Mayor Chuck Reed noted Thursday night that he was delivering his seventh State of the City speech. Next year he’ll have one final opportunity to get it right.
Jokes aside, an honest assessment of Mayor Reed’s performance Thursday at the San Jose Civic Auditorium would be to admit that his address varied little from last year’s talk. Pension reform through voters’ approval of Measure B last November will help “put San Jose back on the path to be a great city,” Reed said. But the jury is still out, or has yet to even be selected, as the measure remains road-blocked by litigation, and future deficits are expected.
If and when Measure B reaches the implementation stage, Reed said, the city’s number one issue—rising crime and the exodus of officers from the San Jose Police Department—will be addressed.
The evening started with a passionate and somewhat unexpected invocation by Pastor Dace, who decided to eschew the non-denominational prayer tradition by invoking “the name of Christ Jesus” in his closing remarks. From there, the evening was far more measured.
But during the district honoree portion of the evening, where councilmembers bring people from their respective districts on stage for public recognition and a mayoral photo-op, Happy Hollow mascot Danny the Dragon crashed the stage a few minutes before scheduled. The San Jose Earthquakes mascot, Q, and the San Jose Giants’ Gigante also shuffled on stage. Chaos nearly ensued, but the mayor and councilmembers kept their cool.
After an introductory speech by Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley leadership Group, Reed took the stage in front of the half-filled auditorium, and the show returned to its standard format of thanks going around in all directions.
“There are many city employees here tonight,” Reed said. “You’ve taken significant paycuts. You’ve incurred increases in your share of retirement costs. And yet, you have served the public with care and professionalism. Thank you for your sacrifices.”
Reed did not commit to restoring city employee salaries, specifically for police officers, but he did promise to reinvest in the SJPD with the savings from pension reform and expand the force by “200 more police officers.
“You are probably wondering, ‘When will we get those savings?’” he said. “Despite the numerous attempts to block Measure B with lawsuits, administrative actions and arbitration, we will get significant savings over the next two years that will allow us to grow the force.”
Staying positive, Reed noted a couple of recent studies that show San Jose’s metropolitan area is second to none when it comes to business and technology. In January, the Milken Institute’s placed the San Jose metropolitan area at the top spot in its Best Performing Cities Index, “which identifies the cities that are the best at creating and sustaining economic growth,” Reed said.
San Jose is also “ranked No. 1 for clean tech innovation, and we have over
7,000 clean tech jobs,” he added.
Specifics were lacking in other instances, such as how the city plans to improve—or even accurately report—fire department response times; end chronic homelessness (a wildly unrealistic goal); and close the achievement gap, which is more of a county issue.
But the second-tier pension reform measures already in place, as well as compensation reductions that have been implemented, “are saving us over $100 million dollars a year,” Reed said. “As a result, we were able to balance the budget with no layoffs and begin to restore services, like opening four branch libraries that have been vacant and locked.” He also noted that a recent city survey indicate voters in San Jose might be open to a sales tax increase.
The overall message of the evening appeared to be that things aren’t great, they could be worse, but they’re getting a little better. And that, it seems, will be Reed’s legacy: He’s a steward, given the unenviable task of navigating San Jose through the Great Recession.
The night ended with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” playing on the auditorium’s speakers.
Ba, ba, ba.