Environmental planning commissioner and third-generation Mountain View resident Ellen Kamei has kicked off her campaign for City Council, joining a field of nine other declared candidates for three open seats.
Kamei, 30, is a policy aide for Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Her grandparents ran the Kamei flower nursery in what is now part of the Waverly Park neighborhood, where a cul-de-sac is named after her grandfather Kenzo.
"I have deep roots in Mountain View," said Kamei, who rents an apartment just west of the Slater neighborhood, and is looking to represent renters, whom she notes make up 60 percent of the city's population.
"In my family's experience, Mountain View has always been this working class, very blue-collar city," Kamei said. "With this influx of companies to Mountain View the city is experiencing a change."
She says her top priority is "preserving Mountain View's character while also planning for progress in a thoughtful manner."
"Having a balanced approach to how we change and grow is very important to me," she said.
Kamei was appointed to the Environmental Planning Commission in late 2012 and is now its vice chair. She gave some indication of her positions when she voted to remove two, six-story office buildings from the Merlone Geier project at San Antonio shopping center and replace them with housing.
"I am not necessarily against office, but at this time, I'm not sure additional office makes sense," Kamei said. "We have residents who are struggling to stay here. Increased housing options, especially for the working class and low-income residents, are necessary. I would like to see more of that type of housing in the city."
Like many families that started off in Mountain View in years past, most of Kamei's family has left the city, and Kamei herself was raised in Morgan Hill. As one of the last of her family members in the city, she said "I'm a third-generation Mountain View resident who wants to live and raise my family and settle in Mountain View."
Among her top priorities are balanced growth, city infrastructure, services and public safety, she said. She said she supports the same kind of fiscal conservatism that helped the city weather the recession better than many other cities.
Kamei says maintaining the city's character is important to her, but that includes making sure there's housing for the city's diverse mix of residents, and continuing to allow for progress and innovation. "We have seen more high-end apartments and condos and seen only one affordable housing project (built in several years). Part of that balance is seeing a diversity of projects."
"As time goes on growth is inevitable," Kamei said. "It's how we grow that's important to me."
Kamei has already gathered a long list of endorsements, including former mayors Matt Pear and Art Takahara, as well as from her boss, Joe Simitian, and outgoing council member Margaret Abe-Koga and Congressman Mike Honda.
"Ellen Kamei has the skills and the passion to be a leader and effective City Council member," Simitian said in a statement. "She'll work hard for every resident of Mountain View, and to ensure the city's continued prosperity. She's the real deal. I endorse and support her enthusiastically."
Kamei's father was born in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. Her mother is Chinese and Puerto Rican, Kamei said.
She graduated from Leadership Mountain View in 2012, a local training program that has produced a number of community leaders. Kamei has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania and bachelor's degree in English from the University of Santa Barbara. She worked as an executive assistant to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren for a year in 2008. In graduate school she held internships with the mayor of New York City and the city of Philadelphia's Human Services Agency. She's won several awards, including "outstanding alumna" from Presentation High School in San Jose and the rising star award from the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club.
Kamei said she plans to agree to the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $22,689, as have the other nine declared candidates.
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