EDITOR’S NOTE: On Sept. 25, San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis came to Summit Public School: Rainier for a press conference to share his story of becoming a councilmember and talk about his goals for the city of San Jose.
San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis uses his passion to help the environment
By McKayla Castigador, Vu Nguyen and Van Tran
Johnny Khamis is a San Jose councilman for District 10 who uses his financial and business background to assist the city of San Jose. He was an immigrant from Lebanon who arrived here in 1976, needing to learn English, and he struggled to make a living. However, his hard work allowed him to use his skills in finance and business to help San Jose.
He advocates for people to be educated on conserving gas and electricity. Because of this, he is driven to implement strategies to combat climate change.
“It’s important for us to make sure we get people educated about conserving,” Councilmember Khamis said on Sept. 25, at a student-led press conference at Summit Rainier.
San Jose leaders have been doing what they can to improve the city’s environmental condition by buying clean energy for the city, increasing regulations for construction and recycling. However, Councilmember Khamis still believes that more things could be done. Therefore, he has come up with other ideas to combat climate change.
Councilman Khamis would like to try and find a way to reuse methane gasses. He references the idea of putting a tarp on cow manure to extract the methane gas for electricity.
One of the biggest projects that the committees worked on was building the Zero Waste Energy Development partnership, where they take garbage and efficiently remove methane from it. They then recycle the methane to make gasoline to fuel the garbage trucks.
Councilmember Khamis’ personal feelings toward the city show his care for the environment. “I planted more trees in the city than any other council members,” Councilman Khamis explained, acknowledging that he has planted 50-60 trees with his family. He also spoke about investing money into planting trees in the community.
In San Jose, the cost of living is very high. Councilman Khamis explained that the reason why it is so expensive is that San Jose takes the environment into account. San Jose reserves land for environmental purposes and has regulations for the energy used in construction.
Councilman Khamis is very passionate about what he does. He acknowledged that his job isn’t the easiest and that politicians need to have the heart to help people.
Councilman Khamis explained, “Don’t do it for the money — You got to have the heart to be a councilmember.”
Councilmember Johnny Khamis seeks to help the community
By Marion Delos, Jess Lara Jose Rodriguez and Andres Ruelas
San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis focuses on helping the San Jose community, helping out with the homeless, after school programs and community colleges.
“I’ve been really proud to represent our city,“ Councilmember Khamis said, before speaking on how he is one of the only councilmembers who has actively made moves to better his community by planting more trees than anyone else on the council, as well as planting some personally with his family. He is proud of having an increasing amount of trees in the city of San Jose.
Additionally, with taxes, the city council has been spending millions of dollars on protecting our city. Councilmember Khamis said, “The city has been spending millions of dollars every year on different things like addressing homelessness.” Since he came into office, the city has spent up to $2 million dedicated to the homeless.
San Jose is currently spending nearly $30 million from their general fund for the homeless and to finance after-school programs, according to Councilmember Khamis. The city is also putting out further spendings of $1.5 million per year to support the school systems, and more than $500,000, annually, is spent on support for children and families who are on the food stamp program.
Addressing climate change, San Jose is now buying clean energy such as GHG free energy and energy from solar-energy companies, according to Councilmember Khamis. They are also no longer spending much money on natural gas and coal-fired power, which now allows a cleaner mix of energy, compared to PG&E, and selling it to residents for 1% less.
Councilmember Khamis is one of the people who brought out the “straw ban” where residents are no longer allowed to get straws at restaurants unless asked for, and has also increased requirements for all new construction so they now have to use electronic instead of using natural gas. With all the recycled items, the councilmember is thinking of ways to turn those recycled items into energy, like they do in countries such as Sweden and Denmark.
Councilmember Khamis also makes sure he is involved with his community even if it means missing out on family events. On weekends, he attends community events; goes to marathons and community gatherings; and even has office hours where people can come in and ask questions, give complaints, or just converse with him in general.
“Not every councilmember does as much as I do, to reach out to the public, but I like it; I like talking to people; I like solving problems, ’cause that’s what a council member is supposed to do,” Councilmember Khamis said.
When Councilmember Khamis was running for office, the runner-ups were well-known competitors. To win, Councilmember Khamis out-worked everyone and spent his time walking to nearly 16,000 doors to talk to people to get where he is today.
Councilmember Khamis explained, “That was a big obstacle — not having help — and so, what I would say is that I don’t take no for an answer, and I will fight. I am a fighter.”
District city councilmember Johnny Khamis discusses parks and recreations
By Sean Moser, Adrian Pescatore, Sol Perez and Carlos Villarreal
San Jose City Councilmember of District 10 Johnny Khamis is concerned over recreation in San Jose. Councilmember Khamis, being someone who is very active environmentally, stresses the importance of a healthy environment.
Councilmember Khamis explained that one of his parks used to only open three days a week, so he used his city fund to have it open for four days a week. “I used my own city funds to open it a day more,” he said.
On Sept. 25, Councilmember Khamis came to Summit Public School: Rainier for a press conference with student journalists. During the press conference, he addressed issues and answered the questions that the students brought up.
Councilmember Khamis stressed that parks in San Jose are dilapidated and not very well taken care of. He then gave an example of his success in adding two acres of land to Almaden Lake Park, showing his dedication in bettering his district’s parks.
Councilmember Khamis is a big supporter of parks and recreation: he shows this by participating in park cleanups, advocating for longer open park hours and taking care of the park overall. He said that he wants to “make sure the grass is taken care of and make sure it’s not overrun by squirrels.”
Councilmember Khamis shows his passion for keeping the community healthy by planting trees personally and with others in order to connect with his community. “I have planted over one hundred trees into my community,” he said.
Councilmember Khamis planted the most trees out of every councilmember in San Jose and also pushed his peers to be environmentally active with him. The councilman also sees this as an opportunity to connect with his community more.
By adding more trails in his parks, he would like to encourage people to exercise and really embrace the parks that he and his team work very hard to maintain.
Councilmember Khamis said that he is committed to making the community better as a whole in order to make it a place that people can be proud of for generations upon generations.
He plans to create a space where everyone can be comfortable and feel safe in a clean, healthy environment. With that, he says he will make the community better, planting one tree at a time.
San Jose city councilmember emphasizes building tiny homes for the homeless
By Jasmine Chinn and Ismael Navarrete
On a quiet morning on Sept. 25, Councilmember Johnny Khamis visited Summit Public School: Rainier in San Jose to talk to student journalists. Councilmember Khamis is currently running for State Senator for 2020. Councilmember Khamis is focused on bettering his community by helping the homeless who are living in poverty.
Immigrating to the United States as a child in 1976 from a war-torn Lebanon, Councilmember Khamis struggled with school and learning English. His determination toward pushing past the barriers that he experienced in his life has led him to where he is today, as a councilmember.
Councilmember Khamis puts his heart into helping his community as a representative for District 10 of San Jose and prides himself in using his financial skills to help the city of San Jose, making sure it is spending money wisely.
When asked what is a memorable story or experience that defined his career, Councilmember Khamis talked about his idea to build tiny homes on two sites sometime back. He said, “Each one of these units were going cost $87,000 to build, and Oakland, at the same time, was building Tuff sheds for $3000. So I said no to this program, not because I’m against tiny homes, but I thought we could help a lot more people with the same amount of money.”
Councilmember Khamis wants to change and improve the homeless situation by helping the city spend their money wisely to help people who are living in poverty.
On his website, Councilmember Khamis talks about homelessness issues in California, where many people who are homeless are also suffering through mental illness and poor living situations. He wants to have a low-income housing project to build tiny houses for the homeless.
One of the motivations that Councilmember Khamis has, regarding the housing crisis, is also providing housing for people who are both homeless and mentally ill. He pointed out certain propositions, such as Proposition 63, that have not followed through with their promises.
Councilmember Khamis elaborated on the proposition, “Back in 2004, we started collecting millions of dollars from the rich. And we were supposed to use that to create mental health services. And I have not seen a single mental health service facility.”
These ideas are further expressed in a Mercury News article highlighting his argument that the Bay Area must do its part in helping mentally ill homeless people get their own housing.
It is clear that Councilmember Khamis is trying to help the community by helping the city to find a cheaper way to build these tiny houses. To Councilmember Khamis, it is clearly important for his community to come first: “Not every councilmember does as much as I do,” he said.
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