This article first appeared on www.thefsjc.org as part of a joint effort across 5 FUSD high school newspapers to cover Fremont’s 2020 local elections. Click here to read the rest of our coverage.
By Staff Writer Selina Yang
Who Is Raj Salwan?
Raj Salwan grew up in Fremont, an alumni of Washington High School, and is a former Fremont Planning Commissioner. When helping run Fremont’s government as a city councilman, Salwan has a track record of achievements. In 2016, he set up a traffic plan that reduced traffic congestion by 33%. In addition, he organized a monthly liaison committee between the city and Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) that allocated more land for school construction. His platform emphasizes building an interconnected city by improving and merging public transportation services, and making Fremont a warm place to grow up and live by restoring parks and downtown centers.
Salwan faces Dolev Gandler for District 5’s City Council Seat. Salwan hopes that he can make Fremont a more rich and welcoming community to live in. “I feel like this is not the time to take the foot off the pedal,” he said. “I still have some other issues that I want to make sure get completed.” He emphasizes improving public transportation, community relations, and supporting local businesses.
REOPENING FREMONT AND THE CITY BUDGET:
In the Bay Area, over 2,000 small businesses have closed since March 2020. Salwan believes that Fremont’s number one priority should be taking care of its local businesses in order to support the city’s residents. Keeping in mind Fremont’s limited budget, he is willing to shift funds to provide financial support for small businesses. In order to prepare for potential COVID-19 business grants, he plans to temporarily reallocate funding from downtown investments like the Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan for these business grants.
In the past, Salwan has voted in the city’s decision to provide $400,000 in grants for small businesses. “[The city] has to hold the line on additional costs, and only do what’s completely needed or essential,” he said. “[The city needs to] reduce red tape for [businesses] so that they can survive.” In addition to reallocating funds from downtown investments, Salwan plans to pursue opportunities to increase the city’s revenue in order to provide funding for more grants by adding new hotel, business, and property taxes.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS:
Salwan believes that homelessness in Fremont can only be solved through empathy and aid, not by mere policing. He plans to expand the Mobile Evaluation Team (MET) program, where a human services clinician and a mental health expert will work with a police officer to help in calls regarding homelessness conflicts. He is aiming to create three or four teams of MET responders. By providing temporary housing and mental health support through the MET program, the city can help people find jobs and become healthy citizens in the long run.
With the MET program, Salwan hopes to provide homeless citizens transition phases from homelessness, to temporary housing, to a stable life. “Homeless navigation centers are kind of the way to get people in a system, get their issues worked out, so that they can be prepared for regular housing. You can’t just take somebody off the street and put them in a regular apartment, it’s gonna be very difficult for them to be successful. So you have to go through a transition phase,” he said.
Salwan also plans to build more affordable housing near transit stations to not only help rehabilitate homeless people, but also to reduce commuting burdens for lower income essential workers. “It’s very important to make sure that we can preserve the folks in our community [who] are essential workers … the people who work at our grocery stores and our restaurants, and all the deliveries,” he said, “we [should be] able to support them and have them live in our community.”
TRANSPORTATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Salwan’s biggest hope for increasing Fremont’s eco-friendliness is to encourage public transportation, biking, or walking, rather than driving cars. One of his key concerns is the fragmentation of the Bay Area’s current public transport systems such as BART and AC Transit. To him, the fragmentation makes these systems unreliable, expensive, and inconvenient. In order to address this, he plans to consolidate these systems into one organization that is reliable and subsidized to be more affordable, which would encourage people to use cars less and decrease the city’s carbon dioxide emissions.
“We [should] have people living near a train station…where they can walk to the grocery store, or to the coffee shop…rather than driving everywhere. So I think in the long term, we have to undo the harm that the previous generations have done by building such big and spread out streets. I think we need to go back to the basics, and go back to that village atmosphere that we had way back,” Salwan said.
In the past, Salwan has invested in LED lights for new buildings to help businesses conserve electricity. He hopes to make Fremont even more eco-friendly by implementing policies that require new buildings to be solar ready, and adding eco-friendly features such as solar panels and electricity-saving LED lights onto existing buildings. He has a track record of going green: in 2019, he voted to commit Fremont to produce net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and is working to implement this policy sooner with his new climate plan that highlights consolidated transportation and updated buildings.
RACE AND POLICING:
Before the Black Lives Matter protests, Salwan observed that the majority of residents’ sentiments were to increase the police force’s size. However, after listening to youth voices and Black Lives Matters advocates, he responded to calls for a reformed police force by emphasizing in-depth desecelation and bias training.
Salwan hopes to integrate more human services into the police force, such as a mental health hotline for Fremont. He also plans to provide similar mental health resources and training for the officers themselves. Within the police force, Salwanplans to increase the amount of bias awareness and de-escalation training officers receive. This would aid his plan to revise the Use-Of-Force Policy to only apply to life or death situations, and would keep police officers accountable for their actions.
In addition, Salwan wants to create focus on community relations. “We are trying to look at more community service officers to try to have them do a lot of the non-violent work. So for example, like traffic issues, or neighborhood issues…community service officers can do a lot of that,” he said.