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Willow Glen’s Clout In District 6 Is Disproportional, Some Residents Say

Some District 6 residents are upset that the latest caucus to determine who sits on a two-member Neighborhoods Commission selected a couple of people from Willow Glen–again.

They say the caucus process is skewed toward the politically influential Willow Glen neighborhood and its cast of active neighborhood associations.

And San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio agrees, saying more geographic diversity is needed on the commission.

In San Jose, all 10 council districts have a Neighborhoods Commission of two members each who advise the council on quality of life issues in their areas, such as public safety.

Willow Glen residents Larry Ames and David Dearborn, whose four-year terms on District 6’s commission end this year, are Willow Glen residents. The two chosen by caucus to replace them, Olivia Navarro and Jim Carter, also live in Willow Glen.

Early last month the City Council formally approved a list of applicants for vacancies on the Neighborhoods Commission in all even-numbered council districts but postponed appointing the District 6 applicants.

Oliverio asked the city manager’s office for the delay, according to an email sent to residents on his behalf by office staff member Ernest Guzman. The email said Oliverio “expressed concern that the outcome for the District 6 caucus did not result in varied geographic representation.”

During last month’s council meeting, the mayor and vice mayor criticized Oliverio for “meddling” by trying to change the traditional caucus rules. Some residents have accused him of political maneuvering.

But this isn’t the first time he’s brought up the issue of District 6 not having enough geographic representation, Oliverio said in an interview. "District 6 has always had its commission seats filled by Willow Glen residents ever since it was established in 2009," he said, "and it’s time for a change so other neighborhoods that are less affluent and face different issues such as Cory, Canoas Gardens and Buena Vista Park have more voice."

“This all has to do with what I said four years ago,” Oliverio said, “which is that neighborhoods need geographic diversity.”

Currently, each district holds a separate caucus to choose its representatives. Ten candidates participated in the District 6 caucus on June 3, where leaders from various neighborhood associations cast their votes.

Under Oliverio’s alternative appointment process, Navarro would be appointed to the commission because she received the most votes but Carter would be skipped despite getting the second most votes and the person from outside the contested neighborhood area with the highest votes–Michael McDonald from Midtown–would get the seat instead.

But John Leyba, president of the Buena Vista Park Neighborhood Association, said Oliverio should have raised his objections beforehand.

“Find out to my surprise, after the fact, we shouldn’t have two nominees from the same neighborhood,” Leyba said in an interview. “We should stick to the rules, we shouldn’t change them after the fact.”

“I know a lot of people from non-Willow Glen areas voted for Olivia and Jim,” he added. “The appeal of both of these candidates is they look like they knew issues of all the neighborhoods, not just their own.”

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