City of Sunnyvale, District 5
Richard Fred Mehlinger
I believe that we can build a better future for our city, a future where children will be able to walk and bike to school safely, to live here when they graduate, to find a good job or start a successful business here, to raise a family here, to age in place and retire in dignity here. But that future won’t happen on its own. We must build it.
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 raising a generation without a hometown. The housing crisis is hollowing out our communities and splitting apart families. As such, the single top priority for children in Sunnyvale is housing. Every child should have a safe home where they can learn, grow, and thrive. Beyond that, we must ensure that there is enough housing available in the Bay so they can have a future here as they enter adulthood.
Beyond that, we must also work to build safer streets, so that kids can walk and bike to school safely and enjoy an active lifestyle. We must also commit to a sustainable future, to decarbonization and water conservation, so that our children have a planet worth living on.
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 relatively few levers it can pull to improve access to childcare. However, there are a few. First of all, one of the chief challenges for those seeking childcare in the Bay Area is a shortage of workers. That shortage exists largely due to our shortage of affordable housing. Alleviating that shortage is necessary to attract and keep skilled childcare professionals to the area.
While not a full substitute for childcare, the City can and should work to increase recreational programming for youth, especially summer camps, and prioritize subsidized slots for working class families.
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?
My district is north of the Caltrain tracks—what was historically the wrong side of the tracks—so this is a very important question. Currently, we have only a single full-service supermarket in North Sunnyvale. Our nearest public high school is in the southernmost quarter of the city.
We need a two-pronged approach. First, we must increase the availability of critical services in North Sunnyvale—and in particular work with the school district to address the high school education gap. Second, we must prioritize building far more housing south of Caltrain and especially south of El Camino Real, so that these historically exclusionary neighborhoods become accessible to a broader demographic.
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?
Earlier this year, Sunnyvale reopened the Fair Oaks Park, inaugurating the Magical Bridge Playground, specifically designed so that children of all abilities can enjoy. We are already incorporating inclusive elements from the Magical Bridge into other parks as we renovate them. I support this effort and will continue it.
In addition, I support expanding recreational programming opportunities for youth of all abilities.
Finally, we must work to provide additional supportive housing options for those with developmental disabilities, so that as these children grow up and their parents age they will have a decent home to call their own.
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 County and the School Districts are primarily responsible for providing mental and behavioral health services to youth—not the City. However, the City still has a role to play.
Housing is mental health care. It is impossible to be mentally well without a safe, stable and secure home. It has been shown time and again that frequent moves, homelessness, and other unstable living situations have devastating impacts on children’s well-being.
We also know that fresh air, exercise, and independence are vital for mental health. Providing additional recreational programming is important. And let’s build out our Active Transportation Plan so that kids can walk and bike to school or the park.