San Jose State of the City 2013:          Things are Getting Better, Kind of

Mayor Chuck Reed noted Thursday night that he was delivering his seventh State of the City speech. Next year he’ll have one final opportunity to get it right.

Jokes aside, an honest assessment of Mayor Reed’s performance Thursday at the San Jose Civic Auditorium would be to admit that his address varied little from last year’s talk. Pension reform through voters’ approval of Measure B last November will help “put San Jose back on the path to be a great city,” Reed said. But the jury is still out, or has yet to even be selected, as the measure remains road-blocked by litigation, and future deficits are expected.

If and when Measure B reaches the implementation stage, Reed said, the city’s number one issue—rising crime and the exodus of officers from the San Jose Police Department—will be addressed.

The evening started with a passionate and somewhat unexpected invocation by Pastor Dace, who decided to eschew the non-denominational prayer tradition by invoking “the name of Christ Jesus” in his closing remarks. From there, the evening was far more measured.

But during the district honoree portion of the evening, where councilmembers bring people from their respective districts on stage for public recognition and a mayoral photo-op, Happy Hollow mascot Danny the Dragon crashed the stage a few minutes before scheduled. The San Jose Earthquakes mascot, Q, and the San Jose Giants’ Gigante also shuffled on stage. Chaos nearly ensued, but the mayor and councilmembers kept their cool.

After an introductory speech by Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley leadership Group, Reed took the stage in front of the half-filled auditorium, and the show returned to its standard format of thanks going around in all directions.

“There are many city employees here tonight,” Reed said. “You’ve taken significant paycuts. You’ve incurred increases in your share of retirement costs. And yet, you have served the public with care and professionalism. Thank you for your sacrifices.”

Reed did not commit to restoring city employee salaries, specifically for police officers, but he did promise to reinvest in the SJPD with the savings from pension reform and expand the force by “200 more police officers.

“You are probably wondering, ‘When will we get those savings?’” he said. “Despite the numerous attempts to block Measure B with lawsuits, administrative actions and arbitration, we will get significant savings over the next two years that will allow us to grow the force.”

Staying positive, Reed noted a couple of recent studies that show San Jose’s metropolitan area is second to none when it comes to business and technology.  In January, the Milken Institute’s placed the San Jose metropolitan area at the top spot in its Best Performing Cities Index, “which identifies the cities that are the best at creating and sustaining economic growth,” Reed said. 

San Jose is also “ranked No. 1 for clean tech innovation, and we have over
7,000 clean tech jobs,” he added.

Specifics were lacking in other instances, such as how the city plans to improve—or even accurately report—fire department response times; end chronic homelessness (a wildly unrealistic goal); and close the achievement gap, which is more of a county issue.

But the second-tier pension reform measures already in place, as well as compensation reductions that have been implemented, “are saving us over $100 million dollars a year,” Reed said. “As a result, we were able to balance the budget with no layoffs and begin to restore services, like opening four branch libraries that have been vacant and locked.” He also noted that a recent city survey indicate voters in San Jose might be open to a sales tax increase.

The overall message of the evening appeared to be that things aren’t great, they could be worse, but they’re getting a little better. And that, it seems, will be Reed’s legacy: He’s a steward, given the unenviable task of navigating San Jose through the Great Recession.

The night ended with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” playing on the auditorium’s speakers.

Ba, ba, ba.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

17 Comments

  1. If Reed wants to get a sales tax increase passed in 2014, that would mean that a vote for an A’s stadium giveaway would have to be pushed beyond 2014.  They couldn’t hope to get both done in the same year.

  2. Here’s what’s wrong with government…

    The MC welcomed “distinguished guests…and citizens of San Jose.”

    “Distinguished guests?” Really!? How about “public servants?”

  3. It’s ironic that all the mascots were on stage, all we needed was for Rufus, Sammy, the sumo wrestler and the rest to put on their clown suits.

    What a joke, 150 officers have left. Each one at a cost $170,000 to train. Now Rufus wants to hire 200 officers at $170,000 each. It’s criminal at the amount they are wasting.

    It’s funny that he only wants us to get back to a minimum staffing level of 1100 officers, not full staffing of 1,450 officers, when San Jose was number one in safety.

    Wait until the recruits here about their pension plan, that is not vested. Can you say bye, bye to San Jose. They would be better off in social security.

    All the agencies in the bay area went through a hiring frenzy in the middle to late 1980’s. All those officer are getting ready to retire. You don’t think they chopping at the bit to hire veterans with 20 years or less that have special operation experience, detective experience that will walk right in and start doing the job, and they did not have to spend a dime to train.

    Another news flash, no one coming here to work, they can’t even hire a chief from the outside.

    Hey Rufus, how did court go for you yesterday? That picture of you by yourself tell’s me, not so well.

  4. Comical. Look at the photo where the caption states mayor reed thanked the City employees. Look at the expression on his face. His body language always gives him away. His facial expression shows how he REALLY feels.

  5. If Reed seriously thinks he’s going to grow the police department AND implement Measure B, he’s breathtakingly delusional.

  6. What about downtown?  It’s the most important thing for San Jose!  He once again abandoned downtown for business growth in N. San Jose.  He talked about city services and raising taxes to further restore city services to residents.  He also talked about beefing up the police force.  All these are necessary evil and require attention, but completely leaving downtown out of it is atrocious!  Downtown is the city’s living room. No downtown will equate to no business for the city since they’d be turned off by the poor condition of the city.

  7. Reed detractors should admit that he’s a pretty darn good politician.  His poll numbers are really good and he got Guardino to introduce him.  Guardino was a supporter of Cindy Chavez during the mayor’s race and Reed has brought him into his camp.  Reed is a more skillful than his critics are willing to admit.

  8. > Specifics were lacking in other instances, such as how the city plans to . . . end chronic homelessness (a wildly unrealistic goal);

    Wait.  I thought Mitch Snyder ended chronic homelessness way back in the sixties.

    Why do we have to do it all over again?

    And, by the way, what happened to all of the zillions of bucks that Mitch Snyder raised to end homelessness?

    If it didn’t go to ending homelessness, where DID it go?

  9. The San Jose Police Department will soon have lost 200 officers in the past 16 months, hired away by other police departments. This represents almost an $30 million dollar investment made by San Jose taxpayers which is now lost. No matter what spin this mayor and certain city council members put on this, they are equivocally and directly responsible for $30 million dollars which the citizens of San Jose entrusted them with. This does not even take into account the money for hiring and training new officers.

    This mayor and city council have also spent $25 million dollars of taxpayer money buying land for a baseball stadium for the A’s, who are very unlikely to move here. Together with the money lost on police officers who have resigned, this represents OVER $50 million dollars lost in the past 2 years by this mayor and his lackeys on the city council.

  10. Hmmmm!  Does anyone have any idea who may have organized and produced this edition of the “State of the City Address” event? Looks like there were several created “emotional moments”, messages desgined to be taken from the event, and while i’m not sure about expandiability it certainly has lived up to repeatability after 7 total editions!!!

    p-a-t r-o-n a-g-e Mayor Reed Style!

  11. It is Absolutely easier to listen to the Mascots than it is Listen to The Mayor try and spin his massive failings into minor vistories . Measure B will never be implemented simply beause it is ILLEGAL ! Mayor Reed knows this, City Attorney knows this(& Notified the mayor as such) City Manager knows this . The Only people who dont know are SAN JOSE RESIDENTS . Maybe now they will educate themselves instead of blindly following the LIARS ! Measure has NOT / and will not save one red cent . on the otherside of that coin the city has already spent 1 million Dollars ( to date) and is facing 13 different lawsuits , that will cost into the millions ( to be paid by taxpayers) . Just where does the Mayor think these savings are going to come from?? More officers will leave because quite simply they dislike the Mayor and Do Not trust him and will not ever trust him again. Lawsuits are costing money not saving money. 200 more officers??? Thats funny Any worthy candidate will go where they are paid apropriately and respected. this Mayor knows nothing of SJPD hiring Practices. at one time this was a highly respected dept , only like 1 out of 15-20 candidates get an offer of employment and at least 25% will wash out because of tough standards . Lower those standards and end up with a lower quality Police Officer .Whats funny is that until recently the City website still had the Original pay and benefits listed , so this tells you That the city i trying to trick qualified candidates into applying here in San Jose . This Mayor has shown time and time again that he is out to Destroy Public safety and Unfortunately The residents will pay the price

  12. Are apartment towers going to help downtown; is a new baseball stadium going to help; a St. James park without a train siding; a high-speed rail station; are bars that bring crowds into downtown going to help?  is Bart going to help; did the new city hall help?

    I would support services to keep downtown from safe.  I will support a sales tax, but only if the money is used for public safety and services like roads, parks and libraries.  That’s something the Council will have a hard time doing though.  Instead what we’ve gotten historically is a downtown that sucks money from the rest of San Jose, and people stay away from in droves.

  13. Maybe it should be called “Reed-Ville” in the same spirit that shanty towns were named “Hoovervilles” in honor of Presidend Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. 

    Reedville used to only be populated by a handful of homeless who (except for the guy in the tent on [email protected]) stayed pretty much out of sight out of mind. Now? Its like a KOA campground cars for tent campers, RV’s and campers… how far this City has regressed under Mayor Reed…

  14. Or maybe Pottersville after It’s A Wonderful Life. That is where the evil person turned the city into ruins and it went from being a wonderful town of Bedford Falls to a town filled with crime and ruination. Sounds like it’s getting there. Just depends on who is controlling it and at this point, it doesn’t look good.