San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis had a message about government to deliver to his SPARC audience, as more than seventy guests gathered at the Fremont Hills Country Club to hear him speak, Wednesday, February 17, 2016:

“If you don’t have a seat at the table: you might be on the menu.”

He was speaking of recent pressure on local governments from renters in Silicon Valley to implement rent control, where it doesn’t yet exist, and to tighten its rules, in jurisdictions where it does, as in his own city of San Jose.

“This is an attack on small business, since many rental homes are Mom and Pop operations run by those who worked hard, saved, and are now looking for a way to wisely invest. It is spreading and it may hit other towns as well,” he told his audience in a talk sponsored by SPARC along with the Silicon Valley Chinese American Association Foundation and the Bay Area Homeowners Network.

Khamis is a former regional chair of the California Congress of Republicans. Born in Beruit, Lebanon, he was raised in San Jose, California, where he attended local schools and graduated from San Jose State University.

He told listeners that the City of San Jose is considering a three percent per year cap on rent increases for certain kinds of rental property in the city. Taxes and expenses for owners may rise faster than three percent per year, and Khamis urged property owners who want to have their voices heard to call, write, and email council members and the mayor.

“You might not think it makes a difference, but it does,” he said. “It is also important that you attend all the hearings—and hearings are still going on—and speak out at them when there is time for comments. It is definitely true in local government that the squeaky wheel definitely gets attention.”

Khamis also addressed the issue of proposed new taxes in San Jose—and within  some other cities. One proposal is for something called a gross receipts tax that would require an IRS-like annual filing for those who operate small businesses within the City of San Jose. Another proposal, called a general sales tax could be implemented without a two-thirds majority, and would also impact those who seek to invest and make a profit within the city. How might this touch other cities on the peninsula?

“What happens in San Jose filters down to other cities, so you may not live in San Jose, but you do need to pay attention,” he told his audience. “And remember what I said about staying off the menu!”