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Wednesday, November 29, 2023
ContributorMilpitas Mayor Candidate Interviews: Part II

Milpitas Mayor Candidate Interviews: Part II




The odor from the landfills is still a big problem for citizens. How will you address?


Esteves: I’m very happy to say that I could be the first council or mayor that addressed this issue aggressively. This has been ongoing odor issue since the eighties, and I don’t know why the previous elected [officials] didn’t even address that. So we addressed it with a report and all these studies, but it never worked. So we tried our best to do what the people really desire, like for example, working with Newby Island and Republic Services and nothing happened. That’s why we had to do what we had to do — like for example, not use the Newby for Milpitas, and also when the collection services of Republic Services expired, that we ask for a public bidding…Our selection was in terms of garbage disposal, was to the Newby Island is closer. Unfortunately I heard that now we are throwing it further now, and that could be one reason why rates could be a little higher…I would still pursue this issue because I’m still hearing reports of odor from people; it’s not totally gone. So I would look into best management practices for Newby Island, ‘cause there are other garbage sites that do not have this problem. So it would be a matter of imposing better management practices for the garbage disposal area…more aggressive in really in perfecting and identifying the source of the smell, because if we cannot find the root of the problem we cannot have a good solution.

Lee: I went there twice this week and…the size of the landfill is 298 acres, which is a total of 342 acres. I’m still talking with my advisers. I mean past, how many years, over 10 years, nobody do it, even though I heard that they had a meeting there, but they couldn’t find a solution…I’m still talking and researching with some professors. So if I were a citizen of Milpitas, trust me on this November, I will fix and I will solve the problem in the next two years.

Montemayor: When it comes to chemicals, testing compounds, testing solutions, I could handle it because we used that…in exploration project in the Philippines. We used chemicals. In other words, I’ll go up and down every day if I have time, from city hall walking to Newby Island if that’s needed. Bringing testing solutions or a device to test the grade of bad odor in the air.

Nuñez: I’m going to carry through with what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half. I’m a member of the South Bay Odor Group, which meets quarterly and it is made up of representatives from Congressman Ro Khanna’s office, Kansen Chu’s office, City of Fremont, City of San Jose, myself, the City of Milpitas, community members from both our city, San Jose, Milpitas, and Fremont. What we have been trying to accomplish is to do a study that is not done by Republic Services that identifies where odors are coming from, from all of the different types of groups and/or facilities that are then within to figure out where all the different sources, groups, facilities are there within the catch basin of the Bay Area…We want to be able to put odor types of monitoring systems there and collect that information and report back…I offered to have Milpitas be the one that staffed that study…We have offered to actually do it for not only the City of Milpitas, but for that whole catch basin area…The funds would be coming from Republic Services…so it wouldn’t be coming from public dollars; what they’re looking for is somebody to actually just manage the study.

Tran: I did all I can the last time around to stop the landfill expansion and we ended up being unsuccessful. This year, when I go back to the voters one door at a time, I’ll be talking about the landfill odor. And, quite frankly, the efforts by the past city council to fight the landfill odor or to mitigate the landfill odor have been extremely disappointing to me. I have seen half-hearted efforts to address the landfill odor. And we have recommendations from Congressman Ro Khanna’s office as to how to take a more strategic approach to addressing the landfill odor. And I’ll be looking to make a full commitment to being the first mayor to actually make a difference with our air quality. It’s just a shame and disgrace that Milpitas suffers from odor on many days throughout the year. We have studies that show that the odor is coming from the landfill. I think voters in Milpitas this November will have an opportunity to support candidates that will go all in on fighting the landfill odor.


Any comment regarding water rates?


Esteves: I think the city has been doing a good job in providing accurate information as much as they can. Unfortunately it’s being clouded or muddled by misinformation from other people…Main part of the increase is the wholesale price of water and that’s the major impact…One way of assessing our water rate is sometimes comparing with other cities. Are we overcharging? And I thought that during my time that we are just right, there on the upper range.

Lee: I do have concerns about the water rate, because when I check my bill, it’s ridiculous. I will try because even though I speak to you or our citizens of Milpitas, I can reduce the problem, blah, blah, blah — no, I cannot do it. I do have some solution, too, so I hope that they trust me and I will show with my bill that how they change or how the rate change. I mean, I don’t just want to speak, I want to show. I like to have action than just talking.

Montemayor: The volume and the dollar it seems like for now, the way I see it, it’s still affordable, because it’s just less than a penny increase, by my calculation, it’s less than a penny increase per gallon…there is a surplus per month of what we don’t use, but they’re not giving it to us.

Nuñez: I’m anxious to see the water rate study that was done — not so much by the citizens because I’ve seen that already. My understanding is that the public works department is conducting another one with a consultant that will come back to us, and that will indicate two things: the cost of water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District as well as Hetch Hetchy…the upkeep of the water infrastructure. Are they going to propose bonds? Are they going to propose some type of hike? Exactly what will they be proposing?…I remember from the study that was presented before that our water rates aren’t as high as in some cities; nonetheless it is what we are used to. My goal will be to establish some type of process where we have city income for the infrastructure so that we can begin to plan what we’re going to replace of the old piping. We look at and begin a different type of dialog with both San Francisco and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and just don’t accept what they say with regards to what the rates are going to be. But we also…start looking at retention of water…like underneath soccer fields, parks, schools, so that you’re retaining the water and you don’t send it all out to the bay…Have we really looked at a strategy that will allow us to use that in a way that will reduce…the use and then the cost? And I think that’s something that we need to talk about. So I’m not really into justifying, accepting whatever is presented; I really want to see a thought-out plan.

Tran: Water rates will be going up. And we’ve had a lot of changes in our water rate system over the past several years. We went from a three-tiered system of water rates to a flat rate, and I don’t think that’s fair for folks that don’t use water as much as other people. And so I’m looking for our city staff to bring back a new water rate structure that goes back to the tiered system. I think the flat rate is unacceptable for a majority of Milpitians.


What do you bring to the table that the other candidates do not?


Esteves: Really good experience; clean, good experience. Focused on city’s core services…Make the city competitive in terms of keeping existing businesses and attracting new businesses.

Lee: I don’t really want to mention it to you in this moment. That question is hard to say in this moment; maybe I have a chance to talk to you in regards to your question maybe later, but not right now.

Montemayor: What I have is a heart that really wants to serve since I was young…I was Dreamers Association President, I was Young Farmers President Association in the Philippines, and in the student body council for high school; I’m still in a lot of associations in America, a chancellor of the Knights of Columbus for many terms already until now, I was on the board of directors, and I’m still a vice-president now for Balungao Association of America; I’m also a board member of Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association in Milpitas. I always go to city council meetings, almost 100%, 4 years back. I’m always there.

Nuñez: I think what I bring that the others don’t is a true commitment to the City of Milpitas…I would say that I go to more functions, more events, in all kinds of communities, than anybody else that’s on that list…I’m a member of every service club and I participate; I don’t just show up. I’m still involved with [the] school district, I’m still involved with the commission for the city; for me it isn’t just something to do, it isn’t something that makes me feel good about myself…At the end of the day, working in public service is just what we’re supposed to do…If I wasn’t on an elected office, I would still be doing something that’s there to help those that need help. And I think that’s one of the things I like to ask people: What were you doing when you weren’t in elected office? What were you doing to help others that needed help? Because that tells me what they do when people aren’t watching.

Tran: I will continue to not support any more market rate housing developments in Milpitas until we can alleviate the overcrowding at our public schools. That separates me from every other candidate clearly.


If elected, how will you measure success?


Esteves: 1) People and business feedback. 2) Financial strength of the city. 3) Growth of the city, in terms of development, services, and many others.

Lee: Well, I’m very humble so it’s hard to say on the phone. On that, too, let me pass this question.  

Montemayor: The beauty of the city, the comfortability of the people, the peace and order in the city.

Nuñez: I tend to go out to the persons that put you there…starting in August…I’m going to go out every other week and just post where I’m gonna be and ask to come and see me and tell me what’s going on. I’m a face-to-face person, and ask persons, how is the city doing, and how am I doing? The other way is to go talk to staff, and ask them, how is the city doing? Because I’m a firm believer that staff is a reflection of the city manager and the city council. If they’re happy in their job, and are delivering a service in a manner that makes people feel like they care, that’s because management and city council care.

Tran: If elected for a second term, I would measure my success by the public’s trust or the community’s trust and happiness. Which is how I measure my term right now. The way I measure my success is through being in the community, whether it’s at an event with residents or if I’m on Facebook or when I get letters at Milpitas City Hall, and I would say more than 90% of my communication is positive, and it means so much to me to know that my hometown and all the family and friends I grew up with support what I’m doing and that I’m making them proud by my leadership.


If elected, how will you make your administration transparent to citizens of the city?


Esteves: We already have the Voter Public Records Act. One way is for all agenda and transactions of the city should be fully documented and published. The city should have a facility for people who request information, clarification for any matter that they would like to know…I’m always around, I show up everywhere…I try to respond to emails, within 24 hours…In Facebook, in Messenger, and things like that.

Lee: I want to move my office to downstairs, which is like the first floor so everyone can see me and talk to me; they can stop by and have coffee or donut. I’m open for all of them. Our office, even city clerk or city manager or city attorney offices, are located on the third floor. I’m willing to move my desk and table to downstairs so I can work on them and if they have any concerns, I’m willing to answer their questions; if they want to grab a sandwich, lunch, I am willing to go. Even if a teenager or high school student asks me to go out to get a hamburger or Subway, I’m willing to do it, because they trust me, that’s what they’ve told me, so I’m willing to do it.

Montemayor: All eyes should know what is happening in all departments.

Nuñez: … Every city council person is supposed to have a calendar that people can go click on and see what they do. I would venture to guess that mine has more stuff than anybody else’s. And I put almost everything I do on my calendar, even things that don’t pertain to the city, just so people know what I’m doing. I would then translate that to all the division heads, and say I think that every manager should have their calendar published so that people know that they’re…doing [for] the city. I happen to like the idea of once a week or every other week, when I’m out talking to the community, is to take managers with me…I like that about having managers out in the community, getting direct input.

Tran: I think transparency in 2018 has a lot to do with social media, and I know that before I came into office, Milpitas city government wasn’t really on social media. They weren’t really on Nextdoor.com, they weren’t really on Facebook. And when I came into city hall, I started using social media and it was completely different from what anybody was doing…I do know that my activities played a small role in pushing the city government to be more open on the internet to all residents…I’m very hopeful for our democracy in Milpitas, because I know that residents will be more connected to each other and they’ll have greater access to information within their government.

Read Part III of III here. 



Francie Soito
Francie Soito is a third-generation Bay Area native who has lived and worked in Milpitas since 2002. She has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from UC Berkeley, where she studied Sociology, Anthropology, and Physics. Having worked for nearly two decades in market research and data strategy for high-tech companies like Macromedia, Yahoo!, and Facebook, Francie also holds a patent for her work in data segmentation. She is a co-owner of Black Cat Comics and sole owner of Reiki Energy Healing, both located on Main Street in Milpitas. In addition to being an author, musician, public speaker, and martial artist, Francie is the mother of three furry babies.


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