San Jose Weighs New Tax Measures for 2020 Ballot

Last month, an estimated 1,200 registered voters in San Jose were asked about potential 2020 ballot measures to address housing and homelessness. On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will discuss the survey results as they consider whether it’s worth the time and effort to bring them to voters next year.

Respondents were asked about three potential ballot initiatives, according to a city memo: A general obligation bond to pay for affordable housing and housing for the homeless near transit centers, a bond measure to provide housing for the homeless and a real estate transfer tax to fund general city services, including development of affordable housing and services for homeless residents, cleaning up graffiti and trash and pollution.

The question of whether to raise taxes on residents forged an unlikely alliance between the most conservative and most progressive members of the council.

“While San Jose has traditionally been a lower-cost place to live in the context of the Bay Area at large, the increases in costs and new tax burden are now squeezing people out of the middle class or out of our city,” Johnny Khamis and Sergio Jimenez wrote in a shared memo. “We also know that many of these taxes—sales taxes and gas taxes, especially—have a disproportionate effect on disadvantage communities within San Jose.”

For 2020, the city is hoping to resurrect a form of Measure V, a $450 million general obligation measure that failed in 2018, falling 2 percent short of the two-thirds majority required. The initiative would have funded construction of affordable housing and renovation of existing lower-income housing.

Part of the difficulty for passing Measure V was its high voting threshold, which required 66 percent for it to pass. The city is currently looking at general tax measures that would require only a majority of votes to pass per California state law.

Yet two of the proposed 2020 initiatives in the May survey also fell far short of the 66 percent threshold. The only proposed measure that garnered the required support was the one that would up the real estate tax. Per state law, such a measure would only need a simple majority to pass.

The city manager’s office wrote in a memo that it will conduct “additional survey research” and will return to the council with an update in August. Should the council green-light one of the ballot measures, it would be placed either on the March primary ballot, or on the general election ballot that fall.

“We realize that our needs are great, but we cannot keep going to the same well each time we face a need in our community,” Khamis and Jimenez wrote. “We must be more efficient in our use of existing resources, more creative in our use of those resources, and more creative in our approach to generating additional revenues in ways that don’t harm our residents who are struggling to make ends meet.”

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for June 4, 2019:

  • The council will consider whether to authorize the city manager to develop an agreement with Caltrain, VTA and California High Speed Rail to assess the roles of each agency in a bullet train plan for San Jose. Diridon is the planned local station for high-speed rail, which will span 520 miles throughout the entire state. Improvements to Diridon and the infrastructure to the surrounding area will be considered. Service to San Jose is estimated to begin in 2029.
  • The council will hear a second update on the plan to renovate and update the layout of Diridon Station. Modifications have been proposed the heavy rail layouts, improving pedestrian flow and expanding parking and outside transportation methods and implementing proposed changes in preparation for the bullet train to come to the station.
  • The council is poised to approve a settlement in the case of LaBlanc v. Tri-City Recovery, Mark Staton, & City of San Jose in the amount of $100,000. The money will go to 18-year-old Kyle LaBlanc, who was struck and killed by a tow truck in January 2016 while he was walking in the bike lane on Curtner Avenue beneath the Highway 87 overpass. The overpass was dimly lit, which the LaBlanc family claimed was a contributing factor to LaBlanc’s death. The driver, Mark Staton, was employed by Tri-City Recovery, the other two defendants in the case. In an official memo, the city admitted that, “the city-maintained lights under the overpass above the westbound lanes were not functioning at the time of the accident.”
  • Mayor Sam Liccardo will update the council on his Gang Prevention Task Force. His report pushes for more data-driven decisions for managing cases for at-risk youth, especially among the city’s law enforcement divisions and youth case managers. The entire report can be found here.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260


  1. Oh, wonderful. As if the cost of living in San Jose wasn’t high enough, Sam wants more money. How about spending what you already get from us more efficiently?

  2. How about lets have a sustainable living tax max in San Jose. I’m leaving, taxes and living expenses are to high. Quality of life here to low. Traffic unbearable, public transportation has become no income housing for the homeless. Our intersections are rats nests for the bewildered. How long before San Jose is just another needle infested third world hell hole like L.A. and Frisco. I’m not paying you so more people can crap on my sidewalk or dump trash on the street.

    If I’m going to live with animals, their going to have fur or feathers, not Antifa hoody’s and pussy hats.

    Mr. Mayor no amount of tax increases are going to keep me here, the next guy will pay for that. But really how long before people with money stop coming here, and this city looks like Detroit or Chicago.

  3. “Bond Measures” especially “General Obligation Bonds” for “Affordable Housing and Homeless Housing?”

    You should be eliminating all services to the “Homeless” and let the “Market” set housing prices.

    You are already “past the hairs on your heads” in debt and you want to incur more debt? How much “debt” is left to “pay-off’ Redevelopment Agency and Airport “obligations?”

    On another matter,

    The “Gang prevention Task Force” has never worked. Bring in the Feds-not the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the “Mexican Federales” and give them Carte Blanch to solve the “gang problem.” They will cost less than what Mayor Liccardo is pushing and will get the desired results very, very quickly and to our satisfaction.

    David S. Wall

  4. What is this nonsense regarding high speed rial to Diridon? The governor killed it. RIP.

  5. We don’t need more homeless people here. What we need is affordable taxes and a sustainable Government!

    Since the one party system went into effect San Jose and the state have been sliding down the razer blade of
    stupid reality The middle class can’t afford to live in a place were taxes exceed income. Instead the ruling class
    are pandering to the homeless, and illegal immigrants instead of our citizens. We have become second class
    in our own country. MS13 the new police.

    Immigrants now being part of the dwindling middle class are leaving too. Instead we are told to be tolerant of those less fortunate because they are mentally disturbed, drug addicted , drunk, lazy, or (I love this, “newly arrived”) . The law has turned a blind eye to the filth compiling around these encampments. Fasces, urine, used hypodermic needles and plies of other human waste attract other disease caring vermin. Rats, mice, flees, cockroaches, lice inhabit that waste. Hepatitis, Typhoid, Plague, Cholera and the latest worry, Ebola maybe coming along with illegals sneaking in from the Congo through Mexico.

    Our politicians have invited this plague of problems in the name of compassion, the reality is it’s in the name of getting re-elected. Real compassion is not turning the mentally ill out on the streets, or putting them up in over priced pubic housing, Its clean institutions with structured programs to treat or sustain these patients in a human manner.

    Drunks and drug addicts, short term treatment or long term institutions, jail if they are dangerous or can’t get it together with some help.

    What’s left? Some people you could probably help get back to work, Veterans with problems, chronically unemployed people just down on luck. If we can’t take care of our own citizens why are we tacking in millions of non citizens?

  6. The average worker in this valley pays about HALF of the income they earn in taxes!

    What do we get that’s worth anywhere near that much money? It’s more money than we pay for food, clothing, and shelter combined. But for what?

    And by what right do these governments continue to tax us higher and higher? Our ancestors revolted over a 3¢ tax on tea — yet we sheep pay more and more every year — in mostly unnecessary taxes!

    The problem is a giant bureaucracy that keeps growing and growing. It used to be that government workers didn’t get paid a lot, and their pensions weren’t very high, but they had very good job security.

    When a company like Lockheed would lose a big contract, thousands of engineers and support staff would be laid off overnight. That’s when job security looked very good.

    And even President FDR told unions, “Government workers will NOT be unionized.”

    That was always the rule — up until President JFK, who caved. He foolishly allowed gov’t workers to unionize. Now we’re reaping the whirlwind.

    Government workers are better paid now, and have bigger pensions than private sector workers in equivalent jobs. Those drones are almost impossible to fire, and more of them get hired every year, especially when these spending proposals are approved.

    The government bureaucracy is now a giant special interest group, that every candidate for office must genuflect to if they want to get elected. If a candidate doesn’t pledge allegiance to government unions, the bureaucrats are sent out to campaign against that candidate. For example, teachers unions have a built-in army of campaign workers who go out before every election, and campaign hard for whichever candidates and bond issues they’re told to support — and against those they’re told to oppose.

    These proposed new taxes would result in more gov’t drones being hired, thus giving more job security to existing bureaucrats, since the newly hired drones would be starting with no seniority.

    We are being forced to pay for all these government ‘workers’. They’re more numerous year over year, and their rapidly increasing numbers are the primary reason why our taxes are so high, and why they continue to rise, because paying their salaries and pensions is hugely expensive. Employment is the biggest expense in government — and the rise in the number of government employees continues to accelerate upward, with no end in sight.

    There’s no stopping the growth of the bureaucracy because there is no organized counter-force opposing this drone army, so they continue proliferating like rabbits. When someone is hired by a federal, state, or local government, their job is more secure than anyone’s job in the private sector.

    And once they’ve been on the job for a couple of years, their union job is guaranteed for life, barring being sent to a penitentiary for committing felonies. Even then it’s not assured that they won’t be re-hired when they’re released. And in the mean time, another drone will be hired in their place.

    Just look at the Caserta example: if he had worked for a private firm, he would have been out of a job at the first serious public accusation. But he’s not only still collectinjg a full paycheck from the taxpayers, and accruing seniority and therefore a bigger pension at the public’s expense, but he’s also suing the same government. And if he wins, who pays? You guessed it…

    And what of the bureaucrat who either incompetently, or deviously forwarded Caserta’s confidential personnel files to hundreds of recipients? Was she fired? Was she even reprimanded? One thing is certain: her pay was not affected. So the public gets the shaft either way, and from both ends.

    Question: does anyone represent the taxpayers; the private sector workers who are forced to pay the freight? Our “representatives” certainly don’t represent the taxpayers. Just look at this article. Those so-called “representatives” are all beholden to special interests, and their entire focus is on how they can work the system to bypass the two-thirds vote requirement, and get their special interest group’s fingers deeper into the taxpayers’ wallets.

    I don’t have the answer. But discussing the problem is the first step to finding a resolution. And until we do, our taxes will keep going up and up, inexorably. Because there’s nothing to stop the process: the media reports a “problem,” then politicians tell people “something must be done!” Then the inevitable proposals for umpteen $Millions or $Billions are made, to ‘fix’ a problem that’s not going to ever be fixed, since there’s a vested interest in continuing the problem, because it requires ever more money to keep ‘fixing’ it.

    Just look at this latest demand for more taxpayer loot. It won’t solve a damn thing, it’s just finagling more money from already hard-bitten private sector workers — who also have to support an army of gov’t drones, in addition to supporting their own families.

    The only thing we can do right now is vote against this latest money grab, and to keep raising the issue. Because something must be done. Otherwise we will be paying 60% of our income, then 70%, then 80%, and so on.

    If you think that can’t happen, ask yourself what our ancestors at the Boston Tea Party would have said, if they were told that their descendants had HALF of their earned income confiscated, in order to support a bunch of bureaucrats who can’t be fired or laid off; who get much better pensions — and who become more numerous year after year. What do you think they would have told us?

    To use a word favored by the same kind of people who are at the root of this problem: this situation is unsustainable.

  7. Read this article side by side with the other article(s) about the City cutting developer fees. This is obviously in the neoliberal tradition of cutting taxes for the wealthy and elite, and transferring the burden of financing the public good to the working poor. This is how it is done: cut taxes for the wealthy so they don’t have to pay. To get the revenue needed that is not coming from them due to their taxes being cut, issue bonds. Then the wealthy who did not pay their taxed buy the bonds and loan their money they saved by not paying taxes to the government. Then the rest of us pay the bond money back, the rich get their money back, plus interest, and well, we paid the wealthy’s share plus some interest. At the end of the day, somehow the money is in their pockets and not ours. Pretty neat trick huh?

    I would be disappointed in Liccardo who is Jesuit educated (bellarmine and georgetown) if he were to embrace this approach. So much for solidarity with the poor.

    • > So much for solidarity with the poor.

      I’m not a big fan of “solidarity with the poor”.

      I’m in agreement with the famous social commentator, Mae West, who said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

      I don’t believe that “the poor” want people to be “in solidarity with the poor”. I believe the poor want to be rich(er).

      The way to get rich(er) in the twenty-first century on a planet of seven billion people is to participate in the production of food and resources necessary for the survival of people on the planet. And production is the object, method, and consequence of capitalism.

      Foraging and hunting and gathering are no longer viable survival strategies. The hunting grounds have been picked clean. Foraging, hunting, and gathering in their modern guises – welfare and handouts – are only poverty strategies.

      Those who advocate for “solidarity with the poor” are only advocating for the poor to continue being poor.

  8. San Jose’s Elected Officials, You have been politically enriched by Big Business help. Ask Big Business to shoulder these costs to the general public who call San Jose home. We are working Paycheck to Paycheck. We want to enjoy the life you provide Big Business, at the working poor’s expense.
    Going back to working for the Company is not progress in America, It’s a step backwards in humanity?

    • > Going back to working for the Company is not progress in America, It’s a step backwards in humanity?

      So, Anthony, after San Jose runs off all the businesses, you are planning on making a living as a hunter-gatherer. Correct?

      Good luck. Hope you find a good berry patch.

      My warriors and I have claimed the bay area. It would probably be a good idea to stay out of our way.

      • SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE You can’t scare me with your pessimistic attitude, I don’t see that happening. You wouldn’t need to be a company suck-up, if you had the job skills companies are seeking.

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