When I think of the qualifications that I will look for in our next mayor, it is much different than what I would have looked for eight years ago. I believe that ethics will be at the top of everyone’s list this time. Moral character and ethics are absolutely critical to the person that is going to lead this city for the next eight years.
My mom used to say we’re judged by the company we keep and I think that’s as true today and it was then. It’s important to see how and where our mayoral candidates have spent their time, and who they have associated with and worked with over the past few years. If they have a voting record, we must look closely at that voting record.
Our mayor needs to understand the importance of the history of this valley and where we’ve been—from the Valley of the Heart’s Delight to Silicon Valley—with a deep respect for that history. It is said that if you don’t know history you’re liable to repeat it, the good and the bad.
Another critical issue is that the next mayor of San Jose has to be a collaborator and work closely with our county leaders—not a bully, but someone who works out issues that will have impact on our city and county residents. We cannot continue to sue each other. When government agencies sue each other, the only ones that lose are the taxpayers.
The person at the helm of San Jose has to have a sense of balance. They cannot be committed to any one particular interest group—that means business, labor, environment and social services. No individual group has all the right answers all the time. If there’s an issue coming before the city council, and you know what the outcome is going to be before the vote is taken because the council and the mayor are beholden to one particular interest group, you’ve got a major problem. San Jose needs to be open for business—all business—and not bent toward any particular interest group.
The next mayor needs to be energized about what our city can become—bold enough to make the hard decisions and focused enough to get us there. There are many big decisions facing the next mayor on important issues like delivering an international airport and developing Coyote Valley.
I think the city has to refocus its attention on redevelopment. We are taking away too much money from redevelopment and using it as a neighborhood benefit rather than an economic benefit. Some very good things have resulted, but redevelopment was originally started to be an economic engine for this city to generate jobs and taxes which will then help pay for services in neighborhoods.
Coyote Valley is going to be extremely important to the future of this city. A lot of people forget that North First Street’s development was a success because of a long-term, 30-year plan and infrastructure put in place by the Redevelopment Agency. That’s the golden goose that drives the engine of San Jose. Coyote Valley is not going to happen overnight—it’s a 40-year plan. So when people talk about generating 25,000 homes and 50,000 jobs, it is going to take some time because it has to be developed in a smart way. If we do it correctly, we will not have to worry about the transportation and traffic problems that some are fearful of because it’s supposed to become a self-contained, walkable community
There isn’t anything that can ignite a community like professional sports. Baseball has been floating around San Jose for a number of years and it’s time to do or don’t. It’s going to take leadership from the mayor’s office to get that done. San Jose also needs to focus on creating a great arts and entertainment district and wonderful schools. These are some things that are basic to developing a great city. When you’re the tenth largest city in the country, you have to provide opportunities for people who move here to enjoy life.
San Jose is a great city. We have great things to do and great places to go. There are several candidates for the job of mayor and we have a huge responsibility ahead of us to scrutinize each of them closely and decide which one can deliver the San Jose we want in the next decade. This is not an option, this is a necessity.
(A former city council member and vice mayor, Pat Dando is President and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. This is an edited abridged version of the speech she gave to the San Jose Rotary Club on February 15, 2006.)