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All About Harbir K Bhatia, Santa Clara City Council Candidate for Election 2020
Why should you vote for Harbir? Harbir’s life has been about ‘Seva’ (selfless service). She has worked tirelessly in community and non-profit organizations, in diverse spheres from socio-cultural to business empowerment, women’s rights, children’s health, diversity and inclusion to COVID relief etc.
Harbir is a community organizer, not a career politician. She is an Indian American Sikh woman who came here as an immigrant when she was 7 years old, and thus can easily relate to the experience of other immigrants. Harbir has lived in Santa Clara for over 15 years, and been actively involved in many Santa Clara and larger Bay Area community organizations. She has been leading community initiatives for more than 30 years. Her vision is to ensure Santa Clara is a city where people of all backgrounds are welcome and have an equal opportunity to thrive.
Harbir has worked in hi-tech companies for most of her professional career, and she is an entrepreneur and innovator who is adept at solving problems. This includes strong contract negotiation, budget management, and planning skills for global corporate organizations. Her ability to analyze, forecast and anticipate problems will help her make better decisions.
Harbir is highly educated with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from University of Toledo, Ohio, and a Master’s in Engineering from Santa Clara University. Her educational background helps her make the right choices for the city in her position as the Santa Clara Cultural Commissioner (not an endorsement by the City of Santa Clara).
Harbir doesn’t wait for others to come up with solutions and can hit the ground running. She has the ability to gauge real time problems and has proven that she can come up with creative solutions and work towards the needs of the community. For example:
- She started the Santa Clara Community Coalition, when the COVID pandemic was just starting, and worked with several non-profits, local community organizations, businesses and individuals. This had a huge impact at the local, state, county and national level.
- She also launched the first of its kind unique media program (Oonee Media Lounge) to give entrepreneurs a platform to share their story through news and media outlets, during one of the largest entrepreneurship conferences.
- She understands the significant impact the increasing number of new housing projects have on the traffic demand and has worked on mitigation measures.
- She advocated increasing the designated number of affordable housing within each developmental project from 10% to 15%; for example, the Gateway Crossings project.
- She helped visualize how we can create thriving new developments – spaces that are supportive of small businesses and are also family friendly, where people can celebrate arts and culture, and get access to affordable housing for the community.
As a community champion, Harbir is focused on being the voice for the community. Her priority is not to play politics-as-usual. She prefers to focus on real problems facing District 1 and is not afraid to fight for the rights of the minority or the larger community, but work towards a more equitable future for the residents of the community.
Did you know we are going to be in a $34M deficit?
- Garbage Rate Increase: The city made decisions to kill revenue streams based on political agendas and poor decisions. For example, the garbage rate hike of up to 68% for the residents. Harbir, along with Councilmember Raj Chahal and others, advocated against it to bring visibility and attention to the issue. Did you know the majority council approved the contract BEFORE knowing the rates? Thankfully the pushback highlighted the decision making process and forced the city to provide some discounts, though extremely minimal, for the residents. But this bad contract is shifting the burden to us, the residents, and costing over $1.9 million per year, and will make us pay more than $28 million extra in the next 15 years. Harbir has experience and is capable of budgeting and forecasting in large organizations to ensure more thoughtful decisions are made to benefit the community. Learn more about the garbage rate increase in this article.
- Levi’s Stadium: Harbir wants to work with other council members and the public to create more revenue streams from Levi’s Stadium which will help Santa Clara city programs and services thus benefiting residents.
- City Manager Salary: Santa Clara City Manager was among the highest paid city managers in CALIFORNIA in 2018 earning $767,605 annually! Santa Clara is a city of 130,000 people, whereas our neighboring city San Jose, as an example, with 1.3 million people, pays their city managers a lesser base salary. Our incumbent council member approved this package and a hike in 2019. This is another example of poor fiscal decisions being made. We are running further into a deficit. Many of us are in tech/ business etc. and understand budget planning, cost impacts, forecasting, etc. These decisions have long term ramifications, in terms of unfunded pension liabilities, if we don’t manage them better, and we will lose many of the services we cherish like parks, etc. Read the article from Mercury News and see the salary comparison.
- Loss of Revenue from the Santa Clara Convention & Visitors Bureau: The current majority bloc including the incumbent voted to shut down the Convention Center and Visitors Bureau without another management company to continue in June 2018. The visitors bureau created $130 million in economic benefits to the city, businesses, and hotels in 2018. A huge revenue loss for our city businesses and the city’s general fund. If we had that revenue before COVID, can you imagine what it would have meant to the small businesses and our city’s budget?
- Lawsuits: For decades, public agencies have lost millions to win against the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuits. The city of Santa Clara fought against it, too. During the 2020 primaries, the majority-block council tried to change the new model through Measure C. The Measure lost 2 to 1. Yet, even after the residents spoke through their vote, the current majority continues the appeal without any meaningful reason to do so. If Santa Clara loses the appeal of the 6 district model, it would cost an estimated $6 million extra. Learn more about how much it will cost the city in this article.
- Inadequate Community Benefits from Developers: We need a leader who can work with developers to persuade them to provide more affordable housing for low income communities. The current council majority have given undue benefits to developers which has severely impacted the quality of life of ordinary residents like you and me.
- New Development Projects: 40,000 new housing units are being planned in the city and there is no plan in place to meet the new infrastructure demands.
Harbir has received several awards as well as recognition for the projects that she has been involved in, over the years. For example:
- ‘The Community Hero Award by California Assembly’ by Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu, and Evan Low
- ‘Leadership in Business Award’
- ‘Women’s Empowerment: Inspiring Achievement Award’
- ‘Distinguished Community Leader’, by the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce (now Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce)
Community Organizer and Leader
Harbir has been volunteering and leading for years and her diverse and extensive community network enables her to build bridges and find practical and timely solutions. Some of the non-profit, volunteer or committee work in the community involves:
- Santa Clara Community Coalition, COVID Relief – Founder
- Santa Clara Cultural Commission
- Joint Venture Silicon Valley – Deputy Board Member
- Member of The Women’s Forum
- Past President 2019-2020 and current Board Member of the Santa Clara Library Foundation and Friends
- JOY of SEWA Advisor
- Santa Clara Rotary Board Chair for International Projects 2020-21
- Santa Clara Rotary Multicultural and Inclusion Task Force 2020-2021
- Rotary Climate Action Committee
- Member of the Advisory Board of Women’s March San Jose
- San Jose Sikh Temple Community Relations Director
- Until recently – Board Member of Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce, earlier known as the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce
- Economic Development Committee, SVCCC
- Strategic Planning Committee
- Chair for Task Force for SVCCC 2019
- Speaker at Habitat For Humanity Women’s Build
- Rebuild Silicon Valley – Veteran Housing Building
- Fundraising Committee and Online Outreach Committee Lead for Northside
- Northside Library Fundraising Committee
- Started and worked on Northside Library online change.org signatures
- Vigil for Sandy Hook Shooting – in Rivermark, North Santa Clara