La Oferta

April 1, 2023

Exclusive interview with Mayoral Candidate Cindy Chavez

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Mayoral Candidate Cindy Chavez. Photo by Mary J. Andrade

By Sharon McElhone

1. What do you see as your role in dealing with a terrorist attack or big earthquake?

CC: We put out an emergency preparedness plan to make sure that the city of San Jose is ready in the event of a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, avian flu, any of those kinds of natural or manmade disasters that a city needs to deal with. Now one thing, I’m sure you know is that the city of San Jose is the tenth largest city in the country. It’s a hundred seventy seven square miles. If you match that to San Francisco that’s forty-seven square miles, you can see that we have a much bigger area we need to focus on. Every other year I’d like to start doing citywide drills to educate schools, employers, and neighborhoods on how to respond to a disaster. The other thing, as you know, people who are transit dependent or immobile need special care to be removed from homes or nursing homes, so I want to create a kind of plan so neighborhoods and neighbors know who can’t get out in case of emergency and will need help and start to work with people to take leadership over protecting their neighborhoods. But finally, and probably the one that is most important to your readers, is that we have not as much information in multiple languages that I would like, so right now we are just getting our disaster preparedness information together in Spanish, but we don’t yet do full trainings in Spanish.

2. What kind of changes will San Jose citizens see while you are in office that will show that you consider preserving our environment important?

CC: I want the city of San Jose to be the greenest city in the country. And what that means for me is expanding our park land by a thousand acres, to planting thousands of new trees in the city of San Jose, to making sure that San Jose is the center for new green technologies.

3. How will you help Eastside communities improve their streets, sidewalks, and parks?

CC: One of the projects that I worked on is called “The Strong Neighborhoods Initiative.” It’s something I took a lot of leadership on, and it’s a program that allowed us to use redevelopment money for the first time ever in poorer working class neighborhoods; and so what that allows is the neighborhood to come forward and say, “We think these are the top five issues that are most important and we want you to fund them accordingly.” That could be streets, sidewalks, traffic calming, it could be paint grants, it could be improvements to the schools.

4. How do you see the Grand Prix affecting our city image? Will you support funding for the Grand Prix in two years?

CC: We’ve done the funding agreement already, and it’s a ten-year agreement. And here is the impact it had: We had a 150,000 people come to downtown San Jose during a time that would normally be very slow. People ate in restaurants and stayed in our downtown hotels. And we believe that… around 40 or 42 million dollars a year [is] being spent around the Grand Prix. So I think that is very good for the city. The other opportunity was that people all over the world got a chance to see beautiful downtown San Jose. They watched it on TV, or they came down to enjoy it even if they weren’t from here; so from an investment perspective it was a very smart thing.

5. What will be the best way for the Latino community to reach you with comments, complaints, or concerns once you are mayor?

CC: They are going to see me a lot. What I mean by that is I’ve always found it fascinating when people talk about an open door policy where people can just walk in. I think there are a lot of people who don’t just drop in to city hall to see the mayor, and I would see my role as being really present in the community. Obviously, there’s the traditional email, phone….

6. What changes would you bring to Mayor Gonzales’ style ?

CC: First of all he won’t be mayor anymore, so I just want to be clear about that. My style is to be collaborative and open. We’ve done some great problem solving in downtown San Jose because of that collaborative style… I think some people think that they are the governments representative to the people. I see myself as the people’s representative to the government, which I think is very different way of looking at governing… So I think that you can’t be afraid if it’s not your idea that it’s not a good one.

7. Acting as mayor, if there is a conflict between the city’s interest and the interest of your many supporters, how will you bring your supporters on board?

CC: I think that is a fair question to ask Chuck. Let me just say why. It presumes that one of us has ties to special interests and one does not. That there would be that presumption for me and not that presumption for him… I don’t see it as a challenge for one of us but as a challenge for any human being who chooses public service and that is to be balanced and be a mayor for the whole city. So my approach in the past has been to be as open and honest about what I think and how I feel and what I believe based on getting a lot of information and a lot of feedback from the communities that will be impacted. For example, I don’t usually see a trade-off that I can think of between the city and one group’s interest, and as a policy maker I see it as my role to be judicious in doing my homework, thoughtful in my assessments, open to lots of people’s feedback and to be prepared to take action.

My goal is to seek common ground but I don’t think I’ve been in a position that I can think of where I made a decision that was very good for one group and not good for the whole.