City Council Meetings at Night Would Allow Greater Civic Participation

If you are like the majority of San Jose residents, you probably work during the day and/or are involved in a child’s education at school/home. Your ability to attend a daytime San Jose City Council meeting is limited. 

The council conducts the overwhelming majority of its business during the day. This includes voting on matters that directly affect our lives, such as law enforcement, sewers, transportation, medical/fire response, code enforcement, libraries, parks, city finances, etc. These meetings are suppose to be for the public, yet usually the only people that attend the daytime council meeting are lobbyists or other paid representatives of special interest groups.

Last week, the topic of “what is important enough to have on the monthly evening meeting agenda” was brought up. The request via council memo was to restrict land use items to be heard only during the evening session. Currently, the council has been hearing economic development land use items during the day to speed up the process, because waiting for an evening council meeting may delay a decision for up to 3-4 weeks.

I asked the city attorney to clarify if the memo from my colleagues was correct; that it would actually limit all land use items to 7pm, which would cause a 3-4 week delay or the need to schedule impromptu special meetings just to hear one economic development land use item. The city attorney confirmed that if the memo was passed as written, that it would in fact limit the council on expediting land use for economic development.

In my opinion, this would impede approval of new commercial and industrial development, making the city less responsive. We need to grow our tax base sooner versus later, and to artificially impede the council with yet another rule is silly. Moreover, the goal is to allow development that brings more jobs to San Jose, so residents do not have continue commuting outside the city for work.

After the city attorney answered my question, the memo was changed verbally at the meeting, allowing our planning department the ability to schedule land use items during the day; thus allowing for more responsive decisions for new office buildings in North San Jose and Santana Row, or new tall buildings in our Downtown, or a liquor license for a new neighborhood grocery store, or new retail on the periphery of our city. (I believe San Jose will suffer higher retail vacancy if Measure D is passed, so vote “no” on Measure D.)

However, I support having the weekly council meeting in the evening for all issues. We should scrap the current daytime meeting and instead schedule a 6pm meeting with ceremonials items starting at 5:30pm. In my view, residents would be better served by night meetings, which would provide greater opportunity for civic participation.

Pierluigi Oliverio is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 6.

16 Comments

  1. Pier people dont participate because you and your arrogant crew of dictators only allow speakers 2 mins. During that 2 mins you guys are rolling your eyes and picking your seats (pete) like school kids waiting for the lunch bell to ring… YOU ARE VERY SAD! SJ loses because of wanna be small town politicians like those in our council. We really need a mulligan with you guys

  2. Night meetings?  Who wants to come downtown after dark.  Thanks to you and how your residents distrust.  Well how short of officers do you think SJPD was last night when an undermined midnight shift had to respond to 4 separate shootings in a 2 hour period which resulted in another homicide.  Glad you can find grants to hire firefighters but none for police.  My guess is no one is even bothering to look.

  3. The immense theater-like setting of San Jose’s council chambers could not be better designed to intimidate average people out of showing up and speaking publicly. Night meetings. Day meetings. Makes no difference. Try dropping the pretensiousness and instead develop a cozier, homier atmosphere in which citizens were not made to feel like intruders at a private, glitzy soiree.

  4. PO

    AS you continue to bash the police dept., I find it very interesting that Chucks favorite news paper did not even mention four shootings in a 2 hour period resulting in one death.  All the other media outlets covered it.  Is this because Chuck has the paper in his pocket or because he says we don’t have a gang problem.  OR is it because the Mercky news does not want to bring up the question that crime is on the rise and the officer count continues to go down.

  5. Rob Johnson you are correct except for one glaring point! City Manager Figone, accepted a grant to hire laid off firefighters. She declined to accept a grant that would have hired up to 80 police officers…. Paid in full for 5 years. She declined as the city claimed they would not be able to pay those salaries when the 5 years were up. Wake up SJ residents! WHEN ARE PEOPLE GOING TO OPEN THEIR EYES TO THE POLITICAL GAMES THAT ARE BEING PLAYED AT THE EXPENSE OF CITIZEN SAFETY? 5 years would have been a fair amount of time as the stock market, bayarea unemployment and housing market have ALL improved. So now we are playing catchup and trying to hire and train 20-30 cops at a time who will undoubtedly be looking for employment elsewhere once they are off probation. SJ will be a great training ground! Once again this doesnt fit the mayor and manager’s agenda. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves. A thorough investigation of this mayor and council needs to be started. People would go to prison for what has been occurring but the blind sheep in SJ keep grazing….

  6. Rob Johnson , Agree with most everything you said . except the Grant that the city accepted came with “standard” conditions , all of witch the city refused to comply with! Just know that more than 1/2 of the firefighters who were offered their jobs back ……refused to take their jobs back .

    on another note Council meetings are a disgrace ! The arrogant Mayor + 5 do nothing but roll their eyes , or dont even bother paying attention to speakers. Cant wait till you are all gone (Greed , Doug Figone, PLO ,Herrera,Constant ,Lickardo,Maddie) you have all done irreversible damage to San Jose

  7. P.O.
    A lot of the comments on here are true. Sitting through a long Council meeting while listening to HOURS of speeches and questions from Council Members, only to be allowed 1 minute, not even two, is often a waste of our time. Unlike you guys who get paid to sit there, the rest of us don’t.

    Also, it is true that 99% of the time, your minds are all ready made up on the issue. It’s not like lobbying doesn’t go on prior to the meeting. wink

    One other important thing is that some Council Members, especially Pete Constant, like to listen to public comment and make snide remarks about what we’ve said, without our ability for rebuttal. I think that’s ridiculous, and very one sided.

    And finally, many of you don’t pay attention, you hold private conversations while people are speaking, or get up and leave during public comment. I do find it a wee bit hypocritical that you guys have rules for the public regarding proper behavior during Council meetings, but there are NONE for you to follow……

  8. well stated Kathleen, well stated!

    Can’t tell you how many times council decisions were already stated before public comments.  Saw it first hand. That is why they could care less.

  9. The County Board of Supervisors meetings has the general public comments at the beginning of the meeting instead of the end.  To me, it shows more respect to put the public on first no matter what time the meetings are scheduled.  I don’t want to sit through hours of meetings just to speak two minutes to my issues so I don’t attend city council meetings very often.  Recently I attended a City Council meeting to speak about an issue on the agenda and my speaker card was put aside until the end of the meeting.  By them two council members had already left the meeting and the rest were getting out of their seats.  I felt like my input wasn’t appreciated.

    • Sparky,

      They don’t care, decisions are made before meeting or it is not on agenda.  By law they have to allow public opinion.

      I have been warned a day in advance to be at council meetings in case of public out cry.

      Best way to end this is to elect new city council.  Constant is the poster child for this problem.  He knows because he was with me in the stair cases before council votes.  Probably why he looks so bored on the council.

  10. Meyer Weed said, “If public participation mattered then Councilmembers would have the ability to question speakers rather than sit there with a blank stare while the Mayor watches the clock.”

    I agree 100%.

  11. Sorry Pierluigi, your idea to increase “civic participation” by having Council Meetings at night is D-O-A. As others have already pointed out the ‘public commentary’ portion of the meetings is a sham. It wouldn’t matter if speaker’s time were increased from 2 minutes to 30 minutes or more.

    Why? Because the outcome of votes during the public meeting was most likely decided by the “meetings before the meeting,” phone calls, emails and text messages taht amount to “polling”  between the Mayor and Councilmembers in violation of the Brown Act.

    If public participation mattered then Councilmembers would have the ability to question speakers rather than sit there with a blank stare while the Mayor watches the clock.

    Council Meetings are a charade hosted by charlatans.

  12. NO on Measure D as it will hurt jobs and businesses will leave. Thanks for standing up for the small businesses PO. grin

  13. Pier,

    I spoke once at an important issue. Because it was an important issue and so many people wanted to speak, we were limited to 1 minute. You would think during an important issue you would allow more time to speak, not less. When I had my turn to speak, Pete Constant was talking with Pierluigi, and Rose Herrera was speaking with Madison Nguyen. The mayor could obviously have cared less. Ash Kalra and a couple other were paying attention to their credit. Last time I bother to speak at a council meeting.