The Speech I Was Not Allowed to Give: Why I Want to Serve on the City Council

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.


  1. Andrew, you are awesome! I enjoyed spending quality time with you before Monday’s meeting and sharing what the role of a City Councilmember entails. We have run in similar circles when it comes to serving the City in the past. You have a wonderful background in non-profits and housing that would benefit the Council. Thank you for sharing your speech. I hope you will save it for your campaign kickoff! We need millennials like you! See you in November!!!

    • Kathy

      I wholeheartedly agree with you, we need millennials on council, we need a new generation and perspective in planning OUR future.

      more the merrier, see you in December !

  2. I would have loved to have had the process played out. 8 people took the time to put together a presentation that they hoped would sway the remaining City Council members to vote for them. 5 out of the 6 were needed to do so.
    Instead, the two newest City Council members choose to create their own path. Pick my guy, or we go to a November Election. I guess that is a new option.
    Personally I would have liked to see the process play out. I really want to see Santa Clara residents get a chance to be part of the process, and on this night no one got a chance to say anything.
    That’s just wrong on so many levels.
    Burt Field

  3. Both these speeches tell us absolutely nothing about what you’d do on council, your vision for Santa Clara, your priorities for the City moving forward, or really just about anything else that would actually be relevant for doing the work of a council person.

    Disappointed in you both.

    • How about “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.”

      Sounds like priorities and vision to me.

  4. OK. In that case, I get equal time. Here’s the 3 minute speech I had prepared and practiced
    My name is Suds Jain.
    My wife, son and I have lived in the Old Quad since 1999.

    I believe I have the skills and experience to serve on the Santa Clara City Council.
    I also believe I have the time to serve since I’m retired. Prior to retiring I was a senior manager at Broadcom Corporation and I oversaw 4 employees. My degrees in electrical engineering should help me make decisions regarding SVP which is such a large part of our budget.

    I have served on the Planning Commission for almost 5 years and was the chair last year. So I have even presided over public meetings in these Chambers before. While on planning commission I advocated for and got City issued email accounts for planning commissioners.

    In addition to Planning Commission, I currently serve on the Chief of Police – Citizens Advisory Committee and the El Camino Real – Citizens Advisory Committee

    • I graduated from Leadership Santa Clara in 2014
    • I graduated from the Citizens Police Academy in 2015
    • I was a member of the Santa Clara Rotary from 2014 to 2019
    • I have attended Santa Clara CAC meetings since 2011 and have been secretary and VP
    • I have served on the board of the Old Quad Residents Association since it was rebooted in 2014.
    • For the past two years, I have been the chair of the board of Acterra, a 50 year old environmental non-profit based in Palo Alto and I presided over the task of hiring a new Executive Director last year.
    • Vice Mayor Hardy and I cofounded the Wilcox Robotics team 5 years ago and we still coach it.

    I was chair of the latest Santa Clara Charter Review Committee and presided over 5 public committee meetings. I consider it a great accomplishment that we succeeded in the task of making some recommendations to City Council on district elections.

    I have attended many many City Council meetings and attended the past 5 Council goal setting meetings. At those meetings I have advocated for
    • Hiring a sustainability manager
    • More impact fee money for new Parks
    • More money for Affordable Housing – I even served on the committee to determine Affordable Housing Nexus fees
    • Holding Developers accountable for the traffic that their projects generate
    • Reducing fees for live music in restaurants

    I walked precincts to oppose measure J. I felt that Santa Clara was too small to take on such a big headache that it would increase traffic, noise and violence. I read “Field of Schemes” and was very skeptical of the intentions of the 49ers. It was worse than I thought. Little did I realize how much staff and council time the Stadium would consume 10 years later.

    A number of people have implied that I should not be considered this position because I would have to recuse myself from the downtown plan. I worked with Adam Thompson on getting Franklin street back and trying to make it 75 feet wide when Prometheus rebuilds. It takes 4 votes to pass the downtown plan. The plan should be good enough that the vote will be unanimous otherwise we will have endless turf wars and pork-barrel politics among districts in our city.

    When I ran for City Council in 2016, I took no money from the 49ers nor their employees, no money from developers, unions or other special interests. I plan to run in November and will not take money from special interests again.

    Thank you.

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