Barry Chang, a Cupertino city councilman who has vigorously fought pollution by the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, is challenging state Sen. Joe Simitian for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors seat.
The fifth-district seat is currently held by former Palo Alto mayor Liz Kniss and includes the cities of Mountain View, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Stanford, Sunnyvale, West San Jose neighborhoods, and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. Kniss is termed out after serving since 2000.
Kathleen King of Saratoga is also running for the supervisor seat.
Chang, a Taiwanese immigrant, is a Realtor and has a degree in civil engineering. In 1995, he was elected to the Cupertino Union School District Board of Education and was re-elected in 2003. He also served four years on the Cupertino Public Safety Commission. He was elected to the Cupertino City Council in 2009, campaigning on health and safety issues and is a board member of the group Bay Area for Clean Environment (BACE).
His long-running battle against the Lehigh cement plant and quarry (Permanente) has at times rankled his colleagues. He hasn't minced words regarding the county Board of Supervisors and what he views as their lax attitude toward the cement company. He claims the company produces an estimated 500 pounds of mercury annually that could cause health problems for residents and the unborn.
County Executive Jeffrey Smith chastised Chang in a May 18, 2011, letter for his behavior at two public meetings, during which he allegedly accused the county of not exercising its enforcement responsibilities at the Permanente Quarry and saying the county and a senior planner had lied to residents.
Chang and other environmentalists won a major victory in July 2011, when the California Office of Mine Reclamation notified the cement operator that it needed to comply with pollution and mining laws in 30 days or be removed from the government-approved contractor list, known as the AB 3098 list. Lehigh then filed a lawsuit against the state.
Simitian, of Palo Alto, has worked on issues related to education, affordable housing and the environment. He is perhaps best known for the hands-free cell-phone and texting while driving laws.
If elected, Simitian would serve for the second time on the board of supervisors. He previously held the seat from 1997 to 2000. He has served as a state assembly member, mayor of Palo Alto and president of the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education.
He was elected to the California State Senate in November 2004, representing the 11th State Senate District, which includes portions of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. He is serving his final term.
Simitian chairs the Environmental Quality Committee and serves on a number of other committees, including Budget and Fiscal Review, (as chair of the subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection and Transportation Education); Energy, Utilities and Communications; Natural Resources and Water; and Transportation and Housing.