Carlos Romero, 63, has a long resume of community service in East Palo Alto that spans almost four decades.
From joining the city's Rent Control Board in 1984 to serving on the East Palo Alto City Council since 2008, Romero frequently underscores an advocacy for social and economic justice when it comes to public service and believes that his longtime commitment to the community and professional work as an affordable-housing consultant makes him a more effective leader for the city.
"That mixture of history and my professional background brings to the council a very important analytical piece that's necessary to help move the community forward," said Romero, adding that the wheels of government are slow and progress takes time.
Romero said that while he served on the council over the past decade, the city marked significant milestones: the new pedestrian bridge over U.S. Highway 101; the passage of the Measure HH parcel tax; bolstered tenant protections; a completed flood protection project; and funding for three housing developments with a total of 385 affordable units.
"Over the last 10 years, this has been one of the most active councils in terms of affordable housing," Romero said.
If elected for another four years, Romero said a large part of his work on the council will be seeing through with "projects, programs and policies" he's pursued in his previous terms, including the Measure HH parcel tax passed by voters in 2018, which currently has not been used to establish a concrete job training program or more affordable housing developments.
Romero anticipates that the city could initiate the planning or funding of two affordable housing development projects that could yield roughly 100 to 175 units, due to annual revenue coming in from Measure HH.
But the immediate future of affordable housing is at risk, Romero said, with a city facing "a potential massive displacement of tenants" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The last thing we want is a wholesale cleansing of low-income people of color because of the COVID crisis," he said.
Romero has proposed a tenant mediation program that would allow tenants and landlords to negotiate a moderate payment plan or a reduction in rent. Unlike similar programs in Palo Alto, San Jose and Mountain View, the city could couple it with its just-cause ordinance, which provides residents certain protections from eviction.
Romero believes the program could be effective since the consequences of mass eviction don't benefit renters or landlords.
Despite the pandemic, Romero said there's still a healthy interest among developers in pursuing commercial projects, particularly surrounding the Ravenswood Business District.
Romero said he's interested in revisiting the Ravenswood/Four Corners TOD Specific Plan to consider expanding development caps placed on office, retail, industrial and community-use developments.
It's the one area where Romero diverges from incumbent Larry Moody and challenger Stewart Hyland, who have both expressed that the specific plan already lays out exactly the type of developments they hope to see in the city.
Romero also sees an opportunity to finally realize the job training program that was promised to residents through the Measure HH tax parcel. This year, the city received $1.7 million through the measure, he said. Part of that money will be funneled into career ladder programs to help train residents for higher-paying jobs.
The city recently hired Bright Line Defense, a policy-oriented nonprofit, to help create program options that comply with Measure HH in the next six to eight months, Romero said. He believes this will help strengthen the first-source hiring ordinance when it comes to higher-skilled jobs since the city can use the tax to possibly subsidize internships as long as a company agrees to create a program for East Palo Alto residents.
Romero is a 38-year resident of East Palo Alto, but started working in the city 42 years ago when he was a freshman at Stanford University, marking the beginning of a decadeslong career in public service.
"I am by vocation … a consummate activist, organizer who believes that any city elected official needs to understand and have close connections to the community in order to effectively govern," he said.
Read profiles of the other six candidates: