In 2020’s Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, District 3, race, Otto Lee took a striking victory with 60.4% of the vote, to opponent Kansen Chu’s 39.5% remainder. Chu has long been a regional political titan, with what Lee calls “very, very high name I.D.”
Asked by The Beat how he feels post-victory, Lee says, “We were a little surprised, actually.” He then gave immense credit to the hard work of the volunteers and others on his team, whom he said did far more than anyone had expected.
Come December 7, departing Supervisor Dave Cortese will step down, at which point Lee will be sworn in straight away and get to work.
What are his out-the-gate priorities? “I campaigned very much hard on the homeless issue,” Lee says. “People are dying on the streets.”
As he looks ahead to the winter, Lee adds, “Additional temporary housing is absolutely critical.” This means increased beds and tiny homes–things he hopes to help implement fairly early on in his term.
He’s also thinking constantly of COVID-19, saying, “There’s still no leadership in terms of the mask mandate” and “Maybe 2 out of 3 people are wearing masks…It’s just not enough…You need 95% of people that’s wearing masks, at the minimum, to make this work. And then also hygiene and habit.”
Lee cites Americans’ collective behavior as a major contributor to the aggressive viral spread across the country. He points to towns along the northern U.S. border, such as in North Dakota, then notes how much more COVID exists there than in neighboring Canadian towns: “The weather’s exactly the same…[But] the numbers are orders of magnitude bigger…It’s really, really, really sad.”
Long a leader on the climate change front (Lee was nicknamed “The Green Mayor” while holding that post in Sunnyvale), he looks forward to a return to “common sense” with the forthcoming Biden presidency, which should start off with 100 or so executive orders reversing the climate-relevant policies of Donald Trump while also bringing America back into the Paris Climate Agreement.
Back on the local front, Lee mentions seeking to replace recent plans for building a new jail with plans to build more facilities to house our residents with mental health problems. “That change is just so long overdue,” he says. “And I’m so excited to see that that’s something we’ll be working on.”
His parting words, however, bring it all back to COVID-19: “If you’re leaving the house, why would you not wear a mask?” A military veteran, Lee compares masks to bulletproof vests and basic body armor. In other words, they are a fundamental line of defense against the coronavirus.