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Sunnyvale elections update - Office of Naval Contemplation

Nov. 7th, 2011

01:00 pm - Sunnyvale elections update

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As you may recall, I was undecided on most of the city council races last time. The election is tomorrow, and in the meantime, I've collected a bit more information.

First, it appears that Jim Davis (Seat 6) and Tara Martin-Milius (Seat 7) have the official backing of the Santa Clara Republican Party. Which goes a long way towards explaining the Pete Constant endorsement, although I'm all the more perplexed by the Public Safety Workers Union endorsements and the endorsements of Mayor Hamilton and Vice Mayor Griffith.

Second, Maria Pan (seat 7) seems to actually be running. I've seen a couple yard signs for her, and she's participated in at least one candidate forum.

Third, based on news summaries of the candidate forum, my preliminary impression that Meyering (seat 5), Hoffman (seat 6), and Pan (seat 7) are aligned with Whittum (seat 4, unopposed) appears to be confirmed.

Fourth, it occurred to me that as Jack Walker and Fred Fowler have served on the council in the past (they've sat out long enough that they're not longer ineligible due to term limits), they ought to have a considerable paper trail. After searching through the San Jose Mercury News archives for "Fred Fowler Sunnyvale" and "Jack Walker Sunnyvale", I've learned the following:

My impression of Fowler as someone who's intelligent, knowledgeable, and conscientious is confirmed. However, he does appear to be a fairly partisan Democrat (I found a letter to the editor complaining that Fowler had sent out a fundraising letter for a Democratic party group, celebrating that there were now no Republicans left on the city council), and I've found a number of policies on which I disagree with him: he's noted as pushing for city funding for a number of minor things that (while they seem like good causes) I don't really think are the proper province of city government, and he took point in a successful effort to block zoning approval to construct a private school. Fowler was also heavily involved in the planning and approval of the Downtown Redevelopment project, which is currently way behind schedule and over budget, and about which I have deep conceptual misgivings on role-of-government grounds.

Walker also opposed zoning approval for the private school, and was also involved in the Downtown Redevelopment project. In addition, he seems to be fairly anti-development in general. He also seems to be more proactive about building code enforcement than I would prefer: my own view, at least for owner-occupied residential property, is that the city should only get involved when 1. the owner asks for the city to certify quality-of-workmanship, or 2. there's a real infringement on their neighbors' safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of their own property. Walker also seems to have been behind a city ordinance that I've personally found unreasonably inconvenient, forbidding the use of power tools in the evening (I understand and support restrictions when people are trying to sleep (say, a 10pm cutoff), but the cutoff is 7pm). Walker also seems to have supported a controversial increase in the city's business licensing tax.

Based on all this, my current leanings:

Seat 4: Still voting for Whittum, who is running unopposed and whom I'd support over just about any plausible challenger.

Seat 5: I'll probably abstain. I still oppose Meyering more than Chang, but I'm pretty confident that Chang will win without my support, and I don't feel comfortable voting for either of them.

Seat 6: Still leaning towards Hoffman. I oppose Walker pretty strongly, and from a strategic voting perspective the best way to oppose Walker is probably by voting for Davis, but I'm very uneasy about Davis (despite being the unofficial Republican candidate) campaigning to Walker's left and picking up support from the public employee unions.

Seat 7: Leaning increasingly towards Pan. I'm uncomfortable with Martin-Milius for the same reasons I'm uncomfortable with Walker, and while I respect Fowler and wouldn't be heartbroken were he to win, I disagree with him on two many issues to wholeheartedly support him.

I'll vote tomorrow morning before work. If anyone has more information or analysis that might sway my vote, please comment.