Worried that the city is headed in the wrong direction on housing and social justice issues, local activist John Lashlee has announced his bid for the Mountain View City Council this November.
Lashlee, a data scientist at LinkedIn and Mountain View resident for five years, describes himself as a Democratic Socialist who will take an aggressive approach to housing growth and support policies that will help working residents in the city who are struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
He contrasts his platform to the current council majority, which Lashlee says has shifted to the right and taken a weak-kneed approach to important social issues over the last two years -- a sign, he said, that they have been compromised by lobbying efforts and legal threats by the California Apartment Association, big tech companies and the Mountain View Police Officers' Association.
"I want to be a candidate for the workers and the renters in Mountain View, unafraid of the special interests," Lashlee said.
A total of eight candidates are vying for a spot on the City Council this November. Two seats will be left vacant by councilmen John McAlister and Chris Clark, who cannot run due to the city's term limits, and incumbents Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak are running for re-election.
Challengers seeking one of the four seats are: Lashlee, former state Assemblywoman Sally Lieber; Mountain View Whisman school board member Jose Gutierrez; former council members Lenny Siegel and Pat Showalter; and Alex Nunez, a member of the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning.
Lashlee was quick to jump into political activism shortly after moving to Mountain View, galvanized by the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign and later joining the local Silicon Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). He helped to found the lower Peninsula branch of the group, extending its presence into the North County area. Lashlee touts his leadership role in DSA's housing working group and political education efforts, as well as his role opposing Measure D and collecting signatures to block the city's RV ban.
Lashlee said he wants to be more than just a typical "pro-housing" advocate, and said he wants to adopt city policies that can radically increase the construction of new housing in Mountain View. Right now, the private housing developers simply haven't achieved the housing growth needed in the city, Lashlee said.
A vocal proponent of rent control, Lashlee said the city's Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA) must be extended to the city's mobile home residents, and that there must be strong eviction protections for tenants behind on rent payments due to COVID-19. City officials should flex their influence to reduce or even cancel back rent and mortgages, he said.
"I take a 'no evictions' pledge very seriously," Lashlee said. "I will do everything in my power to prevent evictions."
In recent months, Lashlee has been vocal at council meetings criticizing what he calls a runaway police budget, with Mountain View spending far more on law enforcement per resident than other, safer cities in the county. By his estimate, the city is spending about $537 per person per year, and that cutting down to the level Milpitas spends would save the city an annual $5 million. That alone would effectively halve the city's future budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, he said.
Candidates for local elected office have until the end of next week to file. No new candidates have signaled their intent to run for the City Council since July 10, suggesting that the field of candidates is set for the Nov. 3 general election.