The only San Jose City Council race this year that lacks an incumbent has no shortage of qualified candidates. However, two candidates—Robert Braunstein and Edesa Bitbadal—seem to be the best fit for District 10.
Of the pair, we prefer Braunstein because he brings more real-world experience to the position, which we think is important because it provides a reality check to an ingrown political culture. Braunstein is an Almaden native who started his career working as a reporter for a small television station in Laredo, Texas, before coming back to San Jose and eventually creating the South Bay’s signature high school sports highlight show: Cal-Hi Bay Area. (The former title of the show, High School Sports Focus, might ring a bell to many eligible voters.)
Braunstein’s political chops are a work in progress, but he has a clear grasp of the issues as well as some interesting ideas on how to generate revenue for the city. He falls in line with Mayor Chuck Reed and the majority of the council that supported pension reform through Measure B. While he’s a social Democrat—he supports gay marriage, unlike the mayor of the 10th largest city in the nation—Braunstein espouses a fiscally conservative approach to budgeting, which he cultivated from running his own small business over the last two decades.
Bitbadal is a professional staff aide who served under State Sen. Elaine Alquist and former Councilmember Linda Lezotte before working as chief of staff under District 4’s Kansen Chu. She also serves on the planning commission. Her comprehension of policy is as sharp as any person’s in this race.
While government experience can be useful, however, we think City Hall needs an outsider’s perspective to pry loose from the current malaise. Working at the speed of business is a common refrain heard downtown, but the culture needs to be repaired. Bitbadal’s endorsements from labor unions despite her support of Measure B, which came late in the game, are also not easily explained.
We also have to acknowledge candidate Denelle Fedor, chief of staff for District 6 Couniclmember Pierluigi Oliverio and the only independent in this race. Her idea to take the lease revenue bonding process out of the hands of the City Council—poor decisions in the past included unfunded budgeting for two golf courses and Hayes Mansion—is the most substantial policy proposal of any candidate in any of the five districts. Her style, however, seems better suited to working behind the scenes.
With six candidates in this race, the primary is merely a prelude to a bigger battle in November. For now, though, Bruanstein gets our nod to bring District 10 back to relevancy.