Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

City of San Jose, District 3

Omar Torres

As Councilmember, I will create private-public partnerships to invest in early childhood education; I will collaborate with our federal and state elected officials to create public policies to help end illiteracy and assist parents in being actively engaged in their child's educational achievement. I will have a kids' first agenda.

  1. In a recent poll by Choose Children 2022 of likely general election voters, more than half of parents with children under age 18 say they are likely to move out of the Bay Area in the next few years. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how will you make our region a place where all families can thrive?

    We are all fully aware of the severity of this housing crisis, especially the affordability crisis. It is all hands on deck. Too many of our residents live in inhumane conditions, and many more are priced out of the Bay Area. The only solution is to build more affordable housing and transient-oriented developments. One of the ways we can do this is by increasing our city’s commercial linkage fee. We have one of the lowest commercial linkage fees in the county. We cannot continue to offer the ineffectiveness of institutions in producing necessary housing to offset this crisis. Our families deserve to stay here.

  2. As we have learned over the past three years, without quality, affordable, childcare, parents can’t go to work. What will you do to address challenges accessing childcare and preschool programs in our diverse communities?

    The City has to depend on partnerships with the First 5. I want our city to partner significantly with F5's Family Strengthing Initiative. A bold and comprehensive plan ensures our children have the tools they need to succeed. Also, our city needs to help train childcare providers to be quality providers. We need to ensure children are safe, have solid programs, and our families obtain scholarships for these early ed and childcare programs in our City.

  3. Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the opportunity gap that children in low-income families and children of color confront (e.g., lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors, and enrichment activities). If elected, what will you do to increase equity of opportunity?

    We know that investing in children, adolescent, and youth programming is crime prevention, it leads to a healthier and more productive life, BUT it also deters them from a life of crime and poverty! Libraries must be kept open six days a week and rotate a seven-day calendar depending on the neighborhood's needs. Some of our branch libraries in our most challenging areas should not sit empty on Sundays. We need to secure more funding for San José LEARNS - extended learning programs - to keep youth engaged and motivated. We must continue to find public-private funders for San José Works, a job training program for our at-risk youth; we must prepare our youth for the Silicon Valley economy.

  4. What steps will you take to support inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities and their families to be fully included in our community?

    One of my top priorities will be to lead on making necessary modifications to ensure that we are reversing underinvestment for children with special needs. I was Councilmember Carrasco's policy aide when she asked the city to make park playgrounds more inclusive for children with special needs. I will ensure that we take that into our libraries, Community Centers, and youth Centers in D3. Every child deserves to thrive, especially our children with special needs.

  5. There is a mental health crisis among children, youth, and those who care for and educate them. If elected, how will you use the resources of your new role to improve access to mental and behavioral health services?

    The City of San Jose is not currently equipped with social workers and crisis intervention counselors; we depend on strong partnerships with our county and nonprofits. They are the boots on the ground and know our residents' needs, especially mental health services. The COVID-19 pandemic was traumatic; now, our families and our unhoused need mental services more than ever. Whether in our schools, faith-based orgs, or their living room, we need skilled and equipped individuals to do this. As Councilmember, I will be equipped to identify service gaps and that mental health for all is a priority.