A RETIRED TECH worker is San Jose’s newest councilmember in District 10 — filling the final vacancy on the dais.
The San Jose City Council on Thursday voted to appoint Arjun Batra to the open seat after he earned six votes in a multi-round voting process.
Batra has worked in leadership roles at IBM and Intel Corporation. He’s served on various city committees, including those that oversee tax measure spending and smart city initiatives.
“I am very excited,” Batra told San José Spotlight moments after winning the appointment. “The first priority is to get the office going so that the constituents can depend on a reliable service.”
Batra is the first Indian American councilmember after Ash Kalra won a seat in the California Assembly in 2016. Batra said his family is friends with Kalra’s parents and intends to build on Kalra’s legacy on the council.
Policing, green energy, city staffing and more
The new councilmember said he hopes to prevent crime before it happens by staffing up the police department. He emphasized a need to prioritize green energy by making solar panels or electric vehicles more affordable for residents. He also wants to increase staffing at City Hall by analyzing disparities between city departments.
San Jose’s biggest issue in Batra’s eyes is homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.
“In a city as wealthy as San Jose, it is an unfortunate reality that many of our citizens lack affordable housing, and are forced to live in unhygienic, unsafe and unsheltered unsafe conditions,” he wrote in his application for the seat.
Batra beat out five other finalists vying to represent the district that spans Almaden and Blossom valleys after former Councilmember Matt Mahan won his race for San Jose mayor in November. The other candidates included George Casey, Ron Del Pozzo, Dennis Hawkins, J. David Heindel and Wendi Mahaney-Gurahoo.
“I am very excited. The first priority is to get the office going so that the constituents can depend on a reliable service.”Councilmember Arjun Batra
Mahaney-Gurahoo, who serves as the vice president of the San Jose Unified School District board, was the runner up with three votes.
Batra is the second new San Jose councilmember appointed in just one week. The 11-member San Jose City Council now has six new faces following last year’s elections and this week’s two appointments.
Batra begins his term on Jan. 30 and will serve until the next regular election in 2024. He did not specify whether he would seek reelection.
On Tuesday, the council appointed Domingo Candelas to the District 8 seat after former Councilmember Sylvia Arenas won her bid for Santa Clara County supervisor. Candelas’ appointment was marred with controversy after three of his opponents accused him of accessing the interview questions ahead of time by using a phone and laptop against the rules. Councilmembers went into closed session in the middle of the appointment to deliberate if there were any risks of litigation regarding the allegations.
Questions and answers
In an attempt to ensure parity and limit the possibility for cheating, Councilmember David Cohen asked the candidates to sit in the chambers and hear the questions at the same time — the District 8 appointment had candidates come into the chambers individually for their interviews.
Candidates answered questions from councilmembers about their top priorities, how they would make difficult decisions, plans to address homelessness and their vision to reduce carbon emissions.
“There are going to be policy issues which I will be working on but there are day to day issues which constituents needed solved yesterday (like traffic, plumbing or PG&E issues),” Batra said. “They don’t look as important sometimes when we talk about policies, but this is what they experience.”
Batra beat out a pool of finalists that included a former judge and longtime San Jose City Clerk.
Del Pozzo is a retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who’s been involved in Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, as well as the Boys & Girls Club, Italian American Heritage Foundation and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley.
Hawkins previously served as San Jose’s longtime city clerk and as a member of the Oak Grove School District board of trustees. He said public safety and providing essential services would’ve been his top priorities.
One of Mahan’s top picks was Casey, an attorney who works as the director of corporate counsel at Unlock Technologies, Inc. and serves on the San Jose Planning Commission. Casey has lived in the district since 1979.
Another finalist, Heindel, is the owner of Hotworx, a 24-hour infrared fitness studio and gym. For the past decade he’s served on the District 10 Leadership Coalition.
Mahaney-Gurahoo previously worked for FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, and wanted to prioritize improving the area’s quality of life, alleviating homelessness and bolstering public safety.
Batra said Thursday that winning the seat will be like “coming home” because he’s spent many hours at San Jose City Hall, engaging on various boards and with policymakers.
“Now I’ll be sitting on the other side of the table,” Batra told San José Spotlight. “I am a 24/7, hands on person. (Residents) will have access to me when they need it.”
Contact Jana Kadah at email@example.com or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.