San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan seeks new level of collaboration
The task for Matt Mahan as San Jose's new mayor was never going to be easy.
Not with a city still dealing with the pandemic, an economic downturn, homelessness, a housing crisis and public safety concerns. Oh. Did we mention no returning councilmembers who backed him in the November election?
Then there's this: Last fall's mayoral campaign featured nasty attack ads from both sides that worsened the longstanding divide between labor and business, making finding common ground on council issues that much harder.
It leaves the business-backed Mahan with three options:
• Fight with labor at every turn, likely resulting in little or no progress on the mayor's priorities.
• Capitulate to labor's agenda, which would anger those who elected him.
• Seek common ground with labor and find ways to collaborate in the best interest of San Jose residents.
We like the third option. And so does Mahan, as demonstrated by his approach in his first days in office. It's a smart strategy. If labor is willing to cooperate.
Mahan last week nominated council newcomer Rosemary Kamei as vice mayor. It's an intriguing choice. Kamei was endorsed by the South Bay Labor Council — the same organization that spent $5 million backing Cindy Chavez's effort to defeat Mahan.
But Kamei proved to be an independent voice on the Santa Clara County Board of Education, which explains in part why she was also endorsed for the City Council by the business-oriented Santa Clara County Association of Realtors. Kamei now represents District 1, the traditionally moderate district that includes Santana Row and Westgate. If approved as vice mayor by
the full council Jan. 24, Kamei is perfectly positioned to serve as a bridge between labor and business.
Mahan then extended an olive branch to the four returning councilmembers who backed Chavez last fall. He selected Dev Davis, Pam Foley, David Cohen and Sergio Jimenez to serve on the powerful Rules and Open Government Committee, which controls the council agenda. The mayor will add a fifth member after the vacant District 8 and District 10 seats are filled.
Mahan's third significant move was creating five transition committees aimed at making the council laser-focused on what he sees as the city's five highest priorities:
homelessness, public safety, blight and beautification, economic development and innovation. The committees will consist of councilmembers, city staff and community members. They will meet for roughly eight weeks to make recommendations on how the city should proceed and how to measure
success. The latter is a key element of Mahan's campaign promise to bring more accountability to city government.
Getting the council on the same page and working collaboratively is a tall order. But give Mahan credit for taking meaningful steps to try to make it a reality.