If you are like the majority of San Jose residents, you probably work during the day and/or are involved in a child’s education at school/home. Your ability to attend a daytime San Jose City Council meeting is limited.
The council conducts the overwhelming majority of its business during the day. This includes voting on matters that directly affect our lives, such as law enforcement, sewers, transportation, medical/fire response, code enforcement, libraries, parks, city finances, etc. These meetings are suppose to be for the public, yet usually the only people that attend the daytime council meeting are lobbyists or other paid representatives of special interest groups.
Last week, the topic of “what is important enough to have on the monthly evening meeting agenda” was brought up. The request via council memo was to restrict land use items to be heard only during the evening session. Currently, the council has been hearing economic development land use items during the day to speed up the process, because waiting for an evening council meeting may delay a decision for up to 3-4 weeks.
I asked the city attorney to clarify if the memo from my colleagues was correct; that it would actually limit all land use items to 7pm, which would cause a 3-4 week delay or the need to schedule impromptu special meetings just to hear one economic development land use item. The city attorney confirmed that if the memo was passed as written, that it would in fact limit the council on expediting land use for economic development.
In my opinion, this would impede approval of new commercial and industrial development, making the city less responsive. We need to grow our tax base sooner versus later, and to artificially impede the council with yet another rule is silly. Moreover, the goal is to allow development that brings more jobs to San Jose, so residents do not have continue commuting outside the city for work.
After the city attorney answered my question, the memo was changed verbally at the meeting, allowing our planning department the ability to schedule land use items during the day; thus allowing for more responsive decisions for new office buildings in North San Jose and Santana Row, or new tall buildings in our Downtown, or a liquor license for a new neighborhood grocery store, or new retail on the periphery of our city. (I believe San Jose will suffer higher retail vacancy if Measure D is passed, so vote “no” on Measure D.)
However, I support having the weekly council meeting in the evening for all issues. We should scrap the current daytime meeting and instead schedule a 6pm meeting with ceremonials items starting at 5:30pm. In my view, residents would be better served by night meetings, which would provide greater opportunity for civic participation.
Pierluigi Oliverio is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 6.