San Jose’s Next Leaders Take Stage at Candidate Forums

The business and labor factions of San Jose’s political system have never been more at odds than they have the past eight years. As a result, our city has been stuck in gridlock, while service cuts have negatively impacted downtown neighborhoods like Washington, Cadillac-Winchester, Santee and Poco Way.

We will see if the pro-Measure B block can hold its ground come election day.  On Nov. 4, four new councilmembers plus a new mayor will have been tasked with transforming our city. Business could sweep all five races, but labor could do the same. Or it could be a 3-2 split going either way. (Don Rocha in District 9 is all but assured to win re-election, so I’ve excluded him from this breakdown.)

My prediction—and this is my only prediction—is that labor will capture a council majority. There are too many fluid races and labor has the resources.

Voters in downtown San Jose will have a chance Wednesday to hear candidates for District 3 discuss issues ranging from pubic safety and traffic congestion to homelessness and downtown development. Councilmember Sam Liccardo terms out of the District 3 seat at the end of this year, and there are five entrants in the race to succeed him.

If no candidate captures more than 50 percent of the vote in June, the top two will advance to a runoff in November.

In the past I believed forums and debates were a waste of time, not only for the voters but also the candidates themselves. My outlook has completely changed.  Our city and its neighborhoods are at a crossroads—we can either continue toward deterioration or reclaim the “Safest City” title we once touted.

I have encountered more than a few District 3 residents who have attended one or two forums. They attend because they genuinely want to vote for a candidate who they feel is best equipped to deal with tough issues. Many have told me that their decision gets easier as they continue to hear from the candidates.

The “Highway 280 District 3 Candidate Forum” is open to the public and will begin at 7pm at the Gardner Community Center (520 W. Virginia St., San Jose 95126). Damian Trujillo, a reporter for NBC Bay Area and producer/host of “Communidad Del Valle,” will moderate the forum.

Questions for the candidates can be submitted here.

If you live in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7, look for upcoming candidates forums to take the initiative and organize your own. Our city and our neighborhoods depend on it.

Omar Torres lives in the Washington community in the greater downtown San Jose area. He works as executive director of the Santa Maria Urban Ministry.


  1. Omar Torres, “community organizer” prediction that “Don Rocha in District 9 is all but assured to win reelection” is extremely shortsighted in my opinion. Mr.
    Torres has no idea who I am or what I stand for and has not taken the time to find out. I think he is remiss to just count me out. No, I am definitely NOT like Mr. Rocha or Joe Coto. Don’t count me out, especially if you have no idea who I am or what I stand for. I challenge you to be more thoughtful and thorough before making blanket statements, especially in a public way. Talk with me, interview me. I believe it’s always best to read the entire book before finishing an assignment.
    Lois Wilco-Owens, Candidate for City Council, District 9

  2. Hi Lois,
    Unlike Xavier, Don is not a embattled Councilmember. I actually have been to a few Democratic party events and meetings and have yet to meet you. Good for you for running. However, Don received 42% of the vote in June of 2010 with a crowded field. And won handily in November against a well financed candidate….I am very sorry but he will win handily again this June…best of luck to you Lois…all the best in June.

    • Omar,
      Like I said before, you don’t know me and because you haven’t seen me at an event means nothing. You have not done your due diligence and you want to continue to dismiss me. Why don’t you take the time to interview me? Why are you closed to the idea of hearing another view? I’m not asking you to open your mind or change your thoughts, but you have not read the entire book.
      Feel free to text or call me@(408) 768-1544. I’d love to have a conversation with you.

      • He’s not dismissing you, he’s dismissing the idea that Rocha is even remotely unpopular enough to be beatable. Run again in 2018.

        • Lou, are you speaking for Omar? Are you his spokes person because I don’t remember addressing you. You seem to know what Omar is thinking, feeling and wants to say. As a therapist, I try to impart the importance of speaking for yourself and not anyone else- unless you are the designated spokes p.erson

          • Lou’s not impressed with your “therapist rules of discourse” and believes that in an open forum such as this there’s no expectation of a private conversation.
            Lou thinks that by demonstrating such snobbery you may have alienated potential supporters.
            Lou also believes that Omar would feel the same way.

      • Bemused, No one has ever heard about you either. What makes you an expert on voicing your opinion?

  3. Omar you said;

    As a result, our city has been stuck in gridlock, while service cuts have negatively impacted downtown neighborhoods like Washington, Cadillac-Winchester

    Do you even San Jose? Two of my best friends lived on Cadillac, and I can assure you that they are nowhere near downtown. Those neighborhoods with their flat roof low income apartment complexes have always been an epicenter of crime and urban blight. (Shame $0 redevelopment dollars went towards fixing them)

  4. Robert Cortese, Do you even San Jose? You make no sense as usual.

    Lois Wilco-Owens, Omar is counting you out because you are not going to win. Sorry to put it so bluntly. Good job for running though!


    • Omar: If you knew SJ you would know that NONE of the four neighborhoods you mentioned in in DTSJ, though Washington is close. South end of DT is 280. Three have one thing in common, though–dominated by Mexican gangs for decades.

        • Wow, Robert Cortese is so annoying! You are a member of the Cortese family? There always has to be an outlier in a legendary political family.

          It is so typical of San Jose Inside readers to completely ignore the message to call out someone on trivial matters.

          No wonder our politics is messed up right now.

          • Hey I understand that you and Omar are best buds and you miss him (looking at one of your recent FB posts, we are friends there) but if your bud makes a mistake, let him own up to it.

            Let me ask you Jordan, after you defend him on message boards like this, do you nod your neckbeard, tip your fedora, and say, “Omar M’lady, I have slain thy dragon”

            Seriously, let him own up to his own mistake. Don’t you have chairs to dodge in Sac or something?

  5. I have to agree with Cortese here. Grew up on what i called the “Caddy” and it’s NOWHERE near DTSJ

    • Helps that our family is celebrating our centennial in San Jose. Anyways, Omar made one tiny error and owned up to it, let’s not beat a dead horse. Currently im more concerned someone will accuse me of supporting necrotic animal abuse.

  6. @bemused and Robert…no duh those neighborhoods are not in Downtown…simple error….I have worked for the RDA’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative for many years until I was laid off by the pension fights and worked very closely with all those neighborhoods….I have helped elect half of our city council…some I do not regret others I do…however that’s politics. Its NEIGHBORHOODS like those not necessary in D3, but D1, D5 that have been effected by the Measure B debate. Do not ever question if I know about citywide politics Robert and bemused365…I know more than enough. I have been in the trenches of citywide politics and neighborhood organizing….thanks for catching that error.

    • I like this answer better than the one below, less diplomatic filters on it.

      Omar I know who you are and what you’ve done for San Jose. I’m disappointed you dropped out of the D3 race. I’ve seen you at a few DCC functions as well. Like you, I’ve done a ton of work over the last 4 years getting people elected. Like you, some joy, some regret.

      As far as Its NEIGHBORHOODS like those not necessary in D3, but D1, D5 that have been effected by the Measure B debate. Those precincts have always been that way. Not much has changed in 40 years.

      What should have happened with them was RDA money, but way too often that RDA money went into the pockets of Barry Swenson, Sobrato, etc to build shopping centers and high rise condo’s. Now that the RDA is gone we’ve missed out on that opportunity to effect change in these precincts.

      Other issues with these neighborhoods? How bout section 8? What work has been done to lift these residents off public assistance? Rather than these neighborhoods becoming a stepping stone to success, far too often they’ve become a black hole of despair for the residents. Little to no educational opportunities, (while we buy penthouse condo’s for school administrators) and because of that, fewer job opportunities.

      While having more cops does cut down on crime, we have to address the problem from an early age. Create accessible educational opportunities so people can lift themselves into a higher income bracket, gives them incentive to change their lives. Doing that results in people smart enough to solve their own problems, instead of relying on the police to solve problems for them.

      I’m not saying I completely disagree with what you’re saying, but I don’t agree with it 100% either. It’s a complex set of issues, that requires a complex set of solutions implemented over the long term. More cops is a short term solution that doesn’t fix the underlying issues.

      Yours Truly,

  7. @bemused and Robert thanks for pointing out error…. neighborhoods mention after Washington are not in downtown but I was pointing out that all neighborhoods have contested election and have suffered the worst bc of Measure B and budget cuts. I have been a organizer for the RDA’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative for 7+ yrs and have worked with all those neighborhoods as a organizer….creating and mainting resident associations…I helped elected half of the city council….some I regret others I do not…do never question if I know about citywide politics and neighborhood issues..I have been in the trenches for years…have a good Easter weekend.

    • “In the trenches”- gimme a break. “Community organizers” seem to have a need to romanticize their “work”.
      If anybody’s in any trenches it’s the average civilian as he tries to dig his way out of all the damage inflicted on society by these “progressive” meddlers.

      • Your trying to discredit the work that Omar, or any “community organizer” that is fighting for their communities makes you look ignorant.

        • The year, 1420.

          Sir Elridge was high upon his white horse when he noticed a damsel in distress. “SIR ELRIDGE! THESE DRAGONS CONTINUE TO SIEGE UPON ME!”

          Under the claw of a great basslik was Prince Torres. Being no stranger to Chivarly, Knight Elridge knew he was bound by honor code to assist.

          “UNHAND THY FAIR NOBEL YOU SCOUNDRAL!” He cried as he swung his sword.

          Unfortunately, rather than use the precise swings of a well trained night, Sir Elridge, having spent his years training in policy and bardsmanship, swung wildly, missed, and fell to the ground.

          “Why hast thou challenged me?” Asked the Basslik.

          “YOU HAVE SULLIED THE HONOR OF MY LEIGE!” Shouted Sir Elridge.

          Part 1 of a 3 part series. Robert Cortese is a local San Jose politician, and part time writer of nonsensical comments, when he’s presented with nonsensical responses, his comments and views do not represent those of his employers or candidates.

        • Maybe I’m ignorant- I don’t think so though. But then, if I AM ignorant, how would I know it? After all- I’m ignorant.
          Maybe it’d be useful for you to ask yourself the same questions. Maybe what you dismiss as “ignorance” is just a set of ideas that are different from your own.

  8. “Omar M’lady” Is Robert making a comment about Jason and Omar, with some comment about gender orientation?

  9. ” Robert Cortese is a local San Jose politician” Does that mean public personage? Jordan seems rather credible as does Omar as local activists. Are they being attacked for simply disagreeing? It seems from a check of the postings, Jordan has been rather passionate about issues he believes in regardless of who is involved. I am confused about what is being meant by “best buds” “m’lady” “you miss him,” could there be a statement this fellow is making about Mr. Torres and Mr. Elridge who both seem to have been very active in local issues throughout the valley for many years. Of course, they both seem able to gain respect locally without putting a name in front.

    • Jordan and I were friends on Facebook (he’s banned me since this began) and had a wall post saying he missed Omar. Understandably so, since he’s moved to sac o tomatoes.

      All I did was simply say caddy drive is nowhere near dtsj. It wasn’t meant as a slight to Omar, just pointing out a small, insignificant error in his story.

      Jordan, rather than saying, “Oh he made a mistake” took it way to personal (which is ridiculous, what I made was a statement of fact)

      I tried to talk it out with Jordan over Facebook chat, but rather than diplomaticly agree to drop it, he continued with insults, and in a finale of arrogance, and lack of true diplomacy banned me from his Facebook friends list.

      I know of both these gentleman’s deeds in the community, but in Jordan’s case I find it shocking that someone so well respected in the dem community would rather sling insults than come to the table and talk about it like adults. Nope, just stay stoic in that choice without even exploring the possibility that no slight was intended by me, but looking at his subsequent responses, I have no doubt he was trying to slight me.

      You’re going to have to try harder Jordan. Dragons have tough skins.

      • Robert (a San Jose politician? you wish. What elected position have you held? I have served in elected office.)

        For the record, on Facebook I said you were annoying. I guess you took that to be the “finale of arrogance, and lack of true diplomacy. It was so shocking that I would sling insults (by saying you were “annoying”).

        I said you were annoying on Facebook and you are up in arms over it. You are saying that I need thick skin?

        I could probably find 20 people just on SJI that would say the same thing as I did.

        It is annoying (and you are annoying because you did it) to completely dismissed a person’s idea because of a small error that does nothing to change the substance of the argument. It is like someone blasting someone else for not using proper grammar when they have no other argument to put forward.

        It makes you look arrogant, and yes…annoying. I stand by those comments.

        Yes, Omar is my best friend, however you being annoying has nothing to do with Omar’s and my friendship. You are annoying based upon your own merits.

        • It is annoying (and you are annoying because you did it) to completely dismissed a person’s idea because of a small error that does nothing to change the substance of the argument. It is like someone blasting someone else for not using proper grammar when they have no other argument to put forward.

          I never completely dismissed his idea. What ideas? This story was mostly editorial. I said:

          Omar you said;
          As a result, our city has been stuck in gridlock, while service cuts have negatively impacted downtown neighborhoods like Washington, Cadillac-Winchester
          Do you even San Jose? Two of my best friends lived on Cadillac, and I can assure you that they are nowhere near downtown. Those neighborhoods with their flat roof low income apartment complexes have always been an epicenter of crime and urban blight. (Shame $0 redevelopment dollars went towards fixing them)

          Where in that am I dismissing his idea? Just a little bit of snarky exchange.

          But by all means, continue with the name calling.

        • To answer your other snipe:
          Robert (a San Jose politician? you wish. What elected position have you held? I have served in elected office.)

          Taken from Wikipedia:

          People who are politically active, especially in party politics. A person holding or seeking political office whether elected or appointed, whether professionally or otherwise. Positions range from local offices to executive, legislative and judicial offices of state and national governments.[1] Some law enforcement officers, such as sheriffs, are considered politicians.[2][3]

          I sought office in 2010, stay active in the dem community (even forming my own Dem club at the moment) and have done my share of influencing policy.

  10. Interesting.

    So Jason moves on to do work somewhere and our friend Robert attacks him for it, claiming Jason should have thicker skin. Nice of Robert to advise people not to be so sensitive of comments. Hmm, fascinating. Robert Cortese identifies himself as a local politician in San Jose. got it.

    • If there is one issue I take with politics in general, it’s this misconstruement of facts by opposition in order to win. Nice to see you set your system clock back to PST time to avoid further scrutiny of your location.

  11. One Day, Sir David Cortese was about to be Mayor of the Town. A young bumpkin who admired to work of Billy Carter decided to mount a jackass and ride to the town square and do a karaoke routine while drinking Billy Beer

    Nearby, young Omar and Jason were helping the people, by handing out food and clothing, teaching them to read, and the young bumpkin rode up to them on his jackass and put on his Billy Carter mask and demanded they both a tithe to him.

    Omar and Jordan scoffed at the bumpkin, and even told him how off key he sounded. Nearby the Pulcrano of the town was handing out newspapers.

    The bumpkin was so angry, because Mike Honda would no stop talking about world peace, to introduce karaoke legislation, and the bumpkin demanded respect.

    Nearby Sir David, afraid that too many people would associate him and the bumpkin, wearing the Billy Carter mask, attempted to distance himself from the bumpkin.

    Omar and Jordan went about their business helping the people. Sir David became Mayor. The bumpkin had business cards printed that said, Billy Carter Wannabee, Local San Jose politician.

    The rest is history.

      • Toes? How graphic can the wannabee Billy Carter be? Sounds sort of threatening. He writes about having a thick skin and then about comparing guys to damsels and this local politician starts talking about toes like Hannibal Lecter. I only know a little about Jordan but all mostly about working on grassroots stuff and Omar has been a man of the people for a long time. Now somebody who sings off key is a local politician. Wow! Should Jordan have somebody write you? From what I know Jordan would be busier asking lawyers to help undocumented people or some charitable cause. Stick to singing

  12. Ooo .. can I play? Nah … I’m not even in San Jose anymore =-D

    Nice article btw Omar, although I do feel like a balance between business and labor is what would serve the general population of San Jose best. I know we probably agree to disagree on that but, as you pointed out, forums are a great way to hear from the candidates and get a feel for where they want to take San Jose in the future.

  13. Kudos to Eric for writing a reply that is more relevant and makes more sense than anything I have been saying along with San Jose ‘s own Billy Carter. Indeed thus all started when Omar tried to analyze the candidates from his perspective. Then we began a silly diatribe initiated by the guy who has been seated at the Cortese little table for decades. No wonder Madison advertises here, everytime Billy Carter writes a post it is a vote for Madison or Sam. Then Jordan wrote some responses and Karaoke Pete chimes in attacking Jordan, He writes about people needing thick skins and then starts talking about toes. Wow, no wonder the Corteses had hoped he would move to Moldava, Bortom line, Omar rated the candidates based in his long experiences and Jordan, another long time activist with street experience made some comments. Eric wrote back with some. Everything else is based on Robby never getting a Texaco fire helmet from Dominic at Christmas time,

    • What are you talking about? I switched my endorsement to Dave last week. Is that what this is all about, because I endorsed someone before my cousin ever announced he was running?

      You’ve written these same insults before Rowen, get some new material.

      • I guess Jordan was never insulted here. Seems to me Jordan has this guy understood better than anybody, Wikipedia defines a politician? Anything similar to a public figure?
        The Robert Cortese Demicratic Club? Do members wear miickey mouse ears or baseball caps worn inside out?

          • Of all the people who are so concerned about insults, you sure dish them out regularly. You need help.

          • Huh?? How is that??? Gosh, it seems Robert is more interested in some sort of process whereby people cannot speak out in public. Why? There is some sort of amendment I think in the Constitution. Oh, well, I think that Jordan has said it better than anyone else, is he in trouble as well?

          • Rowen you lost your parents home, and now it appears you’ve fled the state to avoid FTA and FTP court charges. If my son ever turned out like you, the last thing I would do is coddle a manchild. I’d kick his butt out and tell him to get a real job.

            Jordan: Again, no offense, no insults meant with my original comment about Omars geography mistake. You threw the first punch with your “annoying” and “outlier” torts.

            Whatever man, I’ll give you a nice big hug if I ever see you at a DCC function, but knowing that you associate with Rowen will lose you some cred in the club.

  14. I am sure Jordan can take care of himself, but after you get the hug from the Cortese family embarrassment, please for your own safety, use lots of soap. Other than that, this guy sure missed the whole point when he mixed me up with someone else due to his obsessive hatred, stick to harassing Pulcrano

  15. Just remember, a vote for David Cortese for Mayor means a commission appointment for Conrad!!!

    • Give it a rest Rowen. I got a hold of the real Jason Lundergard today. Nice farmer in Iowa. I pointed him to the site (which he had never seen before) and being the only JL in the USA, was rather shocked to see you here impersonating him.

      Is that where you’re living now? Iowa? You’re just one sicko piece of work man. The worst thing Reagan ever did was cut off subsidized mental health because, you need it.

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