This election, Mountain View voters have two clear paths for who to pick for the Mountain View City Council. If you're happy with the city's direction and confident in leadership decisions over the last four years, it's a slam dunk – all three incumbents are seeking to keep their seat.
If you want a candidate with a fresh perspective, then you've got two challengers looking to oust the incumbents with a different take on how to approach city issues.
But this November, we recommend the known over the unknown in voting for council members Alison Hicks, Ellen Kamei and Lucas Ramirez. All three have shown a deep knowledge of the city and a penchant for some of the more wonky land use regulations, which will prove invaluable as the city evolves its residential zoning in the coming years.
The incumbents all took part in setting ambitious goals for the city in 2019, and saw those plans swiftly put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic became priority No. 1. Each of the incumbents say they're eager to get reelected and help some of these shelved plans finally come to fruition, whether it be anti-displacement measures or updates to multifamily housing zones. We think they deserve a chance to carry out that work.
The incumbents also proved to be effective leaders during the pandemic, supporting efforts to generously fund local rent relief programs long before the state finally stepped up to address accumulated rental debt. Kamei led the city during its effort to add a much-needed North County vaccination site, which proved to be a valuable extension of county services outside of San Jose. She also deserves kudos for fighting to get as many people as possible counted during the 2020 census, at a time when pandemic protocols were still in effect.
We appreciate Ramirez' passionate approach to R3 zoning changes and anti-displacement work – both housing-related issues that he has championed during his first term, despite limited progress on both fronts. He also has a clear understanding of what it takes to get affordable housing built in Mountain View, and the various routes the city can take to dig up enough funding to get these expensive, deed-restricted units built.
Hicks has an impressive planning background and is both knowledgeable and creative when it comes to building sustainable, walkable and bikeable communities. Phrases like "smart growth" and "livability" are so often used to mask NIMBY motives, but Hicks understands that these are approaches that improve rather than stymie future development. Her perspective will be important as the city considers plans to permanently close Castro Street to traffic and create a car-free downtown, and doubly so if Mountain View adopts a new vision for future development north of Central Expressway along Moffett Boulevard.
We appreciate candidate Li Zhang's willingness to jump into the race for the council, a sure sign that the city's new Chinese Language Civic Leadership academy, which she attended earlier this year, is fulfilling its goal of getting more people involved in local issues. She represents the interests of a portion of the electorate concerned about too much growth. But her lack of experience or a track record on any of the city's committees is too hard to ignore. She also makes a case that the Mountain View's housing forecast is too ambitious and that there isn't enough infrastructure to support it all, but doesn't present a compelling alternative to the city's approach to state-mandated housing plans.
As for candidate Justin Cohen's platform, there really isn't much to say. The direct democracy experiment is an interesting idea, but there are still so many unanswered questions. What if polling the public only attracts a small minority of vocal residents, who control your stance on every issue? How are you going to handle closed-session matters that can't be shared with the public? If you genuinely disagree with what voters want, are you really going to vote against your own conscience? Representative democracy has worked pretty well, and Cohen, who lacks basic knowledge of a council member's duties and the issues facing the city, hasn't offered a compelling argument to deconstruct that tradition this November.
Mountain View is poised to grow at a rapid rate over the next eight years, and some of the biggest projects in the history of the city are currently winding their way through the planning process. What we'll see in terms of comprehensive neighborhoods built in East Whisman and North Bayshore will depend largely on the decisions made by the council in the coming years, and it's essential that we have experienced and thoughtful people making those decisions. Vote for experience this November by returning Kamei, Hicks and Ramirez to the Mountain View City Council.