“Mahan stands head and shoulders above his opponents. He is the only candidate advocating for greater accountability at City Hall on the high-priority issues of homelessness, affordable housing and public safety. “
By: Mercury News Editorial Board
Matt Mahan is the best choice for mayor of San Jose.
In a field of seven candidates vying to succeed Sam Liccardo, Mahan is the one who would bring creativity, accountability and fiscal responsibility to the city’s top elected job.
San Jose has for decades served as a bedroom community to its Bay Area neighbors, leaving it with the lowest jobs-to-housing ratio of any major city in the nation. City leaders must make do with lower revenues, magnifying the need for prudent management and smart investments.
This is where Mahan stands head and shoulders above his opponents. He is the only candidate advocating for greater accountability at City Hall on the high-priority issues of homelessness, affordable housing and public safety. He’s also bright, a good listener and willing to compromise on issues.
Liccardo deserves credit for some major successes during his two terms in office. He forged a compromise on challenging pension issues that threatened city services, led the effort to bring Google and BART to downtown and was tireless in helping San Jose cope with the pandemic, balancing safety with the need to keep the city running. But Liccardo admits that homelessness is the city’s greatest failing of his tenure as mayor.
Mahan is right when he says what we’re doing now isn’t scaling to the scope of the problem. Yes, providing permanent housing for the homeless is the most-effective way of keeping them off the streets. Housing built with Santa Clara County’s Measure A has helped keep formerly homeless residents permanently housed. But there are more homeless residents in San Jose today than in 2016, when voters passed the $950 million bond.
Mahan advocates rapidly building low-cost units with corresponding services as a short-term solution while looking for ways to substantially reduce the costs of producing long-term, permanent housing for the homeless.
“I want us to be more pragmatic,” Mahan says. “I’m willing to sit down, listen and seek compromises to find a way to make progress on an issue that is critical for everyone in San Jose.”
Mahan grew up in Watsonville, the son of a school teacher and a letter carrier. He graduated from San Jose’s Bellarmine Prep and went to Harvard University, where he was elected student body president. He spent a year in Bolivia helping farmers build irrigation systems before returning to San Jose to teach English and history in the Alum Rock School District through the Teach for America program.
Before winning a council seat in 2020, he was the co-founder and CEO of Brigade, a technology company that provided tools to promote civic engagement, political transparency and government accountability.
The other candidates in the race include Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez, San Jose City Councilwoman Dev Davis, retired San Jose police officer Jim Spence and students Travis Hill and Marshall Woodmansee.
Chavez has far greater name recognition than any other candidate in the race, had the early lead in polling and is likely to make the runoff in November. She is smart, tireless and passionate about her political causes.
But Chavez isn’t just beholden to labor. She is labor and everything it stands for. She was a driving force for labor issues on the City Council from 1999-2007, during former Mayor Ron Gonzalez’ tenure as mayor. After losing to Chuck Reed in the 2006 mayor race, she ran both the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships, a social change organization founded by labor and community groups. Her ongoing fight for fair wages and working conditions is laudable. But her fealty to labor raises the question of whether her leadership would cause a return of the days when San Jose’s unfunded pension liabilities led to major budget deficits that forced the city to reduce its police force by hundreds, and severely cut library hours and parks maintenance work.
Peralez and Davis are the other two serious candidates in the race. Peralez, a former police officer, is also backed by labor and is positioning himself as more progressive than Chavez. Davis has support from business, but has failed to show leadership on the council.
Spence is running on a get-tough-on-crime and anti-pandemic-mandate platform. Neither he nor Hill and Woodmansee have the financial or political support to compete in the race.
Mahan has the heart and intelligence to be an effective San Jose mayor. We recommend him to voters in the June 7 election.