Milpitas Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez will hold onto her title for now.
Last month, Mayor Rich Tran proposed cutting Dominguez’s stint as vice mayor from two years to one in an effort to promote “shared leadership” and give City Council members Anthony Phan and Bob Nuñez a shot as second-in-command. But the idea was nixed at Tuesday’s meeting when the council voted 4-1 to bring the issue back in January and examine the role of the mayor and vice mayor before making any changes.
Phan cast the dissenting vote.
Tran first suggested the idea at the council’s Nov. 19 meeting. Blindsided by the proposal, Dominguez took to Facebook later that evening, accusing Tran of sexism and bullying.
On Tuesday night, Dominguez’s supporters turned out to defend her, armed with signs, critiques of Tran and sharp words about the increasingly divisive nature of Milpitas politics. Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP, even likened Tran to President Donald Trump. Then Dominguez got her chance to speak, she made her message clear: that Milpitas needs “civility.”
“We have to communicate,” Dominguez said from the dais. “But it’s very hard to communicate with someone that’s silent … It is very hard to communicate when someone doesn’t even acknowledge your presence.”
She also rebuked Tran for being unable to look her in the eyes during the discussion. The mayor seemed visibly uncomfortable during the spiel as his eyes darted back and forth.
Tran addressed the previous evening's discourse and Moore's comparison of him to Trump in an interview the following afternoon.
“It’s really important in Milpitas and any local municipality to focus on the community,” he said. “For folks to bring in what’s spinning in the national media ... into our little town is not something that makes sense.”
Tran also emphasized that the decision to re-examine the vice mayor’s term wasn’t his alone—it won support from the entire council. Even Dominguez voted to explore the idea when it initially came up in late November.
“I don’t have executive power, I don’t have veto power we’re all one vote,” he said. “The whole proposal was what I felt was a desire to look at shared leadership for the vice mayor position.”
Dominguez was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, but addressed Milpitas residents in a Facebook post the night before.
“Tonight was an empowerment of the people’s voice and an affirmation of the need for community input,” she wrote. “I appreciate my colleagues for addressing this issue in a serious manner, and putting together a request for more information and polling in order to make good decisions for Milpitas.”
Phan, who voted against the proposal after two hours of debate, told San Jose Inside that he felt the decision was rushed. “I was hearing a community survey, I was hearing thoughts about some sort of task force, I was hearing a primary for the mayoral election, but at the same time I was also hearing rotating the mayoral position,” he said. “It wasn’t definitive what was trying to be accomplished.”
On Tuesday night, Phan tired to make a point that “Vice Mayor" is simply an honorific and doesn’t necessarily define someone’s leadership abilities. But some members of the audience reacted negatively and started shouting at him, even though he had yet to express how he would vote on the issue.
“The title itself doesn’t change who Karina is, that she is a strong leader and that’s why all of them support her,” he said. “I think that there were so many emotions there that that point might have been missed. A lot of the things that I was saying, it was supposed to bring comfort to Karina no matter how the vote went.”