Single Gal and Doesn’t City Hall Know That Things are Wrong?

I think that after years of writing about San Jose on this site, I have come to a realization about the crux of the problem with things in our city.

Week after week, I have become a broken record talking about what’s wrong, what’s right and how to make San Jose the place we want it to be. Many of you agree and more disagree. Many of you think that I am downtown-centric—you’re right. And many of you think things are never going to be better, no matter what.  But I was thinking about why they never will be different. And the reason is that those in power don’t think things are that bad.

Now, I suppose in order to be fair (not that I truly want to be), I should be calling various city council members and the mayor himself to find out why they think what they do. But I believe it’s a breakthrough to realize that they are pretty happy with San Jose. And that is the main issue here. 

They sit above the city in a beautiful new building downtown; they go out to lunch and the town is crowded with working folks around the new City Hall; they get in their cars (probably locked safe in a parking garage) and drive back to their nice suburban homes. Then they probably go out to eat at Santana Row, or in Campbell or Los Gatos, and then look at us and say, “What’s the problem? Life is pretty good!”

Well considering the devastating business news that is happening all around the country, yes, I guess you can say compared to Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual, we are doing pretty well. But our leaders don’t see what we see. Is it because they are deluded into thinking that they have done a lot to change San Jose and the job is done? Or do they not look at San Jose through the eyes of a resident, wanting more, seeing problems and wanting them to be fixed? They see task forces, study teams and deliverables, not what needs to get achieved.

I am thinking that I should invite the mayor and some city council members out with me for a night in San Jose. Not only could they probably not keep up, but maybe they would see things from a new perspective. I want them to admit that we are not even close to where we need to be and leave all the jargon behind. The first elected official to do that will gain my respect. 

Times are only going to get harder, so in this time we need to really do an audit of where we are, and honesty is the only policy that will work. 

Honesty and politics? Well, there’s a first time for everything.

19 Comments

  1. I absolutely agree with you. It is time for our leaders to focus on results that matter to the people of San Jose, not on committees, meetings, and task forces. Before the current economic crisis, San Jose faced a general fund budget shortfall. I’m sure that if it was looked at today, the shortfall would be significantly larger. Not to mention the nearly $1B deferred maintenance of our infrastructure, and unfunded pension liabilities.

    As your comments imply, we can’t ask the citizens for more money…they are worried by current events, and many are concerned about keeping their jobs and houses. Downtown clubs are failing, developers are battening down the hatches, other businesses are straining. It’s time to face reality, and accept responsibility for solving our city’s problems.

    A good start would be for those planning on venturing to Chicago with the Chamber this week to cancel out and working with the people, businesses and city government employees start figuring out how we deal with this situation. Otherwise, we will go the route of Vallejo.

  2. You know what, Single Gal?  Life is very good in downtown SJ that these politicians are absolutely right that everything’s fine.  During lunch, downtown is crowded with workers and students.  In the evenings, people often crowd the sidewalks when they go to the Shark’s games, theaters, concerts, comedy, movies and dinner; also, the highrise condos, office and hotels keep them smiling.  People also are using the Guadalupe Park better than expected.  No wonder why the city hall official are acting like there’s nothing wrong with San Jose, while sitting on top of their world class city hall building which is a local icon!  You have problems with San Jose, so maybe you should move Nashville.

  3. 5 – Must be a different downtown than the one I frequent. Lunchtime is usually busy and then it dies. Sure, if there is a special event, the evening crowds are there for a little while. But, it shouldn’t take a special event to have a thriving downtown. There should be a constant energy that draws people all the time—event or no event.
    This is not the downtown of a major US city. That doesn’t make it bad, it’s just not much a downtown for a city of this size.
    Until we are comfortable with what and who we are, we will never be satisfied and will always wish we were something else.

  4. Downtown’s vibrancy is an interesting, but tangential issue for me in terms of what I like and don’t like about living here. This weird anthropromorphizing that people do—that downtown somehow encapsulates the ‘soul’ or ‘identity’ of a city—is a journalistic conceit and terribly outdated. Most people’s concerns about where they live have to do with the amenities in their local neighborhood, the quality of close schools, traffic, crime, proximity to good jobs. At the end of the day, all these issues are palpably more important (esp. crime and security) than the ‘quality’ of urban nightlife for young people doing courtship rituals or visitors’ and journalists’ flip conclusions based on a few blocks’ worth of activity around first and sta clara. SJ is a great example of a big, complex city with *multiple* centers (a structure many urban planners now think is more scalable than traditional center-focused cities). And s.j. is better understood by how those particular centers work—individually and collectively—rather than via a driveby in something we call ‘downtown’ but in fact is just another neighborhood with its own particular strengths and weaknesses.

  5. I can’t help but think of the San Jose’s own Taj at this particularly sensitive economic time.  Mr. Ruffo must be shaking his head.

  6. 8 – I don’t think we can have a rational discussion since you are able to see things the rest of can’t (see #11). Must be fun to see These invisible crowds that you see that make downtown SJ one of the nicest in the country, but for the rest of us my comments initial comments stand.

  7. Jimmy Olsen#6, What do you mean that downtown SJ is not downtown worthy of its size?  Aren’t downtown Houston, LA, Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Atlanta and many others worthy of their sizes, too?  Because as far as I’m concerned, and everyone else is concerned, they all suck!  Downtown SJ is one of the nicest, if not the nicest, downtown in the country.  I travel all the time for business, and I’m very observant. You forgot to mention all those rowdy nightclubs that send thousands of revelers onto the street of downtown San Jose during the weekend.  If you think they cause problems late at night, then check out SF’s North Beach, which is a mayhem.

  8. Johnmichael#11 and Jimmy#13, all you have to do is hangout at the park in front of the Tech and and Fairmont during the weekends and see all those families hanging out.  As for the lunch rush during the weekdays, are you blind?  What world do you live in?  I’m sorry that you guys want to pity downtown and make it sleepyville, which it ain’t! I just had lunch at Billy Birk’s, and it was crowded.  Santa Clara St. was way to annoyingly crowded that people kept bumping into me and pissing me off.  Johnmichael, you’re a hypocrite because you said in your last blog that there were too many people on their bikes riding the sidewalks, unnerving you.  That is the result of people crowding the downtown area.  If you want proof, read the NY Times’ May 20, 2007 edition.  It validate the vitality of downtown S.J.. I guess grass is always greener on the other side.  There are too many of you naysayers in all other cities. Just blog other cities’ web sites, and you’ll find out that it’s the same thing, even in Seattle and San Diego.

  9. #2 wrote:“It is time for our leaders to focus on results that matter to the people of San Jose, not on committees, meetings, and task forces.”  Pat, you forgot to mention highly paid “consultants”, to which our challenged council and staff resort to with far too much frequency.

    And Mayor Reed and some so-called “community leaders” are now venturing to one of the most historically corrupt city governments in the civilized world—Chicago—to learn how they do things so they can bring that expertise back home.  That’s a trip I would have expected the Gonzales people to have taken.  Will what they learn in Chicago be The Reed Reforms II??

  10. #5 claimed:“During lunch, downtown is crowded with workers and students.”  What’s your definition of a crowd, Fed Up—people walking two-by-two down Santa Clara Street?  I eat lunch in a downtown restaurant almost every day, and there are no crowds…ever…and on weekends you could shoot a twelve guage and hit no-one.  Sit in AP Stumps next to the window at lunch time, and if you see 200 people walk by in an hour, you’d be lucky. You want to see a crowd, at all hours, go to New York City.

    On the other hand, when the Sharks are playing, or there’s anything going on @ The Tank, there’s a crowd.  When some hip hopper from Oaktown is appearing in San Jose, there’s a crowd.

  11. #4,
    The BART tax, Measure B, will only cost the average SC taxpayer TEN CENTS per day (or 80 cents for every $1,000 spent).  A small price to pay to finally bring BART to San Jose!  Yes to BART/Measure B and high-speed rail/Prop. 1A!

  12. Tony-

    Measure B doesn’t finish BART.  Even with this tax, VTA still doesn’t have enough cash to build it.  This is why VTA is refusing to release their expendiutre plan until after the election.

    And it isn’t ten cents a day.  We’re already paying VTA about 420 million dollars per year.  This is 42 million on top of that.  And they’ll need another quarter percent (84 million) to finish it.

    Add it all up and you get 544 million dollars a year, plus state and federal funds, just for VTA.

    Then you have to add in cost overruns and riderhsip shortfalls.

  13. Ten cents a day doesn’t sound like alot, but another way to look at the BART tax is:
    $36.50 a year/taxpayer just to have BART around. So your cost/trip will go down the more you use BART, but if you use it just a couple of times a year, your cost/trip will probably be over $10/trip, which doesn’t make economic sense even with gas prices at $4+ (and will be slower than driving).
    I realize there are other reasons for advocating BART (full disclosure: I’m opposed), but if BART advocates want to make an economic argument to SCV residents, you need to be honest that for the huge majority of people, it will be $36.50/year down the tubes.
    Imagine even a % of this tax being applied to dedicated bus lanes and dedicated bike routes. Much more bang for buck.
    Think Global, bike local.

  14. #14 Weekends? All those families hanging out? What a joke. Talk to any of the restaurants or stores and ask them how their evening and weekend business is. Guadalupe River Park being used more than expected?I often ride on the trails of the Park and never see a soul. You must work for the city.

  15. Fed Up #14:  I stand by my statements re downtown ghost town weekend days.  I am there virtually every Saturday and Sunday, and believe me, it’s a ghost town.  That’s why E&O, Tres Amigos, SJ Bar & Grill (except football season), Bella Mia, ALL the small restaurants on S. First between Santa Clara and San Fernando, San Pedro Square Bistro & Wine Bar, Spiedo, AP Stump’s, 71 St. Peter, Hawgs (open noon Sat. 4:00 p.m. Sunday), and Billy Berk’s are ALL CLOSED WEEKEND DAYS.  Loft Bar & Bistro opens up @ noon both weekend days, as I recall.  I eat there a lot.  Often I am the only customer there between noon and 3:00 p.m.  Kam can’t be making payroll for those time periods.

    Re bikes, you’re mixing apples with lettuce.  Downtown is not crowded with bikes, but the vast majority of bicyclists who are not SJSU students ride on the sidewalk, which is annoying, dangerous to pedestrains, and illegal.