San Jose Police Union’s Latest Shot

The San Jose Police Officers’ Association got their money’s worth out of the full page ad that they took out in last Sunday’s Mercury News.  The story received a lot of coverage from other media outlets and was the lead story for several Bay Area television stations.

The police union argues that San Jose has the wrong set of priorities. “The City eliminated a police unit responsible for 1,000 gang-related arrests each year, yet they found millions of your tax dollars to begin buying land to give to the millionaire owners of a major league baseball team.” And, “...the City is subsidizing a development project for our former Mayor at the cost of millions of your tax dollars-with a return of pennies on the dollar invested!”

But surely the Police Association membership knows that these millions of dollars going to the owners of a baseball team and a former mayor are redevelopment dollars that cannot be spent on salaries for police, fire, or other city employees.  Or can they? 

Maybe the Police Officers’ Association is on to something.  RDA money can’t be spent on city services directly, but perhaps there’s a roundabout way to get public money to where it’s needed the most.  For example, RDA money can be spent to make improvements in an RDA zone.  If the RDA Board/city council would vote to spend RDA money on improvements and maintenance in an RDA zone, the city money that would otherwise have been spent for the work and materials could be shifted.  The cost savings could be transferred to the police, and the Violent Crime Enforcement Team could be restored immediately.

City departments have been cut to the bone, and next year will be even worse absent a miraculous recovery of the state and local economies.  In essence, there’s an undeclared state of emergency when it comes to government funding for state, county, and local services. Something’s got to give. If the state government can “steal” from the local redevelopment agencies, why can’t cities effectively “borrow” from their own agencies on a temporary basis?  It’s time that the people of San Jose be given a direct say in the “how, where, when, and why” of local RDA spending.

The city council should establish a citizen-based RDA oversight committee that would review projects and make recommendations directly to the RDA Board.  Let the people control RDA spending, rather than the city officials who take their instructions

15 Comments

  1. San Jose has and continues to spend RDA incremental property taxes for Mayor/Council salaries, econonic development and risk management, gives housing department 20% of revenue per state law for low income housing and has spent up to $25 million per year RDA money on city services to include planning, code enforcement, and city attorney

    State law restricts RDA spending to redevelopment areas or support of RDA activities which could include a) fire or police station construction / rebuilding and b) in other cities RDA fund have been legally spent on additional police or fire officers to reduce crime or protest property in RDA areas, park construction and maintenance and city expenses in redevelopment areas

    RDA has wastes millions per year over the years up to billions RDA taxes on projects that:

    a) do not pay back RDA taxes spent or will take 50-150 years if ever to payback taxes spend
    b) increased political insider / developers profit when not required for project to go forward s campaign payback
    c) downtown economic development for events, parades tax subsidies to organizations that if voters had vote would never get funded
    d) unnecessary political city construction projects that require annual general fund tax subsidies mostly for non city services like theaters, museums sports, etc
    e) Council has spent up to 30% vs 20% required for low income housing by law which unnecessarily increased general fund deficit since low income housing does not pay taxes or enough to offset city services required increasing city deficit

    Every RDA dollars wasted or given to political insiders / residential developers could have been spent to increase general fund revenues to bring new businesses, retail stores, hotels or auto dealers to San Jose to increase general tax revenues which would fund city services and staff like other financially responsible cities have done with their RDA taxes

  2. Another round of RDA layoffs.

    From The Murky News:

    “The San Jose Redevelopment Agency’s bleak budget for fiscal year 2010-11 had warned of staff cuts, and that prediction came true Wednesday when the agency announced it had laid off 14 employees—nearly 20 percent of its staff.

    Mavrogenes also said seven vacant positions will not be filled, dropping the staff to 62 workers. This is the second time in a year that the agency has been forced to let people go; last September, the agency cut 25 positions.”

    So, have the RDA managers taken pay cuts?

  3. Pete,

    Good thinking, spending RDA funds on capital improvements is quite proper.  Removing the capital requirements burden from a particular budget then frees up funds for other uses, including labor.  Ahh, but the big caveat:  politicians only “fund-shift” when it’s convenient for them. 

    Witness the special library parcel tax that will now go on forever, without sunset.  It started as an additional $25 per parcel and was strictly dedicated to support SJ libraries.  How clever that the City subsequently cut the traditional library budget each year. I’d hazard that our library system now survives on far less money in total – regular funding plus the parcel tax – than it did prior to enactment of the parcel fee.

  4. It is great to see that every organizations comfort zone has been disturbed.
    The Evil Empire is about to collapse. It is so refreshing to see the cops chasing the arrogant good ole boys. Welcome to the real world RDA. We’re on the side lines watching you get your butts kicked. We are loving it,the beer and curlly fries are’nt bad either. The worm has turned!
      Larry’s A’s and Tom’s Resturants will fix every thing, Right? It would provide employment for all of the gang bangers and the layed off cops.
      San Jose has it all figured out. We’re getting off this bus, the wheels are about to come off.
                      RDA Reject

  5. Less than a week after being blasted by La Raza, the NAACP, and just about every other local minority organization, we find our police officers fighting to protect their department’s ability to suppress gang violence. It’s enough to make you wonder if these cops will ever get it. Don’t they realize, as demonstrated by the groups blasting them, that the established path to serving San Jose’s minority community is to scream racism, foster hatred, spread blame, and raid the tax coffers? Haven’t the cops noticed—from the dismal ability these “community leaders” have shown at keeping their kids in school, making their neighborhoods safe, and turning their children off to gangs, that with their strategy of failure these people have hit upon the winning political strategy?

    Don’t they know their next police chief will win the job by diagnosing the myriad of failures of the San Jose Police Department and celebrating the achievements of the minority community? Or that their next mayor will campaign on the improvements and respect owed the minority community?

    In a city that lives and breathes on the politics of failure there is no future in trying to fix things. Don’t the cops realize that the key to getting a fully-funded gang unit is to do nothing and give failure an opportunity to work its magic? Given a chance, I’m sure failure will deliver this city the killed-by-a-stray-bullet someone that the politicians can’t ignore, the Mercury can’t resist, and good citizens refuse to tolerate.

    I suggest the cops let the inevitable failure come, and have a gang unit eligibility list at the ready.

    • BS Monitor:

      Hate to say it but,…you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. The optimist in me wishes it were not true but SJ politics/reality dictate otherwise.

      • where is the city of the San Jose now in the “Safest largest city” index? I think down to four or five from number one.

    • Ironic isn’t it that the Specialized Unit with probably the most direct impact on improving the lives of the so-called minorities is the one that get’s cut? By far, Hispanic gangs are the most problematic in San Jose – more prevalent, more active, more violent – than the gangs of any other demographic. Understand that this is decision is not one with which the vast majority within the department agree or support. Way to go City Leadership.

  6. BS Monitor,
      You must be one lonely and apathetic individual. Get out today and tomorrow and enjoy the wonders of a celibration that moves even the the worst of critics. The Mariachi Festival
    It appears you have single handedly anointed your self to god like status. There is a God associated with the Festival, and he will be in attendance on Sunday. I would like you to meet him. He say nothing and yet He has changed many lives. You should meet Quetzalcoatl. A fresh offering of corn my spare you greater anguish in life.
      The Gang that dominate Politics are what scares the hell out of Me! Perfect example “BELL, CALIFORNIA”!

      Earthling

    • Thanks,Pete, for raising a timely and relevant argument for changing – at least in one way – the manner in which San Jose does business. You offer a solution for which many cops – singly and in groups – have argued: that the money that San Jose takes in can, and should, be creatively distributed so that essential, core services don’t get cut.

      There is one other issue which I think needs to be addressed: San Jose Police Officers were profoundly, deeply and justifiably proud of San Jose’s standing as Safest Big City. It is a title for which many worked and committed blood sweat and tear to earn and maintain. Now, we see all that effort, commitment, and dedication treated with a cavalier – even dismissive – attitude particularly in the sneaky, and underhanded way in which Measures V and W were placed on the ballot and in the steady diminishing of the ranks of a department which was already too small and overworked.

      A citizen writing in to the Mercury News several days ago suggested that the rank and file in the Department might not trust the Mayor, City Manager or our Chief. To that, I would emphatically state, ‘Ya think?’ The reality is that, based on my experience and conversations I have had, there are few people less trusted by the rank and file in the Police Department than Chuck Reed and Debra Figone. They have been disingenuous, deceitful, dismissive, sneaky and underhanded in the manner in which they have dealt with the budget crisis and Public Safety. Why should we trust them?

  7. Earthling,

    Mariachi and Quetzalcoatl?… annoying racket and a flesh-devouring nightmare of a god. If that’s advice from the self-help aisle of the local biblioteca, no wonder no one goes in there to read. Anyway, think I’ll pass on your tip… if I want lowbrow, shitty culture, I’ll just stay home and watch what the Hollywood degenerates produce for network television.

  8. I agree that RDA money should be used to alleviate the shortfall in the General Fund to the fullest extent.  In reality, the tax increment money going to the RDA is property tax that normally would go to the State, County and City General Fund.  While Downtown may have been ‘blighted’ at one point, calling the orchards of North San Jose ‘blight’ and then forming a Redevelopment Zone to capture the property tax increment forever was immoral.  The RDA money paying for the Baseball stadium may as well have come from the General Fund.

  9. Lot’s of interesting comments about RDA. The Grand Jury should thoroughly investigate that whole operation. San Jose Inside should have a separate heading for RDA comments.

  10. A survey by the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties and U.S. Conference of Mayors found that cities will cut 8.6 percent of their full-time workforce between 2009 and 2011.

    Some 60 percent of the cities surveyed have made cuts in the area of public safety and public works. That means police officer and firefighter jobs, as well as fixing potholes-services and functions voters are likely to notice.

  11. Check out the abstract of the City’s budget. Not that 43% of the $2.8 billion budget goes to the so-called Special Fund. Thats over $1.2 billion. I think it’s interesting that nearly $420 million goes to the airport, over $153 million goes to ‘housing’ (which I assume means publicly-subsidized ‘low-income’ housing) and nearly $265 million goes towards ‘Other’ expenditures. That’s right. Over 1/4 billion dollars spent in a way that this memo doesn’t even document. That’s 89% of the budget allocated to the Police Department.

    I understand that monies allocated to the Special Fund can only be used for specific purposes. Nonetheless, this still seems backwards to me and it seems that, if City Leadership were really interested in being fiscally responsible, they would figure out how to use at least some of these monies to support core services in some way rather than pursue service, staff and benefit reductions which will only make San Jose less safe and make it harder to attract qualified candidates – particularly in Public Safety.

    Check out the Budget in Brief memo at http://www.sanjoseca.gov/budget/FY1011/2010-2011AdoptedBudgetinBriefFINAL.pdf