By Andrew Knaack
Editor’s Note: On Monday, Vice Mayor Karen Hardy and Councilman Raj Chahal stopped the process that would have allowed eight applicants for the vacant council seat to speak and answer questions. They insisted that Suds Jain should be appointed at the beginning of the meeting. Or the selection process should be stopped and the City should have a November election. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
One of the candidates, Andrew Knaack posted this on FaceBook Monday night. With his permission, we’re printing it today.
Today, I put myself in the public light in a way I thought I never would. I applied for the appointment to the City Council vacancy in District 5 of Santa Clara.
The Council was blocked from seeing the process through. While I did think that it was very likely no one gets appointed, I was shocked to be told that my story and the stories of the other qualified applicants were not even worth hearing.
Through this appointment process, I have talked with as many District 5 residents as I could to hear their concerns and dreams and by not following the appointment process, their concerns were also silenced.
I am used to being scared and not living my truth, but I will not stand idly by and let the voices of those I was working to represent be silenced.
So in honor of the dozens of people I talked to through this process and the half dozen or so people that believed in me enough to help me with my speech and my answers for an interview that did not happen, I am sharing my 3-minute opening statement with anyone who is willing to listen.
Thank you to each and every one of you that believed in me or took the time to share your opinions with me during this process.
Here are my opening remarks:
Candidate Interview Opening Statement
Thank you, Mayor and City Council for your time and consideration tonight.
My name is Andrew Knaack and my story is uniquely Santa Claran. The story begins with my parents meeting as young employees of Great America. I would go on to grow up in the same Santa Clara house as my mom. I started my schooling as a wide-eyed Kindergartner at Millikin Elementary and became a second-generation Wilcox High School graduate, the same school that my brother teaches at today.
After college, I moved home to Santa Clara where I became a part of the team that took care of my aging grandparents. Soon after, I joined the Parks and Recreation Commission. Within a short few years, I lost my three remaining grandparents. No longer needed at my childhood home, it was time for me to find a new place.
Living in Santa Clara
On a non-profit salary, my options were limited. I searched for months to find a place I could afford in Santa Clara. I wanted to continue my service on the Parks and Recreation Commission and I wanted to stay in the only city I’ve felt was home. But I feared there might no longer be a place for me in Santa Clara. And just as I started to look outside of this City for places to live, resigned that the Santa Clara chapter of my life was complete, I got one lucky last lead in Santa Clara and thankfully it is the apartment I live in today. But luck shouldn’t be what allows me to stand before you today.
I know what it is like to live, learn, and grow from what Santa Clara has to offer, but I also know what it is like to struggle to make it in this City. As a professional, I have worked on some of the Valley’s biggest issues including mental health, homelessness, and healthcare access. I have worked alongside my neighbors at low points in their lives such as working through depression or addiction, fleeing domestic violence, struggling to pay for the medical care of their sick children or to make rent next month.
I have been told many times that empathy is my greatest strength. Every time someone trusts me enough to tell me their story and their struggles, I listen, I learn, and I work with them to overcome the obstacles that life has put in their path. This is the approach that I would bring to City Hall.
District 5 Issues
While I have only been working on the appointment process for a few weeks, I have done my best to hear the concerns of District 5 and this is only the beginning of my process. I will prioritize affordable housing with a special focus on transit corridors including Santa Clara Transit Center, Lawrence Station, and Tasman East. And I will prioritize the downtown revitalization project and work diligently to collect community feedback to make sure this project is a gem that all will enjoy.
In summary, as a City Councilmember and third-generation Santa Claran, I would respect the historic context of the City while representing a unique and fresh demographic perspective including as a renter, as a nonprofit professional, and as a 6-year member and current chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission. I will work with District 5 residents to be the leader they wish to see in Santa Clara. And I look forward to working with you, the City Council, to ensure that our City has the representation and champion they deserve on the dais.