The San Jose City Council tonight appointed Arjun Batra, a retired Silicon Valley manager, to the vacant District 10 council seat on the third ballot at 7:15pm.
The vote came after about 90 minutes of interviews, one hour of public comments and a last round of questions, with no public discussion on the merits of six finalists who had been picked by the council last week from 24 initial applicants.
Batra led on all three ballots during the council selection process, which required a two-thirds majority to win.
On the final ballot, he secured the necessary two-thirds majority from Mayor Matt Mahan and Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, David Cohen, Dev Davis, Bien Doan and Pam Foley. Runner-up Wendi Mahaney-Gurahoo, vice president of the San Jose Unified School District, was supported by Councilmembers Rosemary Kamei, Omar Torres and Peter Ortiz.
After a first round of voting at 6:45pm, with each council member voting for up to three applicants, Batra, George Casey and Mahaney-Gurahoo were tapped for a second round.
“It’s clear to me that these are the right six people for this district,” said Cohen after the interviews and before the vote, adding he hoped that all unsuccessful applicants would consider running for election to the post in 2024.
Batra, a retired manager from Intel, IBM and Dow Chemical, served on former Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Smart City advisory board, and is on the Community Advisory Committee. He advocated better use fo technology in his comments tonight.
In his presentation, he told councilmembers he had the broadest experience in the private and public sectors. “I have an inside view of what we need to do,” he said.
He said homelessness was the biggest challenge facing the city. "Housing is THE challenge for San Jose for this century," Batra told the council.
“Collaborate” was the word of the day, as both applicants and their public supporters said the new Southwest San Jose district representative should be able to work to bridge divisions in the council and the city as a whole.
In addition to Batra, the other applicants were retired Superior Court Judge Ron Del Pozzo, lawyer and city Planning Commission member George Casey, former Oak Grove School District trustee and former San Jose City Clerk Dennis Hawkins and David Heindel, former city employee and owner of Hotworx in San Jose.
In the wake of what one council member called a “contentious” process on Tuesday that selected a new District 8 council member, the council’s first order of business today after a 3:05pm start was to endorse new interview procedures.
The council unanimously approved a “round-robin” approach, with all council members asking one question of all applicants, who would rotate their positions.
Today, all six applicants were in the council chambers at the same time. On Tuesday, the five applicants were sequestered until each had answered different questions from the city council.
“After the appointment process for District 8, we have learned that asking all of the applicants questions in a rotating style is the best way to ensure fairness and transparency during the interviews,” said Councilmember David Cohen in a memo proposing the change in procedure.
Also City Clerk Toni Taber asked each applicant to “turn over their electronics to us,” in light of allegations – unproven – on Tuesday that some candidates were getting messages about questions in advance.
The Jan. 24 meeting had been interrupted at 7pm after nearly three hours by “an urgent adjournment to a closed session” to discuss the allegations of possible interference.
The city council appointed Domingo Candelas to the vacant District 8 council seat on the third ballot after a six hour meeting. Candelas, 33, is local government affairs director for Stanford University. He is a former staffer for former State Sen. James Beall and also worked at Valley Water.
The District 10 vacancy was created when its council member, Matt Mahan was elected mayor in November. The District 8 vacancy was created when former District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas was elected Santa Clara County supervisor in November.
The new councilmembers will take private oaths to make sure they are sworn into service before 12:01am Jan. 30, and public oaths will be on the agenda of the Jan. 31 council meeting.
All new council members – elected and appointed – are being fingerprinted this week, Taber said, but the results might not be available until after they are sworn in.
In the interviews today and in closing statements by the applicants, crime, affordable housing, homelessness and city services were the top issues, all similar themes raised at the Jan. 24 interviews.
Affordable housing, homelessness, public safety and traffic issues were the leading topics mentioned by all applicants in the Jan. 24 interview.