Name: Michael Tsai
(Currently serving on Milpitas Unified School District’s Board of Education)
Running for: Milpitas City Council
Why are you running?
To bring the highest levels of education, talent, and integrity to local government, so we can solve the problems our community faces.
What’s the biggest problem facing Milpitas right now? And how would you intend to solve it?
Housing affordability is a pain point for many in the community. I would facilitate more affordable housing, as well as rebuild the economy so more people have the financial means to keep up with housing costs. Over the last 6 years, the homelessness situation grew so acute that an encampment even popped up at City Hall.
Also there needs to be more transparency and competence in government.
What would your priorities be should you get elected?
Public safety. COVID also saw a spike in crimes, especially hate crimes against Asian Americans. I’ve marched in several rallies about this and continued to work behind the scenes since then, to protect our community.
Transportation and housing. The new BART station and the area around it can be planned out in a visionary fashion. If we apply the best policymaking minds to the problem, we can turn this into a transit hub with housing, amenities, and high quality jobs near the station.
Economic recovery. The City Council was mostly unprepared when COVID hit, and our small business community and city finances took a beating. It’s going to take brilliant economic policymaking to bring us back on better footing.
What can you bring to the table that you feel no other candidate can bring?
Ethics, education, and experience. My term on the school board had me lead the community through a once-in-a-century crisis, and I might write a book about this someday. I would put my educational accomplishments and background against any other candidate, both in terms of quality and relevance. I studied for 4 years at UC Berkeley, one of the best universities in the world, majoring in Environmental Economics and Policy. I then continued graduate transportation studies at the Mineta Transportation Institute. Other candidates don’t have anywhere close to that level of educational achievement, and what education they do have, isn’t nearly as relevant to the policy crafting work a city council does.
Where do you see Milpitas 10 years from now?
Our community is at a critical crossroads. If the best people are elected this year, we have the opportunity to evolve into a well-run, innovative city that has high-quality, professional-grade leadership. We would have high-paying, future-proof jobs, high quality transportation systems and amenities, and very low crime rates. We would also be one of the most environmentally friendly cities thanks to environmentally conscious policymaking.
Who is your inspiration, and why?
It’s hard to name one particular person, but I’ve found myself returning to the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who said that the price of not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors. Years ago I would not have imagined myself running for office. But like many, I was getting sick of being governed by talentless and ethically questionable politicians. Our community needs and deserves better than what it’s been getting.
Can you tell us one interesting thing about yourself that other people don’t really know about?
Before I first ran for office in 2018, I was coming from the tech startup world, where I was once named a “tech rockstar” by Netscape inventor Marc Andreessen. I’m a big believer in technology and innovation. Few people in government come from this background.
What’s your favorite spot in Milpitas?
I am fond of visiting the hills. If you’re asking about restaurants, I’ve been eating Colosseum Pizza lately.
What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in Milpitas right now?
Definitely the upcoming 2022 elections. The stakes are much higher this time than in recent elections due to both COVID and the landscape. We have open seats for the mayorship and both council seats – and this hasn’t happened since 2016. Depending on the outcome, things could change for a lot worse – or a lot better.
What do you love most about Milpitas?
Milpitas unfortunately gets joked about in other parts of Silicon Valley, especially in the wealthier cities in the county. But I believe our best days can still be ahead of us. Milpitas is a city with a lot of unrealized potential. It’s a matter of bringing in talented and visionary leadership to unlock it.