It's only February, but at least four candidates have filed statements of interest to run for City Council in the November election.
Three seats will be vacated at year's end by long-time council members Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant, a trio that has often voted together, making up the bulk of a narrow, four-person majority behind numerous big moves: the prevention of new housing development north of Highway 101, blocking a bridge for Google's commuter buses across Stevens Creek, banning marijuana dispensaries within city limits and a ban to keep cigarette smokers out of publicly-accessible areas in the city, among others.
Two newcomers are stepping up: Human Relations Commission member Ken Rosenberg, who has already gone to the trouble of making a website, and Parks and Recreation Commission chair Helen Wolter, who said she was "seriously considering it."
There is also the return of 2012 candidates Margaret Capriles and Jim Neal. After coming in a distant last in the 2012 election, Neal has been busy making his libertarian beliefs known at most City Council meetings, most recently in his vociferous opposition to the ban of polystyrene food containers on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The city's 2012 ban on smoking in public places galvanized Neal into involvement in local politics.
Capriles, a retired Hewlett Packard data architect who has been on the Environmental Planning Commission since the start of 2013, was only a few percentage points shy of winning a seat in the 2012 race.
Wolter is a Monta Loma neighborhood resident and stay-at-home mother of a young child. She is a self-described progressive and a former high school history teacher at an East Palo Alto school. She has spent the last two years on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. She says she is an advocate for more park space in neighborhoods that lack it, along with making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Her foray into local politics was opposing the Mayfield Mall housing development as proposed by developer Toll Brothers, taking a position with her neighbors in support of only four-story development along Central Expressway. The City Council eventually approved buildings of five stories.
Wolter says the city "obviously has a housing imbalance" where massive job growth from Google and others is causing rents and home prices to skyrocket. But she isn't willing to approve just any new housing development to satisfy the demand, she said.
"I want to make sure any new development meets the needs of the residents in all manners," Wolter said. "I would say I am more of a slow growth proponent than some of the people who will still be on council. I worked to lower the heights and the density of Mayfield. I am very up-front on that."
Housing is also a top issue for Rosenberg, a married father of two and a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley. He's been on the Human Relations Commission for the last three years, and is known for organizing Mountain View's "Civility Roundtable" which has brought together opposing sides on controversial issues, like gun control and immigration, for a civil discussion. He became involved in local politics through the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association in the late 1990s when a car crashed through his fence downtown near Bush and Evelyn streets.
Rosenberg said his top priorities so far are for adequate city infrastructure for growth followed by land use issues and housing affordability.
"I think (housing) is one of the foremost issues facing not just Mountain View, but all the cities in the greater Bay Area," Rosenberg said. "I am an advocate of more housing stock. What that looks like is to be determined. I'm not an advocate of pulling up the drawbridge once somebody's moved in."
"We have challenges with people being removed from their homes. The gentrification of Mountain View is happening and it's been in my face quite a few times," he said. "One of the HRC members resigned this past week, basically for cost of living issues. (Nilda Santiago) had to leave the city. It's really sad, she's a wonderful human being. I don't know if there's equity or fairness in capitalism, but capitalism is rearing its ugly head right now and it's really affecting people."
All of the candidates have agreed to the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $22,030.
The nomination period runs from July 14 to August 8 for Mountain View residents interested in running for the City Council.