Newcomers vie for seat on council
Six candidates eye openings on Mountain View City Council
A week into the City Council election nomination period six potential candidates have pulled papers to enter the November 2012 race, including two who are relatively new to the city's political scene.
IT administrator Jim Neal and retired Hewlett Packard data analyst Margaret Capriles hope to give four more established candidates a run for their money this year. Neal became involved in city government recently when he worked to oppose the city's new ban on smoking near publicly accessible buildings, while Capriles says she wants to make sure good transportation systems are in place and that the city develops in a "balanced way" under the new 2030 general plan.
Four City Council seats up for grabs in November, including those held by incumbents John Inks and mayor Mike Kasperzak who will work to remain on the council another four years. Tom Means and Laura Macias are both terming out after eight years on the seven-member council.
Planning commissioners John McAlister and Chris Clark will be running for the second time — both lost by a small margin in 2008's council race.
All six candidates said in emails that they will agree to the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $21,388 this year.
The nomination period for council candidates ends August 10.
Neighborhood: Old Mountain View
Job: information technology assistant administrator at U.C. Berkeley
Neal was a major opponent of the city's new smoking ban and circulated a petition against it. He's a regular patron of downtown's bars who smokes cigars, wears a cowboy hat and a jacket with the Jack Daniel's logo on it. He even wrote Dr. Suess-style poetry about the smoking ban.
"Once I started going to City Hall on a regular basis and I saw all the the things going on, that is what prompted me to run," Neal said.
Later, he worked to oppose the city's proposed plastic bag ban, saying there should be better efforts to recycle them instead. He distributed a list of "101 additional uses" of a plastic bag.
Politically, Neal says he doesn't like to "identify myself with any group" but says his politics are "definitely close to libertarian."
"I think people and businesses are being over-regulated," Neal said. "I definitely believe businesses should be regulated but only to the minimum extent possible to prevent harm."
Neal says he has been homeless five times since he came to California 23 years ago and said in an email, "If we resolved the homeless problem, it would also make a significant impact on reducing the amount of plastic bags in the environment. The other large factor is to provide an incentive for people to recycle or reuse them, such as the CVS Green Bag Tag program."
Neal said he pulled himself out of homelessness because he "refused to give up no matter what" in his search for a job. As a council member he said he would "work with nonprofit organizations and community groups to provide food, shelter, and education where possible, and treatment where needed" to the homeless. "I think community based solutions are the most effective because there are usually fewer administrative hurdles to deal with and more of the money tends to go where it is most needed."
Among the other issues Neal is passionate about is high-speed rail. "I'm definitely opposed to high-speed rail," he said. "All the numbers keep changing as to how much it's going to cost. Every month there's a new plan. I just don't see how they are going to pay for it."
Neal supports housing for Google in North Bayshore as a way to balance the number of jobs in the city's planning pipeline. He says the city's housing development process should have less "regulation and red tape" so developers are able to meet the local demand for housing, thus lowering prices.
In council meetings about housing projects, council members are concerned with "such minutia," Neal said. "Where a tree is going to go, where to put a parking lot, things like that. It increases the cost of housing."
Neal lives with his wife two blocks east of Castro Street and has four kids who live in Ohio. He's lived in Mountain View for seven years.
Neal has a Facebook page for his campaign at facebook.com/nealformountainviewcitycouncil.
Neighborhood: Varsity Park
Political affiliation: moderate Democrat
Job: data quality consultant
Capriles says her experience maintaining the quality of data in Hewlett Packard's databases would come in handy as a City Council member.
"More details give you a better decision, not based on hearsay but on actual facts," Capriles said.
For Capriles, the big issues in the city's near future are related to land use, transportation and city finances.
"I like what we've done so far," Capriles said of the city's development. But under the new 2030 general plan for the city, much development is in store areas such as El Camino Real, San Antonio shopping center and East Whisman, she said. "It makes me want to be there and have a vote in that."
She says the council made the right decision to not allow housing for Google in North Bayshore.
"From what we know right now I think it was the right decision," Capriles said, noting the nearby wildlife and Shoreline Park, which she called "a very special area."
In deciding on infill development, "I want to make sure make sure the solutions we come up with are very homogeneous to communities that exist," Capriles said. In regards to the proposals for an 11-story office building and 200-room hotel at San Antonio shopping center, she said the size of the buildings would not "blend in well" with the surrounding neighborhood. Such developments should be "very welcoming" to neighbors, she said.
"I think we are a very well-managed city," Capriles said in regards to the city budget. "Mountain View has an opportunity to continue to manage the city very well."
To do that, Capriles said the city needs to find other ways to invest and "get a return on investment in our money to go above and beyond the tax base we have." She added that there are still some grants outs there and available as funding for projects.
Capriles points to her experience on the advisory committee for Leadership Mountain View, of which she is also a graduate. She's also been involved in the Hope to Health Initiative for the El Camino Hospital Foundation, which raises money for studies on women's health issues. She's raised four children, and became involved in "everything from swimming to scouts to dancing to gymnastics."
Capriles is the only woman in the field of candidates so far.
"I definitely think it's important to keep the balance of men and women on the council," she said. It would maintain a diversity and freshness in the perspectives, she said.
Capriles has a website for her campaign: margaretcapriles.com.
Email Daniel DeBolt at email@example.com