As the year winds down, you can almost hear the collective sigh coming from City Hall. Or maybe that’s an echoing whoosh from councilmembers, the mayor, city manager and their staffs, who hightailed it for the holidays.
Either way, 2011 was a tumultuous year, fierce in the manner civic actors clashed over pension reform, public safety, pot, a potential ballpark, ballot measures, pay cuts, occupations of city property and other issues of varying degrees of importance.
In the year that Moneyball raked in the dough at box offices, while Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s tanked games and waited for word on whether or not they can come to San Jose, it seems appropriate that we start our Year in Review with a statistical analysis.
In 2011, as of this story’s writing, there were 382 posts on SJI and a total of 11,799 (approved) comments. While the output was slightly less than in 2011, when there were 416 posts, reader participation skyrocketed this year in comparison to 2010’s numbers of 8,571 (approved) comments. (That’s a 38 percent increase in comments. Just imagine how much higher that number could be when people stop calling moderators/each other sons of motherless goats. We’re trying to maintain some minimal sense of civil decorum.)
There were some changes in writers and features to the site this year, which will continue to happen in 2012 as we try to bring readers more diverse, fresh perspectives. We unveiled a Q&A series starting with Mayor Chuck Reed. There were some, shall we say, issues in getting timely responses from a certain police chief, but in the end we managed to resuscitate the series.
Rich Robinson returned to SJI as a columnist and managed to supplant Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio as the recipient of the most scathing backlash from readers. Oliverio, of course, still managed to stir the pot.
But enough about SJI now and then, this post is a list of some of the things that went so wrong in 2011, and a few things that actually went right. Without further ado:
• It’s been a pretty rough year for public safety, especially police. The SJPD experienced its first layoffs in the police department’s history, the police union president resigned and the POA’s membership narrowly approved giving up 10 percent in pay for another fiscal year. The number of homicides in 2011 was also higher than it’s been in years. Meanwhile, San Jose’s fire department also experienced cutbacks and giveaways in labor negotiations, but many jobs were saved by a federal grant.
• Santa Clara County’s board of education took a bold step in December by approving 20 new charter schools under the Rocketship platform. None of this guarantees kids will receive a more balanced education as well as meet standardized testing goals, but as many have pointed out, things couldn’t get much worse.
• Despite receiving some pleasant news that the city’s pension crisis isn’t as dire as some people at City Hall were predicting, the council decided by a 6-5 vote to go forward with ballot measures to roll back retirement benefits.
• Reefer madness reigned in 2011, as the city council: voted for a cap of 10 on dispensaries; the council received advice to alter its position from the planning commission; the ignored that advice; approved its own measures with small tweaks; was rebuffed by a successful referendum petition effort; and now works with local medical cannabis owners and attorneys on a compromise to avoid a special election.
• A group called “Stand for San Jose” filed a lawsuit claiming city officials broke the law by agreeing to sell land to owners of the Oakland A’s at a bargain price. As it turns out, the group should be called “Stand for San Francisco Giants,” because the recent World Series champs are bankrolling the lawsuit. All of this is moot until Major League Baseball gives the A’s the OK to move to San Jose—which will probably happen around the same time the Giants get some hitting.
• As the city was cutting back on almost everything due to a 10th straight year of budget shortfalls, the McEnery Convention Center had $120 million in bonds approved for a makeover. It was announced in December that there will be some sort of “magical” artwork on display when the convention center construction is completed.
• The High-Speed Rail Authority released new numbers to the dismay of almost everyone except supporters, who said the project can now move along because the numbers are finally accurate. There were also rumors that San Jose could be bypassed as a stop, assuming the project ever starts.
• The president of the San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels was killed at a casino in Nevada, which then led to the surprising revelation that the biker was a city employee.
• San Jose got its own version of Occupy Wall Street, and the city freaked out over a few tents and some head lice. Oh, and there was that guy on the wall
• President Obama made his first-ever trip to San Jose, but it was mainly a layover for some fundraising.
• Former Councilmember John Diquisto died. He was 83.
• City Hall was evacuated after a bomb threat was sent to the general mailbox for the city, leaving many in shock that anyone noticed it before a few days had passed.
• As SJI first detailed, Music in the Park was canned, mainly because downtown businesses don’t love the kids.
• San Jose was named the best city in America to grow old and die.
• Everyone announced they want Nancy Pyle’s District 10 seat on the City Council, causing Almaden’s head to grow bigger than anyone thought it could.
• Harry Mavrogenes called it quits as head of the Redevelopment Agency, just before the agency became toothless.
• News leaked that former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had a child out of wedlock with one of his household staff members, leading everyone to Google the woman’s picture and say, “Really?”
• Matt Mahood came over from Sacramento to replace Pat Dando as the new Chamber of Commerce CEO.
• People started talking about the epidemic that will kill the quality of life as we know it in San Jose: potholes. (In hindsight, maybe we’re already there.)
• Manny Diaz lobbied for payday lending offices, which was clever because he found a new way to prey upon the people he represented as a city councilmember.
• Gay history became part of the public school curriculum.
• We burned everyone on April Fool’s Day.
• Pete Constant became the darling of Fox News.
• The Westboro Baptist Church announced it would protest the play The Laramie Project by Gunderson High School. They were doing it for the kids, of course.
• Mayor Reed went to Japan to meet with All Nippon Airways. The trip was called a waste until it was announced in December that ANA would start San Jose-Tokyo flights.
• City Manager Debra Figone gave the nod to Chris Moore as San Jose’s new police chief. The other candidate, Anthony Batts, resigned from his post as chief of police in Oakland later in the year.
• Someone painted the eyes of the Quetzalcoatl sculpture in Plaza de Cesar Chavez—otherwise known as poop with fangs—a bright shade of red.
• Dean Singleton stepped down from his post as CEO of the Mercury News, which later in the year decided to keep “San Jose” in the masthead after a massive consolidation of papers.