The Saratoga city council meeting last night picked a new mayor and vice mayor. The council set a new Saratoga record: a fellow councilmember who won with the most votes in city history happens to be the only councilmember in city history who will have served two terms and has been denied the mayorship - three years in a row. Historical!
Mayorship is by rotation - one year for each councilmember. It is a ceremonial role - our city voters do not elect the mayor - it is a selection by our city councilmembers. Egos go sky high with such an “attainment.”
Right here in Saratoga is petty politics at its finest, just like the nonsense going on in Washington DC.
My perspective expressed at last night’s meeting is in this video and you can read the condensed transcript of my speech below:
There is a strange similarity between the the politics in Washington and Saratoga. We pride ourselves for being a simple small town - but the politics can get complex and convoluted. We know how people get sidelined in Washington and don’t get the high-impact committee assignments or chairmanship roles because they don’t play ball with the establishment. This is exactly my experience ever since I was first elected in 2014 to the Saratoga City Council.
My experience: In my 7 years, I happen to be the only councilmember, I state this humbly, who took on the top community challenges – dropping burglaries, fighting San Jose Water Company’s rampant rate increases, pushing back against a flawed tax increase for road repair, pushing back proactively against misconceived high-density projects, and pushing back against a 300 room hotel project in a high fire risk hillside. Had I not stood my ground with my four colleagues on the other side, the Mountain Winery mega-hotel” would already be built today. Saratogans seemingly appreciated my getting-things-done approach: I was humbled to be reelected with the most votes in Saratoga’s 64 year history.
And how did some of my councilmember colleagues react to all that? They decided to punish me saying, “Rishi, he does not deserve to be Mayor or Vice Mayor of our city.” Three years in a row! A historical trifecta for Saratoga!
It is a travesty that petty politics has prevented a simple ceremonial mayorship during my 7 years in office. Saratoga will always remember how I was stripped of my chance to be mayor. Power grabs can involve interesting deal making, back door negotiations “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” – or even classic puppetry with power brokers sitting on the sidelines dictating city council business today. Yes, it is happening in our city.
During my two terms on the city council, I heard constant and consistent pushback from my city council colleagues and the so-called establishment of Saratoga, trying unsuccessfully to stop my attempts to find better approaches to get things done: “Rishi, you don't need to have Neighborhood Safety meetings.” When we were sending our monthly newsletter to keep our community informed I was told, “Rishi you don't need to do a monthly city council newsletter.” When I challenged the water company, I was told, “Rishi, we don’t have jurisdiction over San Jose Water company - we cannot do anything about the rate increases.” Another said, “Talk of rising burglary and crime is scaring the children.” Or sometimes - “Rishi, this crime talk will drop the price of real estate in Saratoga.”
It was like, “Rishi don't do this, don't do that.”
Obviously they felt like they knew better than me. I always wondered why?
I certainly wasn’t planning to stand around watching and judging, preferring to innovate with the community’s top challenges. That’s what the people of Saratoga elected me to do.
That has NEVER been my endgame. Petty politics is not why a hi-tech executive decided to volunteer in the world of politics. It has always been about a public servant investing time and energy to fix the challenges of the people. Solving problems as a Mechanical Engineer is what I like doing. My objective has been to always serve with integrity in the interest of our residents. That will forever be my mission. I will never get embroiled in petty politics, either here in Saratoga or Washington DC.
I truly appreciate your support and heartfelt encouragement. I will leave you with this - we should measure our politicians by actual results and impact with your tough challenges, not political platitudes, not checkbox politics or political posturing. Doing this will ensure the best decisions for our city.