Minutes after her swearing-in at the Mexican Heritage Plaza on Friday evening for a four-year term representing District 5 on the San Jose City Council, newly-elected councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco voiced demands for social equity of the city’s neglected East Side, a sprawling swath of working-class neighborhoods where many residents struggle to meet basic needs.
“Decades of disproportional services have limited the possibilities for San Jose’s East Side residents and our community,” said Carrasco. “Silicon Valley must forge alliances based on the betterment of working families, not political families or narrow interests that keep political power segmented, creating stratified communities of haves and have-nots.”
Many more children are growing up in poverty in eastern San Jose neighborhoods than in other parts of the city, over 25 percent in areas near Highways 101 and 680, where high concentrations of particulate pollution spewed by vehicle traffic result in higher rates of respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Public schools are vastly underfunded here, while fewer and smaller public parks are available compared to other neighborhoods.
“For this city to be truly successful, East San Jose District 5 must be successful. In spite of all the challenges, every child in this community is just as intelligent and holds just as much potential as any any other child in the city of San Jose,” stated Carrasco. “What is missing is real opportunity backed up by properly directed resources.”
“Unfortunately we are often left on the sidelines when it comes to providing the resources necessary for our community to thrive and prosper and it deserves. We should not and can not settle for this inequity,” she said. “What this community needs it for its city leaders, sitting right here, sharing the stage with me, is to address these inequities.”
Carrasco then listed the reforms she would work to achieve as San Jose City Councilwoman.
“It is my commitment to you that we will pursue the promise and possibility of our community by ensuring we have access to quality education and job training. Why?,” she asked the assembled audience, numbering a few hundred.
“Because East Side Matters!” Carrasco exclaimed in response after a long silence.
“It is my commitment to you that we will ensure adequate investment into our parks and libraries. Why?” asked Carrasco.
“East Side Matters!” the crowd shouted back.
“It is my commitment to you that we will ensure better investments into our roads and provide safer routes to schools. Why?”
“East Side Matters!” the crowd chanted yet again louder, “And Black Lives Matter too!” shouted a voice from the back of the room, piercing the audience’s fervor with a reminder of ongoing police violence targeting black Americans nationwide.
“And it is my commitment to you that the BART station on 28th Street is built,” Carrasco promised. “Because the EAST SIDE MATTERS!” roared the crowd.
State Senator Jim Beall, whose 15th Senate District includes all of East San Jose and other parts of San Jose, also assured the audience that the $500 million Alum Rock BART Station to be built at Santa Clara & 28th streets as part of BART’s $4.3 billion extension from Berryessa to downtown San Jose, wouldn’t be cut from funding plans as proposed by VTA in October 2014.
“Just a few weeks ago there were rumblings about eliminating the Alum Rock BART Station,” said Beall. “Well I’m the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and we’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” stated Beall.
“Mom and Dad had to remind us at the dinner table that if somebody takes too much, somebody else doesn’t get enough,” shared Beall, describing his childhood shared with nine siblings. “If you apply that to the social justice that we need, East San Jose hasn’t got enough.”
“East San Jose is hungry,” boomed Senator Bell amidst cheers from the audience. “We’re hungry and we want our fair share!”
Other officials invited to speak also addressed the economic disparities and social barriers faced by East San Jose residents in their praise of Carrasco.
“When I look at this incredible leader, my friend Magdalena, I see what can be and I know what inspires her,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who travelled from Sacramento to administer Magdalena Carrasco’s oath of office. “She is someone who sees the people, cares about the people, and is a voice for the most vulnerable and the voiceless.”
State Senator President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (24th District) declared, “We know that resources need to be concentrated in the areas with the most marginalized, those who have very little voice, those who have very little political power. Tonight we come to celebrate the dawn of an era of new political leadership.”
Magdalena Carrasco is a ten-year veteran Social Worker Coordinator for Santa Clara County’s Department of Family & Children’s Services and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Eastside Union High School District, where her three children have been students for years. She defeated one-term incumbent councilman Xavier Campos and challenger Aaron Resendez for the District 5 seat by winning 53 percent of the 8,221 votes cast in last year’s primary election on June 3, thus avoiding a November 4 run-off election.
Carrasco now joins five previously elected members (Liccardo, Kalra, Oliverio, Herrera, Rocha, Khamis), three other newly-elected members (Jones, Peralez, Nguyen), and one appointed member (Matthews) on San Jose’s City Council.