The Mercury News Lacks Understanding of Santa Clara, Diversity, and Districts
By Robert Haugh
The Mercury News recently ran an editorial calling for the creation of council districts in Santa Clara.
It was something of a head-scratcher, like when the 1-2-3 Kid somehow beat Razor Ramon.
First, they say:
“There are no concentrated neighborhoods of specific ethnic groups, like San Jose’s largely Asian Berryessa area, to carve out as districts.”
But they conclude the opposite:
“Santa Clara needs to adopt a district system to better represent its ethnic diversity and its different neighborhoods.”
We reported over two weeks ago how the charter review committee won’t be able to diversify the council with districts.
That’s because Santa Clara is an integrated community. Our neighborhoods are racially mixed and economically mixed. That’s a good thing for any city.
I don’t see how a lawyer can show that districts will result in more minority candidates being elected. So, I agree with the Mercury News’ first conclusion, the one they made before they contradicted themselves. But it’s like they felt they had to support the lawsuit no matter what.
Why? Are they trying to make up for past editorial sins?
In 1988, the paper said they would not endorse Santa Clara city council candidate David Hahn, a Korean American, because of his accent. Really. That’s what they wrote.
So I wrote to Mercury News editorial page editor Barbara Marshman to ask if this was a factor in their recent editorial, since she was an editorial page editor back then, too. She was nice enough to write back.
Here’s what Barbara wrote in an email to me:
The editor, my boss at the time, Rob Elder, wrote it, and the rest of us cringed. The editorial was completely insensitive and actually inaccurate in saying the problem was his “accent.” The entire paper felt embarrassed, and I’m sure that cavalier remark discouraged many immigrants from stepping up in the next few years.
I hope Barbara’s candid comments don’t cause the lawyers suing Santa Clara to sue the Mercury News, too, for discouraging immigrant candidates.
Barbara also wrote to me:
Even district elections won’t guarantee that, since Asian-Americans are not concentrated in a particular area to focus their power. But it would be a start.
I agree with the first part of Barbara’s statement. Districts aren’t really a solution if you want to elect Asians. I don’t agree that it’s “a start,” because, if it won’t work, why start?
I really appreciate Barbara answering my questions honestly. But I think the editorial and her answers show that the Mercury News doesn’t really understand Santa Clara, or ethnic districts, or ethnic politics. They haven’t for a long time, at least since 1988.