The San Jose mayor’s race unfortunately has been distilled down to a contentious debate on public safety, crime and pension reform. These are certainly relevant issues to debate, but the information surrounding them is skewed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on campaign mailers and the focus of these pieces will be almost entirely on the three aforementioned issues—while doing nothing to educate the electorate about other critical problems and potential solutions.
The facts presented in a San Jose Mercury News editorial endorsing Sam Liccardo for mayor indicate that, according to the San Jose Police Department's own numbers, violent crime was down in 2013 compared to 2012 and even 2008 levels. Burglaries are up this year but dropped some in 2013. The FBI statistics available indicate higher crime numbers in San Jose in the 1990s than today.
As an educator and trustee, I focus my attention on our youth: birth to college. Our next mayor should use his bully pulpit to help this segment of our population. Our children represent the city’s future. If we educate children well, with a path toward college or technical degree/certificate, then there will be a significant reduction in crime, unemployment and poverty. A more prosperous city can hire more police, keep all streets free of potholes, continue BART through downtown, house the homeless and pay pension costs.
Fortunately, I read Liccardo's book, which gives me hope that after the election he will put together some strategic initiatives to address education deficiencies.
"Our residents' future prosperity hinges on our collective focus on college attainment,” he writes. “Inaction condemns another generation to low-skill jobs, widening San Jose's already-yawning gap between rich and poor, and much of the gap remains color-coded by race."
Let me add that our demographics are rapidly changing to an increasing number of citizens of color. Advocacy to bring districts and charters together for collaboration on behalf of children has had little impact. The reality is that public education stakeholders—traditional schools and charter schools—are still at odds. However, a strong mayor can improve the situation.
Liccardo writes, "We need a mayor who can bring both sides together to help public districts and public charters flourish in the same city." Amen to that!
He also articulately addresses quality after-school programs and encourages people to volunteer for reading programs schools.
Liccardo says “we can secure far more resources working together with our 19 school districts than we can working separately."
But there is one glaring hole in Liccardo's education plan and that is universal preschool. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got it right. He campaigned aggressively on the issue and won with overwhelming support. His plank is now being implemented and it will make New York City a beacon for other cities.
The Santa Clara County Office of Education, with several strategic stakeholders, has been meeting to discuss a Strong Start initiative that would provide high quality preschool for all 4 year olds. San Jose's next mayor must begin to lay a foundation for a more competitive and prosperous future, one with significantly reduced crime.
In the remaining debates, the education issues mentioned in this column should be a topic for both candidates to discuss. Education is the key to our future. All other issues pale in comparison.