Everyone loves applause—especially politicians. Yet leadership in difficult times often requires making decisions that don’t draw applause. It means having the independence to stand up for everybody, not just the loudest voices or the most powerful groups. When leaders have the independence to tell those groups what they don’t want to hear, it threatens the status quo. And threatened people yell. So, let’s take a breath, hit the “pause” button on the yelling, and start where we all agree. First, San Jose needs more police officers.Read More 75
Small businesses increasingly have become the employers of many San Jose residents—including self-employed entrepreneurs—left behind in the tech boom. One way to address the yawning opportunity gap would focus our municipal energies on lightening the burdens of those small businesses. As we all know, City Hall can get in the way.Read More 9
Original Joe’s has become a San Jose institution by serving the best eggplant parmesan in the Bay Area for over 50 years. It has thrived in Downtown San Jose because their owners, the Rocca family, like so many other San Jose businesspeople, know what it takes to compete. As they compete for the loyalty of their patrons, Original Joe’s has helped to support the college tuitions and mortgages of generations of cooks and wait staff.Read More 22
In light of the flurry of emails and phone calls we’ve received in recent days, I’d like to ensure that everyone is well-armed with the facts about our long-planned expansion of general aviation at the airport and its impact on the curfew. In the social media-driven landscape of instant conspiracy theories, rumors and innuendo, as Justice Brandeis reminds us, “sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.” There will be a hearing this Tuesday, April 16 to discuss the impact of any new agreements with Signature Flight Support—a provider of services for corporate jets and other general aviation—on the curfew. San Jose is one of only nine cities in the United States with a curfew restricting flight operations at its airport.Read More 5
Bill Kleidon and his son, George Kleidon, formed a free youth sports league in Northside. Recognizing that many families can’t afford to participate in a sports league, and watching the elimination of City-sponsored leagues from budget cuts, Bill and George took action. They hosted fundraising events, gathered several fellow San Jose High alums to volunteer as coaches and refs, and started a flag football league at Watson Park in the fall of 2012 with 120 kids. They’ve now moved on to basketball season, and another 180 kids are enjoying a free opportunity to learn the sport, build friendships, improve their health and find an positive outlet for their energy.Read More 12
Nearly every civic official in San Jose agrees that promoting a stronger local economy is our highest priority. Regardless of our political perspectives, we all understand that supporting vibrant small businesses and high-wage jobs are key to putting our friends and neighbors back to work. We can revitalize our economy one street—and one vacant storefront—at a time. The small business incentive package currently pending before the City Council is important. The idea is simple—where landlords of long-vacant, street-facing parcels are willing to reduce their asking lease rates, City Hall should waive permit fees for new businesses seeking to get up and running.Read More 13
Creating a strong economy requires creating a “sense of place,” that difficult-to-quantify assemblage of urban elements—retail shops, flower-adorned paseos, street performers, murals or charming cafés—that make pedestrians want to linger, rather than merely to pass through. Last month, many of you saw news accounts of our most recent effort to enliven our public spaces, in the form of a pilot project to launch “Curb Cafés” in San Jose. By extending the sidewalks into the streets, adjacent businesses—restaurants, cafes, bike shops or bookstores—can create dynamic spaces that both draw customers out into sunshine, and enliven the streetscape for passers-by.Read More 14
For every big city, graffiti too often presents a Sisyphean challenge. Volunteers and abatement crews diligently work to clean it up—particularly the gang-related tags that most demoralize and threaten residents—only to see the same markings return a couple of days later. Happily, community engagement and innovation have combined to lighten our burden in recent months—with positive results to prove it.Read More 18
Gay publicly spoke up about—and against—the belt-tightening measures that Council has taken in recent years. In public session, she told the City Council about how the 14 percent cuts in her salary would make it difficult for her to continue to make payments on her modest home. She warned about the dangers of Measure B, the pension reform measure on the June ballot, and testified against the Council’s decision to impose reductions in retiree medical benefits. In every case, Gay spoke with civility and with a heartfelt conviction that comes from someone who reasonably relied upon promises that were made to her when she decided to move to San José to work for the City years ago.Read More 25
In what has become an annual refrain, we again sit at a crossroads of bad choices about cutting services and jobs, far worse even than last year. In June, we will slash many crucial services and lay off hundreds of city employees—as many as one out of every five—to resolve a budget deficit that will likely exceed $120 million. Demonizing our hard-working employees does not amount to much of an answer. After all, employees fairly bargained for these benefits.
The task remains for elected officials today to show renewed courage and fiscal sense. That requires a more difficult conversation, one about whether and how to cut retirement benefits that our current employees and retirees have long relied upon. While constitutional protections make it difficult, if not impossible, to do so through traditional mechanisms of collective bargaining, we need to work with our unions to find a new bargain with our employees: one which is both fair and sustainable.Read More 81
While we slash services like park maintenance, the City has millions of dollars in park fees, sitting in reserves. Under state law, we charge developers fees to enable us to build parks, pools and community centers whenever they build a new housing project. For over a decade, we have been building community-serving amenities that we cannot pay to maintain or operate. It would be irresponsible to continue on this course.Read More 8
As this week brings news of our local unemployment rate just beginning to taper downward, local businesses are peering out from their frozen dens for the first signs of Spring. That’s of little solace to thousands of our families still losing their homes and jobs, but it does raise a crucial question as we try to get people back to work: how can we best communicate to businesses that they should make San José the place to grow?Read More 42
Much of the news in recent days has been dominated by the issues surrounding the San Jose Police Department. Last week, several colleagues and I sought greater transparency and disclosure of police reports, but by a 5-6 margin,we narrowly failed to persuade our colleagues to adopt the ordinance proposed by the “Sunshine” Task Force. On Sunday, the Mercury News released a video documenting the use of force by SJPD officers in the arrest of San Jose State University student Phoung Ho. Ash Kalra, Madison Nguyen, and I immediately called for a full investigation and—if any criminal charges of the officers are sought—a grand jury process open to public view.