Given how flip-floppity he’s been and how he hasn’t quite made clear why he’d basically turn down tens of millions of dollars in state money to house the homeless, it’s hard to know where Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran stands on the issue.
Over the last few months, the Silicon Valley suburb has become a battleground for NIMBYs (not-in-my backyarders) and their pro-housing counterparts over plans to convert a motel into apartments for the otherwise unsheltered.
Tran has loudly opposed the project—which comes with a $30 million grant from Gov. Gavin Newsom to make it happen—because, among other things, its proximity to a BevMo! Put aside, for a moment, how the contention perpetuates harmful stereotypes about homeless folks being a bunch of booze-guzzling ne’er-do-wells, and consider this: Tran insists that he does, in fact, want to put a roof over people’s heads.
Alas, the Nov. 10 City Council meeting added another confounding layer to the saga.
With the aim of helping more homeless Milpitas residents find housing, Councilwoman Karina Dominguez suggested teaming up with the county to conduct thorough assessments. At first, the mayor backed the proposal, calling it “an item that is really important to me and our community” and said “the work needs to happen.”
In a rambling homily to follow, Tran said he just disagrees about how that work needs to happen. Instead of a county-led assessment, he floated the idea of taking money pegged for motel conversion and using it for hotel vouchers instead.
“I want to make sure we do something—if not, I’m going to vote ‘no,’” Tran declared before expressing concern about what “the headlines” would say the next day.
In the end, the mayor abstained from voting on the proposal, which got a “yes” from everyone else on the council. In a phone call with Fly, Tran defended his “opposition of the funding through abstention.”
That doesn’t explain why he didn’t just cast a “no” vote—or why he seems to be risking his political future by trying to turn down free money to appease the NIMBYs.