With today's swearing in of the two new San Jose City Council members appointed last week, all 11 chairs are now filled.
It remains to be seen whether new Mayor Matt Mahan can find a majority to support his plans. The six new faces, plus new alignments of council districts with the 2020 census, add a measure of mystery to the council alignment.
Add to this the city’s shifting demographics, a continuing citywide affordable housing shortage, endemic homelessness, a looming budget deficit and the reality of five council elections – plus another mayoral ballot – in just two years, and the uncertainties stack up.
There are some new realities on the City Council.
- There are fewer women. Just three of 11 votes, compared to five on the last council: Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmembers Dev Davis and Pam Foley
- The council more accurately reflects the city’s ethnic diversity. In a city that the 2020 census reported as 38% White, 38% Asian/Pacific Islander and 31% Latino, there are now four White votes, four Latino votes and three Asian council members. This compares to five White, five Latino and 1 Black on the last council.
- Three council members are former local school board trustees: Foley, Peter Ortiz and David Cohen. Another, Omar Torres, is a former trustee of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District.
- Former city fire captain Bien Doan is on the new council; former city police officer Raul Peralez termed out last fall.
- Six council members had the endorsement and/or financial support of the powerful AFL-CIO South Bay Labor Council, a key base of support for two-time unsuccessful mayoral candidate County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who has not ruled out a return battle with Mahan in 2024.
- For the first time in three decades, two of the council members were appointed by the council, rather than elected in a public ballot. Domingo Candelas won on the 7-2 vote on the third ballot on Jan. 24 and Arjun Batra won on a 6-3 vote, also on the third ballot, on Jan. 26.
- While Mahan had a clear victory – 6,047 votes, a 2.4% margin – over Chavez, he is not likely to claim a resounding mandate, with a ho-hum turnout of just under 55%.
The appointments of Candelas and Batra last week began and ended in controversy.
The previous council broke with council precedent, rejecting a plea by Mahan and then-mayor Sam Liccardo for a special election to fill two council vacancies in districts 8 and 10. Then at the Jan. 24 special meeting, three unsuccessful candidates raised questions about whether Candelas gained access to questions in advance, using a laptop and cell phone.
Here is a quick snapshot of the council:
Rosemary Kamei represents District 1 in West San Jose. She was elected in the June 2022 primary, winning more than 65% of the vote. Her daughter Ellen, won election to a second term on the city council in Mountain View, where she has served as mayor and vice mayor.
Sergio Jimenez represents District 2 in South San Jose. First elected in 2016, the former labor organizer and city board of education trustee terms out in 2024.
Omar Torres represents District 3 in downtown San Jose. Elected last November, he is a former trustee of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District.
David Cohen represents District 4 in North San Jose.The PhD engineering graduate of UC/Berkeley served on the Berryessa Union School District Board for 14 years.
Peter Ortiz represents District 5 in East San Jose. The former community organizer is a former member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education.
Dev Davis represents District 6, just west of downtown San Jose. A former Republican who holds a master’s degree in public policy, she lost in the June mayoral primary, and terms out in 2024.
Bien Doan represents District 7, in south central San Jose. A former city fire captain, he upset incumbent Maya Esparza in November.
Domingo Candelas represents District 8 in Southeast San Jose. The San Jose State graduate holds two master's degrees and formerly was local government affairs director for Sanford University and a staff aide for former state Sen. Jim Beall.
Pam Foley represents District 9 in Southwest San Jose. She was unopposed in her bid for a second term in 2022, and is a former San Jose Board of Education trustee.
Arjun Batra represents District 10. He is the first Indian-American on the council since Ash Kalra, now a member of the California Assembly. Batra, an engineer, was a manager at Intel and IBM.