Q&A: Jonathan Fleming & the Path to District 7

Jonathan Fleming, who is running for San Jose’s District 7. Photo Credit: Jonathan Fleming for San Jose City Council District 7

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

Jonathan Fleming is a San Jose resident and a mechanical engineer who is running for San Jose’s District 7 Council seat. A father and husband, his route to politics has been one guided by his own experiences in the community he says he has a plan to change for the better.

District 7 encompasses the center point intersection of Tully Road and Senter Road, and the boundaries are the 280 to the North, King Road to the East, Senter Road to the South and Highway 87 to the West.

Fleming’s main focus is on homelessness and housing in District 7 and San Jose as a whole, and how communities, including the homeless residents, can attain better living conditions. Beyond these issues, he believes he is a candidate of transparency; his website is full of information, studies and plans for District 7 that cover many of that community’s issues and observances.

Recently Flemings answered some questions in order to give community members and potential voters a look into what his “Fleming Plan” is all about, and why he among other candidates should be given an opportunity to lead District 7 in a new direction. Voting for the California direct primary elections happens on Tuesday June 5.

Tell us about yourself. What is your history and background, and what brought you to living in San Jose?

I am a husband and father first. I am married to an amazing Registered Nurse named Kristel and we have the most beautiful 19-month-old daughter in the entire world! I graduated Santa Clara University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and secured a job at a local defense contractor before I graduated. I became the youngest lead vehicle architect at my firm and won many awards and achievements for my leadership and ingenuity, including a recognition from a United States Senator for saving American lives in combat through my engineering design.

Almost nine years ago I was the victim of a motor vehicle accident that changed my life forever. A young driver who was speeding, rear ended me on the freeway while I was stopped, resulting in massive trauma to my spine, and resulting in secondary injuries throughout my body, including temporary blindness, concussion, and chronic pain. I was told that I would not walk again without the aid of assistive devices. I have had 19 surgeries and procedures since, undergone thousands of hours of rehabilitative therapy, and more. As a result, I understand what it is like to lose everything and to have to fight with all you have to get it back. I was cast aside, had my health insurance taken away from me, and was told I did not qualify for the support programs that were allegedly in place as my physical and emotional pain became increasingly worse.

Only through strength in God, the love of my incredible wife, parents, sisters, family, friends, teachers, medical providers, and our Community, was I able to find myself and make the decision that I would not be defined by the negligence of another. I have a lot to give and to fight for to ensure that the next person in my shoes did not have to endure the same torment as I. I do not know the definition of the word “quit,” so I persevered and overcame until I could walk again without help. I created my own small engineering business and have continued moving forward by focusing on improving the quality of life for all of my Community members in District 7.

Can you give some insight into how you became interested in running? Was there a particular experience or moment that led you to join the District 7 race?

As part of my physical therapy two years ago, while walking around our neighborhoods, I spoke with a boy who was crying because he cut his leg on syringe after going down the slide at the La Ragione Tot Lot. His mother couldn’t pay for an ambulance and I knew we had to make a change.

So, I became very active in our Community and founded the Senter Monterey Neighborhood Association. Afterwards, I recognized that our diverse District needed to come together and work to solve the many problems we were faced with, so I founded the District 7 Leadership Group. Our District needed a leader at City Hall to advocate for all of us, so I volunteered to be a Neighborhoods Commissioner and was unanimously elected as Vice Chair of the Neighborhoods Commission last year.

It doesn’t matter what you look like, what gender or ethnicity you are, we are ALL equal, and it is time we had a Councilmember who understands that and fights for us all.

I am committed to our Community and am running for this office because our City, and especially our District, needs real leadership that listens to its residents and isn’t afraid to go against the status quo of the past several years of policies that have continually eroded our quality of life. I am disheartened at seeing our City enable the problems we face every day – problems like homelessness, crime, housing, trash, and terrible road conditions. I am running because the residents of my District and City do not feel safe where they live, and we demand better.

I am one of the few persons in this City who has had the courage to challenge the status quo of City Government by researching and using facts to counter unworkable and highly expensive policies and we have seen the results in our neighborhoods. This is how necessary change is made. My Community supports me in making this necessary change and because of that, we will change City Hall.

You’re big on transparency, with you being the only candidate in the District 7 race with access to endorsement applications and questionnaires, as well as a breakdown of your positions on issues. Why do you feel this was something that you needed to provide?

I believe that transparency is important in this election. For too many years now, District 7 has elected representatives who do not have a plan for fixing the problems we face, or even worse, who lie about their verbal campaign promises.

Look at my opponent’s websites and tell me what they stand for and how they will lower the cost of housing, combat crime, fix our streets, and solve homelessness? Will they tax us more to bring about solutions? The truth is that the voters have no clue what they will do because they are hiding the information. Why would you vote for someone who does not write down their plan when your family’s safety is at stake?

Another benefit of my campaigns openness and transparency is that all people can see the requirements that special interest groups want in exchange for their endorsement. Such as special access to Councilmembers in closed door sessions without staff present. Remember, these applications were not just sent to me, they were sent to all candidates running in Santa Clara County for every position from Councilmember to Supervisor and more.

A voter has the right to understand who they are voting for and to feel confident in their plan. My transparency does that. No other candidate gives the voter that access.

Could you briefly explain “The Fleming Plan”?

The Fleming Plan is how we transform District 7 from the dumping ground of the City into a safe and vibrant place for us to work and raise our families. District 7 has the worst roads, the dirtiest parks, the highest crime rates, and suffers from the effects of the homeless crisis. The Fleming Plan identifies the causes for these issues and offers solutions for how to combat them. It focuses on creating jobs and building housing by lowering or eliminating excess regulations that make the cost of living unbearable and force so many of our neighbors out of the City. No other candidate has created a plan for our City and District. After publishing The Fleming Plan, I have noticed many of my ideas are being copied by other candidates and by others. Please check out The Fleming Plan for yourself and let me know what you think! www.Fleming2018.com/myplan.

Housing and homelessness in particular are two of the most talked about issues between the District 7 candidates. How can these be alleviated?

Housing and homelessness go hand in hand. When prices are so high that persons cannot afford the rent on their income, people will either live with friends or choose the homeless route where they can live in their cars or out on the streets and creeks. Subsidy programs generally do not help the middle class. Our government has created this problem and the other candidates in this race will continue that failed approach.

For example, the term “affordable housing” is spoken by my opponents, but that really means subsidized housing that further widens the gap between rich and poor while eliminating the middle class. “Affordable housing” costs all new 1,500 square foot housing units around $62,500 in taxes before it can even be built which causes rent to be 25% higher than it should. Add on other permitting fees from the City, County, and State, and it is easy to understand why developers are hesitant to build here, resulting in a supply and demand crisis with the product being skyrocketing housing costs. As a matter of fact, an article was just published that shows the same home built in Texas costs $500,000.00 more to build in San José. Then remember that Texas does not have a state income tax and you see that the CA bureaucrats in office are making things so expensive here that we need a candidate like me to step in and champion common-sense solutions that help us all, especially the homeless population.

I do not believe in the “permanent supportive housing” and “housing first” method of housing the homeless where our City spends around $600,000.00 per studio apartment and then gives it to a homeless person years down the line. In those years of waiting, people are victimized and abused, causing them to turn to drugs and other methods to cope. Unlike my opponents who champion “permanent supportive housing,” I do not believe that giving someone a studio apartment for the rest of their life because they are homeless is a real solution. So many of us have to work two or more jobs just to break even so it does not feel fair to the average voter. The average person is penalized with more expensive living costs to pay for someone else’s ability to get off the streets as referenced above.

My plan calls for lowering the restrictions and fees on creating new housing which will lower the costs across the board and increase supply, making housing affordable for every income class, including the homeless who work but cannot afford current housing prices. For the rest of the homeless population, my plan also calls for identifying the homeless population into three categories: those who can be helped, those who cannot, and those who are somewhere in between. Instead of only helping those who cannot be helped, and therefore forcing everyone into that category due to years of neglect, we need to focus on those who can be helped by giving them a purpose again through a job. Our City has a problem with trash and blight, so let’s hire our homeless residents to clean it up. In exchange they get housing, minimum wage, and access to medical benefits to get them back on their feet. Every six months they are evaluated with the hope that they become self-supportive and secure a job outside of this program where they can afford their own housing. This program would have a limit of 12 – 18 months because it is not an entitlement program, it is a rehabilitative program to help our fellow human.

What future would you like to see for the communities of District 7?

I would love for District 7 to come together and unite under leadership that listens and cares about every single person. For our residents to become more active and to participate in our democracy by making their voices heard. We are the most diverse district in the City and we should be represented equally, with all of our neighborhoods helping each other to develop solutions to the problems we face every day.

I want our roads to be fixed and out parks to be clean and safe. I want our Police department doubled so when we call 911 an officer responds immediately. I want our Community members to sit down and have lunch with our officers to break down the walls of misconception and build a stronger Community Police force. I want our residents to feel safe and to be happy. I want there to be a new pride in our District where we do not accept things for how they are but dream about how we want them to be and then act to make that happen.

Finally, why should community members going to vote June 5th look towards you as their pick?

I believe that District 7 voters should choose me to be their representative because I will stand up for what is right and will not stop until we see a positive change in our Community. All of us deserve to be represented equally and we will be treated the same as more affluent areas of our City. I have researched the issues and understand how they impact our neighborhoods. I am the only transparent and open candidate who has published a plan for when I take office. All of my campaign funding has come from individuals and therefore, I am not controlled by any special interest, so I will do what is right for our residents. I currently serve as the Vice Chair of the San José Neighborhoods Commission and have built up relationships within the various City departments so on day one of my administration, we will begin solving the problems facing our Community.

I want to unite our District and will do so by hosting monthly town hall meetings where we encourage all the leaders of our District to attend and participate. By working hard and obtaining results, we will show our Community members that all of us matter and that we can accomplish anything when we work together.

I love the people of our District and our quality of life will improve under my leadership. Please elect me on June 5th and together we will make a difference.

Information on voting and polling places can be found at https://eservices.sccgov.org/rov/.