The number of high-powered women in elected office in Santa Clara County has seriously diminished in what once was the Feminist Capital of the World. This dearth of women holding office has led to a decline in the quality of our policies and the ability to provide consensus that leads to progress.
The next Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be all male. Liz Kniss, the sole remaining female voice, will be replaced by Senator Joe Simitian. In San Jose, Nancy Pyle also leaves due to term limits, and the only choices to replace her are two men following the primaries. This leaves only Rose Herrera and Madison Nguyen.
In a valley that elected the first woman mayor in a major American city: Janet Gray Hayes; a city that once had women majorities on both the Board of Supervisors and the San Jose City Council, the fall in numbers is quite dramatic.
Moreover, strong women like Susan Hammer, Dianne McKenna, Blanca Alvarado, Becky Morgan, Shirley Lewis and my personal favorite, Susie Wilson, have all vanished from electoral politics. Ms. Wilson was especially effective working behind the scenes to build consensus.
The untold story of our times is how these women helped build Silicon Valley, acquiring a consensus in troubled times. They checked their egos at the door and simply provided good public policy, worked across partisan lines and provided real solutions.
Today’s testosterone-driven policies have seen our institutions divided and our policy driven by ego more than rational approaches. Measure B is the poster-child issue for our times; an issue based on a clash of personalities, destined for court and a probable defeat. It’s an unfulfilling legacy destined to the trash-heap of history. One cannot imagine a governing body Susie Wilson was a part of being so publically dysfunctional.
So where is the hope? When will Teresa Alvarado get her chance to lead? When will Darcie Green, Pam Foley, Dolly Sandoval, and other strong individuals get to serve on the state, county and city level?
We need their participation sooner rather than later. Until that time, we’ll simply have to continue relying on Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Sheriff Laurie Smith to represent what was once the Feminist Capital of the World.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley. He has worked on past campaigns for Sheriff Laurie Smith and Darcie Green.