Letter to Matt Mahan: Communication and demographics

Matt Mahan
Council Member Elect
District 10
San Jose City Council

Dear Matt:

I’m not sure yet what your preferred way of communicating is, so I will rely on email for the moment.

Briefly, I would like to mention two issues that are, at the moment, top of mind.

  1. “Commercial communication” with elected public officials. It’s probably a small issue, at least for now, but I am uneasy about elected public officials requiring or relying on commercial private facilities for engaging with the public or their constituents. Examples are: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Zoom, Nextdoor, Medium, etc. We are well aware that there are no guarantees of privacy with these and similar facilities, and that they also engage in various practices that can be characterized as “meddling” or “interference”. Algorithmic filtering, shadow banning, de-monetizing, and de-platforming are just some of the problematic practices. Currently, members of my household have been denied access to NextDoor for reasons that are unclear. Plus, commercial private facilities also often charge for access in various ways. I am currently being warned by Medium that I will need to “upgrade” in order to read your articles. Personally, I am appalled at the practices and biases of Facebook and have long ago decided to avoid it. So, my request to you is that as an elected public official you prioritize your availability and accessibility for the people your represent via cost free and distortion free channels.

  2. “Changing demographics”. Your Medium article on the San Jose housing policy (“Our Housing Shortage Deepens Racial Inequity”) suggests a predisposition to urge the City Council to exert a strong hand in achieving desirable housing outcomes. Certainly implied in the housing outcomes you want to achieve is a change in the demographics of the people that you would like to see living in San Jose. For example, you make it clear that you want to see “higher and denser” housing, and you want to limit “single family housing”. The “demographics” of the populations that live in these two types of housing are different. So, a basic question that the people of San Jose should be asking is: is it a legitimate policy role for the City Council and local government to intentionally and actively change the demographics of the community? And, if your answer is “yes”, the next series of questions begins with “how”, “how much”, and “who”?. What demographic group does the City Council want MORE of? And what demographic do they want LESS of? Does the City Council want MORE rich people or FEWER rich people? Does the Council want MORE Black people or fewer Black people? More white people or fewer white people? More families or fewer families? More children or fewer children?

I would appreciate learning more about your thinking about the City Council’s role in managing the city’s demographics.

One of the chronic problems of government is that people are constantly disappointed by the fact that the policies they were “sold” and that they “bought” in good faith, do not deliver the outcomes that they expected. I doubt that many people who thought they were voting for “fairness” and “equity” realized that they were maybe empowering government officials to declare them to be “the wrong type of people” and not desired in the community.

So, I think this is a good time to prepare the District 10 community with some openness and clarity regarding the policies you will be advocating and their effect on our community.

Thomas Holford
Almaden Valley

1 Like

Thanks for your effort, Thomas. Change starts with the input of concerned citizens like you.

Re: #1, good point - there really is no alternative for public officials to connect with their constituents… unless we invite them to unbiased and non-commercial sites like this one :slight_smile:

As for #2, I predict Mr. Mahan will respond with some mealy-mouthed platitudes about equality, justice, and not being mean-spirited. Still, it will be interesting to hear his squirming.