Governments or legislators?
Our State government does not plan to fail...it fails to plan.
In my financial advisory practice, I have often used this phrase to convince my clients to save for their future and spend wisely. One of the most important lessons I have learned during my six years as a San Jose City Councilmember is that too many times legislation is rushed to respond to political pressures without taking the time to make sure taxpayers are getting the best value. So, I have become “the numbers guy” on the Council, because, above all else, accountability and fiscal responsibility should be the goal of good government.
During my tenure I have questioned contracts, asked for audits of programs that seemed expensive or wasteful and have found many ways to save money so we can spend our tax dollars more efficiently. I have also championed budget transparency so that the public can track City spending. I want to take my experience at the City to the State Senate to address many of the problems our community is facing, exacerbated by the state’s failure to plan well.
With the passage of several State and local criminal laws, the pendulum of justice has swung too far to the side of the criminals. The mentally ill are being abandoned on our streets. And spending on transportation and education has not kept pace with our needs despite numerous new taxes and fees. I am running because our community deserves competent planning and greater accountability.
Public and personal safety has been eroded in California as more and more crimes have been reclassified as non violent-felonies and misdemeanors, which means that convicted criminals are spending less time in prison and then released to the streets with essentially $50, a bus ticket, and a slap on the back with a “Good Luck”. While I support the concepts of prison reform and rehabilitation, treating child kidnapping, date rape, and assaulting police officers as non-violent crimes with reduced sentences must change. As a parent, I shudder every time there is a news story about a missing child. If elected, I will fight to restore the penalties these crimes justify.
A sense of personal safety means we feel safe in our homes, cars, streets, schools and pretty much anywhere we happen to be. For too many of us in the 15th District, this is no longer the case as incidents of burglaries, home invasions, and car break ins continue to increase. In San Jose, I have supported every piece of legislation that makes our City safer, from opening a police substation to hiring more police officers to supporting after school and neighborhood safety programs. Doing the same for District 15 is a top priority. Spending money on crime prevention is better than spending much more on incarceration.
It is hard to live in California without being aware of people living along our roads and waterways. Leaders have rushed to pass many new taxes and fees to build homes, but as is almost always the case, how we resolve the housing crisis can be easily lost in the rush to reach the goal of ending the housing crisis. In my tenure on the San Jose City Council, I have voted for EVERY permanent low income housing project and have supported many innovative ways to house our unhoused. However, onerous rules, restrictions, and policies have raised the cost of producing low income housing so high, in some cases it is double the cost of “for profit” housing! In Sacramento, I will work to analyze the causes of these inflated costs and work with members of both parties to pass common sense legislation to cut red tape and get people housed faster and more economically.
Significant numbers of our homeless population suffer from a variety of mental illnesses and are incapable of making good decisions for themselves. After the government shut down our mental institutions, the mentally ill were housed in our jails. Now that our jails are being emptied, the mentally ill have ended up on our streets. In 2013, a Mental Health Services Tax passed and in 2018 a bond to house the mentally ill also passed. Sacramento and our county governments must do more to house and care for the mentally ill. In Sacramento, I will ask for an audit of how our tax dollars are being spent and work to bring back institutions that house and care for the mentally ill so they will not end up helpless on our streets.
Money issues are part and parcel of the current arguments about transportation and education in our cities and counties. Voters in California have recently supported the expenditures of large sums of money to help address both of these issues. But new taxes and fees should not be our first and last answer to solve every problem. As an elected official, I have been asked to support many taxes over my six years. Those that I have supported had well-defined accountability measures. Conversely, many new taxes and fees have been levied that show no results and are placing the affordability of our area out of the reach of middle and lower income earners.
We need our teachers to get paid better so they can afford to stay in the neighborhoods they serve. We need our transportation systems improved so we are not spending more time on the road than with our families. Much like I have done at VTA where I helped expose millions of dollars in unsubstantiated payments to Outreach (a VTA vendor), in Sacramento I will call attention to spending plans that have no accountability. I will bring to light programs that are not needed or that are not working so we can keep our valuable tax resources invested in our community.
It's not good enough to throw money at a problem without planning and accountability. It's time for leaders to ask tough questions, demand results, and work for our community, not for political parties.
Chuck Reed, Former Mayor of San Jose
Charles "Chappie" Jones, San Jose, Vice Mayor
Lan Diep, San Jose District 4 Councilmember
Dev Davis, San Jose District 6 Councilmember
Pam Foley, San Jose District 9 Councilmember
Tam Nguyen, Former San Jose District 7 Councilmember
Darcy Paul, Cupertino Councilmember
Liang Chao, Cupertino Vice Mayor
Steven Leonardis, Los Gatos Mayor
Howard Miller, Saratoga Councilmember
Paul Resnikoff, Campbell Councilmember
Rowena Turner, Monte Sereno Mayor
Liz Lawler, Monte Sereno Councilmember
Kimberly Meek, San Jose Unified School District
Stacey Brown, Campbell Union High School District
Michael Snyder, Campbell Union School District
Robert Varich, Campbell Union High School District
Jeff Cristina, Former Mayor of Campbell
Chad Walsh, Former Board Member, West Valley-Mission Community College District
Anthony Phan, Milpitas Councilmember
John Mcalister, Mountain View Councilmember
Larry Carr, Morgan Hill Councilmember
David Canepa, County Supervisor
Jim Cunneen, Former Assemblymember
Chuck Page, Former Mayor of Saratoga
Carmen Montano, Milpitas Councilmember
Norberto Duenas, Former City Manager, City of San Jose
Johnson Fong, SJPD captain (Ret.)
Rick Weger, Lt. SJPD (Ret.)
Myron Von Raesfeld
Ramona and Michael Snyder
William B Baron
From the bombs in Beirut to success in San Jose, Johnny Khamis and his family have lived "the American Dream." With bombs literally falling around them and frightening interrogations of Johnny’s father, his parents decided they had to flee their home in Beirut, Lebanon, to survive. With great difficulty and using most of their money, transportation was secured to take Johnny, his sisters, and parents on a terrifying midnight ride to safety. Everything, except what could be jammed into a few suitcases, was left behind.
Granted political asylum in the US, the Khamis family arrived in San Jose in 1976 with $600 and a fierce determination to use the opportunity given to them to build new lives. The struggle to learn the ways of this new country made life harsh, particularly with such limited resources and little knowledge of English. Johnny’s parents immediately tried to find work and moved their multigenerational family into low income housing. As a limited English speaker - French and Arabic were his first languages - Johnny struggled with the language throughout his time in school. Despite many setbacks, Johnny’s family slowly adapted to life in America and the family thrived.
Growing up in a struggling, immigrant family in San Jose laid a deep foundation for many of Johnny’s current views of how government should serve its people. As a product of the public education he received from George Minor Elementary School and from Oak Grove High School from which he graduated, he has personally experienced the role education plays in achieving one's goals. As a Councilmember, this has played out in his consistent support for creating equal educational opportunities for children of all backgrounds and income levels.
One of Johnny’s goals was a college degree. So, after high school, he worked to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Communication at San Jose State University while working at Safeway to pay for his courses. After graduation, Johnny worked for several different companies, but soon the family's entrepreneurial spirit led Johnny to start his own companies, some of which failed. Learning from the failures, like other entrepreneurs throughout history, he didn't give up. He kept trying and his strong interest in finances led to success with Western Benefit Solutions, a financial services and management firm.
Johnny’s interest in finance grew from watching his parents struggle to make ends meet. Having grown up in a low-income family, Johnny came to understand and appreciate the enormous value of sound money management. He has consistently worked to apply this same understanding to San Jose budgets during his time as a Councilmember. Although intended as a criticism by some, Johnny takes great pride in being labeled “The Numbers Guy” on the City Council.
Johnny was first elected to the San Jose City Council in November 2012 representing the Almaden Valley and Blossom valley areas of South San Jose. He was reelected in 2016 by winning more than 76% of the vote in the primary, securing another term in the first round of voting.
In 2018, Johnny made the difficult decision to register as a non-partisan independent. Although many factors played into this decision it was his experiences as a young child, when his only sense of safety lay with his parents and grandmother, that made it impossible for Johnny to accept a policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US border. In this highly partisan political environment, Johnny takes pride in working with colleagues with different political views to tackle the community’s challenges. As the State Senator for the 15th District he hopes to be the bridge to refocus the parties on the needs of our community.
Johnny’s transition from businessperson to elected office took a number of years. After the horror of 9/11, and its aftermath in which fears of Arab-Americans became a concern, Johnny felt strongly that he had to do something to help offset the negative public image of people like him. Not sure what would be best, he volunteered to serve on the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission. This exposure to County government tuned out to be pivotal, personally and professionally. After becoming Chair of the Committee, Johnny saw that he could play a broader role in San Jose and decided to seek the open District 10 City Council seat. Running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, public safety, and improvements in the business climate, Johnny was elected in 2012 and took office January 1, 2013.
A key reason that Johnny has earned the trust of voters in District 10 is his accessibility and transparency. To that end, he is as likely to be found attending a neighborhood clean up with his family as he is to be participating in community and City meetings. He holds open office hours in the district twice a month so people can drop in to talk without appointments. He also publishes his votes in his semi-monthly newsletter and on his YouTube Channel, “Johnny Khamis on the Record”.
Johnny has never forgotten how he, like many other immigrant families, feels about having been given asylum by the US to restart their lives in safety and hope. On Independence Day of 2014 - the July 4th Holiday - Johnny showed this gratitude by initiating the first July 4th Family Fun Festival and Fireworks Show at Almaden Lake Park. Since then, thousands of residents have enjoyed the festivities, making it one of the District’s most popular events.
In 2000, Johnny married Juliana Nairouz when she was a Master's Degree student at UMASS Amherst. They have two sons, Constantin and Alexander. Aside from being a very supportive mother and partner, Juliana is a middle school teacher at Dartmouth Middle School and has taught Archaeology and Anthropology at San Jose City College.
When you ask him, Johnny will tell you he is one lucky fellow. At many points in his life things could have gone very wrong and his struggle to succeed would have failed. In addition to luck, Johnny cites his strong family background, his faith, and the belief that hard work does lead to success.
If you have any questions about Johnny or his position on issues, feel free to fill out this section.
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JOHNNY KHAMIS, INDEPENDENT FOR STATE SENATE DISTRICT 15, 2020
PO Box 3240 S. White Rd. #322
San Jose, CA 95148
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