San Ramon mayoral, city council candidates battle for votes

San Ramon city council and mayoral candidates discuss issues that are most important to local voters during a virtual forum hosted by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce. (Photo courtesy of the city of San Ramon)

This year, three of the five San Ramon City Council seats, including the mayor’s, are up for grabs. 

Six mayoral candidates, two District 1 candidates, and four District 3 candidates are vying for a seat. The mayoral candidates are Dinesh Govindarao, Councilmember Dave Hudson, Aparna Madireddi, Susmita Nayak, Sanat Sethy, and Vice Mayor Sabina Zafar.

They candidates look to replace longtime Mayor Bill Clarkson, who was elected in 2011 and has termed out.

Meanwhile, Luz Gomez and Councilmember Scott Perkins are on the ballot for District 1. Varun Kaushal, Reza Majlesi, Sameera Rajwade, and Sridhar Verose are competing in District 3. 

District 3 is located east of Alcosta Avenue, in the Dougherty Valley area, while District 1 is largely located north of Montevideo and west of Alcosta. 

This will be the first year San Ramon uses a district-based election system. The mayorship is still elected at-large, meaning people in every district vote for mayor.   

Here’s a breakdown of the candidates’ positions on many of the issues that matter to teens and young adults: the environment, police reform, education, mental health, and student involvement in government. 

When available, we linked candidates’ websites or social media so you can learn more about them and their platforms. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, all quotes and information found below came from the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral and city council candidate forums.   

The order of the candidates listed below are alphabetical by last name.

Mayoral candidates:

Dinesh Govindarao:

Mental health: Govindarao said to the Californian that he supports examining the entirety of the City’s budget and seeing where resources could be diverted for mental health. He also said he would like to cooperate with the county on finding resources for mental health.

Govindarao also said he would want the city to possibly offer a hotline number for mental health, as well as partner with mental health non-profits.   

Police Reform: Govindarao praised San Diego County’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, which pairs police officers with mental health professionals, and said he would want the city to implement a similar program, in an interview with The Californian.   

Youth civic engagement: In the same interview, Govindarao said he would want to promote the civic engagement opportunities the city offers to teens, so they are more aware of those opportunities.   

“It could even start in elementary school, in middle school,” said Govindarao.

Dave Hudson:

Hudson is one of two mayoral candidates who is currently on the City Council.

Police reform: In an official campaign statement, Hudson wrote that he was partly responsible for the establishment of a San Ramon Police Department in 2007. Prior to then, the county provided police services.

As a councilmember, Hudson said he advocated for anti-bias training for City employees. He also said he would like to see San Ramon adopt Government Alliance on Race and Equity training. GARE links different jurisdictions across the country and helps them set and achieve goals related to racial equality. Hudson is opposed to reallocating resources from the police department for mental health or other services.

The environment: Hudson supports the CityWalk project as a way to mitigate increased emissions from vehicles.

“We have to build at least 4,500 more homes and reduce vehicle miles traveled,” Hudson said in a story published in DanvilleSanRamon.com. “If we spread those homes out all over town, the traffic congestion will increase particularly on Bollinger Canyon Road and we will not make our climate change reduction mandate.”

Susmita Nayak:

The environment: Susmita Nayak is running for mayor largely because of her concerns about the level of development in San Ramon. She opposes the CityWalk project in San Ramon’s downtown, saying it is environmentally unfriendly, among other concerns. The CityWalk project is a recently-started project that will cumulatively add 4,500 housing units in the downtown area of San Ramon over 20 to 30 years.

“We have to make sure our city doesn’t become congested,” Nayak said in an interview with The Californian.

In the interview, she said she opposes any development in San Ramon’s natural spaces.

Police reform: In the town hall, Nayak said she would support investigations of police brutality and misconduct, as well as increasing the collection of DNA evidence to potentially prevent innocents from being sentenced. Nayak also indicated support for creating a civilian oversight committee.

Mental health: Nayak said she thinks young adults should be encouraged to eat healthy, exercise, spend time outside, and get enough sleep in order to improve their mental health.

Youth civic engagement: Nayak said she was happy with the current level of engagement by teens at City Hall.

“I think opportunities are there [for civic engagement],” Nayak said.

Aparna Madireddi:

Police reform: Madireddi supports assigning police officers to individual neighborhoods, as opposed to the current beat system where police officers are assigned to patrol multiple neighborhoods, according to her website.

Another of Madireddi’s platform points is the creation of a Citizens’ Police Advisory Committee, which would consist of civilians who would advise City Council and the San Ramon Police Department on public safety. Residents from each of the six beats in the City would be present on the committee, according to her campaign website. A beat is a finite area of land that police are assigned to patrol.

Madireddi also said she would want to create a crisis response team for mental health crises. Madireddi opposes reallocating resources from the police.

The environment: On her campaign website, Madireddi wrote that she would support the San Ramon Nature Park Foundation if elected. The Nature Park Foundation is trying to create a nature center in what was formerly Mudd’s Restaurant.   

Madireddi wants to install solar panels on all city-owned buildings and parking lots if elected, according to her website.

Sanat Sethy:

Police reform: In an interview with The Californian, Sethy said he was opposed to reallocating resources from the police department for other purposes.

In the candidate forum, Sethy said he would want to create a committee to investigate how mental health services could be funded more in San Ramon, citing the private sector as a possible source of money.

The environment: Sethy said he would encourage the use of recycled water for landscaping, as well as increase the number of buses that run in the city.

Education: Sethy supports the creation of a new high school in San Ramon in order to reduce class sizes.

Youth civic engagement: Sethy also said that he appreciates the civic engagement opportunities that City Hall provides for young adults, such as Teen Council, although he would like to see even more chances for teens to get involved in the political process. Teen Council advises City Council on issues related to teens.

“As a father of two children, it’s not enough,” Sethy said.

Sabina Zafar:

Sabina Zafar is the other councilmember running for mayor. She currently serves as the vice mayor.

Police reform: On her website, she touts that she was the only current city councilmember to attend the San Ramon Black Lives Matter protest on June 3. Zafar told The Californian that the City Council was currently working on finding feedback from the community regarding police reform, which would eventually be consolidated into an “outcome document”.

“We [will] have an outcome document, a policy that is guided by these conversations, which we’ve had with our residents, with our students, with our schools, with our police chief,” Zafar said. “Then we’ve devised a thoughtful policy, which will overall address the entire picture of how we can address racial injustice”.

Education: When asked what specific policies could potentially be implemented in the outcome document, Zafar said that the conversations were in their early stages, but that she found many students cared about curriculum in school.

Zafar told The Californian that she would host joint meetings each quarter with the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education if elected as mayor, in order to discuss collaboration between City Council and the Board of Education.

Youth civic engagement: Zafar said she would like to create an internship program at the mayor’s office if elected.

District 1 candidates:

Luz Gomez:   

Police reform: Gomez wants the police department to hire more officers of color, as well as implement unconscious bias training.   

Gomez also questioned why the police department budget has increased in the past few years, yet the number of employees at the department has remained constant. Gomez also said that policing is only one tool in ensuring public safety.

“Policing alone does not make a community– safe investing in community services does,” Gomez said. 

Gomez would like to see San Ramon join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.   

The environment: Gomez wants to create a Sustainability Commission at City Hall that would monitor the progress of and update the City’s Climate Action Plan, according to her campaign website. She also said she would support an ordinance requiring all new homes to be installed with solar panels, and is a proponent of prohibiting styrofoam and single-use plastics.

Scott Perkins: 

Perkins currently serves as a councilmember on the City Council.

Police reform: Perkins is opposed to reallocating resources from the police department, and said he would like to work with the county on developing solutions for mental health services.    

The environment: According to his campaign statement, he helped create the Open Space Preservation Fund, which he says has set aside over $1.5 million to protect open spaces in San Ramon. 

“San Ramon must fulfill its promise to build the parks at Woodlot near Norris Canyon & Bollinger Canyon Roads and at Henry Ranch,” wrote Perkins in his campaign statement.

District 3 candidates:

Varun Kaushal:

Police reform: Kaushal would like to see the city develop a “parallel system” in tandem with the county that would incorporate mental health professionals into the policing process.

“Police deals with violent crime, and non-violent crimes related to mental illness are handled by mental health professionals supported by the police,” Kaushal said about his plan.

Additionally, Kaushal wants “comprehensive” use-of-force reports provided to City Council by the police department. He commented on the idea of a police oversight commission, saying it would be a good idea only if the members of the commission were knowledgeable about criminal justice.

Education: Kaushal wants to work with San Ramon Valley Unified School District to mitigate traffic to and from school.

The environment: At the town hall, Kaushal thinks the City should transition all City-owned properties to use solar energy, to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and utility costs.

Youth civic engagement: Kaushal wants to encourage students to stay in San Ramon and open businesses.

“We have the highest test scores, with one of the smartest student populations, in this city,” Kaushal said. “I would work on policies to tap this enormous untapped potential of our next generation – encourage minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses to open here”.

Reza Majlesi:

Police reform: At the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce town hall, Majlesi offered contradictory positions on reallocation of police resources. He said he opposed reallocation, and then said he would support reallocation only if the money would go to mental health services.

“Some of the responsibilities of the police, like responding to mental health issues, needs to be readjusted and addressed,” Majlesi said. “I don’t think they are trained for [mental health crises]… then it makes sense to decrease the budget for that reason only”.

Majlesi does not think the police department budget should increase every year, according to DanvilleSanRamon.com.

The environment: Majlesi said he wants to limit construction on the city’s hillsides.

Majlesi is the chair of the biology department at Peralta Community College District, which includes four colleges in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda.

Sameera Rajwade:

Police reform: The youngest candidate on the ballot for any of the city elections, Rajwade has reallocation of resources from police as a cornerstone of their platform. Rajwade aims to cut 25 percent of San Ramon Police Department’s budget by the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to the candidate’s campaign website.

Rajwade helped organize the June 3 Black Lives Matters protest in San Ramon   

The money reallocated would help subsidize teacher housing, fund daycare for San Ramon families, and provide mental health services, according to their website.   

Additionally, Rajwade supports a transparent budgeting process for the department, reducing police presence in schools, and preventing the department from expanding its drone program, according to their campaign website. 

Rajwade said the police department’s prohibition on the carotid artery hold was largely a “performative act”, and that the department needs to actively work to prevent profiling of Black residents. 

The environment: Climate change is also a priority of Rajwade’s: they aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions in San Ramon by 2050. Rajwade also said that San Ramon needs to hold Chevron, whose world headquarters is in San Ramon, accountable for greenhouse gas emissions.   

“We need to tax the hell out of Chevron,” Rajwade said.

Youth civic engagement: In the Chamber of Commerce town hall, Rajwade said she thinks the City overvalues the input of middle-aged families, to the detriment of other age groups, especially youth. 

“We [as a city] don’t talk about youth participation in our civic engagement,” said Rajwade.

If elected, Rajwade would make history as the youngest San Ramon Councilmember, at 21 years old.

Sridhar Verose: 

Police reform: Verose is opposed to reallocation of resources from the San Ramon Police Department. He said he would keep a “fully-staffed police department”. 

Mental health: Verose said that the availability of mental health resources in San Ramon is largely adequate, but that residents need to be made more aware of those resources.   

“There are a lot of other options that are available, so we need to make sure that people utilize those services,” Verose said. 

Education: In the town hall’s closing remarks, Verose said he would work to keep students in school safe from “violence, drugs, [and] bullying”. 

The environment: Verose said he opposes any new development that would threaten park and natural landscapes in the city.

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