Council May Need Sobriety Test

The San Jose City Council needs to get a grip on its demeanor in public.  They’ve been a bit out of control with some recent comments. I was surprised but not amazed to see the statements from City Hall revolving around the topic of public drunkenness and arrests by the San Jose Police Department in the Downtown area. Basically, several members were quoted saying they’re appalled at the number of arrests, and the disparity in the arrest rate of Hispanics, far out to proportion to their one-third share of the San Jose population.

It is not surprising that the Council is out of touch on certain issues.  But the situation has become frightening to those trying to live or run small businesses in Central San Jose. It’s also bad for anyone trying to get a cop in Evergreen or Almaden—while police are stuck Downtown, dealing with clubs whose customers display obnoxious, and in many cases, dangerous behavior. Clubs that happen to be politically connected.

Contrary to some opinion, this is not a battle between club patrons and future condo dwellers—that misses the point completely. It is a struggle being waged by those who to insist on legal, and even civil, behavior in our Downtown and our city.

It is now time to call things simply and truthfully. Hurt feelings and bad publicity are preferable to more deaths and dangerous activity. Although it is not what anyone wants to say about Downtown, here it is. There have been murders by gun, knife and SUV rage—drugs and alcohol are often involved. The club culture, nurtured by these few politically connected clubs and a bevy or lawyers, has allowed Downtown to become the center of much carnage and a magnet for trouble-makers from throughout the region. The police are overwhelmed and club bouncers act like it’s the Old West.

That’s the sad fact of it. There are a few more simple items to bring forward.

First, the clubs and other entertainment venues Downtown draw far more people of color than the city population (which may account for the racial imbalance shown in the arrest statistics) and a younger, mostly male crowd. Second, the concentration of clubs is at a saturation level (we would not allow 30 to 40 drive-in restaurants or gas stations to become so concentrated, and few people are shot at McDonald’s).

And third, we read the news stories of families slaughtered on the highways by drunk drivers, while in-between the lines of certain Council comments is a subliminal request for a “look the other way” policy by police. Apparently, certain Council members feel that at two o’clock in the morning, all those arrested are those who were planning to take Light Rail home. This is delusional and reflects the power of certain lobbyists, many holdovers and employees from the Gonzales regime, and their attorneys, enabled by a too-long complicit City Hall and a bunch of absentee landlords.

This absence of “sober” analysis, and the casual condemnation of the Police Department, is quite alarming, both for its naiveté and its support of a culture of public drunkenness, misbehavior, and outright crime. Just who is speaking for the neighbors of Central San Jose and those urban pioneers and long-term residents who now live Downtown?

Of course, police should treat all respectfully and equally, and policies should be reviewed (the Chief has conceded that clearly). But anyone familiar with the Downtown knows the club culture is out of control.

Several changes are needed. A cap of 200 or so, as recommended by the Police, on new clubs. A return to clubs paying their fair share to hire real cops, but paid into a central fund; neighborhoods should not subsidize these clubs. And the placement of cops on corners and walking a beat a la New York’s Times Square.

The Council should also crack down on the “grandfathering” of old clubs, and continue to monitor shady one-off promoters.

Most of all, these policies should reflect the goal of allowing young couples or any resident to use our Downtown with confidence and in safety. This is not the case now.  Sadly, in San Jose now, farce is turning quickly into tragedy.

29 Comments

  1. This is of interest and related.  It is from another blog:

    What everyone is missing is the fact that this is about Clubs / Bars vs Condos.

    The idiots at the city feel the only buyers of the condos will be retired empty nesters. They also feel the empty nesters don’t want to be near bars and clubs.

    The idiots at the city figure the empty nesters will want to drive to Santana Row or Los gatos to visit restaurants and bars.

    So what is the great solution of the idiots at the city. RUN ALL OF THE BARS AND CLUBS OUT OF DOWNTOWN!

    But suppose a nearby ENTERTAINMENT AND HOUSING DEVELOPMENT SHOWS A DIFFERENT SCENARIO.

    Take a look at Santana Row. The condos sold out very quickly to YOUNGER, HIP SOCIAL SCENE SILICON VALLEY EMPLOYEES. The very same people the City of San Jose claims to want downtown.

    Santana Row has not sold to Empty Nesters. Neigher will downtown. The real market for downtown is younger persons looking to live and work in an urban city environment.

  2. #2

    I believe Otto Lee is a much more qualified Santa Clara County Supervisor candidate than Dave Cortese. 

    Mr. Cortese appears more interested in pandering to special interest groups than in understanding an issue, and then making an intelligent, reasoned decision on the issue.  A decision that could be justified with accurate, verifyable data, versus a decision crafted in private meetings with special interest groups.

  3. Tom,
    Great column, and very well said. I’m very proud of our Police Department and the way they handle downtown on the weekends. I also think holding our City Manager up for ridicule and “public stoning,” is going way too far. She has done an excellent job thus far of working to make this a better City.

    Whatever happened to victim’s rights? Why are certain Council Members more concerned about the rights of these criminals?  One only has to drive downtown on the weekends to see for themselves how ridiculous this claim of racism is. The ratio of Hispanics to other races on the weekend is at least three times as much. I find it odd that I never hear or read about the African American or white raced people who are being arrested downtown, because they most certainly are being arrested if they are drunk, or breaking the law.

  4. Tom,

    What are downtown’s total crime, and assault, murder, robberies, theft, rapes, auto theft rates?

    How high are downtown crime rates compared to San Jose’s 259, Los Angeles 383, San Francisco’s 497 crimes per 100,000 residents? 

    No one cares about LA, San Diego, Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco crime rates unless you work, live or go there. 

    Could it be downtown’s crime rate, paid parking, and problems keeps most people from going downtown and they go elsewhere?

    San Jose crime rate is 13th safest or 3rd worst, (  Gilroy is 15th, Mountain View 14th ) of 15 local cites in Santa Clara County, not exactly what City Hall tells public – San Jose safest city deception

    Many San Jose residents work, shop and go to local cities, so compare San Jose’s 259 crimes per 100,000 residents to very low local city crime rates

    Cupertino 151
    Palo Alto 188
    Los Gatos 134
    Sunnyvale 151
    Morgan Hill 185
    Santa Clara 214
    Campbell 228

    Santana Row and Valley Fair’s crime rates are probably very low like Los Gatos and Palo Alto where young 20-30’s Silicon Valley singles and couples go to spend money and party.

    When does City Hall telling public misleading or deceptive information cross the line and become lying to public?

  5. Great column.  I commend you for giving a much needed straightforward discussion of the situation.

    I was appalled when I saw the spin by the Mercury News…although I’ve grown used to it over the years.

    The club culture downtown is out of control.  Anyone interested in buying a condo downtown should spend a Friday or Saturday night walking the area.  No doubt you will walk away thankful you haven’t put your money down yet.

    I have lived in and supported downtown for over 10 years, and was excited to see the many recent developments.

    However, the situation has gotten so bad, my wife and I are now looking to leave as soon as possible.

    Campbell here we come.

  6. “Apparently, certain Council members feel that at two o’clock in the morning, all those arrested are those who were planning to take Light Rail home.”

    I wish lightrail were a reasonable option.  My wife and I would certainly go out in downtown much more often if lightrail ran more frequently at night.

  7. Based on a discussion I heard on the radio last night, there’s an aspect to this that is being ignored.

    The county (I believe it was the county) formerly had what used to be called a drunk tank, but nowadays goes by the name of a sobriety center or something like that. Drunks were picked up off the street and brought there to sober up and sleep it off.

    Running this facility cost about $500K a year, so with decreasing budgets the program was cut.

    This leaves no alternative for the police but to arrest them, which is a much more time-consuming operation, so cutting the program may actually have been a false economy.

    This is all second-hand information, so does anyone have more knowledge of this topic?

  8. #9,

    I don’t know about the actual cost but yes there was a program called “STEPS” where drunks were taken rather than be booked into jail. It was run by former alcoholics and had beds and food and counseling and did not count as an arrest. It was discontinued a few years ago and now drunks go straight to jail. The cops aren’t racist as the Mercruy and a couple city council members say. They get called to a situation involving a drunk causing a problem and jail is the only alternative now.

  9. Tom,

    Good information.  Freeing up Council time to discuss this matter is certainly a hell of a lot more important that Nora Campos “staging” a second vote on the fast-food restaurant nonsense issue.

  10. Tom,

    Great column on the reality of the situation. This is not a racial issue despite how much the Mercury and the police auditor would like to make it so. The pathetic comments by Cortese and Liccardo throwing the police department under the bus were absolutely disgraceful and disgusting. No wonder so many veteran officers at the SJPD are leaving for other police departments in the area.

  11. Yes, we clearly need either racial arrest quotas, or at the very least, programs that affirmatively promote more drunkenness among overadvantaged youth.

  12. Tom, good article.  However, I believe there should be one more point addressed.  What exactly is the Hispanic population in San Jose?  Who actually thinks it is 32%?  In a 24 hour period how many Hispanic people do you come in contact with?  How many do you just see?

    I got the following from the San Jose City Website (http://www.sanjoseca.gov/planning/Census/briefs/race_ethnicity.asp)

    The City’s Hispanic population experienced tremendous increase throughout the course of the last twenty years, roughly doubling in size from about 140,000 persons in 1980 to nearly 270,000 persons in 2000. As a proportion of the City’s total population, the Hispanic population rose steadily from 22.3% in 1980, to 26.6% in 1990, and then to 30.2% in 2000. Of the City’s Hispanic population in 2000, 81.9% was of Mexican descent

    Hispanics are the most geographically concentrated major race/ethnic group in San Jose. According to the 2000 Census, Hispanic persons comprised over two-thirds of the population in fifteen census tracts, which tracts are primarily within or near the Downtown area. The highest concentrations of Hispanic persons in the City are found in the Washington and Mayfair neighborhoods, which are 81.0% and 80.1% Hispanic, respectively.

    Finally, how many illegal Hispanics responded to the 2000 Census? 

    Finally, finally, I think Downtown is getting better but it has a ways to go.  Perhaps thanks to the SJPD.

    JJ

  13. The recent articles and editorials by the Mercury News are the epitome of their leftist, anti-law and order agenda. These pot smoking writers and editors have gone too far! The statistics used are obviously skewed and some of the reporting are outright lies. Working and enjoying some nightlife downtown I have firsthand knowledge of some of the rowdy, drunk and disorderly behavior of those who cannot act civilly.

    I think the Mercury News should publish a list of what laws they think should or should not be enforced in San Jose. They need to come out of the closet and display their true leftist and irresponsible selves. They won’t do that so, I guess I’ll have to.

    “The Mercury News Guide to Laws that should NOT be enforced in San Jose”:
    1) Sales of marijuana by members of the media.
    2) Sales of marijuana to children.
    3) Media members drunk in Public.
    4) Sexual assaults committed by bouncers.
    5) Driving under the Influence causing injury (or not).
    6) Fighting in Public.
    7) Assault with a deadly weapon by Hispanics on any other race including other Hispanics. (This is interesting because most criminals prey upon their own race).
    8) Assault on a police officer. (Obviously the police deserve getting assaulted).
    9) Finally, why do we really need laws? People should be able to do whatever they want and no one should get in the way. If it violates your rights just get out of the way and ignore it. Have health insurance just incase you get injured or even easier, let the tax payers pay your medical bills for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  14. #15- JJ,
    Thank you for this excellent post! I have always wondered WHERE the Merc and Metro got its figures from. The figures they tout are always well below what I see with my own eyes.

  15. I WONDER WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO HAVE THE CITY COUNCIL STOP WALKING ON “RACE” EGGS AS RELATED TO THE CESS POOL THAT LATE NIGHT DOWNTOWN SAN JOSE HAS BECOME. ALL ETHNIC SEGMENTS OF THE SAN JOSE DIVERSE COMMUNITY DESERVE TO BE ABLE TO HAVE FUN IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.IF 100% OF ALL ARRESTS WERE FROM ONE ETHNIC GROUP, UNLESSS THOES ARRESTS WERE THE RESULT OF SOME TERRIBLE SECRET PLOT, THOSE WHO VIOLATE THE LAW SHOULD BE SUBLECT TO THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM.THERE SHOULD NOT BE A SINGLE REASON FOR THIS ISSUE TO BE A CONSTANT FACTOR IN SAN JOSE.

  16. Tom,

    I thought Mayor Reed was supposed to change the lobbyist culture at City Hall. How can bar owners and politically connected lobbyists still have this much power? How do we find out who these lobbyists are that you reference in your column?

  17. I’m not disagreeing with JJ’s point about ethnic populations being concentrated in specific areas.  But I’d just caution that what you see with your own eyes can often be misleading.  People (of all races) are very poor at estimating the percentages of other races in a given population, and they usually overestimate it by a large margin.

  18. Tom,

    My first reaction: WOW! Someone telling the TRUTH? I can tell you as a police officer here in San Jose you hit the target dead center. Political correctness rules the day at City Hall when it comes to the latino lobby and Blanca Alvarado types. I’m sure you read her letter to the editor y/day. Your courage to address the situation honestly is appreciated by those of us who deal with the worst of these club goers. Truth is many are not from SJ, some are. Nonetheless downtown can be a dangerous place when these clubs close at 2am which is obviously why SJPD is out in force. Mayor Reed has defended the PD on this front. It would great to see the rank and file awarded with competive pay/benefits as well before we lose more talent and new applicants to other cities. I would hope readers here and those of the Murky News would recognize that Blanca, the NAACP, and the like, have no pay paycheck without taking these positions. The police are is scapegoats. We always will be. I do think the vast majority of citizens realize how good they have it with the men and women who serve this city @ SJPD. Thanks again.

  19. #16 Kathleen,

      The Mercury News gets most of it`s news from Lobby people from Special Interest.
        Just read all the positions Mr. Road Show, Gary Richards writes for example. Gary`s articles on BART read like “PAID POLITICAL ANOUNCEMENTS”. Most of his comments on BART are so slanted that they seem like they are written by a lobby person from SVLG.
        There was a debate at the Hoover Theatre between the legal council from SVLG and Greg Perry former Vice Mayor of Mountian View. Did Mr. Road Show cover the debate,NO! Did the Merc cover the debate,No!
        The Merc is no longer a balance newspaper. “Garbage in, Garbage out”

  20. Err Tom,

    DBcoopers a restaurant????  I went there one time.  I wouldn’t give that “food” to a starving cat. 

    The Brit, a restaurant?  Pleeeeaaaassseeee!!!!!! Their food could sterilize a feral cat.

    O’Flanneries a restuarant?  Show me their kitchen.  I’ll pay you a million dollars to show me thier kitchen.  They get to operate on a restaurant license with no kitchen (which is against the law) becuase they are in your building.

    You have and continue to line your pockets with plenty of the late night problems you are so against.

    And you rewrite history and well as any political dirtbag.  Keep it up!!

    You really remind me of a great line in casablanca…..

    “gambling in casablanca” said by the police chief as he had his hand out to collect his winnings.

  21. Hi,
    Great column, and very well said. I’m very proud of our Police Department and the way they handle downtown on the weekends. I also think holding our City Manager up for ridicule and “public stoning,” is going way too far. She has done an excellent job thus far of working to make this a better City.
    __________________________________

    Jack Dawson

    Alcohol Rehab

  22. Dear Concerned Downtowner #19 – I’d say 4 generations of working to improve downtown, and 12 years at City Hall qualify as working rather positively – with time, money, and empathy – our tenants are/were legitimate restaurants, and we constantly work w. them to maintain the best environment possible. Clubs pay twice what a white table clothe restaurant does – and we have said “NO” to scores of them as tenants.  I personally like the night scene, but draw a line when people are injured and murdered – that’s the right line isn’t it?  Anyone who thinks that 30 or so clubs, large ones, is what we need Downtown is living in a parallel universe – we need DTown to be for everyone, not merely an entertainment zone for many obnoxious uses, and dubious customers. Fair, measured “community policing” & a place where people can live and enjoy – that’s the goal.  TMcE

  23. Hmmm….what happen to soft closing? all the effort and hard work, council passed it, why is it not implmented to ease off the tensions? It worked and was proven.  I think its unfair to also just target the clubs. 
    There are many moving parts to all of the changes in Downtown. Mr. Ex Mayor, you have some valid points, but you are to one-sided. Please don’t forget that you housed 2 clubs in the past for many years, and never complained about the nice rents they added to your bottom line.  Now BE cool and let San Jose grow up.  You’re not the Mayor anymore.  Let it go.  San Jose is moving forward, and like any Big City it comes with problems and learning curves. Its time to stop injecting your negativity.  I think we have enough with all the other issues going on.  Why not take another approch and make positive suggestions.  Like the saying goes, if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.  We got enough assholes out there.

  24. Bogie – with your own Karl Rove site, why are you on this one?  Like most of the “cowards and slimy characters” that just got thrown out of City Hall in the last election, you like the shadows. Go wallow in them.  TMcE

  25. Tom,
    I just read this in the Murky News:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10830332

    I am very PO’ed about this. The Murk is once again trying to save its butt and sell newspapers by creating a big story out of an easily resolved issue. They are reporting this supposed problem from a very biased stand point rather than reporting true facts and figures. Have they ever gone on a ride a-long with the Police?
    I am worried that if these groups keep pressuring the Police to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to Hispanic drunks, someone is going to pay with their life. We will also lose good Police Officers who joined to serve and protect us, not bow down to political pressure from special interest groups.
    Drunk tanks and no arrests? I want to see the Police explain to the mother of a little girl who was run down by a repeat drunk driver that “Sorry maam, but the driver who killed your little girl was Hispanic. Due to the political protests of Latino groups, we were forced to use drunk tanks instead of the judicial process in previous dealings with him. We are not allowed to arrest drunken Hispanics. We are only allowed to throw them in the drunk tank until they sober up and can go home.”
    Tom, I want to know why no one is addressing the fact that most of these arrests are happening to out of towners, and why the RACE of the drunk is an issue? A drunk is a drunk no matter how you slice it.
    I also want to know why the rights of victims are second to those of criminals?  Doesn’t it matter that these drunks are damaging property in downtown?  Doesn’t it matter that downtown is no longer attractive to families who want to enjoy the restaurants, festivals, movie theaters, and comedy clubs down there?

  26. If we initiate a policy, based on the protests of Latino and Hispanic groups, of putting Hispanics who are drunk in the drunk tank instead of arresting them, are we going to follow the same policy for members of other ethnic groups when they get drunk? What is the City going to do when the family of an individual who is killed by a drunk driver sues them for not enforcing the laws on drunk drivers?  What is the City going to do when they can’t sell housing downtown, because no one wants to live there, due to these drunken brawls?  What is the City going to do when businesses refuse to locate downtown due to public drunkenness and property damage?  Exactly what training are the police officers going to be forced to take?  Politically Correct Arrests – When it is Ok to Arrest Someone for Public Drunkenness, and How to Save Your Job While Doing It.

  27. Kathleen and Christian nail the hammer on the head. Our police department is comprised of men and women from every ethnicity. Those that think there is some hidden conspiracy in the department targeting arresting Hispanics for being drunk are completely wrong. I have not heard one word from Hispanic leaders that perhaps there is a drinking problem in the Hispanic community that needs to be addressed. They all want to say the is the fault of the police. What a disservice they are doing to those they say they are representing. Perpetuating being the victim for the sake of selling a paper or keeping my political career….sickening.

    Kathleen is also correct in stating “We will also lose good Police Officers who joined to serve and protect us, who do not bow down to political pressure from special interest groups.” Many good officers have left and will keep leaving. It also sends a message to the officers it is easier to do nothing than put yourself in harms way lest you be charged a racist. 

    The main reason San Jose is one of the safest big cities to live in is proactive police work. Nipping a problem at the bud. We have all been around out of control drunks who turn violent at the drop of a dime. How many thousands of serious crimes were prevented by a simple drunk in public arrest? Do we want our police to now turn an eye to this for the sake of not offending a certain ethnicity that doesn’t acknowledge their own responsibility in the matter?

    As a last note, it would follow that if our department is targeting Hispanics for some hidden agenda, then they also must have the same bias against Hispanic victims of crime. Is it possible to find the total percentage of Hispanic victims of crimes listed in San Jose crime reports? If the police have such a bias then it seems the total would be under what it should be.

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