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 three candidate John McLemore.
By David Alexander

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Getting to Know the Santa Clara City Council Candidates

John McLemore wants to represent you on the Santa Clara City Council.

McLemore served on the Council from 1996 to 2004. He is the CEO and founder of Goliath Business Group, a logistics and planning consulting firm, and has served as the vice chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

As someone who has worked in the transportation industry, McLemore said the way the city has been handling traffic issues is misguided, saying the Council should innovate “traffic solutions that don’t play into today’s market.” He said his experience will be invaluable to the Council because his knowledge allows him to know when to have a healthy skepticism of proposals.

“It is obvious they are voting on things they have no comprehension of because they have no business background,” he said. “I can sit there and watch when people have no experience get bamboozled by a fast-talking bureaucrat, by a fast-talking developer, by a fast-talking salesman.”

Although he said city staff have worked to educate his opponent, incumbent Debi Davis, she “still doesn’t get it.” Being personable, he said, has “nothing to do with competently solving traffic issues.”

On a similar note, the city needs to do a “better job of the professionalism on the Council,” he said Having a revolving door of people on the Council doesn’t do the city a service because if those people don’t have the knowledge and experience to understand key issues, it slows the process of governance.

“We don’t have to go back and recreate the round wheel and go back and educate a new council person on why we do things this way,” he said.

One solution to traffic, he said, is the city should be focused on how to build the Bus Rapid Transit program while it is still inexpensive, he said. By working with existing government on adding more mass transit, it makes government “more efficient and smarter and wiser in what they do.”

Another thing that “shocked” him, he said, was seeing how the Council has handled the budget, depleting the city reserves. The city has “a lot of opportunities to change city models to get revenue,” he said.

He called politics “the art of compromise,” adding that he is adept at taking principled positions, even when they are unpopular.

“I have always been proud to be a lone boat, not go along to get along. I am proud to be an independent thinker,” McLemore said. “Progress is not an easy road. You shouldn’t compromise every time you turn a corner.”

Part of the problem with housing prices is that “the free market is always going to win out,” so developers are always going to want to build high-end homes. Baby Boomers and Millennials have similar financial impacts, he said, and the city needs to plan what young people are going to want 10 or 15 years from now and the“ government needs to get out of the way.”

However, that doesn’t mean the Council can’t make zoning changes or otherwise “general plan arrangements” to help accommodate the way the market is trending to ensure that the public needs are met. 

Another issue he said he’d like to focus on if elected is crime, saying he is disconcerted by the crime rates in some neighborhoods. McLemore said he is in favor of more training for the police department to handle large-scale incidents like terrorist attacks.

“If we think it is not going to happen here, we are blind to reality,” he said. “I believe in checks and balances. I don’t want more military. I don’t want more guns on the streets. I don’t want our police militarized.”

McLemore called himself “level-headed” and someone who doesn’t “rubber stamp” projects. Still, he said he also recognizes when he doesn’t know something and has deferred to others’ expertise, saying he “doesn’t have a problem being human.”

“If it were easy to fix these problems, anybody could do it,” he said. “We know that not anybody can do it.”