|Mountain View voters will have an opportunity to elect a new majority of the City Council when they go the polls Nov. 4. And they will have plenty of candidates to choose from.
When filing for the four open seats closed last Friday, the field had swelled to nine people, with local real estate agent Diana Wang entering at the last minute.
This election will be the last one in the next six years where there won't be an incumbent trying to fill every open seat. Matt Pear and Nick Galiotto will term out this year, leaving at least two seats open to newcomers, while Laura Macias and Mayor Tom Means will be running for re-election.
With four seats up for grabs, an entirely new four-vote majority could be put into power, changing the course of City Hall for years to come.
Here is a brief look at the candidates:
Clark, 24, is a senior operations manager at a local tech company who grew up on a farm in Illinois. His political experience is mostly as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the Stanford graduate calls himself a "geek" when it comes to local politics, and he sometimes peruses the city budget just to see how money is being spent.
When asked about population growth in the city, Clark said growth is unavoidable. Space available for housing needs to be "maximized" while preserving open space.
He says he can provide a voice for young high-tech workers, and help connect that community to city government. A new teen center is also a goal for Clark.
"Mountain View's support for our young people can be better," Clark wrote in an e-mail. "We should study the most effective programs in other cities."
But his top priority, he said, is to see the city use "fiscal restraint as we ride out this cycle of economic instability, rising energy and other prices, and an unpredictable real estate market."
Crank ran for City Council in 2006 and has spent seven years on the Human Relations Commission. The marketing specialist moved to the area from Detroit in 1998.
Her top priority is to revisit the city's Below Market Rate (BMR) housing ordinance and "make it more specific."
"We need to encourage developers to create units within their complex," Crank said.
Her second priority is supporting programs like the Police Activities League and the Gang Task Force.
"I never thought I would say this, but we have a high murder rate in Mountain View," she said. "Teens have grown up to not be very positive citizens in the community."
She said she would not like to see the city grow too much, but would favor development along major traffic corridors. She is passionate about preserving the city's affordable apartments and older neighborhoods.
Tracy Gordon, 39, is a virtual unknown to City Hall insiders. After moving here from the East Coast 11 years ago, she says she has gained a unique perspective as a "mom around town," with her 3-year-old twins.
She rents a house behind City Hall on Franklin Street with her husband, a laser engineer, and works part-time as a bartender downtown.
"Mountain View's development needs to slow down," Gordon said. "There is already too much congestion."
One of her complaints is that the downtown lacks a certain "diversity" among restaurants, with very few serving traditional American food.
Gordon is the only candidate who has not committed to the city's $19,000 campaign spending cap.
John Inks, a retired aerospace engineer who lives on Showers Drive, was the fourth-highest vote-getter in the 2006 election, losing by 300 votes to Jac Siegel. He has served on the Environmental Planning Commission, which he now chairs, for the last two years. Before that he was a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission for many years.
He said his strength is in city planning.
"Figuring out how the city should grow in the future while preserving quality of life and open space -- while allowing growth in population and the economy -- that's what I have chosen to do," he said.
Inks has also developed an interest in walkability, practical energy conservation methods and the city's community emergency response teams. He said his top priority is to maintain quality city services in the face of looming budget problems.
Mike Kasperzak served on the City Council from 1998 to 2006. He is back again for a third term after withdrawing from the state Assembly race last year.
His top priorities are affordable housing, fiscal responsibility and open space.
"There is no way to make for-sale housing affordable anymore in this area," he said. "One of the things I see coming out of the visioning process is how much people cherish the diversity of Mountain View. We're not going to have that diversity if the only people who can live here are those who can buy a million-and-a-half dollar house."
He also wants to see the council make difficult decisions regarding employee salaries in order to maintain city services and the city's triple-A credit rating.
Another goal, which he talked about last year as well, is a third major park in the city, possibly using the Francia orchard on Whisman Road.
Laura Macias, who served as mayor last year, has consistently said that a top campaign goal will be to build a large park north of El Camino Real.
"I want to be on council to advocate, approve and fund one big community park (Cuesta Park size ideally) in the general Whisman area," she wrote in an e-mail.
She said she also wants to focus on neighborhood preservation and supporting neighborhood associations, while seeking input on the general plan update. She has often opposed higher density housing projects.
"I want to see our General Plan Version 2.0 be a plan that encompasses the vision and the complexity of city strategies, operations and revenue generation," she wrote, noting a particular interest "in funding senior, youth and community programs."
John McAlister, a 50-year resident of Mountain View, was appointed to the Environmental Planning Commission last year. He says the city needs to make sure its infrastructure and revenue sources are adequate before substantial housing growth is allowed.
"Once we improve the quality of life, that will improve everything the city does," McAlister said in an e-mail. "We need to make sure our business districts are strong to maintain sales tax dollars to fund the various activities we do. We are lucky we have the parks we have -- I want to maintain them to a high standard. You can't do that if you turn business property into residential."
McAlister says he is a passionate advocate for youth, with his children attending local schools. He has been involved with the local PTA and school site councils.
McAlister owns the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop on El Camino Real, and obtained a degree in business administration from UC Berkley in the late 1970s.
Tom Means was elected with 11,000 votes four years ago, despite spending only $5,000. Since taking office, fiscal restraint has continued to guide many of his policy positions.
Means, an economics professor at San Jose State University, believes voters appreciate how he makes decisions with the informed perspective of an academic. He recently completed a research paper finding that California cities that subsidize housing through developer fees produce less new housing and have higher housing prices.
Implementing the recommendations of the Environmental Sustainability Task Force is a top goal in the coming year for Means, partly because "we spent so much time on it."
He also wants to build a new community center and teen center at Rengstorff Park.
"We need to get moving on that," Means said. "My position is to build a teen center as a component of a recreation center."
Diana Wang, 51, has been on the city's Downtown Committee for four years. A native of Taiwan, she has been a resident of Mountain View for eight years and a Bay Area resident for 25 years. She is enthusiastic about helping people find a home in Mountain View, and believes it gives her an intimate perspective on the city.
As far as city planning is concerned, Wang said she would like to see more conveniently located grocery stores and more mixed-use development. She says she is keeping an open mind about the merits of high density housing, and wants to spend more time talking to her constituents before taking a position on how the city should grow.
"I can have a broader vision,' Wang said. Like others in Mountain View, she said, "I'm an immigrant. Mountain View is a very nice city so a lot of people want to move in. There is nothing wrong with that. But many feel that their privacy and lifestyle is affected by high density."
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