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Monday, June 17, 2024
ElectionsAn interview with County Supervisor District 3 Candidate: Otto Lee

An interview with County Supervisor District 3 Candidate: Otto Lee

Why are you running for County Supervisor?

Representing my community and advocating for improving the quality of life for my friends and neighbors is personal to me, not political. Santa Clara County needs a supervisor that is committed to addressing the homelessness, housing and mental health crisis hurting our most vulnerable populations as well as the traffic congestion polluting our air. I have dedicated my life to public service, serving in the military for almost 30 years, on the Sunnyvale Planning Commission and City Council, including one successful term as mayor. I’m raising my family in this community and am fully dedicated to making Santa Clara County better for everyone.


What do you love most about Santa Clara County?

I have lived in Santa Clara County for the past 25 years and called it home. As an immigrant, and having lived in Hong Kong and also in SF and the East Bay, I liked the spacious, safe and diverse environment that Santa Clara County offers; as Sunnyvale and our region have been called the Valley of Our Hearts Delight, everything grows here and our soil is very fertile… backyard fruit trees blossom. Our county here is also very diverse with so many ethnicities, offering many different cultural events; and the restaurants give us so many choices of good foods! We have world-class educational institutions and companies right here with many disciplines, which truly make this area very unique. With SJC International flying to more domestic and international destinations, our region of Silicon Valley has certainly become one of the most important places in the world.


If elected, what would your priorities be to improve the lives of residents in our county?

As I see it, there are three challenges that face our community that must be met head-on once I am elected. First, the exorbitant cost of housing. We must support smart housing policies to create more housing, while protecting our open and agricultural space. I will work with the county, cities and developers to provide affordable, local housing options for our most vulnerable populations, including veterans, seniors, the disabled, and low-and-moderate income individuals and families. We must also require new housing projects to provide affordable housing units and low and moderate income levels. Though the second challenge, homelessness, can partially be addressed by increasing our affordable housing stock, we must also maintain focus on improving mental healthcare options. Additionally, ​we should explore using small, temporary housing options to help get families off the streets and into homes. Lastly, traffic congestion is choking our communities and hurting our environment. I will lead efforts to improve our public transportation system, including BART and VTA; better integrate our systems with each other; and continue to expand access to more communities.


What are some things you see that are happening in local government right now that inspire you?

Living in Sunnyvale has taught me many great things that the government can do for our families and neighborhoods. Sunnyvale has been ranked as one of America’s safest cities. Our City has a unique 20-year budget cycle, allowing us to account for the economic cycles of good and bad times, saving to build up a fiscal reserve during the good times and drawing down the reserve funds to supplement during the bad times in order to even out the level of service provided to our residents.


How can we help our residents who are facing mental health challenges? What would you propose?

Preserving and improving our County’s mental health services is one of my highest priorities. We cannot continue to let our County jail be the only option for residents with mental health needs. I will strengthen mental health services for our community by working to change the conversation around mental health, and fighting to remove stigmas so that everyone can feel safe and comfortable enough to talk openly about their experiences. It is equally important to make sure that educators, counselors, and employers are trained to listen and provide the assistance needed. I will work to make sure that access to mental healthcare is easy, comfortable, and affordable. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors is responsible for supporting our youth and students by providing them with social and community services, which are key in helping each child have the ability to learn and thrive.


Any proposals for bringing more affordable housing to our region?

The cost of housing is felt by everyone in our community, especially seniors and veterans. We need to do more to create affordable housing, especially for our most vulnerable populations. We need to explore new solutions like loan programs or various allowances so homeowners can create accessory dwelling units for their parents and relatives or their adult children.


Any ideas to ease traffic congestion?

Traffic congestion is choking our community, stifling economic growth, hurting working-class people, and worsening climate change. As Supervisor, I will support efforts to improve and lower the costs of using public transportation, including BART and VTA, bringing access to underserved communities. I will also prioritize infrastructure improvements including fixing local roads, increasing lanes in onramps/offramps, adding overpasses and underpasses to reduce traffic lights. These changes will help our county improve safety, and reduce harmful traffic congestion in our community.


Do you have any ideas that would help our county government function more effectively?

We need less red tape and more action in delivering county services, especially for our most vulnerable population, eg. the unhoused population. Long term Support Housing is indeed very much needed but we need temporary housing NOW. With 161 homeless deaths last year in this county, this need is very urgent and we must implement some low cost, temporary shelter/housing now to get them off sleeping by the creekside and underpasses.


What do you think the biggest issue is that’s impacting residents in our district, and how do you intend to help fix it?

The growing number of people forced to live on our streets, highway underpasses, creekside, and their cars, especially in this affluent county, is inhumane and unacceptable. This is a humanitarian crisis and a top issue statewide. We must create stable, safe, and viable options for the unhoused in our community and increase funding for both inpatient and outpatient mental health services so that they can easily receive the care they need. As I said previously, we cannot continue to let our County jail be the only option for residents with mental health needs.


What is something unique that you bring to the table?

As an immigrant, speaking Chinese and Spanish, having worked in restaurant waiting tables to dishwashing, and serving in the military for three decades including the war zone in Iraq and times of heightened tensions in S. Korea…also as founder of a small law firm for 20 years..I’m able to bring many experiences to the table to help solve our county’s problems.


What is something that not everyone might know about you?

I love to cook. I have a very good BBQ sauce recipe, and make delicious crepes and Tiramisu.


What do you love to do in your spare time?

Catching up on the news, listening to PBS Newshour, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and visiting In-n-Out with my children.


Anything else you’d like to share?

I founded a law firm located in San Jose downtown’s iconic building, Old Bank of America Building – for the last 20+ years. We finally left and moved to The Alameda when the building was bought by WeWork.


Where can people go to learn more about you?

People can learn more about my campaign, the issues we are focusing on and the dozens of elected officials, community organizations and activists that have pledged their support at: OttoLee.org


And finally, why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me in part because of my record and vision for the county but also because this job is personal and not political for me. I am committed to this community because I’m part of this community. I’m raising my family here and am fully devoted to creating a better Santa Clara County for my children and all residents.




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