Getting to know the Santa Clara City Council candidates
The Santa Clara Weekly is running a series of profiles on political candidates in the November election -- this article focuses on city council seat seven incumbent Teresa O'Neill.
By David Alexander

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Getting to know the Santa Clara City Council candidates

Teresa O’Neill wants to represent you on the Santa Clara City Council.

O’Neill is seeking re-election after winning her race in 2012. She is a Stanford graduate who worked for the Hewlett-Packard Company. She served two terms on the Santa Clara Unified school board, the planning commission as well as the city’s general plan steering committee.

“I believe I have made a combination of having had a lot of experience, yet I feel like I have worked hard to be accessible,” she said. “I have a broad perspective on the issues in the community.”

If elected to a second term, O’Neill said she would like to improve how government works, preserve city’s environment and ensure the city has “financial stability.” She said she has “worked hard to educate [herself] on the issues,” which has “built a strong bond” with the community.

While on the council, O’Neill said she has worked hard to keep her finger on the pulse of the community. A good public official has to be open to differing ideas, she added.

“I am open to learning from people,” she said. “Once you get elected, you are on the inside. Your perspective changes.”

“One aspect of being a good leader is learning from every aspect of your experience,” she later added. “You always have to work hard to make sure you aren’t getting isolated in your thinking.”

Despite its prosperity, O’Neill said Santa Clara still struggles with an income divide, which is something she would like the government to tackle. Those “human service issues” need to be addressed, she said, adding that the region is not just about “multi-billion-dollar companies; some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

However, “quality of life issues’ extend beyond the income divide, she said. Ensuring people have access to “open space” -- by taking actions such as protecting parks, increasing bike paths and updating playground equipment -- and “encouraging people to live a healthy lifestyle” by promoting community gardens and educating them through wellness policies, is also an important aspect, she said.

O’Neill said her business acumen will continue to prove valuable to the city. The political landscape in Santa Clara is similar to that of the corporate world.

“You have to perform better, faster,” O’Neill said. “Santa Clara is now under similar pressures where you have, in some ways, the enviable task of managing an unprecedented level of development.”

That accelerated development has been an issue at times, she said.

“We had kind of plunged into the stadium. There perhaps was not enough thought given by the city as to how we are going to manage that relationship with the 49ers,” she said.

Transportation and housing are other areas O’Neil said need to be addressed. The council needs to be careful with its development, making sure that high-density housing is located near public transportation to reduce traffic congestion.

O’Neill categorized herself as a “consensus builder,” adding that she “looks at things with a critical eye,” qualities she said are important to serving on the council.

“People are their principles,” she said. “I hope I never lose sight of what my principles are. You can’t compromise on your personal behavior.”