The San Jose Charter Review Commission voted 14-7 on Monday to expand the City Council by four districts, which would be the first major changes to the council in 43 years if finalized.
San Jose has had 10 council districts since 1978, the year in which they had expanded by three districts to keep up with the changing population figures. Proponents argued on Monday that since San Jose has grown from around 600,000 in 1980 to over 1,000,000 in 2020, more council seats were needed to help move back the representation ratio closer to where it was in the past. Changing demographics in the area, including larger Asian-American and Latino populations, also played a large part for the push for an expansion.
“The city has grown so much with the white population now being about the level where Asians and Latinos are at in the city,” said Trish Carter-Song, a community activist in San Jose who has been among the many advocates petitioning the city for the change for many years, to the Globe on Tuesday. “People want this, especially since many also think that the current Council has a bit too much power. There are some city council members who have a district with different ethnic groups that don’t feel represented.”
“This levels the field a bit and brings more representation.”
Commissioners during the meeting on Monday echoed that sentiment.
“Whenever there is a greater opportunity for our community to participate, whether it’s as candidates or elected officials or volunteer positions on boards like this, we should give them the opportunity to do so,” added Commissioner Jose Posadas.
However, many on the Commission also pushed for either fewer added seats or no added seats as current council members would have less power and less influence, with the general public possibly being more confused with so many representatives.
“You get to a point where smaller districts divide communities of like interest,” said Commissioner Barbara Marshman shortly before the vote. “Each councilmember has less power. The strength of your council member is going to mean a lot. How many legislators do you know the names of when they’re not your legislators?”
However, the diversity and population gain argument won out, with the Commission passing the recommendation 14-7.
“The city just got too big for one person representing 100,000 in these patchwork districts,” added Carter-Song. “It needs it. Politics in San Jose have largely been at a standstill and overwhelming to the left. We’ll see a shake up from this and maybe bring some more challenges to the city. If the incumbents are slow to get out, maybe we’ll see the change we need this way. If the people change and nothing happens to reflect it, you get things like this.”
The recommendations of the Commission are now to go before the San Jose City Council. Should the Council approve it, voters in San Jose will go to polls on the Council expansion the next election day.
As of Tuesday, it is currently unknown when the San Jose City Council will vote on the matter.
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