Omar Torres is right for downtown San Jose district

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Representing District 3 on the San Jose City Council is always challenging.

The district encompasses the downtown core, Japantown, San Jose State University and the neighborhoods of Washington-Guadalupe and Spartan Keys. District 3’s successes — and failures — are critically important to the city and Silicon Valley.

Omar Torres 

With the mega-Google development under way and BART’s extension to Diridon Station in the works, it’s important for District 3 to be represented by someone who sees the big picture and works collaboratively with the wide range of players involved in downtown issues.

Omar Torres’ background and experience makes him the clear choice for District 3 voters in the Nov. 8 election.

He is the business resiliency manager for the San Jose Downtown Association, the non-profit that represents more than 2,100 businesses, non-profits and property owners. Torres has experience in public office, having served on the San Jose-Evergreen Community College Board of Trustees since 2020 and on the Franklin-McKinley School District Board of Trustees from 2014-18. He also gained valuable experience as District 5 Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco’s deputy chief of staff.

Torres is right when he says his top three priorities for the district — homelessness, public safety and creating a strong downtown economy — are interconnected. He wants to use the political connections he has built to work with the county and state to streamline efforts to provide housing for those who are homeless and to build more affordable housing.

Torres’ strong support from labor gives us pause, but he showed an ability to stand up to labor in backing charters as a school board member.

Torres’ opponent, Irene Smith, is the business community’s candidate in the race. She has extensive experience as a financial analyst, mediator and Santa Clara County judge pro tem. Smith is a property manager of a downtown apartment building and is an owner of downtown’s Yoga in Union.

Smith takes pride in “not being a politician.” But her lack of experience in political office is glaring. It shows in her positions on issues, which are out of sync with San Jose’s pro-business officeholders. She hasn’t garnered support from any of the current members of the San Jose City Council or Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. That wouldn’t be a significant detriment in some San Jose districts, but the lack of key political allies is a major negative in a district that is so critical for the welfare of the entire city.

District 3 benefits from strong leadership from its council representatives. This is a district that provided future mayors Tom McEnery, Susan Hammer and Sam Liccardo. Voters would do well to elect a council member who is capable of working with the wide range of constituencies involved in downtown issues. We recommend Torres as the best candidate to take on the challenge.

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