this race boils down to who has the right kind of experience to get San Jose back on the right track.
She says her nearly 20 years in office as an elected official is the right experience for this moment. I say we need someone with the experience of making change and creating accountability so we have real hope for more common sense at City Hall.
Chavez is the architect of many of our city and county’s key policies on crime, homelessness, housing and government accountability. The problem is those policies are failing. They don’t need to be defended; they need to be changed.
On crime, Chavez still supports the dangerous policy she helped implement at the County Jail, which allows even serious and violent offenders to be released again and again even when they violate the terms of their release again and again.
On homelessness, Chavez drags her feet on requiring those who are a danger to themselves and others to be in treatment while she touts a housing policy that is now spending taxpayer funds to build units at nearly $1 million per door as a solution – with no requirement homeless residents use shelter even when it is available.
On accountability, Chavez defends her decision to use $76 million in Covid relief funds for bonuses for top staff, including those making over $200,000 per year while working from home. She won’t apologize for spending $4.5 million on valet parking for her own staff while San Jose residents struggle to fill their gas tanks. Or for spending over $1 million on a book celebrating the accomplishments of the County, written by a political ally and later found to be partly plagiarized.
Chavez has worked to distract attention from these actual failures by launching one of the most negative campaigns this city has ever seen – marked by a reliance on a series of simply false assertions. The campaign has been so untruthful that one of America’s leading experts on campaign finance reform recently wrote an article titled “When Will Cindy Chavez Tell the Truth?”
We are largely still waiting for that.
But we don’t need to wait any longer for change at City Hall.
Our campaign has organized an extraordinary grassroots network of over 40,000 San Jose residents who think we need to demand accountability – starting at the top. Our campaign proposes a City Hall that sets goals and programs its budget around vital priorities like lowering crime, ending street homelessness, cleaning our streets and creating new housing where it makes sense, not where it will make congestion worse. We are fighting for basic accountability – starting with ending the automatic raises politicians and department heads get now, even when they are failing to deliver the results we need. We propose tying future raises to measurable progress – only a radical idea to those who think good intentions are sufficient.
I launched my career as a public school teacher in East Side San José. I tracked the progress of my students and was held accountable for results. I helped grow a software company that empowered millions of people to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for charities – and we tracked our progress and held ourselves accountable. I founded a company that built tools millions of citizens used to discuss and debate issues and keep their elected officials accountable.
Accountability works and the truth is that there is real hope for a city that gets back to basics and moves the needle on our biggest challenges. It just takes the right kind of experience.
Editor’s Note: An op-ed invitation was sent last month to both candidates for Mayor of San Jose.
This article originally appeared in San Jose Inside