“I will be a very different Mayor. I’m going to take my role very seriously. And it’s going to be about action and not rhetoric. I think that a leader should be consistently challenging themselves to do better, to do more for the city, and not just posting on social media all day.” –Anthony Phan, 7-28-22
Milpitas City Councilmember Anthony Phan has launched a progressive campaign for Mayor, running on a platform of cleaning up the city, repairing its parks and streets, improving public safety, and – above all else – making Milpitas a more affordable place to live.
Phan’s in the middle of his second four-year City Council term, having come in second behind Bob Nuñez in 2016 before taking the top spot in 2020. If he loses his mayoral race, he’ll continue serving on the dais for two more years.
Phan sat down the other day for a phone interview with The Beat. Says the candidate, “My plan is to help the city’s most vulnerable, to help our homeless neighbors, through expansion and creating access to more services, implementing prevention strategies. ‘Cause I think that housing is a right and everybody deserves to live under a roof.”
He speaks to a belief in the power of Milpitas, along with its potential and what the city has to offer. “But,” he says, “we need the right leadership. The problem is leadership. And the problem is funding. How are we gonna fund what we want to do?”
Phan thinks about how within every budget cycle, the City is tasked with creating a balanced budget, complete with allocations for services and staff: “Not everybody gets what they want during the budget season…We missed out on a lot of opportunities to fund some of our services.”
Phan’s campaign, he emphasizes repeatedly, is one revolving around action: “We need to be turning ideas into action. A lot of the time, it’s just ideas; it’s just rhetoric. We need to have a backbone and stand up and take action on issues that sometimes aren’t popular.”
Case in point: state housing funds. “We go to war with the state,” he says. As Mayor, he’d want to make Milpitas into a pro-housing jurisdiction, an official designation granted at the state level, qualifying Milpitas for housing funds. According to Phan, Milpitas has taken steps in this direction, but can go further.
He’s running against his current fellow Councilmembers Vice Mayor Carmen Montano and Karina Dominguez. Earlier this year, Phan bought the web domain bearing Montano’s name and redirected it to his own fundraising site, but then stopped doing so after Montano complained.
What does Phan believe sets him apart from his 2022 opponents?
“I am somebody who takes big ideas and turns them into action. I am somebody who can unify the city and build bridges, rather than divide. Because for too long, we have been plagued by petty politics, by bickering, by in-fighting on the council, at the dais, and residents have suffered because of it. The residents deserve better. They deserve real leadership with real accountability. So that’s what I have to offer.”
Says Phan, morale has cratered at Milpitas City Hall. Repeatedly, he’s seen staff members leave for roles in other jurisdictions. He wonders why that is, given that Milpitas remains one of the fastest-growing economies in Silicon Valley. Phan’s answer? “Too much instability at City Hall. And we need to change the culture.”
Meanwhile, as far as Phan is concerned, quality recreation, diversity, arts, and culture are all worthy of celebration, but in recent years such things have taken precedence over more urgent matters: “Do we prioritize that over desperately needed services for people who are the most vulnerable? For people who are struggling to pay rent? For critical transportation improvements? Or does that take a backseat because we want to appease certain community elements?”
Again, it all goes back to action: “I want to get things done. We should be accomplishing concrete things – deliverables. My goal is to ensure that people don’t get left behind. That people feel welcome here in Milpitas. I think that that’s something that has really gotten to me…”
Phan recollects conversations he’s had with members of the local unhoused population. In one exchange, an unhoused resident said they didn’t feel welcome here. It went as far as them wondering whether their neighbors in Milpitas even thought of them as human.
Phan won’t have it. He’s a proponent of the American dream, yet he fears that too many in the city aren’t able to meet it.
Between now and the November election, Phan can be expected to be seen campaigning on social media and at residents’ doorsteps – and all points in between. To him, the mayoral role is symbolic, but it packs a powerful punch: “How people see you is reflective of how they see the city…A Mayor should not be holding grudges, should not be combative with people even if they disagree. Because it shouldn’t be personal. You have a role that you’re elected to. You have a sworn obligation to do what’s right for your constituents.”
He doesn’t cite Rich Tran, our current Mayor, by name, yet he says Mayors should do more than attend ribbon-cuttings and tour businesses for photo opps. “That’s not the kind of Mayor I’m gonna be.” Phan envisions deep partnerships with our community stakeholders, not just from the business realm, but from the education sector and varied public agencies. For example, Phan would pursue property-based improvement districts, wherein property owners participate, using tax-roll funds, to attend to current work plan goals. Working together, the City and the businesses would attend to weed abatement, graffiti removal, street cleaning, and general beautification, with the goal of enhancing property values for the owner: an equal partnership with equal value across the board.
The start of Anthony Phan’s Mayoral campaign hasn’t been the only highlight of his summer. The candidate is newly married to his wife, Suzanne, about whom he shares, “She’s very supportive, and that’s something that I am just very blessed to have. I’m able to keep my sanity because of her. Because there have been very tough battles, people have said very nasty things, and it can be very demoralizing, but I have found strength in her support.”
In the future, the couple wishes to have kids, and they foresee remaining in Milpitas. But before he’s a dad, Phan wants to ensure that Milpitas offers opportunities for every family in it, along with safe streets and clean sidewalks.
First, though, he has to win the race. He goes in with energy – ready for the next battle.
“I think that residents,” says Phan, before hanging up the phone, “are ready for a new Mayor.”