Now that we don’t have any money, this is how we are dealing. This seemed to be the theme of today’s San Jose City Council meeting, where council members were updated on some of the painful cutbacks that have taken place since the city budget was slashed.
Representatives from the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative (SNI), a decade-old redevelopment program that focuses on improving neighborhood services, infrastructure and amenities, announced that they’ve had to change their entire approach because of their dramatic loss in resources.
The SNI has lost 12 employees since last year, and will see just $1.4 million in new capital funding this fiscal year—a significant step down from the yearly redevelopment funds that they used to receive from the city.
Where the Initiative used to focus on projects like upgrading parks, housing rehab, community center programs and street lighting, they have now been forced to whittled down their efforts to four rather vague “key goals.”
These goals are now defined as “removing barriers to neighborhood action,” “stabilizing neighborhoods in crisis,” “mobilizing neighborhood action,” and “connecting resources to priorities.”
“Without this realignment, the smaller Strong Neighborhoods team will not be as effective, since there are few capital projects to deliver,” wrote San Jose redevelopment head Harry Mavrogenes in an update to the council today. “Leaving the organization as it is currently structured would mean extremely reduced city-wide presence, [and] an inability to focus resources on neighborhoods most in need.”
During council discussion, District 9 Councilmember Judy Chirco went so far as to suggest the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative change its name, in order to not confuse constituents now that it’s effectively a completely different program.
Not surprisingly, “customer satisfaction” towards city services has also plummeted, since layoffs and budget cutbacks have taken their toll.
According to the City Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Director Joseph Horwedel, the full impact of three rounds of layoffs on his department have made long-standing city services, such as next-day inspection scheduling, nearly impossible to implement.
“The capacity of staff to respond to special requests was diminished significantly, and reached the point that the winter flu season crippled service delivery at times,” Horwedel wrote in a report that he presented to the council today. The report surveyed 1,007 citizens who’ve accessed City services in January and February of this year.
“During the reductions, priority was given to revenue generating projects and Permit center services grew more limited,” Horwedel wrote. “This led to longer lines and wait times in the Permit Center and on the phones and frustration by customers facing a new service delivery paradigm.”