The Daily sat down with Stanford alum Sri Muppidi B.A. ’17 M.S. ’17 to discuss her campaign for City Council of Dublin, California. Muppidi, the youngest candidate in the race, is running a progressive campaign centered around affordable housing, police reform and climate change. Muppidi has previous experience in economics, policymaking and journalism, working for the State Department, the World Bank and The Economist. At Stanford, Muppidi earned a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering.
The Stanford Daily [TSD]: What drove you to run for city council? Was there any specific moment that acted as a catalyst, or has this been something you’ve considered for a while?
Sri Muppidi [SM]: I decided to run for city council because I was frustrated by the state of our world. Especially this year, there were so many things making me feel helpless. Both of my grandparents died this year while COVID-19 cases continue to increase. My close friends lost their jobs, I saw innocent people being killed on the basis of their race and wildfires literally raged in our backyard.
But despite the challenge of this year, I also learned that so much can be done at the local level. Cities have the power to approve new affordable housing developments. They can push for a low-carbon future by switching to renewable energy sources and by building [electric vehicle] charging stations and bike lanes. They can take tangible steps to reducing police brutality by increasing funding for first-responder mental health crisis workers. Cities in California can even pass local ordinances on certain gun control measures.
I always thought that change like this could only be done at the federal policy level, but seeing how terrible the current administration has been, I’m realizing that there’s so much you can do locally to create change. That’s why I decided to run for Dublin City Council.
TSD: You have work experience in a variety of fields like economics, policy and journalism. How do these experiences translate into public service? How have they prepared you to become a successful city council member?
SM: Through my early career, I worked on human rights policy at the U.S. Department of State, conducted research for the former national security advisor [H. R. McMaster] through the Hoover Institute and volunteered on local political campaigns since 2010. Additionally, I worked in economic development at the World Bank and U.S. Federal Reserve. Most recently, I worked as a journalist at The Economist, and I wrote a piece about PG&E shutdowns in California. These experiences have given me a strong policy background and financial skills, which I can apply to city council work.
TSD: As a resident of Dublin, what do you see as the biggest challenges the city faces? Dublin, a suburban city in the East Bay and Tri-Valley regions of Alameda County, was named one of the fastest growing cities in the nation via 2019 census data.
SM: The biggest concern for Dublin residents is development. In the last two decades, the city has seen rapid growth. Currently, we are moving from a growth phase to a maintenance phase.
There’s tension around development in Dublin because past development projects were approved without properly considering commercial development, schools and infrastructure investment. In new development areas, particularly in the east part of town, residents lack easily walkable stores, restaurants, parks and bus stops. We also lack a central downtown area, and there is no central place that’s tying the entire town together.
It is also incredibly expensive to live in Dublin. The current median home value is nearly $1 million, and the economic slowdown has only made things more uncertain for residents. Because of expenses, it is nearly impossible for me to buy a home in my own community, and I fear it will only get worse. Our city needs to build more affordable housing.
That’s why it’s really important for me to balance the two sides of the coin: how do we appease residents’ concerns around population growth and future development while also building a community that can support housing across different price points and develop more affordable housing?
Growing up in this community, I’ve seen how it has evolved over the last two decades, and I hope to be a part of the next wave of change in order to address these challenges.
TSD: Right now California is facing a variety of pressing challenges, including wildfires, economic instability, protests and COVID-19. On your website, you write about how addressing these challenges requires “fresh and diverse ideas.” What are some of these ideas you have?
SM: I’m the youngest candidate in the race, and I believe my perspective allows me to evaluate problems in a different light as compared to others, especially in a place like Dublin, which is so quickly changing. For example, in response to COVID-19, I launched a Buy Local campaign to support local businesses in Dublin. The Buy Dublin campaign is a community effort to crowdsource information so residents can support local businesses.
Many Bay Area counties are easing their COVID-19 restrictions, but residents still don’t have up-to-date information about local businesses. They don’t know which businesses are open, when they are open and what their operations look like.
The small business community is looking to get back on their feet, and I’m hoping the campaign serves as a starting point for businesses to let the community know that they’re back.
TSD: Although you are a newcomer in terms of running of office, running a campaign during a global pandemic is certainly uncharted territory for everybody. How has your campaign adapted to COVID-19? What types of outreach and events are you doing now that so much more in this world is virtual?
SM: I feel fairly comfortable operating in a virtual world. My campaign has predominantly relied on virtual events over Zoom to connect with voters. I’m also taking advantage of digital ads to reach voters and connect with Dublin community members over Facebook. Forums and debates have also been very fun to participate in.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.