San Jose Inside’s 2011 Year in Review

As the year winds down, you can almost hear the collective sigh coming from City Hall. Or maybe that’s an echoing whoosh from councilmembers, the mayor, city manager and their staffs, who hightailed it for the holidays.

Either way, 2011 was a tumultuous year, fierce in the manner civic actors clashed over pension reform, public safety, pot, a potential ballpark, ballot measures, pay cuts, occupations of city property and other issues of varying degrees of importance.

In the year that Moneyball raked in the dough at box offices, while Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s tanked games and waited for word on whether or not they can come to San Jose, it seems appropriate that we start our Year in Review with a statistical analysis.

In 2011, as of this story’s writing, there were 382 posts on SJI and a total of 11,799 (approved) comments. While the output was slightly less than in 2011, when there were 416 posts, reader participation skyrocketed this year in comparison to 2010’s numbers of 8,571 (approved) comments. (That’s a 38 percent increase in comments. Just imagine how much higher that number could be when people stop calling moderators/each other sons of motherless goats. We’re trying to maintain some minimal sense of civil decorum.)

There were some changes in writers and features to the site this year, which will continue to happen in 2012 as we try to bring readers more diverse, fresh perspectives. We unveiled a Q&A series starting with Mayor Chuck Reed. There were some, shall we say, issues in getting timely responses from a certain police chief, but in the end we managed to resuscitate the series.

Rich Robinson returned to SJI as a columnist and managed to supplant Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio as the recipient of the most scathing backlash from readers. Oliverio, of course, still managed to stir the pot.

But enough about SJI now and then, this post is a list of some of the things that went so wrong in 2011, and a few things that actually went right. Without further ado:

• It’s been a pretty rough year for public safety, especially police. The SJPD experienced its first layoffs in the police department’s history, the police union president resigned and the POA’s membership narrowly approved giving up 10 percent in pay for another fiscal year. The number of homicides in 2011 was also higher than it’s been in years. Meanwhile, San Jose’s fire department also experienced cutbacks and giveaways in labor negotiations, but many jobs were saved by a federal grant.

• Santa Clara County’s board of education took a bold step in December by approving 20 new charter schools under the Rocketship platform. None of this guarantees kids will receive a more balanced education as well as meet standardized testing goals, but as many have pointed out, things couldn’t get much worse.

• Despite receiving some pleasant news that the city’s pension crisis isn’t as dire as some people at City Hall were predicting, the council decided by a 6-5 vote to go forward with ballot measures to roll back retirement benefits.

• Reefer madness reigned in 2011, as the city council: voted for a cap of 10 on dispensaries; the council received advice to alter its position from the planning commission; the ignored that advice; approved its own measures with small tweaks; was rebuffed by a successful referendum petition effort; and now works with local medical cannabis owners and attorneys on a compromise to avoid a special election.

• A group called “Stand for San Jose” filed a lawsuit claiming city officials broke the law by agreeing to sell land to owners of the Oakland A’s at a bargain price. As it turns out, the group should be called “Stand for San Francisco Giants,” because the recent World Series champs are bankrolling the lawsuit. All of this is moot until Major League Baseball gives the A’s the OK to move to San Jose—which will probably happen around the same time the Giants get some hitting.

• As the city was cutting back on almost everything due to a 10th straight year of budget shortfalls, the McEnery Convention Center had $120 million in bonds approved for a makeover. It was announced in December that there will be some sort of “magical” artwork on display when the convention center construction is completed.

• The High-Speed Rail Authority released new numbers to the dismay of almost everyone except supporters, who said the project can now move along because the numbers are finally accurate. There were also rumors that San Jose could be bypassed as a stop, assuming the project ever starts.

• The president of the San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels was killed at a casino in Nevada, which then led to the surprising revelation that the biker was a city employee.

San Jose got its own version of Occupy Wall Street, and the city freaked out over a few tents and some head lice. Oh, and there was that guy on the wall

President Obama made his first-ever trip to San Jose, but it was mainly a layover for some fundraising.

• Former Councilmember John Diquisto died. He was 83.

• City Hall was evacuated after a bomb threat was sent to the general mailbox for the city, leaving many in shock that anyone noticed it before a few days had passed.

• As SJI first detailed, Music in the Park was canned, mainly because downtown businesses don’t love the kids.

• San Jose was named the best city in America to grow old and die.

• Everyone announced they want Nancy Pyle’s District 10 seat on the City Council, causing Almaden’s head to grow bigger than anyone thought it could.

Harry Mavrogenes called it quits as head of the Redevelopment Agency, just before the agency became toothless.

• News leaked that former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had a child out of wedlock with one of his household staff members, leading everyone to Google the woman’s picture and say, “Really?”

Matt Mahood came over from Sacramento to replace Pat Dando as the new Chamber of Commerce CEO.

• People started talking about the epidemic that will kill the quality of life as we know it in San Jose: potholes. (In hindsight, maybe we’re already there.)

Manny Diaz lobbied for payday lending offices, which was clever because he found a new way to prey upon the people he represented as a city councilmember.

Gay history became part of the public school curriculum.

• We burned everyone on April Fool’s Day.

• Pete Constant became the darling of Fox News.

• Airport director Bill Sherry was hired to take over Team San Jose. Sherry received rave reviews for his work this year, with each and every person adding: He’s no Dan Fenton.

The Westboro Baptist Church announced it would protest the play The Laramie Project by Gunderson High School. They were doing it for the kids, of course.

Mayor Reed went to Japan to meet with All Nippon Airways. The trip was called a waste until it was announced in December that ANA would start San Jose-Tokyo flights.

• City Manager Debra Figone gave the nod to Chris Moore as San Jose’s new police chief. The other candidate, Anthony Batts, resigned from his post as chief of police in Oakland later in the year.

• Someone painted the eyes of the Quetzalcoatl sculpture in Plaza de Cesar Chavez—otherwise known as poop with fangs—a bright shade of red.

Dean Singleton stepped down from his post as CEO of the Mercury News, which later in the year decided to keep “San Jose” in the masthead after a massive consolidation of papers.


    • SJ Resident, you forgot another one… SJI Staff Increased the amount of Censoring and Deleting of post in 2011 of bloggers who were too close to the truth on political leaders in San Jose. 

      2012 will hopefully bring an end to SJI blog site and it’s one sided posts.

      Frank Maggiano Sr’s new blog website will be up and running allowing all views and posts.  The site name is still not in set stone yet and Frank is looking for input from all the fine folks on SJI for a catchy name.

      Happy New Year to all San Jose Residents!
      Old Frank

      • An idea for your new blog site:

        That domain name sounds like what you may be looking for in a web site that tells the (cold, hard) truth about San Jose, in terms of current events and politics.

  1. Why is PO at a murder scene (according to the mercury news) questioning neighbors?  I guess he really does not trust the PD to do their job.  Heck if all council members did this, mayor and Deb too, maybe we can just lay off another dozen officers and have the city council investigate crimes.  PO I hope you will also drive around your district and check out all those false alarms now that the PD will no longer respond.  Better yet, go see the sheriff and get a CCW permit, sure it will only cost a few campaign dollars.

    PO did you make sure to contact the MN with your investigation results so you could see your name in the paper in Jan 1st?

    I’m sure you will post another manifesto about your detective work on Monday.

    Happy holy cow, God bless us all in 2012. Because we will need a divine intervention this year and years to come!

  2. 2011 will also be remembered as the year SJ City Hall raped its retired employees.
                                This will have a devastating effect on those who retired years ago now in their twilight years existing solely on their city pension.

    Reducing retirement befits and increasing medical cost of the retired not because you have too, but because you can seems to be San Jose’s version of elderly abuse.

    History and politics has many examples of leaders who abuse(d) their power.

  3. > The High-Speed Rail Authority released new numbers to the dismay of almost everyone except supporters, who said the project can now move along because the numbers are finally accurate.

    Ummmm.  Have we finally counted everything?

    Do the numbers now include all the extra revenues from HSR’s small package delivery operations?

    I’m still a bit fuzzy on this.  Are the passengers supposed to carry the small packages on their laps, or can they put them in the overhead bins?  There ARE overhead bins, aren’t there?

    Will passengers be limited in the number of small packages they can carry on the train?

    What if UPS decides to save money and instead of sending trucks to LA, they load up their agents with bags of small packages, put them on the HSR, and hog all the overhead bin space?

    Has their been an environmental impact report on the effects of displacing UPS trucks with HSR trains?

    I’m concerned.

  4. ‘There were some changes in writers and features to the site … which will continue to happen in 2012 as we try to bring readers more diverse, fresh perspectives.’ 

    Great! Thank you for these additional perspectives SJU. Are you taking requests? If so, I would love to hear from a couple people:
    1) William Sherry, Director of Aviation of San Jose Airport. Mr. Sherry, in my opinion could really educate SJI readers about the work he has done at the airport (challenges, decisions, goals) and the achievements he has made with Team San Jose. I have heard Mr. Sherry speak before and appreciate hearing his perspectives and wisdom.

    2) Jane Light, Library Director of San Jose: She is retiring but before she does it would be interesting to hear from her about challenges, decisions, and her hopes about the future of libraries in general. I have regular interactions with Jane and believe she would provide interesting, thoughtful perspectives. (Full disclosure: I am a Library Commissioner but am only representing myself on this blog.)

    Thanks, and Happy New Year!


    • Me Too,
      One word of advice. 

      You may want to “avert your eyes” when the total comp is disclosed as the number is likely to be obscene.

      But take heart.  She’ll likely be double dipping in no time.

      • Novice: Any “total comp” disclosed was EARNED fair and square. As for double dipping, is that illegal? Until it is, well I guess folks can squawk about it or work to improve/change it.

        (Question to self: Where were all these naysayers when the salaries, step increases and comp packages were being approved by previous City Councils? Hm.)


      • Questions to self: 
        – How hard can it be to manage libraries that aren’t open?
        – Would being the patron saint of those who can’t afford 25 cent movies be worth the 250k salary?

    • I would love to hear about her 250K+  salary and what her total retirement package is.  Open government my behind.  Thanks Chuck!  Book checker 250K, police officer 1000K, what is wrong with this picture.

      Bet her stress level was REAL high! How many times was she shot at or had to work holidays or see a dead body!

      • Me Too: I am not as interested in her salary (I already defended that on a previous SJI blog) as I am her perspectives on the SJ public library system and her hopes for its future.

        Further, I won’t even guess as to Jane’s stress level and the anguish she and her leadership team no doubt felt as they had to lay off some very fine, hardworking employees, all the while having to hear this valuable city service pitted against the value of other city services (a horrid practice in my opinion).

        Jane leaves big shoes to fill and I for one will appreciate the positives she/her team brought to our library sytem and appreciate hearing any “lessons learned” she cares to share.


  5. My 2011 memorable moments from SJI:

    1. Joseph DiSalvo claiming the we are the richest country in the world and asking why can’t we spend more money on education.

    Joe has apparently never heard of President Obungle and the 17 trillion dollar national debt.

    We are not the richest country in the world; we are the biggest debtor nation in the history of the universe, and probably in parallel universes, too.

    2. Robert Cortese revealing that the High Speed Rail is not only for passengers, it is also a small package delivery service.

    “It stands to reason that the HSR would be used for small package delivery.”

    3.  Rich Robinson revealing that: “There was no question that Biden was the best qualified candidate for the top office in 2008”.

    Yes, but was Biden “clean and articulate” and did he overcome his “Negro dialect”?  Other candidates WERE more qualified in this respect.

    4. Joe DiSalvo pontificating that “Teacher Unions Need to Lead Reform”.

    Like asking cannibals to lead reform of the food pyramid.

    5.  Norman Kine immodestly suggesting that the products of him and his fellow urban planning guild members are, well, “smart”.

    Smart planning. Smart growth. Smart meters. Smart grids. Smart cars.  The rest of us, then, are … er … um … dummies.

    6. Joe DiSalvo taking a bold, unequivocal, and forthright stance against bullying in schools (“School Bullying Must Stop”).  Or at least against the bullying of the LGBT privileged class.  Anyone else subjected to bullying, Joe will get to you later.

    7.  We learned that Council Members spending money like drunkun Council Members is OK with at least some of San Jose’s citizenry (“Ash Kalra’s DUI PR Pays Off”):

    “He can still be trusted to spend other people’s money as responsibly as the rest of the council.”

  6. Josh, You didn’t “burn anyone on April Fools Day.” Pete Constant is “phoney baloney” and “milli vanilli” through and through. He couldn’t change his party affiliation anymore than he could convince a dullard that he was truely a “cop”  in the insiders sense of the word! The piece was a transparent as he is. It was actually pretty sad…

    • Prof,

      Regardless of your thoughts on the Constant post, I approved your comment to let you know we’re no longer accepting your user name because of the translation to English. The name goes against our comment policy.


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