Libraries, Police: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

A citizens signature drive is underway to secure a certain percentage of the budget for our libraries. This would replace the library parcel tax set to expire in 2014. If enough signatures are collected, the measure could be placed on the ballot in November.

Single-issue advocacy may come at the cost of something else. However, setting aside a specific percentage of the budget for a specific purpose is the only way to guarantee it is done. Elected officials often fund services not within their scope of responsibility. Last month, I proposed examining and collecting data for setting a certain percentage of the budget—higher than today’s percentage—for the police department. My proposal will come back for discussion during the budget process.

You can argue the merit perspective on both libraries and public safety. On one hand, public libraries are an equalizer, which allow youth the opportunity and access to information both paper and electronic. Libraries are considered a special place in the heart of many academics that populate our valley.

On the other hand, police are the only enforcement of the Social Contract that allows us to walk back and forth from the library without being assaulted. We can always hope for the best in prevention, but there are those in society who are deviant. Even if they’re provided a free public education, an open library or community center, they opt out. At this point, a book or DVD won’t do much to stop an act of violence while you’re going to and from the library.

Perhaps we could combine the ideas and set a percentage of the budget for police and libraries. It would bring together the two most popular city services and cover the bases with both camps of San Jose residents. I believe most would say that a city is doing good job when it has an excellent police force and library branches that are open. Otherwise, the risk is that tax revenue could be spent on items not in the City Charter.

We should strive to have the best city possible—a library system open seven days a week, augmented by unpaid volunteers, and a police force able to respond to calls for service. Being proactive could eventually enforce the quality-of-life concerns our residents have.


  1. “but there are those in society who are deviant.”…. hmmm, I wonder if you consider yourself in that statement??

    You are missing the big picture as usual… You continually rant about open negotiations and the Social Contract yet you fail miserably in that realm yourself…

    We, the people, will never believe the message if the messenger is not credible…. Regardless of what you’re trying to do…  Quit trying to get yourself elected and try actually doing what’s best for the city and it’s residents.

  2. What we need is priority-based budgeting.  When my pay was cut by 15% over the last couple of years, I didn’t just begin paying 85% of my mortgage, 85% of my PG&E bill, etc.  I prioritized.  I pay 100% of what’s essential, and cut back on what’s not.

  3. Mr. Oliverio,
    I know of your extreme disdain for the fire department.  It is really too bad that you do not value public safety in it’s entirety.  You would sound so much more intelligent if you were actually concerned for your constituents well being than just being a stooge for Mayor Reed.  You are on the public safety committee, why don’t you enlighten us on what you have done for us while occupying space at these meetings.

  4. In the tried & true vein of political pandering, Mr. Oliverio writes several articles appearing to be supportive of Public Safety.  Just like Reed, he plays to the endorsement of SJPD and SJFD in order to get elected.  Of course, the words ring hollow after election when Public Safety is no longer needed… and all the cops and firefighters are soon forgotten.  Under Reed, simply forgotten would be preferable!  Instead they were vilified, laid off, bullied and now encouraged to leave entirely (or face “the will of the people”).

  5. “a police force able to respond to calls for service…”

    Pierluigi, where can we find statistics about the number of calls by priority that receive no response?  Shouldn’t we use the $10 million surplus to pay for police overtime and equipment instead of libraries and other amenities?

  6. So funding priorities are really important in both good and bad economic times.  In bad times, there’s a certain destructive competition among public services where we throw our buddies and fellow city workers under the bus by declaring how important our department or job function is to the citizens and taxpayers.

    In an ideal world, far sighted and reasonable civic leaders make good choices in good times so that even in bad times a certain acceptable level of service is maintained in the most important service areas.

    We don’t live in an ideal world.

    Term limits and the pressure to move up the political ladder it has spawned has yielded some less than ideal political “leaders” instead of civic leaders.  Pandering works better than making tough choices and saying no to powerful interest groups.

    I believe this solution in search of a problem (dedicating a fixed percentage of revenue to certain popular programs) was implemented via statewide initiative with 40% of the state budget now promised to public schools (k-14 which means all public schools and community colleges share that chunk of the shrinking state budget.)  Did that work out?

    Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of dedicated revenue streams as that’s seemed like a safer way of seeing that the money raised goes directly to the service people expressed a desire to fund.  I supported the original Measure E Benefit Assesment District because it was promised that the funds would augement and not replace existing General Fund allocations and allow for new materials to be purchased to enhance and expand the books, DVDs, and other materials offered.

    …and for a few years, it worked as intended and we had a library rennaissance in SJ like other communities around the country.  And after the new main library got build, Mayor Gonzales kept the promise that Mayor Hammer made at the time that the library system wouldn’t just funnel all its money downtown to the main library, they’d also re-build branch libraries that needed expanding and add new branches in underserved communities.  And the community answered by voting for the bond measure that made this happen.

    But then bad times hit, and new branches sit empty and general fund support has been shifted.  Its hard to believe promises from politicians who are only keeping a seat warm for a couple of terms then moving up the ladder or out the revolving door to cash in on their experience.

    I’d rather see a revenue proposal with some dedicated streams to core services (police, fire, libraries, etc.) rather than just a promise that a fixed percentage of a broken city budget will go to vote getting/popular services.  It didn’t work for public schools and it won’t work for SJ’s fundamental problems.

    I’d also vote no on any revenue proposal unless it was clear SJ was really dealing with its structural budget problems.

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