Rants & Raves

17 Comments

  1. San Jose, Santa Clara, all sorts of cities work to develop diverse economic generators.

    It is always hilarious to watch guys like Brian Darby, the hapless head of the Libertarian Party (who claims to be a political professional on dating sites), oppose things like Measures J and K, the stadium proposal in Santa Clara (where Darby is the principal contributor, though he lives in San Jose, to the political action committee that claims it is a local group), and projects in other cities, while he and ohers NEVRR OFFER ANY ALTERNATIVES.  They just oppose and never propose, because they do not care about their communities.  They never contribute to local charities (Mary Emerson, a candidate for Santa Clara City Council actually made it point to talk about her contributions to charities in another county) and they just wallow in the limelight of community cantekeroursness.

  2. The Divisive Mercury News

    Editorial Page Editor Barbara Marshman presides over the two most divisive pages in the San Jose Mercury News at this time.  Whether it’s the editorials, letters to the editor, or op-ed pieces, the most peculiarly divisive and deceptive words and phrases are incorporated over and over.  And remember it was the editorial pages that attempted to destroy a Cupertino Council Member’s political effectiveness (6/1/03) by seeking to depict her as divisive for using the phrase “these people.”  Thus, it is fair to say that the following examples are not small-minded or petty—they reflect the standard by which the editorial pages judges others. 

    Op-Ed Piece (1/7/09)

    A recent example is an op-ed piece Marshman published on 1/7/09 about US Senator Harry Reid.  But it became a narrative about “Willie Horton” which is the name Marshman chose to approve for publication for William R. Horton.  The reason this is telling is that the names that one uses to reference African American men reveal much about one’s mind, and the use of diminutives tells us even more, especially when they are not similarly used for other men and women in the same op-ed. Just Marshman’s way of saying “those people” in a divisive way.

    Op-Ed Piece (1/8/09)

    Another recent example is an op-ed piece she published on 1/8/09 about film actor Clint Eastwood.  But it changes into a discourse about the ridiculous and derogatory figure of Archie Bunker. Although it is often forgotten by some, Bunker was a fictitious hate caricature born in the mind of TV Producer Norman Lear.  Marshman approved for publication the divisive and untrue statement that “Archie Bunker (and Eastwood’s film character) are icons of a white America…”

    Archie Bunker was always recognized as a hateful fictitious character designed to demean blue-collar Euro-American men.  The Archie Bunker hate caricature was never an “icon” of the diverse white American peoples. Just Marshman’s way of saying “you people” in a divisive way.

    Summary

    These are two small examples out of eight published by Marshman so far in 2009 on the editorial pages.  Tasteless labels and deceptive descriptions are obviously divisive, and it is a shame that Marshman embraces them so tightly.

    Just bricks in the wall the Merc seeks to build between and among groups through repetition and by refusing to print rebuttals.

  3. Once again, San Jose is outdone by San Francisco!  Just read on Yahoo that Mens Fitness Magazine ranked San Jose as the 15th “Fattest” city in America!  (San Francisco was ranked the 12th on the “Fit List”).
    No doubt, the city government will take it upon itself to save us.  My guess is we will all be required to work out on a daily basis.  Either that, or a “fat tax” will be imposed.

  4. Is it just me, or do others think SJI is getting downright boring?  In a good week, I see perhaps one column that fires me up.

  5. #3 Pete,
      The Forbes list of top thirity cities in the U.S.A, wired for internet was just published this week, San Jose, the High Tec City, did not make the top 30 list. On the list of California Cities wired for internet were: San Francisco,Sacramento,Los Angeles and San Diego, all in the top ten cities.

  6. Yesterday I attended the 3rd Annual Neighborhood/Youth Commission Priority Setting Session (Pierluigi mentioned in his 1/5 blog as the Mayor’s Priority Setting Meeting—same thing.)

    This session was different than the two previous sessions. It offered attendees the opportunity to hear from City Department heads about their budgets and then the day’s key activity began: A challenge was put forth to the attendees to help reduce the $65Million budget deficit by way of a “board game.” An hour was given for us to work with other neighbors at our tables to examine and talk through various scenarios that would either help increase revenue or reduce expenses. We were also allowed to make our own suggestions and were required to get sign off from the city manager that the suggestion could be used toward our reduction of the deficit.

    It was an interesting exercise and facilitated a lot of discussion and debate (but no fist fights, fortunately!) amongst the many participants. A verbal discussion/recap followed once time was up. The board was left on the table with all of our comments and ideas for the City Manager who now has the arduous task of melding some of the participant recommendations into a proposal for the Mayor and Council to consider.

    During the final recap, President Obama’s words were mentioned (paraphrased) a couple times, and the thrust of the message pertinent to San Jose was that we are all in this together and it’s going to take all of us to sacrifice, compromise and work with each other to overcome this challenge.

    A take-away for me was the strong perception I had that neighbors are willing to do their fair share to help out but it cannot only fall on cutting our core services. There is an expectation that other entities such as the unions (96% of City Staff are unionized) and City Departments also do their fair share by looking at salary/benefits and also how money is spent on projects, etc.

    It was a good exercise and I learned a lot from my colleagues. A thank you to the City Manager, Mayor and Council Members and City Staff who were there to support our efforts and ideas. Now we have to support theirs.

    Tina

  7. #5- Greg,
    No you are not alone in disliking the changes to SJI. Did you read this in today’s Merc?
    http://www.mercurynews.com/columns/ci_11541389?nclick_check=1
    It pretty much says it all.

    #7-Tina,
    I too have sat through some of these so-called citizen input meetings, and task forces with the high hope that the City would implement what we wanted. Sadly, it never does or has, and that is why I don’t waste my time doing it any more. Since you work for a Council Member, may be your suggestions hold greater weight than the rest of us, but I doubt it.

  8. Hi Kathleen,

    Just to clarify, I do NOT work for a council member nor do I work for the City of San Jose in any capacity other than a volunteer.

    Thanks,

    Tina

  9. Tina,
    Just to clarify, I was not implying any wrongdoing on your part. I think volunteering is just the same as working for the Council Member; you just aren’t a paid employee of the City when you volunteer. Your hard work as a volunteer, is STILL work. And by volunteering for said Councilperson, you have their ear, and staff’s ear in a way none of the rest of us does.

  10. Hello Kathleen, thanks for your perspective and I have to respectfully disagree with the statement ‘And by volunteering for said Councilperson, you have their ear, and staff’s ear in a way none of the rest of us does.’ Here is why: It’s been my experience by observation that our mayor, council and staff are interested (to varying degrees) in hearing from neighbors. They may not agree with every opinion or thought offered, however they are interested. It’s up to us to show up and start or contribute to the conversation.

    For example, I certainly don’t agree with my council person Sam Liccardo on all the decisions he makes, however I make it a priority to give him my opinion (poor guy) and I know he listens to me and to others. (I have watched as he listens repeatedly to one neighbor who bad-mouths him to other community members, yet Sam still has the integrity to listen.)

    It is sometimes hard for me to not be cynical, however I think most of our council and a lot of staff are seeing their constituents and the people they serve in a new way, and I would hope that folks would give them a chance. And, even better, do some volunteering on projects (like the Great American Litter Pick day up where council folks go out and work with neighbors side by side. Talk about a captive audience for bending their ear …). 

    I believe the key is to be an active member of our community, and we all have the opportunity to do that, it’s simply a matter of priorities. I won’t judge how other folks choose to spend their time, but I will encourage them to volunteer.

    Thanks for the dialog Kathleen. grin

    Tina

  11. Political leadership is abundant in election years, when everyone seems to have hope and needed change, but the hard work is needed year after year.  Some problems shouldn’t be left to others (or our children.)

    With that said, the current San Jose district council system seems broken and as a system is producing poor results from those elected to lead.

    I’d have to read up on the history, but I think the system was created in the 1970’s to enlarge the city council from 5 at-large elected officials who weren’t viewed as that directly responsible to anyone, into a ward based system where every member had their district and responsibilities tied to representing a geographic area of the city.

    I think it worked well for a couple of decades during which San Jose really grew up politically and economically, but with term limits and other factors, its turned into something of a problem.  Once elected, unless a council member publicly screws up enough to be forced into resigning or being recalled, they are in office automatically for 8 years.  Only token opponents run against sitting incumbents because the smart money always backs the person in power (and smart money wants influence now, not a longshot chance of more influence later.)  This reinforced the problem of lobbyists buying access to city hall, and receiving more than favorable attention in land use matters.

    In the mini-fiefdom system, councilmembers could personally shepard through shortsighted land use changes in their home districts and receive the implicit support of their peers who knew they could count on the same carte blanche in their own fiefdom.

    Without long term leadership, we end up with hyper-growth in city payroll knowing that they’ll be termed out before the issue comes to a head and others will muddle through as they did while positioning themselves to climb the political ladder to County Supervisor, State Assembly or State Senate.

    We almost need a city wide steering committee with collective institutional knowledge and sights that span generations and not just 4 and 8 year election windows.

    We’re a big city, but not big enough to create a bicameral system with a Senate and council, but I do see the problem and want to talk about what we can do to fix the system that produced so many problems (rather than just blaming the individual council members past a present who simply behaved as the system is designed for them to.)

    Maybe we should roll back term-limits, or add some at large seats, or slim down to some larger districts, or add 100% public financing for city elections.  Something needs doing as we continue to get micro-management from council members who own projects in their district at the cost of the larger and long term future of the city.  We also get an overall muddling through approach to city governance the emphasizes looking good and public posturing over making hard but honest choices for everyone’s city to be even better for future generations.

  12. I picked up the City Auditor’s annual report on city government performance after the Mayor’s budget workshop on Saturday. A couple of interesting observations from thumbing through it quickly.

    1)In general, over the past 5 years, city service areas have added staff, with the exception of Parks & Rec, which is down 2%.

    2)The police department has gone from 1835 authorized positions in 2003/04 to 1814 in 2007/08, but increased it’s spending 27%!

    3)“Strategic Support” (the city’s euphemism for overhead) has reduced headcount by 18%, but increased spending by 29% over the last five years.

    Is it any surprise that we have a budget problem?

  13. #13 – Pat Waite:

    You said,“2)The police department has gone from 1835 authorized positions in 2003/04 to 1814 in 2007/08, but increased it’s spending 27%!”

    It seems to me that if you have the same amount of work or more, and less officers/personnel to do that work, then you are going to have to pay officers overtime to get that same amount of work done.  I think the prudent thing to do would be to hire the amount of officers needed to do the work, and save money. 

    That is the problem with laying people off.  You end up not having enough people to do the required amount of work.  The result is that the existing employees end up working overtime to get that work done – thus you pay more.  I think if the City was smart, they would work with Labor to see if employees would be willing to, on a short term basis, take unpaid days off in order to avoid layoffs, and help the City get through this tough economic time. 

    I need to say this: as a former City employee, and as someone who has trained City employees in Dispute Resolution, I can say that there is more work to be done than there are City Employees.  On the whole, we have an excellent group of employees who serve this City every day. City Employees really get a bum rap.  They often end up working nights and weekends in an attempt to finish their work.

  14. #11- Tina,
    I agree, volunteering is a wonderful way to get involved and make a difference! I strongly encourage folks in the community to do so. I still believe that by doing so, your voice is better heard than those who do not, as it allows you the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship with staff, and the Mayor and Council members.

    #13-Pat,
    Government is very different from the private sector in many ways. The private sector is more efficient than government, and quicker to respond to market forces and supply and demand, as well as, thinking out of the box, most of the time.

    Our City’s budget numbers can be deceiving. If budgets included actual hours on the job, the amount of service provided then the amounts spent on employee salaries would make more sense. For example, most City and County employees are salaried; they are not paid by the hour. I have seen Council Aides work up to 70 hours a week and receive a pay check of $30K a year, or LESS. Now if you do the math, you will see that they are very much underpaid for what they do, given that many of them have a BA, or Masters degree, and are paying off student loans. I have also seen their work load and let me tell you, it isn’t fair to expect that type of work from one person, especially given the pay!

    #12- Blair,
    You make some excellent points. We can’t have a better system if we aren’t honest about its shortcomings!

    #14- JMO,
    I agree with both your comments! Like you, I have been very active in my community, with city and county issues, and while they appear to listen, they really aren’t. They have already made up their minds, even though they put together these so-called task forces, and committees. (I call these types of meetings the shut up and go a way, while we are pretending to be listening to your point of view meetings. Why? Because by the time our hard work is translated back to the Mayor and Council by staff, it doesn’t resemble a dam thing we put together!)

  15. #5, #14 This site has unfortunately become as diluted as its faded grey masthead.  From the beginning, I never had a good feeling about a merger with The Metro.  My feeling was that The Metro was getting the good end of the deal, and if I wanted to read it, I’d pick it up where distributed.

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