My ongoing study of Mayor Rich Tran’s psyche took a turn for the decidedly curious last week as Tran began to bash current mayoral candidates (and Councilmembers) Anthony Phan and Karina Dominguez on Facebook for their support of Project Homekey. (Note: I supported it myself.)
First, for the uninitiated, what is Project Homekey? Essentially, what used to be an Extended Stay America over on Hillview Court has now become a residence for the unhoused. It was put in by Santa Clara County. The Milpitas City Council never had a say in the matter. However, at one point, Mayor Tran bandied about the idea of suing the County before they started the project, a strategy that legal experts and even the governor branded as a heartless non-starter, saying such a lawsuit would end before it even began. So whereas Council had initially voted to sue, eventually Councilmembers Phan, Dominguez, and Bob Nuñez led up a majority vote not to.
Now, almost two years later, the project’s up and running, and its existence is leading to increased calls to the Milpitas Police and Fire Departments. Since Tran wanted to sue initially, he feels vindicated by what the unhoused residence has turned into. No, not a residence where unhoused people can live – an area prone to making 911 calls. So he’s been attacking Phan and Dominguez online for having voted against the lawsuit, which incidentally the City of Milpitas would have never won (yet could have wasted a ton of taxpayer money on).
For example, six days ago, Tran posted:
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: the fact that our Mayor is warning residents about “more homeless projects in Milpitas.” Who is he talking to, exactly? Are we a city of scoundrels? “More homeless projects” is supposed to sound an alarm bell? What’s next, more schoolteachers and soup kitchens?
More to the point, Tran’s being a tad, let’s say, “indelicate” in his approach. It’s as though he’s been invited to a switchblade showdown yet has shown up wielding a chainsaw. Like his political opponents had invited him to come ride bikes, but then he sped in and ran them over with a truck. Meanwhile, they’re not even his opponents: Tran’s being termed out and Phan and Dominguez are running against each other. Is Tran attacking them because he’s endorsing Vice Mayor Carmen Montano in her mayoral bid? If so, shouldn’t he have brought up Montano’s name?
Another way Tran could have handled it would have been by saying, “I always sensed Project Homekey wasn’t the right solution to the homelessness problem for our community. Many residents were concerned about rising crime, and I’m heartbroken to have seen their concerns come true. I’d like to shed light on the fact that my hands were tied; this was a County project, not a City one. One which, I’d like to add, Anthony Phan and Karina Dominguez blindly supported from the start.”
See how persuasive one can be when one’s leveling instead of enhancing? If the age of Twitter has taught us anything, it’s that bombast and heightening tend to work against one’s intended message while often helping one’s opponents.
Tran’s body slams were also unfolding a day earlier on Facebook, with him posting:
In the comments section, Dominguez came in and fired back:
“Please stop spreading #fakenews. Mayor Rich Tran you have been warned by our attorney the city can be held liable for your false statements that can continue to cost taxpayers money. Please stop lying 🤥 . I also want the city to know a letter was submitted right before the budget cycle ended to the county by individual council members. Therefore they are already exploring what can happen. The mayor didn’t attend the county budget meeting and missed the conversation and updates. Supervisor Otto Lee is already looking at ways to help Milpitas. I have been attending the county meetings to share these concerns. We are past a letter we need a petition mayor why don’t you invest time in that instead of posting misinformation. These elections shenanigans are what we need to end Milpitas. #fakenews🚨”
Let’s be clear: there is crime at the Project Homekey site. It’s real. The police are being called on the reg. That’s not what anybody wanted. But it’s what we have to deal with. I haven’t checked Tran’s numbers (we just got back from a holiday, for heaven’s sake) but I’ll take him at his word. What I’d like to push back against is the idea that Phan and Dominguez somehow caused Homekey to happen, as though without their individual or collective will it never would have happened. The County was coming, tool belts strapped on. No lawsuit could have stopped it. Not even the sudden, spontaneous occupation of Milpitas by a 100% demon population could have stopped it (and we would have other concerns at that point anyway).
The homeless problem in Milpitas is a real and urgent one. No attempt at a solution will be perfect. In the case of this one, the residence houses very few actual Milpitas residents and does not offer an on-site professional to help address people’s mental health and substance abuse problems. However, any effort toward a solution is better than doing nothing. It shouldn’t hit us as some major plot twist that housing an assortment of people with financial, mental health, and/or substance abuse issues would lead to some volatility. Let’s not nurture the hallucination that Milpitas – or anyplace on Earth – is some sanitized, flaw-free country club. The unhoused are real. The unhoused are here. Police calls or no police calls, I prefer to see them living under a roof.
This article has been updated.