Milpitas is at the heart of Silicon Valley. A lot of tech companies and tech workers with families live, work, and go to school in Milpitas. How do you feel about this influx of people? How will you ensure the city has the resources and infrastructure to support a fast-growing community?
Timothy Alcorn: Milpitas is, of course, the fastest growing city in Silicon Valley. I believe it’s second in California and I believe it’s # 8 in the U.S. And I’m glad you asked that question because it doesn’t get enough attention. For one, I’ve already touched on this, but we need to beef up, in a sense, our infrastructure, so it all comes back to schools and traffic and parks. With new families coming in, we need to make sure that each student has a comfortable seat in school and they’re not in a classroom that has 50 people in it, because that’s just overcrowded. We need to make sure that we have parking. Every new apartment complex that comes in should have its own parking structure so not everyone’s parking in public parking on the street, and they should be able to provide their own parking structure with their building. Personally I think it’s great that tech companies are setting up here. But maybe Milpitas needs to start working with the tech companies, and if they’re going to live in Milpitas make sure that they can do it in a comfortable way. And, like I said, it all just comes down to the education system, the infrastructure, the roads. Making sure roads like Landess and Calaveras are wide enough, have enough lanes to where the large amount of people that are driving through have space to drive, and it’s not two lanes for hundreds of cars, so when a red light hits you get stopped way back. I remember one time I was driving from IHOP and it took me almost an hour to get just to 237. It’s insane. You know, look at — and not just look at — but realistically and seriously start looking at adding lanes, adding turn lanes, just things that, solutions that are plausible in the next few years. I don’t have all the answers for traffic, I really don’t. But I’m very determined to solve that problem; because as someone who has lived here for a long time, let me tell you, 10 years ago, it didn’t take 45 minutes to get across Milpitas. We need to make sure our infrastructure as a whole changes with the times and changes with the growing population that we have. But I think if we beefed up our school system, added schools, and helped alleviate the traffic problem, and build more parks, and invest a little bit more in parks and recreation, I think we would actually be able to take this growing population and have a very comfortable city; where everyone would live comfortably without a ton of traffic, and everyone can send their kids to school without fear that they’re not going to get the attention that they need. And a lot of that with the schooling comes with a good relationship with the School Board which right now we do not have. City Council and the School Board don’t not have the relationship that they need to grow.
Garry Barbadillo: To take care of the community, we need to have a stable revenue source. On the policy perspective we are devising policies to make sure our services, particularly our core services, will not be omitted from our budget. And the way to do this is to make sure funding sources are stable. We are aware of taxes. We are aware of grants. We work on those. Actually there is a proposal to increase hotel taxes to further channel funds to resources available to core services. We have directed staff to look at alternative fund sources like grants, whether federal or state to cater for not only infrastructure development and expansion to address the influx of people. And bottom line too, is you’re right, there’s an influx; we are in the center of the Silicon Valley and it cannot be stopped. We have to develop but that development needs to be responsible. So regardless of the development, regardless of the pace we will try to ensure that we don’t outpace the necessary concerns to jive with the development in influx of people. Meaning, each and every policy that we should enforce in the city needs to be mindful, not only to us, being the center of Silicon Valley; but us being mindful that the consequence of this development affects the community, and that’s what we’re trying to make comfortable.
Karina Dominguez: I definitely think Milpitas is a very special place because of who lives here. Our city…I believe in the past 18 years…I’ve experienced nothing but a village that comes together and welcomes everybody. I have, personally in my neighborhood; I know all my neighbors on my street. I have a lot of seniors that live on our street. As a single mother, they’ve help me through this phase. If it’s either taking our trash out on Monday mornings, because I’m rushing out, taking my daughter to school or what not. So I know that the city of Milpitas is very welcoming. I also know that with that, there are a lot of people who have lived here for many, many years and have seen this city transform. And with that comes a lot of concerns, especially about growth and development. For me, my number one concern about growth and development is affordable housing. What are we doing to provide affordable housing? I do strongly believe that yes, we have to be more responsible with development, but we can’t provide affordable housing without development. So, definitely, those coexist. So what we need to do is definitely make sure that we’re reading more than the consultant’s report and that we’re being more engaged, having those conversations with our community. For example, how is the development project going to help the infrastructure of our city, if that’s either with local libraries, with our parks; if that’s building a park on the roof and then making it available for everybody? Or working on workplace stations that are open to the community? I think we haven’t really maximized that; I haven’t seen that happen in the development projects that I’ve seen. And that’s something that makes me different from other candidates. In terms of development, I know the number one concern, talking with voters, is parking. When we’re putting up these developments, we’re not thinking about parking. And the conversation around parking is very different now because we’re not requiring a certain amount of spaces of parking per units, or the requirement is very low. Because the hope is that we alter into a city that uses public transportation, and that we become friendlier as a city, helping and educating our community using transportation. BART is coming. And we’re hopefully going to maximize our VTA services. The reality is that that’s not going to happen overnight. That’s going to take a long time to get to that place where we are all biking, being a little bit more environmentally conscious, using less cars, and walking more, and building a city that is going to provide the infrastructure for us to do that. In between now and then, parking is a huge problem that’s affecting traditional single home family households. And so, personally, I think we need to take more advantage of technology; we need to really look up the language that we are drafting when we are accepting these development projects, or the contracts that we are accepting with developers. By that, I mean there is technology that allows for a single space to turn into six. Something like a robotic parking structure. New York uses it, there are other cities that use it. I’ve not seen a city in California use it. One of my goals, remember, is I want Milpitas to be the hub…so whatever we do in Milpitas, the state follows.
Marsha Grilli: I think the influx of people here is beneficial to the city of Milpitas. We are growing a vibrant community and I think that’s very important if we are bringing in a lot of new families; we’re a family oriented community. And we have excellent schools and as far as dealing with the infrastructure, all of the new housing that’s coming in through the Transit Area Specific Plan, those developers are paying a fee, an impact fee above and beyond the other fees that they pay to support the infrastructure. I think it’s about 33,000 a unit, and then there also is an additional community development tax that is placed on those homes out there that support some of the extra resources that we are going to need. And when we’re looking at the growth of our city, we need to focus on our public safety. How are we going to address our public safety issues? How is that going to affect the city and how are we going to be appropriately staffed? And just like we’ve been doing, we’ve been able to, through the capital improvement projects; we’ve been able to start investing in more apparatus for our fire department so that we are able to protect our community. Also, when you say “ influx of people,” I want to insure the fact that I feel that those families moving into Milpitas are part of our Milpitas community and welcomed here. There is a perception that they aren’t valued as community members because they aren’t “longtime residents.” In my opinion, they are as valued as any other family that has chosen Milpitas as their home.
Robert Marini: Well, the first thing — I’d like to have less construction, less land development, because again, it makes the water problem even worse than it was before. I support the infrastructure, I support new buildings, if it is for low income families. So the answer to your question is, if it’s for low income families, I think we can add a few more people. But I don’t want to expand it out such that you’re driving basically the population in Milpitas out because they can’t afford to live here anymore because the cost of everything’s going up. So my answer is I support, if it’s low income, I support the development of new housing for that. Because we are too successful…the city of Milpitas…Santa Clara County or Silicon Valley is too successful. They’ve got more and more people coming and they got these H-1B visa people coming in when they should be looking to develop people who are in our community as well. But they don’t. The corporations basically win; they have H1B people come into this country, then they have to have a place to live. It’s driving the cost of everything, housing, especially higher. It’s great if you want to leave, but if you want to stay, you got a problem.
Carmen Montano: The most essential services are Police, Fire, and the City Maintenance. Those are the essentials because they deal with public safety. As you know, BART is coming in and the reason why there is so much high density building concentrated in that area, near the Great Mall, the Transit Area, is because in order to get federal funding, the federal government mandates that there be high density housing near mass transit. It’s a mandate. You can’t get out of that. So going back to Fire and Police, you have to have those essential services for public safety. And we have to keep our fast response time, so that means we have to have a strong force; and one of the great things about Milpitas is that people do really appreciate the fast response times. What I hear from other cities is that the police don’t come right away. So Milpitas is very fortunate that we have great public safety responders. And they come pretty fast. I think it’s less than 3 minutes or 2 minutes. To insure we have the resources, we have to make sure that we budget for those emergencies, and to make sure that we sustain our staff, and also have an emergency fund.
Van Lan Truong: That’s a great question. That’s the current issue that everyone needs to look at. In one way, we’re so grateful for all the technology, all the innovation that helped to improve our lives; also what comes along with that are the jobs, the prosperity that big corporations bring into towns. We’re all for increasing jobs and opportunities for everyone, we’re all for more taxes so we can finance schools and other social service programs we need for our community. At the same time, major tech companies should also share the burden…If some elected official wants to promote more lunch hours for the employee to go out into the community at lunch, it’s very simple…we need the same thing. We need to share the prosperity with everyone. If you have more tech workers at higher salaries that can afford housing, good. But what about the janitor or the cook or the security worker that works in the same company, yet may sleep in the parking lot, or they may go home to a crowded sub-standard housing situation? They don’t have a place to live or stay. There has to be a solution that works between city government and tech companies over housing and transportation. In our community, how many people are getting on the bus or light rail to go to work? Or drive to work, or walk to work? We have to balance everything. Many solutions have been looked at by many people that care enough for the well-being of our community. We can always work together and bring new ideas that work for everyone. Can we look at other alternatives that make sense?
It’s a two-way street for everyone. If it’s okay with you, most likely it will be okay with me. But it’s not a single solution. Not the tech company’s solution only. We need everyone’s help. We have to look at every policy. But for now, let’s ask the tech companies to provide some money to help build more affordable housing. To have their fair share. And if they don’t want to develop more housing units in our town, let’s ask the city for it to say this is what we need. We have to do more education, and more communication, to let people know they have to give up a litte.
If you are a developer and you need to develop a number of units, you can pay the percentage fee for those units; or you can give up a percentage for low income people to afford it. So things like that. We need to look at every little number.
Suraj “Sun” Viswanathan: So I am very happy to have all these people coming to live in Milpitas. That’s number one, to be thankful to have those kinds of people here. The second thing is, I think the city needs to work on developing more infrastructure to support whatever is required for these people to live here. Bottom line, that is what it comes down to. There is no question about we don’t have the budget or don’t have the money or resources to support these people. Why? Number one reason, these people all have cars, they all pay sales taxes when they buy a car. That sales tax comes to the city and that is an income that is provided by those people working from here. And that is how our bottom line budget is based out of. And I think there is tremendous amount of cash inflow because of these taxes. The last time I was in a meeting with the study of the budget and things like that…they were very particular that Milpitas’ whole revenue is based out of funds from the sales tax we cover, from the sales tax we collect from cars. So I think we have to work as a city to have adequate staff. Milpitas needs to find a way to diversify staffing.
Note: Some of the candidates’ responses have been lightly edited for clarity.