On Libraries, Salaries, Pot and Presidents

Mayor Susan Hammer is among the best leaders San Jose has ever produced, and I have tremendous empathy for her and those who are frustrated with the decisions City Hall has made to shortchange our libraries. But the answer is a change of personnel at City Hall, not a charter amendment which, admittedly, will be popular with voters—especially with her leadership. But the policy puts the city on a slippery slope of percentage-based spending. It may sound good, but it is this same type of policy that got us into trouble on the state level.

On the upside, if every department had a pre-determined fixed percentage of the budget there would be no need for the City Council or a City Manager—so there could be a cost savings there.

On the topic of city managers, San Jose City Council candidates Steve Kline and Jimmy Nyguen both propose cutting executive salaries at City Hall so they would not exceed the pay of the Governor of California—a long overdue policy change.

There are some who will argue that you can’t get “top” talent if you don’t “compete” with other cities, adding that these executives could make more in private industry. To that I say—let them go get better, higher paying jobs. With the current high unemployment rate, there are plenty of qualified people who would love to run the City of San Jose for $174,000 a year plus benefits. Besides, why is this “best possible talent” argument applied to city manager types and not to police officers, firefighters and librarians?

Speaking of the state’s top official, do you think if we had implemented some of the crazy ideas of current Governor and former Presidential candidate Jerry Brown in the 1970’s, we wouldn’t have to implement them now at a much higher cost?

This brings us to Presidential politics. At what point do we declare anybody who would support Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich legally insane and ineligible to vote? Mitt has more positions than the Kama Sutra without any of the corresponding pleasure; Santorum is simply bonkers, and his views on women would make him the leading candidate among the Taliban; and if Newt wants to go to the moon, let’s send him.

Does anybody realize that when Gingrich says he can get gas down to $2, he means eating at Taco Bell? What is he smoking?

This brings us to marijuana. Now that the city of San Jose has criteria to determine good medical marijuana collectives from bad ones, isn’t it time the city makes a concerted effort to shut down the bad ones? If a collective doesn’t pay the city tax, shut them down.

Let’s exhale for a moment, given where we were in 2008: facing a depression; two unfunded wars; 750,000 job losses a month; the potential bankruptcy of the auto industry; a stock market at 7300; and Osama Bin Laden and Col. Gaddafi roaming free in in their chosen domains. The contrast in this election could not be more pronounced. Shouldn’t we just dispense with an election and reappoint the dude that saved the economy, is winding down both wars, saved the auto industry, killed the real terrorists and allowed his rival to make enough money to try and buy the Republican nomination?

Maybe we could put all the money Romney will spend in a political campaign lying to us toward deficit reduction. And don’t cry for Mitt when he fails—look at the number of people he’ll be able to fire. Just thinking about it makes me happy, too.

Rich Robinson is a longtime political consultant in Silicon Valley who is currently working on Steve Kline’s District 6 campaign. Robinson’s columns for San Jose Inside are independent of his campaign duties.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. He is currently working on the campaign of Sheriff Laurie Smith.

8 Comments

  1. “On the upside, if every department had a pre-determined fixed percentage of the budget there would be no need for the City Council or a City Manager—so there could be a cost savings there.”

    We are visiting this issue of using the initiative and referendum process to make executive and administrative decisions.  The city council made a major error in attempting to subvert the vesting of pensions of current employees, and now we are assigning budgetary priorities.  It is getting to the point of complete direct democracy, no need for a mayor, council, or city management.  Given San Jose’s mismanagement over the past six years, that may not be a bad thing.

  2. Reading Rich Robinson’s columns always brings a tear to my eye, a tear of mirth as I read his crazy liberal rants.  If it rains today Rich would give President Obama credit, but high gas prices, stagnant employment, constitutional assaults on free choice, widespread dissatisfaciton with increasing federal debt, and every other ill this country suffers he blames on former President Bush. 
    I can find a couple of kernals of sanity in this piece Rich.  If marijuana is legal, then San Jose should create reasonable regulations for the “clubs” and each of those approved clubs should pay taxes like every other city business.  And citizens shouldn’t have to pass referendums to force officals to properly fund desired programs, that’s what they elect people to do.  It is the enormous waste of funds on inflated wages and benefits for city workers that is putting the squeeze on Sna Jose services.  Solve the problem, don’t shift it to another department.

        • Lou,

          The real problem is the money we are paying back for the redevelopment agency.  BTW:  Nodody denies there is a problem with pensions, getting to a solution does not have to be warfare.  Other jurisdictions are dealing with it, why are we letting the voters decide?

          Yes on all counts number 2 is not my comment.

          Rich

        • Rich,

          Don’t let Princess Cindy hear you talk about the RDA like that.  Although it’s likely that hundreds of millions went to fat developer profits, political graft, juice and grease, the RDA also acted as a local WPA for the trade unions.

  3. > On the topic of city managers, San Jose City Council candidates Steve Kline and Jimmy Nyguen both propose cutting executive salaries at City Hall so they would not exceed the pay of the Governor of California—a long overdue policy change.

    Could we extend this policy to the Santa Clara County Office of Education, too?