Mountain View Voice

News - November 9, 2012

City Council candidates in dead heat to the finish

by Daniel DeBolt

While a winner was called in the presidential election Tuesday night just before 10 p.m., City Council candidates were still on the edge of their seats to see who was going to win a very tight race.

In the end, Vice Mayor John Inks and Mayor Mike Kasperzak kept their seats and won the highest number of votes. The council will add two new members: planning commissioners John McAlister and Chris Clark.

Newcomer Margaret Capriles was just 2 percentage points away from stealing a seat from the four top candidates, who were in a nearly dead heat all evening. The trend remained the same until midnight: Kasperzak in the lead, followed by McAlister and Clark and finally, incumbent John Inks, who switched from fourth to the lead position by early morning. All four remained within half a percentage point, making it a nail-biter all night.

Newcomer Jim Neal, who alarmed some voters with his controversial comments, was in last place with half as many votes as Capriles.

Clark was poised to be the first openly gay Mountain View City Council member, and at 29, the youngest in recent memory. The Loopt executive barely lost to Inks in the 2008 election, and spent the last four years serving on the human relations commission and the planning commission to gain experience and credibility.

"After all this work, I'm ready," Clark said Tuesday night with excitement in his voice.

The other new face is McAlister, the 60-year-old owner of Mountain View's Baskin Robbins who has been a member of the planning commission since losing the 2008 council election. McAlister laid low on election night, as did Neal, while Kasperzak, Inks, Clark and Capriles spent time at election night gatherings.

Enjoying a drink at a gathering at KMVT's offices, Kasperzak noted that most of the candidates sounded similar during debates on important issues, and that it would likely come down to experience.

"All the people in the lead are all people who have experience in the city," Kasperzak said, referring to the incumbents and planning commissioners.

Kasperzak said the balance of the council would largely stay the same in terms of land use. McAlister would replace the slow-growth vote on the council cast by outgoing member Laura Macias, while Clark could replace the more pro-growth vote that outgoing member Tom Means was known for.

Inks held an election night party at the Tied House, attended by Means and business owners and developers, including Jon Moss of Prometheus Real Estate Group, which is developing over 1,000 apartments in Mountain View. Inks said he was nervous about being in last place among the top four candidates but that he was looking forward to being mayor next year if he won.

Means, an economics professor at San Jose State University, said, "I'm turning my legacy over to John (Inks)" referring to his libertarian positions against regulations on businesses. He also said Clark's perspective as a young tech employee could help change the council's position against housing for Google and other expanding companies in North Bayshore.

Means said Clark could represent those who say: "'I want to live near where I work and I don't need a huge home.' I think the current council didn't represent that very well."

Clark wasn't ready to say how he'd vote on North Bayshore housing, but "in terms of land use, I don't think you'll see much change," Clark said.

Kasperzak noted that McAlister and Clark were both endorsed by the Democratic Party, which means they were seen as being supportive of labor. Tom Means was known for being critical of the city's union contracts and unions in general. Does that mean the new council be more pro-labor?

"Maybe," Kaspserzak, said. "Although everyone ran as fiscally conservative. We really do tend to be pragmatic" in Mountain View.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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