Mountain View's upcoming November election is already taking shape.
Earlier this week, Councilman Ken Rosenberg surprised his colleagues by announcing that he would not seek a seek a second term. That news has already inspired activity among aspirants looking to fill his seat.
Ken Rosenberg. Photo by Michelle Le
Ramirez ran in 2016 amid a crowded field of candidates, and he came up just short of winning one of the four open seats.
Ramirez said he originally wasn't planning on running again, given that it appeared any newcomer would be at a considerable disadvantage. The three City Council seats open for this year's election are all held by incumbents in their first term: Mayor Lenny Siegel, Councilwoman Pat Showalter and Rosenberg.
But then Rosenberg declared he wouldn't run for re-election, and he reportedly encouraged Ramirez to go for it.
"Even through I wasn't planning at all to run this year, I feel strongly enough about several of the key issues that will likely dominate this campaign," Ramirez said in an interview with the Voice. "I've been to every City Council meeting since 2012, and I've absorbed a lot through osmosis, so I'll be able to hit the ground running."
Much like his last run, Ramirez expects the big issues in this election to be housing and transportation. He supports “aggressive” housing growth centered in certain neighborhoods, including North Bayshore, East Whisman and possibly the Terra Bella area. But he is more cautious about similar housing growth in other areas of town, such as south of El Camino or the downtown.
He remains supportive of Mountain View’s rent control program, but he emphasizes that it should be considered a short-term measure to prevent displacement. A true remedy for the long-term has to be housing growth, he said.
“Fundamentally, I don’t believe (rent control) is going to address the root cause of the housing crisis,” he said.
Rent control is already shaping up to be a dominant issue in this year’s election. In recent weeks, an opposition media campaign was launched by a group that appears to be laying the groundwork for a November ballot measure to repeal rent control.
Ramirez, 29, has worn a lot of hats in local civics around Silicon Valley. He also regularly volunteers with the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and he served on Mountain View's Human Relations Committee and the Valley Transportation Authority's Citizens Advisory Committee.
Last year, he was appointed to Mountain View's Environmental Planning Commission and began working as a legislative analyst in the office of San Jose Councilman Sergio Jimenez. He has previously worked as a campaign volunteer for state Sen. Jerry Hill and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, both of whom are endorsing him.
Ramirez also has the endorsement of Councilman Rosenberg. Ramirez would be an excellent candidate to fill his seat, Rosenberg told the Voice.
"I would only want to vacate my position if there was someone I trust who would replace me," Rosenberg said. “I know Lucas well and I trust him ... and we share a lot of the same values.”
Rosenberg said his decision not to run was based primarily on the huge time demands of local public office. He wanted to devote more time to his family and his job, as well as on a project to create an international institute for human rights. As mayor last year, Rosenberg championed that project and pushed the city to support it.
As for the other council members up for re-election, Mayor Siegel told the Voice he intends to run again. Councilwoman Showalter could not be immediately reached for comment.
It remains to be seen whether other challengers will run in the 2018 City Council race. Former candidates Thida Cornes and Ellen Kamei both have updated campaign committees on file with the city, although they have not formally declared candidacy. Neither of them could be immediately reached for comment.