Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-24th District, apologized if he repeated points during last week’s “Keeping Up with the Community” event at Enchanté Boutique Hotel in downtown Los Altos.
By the time he arrived Sept. 18, Berman had already appeared at the Clocktower Coffee Roasting Company in Mountain View for another community coffee and attended a meeting that day.
He had also, based on observation at Enchanté, spent all day referring questions about hot-button topics to respective city council members. He acknowledged Mayor Jean Mordo, councilwomen Jeannie Bruins and Lynette Lee Eng and council candidates Nancy Bremeau and Neysa Fligor at the gathering, noting that he knows how much work it is serving on the council; he previously sat on the Palo Alto City Council.
Berman moved fluidly through his points, starting with broad efforts that aim to improve issues affecting all of California, such as ailing transportation infrastructure and the housing crisis (allocating funding to veterans home options, streamlining zoning codes for developers) and concluding with ways Los Altos residents can help.
A resident interrupted Berman when he addressed affordable housing, asking where he thought the city should put affordable housing to meet the state designated Regional Housing Need Allocation. Berman told the resident to discuss specifics with council members but noted that the corridor where five-story developments like the 4880 El Camino Real project are being proposed and constructed is a great place to build below-market-rate units.
“There’s a lot of opportunity on El Camino,” Berman said.
Statewide, California is practicing great fiscal prudence, according to Berman, with budget reserves at a record high. Despite efforts, the reserves still won’t be enough if the economy dips, he added.
Berman introduced his current projects: increasing cybersecurity and tracking systems with elections, limiting misinformation via social media and the 2020 census.
The 2020 census is proving to be Berman’s biggest challenge, as it is still unclear whether the national government plans to include a citizenship question during the era of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-induced fear and anxiety.
“The census is not meant to count citizens,” Berman said to the crowd of residents, some of whom sighed heavily, even scowled, at the mention of such an inquiry on the population survey. “The census is meant to count every person who lives in a geographic region in California. It’s totally unnecessary and done solely to scare people in immigrant communities from participating.”
Berman and his fellow elected officials are reviewing the option of leaving the question blank if it does appear on the census. Their fear is that a census respondent will not be able to move on to the next screen (the “next” button may not appear). Berman advised people not to lie on the online survey, a pilot program that was supposed to be tested three times but has only been tested once in the Rhode Island area.
When Enchanté owner Abby Ahrens asked what citizens could do to help while the census process is being finalized and the state is “suing the pants off” the federal government for the possibility of a citizenship question, Berman recommended that those who are able support nonprofit organizations that have become trusted allies for immigrants, and the agencies can directly offer resources to those in need.
During the Q&A portion of the community coffee, Mordo jokingly asked Berman “how hard (he was) going to push the bitter pill of housing down their throats and force us to do the right thing.” Berman laughed and thanked Mordo for cueing a housing conversation, as it is an issue that plagues society with negative environmental and retail impacts.
“In Palo Alto, there is a businesswoman who just bought a house for her four most critical staff in her restaurant,” Berman said. “That’s insane. That is not a healthy ecosystem.”