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City CouncilMilpitas City Council approves appointment of Chia-Ling Kong to Planning Commission

Milpitas City Council approves appointment of Chia-Ling Kong to Planning Commission

Milpitas resident Chia-Ling Kong was voted onto the Milpitas Planning Commission at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. 

The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Carmen Montano, Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua, and Councilmember Garry Barbadillo voting in favor. 

“I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Planning Commission,” Kong shared with The Beat. “The privilege of serving our community is one I hold in high regard, and I am committed to making informed decisions that meet the diverse needs of our residents, businesses, and visitors while cultivating sustainable communities for both present and future generations.”

Kong had previously served on the City of Milpitas’ Energy and Environmental Sustainability Commission. She has also served on the South Bay Odor Stakeholders Group (SBOSG), the Thomas Russell School Site Council, and the MUSD Community Board Advisory Council.

Kong will be stepping into a planning commission seat previously held by Bill Chuan, who applied to hold onto his seat as his term ran out. 

Chuan, who had been serving on the Planning Commission since 2019, caught up with The Beat after Kong was appointed.

“I would have liked to continue my service on the Planning Commission as I’ve received so many positive comments about the work the Planning Commission was doing,” shared Chuan. He also added: “It’s been an honor to serve with the Planning Commission and working with the Planning staff. I’m proud of everyone’s professionalism.”

As Milpitas’ Municipal Code grants the mayor sole authority to nominate commissioners, it was Mayor Montano who had put Kong’s name forward for planning commissioner.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Hon Lien had pulled the item regarding Montano’s commission appointments from the consent calendar for the sake of discussing it. She felt that Chuan had served the commission well and wanted him to remain in his seat.

Councilmember Anthony Phan confirmed with The Beat that, in the past, if a commissioner has wanted to renew their term, they’ve usually been allowed to do so.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s meeting, the conversation took on a charge when Councilmember Phan turned on his mic, saying, “I will just be candid and say that I have serious reservations about this individual.” 

Phan then referenced a 2020 special election wherein Kong ran for a Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) seat after she objected to the district’s appointment process for filling it, which had led to her coming in second. The special election cost the district $100,000 and Kong was defeated by current School Board President Minh Ngo, the originally selected appointee.

Montano and Phan went back and forth, with Montano not wishing to highlight the 2020 special election and Phan indicating that the high cost of the election reflected Kong’s character.  

Before the vote, during Public Comment, former Vice Mayor and Councilmember Karina Dominguez took to the mic on the main floor, saying, “It truly brings me chills to feel the energy in this room that has not changed…The mayor continues to not listen to her colleagues.”

Dominguez expressed sympathy for Lien and Phan while echoing previous remarks from Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua in favor of giving every councilmember a voice when it came to commissioner recommendations. Dominguez also noted that former Mayor Rich Tran had allowed for such an approach, which Dominguez deemed more equitable. 

Along with stating that she feels every member of the council should be able to make recommendations, Vice Mayor Chua also noted how impressed she has been by witnessing all Chia-Ling Kong has done during her time serving on the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Commission.

Chua said of Kong, “I know her to be diligent, smart, and she does her homework.”

During a special City Council meeting held on January 9, the Milpitas City Council discussed another one of Mayor Montano’s recommendations to the Planning Commission – former School Board Trustee Michael Tsai, who was censured during his time on Milpitas Unified School District’s Board of Education. In that case, when Councilmember Phan expressed his concerns, he was able to prevent Tsai from being appointed. 

In recent days, former Planning Commissioner Larry Ciardella had also applied to keep his seat in advance of being termed out, but the mayor also decided not to renew Ciardella’s spot.  

Paid for by Evelyn Chua for Milpitas City Council FPPC#1470209spot_img
Rhoda Shapiro & Eric Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro & Eric Shapiro
Rhoda and Eric Shapiro are the editors of The Milpitas Beat.


  1. “The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Carmen Montano, Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua, and Councilmember Garry Barbadillo voting in favor.” This 3-2 split on the Council is a pattern that is costing the City. The most obvious example was their firing of City Manager Steve McHarris. Now, they are looking to dump 2 Planning Commission members who have well-served the City. Like then, these 3 Council member don’t have a good explanation for their decision.
    We can expect this pattern to continue because Montano and Barbadillo are suspected in taking a bribe from former-Mayor Tran. We’ve known about the bribery charge against former Tran and Montano since May ’23 when City Manager Steve McHarris filed a claim against the city alleging mistreatment by Evelyn Chua, Carmen Montano, and Rich Tran. In December 2023, McHarris went further by filing a lawsuit (http://bit.ly/3UjCwZG) claiming that former-Mayor Tran had offered a bribe to candidates running for Council including Carmen Montano and Gary Barbadillo. Tran offered his active campaign endorsement in exchange for the candidate’s commitment, if elected, to remove McHarris as their first order of business.” Shortly after taking office, Montano and Barbadillo were joined by Chua in firing McHarris (in violation of the City’s contract with McHarris). Apparently, the 3 are now playing some kind of game with commission appointments.
    This year We the People have an opportunity to reverse this 3-2 domination by voting in replacements for Montano and Chua. We the People replaced that loser Trump with Joe Biden in 2022; let’s flex our democratic muscle by replacing Montano and Chua.


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