Six candidates make their case for 2 open city council seats

October 19, 2020 — by Marisa Kingsley
Photo by courtesy of League of Women Voters Southwest Santa Clara Valley YouTube channel

City council candidates discuss new high-density housing plans at a  forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Southwest Santa Clara Valley on Sept. 29.

The public gathered remotely to watch a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Southwest Santa Clara Valley on Sept. 29, where the six candidates running for Saratoga City Council discussed issues facing the city, including proposed changes to the Saratoga retirement community, high density housing and rising water rates. 

The candidates — Kookie Fitzsimmons, Belal Aftab, Tina Walia, Doug Case, John Fitzpatrick and Renee Paquier — are running to fill Mayor Howard Miller’s and Councilmember Manny Cappello’s seats. The Falcon reached out to the candidates to better understand their platforms. 


Kookie Fitzsimmons 


Fitzsimmons, a third generation Saratogan, has been volunteering for the Saratoga Planning Commission for over six years, serving as the Vice Chair from 2018 to 2019. In her 30 years of civil service, she has been the Chair of Saratoga Village Merchants Association, Chair of the Blossom Festival and Co-Chair of the Saratoga Rotary Art Show, and has served on the Saratoga Rotary Board of Directors. 

Fitzsimmons said she would prioritize maintaining the city’s semi-rural atmosphere by increasing communication and transparency between the local government and the community and vows to use “good stewardship” to keep the city solvent. Moreover, she also aims to promote local businesses, as Fitzsimmons owned a business in Saratoga Village for 15 years, and believes that it's the business owners who come up with the best ideas to promote them. In turn, support from the city can help businesses. The annual Car Show, for instance, was proposed by local real estate agent Tiger Teerlink. 

“It may sound simple, but the best way to support the businesses is to do business with them,” Fitzsimmons said. “As a Council member, I can improve community outreach and provide incentive programs for both the merchants and the community.”


Belal Aftab 

Aftab, who was born and raised in Saratoga, is currently the Chair of the Traffic Safety Commission and Vice Chair of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Citizens Advisory Committee. He also works for the financial technology company Stripe. 

Aftab plans to bolster public safety initiatives amid reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health awareness, as well as creating a more candid budget to ensure fiscal responsibility. He would also prioritize public safety surrounding wildfires, traffic and policing, which would include the implementation of a Psychiatric Response Unit that enables mental health professionals to respond to mental health emergencies that would normally be handled by police. This would also introduce text alerts during emergencies, modeled after companies like DoorDash and UberEats.

“We have ways to track where the food is, when it’s picked up, when it’s at our front door, but getting communication about whether or not to evacuate was close to impossible,” Aftab said. “These tech companies create apps that are literally designed to be as easy to use as possible, and the government doesn’t think that way.” 


Tina Walia 

Walia, a Saratoga resident for 19 years, has served as the Planning Commissioner since 2010 and has also been the Planning Commission Chair (twice) and Vice Chair (twice). In addition to serving the community, Walia previously worked as an architect in India and the United States, as well as in business analytics and market research and believes this experience gives her a strong foundation to advocate for Saratoga. 

While challenges regarding the pandemic would take immediate priority, having already worked with Saratoga’s Climate Action Plan, Walia is planning to increase protection of citizens against wildfire danger, which she said is being accelerated by climate change. Walia would also prioritize preserving Saratoga’s “small-town, low-density look” that characterizes the city. 

“I want to protect our city’s small-town look and charm that we all enjoy, and is sadly under threat from state laws,” Walia said. “I have comprehensive experience to deal with city ordinances that we need to fortify.” 


Doug Case 

Case, who has been a Saratoga resident for 23 years, is a retired business executive who worked for companies including Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Sybase and Net App for 35 years. Although he has not held any government positions, Case spent three years advocating for PanCAN, or Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, on Capitol Hill, and is an active community member, including being a fundraiser lead for Second Harvest Food Bank as well as volunteering with Saratoga Federated Church to help build houses in Tijuana, Mexico. 

As a member of city council, Case would focus on promoting local businesses and attracting new ones, ensuring community safety and security in the face of wildfires with programs such as FireWise and FireSafe and protecting Saratoga from up-zoning state legislation, and instead creating housing takes the diverse population into account. 

“I will work with Saratoga residents on how to bring a diversity of housing into our city,” Case said. “Because for a healthy community, it's not all high tech jobs. You also have families who have kids, and they refresh the schools, and the diversity of jobs makes this community interesting and healthy.”


John Fitzpatrick 

Fitzpatrick, who was born and raised in Saratoga and the Central Valley, works as a consumer protection attorney. Additionally, he has worked as a staff attorney at the Positive Resource Center, which provides legal assistance to senior citizens and people with disabilities, and Pro Bono Project Silicon Valley, which works with victims of domestic abuse and family law for people who are incarcerated. 

As a city council member, Fitzpatrick would aim to promote growth based on local control and sustainability, effective responses to public safety issues including drought, wildfires and crime as well as upholding transparent and independent leadership. 

“I’m independent of any political party and I will not be guided by donors, developers, lobbyists or special interests,” Fitzpatrick said on his website. “Instead, I will balance the potential positive and negative effects of any decision with input from all stakeholders, including residents, business owners and neighbors, along with an analysis of evidence-based data.”


Renee Paquier 

Paquier, the Dean of the Che School of Professional Studies at West Valley College, is currently a board member of the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council. She has also served as the Deputy Sheriff of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, and works in partnership with the administration of justice West Valley College to provide social justice and equity training to officers. 

If elected, Paquier would emphasize strengthening the Neighborhood Watch program to ensure community safety, making sure that all members of the city are heard and research is done when considering large scale housing and commercial development, and maintaining high academic standards while working with the School Board to address students’ mental health and success and completion rates. Paquier did not answer questions posed for her in time for publication. 


If you would like to learn more about the candidates, please visit their websites: 

Belal Aftab:

Doug Case:

John Fitzpatrick:

Kookie Fitzsimmons:

Renee Paquier:

Tina Walia:


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