Two events prompted Teresa Alvarado to run for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. One was the retirement of her mother, Blanca Alvarado, the first Latina elected to serve as a San Jose City Council member and later as a county supervisor. The other was Barack Obama’s candidacy. Looking back, Alvarado says she saw a new, more pragmatic political model emerging. “I felt like it was time for our generation to step up,” she says.
We are supporting Alvarado because she is independent of special interests—her opponents are backed by either organized labor or the Chamber of Commerce while Alvarado is not—and she is the least likely to support environmentally unsound development strategies in South County.
Though she has never held an elected office, Alvarado has been around community politics most of her life. Her academic background is in environmental technology, with a BA from San Jose State and a master’s from Tufts. She studied at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has worked for years in the private sector—first at NASA/Ames Research Center and more recently with PG&E’s “Solar Schools” program, then served as director of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley and as an outside member of the San Jose Mercury News’ editorial board.
As promised, her campaign focuses on practical issues, with an innovative twist. In addition to bringing a hard-headed approach to basic county safety-net services, Alvarado proposes tapping federal stimulus funds to pay for a green-retrofitting of county properties.
As a three-year member of the San Jose General Plan Task Force, she vows that the long-held developers’ dream of developing turning Coyote Valley into a minicity is finally dead.
Alvarado’s leading Democratic opponent, Forrest Williams, now agrees with her about Coyote Valley. But that is a new position for the former San Jose City Council member. When he served on the council, Williams was an enthusiastic supporter of the plan to blanket the pristine valley with homes. Trading the region’s environmental quality for short-term union jobs is unsound public policy.
The third leading candidate, former Los Gatos Mayor Mike Wasserman, built his campaign around the issue of fiscal discipline. As a moderate Republican and a professional financial planner, that is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that given the historical moment we’re in, his message resonates.
Wasserman declines to say exactly where he plans to make cuts to balance the county’s budget—few candidates for any office would take such a risk. But we found it telling that, when pressed, the only specifics he offered as an example were three women’s shelters, which he suggested might be consolidated. Wasserman’s a heckuva nice guy, but we found that suggestion a rather cruel place to start the cuts.
Two South County long-shot candidates fill out the ballot: Gilroy winemaker Tom Kruse (who could have won on name recognition but for the spelling problem) and Dr. Peter Arellano, a family care physician at Kaiser Permanente and a Gilroy City Council member.
We were especially impressed with Arellano. He makes a compelling case that, since half the $4 billion county budget is gobbled up by Valley Medical Center, a practicing physician who cut his teeth administrating free clinics in L.A. is a good choice for the job.
But despite his sincere, homegrown-boy’s desire to help struggling Gilroy youth, a vote for the dark horse in a close race like this is a vote for Forrest Williams. The eventual winner would do well to keep Arellano’s number close by, however, as the county tries to trim VMC’s fat.
We hope that winner is Teresa Alvarado, and we recommend her strongly.